Saturday, November 30, 2013

Sign in the Sky

Prophecy tells us to watch for signs in the sky (Jeremiah 10:2; Daniel 6:27; Joel 2:10; Luke 21:11; Acts 2:19), and a special sign is now on the horizon! A comet that could be hailed as “Comet of the Century” flew around the sun on Thanksgiving Day, was given up for dead, but emerged and now may be best seen in all its glory on Christmas Day!

Signs in the sky will herald the second coming of our King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Mark 13:24-26; Luke 21:25-27). He will appear in the heavens like lightning (Matthew 24:27,30) in His triumphant return to defeat the enemies of Israel at the battle of Armageddon (Revelation 16:16), and ultimately conquering Satan, sin and death (1 Corinthians 15:54-57). All those who have placed their trust in His death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6) will accompany Him in the armies of saints (Revelation 19:14).

Jesus said to look up when we see the signs of times (Luke 21:28), for our Redemption is near! At any moment, but at least seven years before the glorious second coming described above, the trump could sound, heard only by believers. We shall be changed in an instant (1 Corinthians 15:52), caught up to meet Christ in the air, to spend eternity with Him in our glorified bodies (1 Corinthians 15:49,54) that will never age or feel pain or sorrow.

To date, the most radiant and long-awaited sign in the sky was the Star of Bethlehem, illuminating the birth of Jesus, the Word Himself made flesh (John 1:14), and guiding the wise men who sought the promised Messiah (Matthew 2:2-9).

When will His second coming be? No man knows the day or the hour (Matthew 24:36), but only God the Father Himself. Yet we are told to be vigilant and aware of the signs of the times (Matthew 24), which encourage us and strengthen our resolve to keep our hearts in Him (Matthew 6:21; John 15:5) and our lamps burning with the flame of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 26:1-13).

That is why I’m excited about recent news of a comet that made a hairpin loop around the sun on Thanksgiving Day, passing so close that some astronomers wondered if it would survive the encounter. I began writing this blog post the day before Thanksgiving, and I must admit that my heart sank when reports on Thanksgiving night proclaimed that the comet was destroyed, as it was no longer visible.

But on Black Friday morning, the headlines read: Hold the obituary! The comet has emerged from behind the sun and has begun to brighten. According to the initial predictions, it would reach its peak brilliance in December, even though its brightness to the observer already increased 25 times between November 13- 21! It may be ranked as one of the brightest comets of the past 50 years, and at its peak, it may even be visible in broad daylight!

For best night-time viewing, astronomers advise seeking rural areas, free from the light pollution of cities. The comet is most radiant against a backdrop of total darkness, seen without distraction from manmade lights. However, they strongly warned that only experienced observers should attempt to view the comet as it whipped around the sun. Although there is no danger in observing the comet itself, staring directly at the sun can result in blindness as infrared rays painlessly burn the retina of the eye.

As the comet approached the sun, the scorching heat and gravitational force of the sun presumably gave rise to a long, brilliant train, although this was not visible from the Solar Dynamics Observatory where NASA was focusing. According to initial predictions, the comet should climb noticeably higher in the north-northwest sky from December 21-31, and by Christmas Day, should no longer rise or set, but should remain above the horizon all night long.

By now you’ve no doubt guessed why I am so amazed by this comet, for it reminds me of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! Its flight so close to the sun is like the proximity of Jesus Christ, Son of God yet God Himself, to God the Father. Even in His earthly ministry, Jesus and the Father were one (John 10:30), and now He sits at the right hand of the Father (Mark 16:19; Luke 22:69; Romans 8:34).

Even though Jesus told His apostles that He would rise from the dead (Matthew 20:19; Luke 24:7), they lost all hope after His burial and crucifixion (John 20:19). But just as He said He would, Christ rose again on the third day, that all who place their faith in Him would live with Him forever! (1 Corinthians 15:20-22)

How appropriate that the comet’s approach to the sun occurred on Thanksgiving Day! What better reasons do we have to be thankful than for the Word becoming flesh to pay for all our sins (Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2;4:10), to give eternal life to those who trust Him (John 3:16), and now to intercede for us with the Father? (Hebrews 4 :14-16)

Yet not all are thankful, for many are lured away by the world and have not yet seen Him as their Lord and Savior. Even those who are saved can see Him more clearly away from the distracting glare of worldly light pollution (Romans 12:2). He is the Light of the world (John 1:9; 8 :12 ;9 :5 ;11:9) Who shines brightest against the darkness of our sin (Acts 26:18; 2 Corinthians 4:6).

The astronomers warned us not to look directly at the comet as it approached the scorching light of the sun, but to safely enjoy the view of the comet at night,  When Jesus walked among us, bringing light to a world darkened by sin, looking at His face was no doubt the best blessing imaginable (2 Corinthians 4:6). Yet man cannot look directly at God the Father because of His supreme glory and holiness (1 Kings 19:13; Exodus 3 :6; 19 :21).

The astronomers initially predicted that this comet’s appearance to earth would culminate with an amazing display on Christmas Day, when it would neither set nor rise, but remain above the horizon all night long. Thanks to Emmanuel, God with us (Matthew 1:23), as celebrated on Christmas Day, those who trust Him are no longer in darkness (Isaiah 9:2). We have seen the bright light of the Morning Star!  (Revelation 22:16) He alone will light the New Jerusalem in continual radiance and there will be no night, nor any need for the sun (Revelation 22:5). 

Oh, and did I mention the name of the new comet? It is Comet ISON! The name is an acronym for the International Scientific Optical Network, which discovered the comet last year. But to my mind, this is a contraction of I AM THAT I AM, the self-existent Name of God (Exodus 3:14), and GOD THE SON, Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4:13; 1 John 4:15, etc.), the Word from the beginning (John 1:1) and eternally our Lord (Hebrews 13:8).

Not that we need any sign (Matthew 12:39) to have faith in Him, for the facts of His death and resurrection are sufficient! (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). Regardless of whether ISON lives up to expectations or disappears from view, we have faith – the evidence of things unseen (Hebrews 11:1) – that Christ reigns forever. Look up, and remember the Word made flesh, Our Redeemer, and His promise to return!    

© 2013 Laurie Collett

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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Triplets of Unity: Triune God, One Will – Christ’s Earthly Ministry and Church

As we saw last week, each member of the Trinity played a special role in the incarnation. God the Father gave His only begotten Son (John 1:14; 3:16, Hebrews 1:5-6), Jesus Christ, Who was conceived through the Spirit’s power (Luke 1:35). The Word, or Christ, was God (yet distinct from God the Father) and present from the beginning (John 1:1-2), He was the Creator, the Life-Giver, and the Light Who overcame the darkness (John 1:3-5)

The Word became flesh so that man could experience His grace and truth (John 1:14) and see the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15). God the Father was pleased that in Jesus Christ the Son would be the fullness of the Godhead, or all Three Persons of the Trinity bodily (Colossians 1:19; 2:8,9), As Isaiah foretold, the Name of the Son would also be the Counsellor (the Spirit Who guides us) and the Everlasting Father (Isaiah 9:6-7).

Those who walked the earth with Jesus were privileged to see God in the flesh, and subsequent believers have been blessed to read of Him in Scripture. When we realize that we are sinners in need of a Savior (Romans 3:23) and that Jesus Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), we are indwelled from the moment of salvation by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14) Who teaches us that we are children of God the Father (Romans 8:16).

Just as we now know Christ through the revelation of the Spirit, it is through our knowledge of and relationship with Jesus that we can know the Father (John 14:8-9). From an early age, Jesus knew that He must do His Father’s business (Luke 2:49), and in His earthly ministry, His very food was to do His Father’s will and to finish His work (John 4:34).

The Scriptures are largely silent on much of Jesus’ childhood, but Luke tells us that the Child grew not only physically but strong in Spirit, filled with wisdom, and the grace of God (the Father) was upon Him (Luke 2:40). Thus we see in Jesus the effects of and interaction with the other Two Persons of the Trinity

Jesus faithfully honored His Father (John 8:49), did good works in His Father’s name (John 10:25,32), and prayed to the Father (Matthew 11:25; Luke 10:21; John 11:41). In His model prayer, He also taught His disciples to pray to the Father (Matthew 6:9; Luke 11:2). He told the Samaritan woman at the well to worship the Father in Spirit and in truth, just as she was coming to realize that He was the Messiah, or Christ (John 4:21-26).

At Gethsemane, Jesus prayed to the Father for the cup to pass from Him if that were possible; for the Father’s will to be done; and for the Father to keep you and me (John 17), giving us eternal life by knowing “thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (v. 3). Thus, Jesus Himself clearly recognized the distinction between Himself and the Father.

When Jesus was on the cross, He prayed to the Father to forgive those who crucified Him (Luke 23:34), and His last words acknowledged the other Two Persons of the Trinity, as Jesus commended His Spirit to the Father (Luke 23:46).

Yet at that moment that He became sin to appease God’s wrath at all sinners (2 Corinthians 5:21), Jesus could not call out to His Father, but only to His God (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34), because Holy God the Father could not look on all the sin Jesus Christ bore for us. After Jesus died, the Father raised Him from the dead through the power of the Holy Spirit. Without the Trinity acting as Three distinct Persons united in one will, the crucifixion and resurrection that is the defining miracle of Christianity would not be possible.

After He arose from the dead, Jesus Christ told Mary Magdalene that He would ascend to His Father (Who was also her Father), and to His God (Who was also her God; John 20:17). Jesus told His followers that after He ascended to Heaven, the Comforter, or Holy Spirit, would be with them always, remind them of Jesus Christ, and teach them (John 14:16,26;15:26; 16:7). This promise was realized at Pentecost, when the Spirit descended on the apostles like cloven tongues of fire (Acts 2:1-4), giving power to Peter and the others to preach truth. .

By Divine inspiration, Peter then spoke clearly of the Trinity: This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. 33 Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear (Acts 2:32-33).

Paul also clarified that God the Father raised Jesus from the dead using the power of the Holy Spirit, and that same Spirit gives believers new life and power to mortify the flesh (Romans 8:10-11) when they trust in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to the Father (John 14:6).

Since His ascension, Jesus Christ the Son has been seated at the right hand of God the Father (Hebrews 1:3), mediating and interceding for us, hearing the prayers brought from believers to Him through the Holy Spirit. Paul tells us that through Christ, we have access by one Spirit unto the Father (Ephesians 2:18).

In Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles, he was constantly led by the Spirit, Who inspired his preaching (Acts 18:5)  and instructed him not only in spiritual matters (Acts 17:16) but in highly practical decisions regarding his ministry, such as where to travel and where not to go (Acts 19:21; 21:4). Paul describes the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ (Colossians 2:2,3) which was not revealed before the incarnation.

2 Corinthians 13:14The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen. 

© 2013 Laurie Collett
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