We are laborers together with God

We are laborers together with God.—1 Corinthians 3:9.

THEN bear a joy where joy is not, Go, speak a kindly word in love, Less bitter make some loveless lot, Now earth is linked to heaven above. FREDERICK G. LEE.

DO what you can—give what you have. Only stop not with feelings; carry your charity into deeds; do and give what costs you something. J. H. THOM.

“Up and be doing” is the word that comes from God for each of us. Leave some “good work” behind you that shall not be wholly lost when you have passed away. Do something worth living for, worth dying for. Is there no want, no suffering, no sorrow that you can relieve? Is there no act of tardy justice, no deed of cheerful kindness, no long-forgotten duty that you can perform? Is there no reconciliation of some ancient quarrel, no payment of some long-outstanding debt, no courtesy, or love, or honor to be rendered to those to whom it has long been due; no charitable, humble, kind, useful deed by which you can promote the glory of God, or good will among men, or peace upon earth? If there be any such deed, in God’s name, in Christ’s name, go and do it. ARTHUR P. STANLEY.

Accepted by the Lord

Romans 8:14-16

Our heavenly Father knows how we yearn to be accepted and to feel that we belong. He provides for both of these needs when we receive His Son Jesus as our Savior.

Because of Adam’s sin, our spiritual connection with the Lord was severed (Rom. 5:12). Consequently, every human being since then has been born with a “flesh” nature that keeps man separated from God. But the Father had a plan to reconcile us to Himself through the shed blood of His Son (Col. 1:20). We must understand that we are sinners who cannot pay the penalty we owe for transgression—and that Jesus’ death on the cross pays the debt on our behalf.

All who accept Christ’s sacrifice will be forgiven of sins and reconciled to God. Having been justified through the Savior’s blood—with our debt cancelled and His righteousness counted as our own—we each become a new creation in Him.

At salvation, we are accepted into God’s family and given the right to call Him our heavenly Father. With this acceptance comes a sense of belonging. We are now part of a worldwide family who are joined together in Christ. On the outside, we look different from one another. But on the inside, we are united through the same Spirit (1 Cor. 12:12-14).

Our performance-driven society tells us that acceptance is based on what we do and how much we achieve. But God’s message is the opposite: Faith in Christ is the sole reason for our acceptance by Him. The presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit affirms that we will always belong to the Lord.

Hardness of Heart

“Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.” (Mark 16:14)

Apparently many people—even Christians—are afflicted with “spiritual cardiosclerosis” (hardening of the heart), for there are some forty references in the Bible to this malady. The first was in reference to Egypt’s unbelieving Pharaoh. Concerning him, God told Moses: “I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go” (Exodus 4:21).

But when the children of Israel did escape Pharaoh’s persecutions, they also contracted this debilitating attitude: “Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness: When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work” (Psalm 95:8-9).

Even the very disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ were rebuked by Him for their hardness of heart. In spite of the Old Testament prophecies, and in spite of His own repeated promise that He would rise from the dead, the disciples forsook Him and fled into hiding when He was arrested. Some were even skeptical about the first reports of His resurrection until they saw Him for themselves. His rebuke (see our text) essentially equated their unbelief with “hardness of heart” (Greek sklerokardia).

If this heart of hardness and unbelief could attack the eleven disciples, it could surely happen to us, if we allow it. “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief. . . . But exhort one another daily . . . lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. . . . To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts” (Hebrews 3:12-13, 15). Instead, we should heed Christ’s first great commandment: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart” (Matthew 22:37). HMM

The story behind “Silent Night”

silent night

On December 11th, 1792, Josephus Franciscus Mohr was born in the city of Salzburg. His mother was an unmarried embroiderer, and his father was a mercenary soldier by the name of Franz Mohr. Before Josephus was even born, his Father had deserted the army. Since his parents were not married, at his baptism, he was given the name of his father, Josephus. His mother now had a total of four illegitimate children

Sadly poverty marked the early life of Joseph Mohr until the Catholic priest, Johann Nepomuk Hiernle, took him under his wing. Hiernle served as a vicar and leader of music at the Salzburg Cathedral. He enabled the talented Mohr to have an education and encouraged him to persue a career in music. As a young boy, Mohr would serve simultaneously as a singer and violinist in the choirs of the University Church and at the Benedictine monastery church of St. Peter. From 1808 to 1810, Mohr studied at the Benedictine monastery of Kremsmünster in the province of Upper Austria. He then returned to Salzburg to attend the Lyceum school, and in 1811, he entered the seminary. Since he was of illegitimate birth, a special dispensation had to be obtained for him to attend the seminary. On the 21st of August, 1815, Mohr graduated and was ordained as a priest.

At this point in the story, you have to understand three very important things:

1) Austrians speak German. In the 13th century, Austria became part of the German-speaking Habsburg Empire and remained under their rule for 640 years. As part of the empire, the Austrians had to speak German. The German they spoke did not develop naturally but was standardized from a series of dialects spoken in central Europe. As a matter of fact, in the 16th century, it was the language of Martin Luther’s bible and the leading language of Europe.

2) Before Vatican II, the Mass was said and sung in Latin. Christians in Rome adopted Latin and it became the Church’s official language in the fourth century. The Council of Trent (1545-1563) then “codified” the Latin mass from earlier liturgies and approved the Roman Missal used from 1570 until the mid-1960s.

3) Austria was involved in the Napoleonic Wars.

In the fall of 1815, Mohr’s first official assignment as a priest was set to be in Mariapfarr in the Lungau region of the Province of Salzburg. But before he could set off to this town, which also was the location of his father’s family, he was asked to provide temporary help in the village of Ramsau near Berchtesgaden. Mohr then served as assistant priest in Mariapfarr (1815-1817). It was during this time, in 1816, that he wrote the words to “Silent Night!”

He wrote Silent Night because he saw how the Austrian people suffered with economic and employment losses during the Napoleonic Wars. He wrote a poem that truly expressed a longing for comfort and heavenly peace.

1. Silent night! Holy night!
All are sleeping, alone and awake
Only the intimate holy pair,
Lovely boy with curly hair,
Sleep in heavenly peace!
Sleep in heavenly peace!

2. Silent night! Holy night!
Son of God, O how he laughs
Love from your divine mouth,
Then it hits us – the hour of salvation.
Jesus at your birth!
Jesus at your birth!

3. Silent night! Holy night!
Which brought salvation to the world,
From Heaven’s golden heights,
Mercy’s abundance was made visible to us:
Jesus in human form,
Jesus in human form.

4. Silent night! Holy night!
Where on this day all power
of fatherly love poured forth
And like a brother lovingly embraced
Jesus the peoples of the world,
Jesus the peoples of the world.

5. Silent night! Holy night!
Already long ago planned for us,
When the Lord frees from wrath
Since the beginning of ancient times
A salvation promised for the whole world.
A salvation promised for the whole world

6. Silent night! Holy night!
To shepherds it was first made known
By the angel, Alleluia;
Sounding forth loudly far and near:
Jesus the Savior is here!
Jesus the Savior is here!

(Please note: Most English versions of “Silent Night!” include just three verses. These correspond to a translation from the original text of verses 1, 6 and 2. Verse 4 talked about Austria’s longing for heavenly peace. There are also 300 translations of the song in the world. )

Poor health forced him to return to Salzburg with his mother in the summer of 1817. Then, after a short recuperation in August, 1817, Mohr was asked to provide temporary assistance to the Oberndorf parish St. Nicholas and to the priest Josef Kessler. In October, he became the assistant priest. Since this was a very poor parish, it did not have a home for the priests to live in. Mohr had to sleep in the church caretaker’s house while taking his meals in nearby “Gasthof” restaurants. This meant he was with the common German people who spoke and sang German. Like Father Kessler, Mohr also felt the sermon and hymns should be sung in German as well as Latin. Both of them felt the reason the parish was financially strapped was people stopped coming to Mass because the people could not understand what was being sung or said at the Latin Masses.

For as Father Mohr said:

‘People need to hear the Word of God, but also to understand it.

This desire put Father Kessler at odds with the officials of the town to the point he was forced to resign as head Vicar of the Church. Before he left, he said these words to Fr. Mohr:

It is important for you to stay the course. People rely on you. Don’t let them down.

His replacement was a hardliner and staunch anti change priest by the name of Georg Heinrich Nöstler. He would also not allow any German said or sung in his Church even though by law, the priest had to speak the sermon in German.

When Fr. Mohr heard this, he said to Fr. Kessler:

What am I to do then? I do not have enough authority.

Fr. Kessler told him this:

You do have enough authority. You have the authority to give hope to all these people.

Even though Father Mohr and Father Nöstler were constantly at odds with one another, Father Mohr and the organist Franz Xaver Gruber started a German choir that allowed both men and women to join. (Note: Gruber was a schoolteacher. However, his dream was to become a composer). With Mohrs’ refusal to abide by the rules of the Church, Nöstler complained bitterly about Mohr. He wrote to Church officials accusing him of:

Neglecting his priestly duties, frequenting drinking locales, joking with persons of the opposite sex, and singing songs which do not edify.”

The deacon of nearby St. Georgen, who served as overseer of the Oberndorfer priests along with the town leaders in Oberndorf, responded in writing saying these accusations were unfounded.

It was Dec. 24th,1818 just hours before Christmas Midnight Mass, that Father Mohr found himself in a bind. His musical plans for the evening church service were ruined. Due to a recent flooding of a river near the Church, the organ had broken down. What could he do? In a moment of inspiration, he grabbed the Christmas poem he had written two years earlier and quickly set off to the neighboring village, where his friend Franz Gruber, the church organist, lived. Gruber sang bass; Mohr sang tenor and played the guitar. The choir sang the refrains.

According to Gruber’s written account, those in attendance included boat builders and laborers, who earned their living with the salt shipping trade operating on the Salzach River and their families – all of whom “approved” of the new song.

During the 1830s, the carol spread throughout Europe. In particular, the Tyrolian musical families of Rainer and Strasser sang it every Christmas. In 1832 the song was sung in Leipzig and in 1839 it was sung for the first time in New York City. By the time the world was fighting World War I, Silent Night was sung throughout the world.

by Joesph


Do Not Mistake the True Meaning of the Cross

But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. Galatians 6:14

All unannounced and mostly undetected there has come in modern times a new cross into popular evangelical circles.

It is like the old cross, but different: the likenesses are superficial, the differences fundamental!

From this new cross has sprung a new philosophy of the Christian life with encouragement for a new and entirely different evangelistic approach. The evangelist tries to show that Christianity makes no unpleasant demands; rather, it offers the same thing the world does, only on a higher level. The modern view is that the new cross does not slay the sinner, it redirects him!

The philosophy back of this kind of thing may be sincere, but it is as false as it is blind. It misses completely the whole meaning of the cross.

The old cross is a symbol of death. It stands for the abrupt, violent end of a human being. In Roman times, the man who took up his cross and started down the road was not coming back. He was not going out to have his life redirected: he was going out to have it ended! The cross did not try to keep on good terms with its victim. It struck cruel and hard, and when it had finished its work, the man was no more!

The race of Adam is under death sentence. God cannot approve any of the fruits of sin. In coming to Christ we do not bring our old life up onto a higher plane; we leave it at the cross. Thus God salvages the individual by liquidating him and then raising him again to newness of life!

Our Charter Is from God

Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. MATTHEW 16:18

While we are right to thank God in appreciation for all of the great and good men in the history of the Christian church, we actually “follow” none of them. Our charter goes farther back and is from a higher source. They were rightly looked upon as leaders, but they were all servants of God, even as you and I are.

Luther sowed. Wesley watered. Finney reaped—but they were only servants of the living God.

In our local assemblies, we are part of the church founded by the Lord Jesus Christ and perpetuated by the mystery of the new birth. Therefore, our assembly is that of Christian believers gathered unto a Name to worship and adore the Presence. So, in that sense, the strain is gone. The strain and pressure to abide by traditional religious forms all begin to pale in importance as we function in faith as the people of God who glorify His Name and honor His Presence!

If all of this is true—and everything within me witnesses that it is—we may insist that God is able to do for us all that He did in the days of the apostles. There has been no revocation of our charter!

Dear Lord, thank You for the people in my life who have helped to shape me spiritually. And thank You that You alone are still the Source of new life.