Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Year's End Thoughts

Just a sobering thought on this day when revelers will drink the night away.


This New Year's Eve is the last that millions of people alive today will know. 

Two thousand nine, like every year before it and preceding the return of the Lord Jesus, will see people pass in death from time to eternity. For those who trust in their own righteousness (Rom. 3:10-20), they will pass from death to death. Those who cling by faith to the grace of God shown in Jesus Christ will pass from death to life in the very presence of God (Rom. 3:21-26; 2 Cor. 5:1-10).

We all stand condemned and sit under God's just wrath, awaiting our appointment with the Judge (John 3:1-21). God's wrath abides on us unless we abide in His Son Jesus (John 15:1-17).

So tonight, settle up with your accuser (Luke 12:57-59), plead for mercy and trust in Him who died showing mercy to undeserving sinners (Luke 23:34, 43), for today is the day of salvation (Hebrews 3:7-19) and no one knows how many tomorrows they have left.

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Thursday, December 25, 2008

No, Jesus Is the Reason for EVERY Season

Living in post-Christian "culture war" America, evangelical Christians like me have become used to certain catch phrases this time of year, some of which are very well-meaning and not altogether untruthful, that sell like hot cakes in Christian bookstores and the like.


Take, for instance, "Jesus Is the Reason for the Season." The age-old bumper sticker slogan cannot be discounted as blatantly false or misleading. The Christmas season is centered around the nativity of Jesus. Without Him there's no Christmas season. But while true it shortchanges the Reason quite significantly in this respect:

Jesus is the Reason for EVERY season!

Non-Christians the world over can readily accept the historicity of Jesus Christ. They accept Him as a "good" person in history, perhaps a wise man and/or moral exemplar, maybe a prophet, albeit sociopolitical if not theological. All these things men ascribe to Christ. All these things but accepting Jesus as God Himself, to Whom all glory, worship, and obedience is due. 

Jesus's divinity is dismissed, scoffed at at ridiculous, and blasphemed day in and day out, but particularly at Christmastime. Yet Jesus truly is God incarnate, the Second Person of the Trinity tabernacled in human flesh. He was born to live a perfect, sinless life and die a gruesome substitutionary death for sinners. This is the glory of Christmas: God the Son stooping down from glory to take on humanity -- while maintaining his divinity -- to redeem, rescue, and resurrect fallen sinners and ultimately the entire sin-stained fallen universe (Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-10; John 1:1-18).

The problem is not that the world doesn't know Jesus as the reason for the Christmas season, it's that the world doesn't acknowledge Him as the Creator of every season, the holy Judge to whom we must all give account (Heb. 9:27). As the Apostle John recalled (1:9-18):

The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, [2] and his own people [3] did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16 And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, [4] who is at the Father's side, [5] he has made him known.
The world doesn't know who Christ is, but we who have received Him, who believe Him, who have beheld His glory must tell the world who He is and call them to repentance and faith in Him.

Let's do that every day and every season, and let's start by telling people Jesus is the Reason for EVERY season.

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Monday, December 22, 2008

Jesus Through the Whole Bible

As Christmas draws nigh, I thought I'd share with you some outstanding podcasts that give a quick overview of Christ in the Old Testament, something we'd do well to have a better grasp of for a variety of reasons:

1) to better know our Lord and Savior as He's revealed in ALL of Scripture
2) worship Him more passionately and intelligently in light of #1
3) offer a stronger apologetic for the faith by pointing people to Christ as the key which unlocks the whole of Scripture, without whom the Bible would be purposeless and uncipherable.

So here goes, both from the White Horse Inn radio broadcast (audio archives available here):

  • Christ Our Prophet, Priest & King (Dec. 21, 2008) | Some 2,000 years ago, Jesus was born in Bethlehem. But why did God become man? What was his mission, and why did he have to eventually suffer and die? On this special Christmas edition of the White Horse Inn, the hosts will discuss the work of Christ, our Prophet, Priest, and King. Joining the hosts on this program is Dr. W. Robert Godfrey, President of Westminster Seminary California, and author of An Unexpected Journey, Discovering Reformed Christianity. (Originally broadcast December 25th, 2005).
  • Dawn of Redeeming Grace (Dec. 14, 2008)| Jesus told the religious people of his day that the Old Testament was chiefly about him. But where do we find Christ in the Old Testament? On this edition of the White Horse Inn, the hosts trace the thread of redemption throughout all of Scripture as we make our way toward Christmas.

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Priceless Humor at Expense of Prosperity Gospel Pusher

An exchange between someone lampooning prosperity gospel preacher Joel Osteen and Westminster Theological Seminary's bookstore:

FakeJoelOsteen asks:

Any chance you'll have a sale on one of my bestsellers?

wtsbooks
answers:

Sorry, we only sell books, not kindling

Love it!

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Have I Got a House for You, David

Reading through Hebrews chapter 1 the other day, I came across a cross-reference from 2 Samuel 7. Taking a little detour, I read the passage in context and found the Lord speaking to me through it. Before I go into a bit of exposition, let me excerpt the portion below:

Now when the king lived in his house and the Lord had given him rest from all his surrounding enemies, 2 the king said to Nathan the prophet, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells in a tent.” 3 And Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that is in your heart, for the Lord is with you.”

4 But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, 5 “Go and tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord: Would you build me a house to dwell in? 6 I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent for my dwelling. 7 In all places where I have moved with all the people of Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges [1] of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”’ 8 Now, therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel. 9 And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. 10 And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, 11 from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. 12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, 15 but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. 16 And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. [2] Your throne shall be established forever.’” 17 In accordance with all these words, and in accordance with all this vision, Nathan spoke to David.

So what do we have here? Well, basically King David one day was reflecting upon the riches of God's blessings to him --military conquest, a kingdom, political popularity, riches and comfort -- and struck by gratitude and awe and perhaps a tinge of guilt, David sought to express his worship by building the Lord a beautiful and permanent temple. After all, who is David to have a beautiful house of cedar while the presence of the Lord was housed merely in a tent?

The idea is a perfectly fine one, as the prophet Nathan rightly tells David, but the Lord takes this opportunity to speak a messianic prophecy through the mouth of Nathan. The Lord wants David to know that He is not only not needy of a house for His presence, but that He Himself will provide the permanent house for David and all of God's people Israel, the permanent dwelling of His presence in the person of the Messiah, His Son, who shall issue from David's line. Yes, the Lord will build His house by sending His Son, tabernacling the fullness of God in frail human flesh.

The Lord makes clear this Messiah will rise long after David has fallen asleep in death and that He will be acknowledged as the Son of God Himself. This kingdom shall "be made sure forever."

The bottom line: While David is fixated on building a perishable temple of wood and stone to the Lord, God the Father promises to build a permanent temple in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ, and those who are joined to Him by faith in Christ and His finished work as the perfect prophet, priest, and king of the Lord God.

So what does that mean for us today?

Many times in our lives as we reflect on God's goodness to us we are moved to worship and moved to desire to do great things for God. Some, indeed many of these things are legitimate and perfectly fine, but God desires that we know above all else that it is only His faithfulness in building the house of the Lord that we stand.

Our Lord Jesus has fulfilled the promise of the Father to establish a house and a kingdom that shall not pass away. The bloodline of this house flows from Calvary's tree. The throne of this kingdom is founded on Christ's perfect righteousness. This is the work that God has done, and it is a work that is received all of grace.

David marveled and rejoiced after hearing Nathan recount the word of the Lord (2 Samuel 7:18-24):

Then King David went in and sat before the Lord and said, “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far? 19 And yet this was a small thing in your eyes, O Lord God. You have spoken also of your servant's house for a great while to come, and this is instruction for mankind, O Lord God! 20 And what more can David say to you? For you know your servant, O Lord God! 21 Because of your promise, and according to your own heart, you have brought about all this greatness, to make your servant know it. 22 Therefore you are great, O Lord God. For there is none like you, and there is no God besides you, according to all that we have heard with our ears. 23 And who is like your people Israel, the one nation on earth whom God went to redeem to be his people, making himself a name and doing for them [3] great and awesome things by driving out [4] before your people, whom you redeemed for yourself from Egypt, a nation and its gods? 24 And you established for yourself your people Israel to be your people forever. And you, O Lord, became their God.

Let's worship the Lord this Christmas like our father David did. Let us be in awe that God has shown us such a great mercy, and that not just to save us from our sins and His wrath but to make us His people, His kingdom, His house, His people, both now and throughout all of eternity

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Uproar Over Playboy Pose Exposes More Than Skin

Playboy is known for exposing skin, but the uproar over the December 2008 edition of the magazine's Mexican licensee has exposed a whole lot more.

While there is justifiable anger at the sacrilegious treatment of Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, the outrage by some betrays a bit of hypocrisy within our culture. Publish a magazine the revels in the pornographic, lust-driven drive to gawk at disrobed women, eh, that's fine. Just don't dare pose a woman naked as the object of lust if she happens to be the Virgin Mary. That, for some reason, crosses a line.

Don't get me wrong. I agree that Playboy's photographers and editors definitely went for shock value in heavily Catholic Mexico by depicting model Maria Florencia Onori as Mary, and that the decision was inflammatory and insulting to Catholics, as well as Christians of all denominations.

But when all is said and done, it's no worse than any other pornographic depiction of the female form. What's more, finding Onori's depiction as Mary to be more morally offensive is symptomatic of a Marian idolatry that is equally offensive to a holy God who alone is worthy of worship.

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