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Christmas - Offensive to the gods

 

The day we call “Christmas” is a celebration of one of, if not equal to, the greatest events in the history of man. It was the culmination of a promise made thousands of years ago in the Gardern of Eden that God would graciously send the “Seed” to crush the head of the evil one and begin the process of making all things right again.

Paul tags this moment this way:

“But in the fullness of time, God sent forth His son, born of a woman…“ Galatians 4:4

Earlier he said,

“Why then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the “seed” to whom the promise referred had come.” Gal 3:19

Even earlier, Paul states this Seed is Jesus Christ, who miraculously came to earth in the form of a man. The King of Kings set aside all riches and put on the robes of a pauper, entering the world in the normal, base process of human gestation, so that we might be reconciled to God once again, brought to life from death, clothed with righteous, made a child of God, a recipient of eternal life through faith in Christ.

What riches we gained from his sacrifice.!

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich. 2 Corinthians 8:9

Yet, in the midst of this most gracious, most kind, most truly loving act of God, the gods of the earth were offended and bent on destroying the Child and all He represented. Herod slaughtered the young in Bethlehem to eliminate Him; the Pharisees and church rulers conspired to kill Him and be rid of Him; Satan tried everything to crush Him.

Nothing has changed, really.

Today, our culture believes we are gods… equal gods, of course, so that we can all reign in a strange “co-regency”. We do this under the “covenant of tolerance” where each covenants to not impose upon the other’s “god-hood”:

“I won’t tell you that what you are doing is wrong, if you don’t tell me that what I am doing is wrong.”

In this world of godlings, we therefore can reign without guilt or condemnation or restraint. In this world, any offense of a fellow god is repulsive and tantamount to a capital crime, to be met with the most vicious and heated attacks.

In this world, no one god is allowed to reign above another: "There is no one God!" That is horribly offensive and will not be tolerated.

So, the celebration of “Christmas” to pay honor and praise to the One true God and His most remarkable act of coming to earth that we might be reconciled to Him, is offensive to all the gods.

This year, the University of Minnesota issued a directive that stood up for the gods of the earth and declared that any celebration that even included green or red was offensive because they represented colors that traditionally were used to point to Christ. Of course, no angels or nativity scenes, bells, doves, or anything else that might offend a god somewhere, someway, somehow.

These seem silly to many, yet it is part of the whole of our culture that finds offense almost anywhere. It is why the traditional Bible on a POW table has been removed and why the symbol of the cross and references to anything of Christ are being taken out of crests, flags, mottos, laws, policies, platforms and any other public forum.

Nothing is new, brothers and sisters, except that we have now become a remnant in the Land, and must begin to act as a Remnant.

And remember... when Harrod and the Pharisees and Satan, tried to wipe Him out…

He prevailed.

And He prevails today, regardless of what the world will want you or me to think.

Take heart, body of Christ! As we celebrate today the coming of our Savior, we will one day celebrate His return and the restoration of all things.

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

Have a blessed Christmas!


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We Lost a Giant and a Friend - RC Sproul

We just lost a giant in the Faith.

RC Sproul was a unique individual whose contributions to the kingdom are immeasurably understood only in heaven.

He was instrumental in developing in me the understanding that it was all about God. It was all about who God IS… His nature, His character, His attributes. And if you could glimpse, as best as God would allow, the reality of God’s nature, then you would better understand everything that God did or said. For His truth, His Word, His creative and providential acts were all driven by, and consistent with, the essence of who God really was.

We are to be holy, for He is holy. We are to be perfect, for He is perfect. We are to be compassionate because He is compassionate. The commandments of God are not capricious, but reflect His nature. God’s truth is not illogical or irrational because God is not illogical or irrational.

RC was the master of linking the logical to the nature of God and showing how the irrational was in direct contradiction to God’s character.

When we were in the planning stages of creating the Truth Project, I asked RC if he would be willing to give us an hour of his insight and wisdom, which he graciously provided. When I thanked him for that he merely brushed it aside and said, “Any wisdom we have, anything that appears to be insightful, and truly is, does not come from us, but only from God. We are but a mere messenger, are we not?”

Indeed, that is all we are.

And now that great messenger has returned to the Message. It seems to me that there has to be a lot of rejoicing in heaven over the race he ran.

But I’m sure RC would say this, and so I will as well. When God prunes us, as He just has by taking away RC, it is for the purpose that others will then begin to grow and flourish… not to take his place, but to simply build upon what he has left behind. And that is a lot.

Thank you, RC, for your faithful and effective ministry to all of us. You will be sorely missed.


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Is My Thanksgiving Focused Inward or Outward?

As I began to think through all the things I am thankful for, a troubling pattern began to emerge. It was all the stuff that somehow made me happy or content or at least brought some sense of self-pleasure. This, I realized was somewhat selfish, if not downright selfish. And so, I began to ponder whether “thanksgiving” was inherently just a plain self-centered action.

So, that took back to the Scriptures, and it became clear from the beginning that I had gotten my “thanksgiving” backwards… or rather inwards.

A search of “thanks” got me about a hundred hits, nine of which are in the Chronicles where most are about giving thanks to God because “He is good; His love endures forever” or giving thanks to God for His “holy name”.

In Psalm 7:17, “I will give thanks to the Lord because of His righteousness…

In Psalm 9:1, “I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.

In the rest of the Psalms, thanks is given to “praise the Lord”, to “extol Him”, to “glorify Him”, to “give thanks and praise His name”, to “give thanks to your holy name”, and even, “give thanks for your righteous laws”.

And then again, repeatedly, in the Psalms and elsewhere, the familiar “give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever”.

In the Gospel, the giving of “thanks”, with one exception, is confined to Jesus giving thanks for food: bread, fish, wine. In the rest of the New Testament, thanks is primarily for Christ’s work in our salvation or for what the Lord is doing in God’s people or the enjoinment to “give thanks in all things”.

This last one demands some more attention.

Paul tells the Colossians that he rejoices in what he was suffering for them and James calls us to consider it pure joy whenever we face trials of many kinds. If we are to give thanks “in all things” then that includes those things that probably are not giving me a great deal of pleasure at the moment.

All of this should make us realize that our thanksgiving is primarily to be based upon who God is and for the larger story that He is working out around us… in me, my family, my neighbors, in my fellowship… in the Kingdom of God.

All of this, of course, is a far cry from my petty little list of stuff that brings me pleasure.

I’m not saying that it is “wrong” to give thanks for the stuff in our life… our cell phones, the delicious turkey, the dog or cat or my new TV.

But… when we look at the pattern in Scripture for giving thanks, it sure seems to me that my thanksgiving has increasingly turned away from Him and has become more about me. Oh, sure, I’m thanking God for all this stuff, but I’m only thanking Him because all this stuff is bringing me some sort of pleasure.

Which is actually pretty lame.

When we gather at the table tomorrow, maybe it would be good to spend some of our “giving thanks” time on expressing thanks to God just for who He is. Thank Him for His goodness, not because He gives me stuff, but just because He is “good”… that His love endures forever.

It is my practice on Saturdays, in my prayer time, to thank and praise God for His attributes, which I go through in alphabetical order. Maybe that would be an interesting exercise for your family tomorrow. See how many you can name.

May this be a true day of giving thanks as we look less inward and more Outward.

Soli Deo Gloria!

 

 

 


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U of HI Students - Family in Hawaii

I’m writing this from Hawaii, where I just spent a wonderful afternoon with students at the University of Hawaii. What a special time.

They had viewed the “Is Genesis History?” film and that was our primary topic. The questions were good, well thought out, and it was a privilege to interact with them. We got a chance to talk about some of the back stories of the film, some of which are quite funny, but most importantly we discussed the criticality of reading the Scripture in the genre in which it is written. We also discussed God’s nature of compassion and not only His care for the weak and needy, but His command for us to care for them as well. This is a contrary picture of the god of evolution who for millions of years must have delighted in the suffering of creatures and a not-so-divine plan that the strong destroy and devour the weak, using the death and suffering of creatures with partially formed body parts to eventually achieve his purposes. This doesn’t match the God we know, who stands up for the weak and needy... the God who would command us to care for the child with deformities, for the elderly with infirmities, for those who suffer from mental disorders, for those who are the weak and disposed of the world.

But the most important thing, for me, that comes from these special events, is that I get to see, once again, just how “one” the Body of Christ is. It doesn’t matter what nation you come from; it doesn’t matter what your native tongue is; it doesn’t matter what shape your eyes are or the tone of your skin or whether you come from a rich home or a poor home, whether you are young or old, a plumber or a cowboy or a banker. There is a oneness in the family of God that defies the understanding of the world.

I have had the privilege of meeting family in Egypt and South Africa, in Lutheran churches and Pentecostal churches, in rural Tennessee and New York City, in homes and huge cathedrals, with those from different tribes and languages and nations.

Jesus said that the world would know that He was the Son of God because of our “oneness”.

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” John 17:20-21

It is unfortunate that, though we are “one” in Christ, we often live in disunity within the Body. What would happen if God’s people began to show a unity, not some ecumenical blandness of meshed theology and church doctrine, but a practical outworking of brothers and sisters in Christ, where different churches met in the town park once a month to break bread with each other? Or they came together for community stewardship or well-being? Or believers of various denominations met together in small groups to study God’s word and pray with each other?

Somewhere in here is the demonstration of the vision that Jesus repeated over and over again in His prayer to the Father… that we might be one as He and the Father were One.

What a grand and divine vision and one I pray we pursue.

I deeply enjoy when I get the privilege to taste it. I did so at the University of Hawaii with my dear brothers and sisters in Christ.

What a joy it was! Thank you!

 

 


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Heroes in the Alaskan Bush

I’m in the heart of Alaska in a cabin nestled in the Talkeetna Mountains.

They are majestic. But the real inspiration comes from the people I have the privilege to be with this week… the missionary families who live in the bush villages of Alaska.

They not only face the harshness of the winters and the darkness when the sun barely rises during the day, if at all, but they face the challenges of the bush village, where alcohol, drugs, abuse and suicide devastate the people they love. Often, tribalism and some justified skepticism toward the “white man” have created a wall that is sometimes impenetrable, leaving the missionary family in isolation.

Arctic Barnabas exists to provide spiritual and physical support to these dear folks throughout the year, and in the fall brings them together for a week of rest and renewal (a great ministry you should consider supporting).

This is the second time I’ve had the opportunity to be with them and, again, wondering what in the world I have to offer these heroes of the faith. Personally, I really have nothing, but we are taking tours gazing upon the face of God and the “Crown Jewel” in His nature, refreshing ourselves with the criticality of divine relationships and how they are rooted in the social complexity of our Triune God.

Every session ends with a time of testimony and sharing from the missionary families. Each brought tears as we heard of the trials, the heartaches and the miracles where God had showed Himself mighty in a time of great need.

If you have a moment, please pray for them as they now head back to their villages. For some, it will take days, in bush planes and ferries, to get back to the reality of their call.

This was for their rest and renewal, but it always renews something in me. It reminds me to diligently pray for those who have been called to the hard places in the world. It reminds me of how much we need each other as we walk this road. And it reminds me of how much the enemy seeks to isolate us and destroy the relationships that God has designed.

In the bush, families are kept as an outsider, making it difficult to form relationships. But for the rest of us, it is plain self-centeredness that destroys relationships as we seek to satisfy our own desires. True, deep relationships require sacrifice and self-sacrifice is growing scarce in our culture.

And, of course, the smartphone sucks us deeper and deeper into the isolation of its screen. We “contact” others while we grow increasingly lonely. This will eventually lead to the demise of our culture.

The bush missionary families have a tough life, but I can tell you that their families are fully intact.  In this way, although they lack most of the physical niceties that we enjoy, they are more healthy spiritually and physically. Would that we might “disconnect” from the entertainment and smartphone vortex consuming us and reconnect with our families and with each other.

The Lord wants us in deep relationships; the enemy wants us atomized.

The former brings blessings and life; the latter, curses and death.

Choose you this day…

 

 


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