Started School Yet?

Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are my disciples indeed.” (John 8:31, N.K.J.V.)

John Phillip Sousa was sitting in his hotel room on a summer evening when he heard a hand-organ on the street just below his window. The organ grinder was playing Sousa’s famous march, “The Stars & Stripes Forever.” But Sousa found himself greatly irritated by the way the song was slowly dragging out of the organ. Finally, he couldn’t stand it any longer and dashed down to the street. “Here, here,” he said to the slothful grinder, “that’s no way to play that march.” Then Sousa seized the handle of the organ and began working feverishly as the song’s proper power and purpose surged from the instrument. Afterwards, the grinder simply bowed low and smiled.

The next night Sousa heard the same hand-organ playing the same march again, but this time the tune was sounding forth in the right tempo. Mildly amused, Sousa looked out the window and to his surprise saw a great crowd gathered around the organ grinder. He went down to investigate and saw that the grinder had now placed a large card over his organ. At the top of the card, written in large letters, was the grinder’s name. Underneath his name, written in equally large letters, were the words: PUPIL OF JOHN PHILIP SOUSA.

The Bible has much to say about Christian discipleship, and the word “disciple” literally means “learner.” Sadly, even though every disciple is a Christian, every Christian is not a disciple. You see, there is a considerable difference between Jesus merely being your Savior (as eternally vital as that is) and Him being your Teacher. So tell me, Christian, can you truthfully write under your name “PUPIL OF JESUS CHRIST”? If you can’t, I’d say it’s past time you enrolled in school.

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A Hop of Faith

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21, N.K.J.V.)

I read about a very frustrated pastor who said to his congregation, “I’ve stopped expecting you to make leaps of faith, but it would be nice to see a hop now and then.” I can’t help but wonder if God doesn’t feel the same way about His people. Tell me, Christian, when was the last time you showed Him even a hop of faith, let alone a leap?

For example, think about the expectations you have for this new year. Do they fall under the category of “optimistic” or “pessimistic”? If you answer, “Pessimistic,” your faith in God surely isn’t what it needs to be.

You say, “But Russell, with everything that is going on in the world right now, how could anybody have much faith that this year is going to be a good one? Don’t you keep up with the news?” Well, yes, I do keep up with it, and I’m definitely aware that: gas prices are too high, grocery prices are soaring, the economy is lagging, the housing market is troubling, climate change is going to end civilization as we know it, etc., etc., etc. But here’s the thing: Despite it all, I’m also aware that God continues to reign over all creation from His throne in heaven.

Furthermore, I’m aware that if you are a true Christian, that same God is your loving heavenly FATHERSo, why should you be so doom-and-gloom about this upcoming year? Why not, instead, show God at least a hop of faith to prove that you think He’s going to do great and mighty things in your life this year? My guess is that He is tired of most of us (including Russell Mckinney) underestimating Him.

Posted in Attitude, Current Events, Faith, Fear, God's Love, God's Omnipotence, God's Provision, Grace, Needs, New Year, Problems, Trials, Trusting In God, Worry | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

What Kind of Shape Are You in Spiritually?

Christian, perhaps you are one of the hordes of people who have hit the new year full bore with a new diet or workout routine. Well, there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. But even as you try to get yourself into better physical condition, you’d do well to work even harder at getting yourself into better spiritual condition.

So, I ask you, “How is your spiritual condition heading into this new year? How is your prayer life? How is your Bible study? How is your church attendance? How is your giving? How is your witnessing? How is your personal testimony in regards to holy conduct? How is your service to others?” These are important questions.

Remember that the Bible says in 1 Timothy 4:8:

For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come. (N.K.J.V.)

Please understand that I’m not trying to diminish the “little” that bodily exercise profits. Truth be told, many of us need that “little” and a whole lot more! All I’m doing is offering a simple reminder that your spiritual condition is more important than your physical condition. This is something we tend to forget in this world that is obsessed with outward appearances.

Posted in Balance, Bible Study, Church Attendance, Commitment, Dieting, Discipleship, Giving, New Year, Personal Holiness, Priorities, Sanctification, Witnessing | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Maybe it’s Time to Sharpen Your Blade

If the ax is dull, And one does not sharpen the edge, Then he must use more strength; But wisdom brings success. (Ecclesiastes 10:10, N.K.J.V.)

This verse teaches us the value of working smarter rather than harder. Obviously, sharpening the edge of a dull ax blade shows wisdom and makes wood-chopping easier. That’s the specific illustration Solomon uses to make his point. But there’s no doubt that he intended the application of the teaching to cover any and all areas where wisdom is required in life. That includes the area of repentance.

Since we Christians typically think of the start of a new year as a time to recommit ourselves to repentance, let us be sure to spiritually sharpen our blades before we attempt any repentance. And how do we sharpen our blades? First, we solemnly rededicate ourselves to Jesus for the purpose of bringing everything about us under His Lordship. Second, in blunt honesty, we confess our sins to Him and ask Him to forgive those sins. Third, we immerse ourselves afresh and anew in daily prayer, Bible study, and the doing of God’s will.

You see, Christian, if your plan to repent of the lingering sin in your life hinges upon little more than you throwing more effort into not committing the sin, that is akin to you chopping harder without sharpening your ax blade. Consequently, your plan is destined for failure. After all, you’ve “tried harder” to repent of the sin in the past, only to find that increased effort didn’t get the job done, right? Well, what makes you think that taking that same approach in this new year is going to produce different results?

A better plan, one with a greater chance of success, features you sharpening your ax blade spiritually as an indispensable part of you accomplishing your repentance. Instead of simply trying to give up your sin, you also start up with an increased amount of prayer, Bible study, and submission to God’s will. By doing that, the hole that is left in your 24-hour day by you no longer wasting precious time on your sin will be filled with things of the Lord. That’s how you work smarter rather than harder at your repentance. And remember, our text verse doesn’t say that throwing more effort at a task will bring success at performing that task. Instead, it says that wisdom brings that success.

Posted in Addiction, Backsliding, Bible Study, Change, Church Attendance, Commitment, Confession, Dying To Self, God's Will, God's Work, New Year, Personal Holiness, Prayer, Repentance, Sanctification, Scripture, Sin, Submission | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Three-Point Checklist for the New Year

Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids look right before you. Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established. Do not turn to the right or the left. Remove your foot from evil. (Proverbs 4:25-27, N.K.J.V.)

These verses make for one of the Bible’s best texts on the subject of a new year. In them, Solomon offers a three-point checklist that will help us make this new year a godly, blessed, spiritually productive one. Let’s take a look at that checklist.

Item #1 is: Rivet your attention upon this new year. Solomon says, “Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids right before you.” Think of yourself as standing on the precipice of this new year. What should you do as you stand here? You should focus your attention straight ahead and fix your gaze on what lies ahead.

In order to do that, you’ll have to step out of your past. You might as well step out of it anyway, because you can’t change one second of it. Rearview mirrors really do make poor windshields!

You say, “But Russell, you don’t know my past. You don’t know the things I’ve done. You don’t know the things I’ve gone through.” Well, you’re right, I don’t know your past. But I do know two things. One, I know that Jesus wants to meet you right where you are and do wonderful things for you, in you, and through you. Two, I know that in order for Him to do that you’re going to have to join Him in the here and now. The fact is, this new year can be your fresh start with Christ.

One day a man stormed into the office of his local newspaper and said to the secretary, “I need to see the guy who is in charge of the obituaries.” When the secretary pointed him to a rookie reporter, the man marched over to that reporter and said, “Young man, my name appeared in your obituary column today, but as you can see, I am very much alive. So, I want you to print a retraction in tomorrow’s paper.” To that, the young man said, “Sir, I’m afraid that we don’t print retractions in our obituary column. But what I can do is put you in tomorrow’s birth announcements and give you a fresh start!”

This new year can be your fresh start with Jesus. You can have a fresh start in the areas of prayer, Bible study, church attendance, personal holiness, giving, and evangelism. Whatever sins you’ve committed in the past, whatever mistakes you’ve made, whatever you went through last year, rivet your attention on this new year.

Item #2 on the checklist is: Reassess the path you are traveling. Solomon says, “Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established.” The Hebrew word translated as “ponder” means to mentally weigh. The point is, think about the path you are currently traveling. Is it a path that will take you into more intimate fellowship with Jesus? Is it a path that will take you into a deeper level of service to Him? Is it a path that will make you a better Christian and a better person?

Most people never take the time to stop and really think about where their path is leading them. This is why they repeat the same mistakes over and over again, year after year. I read about a man who went to the doctor to get some help for his two burned ears. The doctor said, “Before I treat you, I’ve just got to know how you burned your ears.” The fellow said, “Well, doc, I’ll tell you what happened. The phone rang while I was ironing my shirt, and I picked up the iron instead of the phone.” The doctor said, “That’s terrible! But what happened to your other ear?” The man said, “The guy called back.”

We laugh at that story, but this world is filled with people who never learn from their mistakes. I’m saying that the beginning of a new year is a great time to get by yourself, turn off the television and the phone, and take a good, hard look at your life. And don’t be afraid to hurt your own feelings. Be honest about where you are, and if the path you are on is a bad one, admit it. You will never get where Jesus wants to take you in life until you get on the right path.

So, here at the start of this new year, I encourage you to reassess the path you are traveling. If you don’t like the harvest you are getting, change your seed! As we often hear, it is a form of insanity to keep doing what you are doing and expect different results. If you want to change your life, change your path.

Finally, item #3 on the checklist is: Resist the temptation to veer off your God-approved path. Let’s say that you get on the path the Lord wants you to be walking. Is that the end of the story? No, it isn’t. Solomon gives the warning: “Do not turn to the right or the left. Remove your foot from evil.”

As you walk your God-approved path, certain things will appear to your right, things that will look appealing to you. Be careful that you don’t leave your path and go after them. Likewise, certain things will appear to your left, things that will look appealing to you. Again, don’t leave your path and go after them.

Some people are very good at making fresh starts with the Lord. Such a person goes his or her own way for a while and then says, “I’ve got to get right with the Lord.” The person then makes a renewed effort at living a Christ-honoring life. He or she walks that God-approved path for a while but eventually strays from it as some sinful pleasure off to the right or the left proves too tempting to resist. Then, after the person has filled up on the sin, he or she again says, “I’ve got to get right with the Lord,” and at that point the cycle starts anew. I hope you understand that such a roller coaster walk with Christ isn’t what He has in mind for you. How much better it is to get on God’s path for your life and then resist the temptation to veer off your God-approved path.

In closing, let me tell you about two boys who once tried to outwit a wise old man. Because these boys had grown tired of hearing other people talk about the great wisdom the man possessed, they decided to humble him. First, they caught a very small bird, which one of the boys concealed in his hand. Next, they went to the old man, where the boy with the bird asked the man, “What do you think I have in my hand?” The old man answered, “You have a bird in your hand. I can see some of its feathers.” The boy said, “Yes, but is the bird dead or alive?”

It was here that the boys planned to trick the old man. If he said “dead,” the boy would open his hand and let the bird fly away. But if the man said “alive,” the boy would crush the bird before opening his hand. So, how did the wise old man answer? He looked at the boy and said, “As you will it, son. As you will it.”

Will this new year be one in which you serve Christ better than you ever have? The answer is: As you will it. Herschel Hobbs, that notable preacher of days gone by, said, “Years become new only if we make them so.” Ah, but the good news is that you really can make this new year “new” if you will follow Solomon’s spiritual checklist. That means: rivet your attention on this new year, reassess the path you are traveling, and resist the temptation to veer off your God-approved path. By doing these things, you’ll be able to make this year the best one you’ve ever had in serving Jesus.

Posted in Backsliding, Change, Choices, Contentment, Discipleship, Doing Good, God's Will, Holiness, New Year, Obedience, Personal Holiness, Temptation | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Find Things for Which to Be Thankful

A subway car was overly crowded, causing several people to have to stand. Naturally, most of them were griping about the situation. As the car pulled into another station where still more people boarded, one standing man said to those who were coming aboard, “I hope you people like standing because we’ve been doing it for a long time.” He didn’t see the crippled invalid who was helped aboard the train and graciously given a seat, but the invalid heard the comment. To it, he somberly replied, “Then you are fortunate.”

But, please, let’s not hypocritically judge the fellow who was standing. The fact is, he could have been any one of us. Speaking for myself, his complaint sounds just like something that I would have said. After all, it’s typical human nature, isn’t it? Yes, it is, but that still doesn’t make it right or pleasing to God.

Hebrews 13:15 says of Jesus:

Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. (N.K.J.V.)

By breaking down this verse into its three sections, we find that each section presents a different question for the Christian to answer. Question #1 is: “How are you doing these days at continually offering the sacrifice of praise to God?” Question #2 is: “What form has the fruit of your lips been taking recently?” And question #3 is: “Are you currently in the habit of giving thanks to the name of the Lord?” Truth be told, our answers to these questions probably leave much to be desired.

Christian, the Lord knows that you have legitimate problems, and He also knows that life can be a difficult game to play. But through it all, He remains forevermore worthy to be praised. Even during those times in which you don’t feel like praising Him, He is still worthy. The secret to praising Him during those times is to train yourself to count your blessings rather than complain about your troubles. As the old saying goes, “Count your blessings one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.”

Even that crippled invalid who was boarding that train wouldn’t have had to look very hard to find something for which to be thankful. First, he could have been thankful for the people who helped him get aboard the train. Second, he could have been thankful for the person who gave up his seat for him. Third, he could have been thankful that someone in his condition could get aboard a train and travel to distant places, places he could never have seen on his own. Do you see my point?

So, Christian, in the midst of all your grumbling and complaining, make yourself stop and be thankful for all the good things that God has sent your way. And if you can’t come up with anything, be thankful for the fact that Jesus Christ (God the Son) left heaven, took upon Himself human flesh, lived without sin among men, died on a cross to pay the sin debt for the sins of the world, arose from the dead, ascended back to heaven, and now offers salvation to anyone who will believe in Him as Savior. Trust me, that one item right there should be enough to keep you thankful for all eternity.

Posted in Adversity, Attitude, Christ's Death, Christ's Resurrection, Complaining, Contentment, Disappointment, Perseverance, Problems, Salvation, Suffering, Thankfulness | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Walking in Truth

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth. (3rd John 1:3, N.K.J.V.)

A man was on trial for murder. All the circumstantial evidence strongly indicated his guilt, but the police hadn’t been able to find the corpse. That left some doubt as to whether the jury would convict him. Nevertheless, the man’s defense attorney believed the jury was leaning toward doing just that. So, he resorted to a clever trick.

In the attorney’s closing argument, he said, “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I have a surprise for you. Within one minute, the person presumed dead in this case will walk into this courtroom.” Then he looked down at his watch as if counting the seconds. Thirty seconds later, he turned and started staring at the courtroom door. The jurors, somewhat stunned, all fixed their eyes on the door as well. After the allotted time had passed, however, it became obvious that no one was walking through that door.

Finally, the attorney broke the courtroom silence by saying, “Actually, I made up the previous statement. But since each of you looked at the door with anticipation, I submit that you all have reasonable doubt in this case as to whether or not my client really killed anybody. And because of that, I insist that you return a verdict of ‘not guilty.’” The jury then retired to deliberate.

To the attorney’s surprise, they came back into the courtroom just a few minutes later and pronounced a verdict of “guilty.” Risking the ire of the judge, the attorney shouted at them, “How could you do this? You must have had some doubt. I saw all of you stare at that door.” To that, the jury foreman replied, “Yes, we did. But your client didn’t.”

As clever as lawyers can be, not one of them is in Satan’s league when it comes to twisting and distorting the truth. Revelation 12:9 says that he “deceives the whole world,” and Jesus said of him, “There is no truth in him” (John 8:44). Rest assured that if Satan was able to talk Eve out of the truth, he is able to deceive us, too. We are simply no match for him. That is why we must make it a matter of regular prayer to ask the Lord to give us discernment and wisdom in regards to what is true and what is a lie.

If you haven’t done so today, take a moment right now and ask the Lord for such discernment and wisdom. Tell Him that you don’t want to believe anything that isn’t the truth. Tell Him that you don’t want to be duped by Satan. Tell Him that you want to know the truth so that you can bring your life in line with it. And then listen to and heed the truth when God sends it your way. You see, without God’s help, you’ll never be able to fully walk in truth.

Posted in Choices, Counsel, Deception, Decisions, Demons, Discernment, Doubt, God's Will, God's Word, Satan, Seeking Advice, Spiritual Warfare, Temptation, The Devil, Truth | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Swimming at Your Own Risk

One summer, when the boys were young, we had one day left on our beach vacation. So, we used that day to give the boys a final opportunity to enjoy the ocean and pool. This had been the first year ever that Royce, our youngest, had enjoyed splashing around in the ocean more than splashing around in the pool. He had even used some of his own money to buy himself a boogie board in order to ride the waves properly.

Well, for a good while at the ocean that day, everything hummed along delightfully just as the week’s previous days had done. The boys played in the waves while Tonya and I laid on the beach. Then I joined the boys in the water, and Tonya waded in a few minutes later. So there we were, all four Mckinneys splashing around in the ocean, enjoying every minute of it.

But then suddenly, out of nowhere, I felt a brief but intense sting on my arm. It didn’t take me long to figure out that a jellyfish had stung me. The pain wasn’t enough to cause me to scream and head for the shore, but it did hurt, about like a bee-sting. Since I had no clue what to do and didn’t want to create a scene from the movie “Jaws,” causing hundreds to abandon the water, I decided to stay in the water and let the salt water disinfect the sting. I found out later that my plan was a good one. The worst thing you can do for a jellyfish sting is pour fresh water on it. That causes the toxins (or whatever they are) to spread.

After a few minutes, some small whelks raised up on my arm and I began to feel a slight tingling in my fingers. I thought, “If things get any worse, I’m going to have to get some medical attention.” Thankfully, though, that was the worst of it and before long my arm was virtually back to normal except for the small whelks. Okay, event over, right? Nope, not so fast.

About twenty minutes after I got stung, Royce rode an exceptionally large wave all the way into the shallows. But before he even fully emerged from the water, we heard him scream. And he kept screaming as he hurled himself out of the water, ran to our beach blankets, and buried himself in one of them. Honestly, Tonya and I would have feared that he had been bitten by a shark if not for the fact that I had been stung by a jellyfish just a few minutes earlier. That gave us a pretty good idea what had happened.

As it turned out, Royce’s sting was much worse than mine. It was as if a jellyfish had wrapped itself around his leg and kept stinging. He had big marks on the inside and outside of his leg and they were already becoming whelks. It was no wonder the poor little fellow had gotten out of that water so fast. I wouldn’t have hung around in there either!

As Tonya raced to comfort Royce, I made my way to our lifeguard and reported the two stings. The lifeguard immediately grabbed a spray bottle of vinegar and sprayed down my arm. Then she went over to Royce and did the same for his wounds. By that time, he was beginning to calm down somewhat, but he didn’t want any more to do with the ocean for that day. Consequently, we gathered up our things and headed for the pool.

Now, here’s the thing that you ought to know about those two jellyfish stings. All week long, as we had ridden those ocean waves, a warning sign had been posted just next to the lifeguard’s chair along the shoreline. What did that sign warn about? Jellyfish! You see, Royce and I, along with dozens and dozens of others, had been swimming at our own risk all week because jellyfish had been reported in the area and the warning sign was in place.

Accordingly, the spiritual application to this story is simple: God’s word, the Bible, is like that warning sign, and when your actions go against it, don’t be surprised when you get stung. Sure, you might swim around for a while and get along fine. You might even have some fun and enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. Ultimately, though, God will not be mocked and His word will not be ignored without consequence. Jellyfish stings hurt, but those stings are nothing compared to the hurt that we bring upon ourselves by sin. And just as Royce and I could offer no legitimate objection to us getting stung, neither can the sinner who has been warned by God’s word and blatantly ignored it.

Posted in Backsliding, Choices, Confession, Disobedience, God's Chastening, God's Judgment, God's Word, Obedience, Personal Holiness, Rebellion, Repentance, Scripture, Sin, Sowing and Reaping, The Bible | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Logic Demands That We Believe in the Virgin Birth

“Why We Should Believe in the Virgin Birth” series: (post #3)

We’ve been in a series of posts on the question of why we should believe in the virgin birth. With the two previous posts, we learned that we should believe in the virgin birth because scripture and Bible prophecy demand it. Now, with this third and last post, we’re going to see that logic also demands it.

Can you name the problem with any man fathering a child? It’s the fact that a sinner can only produce another sinner. This has been the tragic, vicious cycle that mankind has been in since the moment Adam ate of the forbidden fruit and became a sinner.

When Adam impregnated Eve that first time, perhaps he hoped that the baby would not bear the marks of his sin. Sadly, though, it surely wasn’t too long into Cain’s life before Adam realized that his race was ruined. Cain came complete with the inborn nature of a sinner, and that meant that he, like his mother and father, was marked for death. As the Bible says, sin brings death, and the moment Cain was conceived, the clock began ticking on his mortality.

But it wasn’t just Cain who was born to die. All of Adam’s other sons and daughters shared in that same fate, because they were all products of their daddy’s sin-tainted seed. Then, of course, as Adam’s sons grew up one by one, they themselves took wives and fathered children, who were in turn born as sinners as well.

And so it went, on and on, down through the ages because it is an unchangeable fact that a sinner can only father another sinner. Romans 5:12 puts it this way:

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all have sinned — (N.K.J.V.)

Now, it is with this in mind that I want you to put yourself in the place of God. You’ve got to get a Savior into this world, a Savior who will die for all the sins of the world. Obviously, if that Savior is going to die for those sins, He Himself must be completely without sin. But how could any baby be born into the human race without passing through and coming under Adam’s taint of sin? How could a sinless child be conceived in a mother’s womb when every potential father on planet Earth was a sinner? I’ll tell you how: the virgin birth. The man in the male-female/biological relationship would have to bypassed altogether.

And that’s just what God did. Luke 1:35 lets us see as far as we can see into the mystery of the virgin birth. That verse says:

And the angel (Gabriel) answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.” (N.K.J.V.)

You see, there had to be something miraculous and supernatural about Christ’s birth. He simply couldn’t be the seed of Joseph and yet still be sinless and perfect. As fine a man as Joseph was, he was defective material. He was a sinner, a sinner who could only father another sinner. That’s why Christ’s birth had to be different. Really, when you come at it from a doctrinal standpoint, the virgin birth was perfectly logical. That’s why we say that logic demands that we believe in the virgin birth.

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Bible Prophecy Demands That We Believe in the Virgin Birth

“Why We Should Believe in the Virgin Birth” series: (post #2)

This is the second post in a three-part series on why we should believe in Christ’s virgin birth. With the first post, I explained that we should believe in the virgin birth because scripture demands it. With this one, I want to show that we should believe in it because Bible prophecy demands it.

In Matthew 1:22-23, Matthew weaves an Old Testament prophecy into his God-inspired writing. He writes:

So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet saying: ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which is translated, ‘God with us.’ (N.K.J.V.)

This prophecy was given by the prophet Isaiah some 700 years before Jesus was born. We find the story in Isaiah chapter 7. The Lord instructed Ahaz, the king of Judah (Israel’s southern kingdom), to ask for a sign as proof that the allied forces of Syria and Israel (Israel’s northern kingdom) would not invade and conquer Judah. God said the requested sign could be anything on earth or in the heavens. But Ahaz refused to name a sign. His problem was that he had pretty much already set his heart on getting his help from another group of people, the Assyrians.

The Lord was displeased with Ahaz’s refusal and went ahead and named a sign anyway. God said, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” That is the part of the prophecy that Matthew quotes in his gospel. For the rest of the prophecy, God went on to say other things about the child. First, the child would eat curds and honey. Second, before the child would be old enough to know to refuse the evil and choose the good, the kings of Syria and Israel would meet their doom and the king of Assyria would invade the land of Judah.

There is much debate as to how God’s sign was literally fulfilled in the days of King Ahaz. It seems clear, though, that if the sign was only fulfilled in Christ’s birth, that wouldn’t have been any kind of a sign to Ahaz. After all, Ahaz lived centuries before Jesus was born. Therefore, the sign surely had some kind of partial fulfillment in Ahaz’s time. For example, maybe a virgin, a girl with which Ahaz was associated, got married shortly after God gave this sign, and maybe the newly married virgin got pregnant by her husband and gave birth to a son in less than a year. Some even contend that the woman was Isaiah’s second wife, his first wife having died.

Frankly, we just don’t know the exact details of how God’s sign played out to King Ahaz. What we do know is how the sign was ultimately and perfectly fulfilled. Matthew leaves no doubt about that. That final fulfillment came when Jesus was born to the virgin Mary. And here again we see, in the precise wording of the Biblical text, that Mary was a virgin when she bore Jesus. The Hebrew word used to define the young mother in the Isaiah passage is almah, which comes from the root word alam, a word that means “to hide or conceal.” This proves that the word specifically refers to a virgin. As one writer has said: “The name was given to a virgin because she is said to be hidden or concealed in the family of the parents.” So, based upon Matthew’s use of the prophetic passage from Isaiah, we can say assuredly that Bible prophecy demands the virgin birth.

Before we move on, though, let me tell you about one other prophecy the virgin birth fulfilled. This one goes all the way back to the garden of Eden. According to Genesis 3:15, after Adam and Eve had sinned in the garden, God said to Satan (who was inside the serpent at the time), “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He (her Seed) shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”

What jumps out at us from this prophecy is the strange idea of a woman having reproductive seed. That just simply isn’t the way the human reproductive system works. So why did God prophesy to Satan about the Seed of the woman?

He did it as a way of telling Satan about the virgin birth. Thousands of years from that fateful day, Jesus (the One who would strike a blow to Satan’s head) would be conceived in the womb of a virgin. Putting it another way, He wouldn’t be the product of the seed of a man. Instead, He would be history’s only seed of a woman. For this reason, Genesis 3:15 has been called “the first gospel.” And that prophecy, along with the one from Isaiah chapter 7, is undeniable proof that we should believe in the virgin birth because Bible prophecy demands it.

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