A Simple Narration Of A Profound Story

Luke’s account of Christ’s birth is cherished, familiar even to small children. Yet nothing could be more awe inspiring than angels appearing to outcast shepherds, inviting them to be the first witnesses of Israel’s long awaited Messiah. What comfort and joy they must have experienced to know that the Savior came for His stray sheep — for despised shepherds considered too filthy to enter the Temple and offer their own lambs!

There’s an added sweetness to the story when you hear the innocent voices of children recount it in song. They don’t understand all the ramifications of it, but they know that angels don’t appear to shepherds on a regular basis. And they know that Jesus brings comfort and joy.

As you listen to children sing this Christmas carol based on Luke’s beloved account of Christ’s birth, remember that underneath the straightforward narration lies the profound truth that Christ our Savior came to save His stray sheep from Satan’s power, even when society told us we are worthless outcasts. There simple tidings of comfort and joy couldn’t be more profound!

 

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Giving Thanks Should Have A Direction

2004_0810Plymouth0052Does anyone seriously deny that America has become a secular society?  On the local news this morning, for instance, reporters had difficulty concealing their celebratory attitudes as the first shops to legally sell recreational marijuana opened at 8:00 a.m. today. Two of them. Only shops on the East Coast. Right here in Massachusetts! I grieved over the obvious disregard for God’s standards of sobriety.

Not long after running the story showing the massive amount of people lining up to buy their legal pot, the station ran another story predicting the massive amount of people who will be traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday. Maybe I have a quirky way of viewing things, but it struck me as odd that Americans thumb their noses at the God of the Bible as they flock to celebrate a holiday originally intended as worship for His care and provision.

The Christians who celebrated that first American Thanksgiving (right here in Massachusetts, by the way), called for the feast as an expression of thanks to the Lord for sustaining them through that harsh New England winter and for the abundant harvest that ensuing Fall. (Do public schools still teach that part of American history?) Their thankfulness was more than a nebulous gratitude directed at nobody in particular, but heartfelt thankfulness to a personal Lord Who had lovingly taken care of them.

It’s important to count our blessings. Absolutely! In some ways,  I suppose it’s good that secular people step back and recognize the value of being grateful to something beyond themselves.

At the same time, I feel troubled that so many Americans have such enthusiasm about the Thanksgiving holiday when they demonstrate a total lack of interest in God Himself. As I see it, their nebulous gratitude lacks the beauty and depth of praising the glorious Lord Jesus Christ.

There is none like you among the gods, O Lord,
    nor are there any works like yours.
All the nations you have made shall come
    and worship before you, O Lord,
    and shall glorify your name.
10 For you are great and do wondrous things;
    you alone are God.
11 Teach me your way, O Lord,
    that I may walk in your truth;
    unite my heart to fear your name.
12 I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
    and I will glorify your name forever.
13 For great is your steadfast love toward me;
    you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol. ~~Psalm 86:8-13 (ESV)

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The Joy Of A Redeemed Sinner

Understanding the depths of our personal sins can fill us with despair.

On the other hand, understanding the depths of our personal sins can lead us to a Savior Who willingly and lovingly shed His blood to pay for those very sins. Once we receive His cleansing, we can’t help but love Him. Neither can we help joyfully singing of His redeeming love. There’s nothing as irrepressible, you see, as the joy of a redeemed sinner!

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Buffet Restaurants And Bible Reading

Ribbon CrossMy three months at the Bible College in North Wales sadly taught me little about the Bible. I did learn — from painful experience — the importance of maintaining a regular quiet time, but the classroom itself didn’t teach me proper methods of Bible interpretation.

I remember one of the instructors trying to encourage us in our daily Bible reading. One of us asked what to do if nothing we read on a certain day popped out at us. As I think back on it, that happened at around the time of year that most reading plans have people struggling through Leviticus. Leviticus rarely produces the feelings of spirituality that most Charismatics run on.

Instead of telling us that Bible reading isn’t primarily meant to produce feelings of exhilaration, the instructor answered, Continue reading

Visions Of The Kingdom

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know that I have trouble thinking of eternity in terms of how it will affect me. Every time I read Revelation, I’m riveted by John’s descriptions of multitudes (both angelic and human) surrounding the throne of the Lord to praise and worship Him!

The beloved hymn, “Holy, Holy, Holy,” puts those scenes before us as a preview of that magnificent eternal worship. As we sing it, we anticipate the tremendous joy of praising God with every saint who ever lived as well as with the angels. How can that fail to fill you with abundant joy?

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According To Scripture: Study #17 On The Resurrection

According to Scripture

Okay ladies, we’ve reached the final installment of our Bible Study on 1 Corinthians 15. It’s been a thrilling study, but today’s section might well be the most exciting part of all! So let’s look at this closing passage of our chapter and see what gems we can excavate from the Holy Spirit’s words through Paul.

50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O death, where is your victory?
    O death, where is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. ~~1 Corinthians 15:50-58 (ESV)

Last Monday we learned that the Christians who haven’t died when Christ returns will receive transformed bodies when the dead receive their resurrection bodies. Now, in verse 54, Paul turns to the topic of the new heavens and the new earth. When the perishable body puts on the imperishable and the mortal puts on immortality, we will at last witness the full accompaniment of God’s plan.

He paraphrases Isaiah 25:8, which promises that the Lord will swallow up death forever. Hebrews 2:14-15 illustrates this triumph over death. And Revelation 21:4 proclaims that when Christ finally establishes the new heavens and new earth, death will be permanently abolished.

Moving to verse 55, we see that Paul quotes Hosea 13:14 as evidence of Christ’s victory over death. (So much for Andy Stanley unhitching the resurrection from the Old Testament!) Death had been victorious over mankind since Adam’s sin, as we’ve seen earlier in this chapter, but Christ’s resurrection and its consequent assurance of our resurrection supplanted death’s victory with an infinitely greater victory!

Paul elaborates on this point in verse 56. Death stings because it is the full consequence of sin. It brings us all before God’s judgment throne. Those who die apart from Christ suffer the eternal pain brought about by sin.

Sin has such tremendous power because it violates God’s law. Romans 2:14-16 demonstrates that all people, whether they’ve read the Bible or not, instinctively know His law. Furthermore, as Paul testifies in Romans 7:8-10, knowing the law has a funny way of increasing our desire to sin.

God alone deserves thanks for this victory over death. With verse 57, Paul makes sure his readers never lose sight of the Lord’s centrality in salvation.

God doesn’t give this victory to just anyone; He reserves it for Christians. He gives us the victory, as Barnes makes clear. Notice that he never bothers to address the eternal bodies of unbelievers in this section, preferring to concentrate on the wonderful hope we have as believers.

Regarding this wonderful hope, Jamieson, Fausset and Brown point out the present tense of the word here translated as “gives,” calling the victory “a present certainty.” More than the cherished hope of believers, this victory is an accomplished fact.

Most importantly, God gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Going back to verses 3 and 4, we remember Christ’s atoning death that paid the penalty for our sin and His triumphant resurrection. Our resurrection happens only because of what He did.

In conclusion, Paul urges them to stand fast in the doctrine of resurrection, not allowing skeptics to sway them from their faith. Verse 58, in fact, provides the practical application of everything he’s said in this chapter. He wants them to be firm in their faith so that false teachers (such as those who deny bodily resurrection) can’t sway them from the Gospel.

Further, he encourages them to abound in their work for the Lord. Since Colossians 3:23 tells servants to work as if they’re serving the Lord, I believe we can infer that all our work is for Him. Yet there’s a special sense of work in furthering the Gospel. The promise of resurrection assures us that such work isn’t wasted.

Whew! We’ve made it through 1 Corinthians 15! I don’t know about you, but I have a much richer understanding of both Christ’s resurrection and ours as a result of this Bible Study. We’re going to take an indefinite break from Monday Bible Studies while I rest and reevaluate whether or not to keep writing these studies (very few people read them). If we do another study, however, I have my eye on Colossians. Tell me what you think.

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Looking At The Cross Costs Something

When you first heard that Jesus died for your sins, how did you respond? Did you shrug it off as a somewhat perplexing idea? Maybe you felt a measure of relief, but didn’t really think the knowledge of His sacrifice required more than a thank you and a smile from you. Perhaps you thought you needed to augment His work on the cross, making yourself worthy of salvation.

Or maybe you had comprehended the true weight of your sins against a holy God, and therefore received the message of the cross with an attitude of grateful amazement. You wondered why the Lord would bestow such grace on you. And, although you realized your total inability to pay Him back for His grace and mercy, you wanted to show your  gratitude by acknowledging His claim on your whole life.

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