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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Stealing Jesus, Saving Christmas

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And  this will be a sign for you:  you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”  - Luke 2:10-12

I was watching the local news tonight, and heard a report that someone is going around stealing Baby Jesus figurines and statues from Nativity scenes. As I thought about the story, I came to this conclusion:

I want to say thank you to the Nativity Scene Bandit(s), whoever he/she/they are. While I don't condone your stealing, I believe that God has providentially used your unacceptable act for good. Now before anyone begins to think that I've completely flipped out, I will explain with the much provided help of the Scriptures.
Your act has helped me to remember that while Christmas is the time of year that we commemorate the birth of the Christ-Child, we sometimes have a great oversight in regards to the implications of that birth (Isaiah 9:6-7; Luke 2:30-32). The gift that is attained in the birth of Jesus doesn't stop there; it is only the beginning (John 1:1-5; Hebrews 1:1-4). Just as it can be seen in your theft, Jesus is no longer in the manger (Luke 2:40; John 1:14). He was born with a purpose - to save those whom would believe in him from certain sin and death, and bring them into eternal life with himself (John 3:16, 6:37, 44). Through his life, death, and resurrection our sins are forgiven (Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17; 1 John 2:2, 4:10). Now being righteous through his work and at peace with God, we as a result offer up ourselves to God and to our fellow man through the gift of faith and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, we now offer up ourselves as living sacrifices knowing that nothing can separate us from his love or unity with God (Romans 5:1-21, 8:1-39).
So, there may be some sort of statement that you're trying to make by doing what you've done. But what you must realize is this -- there's nothing left to do (or steal) that Jesus hasn't already done for us (Matthew 12:29; Isaiah 53:12).
Besides...it's much more satisfying and assuring to know that you a securely in the grasp of the Good Shepherd, never again to be snatched from his hands than it is to go around snatching fake plastic baby dolls from Nativity Scenes (John 10:27-30). I'm just sayin'...

"No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found..." - Joy to the World by Isaac Watts (1719)

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”  - Luke 2:14

Soli Deo Gloria - Merry Xmas,

The Virgin Birth


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Friday, December 18, 2009

"Enjoy Prosperity..., but When Hard Times Strike..."

This is an excerpt from a sermon given by my friend and personal Pastor Dr. Bob Roane during his Sunday school class at Christ E.P. Church. I wanted to share his message with everyone.

Ecclesiastes 7:14: Enjoy prosperity while you can, but when hard times strike, realize that both come from God. Remember that nothing is certain in this life." (NLT)

The first part of the verse is easy to understand, yet I still manage to forget how the Lord Jesus has blessed me. To compare myself with others, imagine shrinking global population to 100 people, with all existing ratios unchanged:

There would be 57 Asians, 21 Europeans, 14 from the Western hemisphere (North and South) and 8 Africans. 70 non-Christian, 30 Christian.
50% of the world's wealth would be in the hands of only 6 people (all citizens of the US). 80 live in substandard housing; 70 are unable to read; 50 suffer from malnutrition.
1 would be near death; 1 near birth. Only 1 with a college education; no one would own a computer.

How can I be cheerless when the Lord provides for me so richly? Instead of comparing myself with others who have more, Christ shows me billions who have less. In material and spiritual advantages, God has lavished His gifts upon us. So let us give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for us with things to enjoy, not selfishly, but as occasions for glorifying Him and doing good to others-as stewards. He creates a lifestyle of thanks-living in us which involves attitudes and actions, behaviors and beliefs, character and conduct.

God rebuked Old Testament Israel for ungratefulness because they did not serve Him with gladness after He showed them such abundant kindness-all undeserved. In the New Testament He groups ungratefulness with scandalous sins and declares that failing to honor Jesus as God or giving thanks to Him is a mark of pagans with foolish and darkened hearts.

Because happy hours and sunny days don't last, Ecclesiastes 7:14 says, "When hard times strike, realize that both [merry and miserable moments] come from God. The Hebrew word for adversity covers all negative situations-bad, sad, disagreeable, displeasing, distressing, hurtful and painful. This wide range of meaning is what the Apostle James means when he says that we face trials of many kinds. The Lord calls us to face reality (not deny it); to confront it (not refuse it); to consider and learn what He is trying to teach us. Unpleasant days come from our Heavenly Father's hand as surely as pleasant ones.

As I read this, I thought about an old friend who recently went through a tough breakup and subsequently had a good friend pass away. He has spoken much about wondering why God has been making him suffer so much and why has God turned his back on him. Suffering is not God turning his back on us. Adversity is what is sometimes needed to make us realize how much we need to lean on and gain strength from Him because we are not capable of doing it alone. So what are we to do when we suffer? Here are some questions to ponder.

Am I being punished by God by sin? Confess known sin.

Is Satan attacking me as I try to survive as a Christian? Call on God for strength.

Is my suffering due to some unknown reason? Don't draw inward from the pain. Proclaim your faith in God, know that he cares and wait patiently for his aid.

Is my suffering a result of natural consequences for which I am not directly responsible? Recognize that in a sinful world, both good and evil people suffer. But the good person has a promise from God that his or her suffering will one day come to an end.
Sola Gratia,

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Bless the Mother of Jesus, but Mainly Be the Mother of Jesus: John Piper on the Veneration of Mary

This is from today's Desiring God post :

The veneration given to Mary in the Roman Catholic church is beyond what is warranted by the New Testament. In fact, it is astonishing how little we see of Mary in the New Testament. Let us honor her unique motherhood. Let us count her blessed as the mother of our incarnate Lord. But let us not put her on a pedestal that neither she nor Jesus would have approved of.

After she turns up with the disciples praying in the upper room in Acts 1:14, she is never mentioned again in the New Testament. This is astonishing to anyone who thinks that the veneration of Mary was an essential part of early church life. It was not important enough to be mentioned in any of the New Testament books after Acts...

Read the rest of the article.

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