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DECEMBER 2004

 

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Hebrews 12:3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.

 

Last week was a bad week. First, my daughter’s car stopped on the highway. After giving her my car to use and towing her car to a reputable dealer, we had it fixed by Monday noon. It ran fine on Monday but on Tuesday morning it wouldn’t start and had to be towed to the garage again. The mechanics kept saying it worked fine for them. Friday after the mechanics had tried everything and couldn’t identify the problem, we decided to do a tune up and call it quits. I was going to keep an appointment I had made to discuss some Spiritual issues with a friend. However, Geneva had been complaining that the water heater didn’t sound right. I walked around our manufactured home and found out that a water pipe had broken under the house and water was pouring out on the ground. We managed to get a handyman out to fix the leak and I kept my appointment. Then my daughter called to tell us that she had been involved in a hit and run accident in the car that I had loaned her. Last week, the light at the end of the tunnel was the light of an oncoming train. However, when I consider Him, I wouldn’t have wanted to go through the Lord’s last week which went something like this:

On Sunday the nation wanted to make Him king, but by Friday He was hanging on a criminal’s cross because the Jewish leaders were jealous of His following. On Monday, He cast businessmen out of the temple. They had turned the worship of God into a moneymaking enterprise. On Tuesday, the Lord taught about end time calamities. On Wednesday, he likely spent the day with friends in Bethany. On Thursday, He kept the Passover and established the Lord’s supper. He then agonized in the Garden of Gethsemane and was betrayed by Judas with a kiss. On Friday, He went through a number of Jewish and Roman trials. He was found innocent by Pilate who then allowed Him to be crucified. He was mocked and scourged and forsaken by God. The day started out with the sun shining but there was darkness from noon until three. He was buried before sundown. On Saturday, He remained in the tomb. His week was a train wreck. Fortunately, the story ends with the Lord being victoriously raised from the dead and the sorrowing disciples being asked why they were seeking the Living among the dead (Like 24:5).

When we who have trusted in Christ as our personal Savior have a bad week, there is always an afterward to encourage us (Hebrews 12:11). Our afterward involves the peaceable fruit of righteousness if we are smart enough to learn the lessons we are being taught. Our afterward involves a life with Christ for eternity. A bad week proves that the Lord loves us. He chastens but doesn’t punish those He loves. Punishment is payment for sin. It is the penalty required when the law is broken. The Lord was punished for us but we still need discipline which is training and correction. Those who have potential may be trained to be better. Those who err may be corrected by the chastening. But in any case, when we have bad weeks, we need to consider the Lord so that we don‘t grow weary and faint.

My week wasn’t so bad after all. The car is running, the leak is fixed and the hit and run accident left no appreciable damage. And I wasn’t crucified! Now, I am wondering what lessons the Lord will be teaching me this week.

 

Week of December 5, 2004

1 Timothy 1:15 This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.

 

Paul takes us from the incarnation of Christ to the death of Christ in one concise statement that summarizes the Gospel. Paul said we could depend on this Truth. As a matter of fact, Paul thinks this statement is so “worthy” that it should be accepted by all. But is this statement in fact true?

The current Newsweek has a “factual” article on the myths incorporated into the account of the birth of Christ. Convincing people that the coming of Christ into the world is a myth is Satan’s way of casting doubt on the work of Christ at the cross.

I have many reasons for believing the Bible. I could tell you about miraculous answers to prayer. I could go into the prophecies connected with the incarnation and the death of Christ. I could go into the prophecies connected with the people of Israel. These are objective reasons for believing the faithful saying that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Ultimately, however, I believe the Bible because I want to. The reason I want to is that I need something to help me with my reason for being here. I need to have guidance for life and confidence about eternity. The Biblical gives me satisfactory answers to these questions.

I have never found someone who has rejected Biblical Truth that can give me something back that is better or clearly more truthful. Many people believe in God but they don’t believe the Biblical Truth that a person can know that they are saved. My God has been satisfied with the death of Christ and He is satisfied with me when I am satisfied with the death of Christ. That gives me assurance that I am saved. Why would I want a belief system that leaves me unsure about this great issue?

Many people do not believe in God and of course that really makes that person the final authority and he becomes his own God. This is scary when you consider how many of man’s truths weren’t true. Remember when it was accepted fact that the earth was flat? Remember when the earth was thought to be the center of the universe?

Many people say science has all the answers. However, a science that studies a car while denying that it has been deliberately designed is as foolish as a science that studies creation and denies a creator. Science that denies a creator is like swimming upstream. It consumes a lot of needless energy.

Yes, I believe that this is a faithful saying, worthy of all acceptation. I have accepted it, not because it answers all my questions, but because I have faith in a benevolent, gracious and kind God. I know when I trusted in the clear Truth contained in this verse and I have found no reason to allow the intellectual skeptics who believe that much of the Bible is a myth to shake my faith in the promises of God and in the God of the promises.

Week of December 12, 2004

Matthew 2:10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.

 

I have been pondering some interesting things about the first coming of the Lord Jesus. First of all, he was sought for and found by wise men from the East (likely Babylon or present day Iraq) and rejected by His own nation (John 1:11). This nation was the enemy of the Jews and the place where religious confusion began in Genesis 11. He was crucified by those who were God’s chosen people and who “had the truth”. I wonder if those of us who “have the truth” and who call ourselves Christian would welcome the Lord into our congregations if he were to physically appear at our doors today. The Jews didn’t believe their own prophets but apparently the Chaldeans did--at least they believed Daniel. Daniel became the chief of the Chaldeans (or wise men from Babylon, Daniel 5:11) but instead of their teaching corrupting him, His teaching was believed by them. He remained faithful even though he went to a heathen college and likely was taught their mystical religions. Nevertheless, I suspect that His prophecies are the reason that the wise men were looking for the Messiah’s star.

Second, the wise men were looking upward while the Jews as a nation tend to look downward. The wise men saw His star in the East (they were in the East, the star was in the West). They had guidance from heaven about a visitor from heaven. The Jewish nation will look for their help from the earth and He will be an imposter. In Revelation 13, there is a second beast that arises out of the earth who represents this imposter and he gives his allegiance to a first Beast that has arisen out of the sea. Later these men are called the beast and the false prophet. They offer false peace and those who follow them are destroyed. We need to get our eyes on heaven rather than choosing our place and style of worship based on what it can do for us while on the earth. I doubt that we can be so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good. But we can be so occupied with earthly things that we miss the Lord from heaven and the joy that He brings.

Third, the Lord was born in an outside place so He could die in an outside place. This time of the year we tend to think that everyone is a Christian. We need to remember that Christmas is the world’s way of honoring the Lord. The Lord’s way to honor Him is to trust Him, to be baptized (immersed) to identify with Him, to remember Him in the Lord’s supper and to live as those we actually believe what we have professed in our verbal testimonies and in the ceremonies associated with our worship. We need to remember that our Lord is still outside the lives of most people in the world and outside the lives of many who claim to be Christians. Unfortunately, He is even outside the door of many of our churches (See Revelation 3:20). I hope there is a warm spot in my heart and life for the Lord of the Bible. I hope that I have been willing to accept Him as He is rather than trying to make Him into something that I would like Him to be and that the world will find acceptable.

There was joy at the birth of the Lord and there was joy at the resurrection. The Lord said that the disciples would have their sorrow turned into joy (John 16:20). The Lord was willing to endure the cross because of the joy that was set before Him (Hebrews 12:2). When we accept the Christ of the Bible and admit that we are just sinners saved by grace who are waiting for the second coming of the Lord, then our “joy can be full (1John 1:4).”

 

Week of December 19, 2004

Genesis 1:3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

 

I have said before that life for a Christian is an adventure with God. Last week our adventure took us to Lexington, KY during the big Christmas snow storm. We held up on the road until the storm had passed. Then thinking that Indiana had some snow plows we started down I 65 toward Louisville. By the time we reached the heavy snow area, the roads would have been cleared in Iowa. In Indiana they hadn’t even plowed the exits. Fortunately, I had a full tank of gas as we sat in stopped traffic hour after hour. Late at night we were stopped for about four hours and even though I had a full tank of gas, I turned off the car and we pulled blankets over our legs and began to look around us. Slowly but surely the cars started turning off their engines and lights and when they did it became obvious that the moon was out on a reasonably clear night with a fresh blanket of snow reflecting the moon light. It was actually quite beautiful. Where there was a car or truck with lights on, it seemed like you could see them forever.

I began to think that many if not all of the scenes in the Biblical account of the birth of the Lord Jesus were night scenes. The shepherds were keeping their flocks by night when the angel of the Lord appeared and the glory of the Lord shined about them. They saw light in a dark place and it must have been awesome. The wise men followed a star and while we are not told that they traveled at night, the imagery of a star leading them, would imply a night scene. The star likely would have been in brilliant contrast to the darkness of the sky. It is interesting that the darker the night, the brighter a little light appears. We look for light to guide us and to enlighten us and to cheer us.

When the Lord came into this world, He was the light that could not be overcome by the darkness (John 1:5). He appeared at a dark time in history but because of the darkness His light was that much more brilliant. Even though men loved darkness rather than light (John 3:19), His work could not be frustrated nor His purpose defeated. And He offers light to those of us who realize that we live in a dark world where our only enlightenment must come from the light of the Truth of the Gospel. It was as though God was once again saying, “Let there be light.”

When we hear of the natural disaster of the tidal waves in the Indian ocean, when we read about the wars and genocide in our world, when we get concerned about the next flu pandemic, when we face the fact that we cannot always feel safe on our city streets, then we need a little light in a dark place. A star has appeared, the glory of the Lord has been witnessed, the Lord has come. It is true that He died on a supernaturally dark afternoon on a hill outside Jerusalem, but it is also true that witnesses say that he proved Himself to be alive afterward by many undeniable proofs (Acts 1:3). Without light we cannot see but, thank God, we have been given light. The brilliance and beauty of the risen Lord who offers salvation to all who will trust Him stands in stark contrast to the darkness and sin of our hearts and the darkness and sin of a Christ rejecting world. God has given us light and God saw the light that it was good (Genesis 1:4). Hopefully, we have found the light good as well.

Week of December 26, 2004