Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Joy To The World

Joy to the World, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King.

Isaac Watts wrote “Joy to the World” in 1719. Since then, every Christmas season, carolers cast those words into the air like a lifeline out into the ocean of humanity. And every “fish” surely finds something inviting and worth nibbling. The thrill of hope within the message spools out to touch a weary world with anticipation of tasting something truly good!

Joy came to the world because God, our great Creator, loved His creation so much that He sent His Son to reveal His story, so that over time, His character and ultimate good will toward mankind would be recognized. The impact on earth of Christ’s birth will never diminish despite enemies’ attempts to stop it. John 21:25 says that the world would not be able to contain the books that could be written about what the Lord did while on earth. Since then many more testimonies of His transforming love have been and will be written.

Nehemiah 8:10 records that Nehemiah, the leaders, and the people celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles with great joy, after sharing God’s Word. This season, we too can rejoice! We rejoice at the thought of the Savior’s birth, His purpose, and His inheritance.

What will you rejoice about during this Christmas season?

Source: Youversion

Monday, December 24, 2012

Valley of Vision: The Gift of Gifts

O Source of all Good,
What shall I render to Thee for the gift of gifts,
Thine own dear Son, begotten, not created,
my Redeemer, Proxy, Surety, Substitute,
His self-emptying incomprehensible,
His infinity of love beyond the heart's grasp.

Herein is wonder of wonders:
He came below to raise me above,
He was born like me that I might become like Him.

Herein is love;
when I cannot rise to Him He draws near on wings of grace,
to raise me to Himself.

Herein is power;
when Deity and humanity were infinitely apart
He united them in indissoluble unity, the uncreated and the created.

Herein is wisdom;
when I was undone, with no will to return to Him,
and no intellect to devise recovery,
He came, God-incarnate, to save me to the uttermost,
as man to die my death,
to shed satisfying blood on my behalf,
to work out a perfect righteousness for me.

O God, take me in spirit to the watchful shepherds,
and enlarge my mind;
let me hear good tidings of great joy,
and hearing, believe, rejoice, praise, adore,
my conscience bathed in an ocean of repose,
my eyes uplifted to a reconciled Father,
place me with ox, ass, camel, goat,
to look with them upon my Redeemer's face,
and in Him account myself delivered from sin;
let me with Simeon clasp the new-born Child to my heart,
embrace Him with undying faith,
exulting that He is mine and I am His.

In Him Thou hast given me so much that heaven can give no more.

Arthur Bennett, ed. Valley of Vision (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1975), 16.


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Leadership is all about character

I am currently reading through Albert Mohler's new book, The Conviction to Lead: 25 Principles for leadership that matters.

Reading his book brings to mind the sobering words of James 3:1. Leadership is both wonderful and yet heavy because the leader will one day have to give an account to God for his or her stewardship of God's ministry. Here's what he says:

Martin Luther, the great Reformer of the church in the sixteenth century, had a profound awareness of his sin— even after his salvation. He knew that he was a great sinner in need of a great Savior, and he found salvation and the forgiveness of sin in Jesus Christ. He became a bold, courageous, and brilliant defender of the gospel. He led a reform of the church, transformed Germany, translated the Bible into common German, taught pastors, preached regularly, and was what most of us would now recognize as a workaholic.
But for all of his awareness of the grace and mercy of God in Christ, he was troubled by his own sins. Bold by day, he could also be fearful at night. Prophetic in the pulpit, he could also be short-tempered to his closest friends. Confident without question in the truth of the gospel, he could also feel the tugs of periodic doubt.
This led Luther to one of his greatest insights into the Christian life. Christians are, he said, simultaneously justified sinners, but sinners still. We are saved, and yet we still struggle with sin. This will not always be the case, for we will one day be glorified. But until then, we still have ourselves to deal with. This is the leader’s responsibility— to deal with himself or herself. We are not perfect, and claims of perfection will only serve to undermine our leadership. We will fail, and we must be answerable for those failures. Our sin will show up in our leadership, usually without delay.
Mohler, Albert (2012-10-26). Conviction to Lead, The: 25 Principles for Leadership that Matters

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Not the way it is supposed to be

I was at home early Friday afternoon getting ready to host our Christmas staff party at our house when my wife called me on the phone.

“Have you heard the news?” She said.
“What news?” I asked.
“Someone entered a school and killed several children.”
She didn’t have many details, so I turned on the television and could not believe what I was hearing. A young man entered a small elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut filled with children from five to ten years old, and without a shred of mercy, killed twenty innocent children and six adults, including himself.
My questions
I spent the rest of the afternoon praying, crying, and wondering what kind of person would kill children.
Why do these senseless tragedies happen and will they ever end?
As a father, I tried to put myself in the place of these parents who hugged, kissed their kids and sent them off to school on Friday morning not knowing they had hugged and kissed their children for the last time in this life.    
And how sad that this is happening at Christmas. These shootings should never, ever happen, but every Christmas for the rest of their lives these families will be haunted by their loss.
People everywhere are beginning to ask why. Why did God let this happen? What is God doing about this level of demonic evil in the world?
Good vs. evil
It’s worth noting that the Advent reading for this week is from Zephaniah. The prophet explains both the goodness of God and the badness of the human heart. The LORD within it is righteous; he does no wrong. Every morning he renders his judgment, each dawn without fail; but the unjust knows no shame. Zeph. 3:5
Without question, there is a cosmic struggle between the will of God which is just and the will of human beings which is always unjust. God is good and did not cause these murders. Human beings are unjust and are the source of much of the world's suffering.
God’s response through the cross
Through the cross God responds with both righteousness and justice to the nagging question, “Why don’t you do something about evil?” God did do something—and what He did was so powerful that it ripped in half, from top down, the fabric of the universe itself. 

God does not merely empathize with our sufferings. He came into history as Jesus. What Jesus suffered, God suffered. God sees, knows and weeps with the stricken parents of Newtown. 

Why isn’t Good Friday called Bad Friday? Because we see it in retrospect. Out of the appallingly bad came inexpressible good. That good trumps the bad, because although the bad was temporary, the good is eternal. Had someone delivered Jesus from His suffering, He could not have delivered us from ours. 

In retrospect we believe good triumphs over the horrors that happened this past Friday in Sandy Hook Elementary school. In the mean time we must do all we can to live as followers of the King of Peace. We must pray, and work for those who suffer and mourn. And we must remember that our world is populated with people who often choose evil without a sliver of shame. Thanks be to God that the story of God’s saving work in the world ends not with the defeat of goodness, but the defeat of evil through the coming of Jesus.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

How God's word changes your life

Arthur Pink is long gone. But his little book, Profiting from the word is most helpful to those of us seeking to conform our lives to the will of God. I commend his work to you, but most of all, I commend his exhortation, to read, love and obey God as revealed through Scripture. The following is just one small sample of his encouragment:
An individual is spiritually profited when the Word causes a forsaking of sin. "Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity" (2 Tim. 2:19).
The more the Word is read with the definite object of discovering what is pleasing and what is displeasing to the Lord, the more will His will become known; and if our hearts are right with Him the more will our ways be conformed thereto. There will be a "walking in the truth" (3 John 4).
At the close of 2 Corinthians 6 some precious promises are given to those who separate themselves from unbelievers. Observe, there, the application which the Holy Spirit makes of them. He does not say, "Having therefore these promises, be comforted and become complacent thereby," but "Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit" (2 Cor. 7:1).
"Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you" (John 15:3). Here is another important rule by which we should frequently test ourselves: Is the reading and studying of God’s Word producing a purging of my ways?
Of old the question was asked, "Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way?" and the Divine answer is "by taking heed thereto according to thy word." Yes, not simply by reading, believing, or memorizing it, but by the personal application of the Word to our "way."
It is by taking heed to such exhortations as "Flee fornication" (1 Cor. 6:18), "Flee from idolatry" (1 Cor. 10:14). "Flee these things"—a covetous love for money (1 Tim. 6:11), "Flee also youthful lusts" (2 Tim. 2:22), that the Christian is brought into practical separation from evil; for sin has not only to be confessed but "forsaken" (Prov. 28:13).