Advent and the Material World

November 30, 2010 1 comment

We have entered the time of year that Christians call Advent – a time of preparation for the coming of Jesus, the King of kings. More popularly, we have entered what’s known as the Christmas shopping season.

As we come into this season, we are accustomed to hearing about the dangers of materialism. And these admonitions are fitting. For countless souls, there is hardly a thought about the reason for the season, all while consumed with the buying and getting of stuff. So, a warning about materialism is definitely in order.

But along with the warning, we should recognize that there is nothing wrong with material things, per se. Christ’s incarnation during His first Advent makes this obvious.

When Christ came into the world, He did so by taking on a human, fleshly body. As He grew in wisdom and stature, He interacted with the material world. He wore clothes, ate food, rode in boats, and did many other things that we can identify with. Since all these things were from His Father, we can confidently say that He enjoyed them.

At age of 30, Jesus began His three year ministry which ended with His death and resurrection. The purpose of this ministry was to bring redemption to the world. A redemption that applies not just to the spirits of men, but to the whole creation. He came, in other words, that the whole earth would be restored and all the stuff in it would be set apart for the Lord.

All this has a bearing on how we think about the things we get and give for Christmas.
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Thanksgiving Prayer

November 24, 2010 Leave a comment

“Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage: we humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favour and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honourable industry,sound learning, and pure manners.

“Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues.

“Endure with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth. In times of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness … and compassion for all infirmities.”

~ Book of Common Prayer

When Giving Thanks is Hard

November 23, 2010 Leave a comment

There’s a paradox about being thankful. On the one hand we know we should be grateful, but on the other hand ingratitude seems to be where we so naturally find ourselves.

The Bible expresses this paradox throughout its pages.

“O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good” the Bible tells us (Ps.107:1). “In everything give thanks,” it says (1 Thess.5:18). Yet, despite these exhortations we find plenty of grumbling (Ex.16:7), forgetfulness of God’s mercy (Dt.8:12), and refusals to honor Him or give thanks (Rom.1:21).

God calls us to thankfulness, but gratitude is rare.

This is something we can identify with all too well when our own busyness, self-sufficiency, and preoccupation with our own plans keeps us from giving thanks when it’s due.

So, how does one get and keep a grateful heart? The answer is to look beyond ourselves and our circumstances to the supremacy of Jesus Christ.

If our state of gratitude is only linked to our immediate circumstances, we’ll constantly be vulnerable to ingratitude because we’ll always be tempted to focus on what’s wrong with our present situation. This is true whether you find yourself in good times or bad.

Yet, when our focus is on Jesus as the supreme ruler over all, a thankful heart can be the norm for us as we recognize that what we might experience at any given time is all incidental to knowing and walking with Him.

The Apostle Paul has more to say about being thankful than anyone in the Bible. This is remarkable because he spent so much of His life facing persecution and hardship. So, how was it that thankfulness became such a big theme in his life and ministry? Because the supremacy of Christ was preeminent in his thinking. Read more…

It Takes the Spirit

November 16, 2010 Leave a comment

We live in a secular age. One of the beliefs that distinguishes our age is that we don’t need God to remedy our problems. We believe that we can set things aright without Him.

The Bible teaches us the exact opposite. It tells us that in order for humanity to thrive it must look to the Lord, because it is His Spirit who not only creates all that exists, but also maintains the bonds necessary for civilization to be secure and prosper.

When men depend on anything besides the Lord, their efforts ultimately prove to be in vain. But when men depend on God, His Spirit gives the ability to overcome obstacles and fulfill the callings that He gives.

“Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit says the LORD of hosts” (Zech.4:6).

The first man, Adam, learned this the hard way when he failed to trust the Lord and and decided to depend on His own understanding. And every man since him must decide how he will live – will he depend on is own carnal reasoning or trust the word of the Lord.

Joseph engaged the world and all its temptations with a heart turned to the Lord. As a consequence, he was regarded as one who possessed “the Spirit of God” and was empowered to lead all of Egypt. Saul, on the other hand, hardened his heart, and because of it the Spirit of the Lord departed from him and an evil spirit tormented him instead.

All of this has relevance to our own time.
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Categories: Seed for the Harvest Tags: ,

An Election Day Prayer

November 2, 2010 1 comment

Almighty God and Merciful Father, you have established your throne in the heavens and your sovereignty rules over all. You are the one who changes the times and the epochs, and it is you who remove some from authority and raise others up.

Knowing that you are God, we bring these petitions on behalf of those who will be elected to office, as well as the people of this land.

Lord, give us rulers who are better than we deserve. Having forsaken you as a nation, you would be just to discipline us with tyrants. But show us mercy in giving us rulers who will learn to love righteousness and the wisdom of your ways.

Lord, grant us rulers who recognize your authority over them. May this lead them to govern with humility and justice. Cause our rulers to see that you have not ordained them to be saviors, but servants. Help them to be be good ministers of justice, who will judge without partiality and know the limits of their power.

Lord, send us rulers of good character who despise corruption. Do not send us those who would come to steal, kill, and destroy. Protect us from deceivers who would use their office for their own gain. Preserve us from the wicked who would cause us to groan. Rather, increase the righteous that we may rejoice.

Lord, bring woe upon those rulers who call evil good and good evil. And bring us those who are able to discern between good and evil that they would fulfill their calling in keeping with your Word. May your law be the foundation of our laws so that we would have liberty and peace.

Lord, keep us prayerful for those in authority, so that we would lead tranquil and quiet lives in all godliness and dignity. Keep us from covetous hearts so that we would not look to our rulers to steal for us. May your Spirit empower us to govern ourselves, since it is only by good self-government that we can ever expect to have good civil government.

Lord, help us to see always that our hope is not in the servants of the state, but in you. Cause us to know that it is righteousness that exalts a nation and nothing else. May this lead us to have repentant hearts and a new desire to honor you.

Comfort us concerning all our cares as we remember that you have already installed Jesus Christ as the King of kings and the Lord of lords.

In His Name, Amen.

How Luther Brought Reform

October 31, 2010 Leave a comment

martin lutherMartin Luther was a great Reformer of the Church because he was willing to bring the truth to bear precisely where it was needed. His attitude is summed up in this quote. . .

“If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every part of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at the moment attacking, then I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Him. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all battlefields besides is merely flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.”
~Martin Luther

May God bring us more Luthers.

Happy Reformation Day!

Public Schools and Tyranny

October 28, 2010 1 comment

Way back in 1923 J. Gresham Machen could foresee how public schools would become the “perfect instrument of tyranny” — a tool the state would use to indoctrinate America’s youth with its own secular, relativistic, and materialistic philosophies.

When one considers what the public schools of America in many places already are—their materialism, their discouragement of any sustained intellectual effort, their encouragement of the dangerous pseudo-scientific fads of experimental psychology—one can only be appalled by the thought of a commonwealth in which there is no escape from such a soul-killing system. But the principle of such laws and their ultimate tendency are far worse than the immediate results. A public school system, in itself, is indeed of enormous benefit to the race. But it is of benefit only if it is kept healthy at every moment by the absolutely free possibility of the competition of private schools. A public-school system, if it means the providing of free education for those who desire it, is a noteworthy and beneficial achievement of modern times; but when once it becomes monopolistic it is the most perfect instrument of tyranny which has yet been devised. Freedom of thought in the Middle Ages was combated by the Inquisition, but the modern method is far more effective. Place the lives of children in their formative years, despite the convictions of their parents, under the ultimate control of experts appointed by the state, force them to attend schools where the higher aspirations of humanity are crushed out, and where the mind is filled with the materialism of the day, and it is difficult to see how even the remnants of liberty can subsist. Such a tyranny, supported as it is by a perverse technique used as the instrument in destroying human souls, is certainly far more dangerous than the crude tyrannies of the past, which despite their weapons of fire and sword permitted thought at least to be free.

The truth is that the materialistic paternalism of the present day, if allowed to go on unchecked, will rapidly make of America one huge “Main Street,” where spiritual adventure will be discouraged and democracy will be regarded as consisting in the reduction of all mankind to the proportions of the narrowest and least gifted of the citizens.

~ Christianity and Liberalism

Categories: Quotes Tags: ,

Pro-Abortion Candidates Disqualified

October 26, 2010 5 comments

While the economy has taken center stage during this season’s political campaign, there is a more fundamental issue that voters need to take into account when considering the candidates. That issue is where a candidate stands on abortion.

Ever since the infamous Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, a candidate’s position on abortion has been regarded as a defining issue. During this election cycle, where a candidate stands on abortion hardly defines him at all. This should not be.

Where a candidate stands on life needs to be brought to light. Voters also need to realize that a candidate’s position on this issue is critical. So critical that pro-abortion candidates show themselves to be disqualified because they are incapable of fulfilling the most basic duty of one who governs.

Here’s why.

Life begins at conception. Scripture has taught this for millennia – “Thou didst form my inward parts; Thou didst weave me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps.139:13,14). Today, when you add the recent technological advances that have given us a window to the womb, the time that life begins and the personhood of the unborn are hardly debated.

Life is to be protected, especially when it comes to the most vulnerable. Those who are being taken away to death are to be delivered (Pr.24:11), and the obligation of defending “the least of these” applies to all of us. One way we fulfill this obligation is by paying attention to where a candidate stands on the abortion issue, and making sure we are not complicit in his promotion of death.

If the obligation to protect the weakest among us belongs to all of us, it falls even stronger upon those who have the authority to ensure the protection of the unborn. The Bible teaches us that civil rulers are ministers of justice (Rom.13:4). They are charged by God to preserve the life and liberty of those who are made in His image – including the unborn.

When a candidate takes a pro-abortion stance, he reveals upfront that he will not fulfill this duty. He makes a plain statement that under his or her rule there are some who will not be protected. In this regard, pro-abortion candidates are fundamentally flawed and unfit for office.
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Be Constant in Faith

October 20, 2010 Leave a comment

The basic orientation of the Bible toward the future is positive.
God wants us to know that He intends the days ahead to be
better than today.

This is an important orientation for us to adopt. Especially,
if things aren’t going so well for us today. Without the positive
future orientation that the Bible reveals, despair and loss of hope
easily colors one’s view of everything.

How to view the future is an issue that people have always had
to deal with. And they have always needed hope for the future
to know how to live in the present.

In the days of the prophet Jeremiah, the land of Judah was about
to fall in judgment to the Babylonian Empire. This judgment is
something the people had brought on themselves. Not only had
they been unfaithful, but the generations before them had also
forsaken the Lord. So, they were about to be corrected for
their own wickedness.

This was all very depressing to the people because it appeared
that they were trapped in an endless cycle of defeat. But God
did not intend to leave them in hopelessness. He intended that
they would learn from their hardship and come to relate
to Him in a better way.

“’For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord,
‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and
a hope’” (Jer.29:11)

In order for this hope to be realized, God entered into a new
covenant with the people. Through this new covenant, He forgave
them and wrote His law on their hearts. This led the people to know
Him and His mercy like never before, and it brought them into
a position to live faithfully with Him as their God.
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Last Days Distraction

October 12, 2010 1 comment

Whenever difficult times come, there arises a mass of people who wonder whether or not we are “living in the last days.” Today, in our climate of political and economic upheaval, people again are pondering whether the last days are upon us.

Recently, I’ve been told more times than I can count, “the end must be near.” But is it? Let’s consider a few facts.

First, in the Bible the phrase “last days” does not refer to the end of the planet as we know it, but the end of the Jewish temple system with the coming of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:17; Heb.1:2). Consequently, we have been living in the last days since the first century.

Second, there are hundreds of instances in history when it was believed that the “signs of the times” proved that the end of all things was near. During the fall of the Roman Empire, for example, it was widely believed that the end of the world must be at hand. It wasn’t. It was simply the beginning of a new world.

Third, the Bible tells us that Jesus is the heir of the nations (Ps.2:8), and that the end will come after He has brought all things under subjection (1 Cor.15:22ff.). It’s because of this Christians have been commissioned to disciple the nations (Mt.28:18-20) and to pray “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Mt.6:10).

Thinking through these facts presents an alternative scenario to the common end times vision that preoccupies many.

Just because difficult times come does not mean it’s the end of the world. Those difficult times may arrive for other reasons. For instance, the Bible repeatedly teaches that societies who disobey the Lord, He will judge – those who sow the wind will reap to the whirlwind (Hos.8:7).
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