VIDEO Recommit your life to Christ

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Every believer in Jesus Christ is a sinner saved by grace

Every Believer in Jesus Christ has direct access to the Throne of Grace.

Every Believer in Jesus Christ has the ability to speak with God anytime 24/7 with no call waiting and no call forwarding.

There are times when genuine followers of Jesus come to a point in life where God feels far away, life becomes dull, and the love that we once knew has faded. This page is here to help those who have trusted in Jesus as Lord of their life to once again enjoy the rest of our good God who loves us and knows us. If you are here today, chances are likely that you are somewhere you never expected to be, maybe you don’t even know how you got there. Take heart, you are not alone.

For those of you today wondering “am I a Christian”? To understand that we need to remember what it means to be a Christian, a follower of Jesus. The Bible says: If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9 NLT). For those of you reading who are not a follower of Jesus, you may be ready to totally start your life over today. If you are ready to know who Jesus is, visit https://narrowpathministries.wordpress.com/plan-of-salvation-making-heaven-your-home/

To my brothers and sisters who are hurting, sad, back in a place of shame, or feeling trapped in sin, I pray today that Jesus would draw you close and give you an overwhelming rest and peace. This is by far one of the most accessed pages throughout our entire site. Why? So many are looking for the peace, joy, love, and hope they once knew through their faith in Jesus. In church circles we talk about “recommitting” our lives to Christ, but in Scripture the Word we see is simpler… “repent”. 

Before we talk about how to start over, there are a few truths in Scripture we hope you’ll explore:

  1. Nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:38-39)
  2. Jesus came to give us an abundant life (not just in eternity, now) (John 10:10)
  3. Through our trust in Jesus as Lord of our live, we are forgiven and free (John 8:36)
  4. If you confess your sins, God is faithful and in Christ He will forgive you and cleanse you from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9) 

So often in the craziness of life, one bad decision can lead to another. Before we know it we’ve stopped going to church, started ignoring our Christian friends, stopped reading the Bible, stopped praying, and find ourselves in a deeper, darker, more desperate place. You may think you are the only one in the history of forever that has come to know the love of Jesus and then made bad decisions. I promise you aren’t, we have too. If you’ve placed your hope and trust in Jesus, through faith you become God’s child (John 1:12). So what does that mean? It’s time to come home… the Father is calling.

So often I am thankful for the realness of Scripture. In the Bible we see the superheroes of the faith struggling with doubts, fears, failures, and sin. The Bible doesn’t hide it or pretend we are something we aren’t. Jesus tells us clearly who we are… I’d like to share one powerful story from Scripture and ask you a few questions.

The story may be long, but the point is powerful. Even if the story is familiar, read it any way… the reminder is important.

To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: 

“A man had two sons. The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons. “A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs. The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything. “When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’ “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’ “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.” (Luke 15:11-24 NLT)

  • Was the young man a son before or after he his experience in the “distant land”? Both. The young man was his father’s son before he ever went to the distant land. The relationship was restored when he “finally came to his senses” and came back home… this is a picture of repentance.
  • Did the Father angrily scold his young son when he returned? No. His father was filled with love and compassion for his son and before his son ever spoke a word, the father restored the relationship (“embrace him, and kissed him”). The grace of God is meant to draw us to repentance (Romans 2:4).

Repentance means both confessing your sin, agreeing with God that He is right concerning your sin, and turning from your sin. So simply… to “recommit” means to repent and it is here that the wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God (Romans 2:4) welcomes you back into a rich relationship with Him through your faith in Jesus. 

So here you are… I’ve been there before too (we all have). The Bible says that Jesus is always the same, He never has and never will change (Hebrews 13:8 NLT). Since God never changes… if He seems far away… who has moved? The answer is you and I. The Father is calling dear child… won’t you please come home? 

If you have trusted in Jesus as Lord of your life and you are ready to come back home, simply pray from your heart. You might pray something like this:

Father, I praise you and thank you that nothing can separate me from Your love. Lord Jesus I confess my sins before you and ask that you would cleanse me from my failures. Lord I want to enjoy the rich relationship we had before. Please forgive me for my failure and help me serve and know you more. Thank you for the freedom and abundant life I have in You Lord Jesus, and it’s in Your name I pray, amen.

VIDEO An Introduction To Jesus

Dr. Stanley uses Scripture to answer common questions about Jesus Christ.

December 11, 2021


The apostle Paul wrote to the churches in Galatia that God sent His Son to rescue us, so that we’d no longer be slaves to this world but sons and daughters of the King—so that we’d be heirs of His everlasting kingdom (Gal. 4:4-7).

Jesus came to earth as a human being to identify with our struggles and to redeem us from sin through His sacrifice on the cross. Jesus did that for us so that we could spend an eternity with Him in heaven. Dr. Stanley uses Scripture to answer common questions about Jesus.

This sermon was recorded before COVID-19. For the protection of our staff members and the community, we are currently following safety guidelines by practicing social distancing. We appreciate your understanding.

Sermon Outline

AN INTRODUCTION TO JESUS

KEY PASSAGE: Matthew 1:18-21

SUPPORTING SCRIPTURE: Genesis 1:26 | Ezekiel 18:20 | Matthew 5:5 | Matthew 5:11-12 | Matthew 5:43-44 | Matthew 10:34 | Matthew 18:20 | Matthew 20:27 | Matthew 25:31-46 | Mark 8:34-37 | Luke 1:34-35 | Luke 24:47 | John 1:1-5 | John 8:56-59 | John 10:27-30 | John 12:42-45 | John 14:6-9 | John 14:13 | John 17:24 | Acts 3:5-7 | Acts 4:10-12 | Romans 3:23 | Romans 6:23 | Romans 8:28 | Philippians 2:9-11 | Colossians 1:14-16 | Hebrews 1:1-2 | Hebrews 9:27

SUMMARY

Who is Jesus?

Our understanding depends upon what kind of relationship we have with Him and how much we know about Him. Some people know very little yet have an instant dislike of Jesus that originates deep within their souls. Many others claim Him as their Savior and Lord but can’t really give an explanation for why they believe in Him. Since there is so much confusion and ignorance regarding Christ’s identity, we as His followers have a responsibility to accurately understand who He is so we can help others know Him too.

SERMON POINTS

Jesus lived before He was even conceived in His mother’s womb.

Christ didn’t come into existence when He was born as a baby. He preexisted in eternity past, but at the appointed time, He came to earth in human form while still retaining His deity.

  • Genesis 1:26 At creation God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.” The plurality of the personal pronouns reveals that all three members of the Trinity were together at the time of creation—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
  • John 1:1 Christ’s preexistence is also confirmed in the New Testament by John, who refers to Him as the Word. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with
  • God, and the Word was God.”
  • John 8:58 When Jesus spoke to the Jewish leaders, He claimed to have been alive before Abraham. “Before Abraham was born, I am.”
  • John 17:24 In His prayer, Christ affirms His Father’s love for Him before creation. “You loved Me before the foundation of the world.”

The Father and the Son created all things.

The constellations above and the earth below were created and placed in perfect order by the triune God. The following verses testify to Christ’s role in creation:

  • John 1:3 “Apart from Him nothing came into being.”
  • Colossians 1:16 “By Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible . . . all things have been created through Him and for Him.”
  • Hebrews 1:2 “In these last days (God) has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.”

Jesus was born of an earthly mother and a heavenly Father.

Without the virgin birth, there would be no salvation for mankind (Luke 1:34-35). To pay for man’s sin, God required a perfect sacrifice, but every person since Adam has been born with a sin nature. However, since Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of a virgin, He didn’t inherit a sin nature. He was the only person who ever lived a perfect life, and therefore, was the only one qualified to die for the sins of the world.

Jesus was both God and the Son of God.

Throughout His ministry, Christ equated Himself with His Father.

  • John 10:30 “I and the Father are one.”
  • John 12:44 “He who believes in Me, does not believe in Me but in Him who sent Me.”
  • John 12:45 “He who sees Me sees the One who sent Me.”
  • John 14:7 “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also.”

One of the purposes for Christ’s first coming was to give mankind greater understanding of God. He came to earth as a visible man displaying “the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15).

Jesus’ teaching was often perplexing.

Many of His statements didn’t make sense, and we still struggle to accept and believe them. However, if we obey his teachings, we’ll become living testimonies of Jesus to all who see us.

  • Matthew 5:11-12 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great.”
  • Matthew 5:44 “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
  • Matthew 20:27 “Whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.”
  • Mark 8:34 “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.”
  • Mark 8:35 “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.”
  • Matthew 5:5 “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.”
  • Matthew 10:34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Sometimes following Jesus results in severed relationships with those who will no longer accept us because of our commitment to Him.

All these commands and blessings require a humble heart willing to surrender to Christ so He can use us in whatever way He desires. When we display these qualities, we are exemplifying the character of Christ.

Jesus’ name is like no other

Although many take Christ’s name in vain, God’s Word attributes power and honor to His name.

  • Philippians 2:9-11 “God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name.” Believers recognize this, acknowledging Him as Lord; but at the great judgment, even those who rejected Him will bow and confess that He is Lord.
  • Luke 24:47 The gospel of repentance and forgiveness of sins which we preach is to “be proclaimed in His name to all the nations.”
  • John 14:13 Jesus told His disciples, “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do.”
  • Matthew 18:20 He also promised that “where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”
  • Acts 3:6 When Peter healed a lame man, he said, “In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—walk!”
  • Acts 4:12 “There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”

Jesus will return to earth as the reigning King and Judge of all mankind.

  • Matthew 25:31 When Christ comes to “sit on His glorious throne” and judge the earth, He will separate the nations as a shepherd separates sheep from goats.

RESPONSE

  • When you hear the name of Jesus, what thoughts and perceptions come to mind? What emotions do you feel?
  • Have you tried to explain who Jesus is to someone who is ignorant or antagonistic toward Him? What happened? Did you feel adequately equipped to give an answer?
  • What new truths have you learned that provide a greater understanding of the Lord Jesus? As you contemplate His majesty, offer a prayer of praise and gratitude to Him.

Sermon Notes PDF

https://www.intouch.org/watch/sermons/an-introduction-to-jesus

Seeing God

Seeing God

by John MacArthur December 6, 2021

Just as the sun’s rays illuminate and warm the Earth, so Christ is God’s glorious light that shines into the hearts of mankind. That is the point that the writer of Hebrews makes when he describes Jesus Christ—God incarnate—as “the radiance of [God’s] glory” (Hebrews 1:3).

“Radiance” literally means “to send forth light,” indicating that Jesus is the manifestation of God to us. Jesus Christ is the radiance of who God is, and He affirmed that fact during His earthly ministry: “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life” (John 8:12). Christ transmits that light into our lives so that we can radiate the glory of God to others. God sent His glorious light, in the person of Jesus Christ, into a morally dark world to call sinners to Himself. No one would ever be able to see or enjoy God’s true radiance if it weren’t for His Son and those who know Him.

It is truly a blessing to know that Jesus Christ can indwell your life and impart the spiritual light necessary to see and believe God. Jesus’ radiance points you to salvation, which in turn results in forgiveness, reconciliation, peace, joy, and genuine fellowship for all eternity.

Seeing Jesus, Seeing God

Hebrews 1:3 goes on to declare that Jesus Christ is “the exact representation of [God’s] nature.” Jesus possesses the essential nature or being of God the Father. That is, He has all the attributes that are indispensable to who and what God is, such as immutability (unchangeableness), omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence. He is the exact stamp or replication of God. In the words of the Nicene Creed, Jesus Christ is “very God of very God.”

The apostle Paul likewise teaches us in Colossians 1:15, “He is the image of the invisible God.” Here, unlike Hebrews 1:3, the Greek word translated “image” is eikōn, from which we get the English term “icon,” meaning a precise copy or reproduction. But both verses communicate the same truth. Christ possesses the very nature of God and perfectly manifests all of His attributes. The incarnate Son of God displays the essence of God to everyone who sees Him.

Whenever people talk about the baby in the manger, they speak of none other than God Himself. And next time, we’ll consider Christ’s sovereign role in sustaining creation and saving sinners.

(Adapted from God in the Manger)

https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B211206

VIDEO What the Magi Mean to Christmas

John MacArthur Dec 11, 2016

The following sermon transcript does not match the video version of the sermon—it matches only the audio version. Here’s a brief explanation why.

John MacArthur routinely preaches a sermon more than once on the same date, during different worship services at Grace Community Church. Normally, for a given sermon title, our website features the audio and video that were recorded during the same worship service. Very occasionally, though, we will post the audio from one service and the video from another. Such was the case for the sermon titled “I and the Father Are One, Part 2,” the transcript of which follows below. The transcript is of the audio version.

Familiar scene of Christmas is depicted so commonly by artists who design Christmas cards, and most people get their understanding of Christmas from Christmas cards and not from Scripture.

There are some very familiar and accurate understandings. Obviously, Joseph and Mary and the Baby, and the shepherds; pretty clear to all of us just exactly who they were. We understand the shepherd were in the field in Bethlehem, and the angels came and sent them to see the Child that had been born. But the question comes as to who are the wise men, or the magi, as they have been called? They’ve even been called kings. But exactly who are they and why were they there? Obviously, it is important to the narrative of Matthew, and therefore to the Lord Himself who designed that this be included in Holy Scripture, that we know something about these men called the magi.

Now let me dispel some of the things that are inaccurate. They were not kings as such and there weren’t three of them. So there goes We Three Kings of Orient Are. Some have suggested through the years that they were actually specially chosen representatives of the three sons of Noah: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. For that, there is absolutely no sensible evidence. They actually acquire names in church history. They became known as Gaspar, Balthasar, and Melchior. Those names were added long after the actual events and have no connection whatsoever to the actual wise men.

The magi number was unlikely three. There were three separate gifts, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there had to be three men. We don’t know how many there were. But there are traditions in the Roman Catholic Church that say there were three, and in the twelfth century, someone discovered their three skulls. And there was a little battle, I think, about who had the right skulls, because they were supposed to be in a cathedral in Cologne, and there were others claiming that the actual skulls were in the Cathedral of Milan. I might add, skulls found in the twelfth century would have absolutely no way to be connected to these men. And, certainly, three skulls is totally arbitrary.

Just exactly who are they and why are they there? Well, the question as to why they’re there is answered in the text, and that is to worship Him. They came to worship. That becomes absolutely clear. In chapter 2 and verse 2, they say, “We have come to worship Him.” That is their point. Herod even acknowledges this in verse 8 and says, “Come back and tell me when you find Him, that I too may come and worship Him.”

Their desire again is indicated in verse 11: “When they arrived and saw the Child with Mary His mother, they fell to the ground and worshiped Him.” They are worshipers. They acknowledge that the King has been born and the King is worthy of worship. This is another way that Matthew can identify the nature of the one that is born.

We know He’s a king from the genealogy in verses 1 to 17 of chapter 1. He’s in the royal line. We know He is more than just a royal son of David, He is also a Son of God, verses 18 to 25, what we looked at last time. He was born of a virgin. He is created in the womb of Mary by God Himself through the work of the Holy Spirit. So His birth is a royal Son on earth and a royal Son from heaven. And here we find that He is given worship from a group of men whose unique responsibility in their culture was to identify kings. They were Middle Eastern king makers, the magi.

For us to really understand this, we need to go back and do a little bit of church history, a little bit of ancient history, I should say, before the church. We need to go back and learn something about the magi. And we do have information about them. The term used to describe them appears in the New Testament here, as you see in verse 1, and then down in verse 12 again, Greek word magos. But there is also an equivalent in the Old Testament in the Hebrew, and they appear on a number of occasions as well in the Old Testament. So we can trace their history, and that helps us understand exactly what is going on here.

Essentially, the word “magi” is not a word that can be translated, although it has come to mean something associated with magic and magicians. Magi was just the name of a tribe, a tribe. It happened to be a priestly tribe, a very religious tribe from which there were priests that arose to very significant prominence. It appears that this tribe is extremely ancient. Some would trace this tribe back to Abraham in Ur of the Chaldees and see them as an extremely old tribe, a kind of wandering, meandering, nomadic tribe during the time of Abraham. Not all historians would push them back that far, but all agree that they are a very ancient people. They appear in the time of the Babylonian captivity. They appear in the Medo-Persian Empire, which followed the Empire of Babylon, and they’re still around in very significant positions of influence and power at the time of the birth of our Lord.

Now what do they know about the birth of Christ? How could they know anything about the birth of Christ? The answer to that is that you do remember there were a series of deportations into Babylonian captivity that God brought upon Israel, upon Israel, first of all, the northern kingdom, and in Judah, the southern kingdom. The southern kingdom Jews were taken in three waves into Babylon: that’s the Middle East, that’s the Fertile Crescent, that’s the familiar Middle East that you know today. The Jews were taken there into captivity by the Babylonians. They were kept in that captivity for 70 years, and then they were sent back to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple, which they did. But during the 70 years that they were there, many of those Jews intermarried. Many of them remained in the Middle East in the Babylonian Empire.

One of those that remained was Daniel. Daniel extended beyond his role as a significant prime minister in the Babylonian world right on into the kingdom of the Medes and the Persians. Daniel was not the only remaining Jew, there were many others; and as I said, there were many who intermarried. Some of the nobles in the history of the Middle East had Jewish blood; and even, we are told, some of the kings may well have had Jewish blood. It was the dispersion of the Jews into the Middle East that brought the message of the Old Testament to that part of the world. They brought with them the Scripture. They brought with them the prophecies.

In fact, Daniel himself was a prophet, Ezekiel was a prophet, and there were other prophets who ministered during the captivity. Whatever their history might have been prior to that, however far back they may have gone, we do know that they were in Babylon, they were in this subsequent Medo-Persian Empire, and they remained there in the Fertile Crescent all the way until the time of our Lord Jesus being born, and they were extremely influential. They had great power. Most historians would say that they were Semitic people, that is they descended from Shem. They have been, through history, able to retain that designation magos, which is translated magi. That word later became corrupted to mean magic and magician, but originally identified this tribe of people who particularly were religious and marked by a significant noble kind of priesthood. They did apparently use occultic powers, they were not only involved in some level of astronomy, but even astrology, which is the kind of mystical partner to astronomy.

They had some features in their religion. Fire was a main feature in their religion. In fact, it might have been the principle element of their worship. They had an altar that had on it a perpetual flame that they said was lit by heaven, and they drew the fire off of that flame, put it on another altar, and burned up animal sacrifices on that other altar. And after the animals were burned on the altar, they were eaten by the worshipers and by the magi priests as well. So they had a sacrificial system.

Their priesthood was also hereditary. They carried around bundles of divining rods by which they used techniques supposedly to reveal to them the will of the gods through these mechanisms. They believed in the destruction of certain unclean forms of life, unclean animals, much as the Jews did. They were realistic about death and judgment after death, individual judgment. They also didn’t touch dead bodies, again very much like the Jews. By the time we see them in the Babylonian Empire and we see them there, they are identified as magicians. We see them in the court of Nebuchadnezzar.

Jeremiah 39, we see them there. In fact, we meet the chief of the magi who is named Nergalsarezer, and he is in the royal court, because they were very, very prominent, influential priests. They sustained that prominence on into the Medo-Persian Empire, and we see them there as well. They played a role under Nebuchadnezzar the great familiar king that we know so much about from the book of Daniel. And in Daniel, chapter 2, a couple of times, and in Daniel, chapter 4, a couple of times, we are introduced to the magi in the royal realm of Nebuchadnezzar.

Chapter 5 of Daniel in verse 11 says Daniel was made the chief of the magi, the chief of the magi. They were involved in trying to interpret dreams; that was something they did, and we know that Daniel did that as well in an accurate way, because God enabled him to do it. So Daniel connected to these magi in such a way that he communicated to them the truth of Old Testament Judaism and the promise of the coming Messiah; that is obvious. Messianic prophesies of Daniel and the other prophets, which Daniel would know, were revealed to these very prominent king makers – and I’ll more about that in a few moments. They absorbed them and they believed them, at least to the degree that they actually came to worship when the King was born.

They were no doubt excited about the fact that Daniel had told them, and others had prophesied, that there was coming a great world King, a great Jewish monarch who would bring in a divinely inspired monarchy of righteousness and rule the world, and they wanted to be in on that, they wanted to be a part of that. Daniel made such an impact on them that you have to note this when you’re going to the book of Daniel. And you remember that Daniel basically was put in a difficult position, because some of the very influential people in the court of Babylon came to the king and said, “Daniel doesn’t bow down to you, Daniel bows down to his God and he fails to worship you.” And they got the king previously to make a decree that if anybody didn’t worship him they’d throw them in the lions den.

We remember the story; Daniel was thrown then into the lions den and survived, as we know. But just keep this in mind that the regional governors who are identified as the ones who pulled the plot off and got Daniel thrown into the lions den are satraps, regional governors, not magi. Daniel was the chief of the magi, which means that he had been elevated in their eyes and respected by them. It wasn’t the magi that put Daniel in that lions den. They continue in providence and in prominence, as God’s purposes unfold, through the Medo-Persian Empire.

Along the way, there appears to have sort of merged with them a religion called Zoroastrianism. We don’t know exactly the time of the prophet Zoroaster, a very, very ancient prophet who appeared in, I guess we would say Modern Persia and Iran – again, in the Middle East. And Zoroaster established a sort of state religion. It’s kind of a pre-Islamic religion in the Middle East. It became the state religion of Persia, and the magi absorbed it as well, anxious to maintain their political and religious power. They went along with royal decrees and allowed the merger of Zoroastrianism with their own form of religion. It may be that Zoroastrianism carried with it more of the astrological things that seemed to be associated with them.

So they are a very hybrid religion. They are whatever they were to initiate that religion, and then mingled with prophecies that they were taught by the Jews, and then with the addition of things from Zoroastrianism, they were an eclectic kind of religion. But among those magi were some who had actually come to believe in the truth revealed to them by the Jewish people in dispersion. Now they were so powerful in the Middle East that no Persian was able to become a ruling king in the empire unless he first mastered the scientific and religious discipline of the magi, which wisdom was called the law of the Medes and the Persians. And you’ve heard that expression. The law of the Medes and the Persians refer to in Esther, chapter 1, and Daniel, chapter 6, was essentially the wisdom of the magi. And it may well have been that which was taught to the young men, Daniel and his friends, when they were originally taken captive into Babylon.

The magi also in ancient times controlled the judicial office. They were a kind of combination of senate and supreme court. It was among their ranks from which the bench of royal judges was chosen, referred to in the 1st chapter of the book of Esther. They basically were in a position to check and balance the monarchy so that ultimate despotic authority didn’t reside in one man. They were the king makers. No one could be king unless they appointed them. And they kept the king, to whatever degree they could, in check. The law of the Medes and Persians, the teaching and the wisdom of the magi involved astronomy, mathematics, natural history, agriculture, architecture, and any other sciences.

You do remember a parallel to that. You remember that when Moses went into Egypt and was raised as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He was disciplined, Scripture says, in all the wisdom of the Egyptians. The Egyptians had their own elite, as the magi were in the Middle East. They were, to Babylon Medo-Persia, what the wise men of Egypt were to that great country. No one ruled apart from their approval.

And Daniel rises to be the chief of the magi; really an amazing thing for a Jew. He ruled under various monarchs, Daniel did, for 64 years, all the way from Nebuchadnezzar to Cyrus the Great. And during that time, not only was he faithful to pray to his God, but he was faithful to proclaim his God and the prophecies of a coming Messiah and Savior.

Strangely enough, the syncretistic hybrid religion of the magi had some things in common with the religion of the Jews. Each was monotheistic. Each believed in one God, and that was in a world where there was virtually everywhere the belief in many gods: polytheism. But the magi and the Jews believed in one true God. They both believed in angels, they both believed in demons, and they both believed in a deliverer or a savior. They both had a hereditary priesthood, which was identified as the mediator between the one true God and man by means of blood sacrifice. Each priesthood was wielding overwhelming political and social power; and we know that to be the case with the priests of Israel at the time of our Lord’s birth.

Each – that is both the magi and their religion, and the Jews and theirs – depended on supernatural revelation gained by the priests in their religions. The magi and priests gained their revelation by some form of divination, and the Jews, early on as you remember, received revelation from God by the Urim and the Thummim on the breastplate of the high priest. Each of these two religions claimed prophetic insight, and therefore prophetic authority. Each had a coming Messiah at the end of history in an apocalyptic judgment, and to establish a final kingdom of righteousness. So we can see there were common realities in their religion. And when they were exposed then to what the Old Testament said about the Messiah, about the coming of the Lord, it fit many of the things that they already had preconceived.

Now as we come to the birth of Jesus Christ, there are some further facts about them that you need to know. I think we look at the magi and we think of them as really benign guys dressed up in women’s clothes, riding on camels, as harmless as harmless gets. But the reality is this: they came from the Middle Eastern Empire from the historic Babylonian Medo-Persian Parthian Empire, the massive Middle Eastern Empire that eventually became Persia and Iran, and is broken up to into component parts today. That Middle Eastern Empire was the sworn enemy of Rome. Rome was the massive monolithic power in the west, and this empire was the massive monolithic power in the east.

And they had gone to war significantly three times: in 63 B.C., in 55 B.C., and in 40 B.C. And as you would expect, because Rome is to the west, and the great Medo-Persian Parthian Empire is to the east. When they fight, they’re going to wind up fighting in Israel. Israel becomes sort of the no man’s land between these two massive powers. And that is exactly what happened. That is precisely what happened.

By the way, as a footnote, when you’re reading the book of Acts, you’ll come across Simon Magus, and Magus Elymas, in Acts 8 and 13, who had obviously – Jewish men who had identified with the influence of the magi. Just to let you know that they not only were there at the time of Christ, but even in the years after, they had some influence.

Now at the time of Christ that the Persian Parthian Empire to the east is dominated by the magi in their dual role as religious priests and governmental officials, they compose the upper house of the Megasthenes, which would be like their ruling body. They had absolute power to select the king of the empire. They were the royal king makers. And interestingly enough, they had a king, Phraates, who had recently been deposed, and they had at the time of the birth of Christ no reigning king.

So they were in the process of trying to find the next monarch, somebody obviously better than the one who was deposed. Combine that with the fact that they knew the prophecies of Daniel, and that would mean that they may well have known the prophecy of the 70 weeks of Daniel and could have calculated the years from the decree of Artaxerxes to the very time when our Lord lived, they were aware that they were probably in that time period. This may well be the time. Daniel would have interpreted his own prophecy for them. They’re without a king. They know they’re at the time when the king is supposed to come, and so they head for Jerusalem from deep into the Fertile Crescent, the Tigris-Euphrates Valley in the Middle East.

Now if you think there were just three of them you are so wrong. They came in full force. They are not just meandering isolated wise men, they are the king makers of the massive empire of the Middle East, the pre-Islamic Empire. They come with all their oriental pomp. They come escorted by perhaps several thousand soldiers, riding on magnificent steeds, Persian steeds. They come with servants and slaves and cooks and all kinds of craftsmen. They come with all oriental pomp and circumstance, and they show up at Jerusalem, this huge entourage numbering in the thousands, and they are there looking for the King of the Jews. They go to Jerusalem and to Herod, who is at the time the king of the Jews – the Romans let him have that title – and they tell him, in verse 2, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? We saw His star and we’ve come to worship Him.”

Verse 3 says, “When Herod heard this, he was troubled.” Of course, he was troubled. He was more than troubled, he was terrified, he was panicked. He had secured for himself the title king of the Jews from Augustus Caesar, but what he got with it was this little piece of buffer land between these two massive empires with huge contending armies. At the time of the birth of Christ, Herod was close to death. He certainly died within about a year of the birth of Christ.

Augustus Caesar, who had given him that title, was aged. Rome, since the retirement of the great general Tiberius had no commander in chief for its army. Rome had great vulnerability, and Herod had very little protection. The time may have been right in his mind, and maybe in the minds of those in the east for another attack on Rome, and they could begin it in Israel. And, oh, by the way; the troops that had been given by Rome to Herod at the time that the magi arrived were somewhere else dealing with some other issue. So he is a king without an army. He is a king in a position of becoming a victim caught in the middle of a fourth war between the west and the east.

And then they say the reason: “We’re here is because we’ve come to see the King of the Jews, for we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” Not only are there natural forces working here, and biblical or prophetic forces, but there is a supernatural sign going on. And they’re saying, obviously, the magi, “Could this be the invincible Monarch that we will crown, as the official king makers of the east? Could this be the one we’ve all been waiting for, the one Daniel spoke about, the one the Jews called their Messiah? And can we, with the coming of Messiah, crown Him King and take back Israel from the Romans, and then march beyond Israel to the Roman world and exterminate even the Romans?”

So into Jerusalem comes this massive entourage, led by the magi, to identify this new King. Riding their fine horses, the king makers of the east with their conical-shaped headdress – it’s a symbol of their power – they scare the wits out of Herod. They’re on a mission to check out a new king. This is about sovereignty, and sovereignty could mean war. It certainly can mean that whatever title Herod had, he’s about to lose. But it’s beyond that, because we find in the account that they are honorable, they are deeply religious, they are God-fearing, and they believe in what they have been told from the Old Testament, and they have been told it by Daniel, the chief of the magi. So the stage is set – Bethlehem, Joseph, Mary, a little Baby; a panicky, terrified Herod; and a powerful group of magi – and Matthew unfolds what happened.

And, oh, by the way; one other misconception: they didn’t come to the manger. Where did they come? Verse 11 says they came to the house. This is after Joseph and Mary and the Baby have left the manger and are living somewhere in a house. Why, again, does Matthew include this? Because he wants to demonstrate that not only is Jesus a King by virtue of royal lineage – verses 1 to 17 of chapter 1; He’s in the line of David, He’s a descendant of David – but he wants to demonstrate that He is even viewed as a King in the non-Jewish world, because those who are the highest level of king makers acknowledge Him as King. This is another way for Matthew, for the Lord Himself to reveal to us the royal identification of the Lord Jesus. His royalty is recognized by His royal line from David, but it’s recognized by Gentiles as well. He is the King of Israel, but His is also the King of kings.

Chapter 1: Jesus deserves royal honor; He is a son of David. Chapter 2: He receives royal honor, but not from His own people, but rather from those who came from afar – Gentiles. So the magi represent the first fruits of the Gentile nations and remind us again that God always had them in His heart.

Now for just a moment we’ll look at the text itself. Verse 1: “After Jesus was born.” We’ve now moved after Jesus is born. They’re out of the stable; He’s out of the manger; they’re in a home. In the days of Herod the king Magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem. We all know about Bethlehem where He was born, a little town six miles south of Jerusalem. It was once called Ephrata, and then Bethlehem – house of bread, because it was a fertile countryside in which there was produced wheat that could make bread. The town of Bethlehem rests on top of a gray limestone ridge more than 2,500 feet high. The ridge has a summit at each end, and it’s kind of a saddle in the middle. It looks like a town set in an amphitheater.

It had a long history, Bethlehem did. It was there that Jacob buried Rachel and set up a pillar by her grave. It was there that Ruth lived when she married Boaz; and from Bethlehem, Ruth could see across the Jordan Valley to her homeland of Moab. But above all, this was the town, the home, the city of David; and it was for the water of the well of Bethlehem that David longed when he was a hunted fugitive. This is David’s city, and the Messiah is to be born as David’s son in David’s city. Bethlehem is so very important.

They didn’t go to Bethlehem, however, they came to Jerusalem, and they came in the days of Herod. We’ll look at a little more history about Herod. But he was not a Jew, he was an Edomite – an Idumean, another way to say it. He made himself useful to the Romans when they occupied Israel during the civil wars in Israel, and so the Romans came to trust him. He bought his way in by favoring the Romans. Once Rome had captured Judea, they set up a procurator there by the name of Antipater, who was also an Edomite, and he was allowed to appoint his son Herod as tetrarch of Galilee in 47 B.C. In 40 B.C., that was the last of those. Three times I told you that the eastern forces came and fought a great battle in the land of Israel 40 B.C.

Herod fled to Rome. When he got to Rome he asked for help from the Roman senate, so they made him King of Judea. They gave him a small army, sent him back. Took him three years to kind of win back the territory; but by 37 A.D., 37 years before B.C. the time we mark the birth of Christ, he had won back his land. He was essentially Rome’s appointed king. Rome gave him the title King of the Jews until he died around 4 B.C. So that’s the setting.

He has fought for this petty kingdom, this insignificant – in one sense – place; and now he is threatened like he’s never imagined with the force coming from the east. They’re looking for the one who is King of the Jews. They saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him. Just a few words about this and then we’ll wait until next week for the rest.

What is His star? What is it? And I know you have imagined many things, and perhaps been told many things. Some say it was a genuine star, it was an actual star. The Lord blew on it and kind of enriched its flames a little bit, and it got brighter than normal. Some say it’s Jupiter; that has been called the king planet. Some say it was sort of a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in the sign of a fish – there’s some imagination. Some say it was an erratic comet. Some say it was a low-hanging, flying, small meteor. And some say it was the star of destiny in the minds of the magi.

None of that makes any sense, of course. But one thing does make sense, and it is this: if you go to Luke, chapter 2 – just to comment on it – and verse 9, when the shepherds are out in the field and the angels come and make an announcement, it says, “The glory of the Lord shone around them.” The shekinah glory of God appeared. The glory of the Lord shown around them. The chief word in the Hebrew Old Testament is kowkab, the shining, the blazing forth, the shekinah. It is used to speak of stars in the Old Testament, of angels, of men, and even of God. And in Numbers 24:17, “There shall come a kowkab, a shining out of Jacob; a scepter shall rise out of Israel.” Christ is that kowkab.

This is further described in Matthew 24. At the second coming of Christ, glory appears. Everything goes dark and glory appears in the sky. His kowkab, His blazing forth. So at the second coming of Christ, the glory, the shining shekinah glory of God appears. He reveals Himself in blazing glory.

And I think that’s what you have here. His star, His unique kowkab, His unique aster, from which we get the word “asteroid,” which is a New Testament term. His own shining. His star, not any other one, but His star. The star that accompanied the birth of Christ is the same shekinah glory that will accompany the second coming of Christ. It appeared, it appeared.

Verse 7, “Herod asked at what time the star appeared, phain, that which lights up like lightening. It’s used as lightening in Matthew 24:27, a kind of blazing out of nowhere like lightening. So we can assume that with all the prophetic knowledge they had and all the timing they had learned from Daniel, they were ready to come. They needed a king; maybe this was the one. They began their journey when there was in the skies something that they had never seen, the lightening of the shining of the glory of God, the star that marks the coming of the Messiah. It will mark His second coming; it marked His first coming as well.

Chapter 2, verse 9, says, “They went their way, and the star which they had seen in the east went on before them.” No real star can do that. This is a star that is like the shekinah glory of God in the Old Testament during the exodus that was a glory cloud in the day and a pillar of fire by night that led the people of Israel in the direction that God wanted them to go.

So here again the glory cloud appears, and it led them  . They saw it in the east. It came, stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they greatly rejoiced with great joy. This is an indication of the genuineness of their interest in the God of Daniel and the God of Israel, and the King that the God of Daniel and the God of Israel was sending into the world.

I like to think that the star is the sign of the Son of Man. Remember in Matthew, “You will see the sign of the Son of Man.” The glory that accompanied His birth and led these magi is the glory that will accompany His return. They came to worship Him. Pagans guided by a prophet, guided by Old Testament Scripture, guided by supernatural presence of the glory of God come enthusiastically and authentically to seek the King.

While the Jewish hierarchy, with the Pentateuch and the prophets, are content to be ruled by Herod, and remain totally indifferent, hostile, and even murderous toward the true King. When they arrive and confront Herod, the story becomes tragic.

Just for today to conclude, there are only two possible responses to the arrival of Christ. One is the response of His own people: “He came unto His own and His own received Him not,” or the response of those who were not His people, who came from afar to worship Him, and rejoiced with great joy – the only two options. No middle ground. You either reject Him like His own nation or you receive Him like those from afar. He came unto His own, His own received Him not. But to as many as received Him, to them He gave the power to become the children of God. His own were cursed, but these Middle Eastern king makers were blessed because of their response to Christ.

Father, we thank You for, again, a glimpse of history, and yet it informs so richly the account of the magi and what is about to happen. Lord, thank You that You have not only given us Your Word, but that You have even preserved resources throughout history that we can draw from so that we can better understand the things that are written on the holy pages of Scripture.

May we be made worthy by Your grace; we’ll thank You, in Christ’s name. Amen.

https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/81-5

“God, the Savior of Men”

Friday's Featured Sermon: "God, the Savior of Men"

by Jacob Trotter December 10, 2021

Why was Jesus born?

We know where he was born. We know when he was born. We sing songs celebrating that he was born. But why was he born?

One of the simplest answers is this: Jesus was born to be the Savior. This is why the angels in Luke 2:11 proclaimed, “Today in the city of David there has been born for you a savior.”

Before the angels spoke in Luke 2, Mary herself sang, “My soul exults the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior” (Luke 1:46–47). Shortly after this, Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, prophesied that God “has raised up a horn of salvation for us” (Luke 1:69). Then a righteous man named Simeon saw Jesus and said to God, “My eyes have seen Your salvation” (Luke 2:30).

Mary, Zacharias, Simeon, and the angels all recognized that Jesus was born to bring God’s salvation. They understood this because they knew that God Himself is a savior.

In his sermon “God, the Savior of Men,” John MacArthur explains,

It’s not, as some people say, that God is the bad guy and Jesus is the good guy and, that Jesus gets up there and really, really pleads with God, trying to soften Him up. It’s not that. As much as Jesus is a savior, so much is God a savior, and so much is the Holy Spirit a savior. There’s no diminishing of that saving nature in any member of the Trinity.

He continues,

In the Old Testament, God is a savior, and over and over again His salvation is spoken of; I’m going to resist the opportunity to point out innumerable Scriptures. Deuteronomy 20 verse 3, “The Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to save you” to save you. I mean, by nature God did that. That’s just in the very fabric of His eternal being. The psalmist says of God in Psalm 25:5, “Thou are the God of my salvation.” They knew Him as a savior. In fact, David in Psalm 51 was praying to God; and he lost the joy because of his disobedience, and he says to God, “Restore to me the joy of thy salvation.” They know God as a Savior God. And the Old Testament is just filled with indications of that.

From beginning to end, Scripture presents God as a savior. And the culmination of His saving work began with the birth of Jesus Christ.

Click here to listen to John’s sermon, “God, the Savior of Sinners.”

https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B212210

The Sustainer of Creation and the Savior of Sinners

The Sustainer of Creation and the Savior of Sinners

by John MacArthur December 8, 2021

“If God ceased to exist, the universe would perish with Him, because God not only has created everything, He sustains everything. We are dependent on Him, not only for our origin, but also for our continuing existence.” R. C. Sproul penned those words in 2017—soon before his passing. It some novel revelation; Sproul was merely paraphrasing the author of Hebrews, who states that Christ “upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3, ESV).

In fact Jesus has been sustaining all things ever since He created them. As we have already seen, He is the Creator of the entire universe, material and nonmaterial. But Christ’s authority does not stop there. He continually upholds and sustains all of His creation.

Christ established the principle of cohesion; He makes the universe a cosmos instead of chaos. He infallibly ensures that the universe runs as an ordered, reliable unit instead of as an erratic, unpredictable muddle. That’s because our Lord has devised and implemented the myriad natural laws, both complex and straightforward, that are all perfectly reliable, consistent, and precisely suited to their particular purposes. Time and again they wonderfully demonstrate the mind and power of Jesus Christ working through the universe.

No scientist, mathematician, astronomer, or nuclear physicist could do anything or discover anything apart from the sustaining power and authority of Christ. The whole universe hangs on His powerful word, His infinite wisdom, and His effortless ability to control every element and orchestrate the movements of every molecule, atom, and subatomic particle.

For example, if the size of the Earth’s orbit around the sun increased or decreased by even the slightest amount, we would soon fatally freeze or fry. If the Earth’s angle of tilt went beyond its present range even slightly, that would drastically disrupt the familiar four-season cycle and threaten to end life on the planet. Similarly, if the moon’s orbit around the Earth diminished, ocean tides would greatly increase, to unimaginable havoc. And if our atmosphere thinned just a little, many of the thousands of meteors that now enter it and harmlessly incinerate before striking the ground would crash to the surface with potentially catastrophic results.

Jesus Christ prevents such disasters by perfectly maintaining the universe’s intricate balance. The most astronomical distances and largest objects are not beyond His control. The most delicate and microscopic processes do not escape His attention. He is the preeminent power and authority who nevertheless came to earth in human form, assuming a servant’s role.

The Redeemer of Sinners

The writer of Hebrews then shifts his focus from the vastness of Christ’s universe to narrow in on His people. Jesus “by himself purged our sins” (Hebrews 1:3, KJV). Jesus, by His atoning death, brought about the purging or cleansing of the sins of all believers. That is what we needed most, and only the Lord Jesus could meet that need.

The Old Testament priests offered animal sacrifices over and over, but none of those could ultimately remove sins. Those repeated sacrifices instead merely pointed to mankind’s desperate need for a once-for-all sacrifice that could suffice for final atonement. And God provided such a sacrifice in the person of His Son, Jesus. As the writer of Hebrews later wrote, “So Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many” (Hebrews 9:28); “for by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14).

In keeping with the Old Testament law that the sacrificial lamb had to be spotless, the final New Covenant sacrifice had to be a perfect, sinless substitute. To pay the price of sin for others he had to be perfect, or he would have likewise owed the price for his own sin and thus been unacceptable. And since no one in the world is without sin, the substitute had to be someone from outside the world. Yet to die in the place of men and women, he still needed to be a man.

Of course, the only person who could meet those requirements was Jesus Christ. He is the only sinless man, the only perfect substitute for sinners. By offering Himself to die on the cross, He took the full wrath of God for sinners like you and me. That divine wrath, originally and righteously directed toward us, was then satisfied. Thus God can forgive you—because Christ paid the penalty for your sin.

So one of the preeminent glories of Christ is that, as the God-Man, He came to die for sinners. And He died on the cross to accomplish redemption. Immediately prior to His death, Jesus uttered these profound words: “It is finished!” (John 19:30). Once and for all He paid the price for the sins of everyone who would ever believe in Him.

It is because of Christ alone that we live and breathe and can enjoy eternal forgiveness. No wonder the Hebrews writer next turns to Christ’s glorious exaltation.

The Exalted One

The author of Hebrews concludes his marvelous outline of Christ’s preeminence by affirming His exaltation: “He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3).

Christ’s ministry on earth ended forty days after His resurrection, when He ascended into heaven (Acts 1:9–11). And when He returned there, God seated Him at His right hand (Psalm 110:1Hebrews 1:138:110:1212:2), which always symbolized the side of power, authority, prominence, and preeminence (Romans 8:341 Peter 3:22). Paul says that at that point God gave Him a name above all names—Lord (Philippians 2:9–11), which is the New Testament synonym for Old Testament descriptions of God as sovereign ruler.

When Jesus went into heaven, He did what no priest had ever done—He sat down. The Old Testament priests never sat down while ministering because even their most faithful work was imperfect. But Christ perfectly accomplished the work of redemption on the cross; therefore it was appropriate for Him to picture that by sitting down in glory. He remains there, on the right hand of the throne of God, as the believer’s great High Priest and intercessor (Hebrews 7:259:24).

When you read and study Hebrews 1, the wonderful truth of Jesus Christ’s preeminence and superiority shines forth from every verse. You can’t miss it, whether it’s in His inheritance of all things, His agency in creation, His essential nature as God, or His atoning death for sinners. The entire chapter effectively proclaims the Messiah’s true identity and rightful position.

When you consider the baby in the Bethlehem shelter, you’re seeing more than an adorable child who grew up to be a good teacher and compassionate healer. Hebrews 1 confronts and challenges you to own an accurate understanding of the matchless person and work of Christ. The writer, through careful, Spirit-inspired argumentation, declares irrefutably that the child born to Mary was indeed God in the manger. Jesus truly was the Son of God, miraculously conceived by the Holy Spirit, yet born naturally to a young woman in Israel two thousand years ago. And He is irrefutably the Lord and Savior who lived a perfect life and died as the perfect atonement, so that all who believe in Him might have eternal life.

(Adapted from God in the Manger)

https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B211208

AUDIO The Miraculous Baby Boy Born In Bethlehem

By Rev Bill Woods

How cute to see a little girl’s doll, recruited at the last minute and wrapped tightly in a blanket, lying on the straw of an X-ended manger that’s spent the rest of the year in the church attic.

Jessica’s to stand in for Mary — Robert, the tallest boy in Sunday school, makes a perfect Joseph — once they put the fake beard on him.

Understand, I’m not against nativity scenes.  But we’ve seen so many, year after year, it’s hard to read Scripture and see with fresh eyes what it’s saying to us.

Luke 2:1-7
 At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire.
 (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.)
 All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census.
 And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee.
 He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant.
 And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born.
 She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.

Notice 4 things about the birth of Jesus: He was born in history, He was born in David’s birthplace, His birth was accompanied by hardship, and He was born in humble circumstances.

1.  JESUS WAS BORN IN HISTORY — Luke 2:1-2 —At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire.
2  (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.)

Jesus has an historical context; He’s not a myth or a legend.

A myth is “a person or thing having only an imaginary or unverifiable existence.”

    – Jesus was born in history.

A legend is “a story from the past that’s regarded as historical although not verifiable.”

    – But Jesus is both historical and verifiable. 

– He’s not only mentioned in the New Testament, but also by people living when He lived and also in early documents written by Josephus, Pliny, Tacitus, Suetonius, Bar-Serapion,

       Thallus, Lucian, and the Talmud.

        – Jesus is a real person in history — that can be verified!

We have record of those who were in power when Jesus was born:

      – “Caesar Augustus” was the emperor Octavian, founder of the Roman Empire, who reigned  from BC 27 until his death in AD 14, he was succeeded by Tiberius Caesar.

Herod the Great (Matthew 2:1) was called “king of the Jews,” who ruled Judea from 40BC to 4 BC.

       – Herod’s paranoia and ruthlessness was well known, he executed 3 of his own sons, his favorite wife and her mother and slaughtered all the baby boys in Bethlehem.

The 3rd ruler — Quirinius, was a military leader and Roman consul in central Asia Minor, and later Imperial Legate of Syria-Cilicia (AD 6 to 9), where Josephus said he conducted a census.

    – The census in Luke 2 wasn’t recorded historically, but probably took place under a command   authority he had during his military maneuvers in Cilicia, or during an earlier stint as governor in Syria.

    – Early heresies such as Docetism and modern heresies such as Christian Science strip Jesus  of His place in history and make Him into some kind of “Christ figure” or metaphysical guru.

        – Scripture puts Him within history as a man who lived and died and rose again in real  time, a man who permanently changed the history he was born into.

One Solitary Life by ken Blanchard

He was born in an obscure village, the child of peasant woman. He grew up in still another villager where he worked in a carpenter shop until he was thirty. Then for three years he was an itinerant preacher. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family or owned a house. He didn’t go to college. He never visited a big city. He never travelled two hundred miles from the place where he was born. He did none of the things one usually associates with greatness. He had no credentials but himself. He was only thirty-three when the tide of public opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. He was turned over to his enemies and went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves. While he was dying, his executioners gambled for his clothing, the only property he had on earth. When he was dead, he was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend. Twenty centuries have come and gone, and today he is the central figure of the human race and the leader of mankind’s progress. All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man on this earth as much as that One Solitary Life.

 2.  JESUS WAS BORN IN DAVID’S BIRTHPLACE — Luke 2:4 — And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee.

Jesus was born in the birthplace of David, Israel’s greatest King who reigned 1000 years before Jesus was born.

    God’s promise to David through the Prophet Samuel

2 Samuel 7:16 Your house  and your kingdom will continue before me for all time, and your throne will be secure forever.’”

Micah prophesied 730 years before Christ was born — Micah 5:2 — But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you, one whose origins are from the distant past.

The Jews eagerly expected David’s successor and called Him the Messiah the “Son of David.”

    – Jesus is the Son of David, this promised King. 

      – It’s no accident that Joseph was “of the house and lineage of David” — Luke 2:4 or that   Jesus was born in Bethlehem.

3.  JESUS’ BIRTH WAS ACCOMPANIED BY HARDSHIP — Luke 2:4-6
And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee.
 He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant.
 And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born.

Mary and Joseph lived in Nazareth, but God needed them in Bethlehem for this birth.

    – “It just so happened…” that Rome ordered a tax census and Joseph had to return to his  ancestral town, Bethlehem, to enroll.”  (What a coincidence!)

      – This meant hardship for the Family.

The most glorious event in history was unfolding, but for Joseph and Mary it was drudgery and hardship — a real pain.

    – Mary and Joseph lived 4 days journey north of Bethlehem in Nazareth.

Mary was pregnant.

    – A journey late in pregnancy was arduous for her.

      – But if she stayed in Nazareth, she’d have to face scandal alone.

      – Her unmarried pregnancy could have gotten stoned to death!

Luke puts it delicately — Luke 2:5 — He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant.

Making the problem even worse, it was probably winter.

    – Larry Shown bawling me out for having Marty out so late in her pregnancy with Kim.

    – What a horrible journey in winter for a pregnant teenage mom!

      – Who says following God’s Plan is easy?

Just because we face hardships and obstacles doesn’t mean God’s absent or that we’ve misread His will.

    – Sure, we face trouble.

      – But we face even more trouble if we DON’T follow Jesus.

Jesus faced obstacles, but He told His disciples — John 16:33 — I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

4. JESUS WAS BORN IN HUMBLE CIRCUMSTANCES — Luke 2:5-7 — He took with him  Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant.
 And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born.
 She gave birth to her first child, a son.

She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth  and  .  laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.

The manger always astounds me!  COULDN’T GOD HAVE DONE BETTER FOR HIS OWN SON? !!!

    – Jesus wasn’t born in a snug home or a sterile hospital 

“there was no room for them in  the inn.”

We’ve romanticized the birth and swept up after the animals, but the evidence is clear:

    – God’s Holy Son was born in a dirty stable or cave where animals were kept.

His 1st crib was a common cattle trough!

        – Why?  I wonder.

          – I ask again, wouldn’t you think God could’ve done better than that?…………..

I don’t think this was an accident or God’s lack of provision for His Son.

    – There’s a message here. Though Jesus was by very nature God — Philippians 2:6 —

      Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to

      cling to.

He didn’t grasp at His prerogatives or flaunt His rights.

Instead, he “made Himself nothing” (Greek Kenoo), taking the very nature of a servant, created in human likeness….

Philippians 2:7 — Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form,

    – The Greek word kenoo means “make empty”

      – Jesus literally “emptied Himself” of all the privileges He was heir to.

        – He didn’t just take a low place; He took the lowest place.

His commission was “to preach good news to the poor” — Luke 4:18-19
18  “The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free,
19  and that the time of the LORD’s favor has come.”

This is quoted from Isaiah 61:1 — The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is upon me, for the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed.

So He was born among the poorest.

His disciples argued about who’d be greatest in the Kingdom, but Jesus stopped them short   

 Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

The manger represents serving.

    – The message is clear: Jesus’ disciples aren’t supposed to seek glory but to be servants.

      – Serving when it’s convenient and serving when it isn’t.

        – Serving when no one understands or appreciates what we do.

Christmas teaches us servanthood, God’s serving, and then ours.

THE BIRTH OF JESUS CHRIST IS THE GREATEST GIFT YOU WILL EVER RECEIVE!

Today people are scrambling to pick up gifts for people they care about or feel obligated to give something to.

    – All those I-pods, computers, cars, toys, or whatever are going to wear out and be tossed.

THE GIFT GOD SENT US WILL LAST FOR ALL ETERNITY!…………

Most expensive gifts come with a warranty.

    – If they wear out or have faulty parts they’ll be replaced.

GOD’S GIFT WILL NEVER WEAR OUT OR HAVE TO BE REPLACED, BUT IT STILL CARRIES A WARRANTY.

    – Our warranty is ETERNAL LIFE WITH CHRIST!

MERRY CHRISTMAS! — JOY TO THE WORLD!

PODCAST THE MIRACULOUS BABY BOY BORN IN BETHLEHEM

https://www.buzzsprout.com/824359/9700460


The updated version of Rev Bill Woods’ book “There Is Still Power In The Blood” will be available soon.

AUDIO Was This Anyway To Treat A King?

By Rev. Bill Woods

Luke 2:1-14

THE MIRACLE

Luke 2:1-7

1  At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire.
2  (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.)
3  All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census.
4  And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee.
5  He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant.
6  And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born.
7  She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.

Paying taxes isn’t something we like to do, but this time God orchestrated it.

     – This time it was a miracle because God moved a whole nation to get Mary to Bethlehem so  prophecy could be fulfilled at Jesus birth.!

Augustus wasn’t a man of God and didn’t know he was helping complete God’s prophecy made 750 years earlier.

God often uses evil men to carry out His purpose.

      – He did to chasten Israel.

      – To crucify Jesus.

      – That’s what He did here.

The Birth — Luke 2:7 — She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.

If people who have trouble with the virgin birth would check a little closer, they’d see everything about the super­natural Christ is supernatural.

His beginning (as a man) was supernaturally ordained:

Galatians 4:4 — But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law.

His body ordained:

Hebrews 10:5 — That is why, when Christ came into the world, he said to God, “You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings. But you have given me a body to offer.”

    – Talk about Designer Genes!

His Blood ordained1 Peter 1:19-20 — It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. God chose him as your ransom long before the world began, but he has now revealed him to you in these last days.

His purpose was ordained to get the job done!Hebrews 9:26 — If that had been necessary, Christ would have had to die again and again, ever since the world began. But now, once for all time, he has appeared at the end of the age to remove sin by his own death as a sacrifice.

His family was ordained

  • Every human being is predestined to be adopted into God’s Family and share Heaven with God and His angels.
  • Even though God predetermined that we should be with Him in His Kingdom, it’s up to us as individuals to accept His Gift.
  • The arrangements were made but Satan threw a monkey wrench into the plan when he tempted Eve and Adam to sin — God then had to make Salvation available to us by our choice.
  • Each of us has been chosen to share in God’s Family but as Free-moral agents we have the power to choose God or not to choose God.

We have 2 grandchildren that, at the moment, have opted to reject their mom and her family.

  • They’ve listened to and bought into lies told by their biological dad and at this moment are living outside of the blessings belonging to our family.
  • Because of their choices they’ve missed out on birthday gifts, Christmas gifts, and aren’t even listed as beneficiaries to inherit what should rightfully be theirs when we die.
  • They’ve made the choice!  Our family desperately wants them to come back into the fold!

In the same way, Satan has told lies that have alienated God’s children from Him.

  • He wants them to come back to Him, but it’s their choice as individuals whether they do or don’t.
  • This rebellious rejection of God is causing sinners to miss the inheritance God has for them.

Ephesians 1:4-7Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.

Because the Wages of Sin is Death and we’re born sinners, God had to redeem us unto Himself.

  • Not one person on earth could be good enough to earn Heaven — only a man with no sin of His own  could achieve that by dying in our place — MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Jesus is God — He alone could atone for the sins of the world population!

  • His Atonement is universal and is offered to every man, woman, and child, but we must choose to accept this wonderful gift!
  • We must choose personally — nobody can choose for us.

How was this Gift delivered?

  • You’d think something this important would be with a lot of fanfare and folderol.
  • This Gift was delivered in the most humble way — so even the poorest could know they were included.

THE MANGER — Luke 2:7 — She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.

Things haven’t changed!  THERE’S STILL NO ROOM FOR JESUS!

Jesus desires a relationship with His Creation but the coldness of the world crowds Him out. 

The world has no room for JESUS!

The parents at the Mesa grade school made a fuss over Silent Night and The Little Drummer Boy being included in the children’s Christmas program.

  • The dad made the most fuss. He said, “This is neither the time nor the place.”      
  • What are we celebrating?  I wonder if their children are going to receive gifts to celebrate this Holiday that starts with the Name of Christ!               

Most homes crowd Him out! — Luke 9:58 — But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.”

  • Jesus can certainly identify with the homeless people.
  • He wants to give you a home in Heaven!

HAVE YOU LET HIM IN YOUR HOME?

  • When we lost our home in 2008, I had to retrieve mail sent to the old house because the address change hadn’t been fixed yet — the father of the man who took our house said, “There is such a spirit of peace in this house, I understand a minister used to live here!”

Jesus wasn’t welcome in His own Synagogue:

Luke 4:28 And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong.

When He announced who He was the people in the synagogue were furious. 

  • Jesus isn’t welcome in most churches today.

Matthew 7:21-23 — “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.
On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’

Jesus isn’t welcome in our Society

Luke 2:7 — She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.

This describes the confusion of the world.

  • They don’t recognize the Gift of God that can bring Peace and Hope so they avoid Him.

All the prophets told the place, manner, and time of His birth.

  • There was and is still no room.

But there was room in: In Pilate’s Hall!   On Calvary’s Cross.  In Joseph’s tomb!

But let’s go on with the rest of the story:

Luke 2:8-18 — That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others — the armies of heaven — praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished,

THE SHEPHERDS

    – They were favored by a visit from angels — glory shone about them.

    – Imagine the thrill of seeing angels!

    – God included these shepherds in this wonderful news showing God cares for the lowly and the humble.

They were Frightened!

  • God’s mercy produces love and compassion.
  • God’s glory always produces fright.

Isaiah 6 — “Woe is Me”

Acts 9 — Saul (Paul) fell to the ground

Revelation — John fell like a dead man.

Today, too many people take God too flippant and casual.

  • We should approach Him with respect and reverence!

THE ANGEL’S MESSAGE

It was Simple and very understandable.

  • People try to make the Plan of Salvation too difficult.

1 John 1:9 — But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.

The message stimulated the shepherds to action.

  • They didn’t just continue to sit like bumps on a log. 
  • They got up and got busy — happily responding to the Gift God had just given them

Too many Christians think when they’re saved thats an end in itself.

  • Not so!  There should be a NO PARKING sign on the altar.
  • When we’re saved, we should get busy for the Lord — the shepherds told everyone!

The message brought Satisfaction

  • Nothing’s more satisfying than knowing your sins are forgiven and are under the Blood of Christ and that if you died right now you’d be with Him in Glory!

JESUS WAS BORN WHERE?  AND WAS LAID IN WHAT? 

  • I ASK YOU, WAS THIS ANY WAY TO TREAT A KING?

HE WAS BORN IN BETHLEHEM JUST LIKE THE PROPHETS SAID HE WOULD BE.

HE WAS LAID IN A HUMBLE MANGER SO YOU COULD KNOW HE’S AVAILABLE TO YOU!

HE DIDN’T STAY A BABY — HE GREW UP AND BECAME YOUR SAVIOR! 

CLAIM THAT GIFT WITH ALL ITS BENEFITS OF SINS FORGIVEN, JOY, PEACE, AND ETERENAL LIFE!

There was a young man getting ready to go to college.

  • He knew the vastness of the college campus he was to attend and thought he needed a car to make it to his classes on time. 
  • His classes were all over that huge campus and scheduled close together.
  • Also he felt a car would help his social life.

He asked his dad to buy him a car he’d already picked out.

Dad said, “Come back this afternoon and we’ll talk about it.”

That afternoon he went to Dad’s office expecting to receive money for a car.

Instead, Dad handed him a book and said, “Son I want you read this book.  It’ll help you in your college career.”

The son said, “But Dad, I really need the car right away.”

  • Dad said, “After you read the book, we’ll discuss a car.”

Angrily, the son stomped out of the office, took the book home and threw it on the floor of his room.

He went to college without a car!

  • At Christmas break he came home and asked his dad about a car.
  • Dad answered, “Have you read the book?”

Talk about getting upset at the unreasonableness of his dad!

  • All through 4 years of college, every time he came home he’d ask about a car.
  • Each time the answer was, “Have you read the book?”

Finally, he graduated, got married and had a family of his own.

Years later he asked his dad just what was so important about that book?

Dad said, “Do you still have the book?”

  • The now grown-up son said, “Yes, I kept it but have never read it!”
  • Dad said, “Get it and open it.”

When the son opened the book, he found a check written for the amount of the car he’d wanted for college.

  • The money was there all time, but he wouldn’t open the book to find it.

GOD HAS GIVEN US A WONDERFUL BOOK CONTAINING INFORMATION WE NEED FOR FORGIVENESS OF SIN, JOY AND PEACE THAT PASSES ALL UNDERSTANDING, AND ETERNAL LIFE.

  • IT TELLS OF HIS WONDERFUL CHRISTMAS PLAN FOR ALL HIS CHILDREN!

HAVE YOU OPENED THE BOOK YET?

MERRY CHRISTMAS!  OPEN THE BOOK AND FIND THE ANSWERS YOU NEED!

PODCAST WAS THAT ANY WAY TO TREAT A KING?

https://www.buzzsprout.com/824359/9653234


The updated version of Rev Bill Woods’ book “There Is Still Power In The Blood” will be available soon.

VIDEO Who is Jesus? The God-Man

December 27, 2020

Sermon Overview

Scripture Passage: Philippians 2:5-11

Jesus’s ministry lasted only for three years, and yet His Word and His influence change lives today. Philippians 2:5-11 reveals exactly who Jesus, the God-Man, is.

  • Supernatural: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who… made himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men…” (v.5, 7) Jesus was made in the likeness of men, but He was not conceived like any other child. He was born of a virgin, exempt from the curse of man, for God’s Holy blood flowed through His veins.
  • Sinless: Though tempted at all points like us, Jesus remained completely sinless.
  • Sovereign: “…being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God…” (v. 6) Jesus is the Son of God; He is also God the Son.
  • Sacrificial: “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient.” (v. 8) Adrian Rogers says, “Jesus’s death was not incidental or accidental. He did not die as a victim or a martyr. He died in obedience to the Father, that you and I might be saved by His death on the cross.”
  • Surviving: C.S. Lewis said, “He has forced open a door that had been locked since the death of the first man. He has met, fought, and beaten back the king of death. Everything is different because He has done so.”
  • Soon-Coming: “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (v. 9-11) Jesus will return; and when He does, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He is Lord.
  • Saving: Adrian Rogers says, “Jesus is not a good way to Heaven or the best way to Heaven. Jesus is the only way to Heaven.”

Apply it to your life

Jesus is what the world needs today. Tell someone about the Son of God who left Heaven, came to this Earth, suffered, bled, and died, and walked out of that grave a living, risen Savior.


Downloadable Resources

These resources are now available in multiple formats. You can print from either version. The Word version is editable.

https://www.lwf.org/sermons/video/who-is-jesus-the-god-man-2453

Prophetic Warning and Encouragement

Hoping to write blogs on regular things like “Daily Time in the Word” or “Beauty of Fellowship”. But I feel the Holy Spirit leading to release another dream. Believing this is for His Church..

Dream 1/19/21 : Just a still vision.. Two huge crystals. One was a bowl. I was told it was an amulet. Another was like an earth and I was told it was an omni amulet.

Upon awakening, I wasn’t sure what an amulet was.  I googled it and learned that it is a form of magic to protect against danger and evil.. Onni means in all places and ways.

The omni amulet represents how the enemy is trying to cover all the earth in a spirit of witchcraft.. False truth.. An antichrist culture.. The bowl represents people.. Bowls are to be filled, so we can put things inside.. To eat and drink to live.. Many bowls are covered in spirits not of God.. Being filled with deceit, manipulation and idolatry.. 

We must be putting on the full armor of God.. Meditating on His Word day and night.. Overflowing with the Holy Spirit.. Authoritatively praying against the spirit of evil trying to cover all of the earth.. Pray that the spirit of God will cover all of the earth in His love, light and glory, in Jesus Name.. What life food are we filling our bowls with? May it be Jesus and Jesus alone.

I understand a lot of prophets didn’t get things as thought. May we not judge in unbiblical ways.  People have lost faith because their words did not come to pass.  This shows how much is looked to man and not God.. How much hearts need to be more devoted, learning in the Bible.. Hearing from the Holy Spirit ourselves. We are not to despise prophecies.

May prophetic messages be served and received in love and honor of Yahweh.. To build us up as His Bride.. To help keep our oil full and our lives on His narrow path.. Remaining faithful to Jesus. All is for His glory.

The Lord in His perfect love encourages and warns us.. This is an exciting time.. Do not fear man.. Beautifully fear God in reverence and awestruck wonder.. Our Father cares. He is working all things out in his ultimate kindness and goodness.. To reveal and bring breakthrough.. But it’ll be a ride.. 

We have entered a time where evil has been tolerated for so long.. that it’s become normal for others.. And even celebrated.. Brothers and sisters ~ People must see Jesus living within us.. Hope of glory.. Dwelling in us as His believers.. Church, lets pray without ceasing and discern with wisdom from above.. Walk in the Holy Spirit.. Abide deeply in His Word.. Keep your hearts pure.. Make your entire life a sacrifice of praise to Him.. 

Our Abba didn’t create us to just sit back and watch the movie.. We are citizens of heaven, His babies. He is empowering us to partner with Him for such a time as this.. Seek His face with all your heart.. Worship and proclaim our Lord is Jesus.. Rise and thrive in our Saviors love.. 

https://yourlastdayonearthdotblog.wordpress.com/2021/01/22/urgent-warning-encouragement/

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