Noses Up in the Air

slide1Someone with much pride is often described as having their nose up in the air. This is especially evident when they’re in the company of those they deem as inferior. What do we do when WE are in the presence of someone who looks down their nose at us like that?

There’s a joke about two well-bred female AKC (American Kennel Club)-approved dogs who were proudly strutting down the street with their noses held high in the air. Along came a big alley dog, a mutt. Embarrassed at being in the company of such a no-account, one of the dogs said, “We must go. My name is Miji, spelled M-I-J-I!” The other one said, “My name is Miki, spelled M-I-K-I!” The alley dog put his nose up in the air also, did his own little strut, and said, “My name is Fido, spelled P-H-Y-D-E-A-U-X!” (selected)

Fido wasn’t about to let these uppity canines outdo him. He could put his nose just as high as they could, strut around, and make HIS name just as classy as theirs. Fido had his pride, too, and he wasn’t about to let them outdo him. But was this really necessary? Did he have to raise himself to their egotistical level?

There’s a saying, “Always hold your head up, but be careful to keep your nose at a friendly level.” This would have been good advice for Fido. So what, he was only a mutt! He could still hold his head up as an alley dog without his nose up in the air like those other two snobbish dogs. He didn’t need to make an impression on Miji and Miki just to get their acceptance or to impress them or to show he is better than them. But isn’t this natural?

We want to fit in, be respected, and feel like we’re just as good as those who look down upon us. But when we let our own pride get the best of us, and try to outdo them, we end up only fooling ourselves and making ourselves look foolish in the process. Like Fido—a common, ordinary alley dog—we can’t change the fact that we are who we are, too. And, as such, we don’t need to pretend we’re something we are not.

God can and will use us just as we are—that is, as long as we are willing to give up our pride and humble ourselves before him. James wrote, “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you,” (James 4:10, New American Standard Bible, NASB). He’s not looking for persons with their noses in the air, but those who humbly submit to him out of love, honor, and devotion. Then, he will exalt us or lift us up, not we ourselves.

In essence, when we are humble, we have no need or desire to hold our noses in the air. And yet, when we humble ourselves and literally look up to heaven for strength, there’s no other choice but that our noses point up in the air, too. The big difference is, however, our noses are not pointing up out of haughtiness. We’re humbly turning to God. As the Psalmist declared, “I will lift up my eyes [and nose!] to the mountains; From whence shall my help come? My help comes from the LORD…,” (Psalm 121:1-2a, NASB).

Once there was a King called Nebuchadnezzar (pronounced, neh-byoo-kuhd-NEHZ-er), a great and powerful ruler of Babylon from 605 BC to 562 BC. Babylon was home of one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Hanging Gardens, which is credited to him.

The Bible says that one day, as Nebuchadnezzar was walking around on the roof of his royal palace, he gazed out over his grand city. And the self-righteous king “…reflected and said, ‘Is this not Babylon the great, which I MYSELF have built as royal residence by the might of MY power and the glory of MY majesty?'” (Daniel 4:30 NASB). Talk about someone with his nose up in the air! He was a typical elitist who let his power go to this head.

But God was about to teach him a valuable lesson. It says that even while these words were in his mouth, “…a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared: sovereignty [literally, “your kingdom”] will be removed from you,'” (Dan. 4:31). God went on to reveal his ominous punishment:

“And you will be driven away from mankind, and your dwelling place will be with the beasts of the field. You will be given grass to eat like cattle, and seven periods of time will pass over you, until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over you, the realm of mankind, and bestows it on whomever he wishes.'” (Dan. 4:32).

So it says that,

“Immediately the word concerning Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled, and he was driven away from mankind and began eating grass like cattle, and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven, until his hair had grown like eagles’ feathers and his nails like bird’s claws,” (Dan. 4:33).

There are different explanations on the kind of sickness God afflicted on Nebuchadnezzar. According to The Pharmaceutical Journal (posted by Prospector PJ, 10 July 2013), it is believed that the king suffered from boanthropy, a psychological disorder in which the sufferer believes he or she is an ox or cow. Another assertion is that he had porphyria—an enzyme disorder that produces “neurological symptoms such as hallucinations, depression, anxiety, paranoia, or general paresis or paralytic dementia caused by syphilis.”

The post adds,

“The porphyrias are a group of rare inherited or acquired disorders of certain enzymes that normally participate in the production of porphyrins and haem. They manifest with either neurological complications or skin problems, or occasionally both.” (https://www.pharmaceutical-journal.com/opinion/blogs/nebuchadnezzar-and-boanthropy/11123165.blog?firstPass=false)

Whatever his affliction was, it was enough to bring the king to his senses. After suffering for a period of seven years, Nebuchadnezzar again turned his nose up in the air. But this time, it was out of humility, not pride.

In his own words, Nebuchadnezzar recalls,

“But at the end of that period, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever; For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, And His kingdom endures from generation to generation,” (Dan. 4:24).

Once Nebuchadnezzar turned his face toward the true God of heaven, he was returned to his sanity and his sovereignty was restored (Dan. 4:36). And he concludes,

“Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride,” (Dan. 4:37).

Nebuchadnezzar’s experience serves as a good lesson for us. God desires that we do not put our noses in the air out of pride and arrogance. He wants us to look up to him and give him the praise that he so deserves since he gave his only begotten Son to give us the hope of receiving eternal life. Unlike Fido, all we need to do is give God the glory and praise, for as King Nebuchadnezzar declared,

“For His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
And His kingdom endures from generation to generation.
“All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
But He does according to His will in the host of heaven
And among the inhabitants of earth;
And no one can ward off His hand
Or say to Him, ‘What have You done?'” (Dan. 4:34b, 35).

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. Here’s a worship video that encourages us to look up to God for our help: http://youtu.be/KP1QKueGK-o

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Resolved to Be Distinctive

distinctive christian

Making New Year’s resolutions is both customary and natural. It’s customary in that it has become a time-honored practice for many whenever we enter a brand new year. It’s natural because we are humanly inclined to want to put past disappointments behind us and look ahead with hope to make things better.

Some make resolutions; others don’t. Ironically, those who don’t make resolutions are resolved to believe that they can’t be kept anyway. So, why bother? This is natural, too. For in their thinking, why get one’s hope up only to see a resolution broken not long after it was made? Someone quipped, “Most of the leaves we turned over in January have already started to fall.”

But the cynics against New Year’s resolutions are apparently in the minority. According to one source, a survey taken by YouGov just prior to 2018 revealed that most people were looking forward to turning over a new leaf. It was reported that only 32 percent were not planning to make New Year’s resolutions, therefore, leading to the conclusion that the majority were. Some of the top resolutions were to eat better, exercise more, spend less money, take better care of themselves like get more sleep. and to read more. (https://patch.com/us/across-america/here-are-most-popular-new-years-resolutions-2018)

Did all of them follow through with their goals? According to a YouGov survey taken midway through last year, only one out of five Americans or 20% mostly or completely stuck with their 2018 New Year’s resolutions. To break it down, the survey showed that only six percent kept their resolution 100 percent while 14 percent said they had “mostly stuck” with their resolution. As far as I can find right now, the stats on this issue for the remainder of the year are not in yet. But I venture to say that, according to the statistics gathered previously in the year, the numbers didn’t change much. (https://today.yougov.com/topics/lifestyle/articles-reports/2018/06/28/2018-new-years-resolutions-update)

So, with these figures, we ask: Are the cynics correct? Are many justified in not making any resolutions for the year? What does it mean to make a resolution, anyway?

Consider the meaning of the word. A resolution indicates that someone is resolved to find a solution to a problem and firmly decide on the action one will take. “Resolve” is a strong word with synonyms like courage, firmness, steadfastness. When someone of strong character is hell-bent on pursuing a resolution, that person is resolved to see it through.

As we find from the statistics, most people sincerely make resolutions but very few are totally resolved to complete them. The custom of making them is natural. But if there isn’t enough resolve, then the custom of breaking them is also natural without the strength of will.

For Christians, living the way of Christ is more significant than the custom of making New Year’s resolutions. For it’s far more than a natural desire to make things better for the next 12 months. It’s a serious resolve to let Christ provide transformation and growth for the rest of one’s life.

In my thinking, following Christ boils down to a genuine and sincere resolve to be distinctive as opposed to the ungodly ways of the world. For the Apostle Paul urged the Corinthian church, “Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,” says the Lord. “And do not touch what is unclean; And I will welcome you,” (2 Cor. 6:17.) Paul was concerned that the church was into idolatry and worldliness that went against the higher standards of God’s Word (verses 11-16). He was exhorting believers to be resolved in two things: (1) to set themselves apart from sin; and, (2) to set themselves apart for God and his service.

This is the kind of resolve we all need. Even though we wrestle against sin everyday as we strive to serve God, we do not give up giving 100 percent toward reaching this goal. Like Paul testified, “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet (resurrection to life, vss. 10-12) ; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus, (Philippians 4:13-14).

The apostle reminded the Corinthian church, just as we’re reminded today, that we are part of God’s family. Quoting Isaiah, the prophet who recorded God’s Word to Israel, “I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” Says the Lord Almighty,” (2 Cor. 6:18; Isa. 43:6). Now that Christ has grafted Gentile believes into “the commonwealth of Israel” (Romans 11:11-13; Ephesians 2:11-13), we also have the duty and privilege of pursuing our resolve to obey our Father in heaven. This gives us a unique distinction to which nonbelievers cannot identify or relate.

Our resolve to “come out from among them” and “be separate” is not taken lightly (2 Cor. 7:1; 1 Peter 2:9-12). When the unbelieving world sees us working to hold to our holy resolve, it will challenge us to remain true to it. Moreover, due to our nature, we will be tempted to give up under the pressure of our own personal temptation. And even though we give it our best shot everyday, we will often fail. That’s just the way it is. (Note Paul’s frustration: Romans 7:14-25.)

However—unlike making and breaking New Year’s resolutions—we are still determined to NEVER give up on our resolve as God’s people to trust and obey him through his wonderful grace. We continue to move forward, resolved to be distinctive in truth, through love, faith, and hope in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. The cause of our resolve is Jesus Christ and our desire to make him Number One in our lives. Here’s Kari Jobe singing, “The Cause of Christ”: http://youtu.be/v0ybgYajDHg

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Hope For a Better Future

hebrews 10v23

Jemima was taking an afternoon nap on New Year’s Eve before the festivities. After she woke up, she confided to Max, her husband, “I just dreamed that you gave me a diamond ring for a New Year’s present. What do you think it all means?”

“Aha, you’ll know tonight,” answered Max smiling broadly.

At midnight, as the New Year was chiming, Max approached Jemima and handed her a small package. Delighted and excited she opened it quickly. There in her hand rested a book entitled: “The meaning of dreams.”

Some people dream of having a better future. But that’s all it turns out to be—a dream. Dreams are not guaranteed to come true.

Hope, on the other hand, is different. It’s not some pipe dream or wishful thinking. It’s an expectation. And, from a Biblical standpoint, the believer’s hope for a better future is sure to come true.

And when I say better future, I’m thinking of the time that the prophets foretold—a time that will be happier than, for example, receiving a diamond ring. We know that such a time is coming because the prophets were moved by a higher Power than their own. 

The Apostle Peter declared, “…for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God,” (2 Peter 1:21, New American Standard Bible, NASB).

We can be assured there will be a better future—more wonderful than anyone can dream of—because it is promised through divine revelation Therefore, we are absolutely certain beyond the shadow of a doubt that our hope is valid and reliable. Without  the intervention of God’s Holy Spirit, all other sources for predicting the future are futile, false, and faulty.

In his book, Systematic Theology, Dr. Alva Huffer wrote,

Apart from divine revelation, man cannot know what the future holds. Man cannot acquire information about the future through fortune tellers, spiritualist mediums, or the oracles of Delphi. He cannot learn what the future holds by observing cloud formations, flights of birds, position of stars in the sky, lines in a person’s hand, bumps on one’s head, tea leaves, and similar superstitions. Divine revelation is man’s only source of knowledge concerning the future.

From God’s Word, we are promised that an age is coming when all things will be restored to the way God intended before there was sin in the world. It will commence when Jesus Christ returns to earth and establishes God’s kingdom. When we give our lives to Christ and repent of our sins, we have the hope that a better time will come.

The Apostle Peter said,

Repent, then, and turn back, so that your sins may be wiped away, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus, the Christ, who has been appointed for you. Heaven must take Him in until the time comes for the restoration of all things, which God announced long ago through His holy prophets. For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your brothers. You must listen to Him in everything He tells you.…(Acts 3:19-21, Berean Study Bible, BSB).

Christians are looking forward to a better future for they have the “blessed hope” of Jesus’ coming (Titus 2:11-14) and all that he will do when that time comes (2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1-4). As each year comes and each year goes, we anticipate that wonderful time. We do not know the day nor the hour of his coming (Matt. 24:36, 42-44), but we do know it is coming. And every day that goes by gets us that much closer to it. It’s not just a dream.

Good News to YOU!
And Have a Blessed New Year!
Pastor Michael

P.S. Here’s Kathy Troccoli singing, “My Life Is in Your Hands”: https://youtu.be/7nA8mMEBb9U

 

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Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Christmas

As I was doing some research on Christmas, I came across a book that cited some interesting historical facts behind the traditions of the holiday season. See how many of these facts you may or may not already know:

  • During the early days of Christianity, different parts of the world celebrated Christmas on different dates. If you traveled widely in the Roman world, you could conceivably enjoy six different Christmases in the span of a single year. It was Pope Julius I in the mid-fourth century who appointed a monk named Dionysius to set up a calendar standardizing a universal date, which came to be December 25.
  • Christmas was outlawed in England by the Puritans under Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658) who thought of it as a “heathen celebration.” It was illegal to celebrate the holiday until the British monarchy was restored in 1660.
  • Christmas was also outlawed by the Puritans of New England. The following law was passed in Massachusetts in 1659: “Whoever shall be found observing any such day as Christmas and the like, either by forbearing labor, feasting or any other way, shall pay for any such offense five shillings as a fine to the country.” The law remained on the books for 22 years, and Christmas was not made a legal holiday in Massachusetts until just before the Civil War.
  • In Spain, Christmas gifts are not exchanged until January 6…That is the date [known as Epiphany—ed.] commemorating the visit of the Magi, who were the first to offer Christmas gifts—gold, frankincense, and myrrh. On that night, children set their shoes outside on the doorstep, filling them with straw for the camels. They believe the wise men will fill the shoes with gifts and candy.
  • The custom of sending Christmas cards began in 1843 when a wealthy Englishman, Sir Henry Cole, ran out of time to write personal letters to his friends at Christmas. He commissioned an artist, John Calcott Horsley, to design a card instead. Horsley drew a picture of a group of merry-wishers raising their glasses in toast. Underneath were the words, “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You.” The card created much controversy, as critics complained it encouraged holiday drinking. But the custom of sending cards at Christmas caught on nonetheless.
  • The Poinsettia is a Christmas tradition harkening from Mexico. According to legend, a boy named Pablo was headed to his village church to see its nativity scene. Realizing he had no gift for the Christ child, he hurriedly gathered some branches and weeds from the roadside. When he laid them before the manger, the other children laughed at him. But suddenly there appeared on each branch the brilliant, star-shaped flower of the Poinsettia.
  • Candy canes were reportedly developed by a Christian candymaker in Indiana who built the story of Christmas into each piece. The hardness of the candy represents the solid rock of the Christian faith. The white represents the sinlessness of Christ, and the red stripes symbolize the bloody wounds caused by his flogging. The shape of the candy is that of a shepherd’s staff, representing Christ as our Good Shepherd. Turned upside down, it forms the letter “J”—for Jesus.
  • Our word Christmas comes from the English observance of the birth of Christ called Christes masse (Christ’s mass), because a special mass was celebrated on that day. In France, it’s known as Noel; in Spain, Navidad; and in  Italy, Natale—all those words meaning simply birthday. The Germans use the word Weihnachten, meaning holy nights.
  • The word Yule comes from the Teutonic tribes of northern Europe. Because their winters were so long and harsh and their days so short, they always celebrated the winter solstice on December 22, the shortest day of the year. It was a time of great joy for them. From that point each year the days began to lengthen. They called the month Yule, or Jol, from which we get our English word jolly.
  • The day after Christmas is commonly called “Boxing Day” in England [also, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand –ed.], because of the custom of giving Christmas boxes containing gifts and money to the servants.
    (As cited in Preacher’s Sourcebook of Creative Sermon Illustrations, Robert J. Morgan)

I find these traditions fascinating not only because of the way they got started but how many of them are still upheld today.

In the midst of these or any other traditions we might have, we don’t want to let them sidetrack us concerning the TRUE reason for celebrating the Christmas season. It’s important for believers to be reminded that the Biblical account of Christ’s birth not get lost in any of our traditional practices or beliefs.

Tradition or not, the bottom line for celebrating Christmas lies in the fact that Jesus Christ was born to save us from our sins and give us the hope of receiving eternal life (John 3:16-17). For the angel said to Joseph in the dream saying,

“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife: for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bear a Son; and you shall call his name, Jesus, for it is he who will save his people from their sins,” (Matthew 1:20-21, New American Standard Bible, NASB). (See also, Matt. 18:11; Luke 19:10; 1 Timothy 1:15.)

Good News to YOU!
& Merry Christmas!
Pastor Michael

P.S. Here is Dennis Jernigan singing, “He Was Born to Save Us” https://youtu.be/2PSmplUPubc

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Lights! Camera! ACTION!

 

Slide1

Think of what goes on when filming a movie scene and you automatically picture a director decked out with beret and baggy pants yelling through a megaphone, Lights! Camera! Action! These three words are said to be first uttered way back to 1910 by the famed director, D.W. Griffith. Fast forward a hundred years, and these words oversimplify what director’s say before cameras start rolling in our day.

The director cannot call for action until preparations have been made on the set. A lot of technical adjustments must take place in order to get the lighting ready (lights… board…bulbs…shadows). Hours and hours are spent making sure the cameras are in the right position at the right time, from early morning to late at night. And often the weather conditions can have a bearing on how soon a scene can be filmed , too.

On the day of filming, the director must make sure everything is good to go before the action takes place. Like an airplane pilot getting ready for a flight, the director checks with the cast and crew (Picture up…Everyone settle!…Cameras set!); the director of photography (Ready?…Ready!); the mixer (Sound ready?…Sound ready!); first assistant director (Ready?…Boom in…Slate in…); mixer (speed); 2nd assistant camera person (Voice slate scene…). And after a few more checks, you finally hear, Roll camera…Speed…Marker (clapper board is clapped)…ACTION!

The whole routine sort of puts me in the mind of Christmas. Christmas lights are set up. Modern day cameras–a.k.a. I-Phones and I-Pads–are set to roll to capture those happy holiday moments. Finally, the day that everyone is expecting arrives and now the ACTION can actually take place—unwrapping gifts, wishing “Merry Christmas” to loved ones, and sitting down to devour a delicious meal with family.

BUT WAIT!!! HOLD THAT CAMERA!!! Is something missing from this Norman Rockwell- kind-of-scene, perhaps??? Ah, yes! What about the one true Light that makes Christmas truly shine with love, peace, and joy? What about, “In him was Life, and the Life was the Light of men…There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man,” (John 1:4, 9)? Christmas lights may beautify the holiday but they are not as glorious and spectacular as “the star” that literally shined down from heaven over “the Bright Morning Star” (Rev. 22:160 who came to save the world (Matt. 2:9).

God, our Director, made the perfect preparations for the Light of Christmas to shine in the world. Holy men published the script, the scenery was set, the Light was announced, and now, like a camera ready to roll, ACTION! Christ our Savior was born. Act I began!

“And the Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; the grace of God was upon him…And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men,” (Luke 2:40, 52).

But the show has only begun. There are three more Acts in this drama. Act II is his Teaching Ministry. Act III is in three parts: Part 1, His Sacrificial Death; Part 2, His Resurrection to Immortality; and Part 3, His Post- Resurrection Appearances and Ascension to Heaven. Act IV is His Second Coming as King and the Establishment of God’s Eternal Kingdom.

Just think of it: We’ve been in Act III for about 2,000 years. We call this period, “The Church Age.” All this time, believers in Christ have been called out by our Director, to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. We’re among the cast of characters serving him by faith. Meanwhile, the cameras keep on rolling. The Director hasn’t called “cut” yet. We don’t know how long it will be until we enter Act IV. It may be sooner than most can imagine (Matt. 24:44).

Just as a director is pictured as calling out, Lights! Camera! ACTION! when the film is about to roll, our Director has been calling the world to follow his Son, the One born long ago. We are now preparing for the final Act. Are you as excited for this coming attraction as much as a child is excited about Christmas?

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. Here’s Chris Tomlin presenting, “Joy to the World (Unspeakable Joy!)” https://youtu.be/tC3SwhJsLqU

 

 

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Caught Up in the Christmas Rush

Christmas Shoppers Rushing

In the rush of last-minute Christmas shopping, a woman bought a box of fifty identical greeting cards. Without bothering to read the verse, she hastily signed and addressed all but one of them. Several days after they had been mailed, she came across one card that hadn’t been sent, and she looked at the message she had sent. She was horrified to read: “This card is just to say…a little gift is on the way.” (selected)

If this woman thought she was being rushed before she sent the cards, imagine the panic she must have felt after realizing what was printed on those cards. This scene begs the question: Why does Christmas always seem to put us in a rush?

I suspect tradition has a lot to do with it. No sooner do we head into the beauty of fall when we’re reminded once again to get ready, for Christmas will arrive before we know it. Retail stores start putting up their Christmas decorations and merchandise earlier every year, weeks before Thanksgiving has even come. Online ordering is advertized as being more convenient, but timing is also important: You still have to make your selection a.s.a.p. “while supplies last” and before the accumulation of orders slow delivery time down.

Time flies faster as we approach this most wonderful time of the year. While thinking about all the things you have to do—shop for presents, get out the decorations and put them up, find the Christmas tree you want or, if artificial, retrieve it out of storage and decorate it. Make sure the lights work and get bulbs, if necessary. Preparations for company that will be coming: What you’ll fix for the meal; how many to expect; getting the house cleaned up, and so forth. Then, of course, we have to make time for the Christmas parties and activities coming up—such as, the company party, the church or social parties and gift exchanges, or the many school “holiday” programs (formerly called “Christmas” programs) parents and grandparents are expected to attend. And, on top of all this, what about getting those Christmas cards ready and sending them out ON TIME?

All of these traditions can help make the season bright but they also have a tendency to weight us down, adding to all the other usual things we have to do according to our calendars. In all that busyness that builds up this time of year, do we stop, take a deep breath, and pause to reflect on WHY we are doing all these things in the first place? Do we “stop to smell the roses”—that is, do we stop to take a good look at the writing on the Christmas cards we’re sending, so to speak?

Getting caught up in the Christmas rush is exhilarating to some and wearisome to others. Some just love the last minute stuff. That’s the way it’s always been for their family. That’s their tradition. And there’s nothing wrong with that, except unless they send out the wrong Christmas cards. But it can also be wearisome, too—stressful, irritating, and very costly. According to a survey by Healthline, 62% of people said their stress level increases during the holiday season.

At this point, we ponder: Is this what Christmas is all about? Should Christmas really be this way? Need it be a rush in the first place?

Whether we’re in the Christmas rush, or not, it is good and especially healthy to remind ourselves what—or, rather, WHO this time of the year is all about. Jesus Christ is the proverbial “Reason for the season.” He is “the Gift that keeps on giving.” He is the “Prince of peace” who gives us inner peace even during all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you, not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid,” (John 17:27, New American Standard Bible, NASB).

If we don’t keep our focus on the Christ of Christmas, the rush will overwhelm us. Then it will overtake us and make us all worn out. And we’ll be setting ourselves up for sending out Christmas cards without realizing what they promised—or some other such embarrassing situation.

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. When you feel the Christmas rush, rush to Jesus for he is at the heart of the matter that matters most in our hearts. Here’s Matthew West singing, “The Heart of Christmas,” http://youtu.be/Z3XYaeB22FQ

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God’s Impeccable Timing & Christ’s Birth

Fulness of Time_Gal. 4_4

In a debate with the atheist (and now deceased) Christopher Hitchens, William Lane Craig noted how Christ’s first arrival occurred at the perfect time. Craig said:

“Human beings have existed for thousands of years on this planet before Christ’s coming. But what’s really crucial here is not the time involved; rather, it’s the population of the world. The Population Reference Bureau estimates that the number of people who have ever lived on this planet is about 105 billion people. Only two percent of them were born prior to the advent of Christ. Erik Kreps of the Survey Research Center of the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research says, ‘God’s timing couldn’t have been more perfect. Christ showed up just before the exponential explosion in the world’s population.'” (selected)

Mr. Craig is correct: God’s timing is perfect. Besides the world’s population, God’s Son was born at a time that was just right for fulfilling the words of the prophets, too.

Here we find that timing is everything. For, around four thousand years, God’s prophets under his inspiration wrote about the arrival of the Messiah, the Anointed One, for the people of Israel. And on the night of his birth, the time finally came for God’s Son to be born.

In Galatians 4, verses 4 and 5, the Apostle Paul wrote, (4) “But when the completion of the time arrived, God sent forth his Son, having been produced from a Woman, born under Law, (5) in order that he might redeem those under Law, that we might receive the sonship,” (The Emphatic Diaglott).

Taking a closer look at this text, notice three important truths about, (1) God’s Timing; (2) God’s Son; and (3) God’s Purpose.

God’s Timing

There were two arrivals: First, the arrival of time; Second, the arrival of Jesus Christ. While some translations read, “the fullness of time,” another word for “fullness” is “completion,” which comes from the Greek word, pleroma. It refers to “that portion of time by which a longer antecedent period is completed; hence, completeness, fullness of time,” (Thayer’s Lexicon). A new time arrived when Jesus came on the scene.

The Greek word for “time” is chronou from which we get “chronology,” or “time in sequence or duration,” ( ibid.) The old dispensing of time or dispensation via the Law came to a close when Christ was born. His birth marked a new dispensing of time or dispensation via Grace, “that we might receive the adoption as sons, (New American Standard Bible, NASB). (See Romans 5:20-21.)

God’s Son

There are two characteristics concerning the nature of Jesus Christ: One, that Jesus is the Son of God (divine); Two, that Jesus is the Son of Man (human). The Apostle Paul includes both of these characteristics in one sentence in Galatians 4:4, “God sent forth his Son (divine), having been produced from a Woman, born under Law (human).” The arrival of God’s Son was timed to occur at his miraculous conception.

In Luke 1:31, the angel appeared to Mary and said, “And behold, you will conceive in your womb, and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.” When Mary asked, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” (v. 34), the angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason, the holy offspring shall be called the Son of God,” (v. 35).

Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son, had a real beginning. He began when Mary conceived him through the overshadowing of God’s Power. In due time, Mary gave birth to God’s Son.

The sending forth of God’s Son began after Jesus was born. The Greek interlineary translation reads, “God sent forth his Son, having been born from a woman, having been born under law…” (The Emphatic Diaglott). Having been born from a Jewish woman, having been born under the Law of Moses, God sent forth his Son into the world.

The Geek word for “sent forth” in Galatians 4:4 is exapostelló, from ek and apostello, meaning “to send away forth, i.e., to dispatch, or to dismiss.” The meaning of “sent” is also applied to John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus: “There came [into being] a man, sent from God, whose name was John,” (John 1:6). John was sent forth by God to be “a witness that he might bear witness of the light, that all might believe through him,” (John 1:7). Years later, when Jesus was in his ministry, he testified, “I am the light of the world,” (John 8:12).

The sending forth of God’s Son commenced when Jesus began his earthly ministry (Mark 1:14-15). In John 17, Jesus offered his intercessory prayer for his disciples as he was about to enter his last days of suffering and death. He prayed, “I do not ask Thee to take them out of the world, but to keep them [out of the power of evil]. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world, Sanctify them in the truth; Thy word is truth. As thou didst send Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world,” (vss. 15-18). The Greek word forsent” is the same as before: apostello, “sent forth, sent out,” or, literally, commissioned, as on a mission.

Jesus was fulfilling his mission in his earthly ministry which included appointing those who would carry on his work when he entered his heavenly ministry, to sit at the right hand of God’s throne as our High Priest. Jesus sent forth the twelve disciples (or, followers) who became his apostles (Matthew 10:2).

As the early church grew, other apostles were divinely called (Eph. 4:11) including the Apostle Paul who was sent to the Gentiles (Rom. 1:1; 11:13). Interestingly, the Greek word for “apostle” is in the same context as “sent.” The Greek word for “apostle” is apostolos, from apostello, “to commission, send forth.” Jesus sent forth his apostles and commissioned them just as both he and John were sent from God. In one of his post resurrection appearances, Jesus met his disciples behind closed doors and said to them, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent me, I also send you,” (John 20:21).

God’s Purpose

In Galatians 4:5, God’s impeccable timing is revealed in the purpose of Jesus’ birth. It’s all about redemption. The Greek interlineary has, “he might buy off,” in place of “redeem,” (The Emphatic Diaglott).

In fact, to redeem is illustrated as going to the agora or market place for making a purchase. But in God’s redemption, this is no ordinary market place. It’s the slave market where sinners are bought and sold. The sinners are slaves to sin. God is pictured going to the market place. There, he purchases the slave or servant of sin with the precious blood of his Son. And then he sets the sinner free. Thus, the redeemed sinner is so grateful for what was done to set him free from serving sin, that he becomes the Redeemer’s lifetime servant through loyalty and love. (Matt. 20:28; Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14; 1 Cor. 6:20; 1 Pet. 1:18-19)

Keeping in mind this illustration, there are two parts to God’s redemption through his Son: One part concerns his people Israel. The Bible says that the Good News of Jesus was for the Jews first, then the Gentiles (Romans 1:16). God’s redemption plan was for the Jews first. God Son was sent at a time when Israel was in need of a Savior.

Since the time of Moses, Israel has been under God’s Law. But God’s Law was only a shadow of things to come (Heb. 10:1; Colossians 2:17). It was meant to teach God’s people how to live, like a schoolmaster who instructs and disciplines his students (Galatians 3:24-26). But a time would come when Someone, the true Messiah, would appear to fulfill what the Law and the prophets stood for in regard to God’s salvation plan (Matthew 5:17-20). Jesus, therefore, was sent to redeem his people, Israel. He was born to “save his people from their sins,” according to the angel who appeared to Joseph, (Matthew 1:21).

Because of the stubbornness of their hearts and blindness to the truth, Israel rejected Jesus as God’s Son and Savior. But God did not cast away Israel for good (Rom. 11:1). In Romans 11:25, Paul wrote, “Blindness has happened in part until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” At just the right time, God will intervene just as he did when Jesus was born. Israel’s eyes will be opened and their hearts will be changed for in verse 26, Paul goes on to say, “And thus all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, ‘The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob. And this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins.’” (See Isaiah 59:20-21; 27:9; Heb. 8:10-12)

The Bible says that Israel will be converted to Jesus when he returns. They will recognized that he is the One they rejected and had crucified on the cross. And they will repent of their sins and be saved (Zechariah 12:10; John 19:37).

Dr. Alva Huffer wrote,

“When Jesus returns to earth as King of kings, Israel will accept Him as their long-awaited Messiah. When they see Him, they will repent from their sins and wil be converted to God and Christ. God will cleanse repentant Israelites from their sins, give them a new heart, and establish a new covenant with them.” (Systematic Theology.) (See Jeremiah 23:6; 24:7; 31:9, 31-34; 32:37-40; 33:8; Ezekiel 37:23-28)

At that time, Israel will be a blessing to all nations of the earth (Isa. 60:1-22; Zechariah 8:20-23; Revelation 21:12). Jesus will reign on the throne of his father, David, in accordance with the human lineage of Jesus (Matt. 1:18-25; Luke 1:30-33).

The second part of God’s redemption has to do with his church—those who are converted to Jesus as God’s Son and Savior. All those who are “one in Christ” (Galatians 3:28), are adopted as God’s children, (“…that we might receive the adoption as sons,” Gal. 4:5; also, Rom. 8:15, 23; 9:4; Eph. 1:5; ). Therefore, believers who have entered into Christ through faith, repentance, and baptism (Acts 2:38-39; Gal. 3:26-26-29; Rom. 6:1-11), not only have their sins forgiven, but have the hope of inheritance in God’s Kingdom when Jesus returns (Rom. 8:12-17; Col. 1:12).

God’s timing is impeccable in view of his marvelous plan. The birth of his Son is a wonderful example of the way God works according to his timetable. And yet, when the time is exactly right, there are even more great things to come!

Give a listen to, “When the Fullness of Time Was Come,” https://youtu.be/7L7p_CBeDgE

Good News to YOU,
Pastor Michael

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