Wednesday, December 24, 2008
For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. (Is.9:6-7)
God's goodness to us expressed in the incarnation of Jesus Christ is truly marvelous! In Him we find the fulfillment of the deepest needs of our hearts.
I pray that this Christmas will be a time for each of us where we are reminded of the goodness of God and our hearts will be drawn to want to know Him and walk with Him in a deeper way!
Celebrate Him. Love the people you find yourself with! Embrace the day with joy!
Monday, December 22, 2008
Posted: December 22, 2008
1:00 am Eastern
'Tis the season to be Jesus stealing? Away in a manger, no Christ for the bed? It has become a new Christmas fetish – neutering nativities by jacking the Jesus. Just over the past week, dozens of mini-messiahs have been nabbed from nativities across the country.
For example, a church in Andover, N.Y., had its baby Jesus stolen from the nativity.
Another Jesus figurine was robbed from a downtown nativity in Paw Paw, Mich.
A marble baby Jesus was ripped off from the nativity scene of a private resident in Omaha, Neb.
The entire holy family was missing from a nativity in New Albany, Ind.
In Palm Beach, Fla., for two consecutive years, robbers have made off with the baby Jesus.
In Athens, Tenn., a nativity was fleeced of its savior for the second time too.
And such criminal acts are not restricted to America, as a baby Jesus was smashed then stolen at the 12th century St. John's Church in Cardiff, England, and a beer was blasphemously left in its place.
To prevent further sacred thefts, thousands of churches and private residents are turning to technology to help them "save Jesus." But when GPS devices have to be planted in the skulls of the savior, and security cameras have to guard the path of the three wise men, can't we see that society is a bit off-center?
Back here in the state of Texas, when the Jesus statuette was heisted from the nativity of the Herrera family of North Richland Hills, Gloria Herrera, 48, a Catholic, passionately conveyed what we are all wondering, "They took the family Jesus. How can anybody do that?" What type of world do we live in when hoodlums (young and old) commit sacrilege for entertainment?
These religious heists beg the question: Is stealing baby Jesus figurines harmless juvenile fun or intentional hate crimes? Whatever the answer to each, there's absolutely nothing funny about vandalism. Skeptics might mock these defacements as negligible crimes, but stealing the soul of nativities is one more dismal sign of a culture gone awry. Religious Grinches who steal these symbolic Christs are pathetic piles of yuletide trash.
So here's the hope. Not that these distressing religious crimes will decrease over the years. But no matter how often Christmas thugs try to pilfer nativities, they can never take away the real Jesus of history.
Sure, cases have been made. Some can hope he never existed, as 70 percent of Britons who recently doubted the biblical story of the birth of Jesus. But, rebutting such uncertainty as naïve, Simon Gathercole, a scholar at Cambridge University, explained that people today are cynical because they don't realize the origins of Christianity are entrenched in real history. Gathercole admonished, "Jesus was born while Augustus was emperor of Rome just before Herod died. … [W]e're talking about events that are anchored in real history not in ancient
Another British scholar, N.T. Wright, wrote that most opposing views of Jesus (often posted even on the Internet by skeptics) are simply pseudo-historical evaluations: "My argument from this point onward … will be that they have offered us a Jesus of their own imagination, which the church, and anyone else who may be interested ought to resist in the name of serious history."
Dr. Edwin Yamauchi, professor of history at the
That is why F.F. Bruce, late professor at the University of Manchester, concluded: "Some writers may toy with the fancy of a 'Christ-myth,' but they do not do so on the ground of historical evidence. The historicity of Christ is as axiomatic [a universal statement of fact] for an unbiased historian as the historicity of Julius Caesar. It is not historians who propagate the 'Christ-myth' theories."
The question is not whether Jesus lived, but who he was, and is. It's a question we all will answer, consciously or not, especially this Christmas week. It's a question even Jesus asked the people of his day, "Who do people say that I am?"
As for me and my house, He is the Son of God and Savior of the world. That's what we celebrate most on Christmas Day. At very least, any unbiased previewer of history cannot deny that time and civilizations have pivoted on his unique and "One Solitary Life":
He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in still another village, where he worked in a carpenter shop until he was thirty. Then for three years he was an itinerant preacher.
He never wrote a book.
He never held an office.
He never had a family or owned a house.
He didn't go to college.
He never traveled 200 miles from the place where he was born. He did none of these things one usually associates with greatness.
He had no credentials but himself.
He was only 33 when public opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. He was turned over to his enemies and went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves.
When he was dying, his executioners gambled for his clothing, the only property he had on earth. When he was dead, he was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.
Nineteen centuries have come and gone, and today he is the central figure of the human race, the leader of mankind's progress.
All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever say, all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man on earth as much as that One Solitary Life.
The fact is, wise men still seek him. And if you genuinely follow his star, you'll find a stable, not a fable.
For those who seek, I recommend you check out the scholarly works: N.T. Wright's "Who was Jesus?"; F.F. Bruce's "Are the New Testament documents reliable?"; Lee Strobel's "The case for Christ" or check out his resource-full website or Ravi Zacharias' "Jesus among other gods." And, of course, the Bible, which makes the best of Christmas gifts.
(Note: In December, Chuck is giving away a free chapter from his New York Times best-seller, "Black Belt Patriotism." To get yours, go to ChuckNorrisNewBook.com. "Black Belt Patriotism" makes a great Christmas gift!)
Thursday, December 18, 2008
She was terribly mutilated in an attack by Hindu extremists.
Her response is detailed at the end of the article--
Nonetheless, Nayak urges India's Christians to forgive their Hindu attackers.
"[W]e forgive the Hindu radicals who attacked us, who burned our homes," she told Asia News. "They were out of their minds, they do not know the love of Jesus. For this reason, I now want to study so that when I am older I can tell everyone how much Jesus loves us. This is my future."
Nayak said her life plan is to share the message of God's love.
"The world has seen my face destroyed by the fire, now it must come to know my smile full of love and peace," she said. "I want to dedicate my life to spreading the Gospel."
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Saturday, December 13, 2008
"Being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross."
Christmas is a good time to remember the sacrifice that God made for us. Christ laid down His glory and willingly submitted Himself to His creation. We understand, somewhat, the agony of the cross but we sometimes gloss over the sacrifice for the eternal Word to live like us and among us. He endured the trauma of childbirth. He was thirsty and cold and sweaty. He was even tempted with sin just as we are (Heb. 4:15). He submitted to the point of allowing His very creation to execute Him. Hebrews 12:2 tells us that He endured the cross for the joy that was set before him. That joy was for those who would receive Him.
He laid down so much and we struggle to lay down so little. The declaration that "Jesus is Lord" (Romans 10:9) is so much more than just about fire insurance. It involves a submission of our wills to His. That means we do what He would have us do, regardless of how we feel. One of the real traps of our culture is the whole concept of judging right and wrong according to our feelings. I'll do something (or maybe not) depending on how it makes me feel. In doing so we allow ourselves to be trapped into self-serving narcissism.
We hold onto attitudes that are contrary to the Word of God. We do things that are contrary to the Word. We curse instead of blessing. We criticize instead of helping. We judge instead of loving. We avert our eyes and go our way where we can help. We tell ourselves that it is not our problem.
Colossians 3:17 tells us "And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him." That's a pretty comprehensive prescription.
We get the so-called big sins but what about the other stuff? What about gossip or envy? What about stirring strife? Maybe I'm holding onto anger and unforgiveness? What about pride or selfishness?
He laid down His glory for you. What, in your life, is it time to let go of? You'll be glad you did.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
This week a friend of mine and I had the opportunity to help a lady in her 80's who is in a pretty tough situation. We found out that she had been living without a toilet for sometime so we were able to put in a new tank for her toilet and get it up and running. We also fixed a broken shower head and started repairing some problems with the kitchen sink. We have more to do that we'll be getting to in the coming days.
I'm thankful to the Lord for revealing this situation to us. Like a lot of people, our senior friend would not have asked for help, even though she desperately needed it. We're taught not to ask others for help in our culture and unfortunately, this attitude can be propagated in our churches too. Like many folks this dear lady doesn't want to bother people with her problems.
It didn't bother me to help her. I love doing that kind of thing. It bothered me that she had been living like this and I didn't know.
Don't ignore the warning signs around you. It may not be physical labor that someone needs. It may be a smile or encouraging word. If the Holy Spirit lays someone on your heart there's a reason for that.
Love is all about action. We emphasize that at our church. Love is about relationship and interaction. It's easy to love one another when all we do is shake hands before and after church but Biblically we are called to so much more. Galatians 6:2 tells us to "bear one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ." The law of Christ is love. In John 13:34-35 Jesus said, "A new commandment I give you that you love one another. Even as I have loved you that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another."
Jesus didn't say the world would know that we are his by our big buildings, programs, wealth or even power but by our LOVE! Biblical love is not about how we feel but about what we do.
Ministry opportunities are all around. Let's open our eyes and maybe even be a little nosy if that's what it takes. Don't miss an opportunity to help. You'll be blessed.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Ever try to do something with a body part out of whack. You never realize how much you need your elbow until you hurt it. Even something as simple as tying shoes becomes a slower process. I like to be doing things so having am elbow slowing me down is not in the game plan.
Reminds me of Paul's words in 1st Corinthians 12:12-27.
For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. And if they were all one member, where would the body be? But now indeed there are many members, yet one body.And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.
The body of Christ is awesome when we are all doing our part! Our experience, in this walk with God, should be so much more than just sitting in Church. While that is good and necessary there is so much more. In the analogy of a body we find a picture of action. Christianity is not to be lived as some kind of passive, minimal effect on my life, existence. Our walk with Jesus ought to intertwine and impact every area of our lives.
Going back to the body. My wife has done a lot of work helping people who have lost their hearing. We take our hearing for granted until we lose it. But lose it and you will miss it.
When a member of the Body of Christ doesn't function according to God's calling for their lives we all suffer. The Body is weakened.
What's your calling? What does God have for you to do? The Body of Christ needs you! A lost and dying world needs you. Don't let anything rob you of your special place in the Body of Christ.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Monday, November 17, 2008
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Fruit occurs when the conditions are right. Have you ever seen an apple tree straining to produce fruit? When a healthy tree gets enough sun and water and when the soil conditions are good the tree will produce apples.
In our own walk with the Lord there are times when we just have to do the right thing. Paul admonishes us in to put on Christ (Romans 13:14), to put on the new man (Ephesians 4:34), and to put on a host of attitudes ranging from mercy to love (Colossians 3:12-14). The exhortation in all these passages is about doing what the Lord would have us do regardless of how we feel.
But the fruit of the Spirit is different. The fruit of the Spirit is not produced by a specific decision to do a specific thing. The fruit of the Spirit is produced out of relationship. Out of who we are and who we are becoming in our walk with the Lord. When the conditions in our relationship are right fruit will be produced.
I've always found the fruit of the Spirit to be a good check on my heart. Am I walkng in peace? Do I have joy? Am I patient? When there's a break there I ask myself where am I missing it. You see, I've never found God to be the one who moves or changes.
It's always me.
Friday, November 14, 2008
We often refer to Jesus as the rock and the Word compares Him to one in places like 1st Corinthians 10:4 but in this passage when Jesus talks about the two men, one who built his house on the rock and one who didn't, let's look closely at what he says.
Jesus said in Matthew 7:24, "Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock." and in 7:26, "But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand."
The dividing line in these two lives is not what they hear but what they do. It's the response to the Word of God (Jesus is the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us). James tells us that if we hear the Word and don't do it we can actually become deceived.
What does it mean to be a doer of the Word? A good place to start is in our attitudes when we read it.
What happens when the Word of God challenges some aspect of your life? Maybe you have a really nasty temper. What happens when you read that as believers we should be patient and self-controlled or that we are to cease from anger? What's your response? Are you going to set your heart to be a doer of the Word or make excuses like "I can't help myself" or "it's just the way my family is"?
Become a doer of the Word. Build your life upon the rock!
Monday, November 10, 2008
I love this passage for the promises and comfort found within -- confidence as we pray and peace as we wait. In everything (there is no issue too big or too small for the Lord) we bring our requests to the Lord with thanksgiving.
Being thankful is powerful. Thankfulness fuels faith. Grumbling and whining have the opposite effect. Thankfulness adjusts our perspective, particularly when we are going through a rough time. Thankfulness keeps the enemy from getting a foothold and running us down with doubt and depression and fear.
We have so much to be thankful for. If Jesus had done nothing more than die for us and made a way for us to have eternal life we have eternity to be eternally and fully grateful but we have so many other things to be thankful for too. He's given us His presence, His Word, His body, His love, His care and provision. We can pray in faith and see answered prayer. We can lay hands on the sick and see them recover. He transforms us and never lets us go. We can live a life, filled with His joy and peace, participating in His plans and purposes. We can be instruments of His glory and honor.
Be thankful today. All things work together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purposes! Take some time to count your blessings today. God is so good!
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. (Psalm 107:1)
Sunday, November 9, 2008
As I write this I can look out my window and see the incredibly gorgeous leaves of our big Elm (at least that's what I've been told) that overlooks the side of our property. The cellphone picture doesn't do it justice. The leaves turn to a pretty spectacular golden color in the fall. Nature has always been a reminder to me of the wonder and awe of the mighty God that we serve. Whether standing on the seashore and looking out over the ocean or admiring the foliage in the fall or looking at the stars on a dark clear night creation has spoken to my heart since I was young. The heavens truly do declare the glory of God (Psalm 19:1).
Don't forget to thank the Lord for His goodness to you today. It is so easy to get caught up in the stress and worry of life and forget what really matters.
Jesus said that we are to seek first the Kingdom of God. Life, stress, busyness and our very real enemy conspire to reorder our priorities -- to get them out of line with what God has for us.
Make some time for the Lord. You'll be glad you did.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Hebrews 11:6 (NKJV)
And when they had come to the multitude, a man came to Him, kneeling down to Him and saying, "Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers severely; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. So I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him." Then Jesus answered and said, "O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me." And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour.
Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, "Why could we not cast it out?" So Jesus said to them, "Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.
Matthew 17:14-20 (NKJV)
One of the toughest issues we seem to grapple with is faith. Faith tests our hearts. Do we really believe or do we only say we believe? The story of this man who brought his epileptic son to Jesus is a particular challenge to overly comfortable theology.
The man brings his son to the disciples and they try to minister to him but nothing happens. This is the point where we, many times, fall back on our comfortable theology and say,"It must be God's will for him to be this way." But here comes the rub. God in the flesh comes into the picture and what happens? The young man is healed from that very hour. Hmmm.... Houston we have a problem here.
But the rub gets even bigger. The disciples asked Jesus how come they couldn't get it done and Jesus tells them that it was because of their unbelief. Yikes. Jesus didn't say it wasn't my will or not in my timing it was because of their unbelief. He placed the responsibility squarely back on them.
I don't know about you but that tests my heart. As human beings we continually reach to be right; to be justified; to have someone say that we're okay. But, truthfully, we are fallen, imperfect beings who frequently struggle. That's part of the human condition and it is okay to acknowledge it, but it can also be a trap if we try to pass off our weakness, shortcomings and sin as God's best for our lives. You would do me no favor by telling me that a lie I have bought into is the truth. You might make me feel better momentarily but the long term implications will be costly.
Herein lies the challenge of faith. Do I believe God or do I believe something else? When challenged with scripture that tests my preconceptions how do I respond? Does my heart leap at the possibilities or do I fall back on my theology to justify myself and try to dodge the implications?
Faith, belief, unbelief matter. In Mark 6 and Matthew 13 we read accounts of how Jesus did very little among his own people because of their unbelief. Unbelief will effect your prayer life. It will make a difference in receiving what God has for you. Jesus said, in Mark 11:24, "Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them." Take Jesus at His word -- you'll be glad you did.
If faith mattered to Jesus it matters to us.