Christmas Comic 2014! Merry Christmas from GFTM Blog!

Here is my annual Christmas comic for 2014!

No king but Christ, and the King is born!  Merry Christmas!

–Steve & GFTM Blog

Click on the comic to enlarge it….

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Christmas Comics from past years: Click HERE and HERE!

Articles:

Christmas in the Old (Yes, Old) Testament

Christmas According to History

Christmas According to an English Teacher

Jesus Ain’t Born on December 25th

How We Know About Jesus

Is There Evidence of Jesus Outside the Bible?

GOD FROM THE MACHINE has published it’s first book! Searching the Bible for Mother God is for educating both those outside and inside the growing “Mother God cult.” Visit our page HERE.

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Christmas in the Old (Yes, Old) Testament

What can we learn about Christmas from the Old Testament? Are the passages Matthew cites really about Jesus? What is typology?

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What can we learn about Christmas from the Old Testament?

Since it’s Christmas time, it’s a good time to read through the birth narrative of Jesus as told by Matthew, comprising of only two short chapters of his Gospel. (Go ahead and do it right now. I’ll wait!)

In Matthew 1:1, Matthew calls Jesus “the son of David, the son of Abraham” and then goes on to give us Jesus’ genealogy. This is important for Matthew’s readers to know because all Jews knew the Messiah would be a descendent of Abraham and King David. Matthew is often called the “most Jewish” Gospel because Matthew is clearly concerned with showing that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah and the fulfillment of the Jewish Scripture.

Thus, to truly understand Jesus, we need to understand the Old Testament (OT), and this is exactly why the writers of the New Testament (NT) constantly refer back to the OT. In fact, Matthew does this more than any other Gospel writer.

When reading the Christmas story in Matthew 1-2, you’ll notice that Matthew references the OT four different times in this short narrative – four references to four different OT prophets: Isaiah, Micah, Hosea, and Jeremiah. But when we turn to the OT to read these passages, we run into some problems: It’s not so clear they’re about Jesus!

So, let’s look at these passages more closely and see what the Old Testament tells us about the first Christmas.

Bethlehem Christmas. Star in night sky above Mary and Joseph

Matthew 2:15 / Hosea 11:1

After Jesus’ birth, Joseph, Mary, and the newborn Jesus flee to Egypt to escape the persecution of Herod, and they would not return until after Herod’s death. Matthew tells us this was to fulfill what the LORD had spoken in Hosea 11:1:

“Out of Egypt I called my son.”

Now, when we turn to Hosea 11:1 and read the context of the passage, we run in to a problem: this passage is not a prediction about Jesus! In fact, it’s not about the Messiah at all! Hosea is clearly speaking about the nation of Israel, and the line “Out of Egypt I called my son” is clearly referring to the Exodus, when God liberated Israel from slavery under Pharaoh.

What’s going on here? How does Jesus “fulfill” something not even about him?

Often, when we think of prophets and “fulfillment,” we think of prophets making specific Nostradamus-like predictions about the future and those predictions coming true. Though these types of predictions do occur in the Bible, often this is not the type of “fulfillment” the NT writers have in mind. What they have in mind is something called typology.

What is typology? Events, persons, or institutions that become patterns – that “echo” throughout God’s redemptive history as recorded in Scripture – are called types. These types or patterns are seen throughout Scripture and foreshadow a future, ultimate fulfillment, called an antitype.

For example, the Passover lamb and the Jewish sacrificial system are types that point forward to Jesus’ sacrificial death for the sins of the world. Jesus’ death (the antitype) fulfills the purpose of the Passover lamb and the OT sacrifices (the types).

When Matthew refers to OT verses like Hosea 11:1 and says they were “fulfilled,” he is speaking of typology. Here, he isn’t saying Jesus fulfilled specific predictions about the Messiah, but that Jesus is the fulfillment of a pattern seen throughout God’s redemptive plan. After all, Jesus says in Matthew 5:17,

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”

To illustrate, Israel is often referred to as “God’s son,” but Jesus is considered the true Israel because he is God’s true Son. Just like God liberated Israel from slavery in Egypt, Matthew is telling us that Jesus is the new Exodus, because through Jesus, God will liberate us from our slavery to sin. Scholar R.T. France writes in his commentary on Matthew that the Exodus is a powerful symbol of “the even greater work of deliverance” which God will accomplish through Jesus Christ.

What Matthew is doing by using these OT passages is pointing us to the prophets’ larger message. This connection to the larger story of the Bible would not have been lost on his original Jewish audience as it is often lost on us today. Usually, we’re only looking at the little details; we want to know how this one NT verse fulfills this one OT verse, yet we miss the big picture Matthew is painting.

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Matthew 2:18 / Jeremiah 31:15

Now, let’s keep in mind what was just said about typology and fulfillment as we look at Matthew’s use ofJeremiah 31:15:

“A voice was heard in Ramah,
weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”

Matthew uses this OT reference after he reports that Herod killed all of the male children age two-years-old and younger in Bethlehem. Again, we run into a similar problem as before: This section of Jeremiah is about the Babylonian exile; it has nothing to do with the Messiah! The Babylonian Empire had conquered Jerusalem and destroyed their Temple, and now the Jews were being deported to Babylon.

This is a catastrophic event for the Jewish people. What’s worse is that they brought it upon themselves. Since their rebellion against God had become so great, God withdrew his protection and allowed this to happen to Israel.

Typologically, we can say the suffering of children due to evil is certainly a pattern we see in Scripture. But is Matthew pointing us to Jeremiah to make a bigger point? I certainly think so.

Despite the messages of God’s judgment and wrath, this section of Jeremiah is not one of gloom and punishment, but one of hope and restoration. I recommend you read the whole chapter of Jeremiah 31 to see.

If nothing else, take note that shortly after the verse Matthew quotes, we’re told of the coming “new covenant” (31:31) where God “…will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people… For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (31:33-34)

Clip Art Illustration of a Silhouette of the Three Wise Men Foll

Matthew 2:6 / Micah 5:2

Matthew Chapter 2 begins with the story of the magi, who come looking for the new king of the Jews. When they inquire in Jerusalem, Herod goes to the chief priests and scribes and asks where this new king will be born. Matthew tells us:

They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

“‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’” (2:5-6)

Finally, we have an undeniable prediction about the future Messiah (and one written approximately 700 years before Christ)! This passage, Micah 5:2, clearly speaks of a future leader coming from Bethlehem, and Jews have always understood Micah 5:2 to be about the Messiah. But is there even more to this passage than that?

It’s safe to say that when most of us think of the prophets, we think of messages of doom and gloom for Israel, but often – maybe even more than we realize – during their tirades we find messages of a future hope. Often these messages of hope include God’s future restoration of his people, his protection of his faithful remnant, and sometimes even words about a mysterious future leader.

Micah 5 speaks of this new ruler and a new peace. He will be born in Bethlehem (like Jesus) and from the tribe of Judah (like Jesus) and he will come from “of old, from ancient days,” a reference to the covenant God made with King David in 2 Samuel 7:12-13:

“When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.”

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Matthew 1:23 / Isaiah 7:14

To end, we come to perhaps the most hotly debated prophecy in the Bible. Matthew tells us Mary, an unwed virgin, finds herself “to be with child from the Holy Spirit” (1:18), and Matthew quotes Isaiah 7:14, telling us:

“All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel’

(which means, God with us).”

Some of the controversy concerning Matthew’s use of Isaiah 7:14 has to do with the word “virgin.” In the ancient Hebrew of Isaiah, the word could be translated “young woman.” A young woman is not particularly a virgin, some argue; yet, it’s a weak argument since the word is understood to refer to an unmarried, sexually chaste maiden.

Moreover, why would Isaiah not write the much more commonly-used Hebrew words for “woman” or “wife” if there was nothing unique about his woman? Instead, he chose to use a word scholar R.T. France describes as “unusual” and rarely used in the OT. (Furthermore, Matthew, under the divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit, used the Greek word that undeniably means “virgin”!)

But there is another problem with Matthew’s use of Isaiah 7:14. This passage doesn’t seem to be about the far future; the “son” which is to come seems to be coming during the time period of Isaiah’s writing. Frankly, the passage is perplexing. Yet, again, our understanding of typology helps us here: If this passage does, in fact, refer to a child other than the Messiah, this child is a foreshadow of the coming Christ.

If this is not a satisfying answer for you, then we only have to ask again, Why does Matthew point us to this particular Scripture? We only have to read a little farther in Isaiah to Chapter 9 to find out. Here, we again come across a child born, and this time it is clear whom this child is:

“For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (9:6)

Amen! Grace and Peace and Merry Christmas!

This post appears in longer form in the GFTM-published book Who Jesus Ain’t, available on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle.

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Here are some other Christmas-related articles on GFTM blog:

Christmas According to History

Christmas According to an English Teacher

Jesus Ain’t Born on December 25th

Jesus Ain’t Born to Privilege

Christmas Comics!

More Christmas Comics!

GOD FROM THE MACHINE has published it’s first book! Searching the Bible for Mother God is for educating and evangelizing those in the growing “Mother God cult.” Visit our page HERE.

Judge Not? Matthew 7:1 — The Most Misused Verse in Scripture?

In the previous “Judge Not?” articles, we explored 5 concepts:

CONCEPT #1: All people are image-bearers of God and have eternal worth.

CONCEPT #2: No Christian has earned his or her salvation, so no Christian has a reason to be pompous or arrogant.

CONCEPT #3: All Christians must always speak truth with love.

CONCEPT #4: Like everyone, Christians are imperfect.

CONCEPT #5: Disagreement is not intolerance or hate.

 We will now close the series by looking at the much-quoted Matthew 7:1:

“Judge not, that you be not judged.” (ESV)

aka

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” (NIV)

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Judging Judgment

Christians are often accused of being “intolerant” and “judgmental” for taking moral stands.

We spent time in previous articles discussing the misuse and overuse of these two accusations, so I’m not going rehash them here, but let’s stop throwing around the word “judge” like only people who disagree with popular views do it. Christians can disagree with others and do it with love and respect, still seeing those they criticize as image-bearers of God. As I’ve written before: there are wrong ways to speak truth; it must be done in love.

As R. J. Rushdoony stated, “Intolerance is inescapable. If we are Christians and abide by Scripture, we will be intolerant towards murder, theft, adultery, false witness, and other offenses against God’s order.”

Ironically, the accusation of intolerance and being judgmental can be turned on those accusing Christians of these very things. When accused of being intolerant and judgmental, a Christian can simply ask those leveling those accusations,

“If intolerance is wrong, then why are you being intolerant to my beliefs?”

or

“If being judgmental is wrong, why are you judging me?”

Often Matthew 7:1 is quoted by nonChristians at Christians as a “Gotcha!” when Christians speak out against something. But are they understanding the verse correctly? In fact, are Christians even understanding it correctly?

In his book The Most Misused Verses in the Bible, Eric J. Bargerhuff writes, “One could easily argue that Matthew 7:1 is by far the most frequently misapplied verse in the entire Bible, used and abused by both Christians and nonChristians alike.”

 Judge_Not_Humility

The Golden Rule

Perhaps the second most overused and over-abused verse out of the Bible also comes from Jesus’ amazing Sermon on the Mount (Matthew CH. 5-7), known as the “Golden Rule”:

 

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)

 

Most people are familiar with this teaching, and often it’s pointed out that many other religions have a similar teaching. I once came across another blogger trying to use the Golden Rule against Christians for a political stance they were taking, writing:

“As far as I know, no religion places an asterisk after its recitation of the Golden Rule, indicating those who can (and should) be exempted from the command to love and treat others as they would themselves want to be treated.”

But the problem with this interpretation of the Golden Rule here and elsewhere is that those using it are basically saying, “Treat others as you want to be treated, and you want to be treated as if everyone agrees with everything you do, so don’t disagree with anyone.”

This is absurd.

I want people to treat me with respect, but I also want them to be truthful. If I’m doing something they perceive to be destructive to others or myself, I want them to tell me. If I’m doing something badly, selfish, or just plain wrong, I want to be told. I want people to speak truth to me in love, and I will do my best to do the same for them. I will speak with love and truth – not just with one and not the other.

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Planks in Eyes

 

“Judge not, that you be not judged.” (ESV)

aka

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” (NIV)

 

People love to grab random verses out of the Bible to “prove” their points (like corrupt celebrity preachers and cult leaders). Problem is, these verses are often taken out of context and ignore the complimentary teachings throughout the rest of the Bible.

Yes, Matthew 7:1 sounds straightforward enough: Jesus is saying not to judge, right?

Let’s look at the rest of the passage before drawing a conclusion. To be fair, some who use Matthew 7:1 will even quote a bit more of it:

 

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?”

(Matt. 7:1-4)

 

OK, things get a little clearer now: Jesus is saying if you judge others, you will be judged in the same way. So, if you judge harshly, you will be judged harshly. But this is also saying, if you judge justly, you will also be judged justly, right?

Fair enough. I believe this is the Word of God, so we should take it seriously. It’s clear Jesus is warning us about how we should judge and condemning hypocritical judgment. He’s not denouncing all judgment.

Can you image how insane the world would be if people stopped using judgment?

Can you image telling a father that he can’t use judgment when eyeing up his daughter’s new boyfriend? In fact, ladies, don’t refuse anyone a date, because that would be judgmental. And once you don’t use judgment to choose a boyfriend, don’t ever breakup with him, even for a very good reason, because that’ll be judgmental too.

Own a business? Be ready to hire anyone who comes in the door — forget interviews and references — because you don’t want to be judgmental. And you better not fire that guy who just cost your company a boatload of money, you judgmental jerk!

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Furthermore, we still haven’t looked at Matthew 7:5. Those quoting this verse to Christians often conveniently stop at 7:4. Here’s what Jesus says in 7:5:

 

“You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

 

So, Jesus says to first take the plank out of your own eye, before you do what? Before you take the speck out of your brother’s eye!

Jesus is saying to take care of your own garbage before you go speaking to others about their garbage. Jesus is not condemning all judgment, but he’s telling us to do it in the right way. We are to speak truth in love, not harshly or hypocritically, and the only way to do that correctly is to make sure you’re in a good place yourself, which to Christians mean living as closely to God as possible.

Bargerhuff comes to the same conclusion: “Therefore, Jesus does not forbid all moral judgment or accountability. Rather, he forbids harsh, prideful, and hypocritical judgement that condemns others outright without first evaluating one’s own spiritual condition and commitment to forsake sin.”

None of us are perfect, and we have to deal with the inadequacies, garbage, and brokenness of others with the same grace that God shows us through Jesus Christ in dealing with our inadequacies, garbage, and brokenness.

 

And with this, I conclude this series:

CONCEPT #1: All people are image-bearers of God and have eternal worth.

CONCEPT #2: No Christian has earned his or her salvation, so no Christian has a reason to be pompous or arrogant.

CONCEPT #3: All Christians must always speak truth with love.

CONCEPT #4: Like everyone, Christians are imperfect.

CONCEPT #5: Disagreement is not intolerance or hate.

CONCLUSION: Continue to always speak love in truth.

Judge_Not_Intolerance

GOD FROM THE MACHINE has published it’s first book! Searching the Bible for Mother God is for educating and evangelizing those in the growing “Mother God cult.” Visit our page here.

**Read PART 1 of “Judge Not? Human Worth” here.**

**Read PART 2 of “Judge Not? Christian Humility” here.**

**Read PART 3 of “Judge Not? Truth in Love” here.**

**Read PART 4 of “Judge Not? On Christian Arrogance” here.**

**Read PART 5 of “Judge Not? On (In)tolerance & Judgement(al)” here.**

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