Dec 1, 2011
‘Hope Was Born This Night’ By: Sidewalk Prophets with Lyrics
Created this video to use in a future worship service.
Hope you enjoy.
NCMM claims no ownership of the images or music used in this video.
Dec 1, 2011
‘Hope Was Born This Night’ By: Sidewalk Prophets with Lyrics
Created this video to use in a future worship service.
Hope you enjoy.
NCMM claims no ownership of the images or music used in this video.
The Christian faith is anything but a girlie faith. It is not for the faint of heart nor for woosies. It is strong stuff for strong people. It makes hard demands and expects firm responses. If you want to live a careless, comfortable and carefree life, then the Christian faith is not for you.
Sissies are not the stuff of Christian disciples; hardened soldiers are. That is because the Christian life is everywhere in the New Testament depicted as a life of warfare, of hardship, and of sacrifice. This is not the stuff of the casual inquirer or the weekend tourist. This is the stuff of steeled soldiers, of courageous commandoes, and of brave battlers.
Spineless wonders and delicate girlie men need not apply. Indeed, they would not make it past the first week of biblical boot camp. The follower of Christ renounces a life of ease, of comfort and of residence on easy street. As John Milton put it in Paradise Lost: “Long is the way / And hard, that out of hell leads up to light.”
Or as Jesus put it in Matthew 7:14, “narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life.”
So forget the gospel of comfort and ease, and prepare for a gospel of commitment, hardship, dedication and difficulty. For there is no other gospel path.
I say all this because my daily reading has taken me to some more hard words – words which most of our Christian dandelions of today do not want to hear. There are strong words which go against the flow of a cross-less Christianity and a “your best life now” bowl of mush.
In 2 John we read some very harsh words about the faith that we must adhere to, and how those who deviate from it must be shunned at all costs. Here is what we find in verses 7-11:
I say this because many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take them into your house or welcome them. Anyone who welcomes them shares in their wicked work.
Here we find several vitally important truths:
All of this is almost completely absent in so many churches today. It is all about lurve baby. As long as we embrace everyone and everything, including every aberrant and false teaching, we are being so full of lurve. And that is all that matters. Forget about doctrine, about theology, about sound teaching. Let’s just all have a big love-in and try to happily get along.
The early church knew nothing about such sickly, sentimental, syrupy sap. They knew with concrete conviction that the truth matters, and that false teaching about Jesus destroys everything. If we get our doctrine of Christ wrong, we get everything wrong.
John Stott in his commentary on the Epistles of John puts it this way:
Many today want God without Jesus Christ. They say they believe in God, but see no necessity for Jesus. Or they want to bring non-Christian religions on to a level with Christianity, as alternative roads to God. Such errors must be strenuously resisted. In this the Christian is conservative, not progressive, seeking to ‘abide’ in the doctrine of Christ, not to ‘advance’ beyond it….
Christian faith is rooted in the historical events of the incarnation and the atonement, the revelation and redemption which were finished in Christ. To advance beyond Christ is ‘not progress but apostasy’ (Plummer), not enlightenment, but darkness. More than that. The Christian seeks to abide not only in Christ but in the doctrine of Christ….
The Christian’s development is not progress beyond Christ’s teaching, whether direct or through the apostles as recorded in the New Testament, but a progressive understanding of it.
Or as John Montgomery Boice said:
There is a true progress in the Christian life, but it is progress based upon a deeper knowledge of the historical, biblical Christ. Progress on any other ground may be called progress, but it is a progress that leaves God behind and is, therefore, not progress at all.
This truth is extremely relevant to today’s religious scene, for the danger today is in precisely this area. The danger is not so much in secularism, still less in communism or any other obviously anti-Christian system. The danger is in that which goes by the name of Christianity but which excludes the true Christ. It is in religion without the true God and that one mediator between God and man, even the God-man, Christ Jesus.
Absolutely. But the idea that doctrine matters and truth must prevail is all but lost on so many namby-pamby believers today. And if that is lost, so too is the very notion of actually excluding those who peddle falsehoods and deception. The idea that we should actually give the boot to these false teachers would give today’s girlie men Christians a real bad hair day.
I can already hear these sissies moaning and complaining: “What?! Kick them out? Exclude them? Have nothing to do with them? John, how can you be so unloving and exclusive and judgmental? We must love and accept everyone.” Stott again speaks directly to this:
But are we to suppose that John was divided against himself? This instruction is given by the apostle of love immediately following an exhortation to love (6). Did John first insist on the commandment of love then immediately break it himself? Besides, we are not ‘at liberty to set aside direct ethical injunctions of the Lord’s Apostles in this manner’ (Alford).
And the idea of not having fellowship with false teachers or unrepentant brethren is of course taught throughout the New Testament. We just like to ignore such passages, or pretend that they are for an ‘earlier, harsher time’. Here are just some of the strong words on such biblical separation and expulsion:
Of course the aim of all church discipline, including excommunication, is to restore the wayward brother, if possible. But until repentance and a changed life or corrected teaching is in evidence, this exclusion zone must stand. It is not unloving at all to do this.
Indeed, it is the height of Christian love to prevent dangerous doctrines from contaminating the whole body, and it is most loving to expel the errant brother until he returns to right living and right doctrine. To not do so is to indicate a lack of love and concern, not only for the wayward brother, but for the very truth of God.
In an age of sissified Christianity, it is time to go back to the Bible. There we find stern words, hard words, strong words, words of rebuke, and words of correction. But they are vitally important words – words which we all desperately need to hear.
Give me a masculine Christianity any day of the week to the sissy faith we see on display all throughout the West. A girlie man faith will save no one. But a solidly biblical one will. I know which one I will run with.
by BILL MUEHLENBERG
Christians sometimes approach obedience as a way to avoid the negative consequences of disobedience. When this happens, obedience becomes a heavy burden. But God intended our walk of faith to be a thrilling adventure, motivated by our love for Jesus Christ and our desire to please Him. Obedience is about discovering more of God, not avoiding negative consequences.
The reason we equate doing God’s will with burden is that we tend to think of all the weighty decisions we might need to make. Yet the Lord doesn’t give us something He knows we can’t handle. Our obedience in the smaller matters of life prepares us for bigger ones. When we place trust in the omnipotence of the Lord and act on His prompting, life becomes exciting. We need not be fearful because God already knows the outcome of our obedience—and He promises that He does everything for our good (Rom. 8:28).
We know that if we take one step in obedience, we’ll be asked to take another. That’s why walking in faith is so thrilling—each step is leading to a fantastic blessing from almighty God. Though we sometimes think the situations are unrelated, the Lord continuously moves us through a variety of circumstances toward His overriding purpose for our lives.
If we become fearful of consequences and back off from obedience for the sake of safety, we deprive God of the opportunity to demonstrate His awesome power in us. Small choices may seem insignificant, but they lead toward a lifetime of walking with God. As you walk into this new year, ask yourself, What is my next step of obedience?
“Thy testimonies are wonderful: therefore doth my soul keep them.” (Psalm 119:129)
Josiah was eight years old when he became king of Judah. His grandfather was Manassah and his father Amon, both evil kings. While it seemed Josiah would follow the same path, he didn’t. “He did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the ways of David his father, and declined neither to the right hand, nor to the left” (2 Chronicles 34:2). What made such a difference?
As the text above testifies, Josiah found wonder in God’s Word. When Josiah was a young man (age 26), a godly leader read to him the law (torah), which engaged his soul.
And the king stood in his place, and made a covenant before the LORD, to walk after the LORD, and to keep his commandments, and his testimonies, and his statutes, with all his heart, and with all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant which are written in this book. (2 Chronicles 34:31)
Such was the case of the psalmist. The earlier portions of Psalm 119 declare the good that he had done, but now his soul was motivated. He longed (v. 131) and cried for direction and help from the Lord: “Look thou upon me, and . . . Order my steps in thy word. . . . Deliver me from the oppression of man. . . . Make thy face to shine upon thy servant” (vv. 132-135).
These unselfish prayers were each coupled with a promise to obey. With his heart and correct behavior involved, the psalmist wept for those who “keep not thy law” (v. 136). When the hearts of God’s people break because of sin, revival comes (2 Chronicles 7:14). HMM III
So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. —Psalm 90:12
A few days after these words appear in print the old year of our Lord will have gone to join the long procession of years and centuries that move on into the shadows of a past that can come no more.
In the year just gone the world has been writing history, not with ink only but with blood and tears; not in the quiet of the study but in violence, terror and death in city streets and along the borders of nations; and other and milder but more significant history has been written by incredible feats of power in sending man-made objects out to circle the moon and the sun….
To each one fortunate enough to live out [this year], God will have given 365 days broken into 8,760 hours. Of these hours, 2,920 will have been spent in sleep, and about the same number at work. An equal number has been given us to spend in reverent
preparation for the moment when days and years shall cease and time shall be no more. What prayer could be more spiritually appropriate than that of Moses, the man of God: “Teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).
“So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” Amen.
For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, and ye are complete in him…..Colossians 2:9, 10
Christ is so many wonderful things to His people and brings to them such a wealth of benefits as the mind cannot comprehend nor the heart find words to express!
Bernard of Clairvaux speaks in his writings of a “perfume compounded of the remembered benefits of God.”
Such fragrance is all too rare!
Every follower of Christ should be redolent of such a perfume; for have we not all received more from God’s kindness than our imagination could have conceived before we knew Him and discovered for ourselves how rich and how generous He is?
That we have received of His fullness grace for grace no one will deny, but the fragrance comes not from the receiving but from the remembering.
Ten lepers received their health—that was the benefit. One came back to thank his benefactor—that was the perfume!
Unremembered benefits, like dead flies, may cause the ointment to give forth a stinking savor.
Remembered blessings, thankfulness for present favors and praise for promised grace blend like myrrh and aloes and cassia to make a rare bouquet for the garments of the saints. With this perfume David also anointed his harp and the hymns of the ages have been sweet with it.
We are reminded that much of the Bible is devoted to prediction. Nothing God has yet done for us can compare with all that is written in the sure word of prophecy. And, nothing He has done or may yet do for us can compare with what He is and will be to us!
Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God…For he must reign. 1 CORINTHIANS 15:24-25
Many people continue to live in daily fear that the world “is coming to an end.” Only in the Scriptures do we have the description and prediction of the age-ending heavenly and earthly events when our Lord and Savior will be universally acknowledged as King of kings and Lord of lords.
God’s revelation makes it plain that in “that day” all will acclaim Him “victor”! Human society, generally, refuses to recognize God’s sovereignty or His plan for His redeemed people. But no human being or world government will have any control in that fiery day of judgment yet to come.
John’s vision of things to come tells us clearly and openly that at the appropriate time this world will be taken away from men and placed in the hands of the only Man who has the wisdom and authority to rightly govern.
That Man is the eternal Son of God, the worthy Lamb, our Lord Jesus Christ!
Dear Lord, I pray today for the remaining people groups in the world who have not yet heard the gospel message. Without knowing You, Father, many will be lost eternally when the end of the world comes. Lord, raise up specific individuals to take Your Word to those remaining peoples.
Feb 5, 2013
A story of one girl’s Christmas that changed everything
Does God enjoy cartoons?
I’d never considered it until an intense university student pushed me to grapple with the question. A Christian college invited me to lecture there for several days, and during the Monday evening session, I showed a scene from Pixar’s Finding Nemowhere Marlin (the dad clown fish) meets up with Crush (the rollicking, laid-back sea turtle). I don’t recall the reason for showing this clip, but I do remember waves of laughter the scene prompted and the groans circling the hall when the lights came back on.
I did manage to finish my talk, however, and as soon as I stepped away from the lectern, a husky, somber fellow approached and asked if we could talk in private. Because of his brusque tone and dull demeanor, I assumed he was wrestling with some intense struggle and perhaps wanted to unload his heaviness on a stranger. I was wrong.
When the young man got me to the corner of the room, he asked how I could jest one moment and speak of devotion to God the next. How I could possibly condone wit or lightheartedness when proclaiming something as sober and foreboding as God’s truth? “God doesn’t laugh,” he said sharply, “except at the destruction of the wicked.”
I stood there, mouth agape. I don’t have the foggiest clue what I said in response, but I remember thinking later that this was a sad fellow who had entirely misunderstood much of the heart of God and His kingdom. He possessed theological knowledge but was utterly oblivious to the joy that shimmers all through Scripture and creation, that pulses from the life and teachings of Jesus. This is the joy God brings to us amid the laughter of children—the holy happiness that spills over from friendship, love, and beauty.
The Bible insists that God’s work, from creation to today, has been a long journey toward joy. God’s Genesis refrains (now this is good, and this is good, and oh, this—this is very good) are not merely dry observations recounting creation’s moral quality. Rather, these are the great Artist’s exclamations, exuding delight in the craft of His hands. These words are sheer joy, evidence of our God’s deep gladness, and it is something He intends His image-bearers to know as well.
Throughout Israel’s Scriptures, God invited His people to full-throttled joy, encouraging them to receive wisdom and practice faithfulness. His purpose was not to demand slavish obedience; rather, He was eager for their families to thrive, their crops to be abundant, and their festivals to arrive as celebrations of their overflowing bounty. God wanted Israel to “be altogether joyful” (Deut 16:15). Ecclesiastes pronounces this same hope: “I commend the enjoyment of life,” says the wisdom teacher, “because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun” (Deut 8:15 NIV).
In Luke 2, the angels appeared to quaking shepherds with a stunning pronouncement: God’s bold action, the epicenter of all His intentions for humanity, would soon break loose. With Jesus, God would be born among us. “Don’t be afraid,” I always imagine the angel saying, “I’ve come to give you good news which will instigate fantastic joy for all people.” Those boisterous angels lit up the Galilean sky, heralding a message that resonates even now. Whenever God arrives, joy erupts.
In His expansive sermon unfolding the wonders in the kingdom, Jesus told the disciples that the motivation undergirding all His teaching was this: a dogged desire for their unceasing delight. “These things I have spoken to you,” Jesus said, “so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full” (John 15:11). Jesus wants God’s people to experience lives shot through with delight and goodness. That’s why we can be filled with new possibilities and fresh hopes—even when sorrows threaten to swallow us whole.
Too many of us view God as a character akin to a demented schoolmaster in a Charles Dickens novel. It is a gross injustice to envision God as an inflexible taskmaster or a harsh authoritarian begrudgingly dissuaded from tossing the lot of us into eternal flames. The Scriptures assure us that God is not miserly or grim, but generous and patient and full of kindness. When our story has finally concluded, we will discover how, every day of our existence, God conspired for our joy.
But what exactly do we mean when we speak of joy? Scripture abounds with definitions and descriptions. There are passages where it refers to our experience of cheer or delight. At other times, joy equates with revelry or celebration. I have particular fondness for older translations that describe joy as being merry. However, at its deepest plane, joy is the experience of one who is learning to trust in God. This is why the apostle Paul would instruct us to “rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil 4:4). Paul was not a cliché-spouting Christian who ignored harsh realities. Quite the opposite, Paul had encountered God in such a profound way (and amid such evil) that he was convinced even dire conditions or grave tragedies did not own the final word. Paul believed that God would somehow work all things, even the sorrows, to his good. In other words, Paul believed God had rigged the game in his favor. If this is true, then a gritty kind of joy is always possible.
Some of us, however, have encountered such sadness and disappointment that we believe joy a quaint idea only for the naïve. Jaded by our experiences, we discard all hope of sturdy, abiding joy. Others of us, committed to a narcissistic version of happiness, cram our lives with one self-absorbed experience after another and recoil from any suggestion that our final happiness can come only from God. Regardless of the reason for our suspicions, the promise remains. Joy is available—uniquely and decisively—in God.
True faith always runs toward joy, like rivers to the sea. Given this, if our lives foster a dire or miserly posture, if our worship and doctrine yield a sullen discipleship, if we find it difficult or awkward to laugh, or if life with God carries no deep delight, then we should reconsider why we are at such odds with the God of all joy.
For some reason, many of us act as though being a Christian is always a very, very serious affair. Of course, we do have much to be thoughtful and careful about in this unhinged world. But if underneath all our seriousness we enjoy no levity, we have missed a distinctive quality of life with God. Many of us take ourselves too seriously, and joy makes it possible for us to (in all the appropriate ways) forget ourselves. We can accept the inherent humor in being human, being flawed. If joy means trusting God, then we are free to do our best, all the while knowing that God holds us even when we run in wrong directions or make blunders. We are free to relax into God, to take risks without fearing that heaven and hell always hang in the balance.
G.K. Chesterton believed laughter to be a crucial expression of joy. “A characteristic of the great saints is their power of levity,” he wrote. “Pride is the downward drag of all things into an easy solemnity. One ‘settles down’ into a sort of selfish seriousness; but one has to rise to a gay self-forgetfulness … Seriousness is not a virtue … For solemnity flows out of men naturally; but laughter is a leap. It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light.” It’s striking that the very final word in a work as stern and stiff-sounding as Chesterton’s Orthodoxy is “mirth.”
Since laughter signals a happy “self-forgetfulness,” it can also be a sign that we are learning how to trust God and hold our life, reputation, and future loosely. God-inspired laughter (distinct from coarse or demeaning humor) is a joyful protest against the absurdities around us, an act of faith as we surrender our lives to God’s good care. It lets us be free of self-delusions and shortsightedness, returning us to our senses and fueling joy.
A year ago, my sons sat at the dinner table discussing science trivia, and I found myself pulled into the conversation. One of the boys intended to toss me a beginner question: “Which is bigger,” he asked, “Earth or the sun?” Without thinking, I blurted out, “Earth, of course.” Both stared at me, dumbfounded, before erupting with gut-splitting laughter, waving their arms and jumping around the kitchen. They weren’t trying to shame or embarrass me, but my blunder struck them as hilarious. I had two choices. I could either attempt to salvage my dignity by fighting the outbreak and attempting some explanation for my utter failure at second grade astronomy, or I could snicker at my idiotic answer and join in their amusement. Laughter encourages us to drop our guard and join the party.
The poet John Blase says, “A hearty guffaw indicates that you’re in the backyard of Grace whether you believe it or not.” And I’m inclined to agree. Laughter signals joy, and joy always signals God.
By Winn Collier
All of us struggle when there’s a discrepancy between what our minds know to be true and what we feel in our emotions. One area that believers typically find difficult is finances. Understanding what the Bible says about money, do we choose truth or do we allow our ever-changing feelings to dictate our actions? Believers find it easy to give God one penny out of a dime or one dollar out of 10, but when the numbers grow bigger—100 out of a 1,000 or a 1,000 from 10,000—we often balk. However, we can’t expect the Lord to bless us financially if we’re not supporting His work.
Scripture speaks about giving a whole tithe—one-tenth of our earnings or 10 percent of whatever we produce, according to Deuteronomy 14:22. We should also note that we’re to give God the first portion of our income, not what’s left over at the end of the month.
God’s tithe goes into His storehouse—the church. From there, what’s offered can be channeled into the Lord’s work throughout the world. Imagine how many great ministries and outreaches would close if money dried up. Sharing the gospel is both a spiritual and financial responsibility.
When we refuse to give our portion, we block the flow of God’s blessing in our own lives. Often we decide to offer less than a tithe because we don’t trust His provision. Our Father has promised us protection and plenty if we follow His mandates. Give the Lord His due and see what great blessings He provides.