Sunday, December 23, 2012

So That The World May Believe


The Christmas narrative taken out of the Gospel of Luke is an amazing story.  Many of us can close our eyes and easily hear Linus Van Pelt in the Charley Brown Christmas special speak so eloquently of the birth of Jesus.  He quotes in beautiful King James English just six verses that tell of the birth of the Messiah from the viewpoint of the shepherds.

There are many different viewpoints in the Gospel of Luke.  There is the story of Zechariah, a righteous priest, and his wife Elizabeth, both advanced in years who have a visit from the angel Gabriel who tells them that they will have a son who is to be named John. Gabriel said that John was to, “Prepare the people for the coming of the Lord”.

There is a similar story of the angel Gabriel who then later appears to the virgin named Mary and tells her that she has been chosen to be the mother of the Christ child.  About nine months later, the narrative picks up again from the viewpoint of Joseph and Mary, who travel by donkey from their home in Nazareth to Bethlehem to obey the decree of Caesar Augustus that the entire world should be "registered."

These stories are famous because they speak of the one event that changed history forever. As Christians, we celebrate that annual feast as an yearly reminder of the birth of this Christ child that was to be the King of kings, the Savior of the world. 

It is at Christmas that we all move a little closer to that feeling and objective of Christian unity. Our denominational and silly parochial differences are set aside for a time.  Even if only for a brief season, this is the tangible expression of the unity of our faith. We are united in our faith in the birth of this Child that would ultimately give His life as a ransom for all mankind. 

Jesus prayed in John 17:21,”I pray that they may all be one. Father! May they be in us, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they be one, so that the world will believe that you sent me.”

We are truly one in faith. Let us remember that we have much more in common than we have in difference.  Our worship may be dissimilar, our creeds and some of our practices slightly different, however we are still to be one.....”so that the world will believe”.



Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Morning After


Back in 1973, new singer Maureen McGovern recorded a song for The Poseidon Adventure, one of the first of the not-so-big-budget disaster films. The song was a song of hope… “Oh, can't you see the morning after?  It's waiting right outside the storm. Why don't we cross bridge together? And find a place that's safe and warm"

Disasters happen.  Many of them go unnoticed because they are in a corner of the world that many people would just as soon forget.  Daily, there are hundreds of people that lose their life unexpectedly.  In the United States over 35,000 people are killed each year in highway accidents.

Nevertheless, the loss of innocent life is tragic.  Our hearts are moved when we hear of children being gunned down.   It seems senseless, tragic and meaningless.

When Jesus was born, the Bible says that Herod, the King of Judea was ‘exceedingly angry’.   Being angry and having power whether it is having soldiers at your command or an automatic weapon in your hands is not a good combination.  Herod commanded that all male babies in his district under two years old be put to death.   The Gospel of Matthew quotes the Prophet Jeremiah and writes, “A voice was heard in Ramah, Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, Refusing to be comforted, Because they are no more.”  (Matthew 2:18)

Yet, the message of Christmas was and continues to be ‘Peace on Earth’.   The gospel of this Savior, born in Bethlehem is peace and His message is to bring hope and joy.  There was a morning of hope after that day of evil King Herod when babies were put to death just as there was a morning of hope after the crucifixion of Jesus at Calvary.  The same prophet Jeremiah who prophesied about the weeping for the children also told of a morning after,  "I will turn their mourning into joy; I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow". (Jeremiah 31

We have hope when we have the peace that passes understanding.   As believers in that peace, we are to share that hope and help others cross over and know that there is hope right outside the storm. 



Monday, December 03, 2012

Radical Faith


I’ve enjoyed being a radical for many years.

To my families surprise it had become true.  My wife and I represented those people that every family seemed to have at least one of that were a little different.  Once we discovered what God truly desired, our faith had become ‘radicalized’.  From our perspective, our behavior and attitudes were a normal reaction to being filled with the Spirit of the living God, the creator of the universe.  However, our families thought differently.

While we haven’t gotten any better, the family has gotten used to us and some have even joined us.   As I read the Bible I find lots of encouragement to live a radical life.    The Apostle James wrote, “22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. (James 1:22-25)

The Gospel of Jesus Christ should turn not only your life but the world upside down.  Christian values and principles are so contrary to the rest of the world that everyone should immediately see the difference.

The Apostle Paul, like James' instruction above, tells us that we should be different from the rest of the culture.  This is how the Message Bible translates Romans 12:1-2.

“So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”

Fitting in well to the culture is over-rated; God wants more from us!

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