Thursdays With Spurgeon—Why Bethlehem?

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Why Bethlehem?

     There [in Bethlehem] cleaved to [Naomi] Ruth the Moabitess, whose Gentile blood should unite with the pure untainted stream of the Jew and should thus bring forth the Lord our Savior, the great King both of Jews and Gentiles. … And in the streets of Bethlehem did Boaz and Ruth receive a blessing that made them fruitful, so that Boaz became the father of Obed and Obed the father of Jesse—and Jesse the father of David. … 

     There is something in the name of the place. Bethlehem Ephrathah. The word Bethlehem has a double meeting. It signifies ‘the house of bread’ and ‘the house of war.’ …

     Bethlehem, you house of bread, rightly were you called, for there the Bread of life was first handed down for man to eat.

     And it is called ‘the house of war,’ because Christ is to a man either ‘the house of bread’ or else ‘the house of war.’ While He is food to the righteous, He causes war to the wicked, according to His own words: ‘Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword…’ (Matthew 10:34–36).

     Sinner, if you do not know Bethlehem as ‘the house of bread,’ it will be to you a ‘house of war.’ If from the lips of Jesus you never drink sweet honey—if you were not like the bee, which sips sweet luscious liquor from the Rose of Sharon, then out of the selfsame mouth there will go forth against you a two-edged sword! And that mouth from which the righteous draw their bread will be to you the mouth of destruction and the cause of your ill. … 

     Ephrathah … the meaning of it is ‘fruitfulness’ or ‘abundance.’ … 

     If we are like trees planted by the rivers of water, bringing forth our fruit in our season, it is not because we were naturally fruitful, but because of the rivers of water by which we were planted. It is Jesus who makes us fruitful. ‘If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you’ (John 15:7). Glorious Bethlehem Ephrathah! Rightly named! Fruitful house of bread—the house of abundant provision for the people of God! 

From The Incarnation And Birth Of Christ

Bethlehem wasn’t just a random place for Jesus Christ to be born. God doesn’t do anything randomly. Everything He does has a plan and a purpose. We may have difficulty seeing what the purpose is. As Martin Tupper noted in one of his poems—

We look through a glass darkly, we catch but glimpses of truth;
But, doubtless, the sailing of a cloud hath Providence to its pilot…
Man doeth one thing at once, nor can he think two thoughts together;
But God compasseth all things, mantling the globe like air…

Not only was the birthplace of Jesus purposely chosen by God, so was your birthplace. And your birth parents. And, indeed, everything about you. You are not an accident or some chance encounter. You have been created by God on purpose and for a purpose. 

Let the birthplace of Jesus—all the rich meaning of Bethlehem Ephrathah—be an encouragement to you that God knows and loves you dearly. Your life has meaning and purpose, which you can discover through a personal relationship with your Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ. 

 

What’s In A Name?

Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son… (Genesis 29:32). 

Jesus said that ALL the Scripture pointed to Him (John 5:39). That means even the various names of people in the Scripture give us some insight into the nature of Jesus. 

Consider Jacob and his sons, who become the fathers of the tribes of the nation of Israel. Jacob the deceiver is transformed into Israel the guileless, and the names of his sons point to what Jesus does to transform all of us into His righteous brothers and sisters. 

[Check out the links posted below to read all the Scripture references.]

Reuben—God sees my misery and sends His Son (Genesis 29:32; John 3:16). 

Simeon—God sent His Son when I was unlovable (Genesis 29:33; Romans 5:6-8). 

Levi—after I am saved from my sins, I am joined to God (Genesis 29:34; Ephesians 2:1-5).

Judah—my salvation brings praise to God (Genesis 29:35; John 15:8).

Dan—God has vindicated me in Jesus (Genesis 30:6; John 8:11).

Naphtali—Christ’s righteousness has given me victory over my struggles (Genesis 30:8; Romans 8:1; 1 Corinthians 15:54-56). 

Gad—God’s favor now advances toward me like an unstoppable troop (Genesis 30:11; Romans 8:31-39). 

Asher—I am now able to enjoy God’s happiness (Genesis 30:13; Matthew 25:21, 34). 

Issachar—God IS my reward (Genesis 30:18; Revelation 3:20-21).

Zebulun—my Husband (Jesus) honors me (Genesis 30:20; Ephesians 5:22-23; Hebrews 2:11).

Joseph—God has taken away my disgrace and added His blessing (Genesis 30:24; Romans 8:1, 32).

Manasseh—God has made me forget my past (Genesis 41:51; Psalm 103:12).

Ephraim—God has made me abundantly fruitful (Genesis 41:52; 1 Peter 2:9-10).

Benjamin—I am God’s son (Genesis 35:18; Ephesians 2:6)! 

God has done ALL this—and more!—through Jesus! 

When you read the Bible, don’t rush through it. Slow down. Meditate on it. Soak in it. And then see how the Holy Spirit will illuminate truth to you. 

[Please check out the Bible references I’ve listed above for yourself. All of the Genesis references are here, and all of the other references are here.]

The Genealogy of a Healthy Church

And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. (2 Timothy 2:2)

Paul list four generations in this healthy church—Paul ➡️ Timothy ➡️ faithful Christians ➡️ others. 

We all have a role to play, and every role is vital in a healthy church. Are you a…

Paul: a first generation Christian that needs to start the ball rolling?

Timothy: one who needs to pass along what you have learned to the next generation?

faithful Christian: someone that is actively living out what has been taught to you?

member of the Body of Christ: one that needs to reach out to someone who isn’t a part of the Body yet?

Every single role is indispensable if the Church is going to remain healthy. If any part of this genealogy is lost, the whole Church suffers.

The Infographic Bible (book review)

I love studying the Bible! I enjoy reading it in different translations, consulting my atlas to see where certain events took place, studying the culture of the biblical settings, and even diving in to the Hebrew and Greek definitions of words. But I’ve never seen the biblical story portrayed as uniquely and so visually beautiful as Karen Sawrey has done it in The Infographic Bible.

The subtitle of this work is “visualizing the drama of God’s Word,” and Karen does this in ways you have never seen before. 

The Infographic Bible flows in the same order as the Biblical text, except that there is very little text involved. You will see how the biblical books were compiled and then walk through God’s story in both the Old and New Testaments.

In graphics that typically span the full two-page spread (and sometimes even more), you will see in vivid colors, bold designs, and memorable graphics how God set about to redeem His people and tell His story. You will see the two Genesis accounts of Creation portrayed side-by-side, you will understand genealogies better by seeing their timelines flow through generations, you will appreciate the biblical themes and fulfilled prophesies, and you will look forward to the hope of things to come in Revelation. 

There is so much to discover in this book! The Infographic Bible is a coffee-table-size book, and the beautiful graphics inside will definitely make it a conversation piece to leave on display for your guests. I commend Karen Sawrey for her outstanding work, and I highly recommend this book to you.

The Everlasting Hope In Our Everlasting Lord

It was for our benefit that God came to Earth in His First Advent, not in thunder, and lightning, and all the brilliance of His heavenly glory, but as a Baby. Otherwise, He would have been unapproachable by sinful man. 

But make no mistake about it—although born as a human baby, Jesus was still “Christ by highest heaven adored; Christ the everlasting Lord”! 

The thought of God being everlasting permeates the Scriptures:

    • He is everlasting Lord
    • He fulfills an everlasting covenant
    • so He is worthy of everlasting praise
    • His everlasting arms support us
    • and give us His everlasting love and everlasting kindness
    • His everlasting salvation gives us everlasting life, or rejecting it leads to our everlasting punishment
    • and in His presence is everlasting joy  

Charles Wesley captures this fully-God-fully-Man essence in his song Hark! The Herald Angels Sing by calling Jesus the everlasting Lord and then listing His humanness at His First Advent with phrases like offspring of a virgin’s womb, veiled in flesh, incarnate Deity, pleased as Man with men to appear, and Immanuel. 

Jesus came to earth as Man not because He was forced to, but because it fulfilled the everlasting covenant that God had planned. The writer of Hebrews explains beautifully how He became like us in all of our humanness so that He could be a merciful help to us (see Hebrews 2:10-18). 

When Matthew tells the birth story of Jesus, he includes a line pregnant with meaning: “All this took place to fulfill…” (Matthew 1:22). 

What “all this”? Just take a look at Christ’s genealogy in the opening verses of Matthew 1. You see Abraham who tried to “help” God fulfill the covenant by fathering a child with another woman; Jacob who swindled his birthright from Esau; Judah who fathered Perez through his widowed daughter-in-law, whom he thought was a prostitute; Rahab was a prostitute; Ruth was a non-Jewish foreigner; David committed adultery with Bathsheba and then had her husband killed, and from their relationship came Solomon; Solomon’s son split the kingdom in two; from Abijah to Jeconiah the kings became progressively more and more evil; from Jeconiah forward the kings were without a kingdom; and then Joseph was a prince without a throne or even the glimmer of a hope of a throne. 

Yet ALL THIS took place to fulfill God’s plan. All of history is His story! Every deed and misdeed was used by God to fulfill His everlasting plan of redemption. Jesus had a very human family tree so that none of us could be outside His merciful reach.

What’s your genealogy like? More good than bad? What about your own history? More mess ups than positives? Nothing in your genealogy—past or present—can ever stop our everlasting Lord from fulfilling His everlasting covenant with YOU (Romans 8:28)! 

Christ’s genealogy is proof that your genealogy is no hindrance to His everlasting plan! 

It may appear He is late in time, but behold Him come at just the right time. Accept Him as your everlasting Lord, lean on His everlasting arms, and bask in His everlasting joy. 

Jesus—our Immanuel here—came so you could have all of God’s everlastingness! 

Join me this Sunday as we continue to look at the amazing messages in our old familiar Christmas carols. 

Faithlife Illustrated Study Bible (book review)

If you’ve ever looked at the list of books I’ve read and reviewed at the end of each year, you will quickly discover how much I enjoy reading! I read science, biographies, theological works, philosophy, financial resources, relationship helpers, and on and on. But hands-down, not-even-close to second place, I read the Bible more than anything else. Not only do I read the Bible extensively every day, I then read all of my other books through the lens of Scripture. 

So whenever I come across a resource that helps with Bible reading and study, I’m absolutely thrilled to share it with you. One such resource I’ve been so excited about is the Faithlife Illustrated Study Bible. 

I originally purchased this study Bible because of the “illustrated” part. I glanced through it and found several things that make the biblical accounts more understandable. Things like: 

  • timelines 
  • genealogical records
  • “blueprints” of notable buildings and structures
  • infographics 
  • maps and tables 

Then I was excited to discover the wealth of articles embedded in the notes section next to the biblical texts. 

But the happiest discovery I made was the ability to combine the written text with so much additional online content. Using the Faithlife Study Bible app on my iPhone, I can access all of the content in the print version in addition to more resources that have become available since this study Bible was published. My favorite way to do this is via the “reference scanner” in the app. I use my iPhone camera to take a picture of the part of the Bible I’m studying and then the app pulls up all of the resources associated with nearly everything on that page. Amazing! 

If you already love studying the Bible, this book/app combination will take you to a whole new level. Even if you’re just getting started in a Bible study, you will love how much fullness these resources quickly bring to your fingertips. 

12 Quotes From “In Light Of Genetics”

Dr. John SanfordDr. John Sanford’s ebook In Light Of Genetics is fascinating reading. It’s a bit technical in certain places, but I think Dr. Sanford does a good job making the genetic concepts accessible to almost anyone. Check out my book review by clicking here. Below are some quotes from this work.

“Forensic evidence is never conclusive, and so scientific claims about the distant past must always contain an element of belief. The direction of genetic change is down, not up. Humanity is devolving due to mutation.”

“We feel biological similarities between different kinds of life are better explained by a Common Designer than by common descent.”

“We are unique and alone now in the world. There is no other animal species that truly resembles our own. A physical and mental chasm separates us from all other living creatures. There is no other bipedal mammal. No other mammal controls and uses fire, writes books, travels in space, paints portraits, or prays. This not a question of degrees. It is all or nothing; there is no semi-bipedal animal, none that makes only small fires, writes only short sentences, builds only rudimentary spaceships, draws just a little bit, or prays just occasionally.” —Juan Arsuaga, writing in The Neanderthal’s Necklace

“Man is a singular creature. He has a set of gifts which make him unique among the animals: so that, unlike them, he is not a figure in the landscape—he is a shaper of the landscape.” —Jacob Bronowski

“From a genetic point of view, the genes that enable our unique capabilities, gifts, and talents (i.e., science, art, love, relation to God) could not arise by any series of random mutations filtered by natural selection—not in any amount of time. There is no credible mechanism that could lead to spontaneous origin of mind, consciousness, intelligence, soul, or spirit. Indeed, while these human traits are found within a biological context (i.e., within an animal-like body/brain), they clearly transcend mere biology. We are exquisitely programmed to be more than animals, and our bodies are well-designed vessels that house our immaterial being: mind, soul, and spirit.”

“Leading human geneticists agree that in mankind deleterious (bad) mutations are accumulating faster than they are being selected away, and so the human genome is degenerating. … The data are highly consistent. The coefficient of determination (matching the curve to the data) is very high: 0.96. Due to the consistency of the decay rate, we can also rule out the idea that there were hundreds (or thousands) of missing generations that were not recorded. We conclude that the genealogical record must either be complete or very nearly complete. This validation of the genealogical record very powerfully points to the historicity and reliability of the book of Genesis.”

“Mounting evidence shows that natural selection is not a creative force, but is a stabilizing force that helps preserve the various kinds of life (i.e., it culls out the most dysfunctional individuals). It is very clear that natural selection cannot create our genome, let alone our mind and soul. At best, natural selection can only slow down the rate of genetic degeneration. … Because of the great abundance of deleterious mutations and the extreme rarity of beneficial mutations, it is not possible for mankind to achieve a net gain of genetic information.”

“Our latest numerical simulations show that in the type of pre-human population that supposedly gave rise to modern man, billions of years would be required just to create and establish a new genetic text string as small as six or seven letters, such as ‘GTCGCT’ or ‘GAGTTCA.’ Yet such a string would be just a drop in the ocean of new information needed to transform an ape into a man.”

“In the biblical model, humanity begins with Adam and Eve, who descendants rapidly multiply, and then, went through a one-generation bottleneck at the time of the Flood, then the population once again rapidly increased, followed by rapid divergence at the Tower of Babel event, creating today’s people groups.”

“If Adam’s genome was intelligently designed, it would obviously have had a great number of designed genetic variants. Otherwise all people would essentially be clones of Adam and Eve, which would be bad design, for many obvious reasons. … Even though many mutations have accumulated in the genome during human history, it is reasonable to conclude that most observable human genetic variation was created by God. The biblical perspective has unique explanatory power in terms of giving a credible explanation for the amazing range of human traits and abilities. There is no single ‘superior genotype.’ We all have unique sets of gifts and talents, which very reasonably reflect good design, and for which we can give thanks to God.”

“We have statistically analyzed over 800 human mitochondrial sequences and have been able to reconstruct and publish a very close approximation of Eve’s mitochondrial sequence. We found that the average human being is only about 22 mutations removed from the Eve sequence, although some individuals are as much as 100 mutations removed from Eve. Can we account for this amount of mutation in a biblical timeframe? Easily. The most recent estimate of the mutation rate in human mitochondria is about 0.5 per generation. Thus, even for the most mutated sequences, it would only require 200 generations (less than 6,000 years) to accumulate 100 mutations.”

“Now, by God’s grace, we do not have to choose between faith in God’s Word vs. faith in science, we can embrace both. There is now very strong genetic evidence that strongly supports Scripture and refutes evolution.”

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