Nov 30, 2014
This is good in any language……Merry Christmas
Nov 30, 2014
This is good in any language……Merry Christmas
Faithfulness to God can disrupt your life and defame your reputation. That’s our Christmas story today.
Heaven’s chosen virgin told the announcing angel: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). But Mary’s legendary submission to God’s will for her life did not spare her the pain or shame associated with radical faithfulness.
Mary’s fiancé doubted she was telling the truth. Imagine her impassioned appeal to the man she loved: “I wasn’t unfaithful to you or to God—please believe me!” Joseph didn’t. He decided to get rid of her, according to Matthew 1:19: “Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.”
So Joseph was a decent man who didn’t wish to humiliate Mary publicly; he just needed to get her out of his life. So he “resolved” to abandon his beloved to the minimum consequences of adultery. It took a dramatic visit from an angel to convince Joseph that Mary was telling the truth. Gabriel defended Mary’s faith and faithfulness: “That which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit” (Matt 1:20).
We don’t know how long Mary was in limbo with Joseph. The Bible just says, “As he considered these things” (Matt 1:20)—that is, he was considering how to implement his resolution to put her away.
Meanwhile, Mary’s neighbors in Nazareth may have noticed her swelling abdomen. Sly looks and whispers of gossip would not have encouraged the young mother-to-be. Apparently desperate, “Mary arose and went with haste to the hill country, to a town in Judah” (Luke 1:39). This was not a shopping trip to find cute outfits for the new baby. Mary got out of town “with haste” and traveled on a lonely journey of 90 miles to find shelter with the only couple in Israel who knew firsthand about angels announcing miracle pregnancies.
Imagine Mary’s relief upon finally arriving at the home of Elizabeth, who greeted her with a Spirit-inspired affirmation: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb” (Luke 1:42). So this young mother was blessed by God, not deserving of rejection by the man she loved. And her Baby was blessed too—not a son of shame, but Immanuel, God with us.
Mary stayed several months at Elizabeth’s crisis pregnancy shelter before returning to Nazareth’s suspicions and gossip. Ultimately Joseph did believe her—after that personal visit from an angel to persuade him about Mary’s moral integrity.
What can we learn this Christmas season from Mary’s time of trouble? Many things, including Paul’s assessment of the good life that comes from the obedience of faith: “I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18). So whatever may be our own suffering this season, we may echo Mary’s courageous commitment: “Behold the servant of the Lord, do with my life whatever you will.”
Sometimes God may seem far away. In those moments, we might wonder how personally involved in our lives He actually is. At such times, we should rely on what the Lord Himself has said in Scripture.
Psalms 139:13-17 (NIV) says that the Lord knit us together in the womb and loves us with an unconditional love. We also know that He plans to prosper us spiritually (Phil. 1:6). These truths confirm that our Father knows us intimately and loves us deeply.
The life of Jesus Christ further testifies to the divine desire for intimacy. He consistently reached out to strangers, inviting them to draw near to Him. He spoke words of encouragement to His disciples and other followers and taught them the profound truths that He’d received from His Father (John 7:16). He held them accountable for their actions. He invited certain ones to accompany Him for deeply personal experiences, such as the transfiguration and His last prayer retreat to the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 9:2; Matt. 26:36-37). These are all indications of real friendship.
Jesus’ final act—dying on the cross—made it possible for us to join His “inner circle” as a part of the family of God. The Holy Spirit, each believer’s indwelling companion and guide, also witnesses to God’s closeness and detailed knowledge of those who are His.
God has made intimacy with Him possible. Yet, all too often we hold back. Distracted by earthly concerns, we put limits on His involvement in our lives. Let’s commit to pursuing the Lord with all of our hearts (Mark 12:30).
“And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient.” (2 Timothy 2:24)
One of the plagues of modern-day Christendom is that many take up side issues and deem them all-important—a point of separation between them and other Christians. Health foods, dress codes, and church constitutions are not unimportant, but Christians can hold different opinions and still be walking with God. Note the scriptural admonitions: “Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace [i.e., primary issues]; not with meats [i.e., fringe issues], which have not profited them that have been occupied therein” (Hebrews 13:9); “foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes” (2 Timothy 2:23).
On the other hand, there are many scriptural commands to hold “fast the faithful word” (Titus 1:9); to “keep that which is committed to thy trust” (1 Timothy 6:20). Many of these points of “sound doctrine” (Titus 1:9) are absolutely essential, such as the deity of Christ, the authority of Scripture, salvation by grace, the resurrection of Christ, and many others clearly and specifically taught in Scripture. Perhaps the rule might be, if it’s an essential doctrine, teach and defend it at all costs; if it’s a secondary doctrine, teach it in “meekness” and love (2 Timothy 2:25). But if it’s a fringe issue, avoid strife over it, allowing brothers to exercise their freedom.
Is creationism a fringe issue? No! Few doctrines are so clearly taught in Scripture. Is it crucial to salvation? No! But it is essential to adequately understand the great primary doctrines for it is foundational to them all. Furthermore, it is the subject of origins, which the enemy has identified as a major battleground, vowing to destroy Christianity over this issue. Here we must stand if we are to guard our faith. JDM
These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. —John 16:33
We are all idealists. We picture to ourselves a life on earth completely free from every hindrance, a kind of spiritual Utopia where we can always control events, where we can move about as favorites of heaven, adjusting circumstances to suit ourselves. This we feel would be quite compatible with the life of faith and in keeping with the privileged place we hold as children of God.
In thinking thus we simply misplace ourselves; we mistake earth for heaven and expect conditions here below which can never be realized till we reach the better world above. While we live we may expect troubles, and plenty of them. We are never promised a life without problems as long as we remain among fallen men….
What then are we to do about our problems? We must learn to live with them until such time as God delivers us from them. If we cannot remove them, then we must pray for grace to endure them without murmuring. Problems patiently endured will work for our spiritual perfecting. They harm us only when we resist them or endure them unwillingly.
Lord, I’m so homesick for heaven. But until You allow me to come home, I do indeed “pray for grace to endure [problems] without murmuring.” Amen.
Knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep… let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Romans 13:11, 12
Some day the Church can relax her guard, call her watchmen down from the wall and live in safety and peace—but not yet, not yet!
All that is good in the world stands as a target for all that is evil and manages to stay alive only by constant watchfulness and the providential protection of Almighty God.
The Church lives in a hostile world. Within and around her are enemies that not only could destroy her, but are meant to and will unless she resists force with yet greater force. The Christian would collapse from sheer external pressure were there not within him a counterpressure sufficiently great to prevent it. The power of the Holy Spirit is, therefore, not optional but necessary. Without it the children of God simply cannot live the life of heaven on earth. The hindrances are too many and too effective!
A church is a living organism and is subject to attack from such enemies as prey on living things. The human body can fight its enemies even while it is asleep, but the Church cannot. She must be awake and determined—or she cannot win.
She must recognize her enemies for what they are and she must resist them: Unbelief, Complacency, Self-righteousness, Fear of Man, Love of Luxury, Secret Sympathy with the world, Self-confidence, Pride and Unholy thoughts. These we must resist with every power within us, looking unto Jesus, author and finisher of our faith!
Make me to go in the path of thy commandments; for therein do I delight. PSALM 119:35
I know that I am being repetitious—but this needs to be said again and again: Our Lord will not save those whom He cannot command!
The lifetime God has given us down here is a lifetime of decisions. Each person makes his own decisions as to the eternal world he is going to inhabit. We must decide to take Jesus for what He is—the anointed Savior and Lord who is King of kings and Lord of all lords! He would not be who He is if He saved us and called us without the understanding that He can also guide us and control our lives.
The root of sin is rebellion against God, and hell is the Alcatraz for the unconstituted rebels who refuse to surrender to the will of God.
There are many arguments about the reality of hell. A man might endure fire and brimstone and worms—but the essence of hell and judgment for a moral creature is to know and be conscious that he is where he is because he is a rebel!
Hell will be the eternal domain of all the disobedient rebels who have said, “I owe God nothing!”
Dear Lord, the grim reality of hell is rarely preached in our churches anymore. Is it any wonder that the consequences of sin are no longer feared? I pray that our churches will not shrink from telling the world the whole truth of the Bible.