31 December 2009

Thursday's Spurgeon

2 Samuel 2:26
Knowest thou not that it will be bitterness in the latter end?

If, O my reader! thou art merely a professor, and not a possessor of the faith that is in Christ Jesus, the following lines are a true ketch of thine end. You are a respectable attendant at a place of worship; you go because others go, not because your heart is right with God. This is your beginning. I will suppose that for the next twenty or thirty years you will be spared to go on as you do now, professing religion by an outward attendance upon the means of grace, but having no heart in the matter. Tread softly, for I must show you the deathbed of such a one as yourself. Let us gaze upon him gently. A clammy sweat is on his brow, and he wakes up crying, "O God, it is hard to die. Did you send for my minister?" "Yes, he is coming." The minister comes. "Sir, I fear that I am dying!" "Have you any hope?" "I cannot say that I have. I fear to stand before my God; oh! pray for me." The prayer is offered for him with sincere earnestness, and the way of salvation is for the ten-thousandth time put before him, but before he has grasped the rope, I see him sink. I may put my finger upon those cold eyelids, for they will never see anything here again. But where is the man, and where are the man's true eyes? It is written, "In hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torment." Ah! why did he not lift up his eyes before? Because he was so accustomed to hear the gospel that his soul slept under it. Alas! if you should lift up your eyes there, how bitter will be your wailings. Let the Saviour's own words reveal the woe: "Father Abraham, send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame." There is a frightful meaning in those words. May you never have to spell it out by the red light of Jehovah's wrath!
 From Evening by Evening by C.H. Spurgeon

30 December 2009

Is Your Pastor Preaching Biblical Tithing?

Since this is the time of year when pastors pull out the annual "Did you tithe this year because if you didn't God isn't going to bless you" sermon, I thought the following article from John MacArthur was appropriate. (I'm especially irritated at the pastor of the church I've attended for the past two years as he challenged the congregation to "prove" or "test" God in our giving. Sorry, pastor, but the last attitude I'm going to approach the offering plate with is one of testing God!) I've always felt that giving to the Lord should come from our heart. Otherwise we run the risk of giving out of obligation, perhaps confusing it as an additional means of salvation. If you can't give 10% of your income, don't allow your pastor to immerse you in a guilt-trip inducing sermon. If you can give more than 10%, give freely and without doubt. Whatever you give, give in faith that the Lord will provide always. I've seen it.

The following appears here at Grace To You as part of a Q&A with Dr. John MacArthur.

Does God require me to give a tithe of all I earn?

Leviticus 27:30-33; Deuteronomy 14:22-29; Exodus 25:2; 1 Chronicles 29:9
Code: QA144
John MacArthur


Two kinds of giving are taught consistently throughout Scripture: giving to the government (always compulsory), and giving to God (always voluntary). 

The issue has been greatly confused, however, by some who misunderstand the nature of the Old Testament tithes. Tithes were not primarily gifts to God, but taxes for funding the national budget in Israel. 

Because Israel was a theocracy, the Levitical priests acted as the civil government. So the Levite's tithe (Leviticus 27:30-33) was a precursor to today's income tax, as was a second annual tithe required by God to fund a national festival (Deuteronomy 14:22-29). Smaller taxes were also imposed on the people by the law (Leviticus 19:9-10; Exodus 23:10-11). So the total giving required of the Israelites was not 10 percent, but well over 20 percent. All that money was used to operate the nation. 

All giving apart from that required to run the government was purely voluntary (cf. Exodus 25:2; 1 Chronicles 29:9). Each person gave whatever was in his heart to give; no percentage or amount was specified. 

New Testament believers are never commanded to tithe. Matthew 22:15-22 and Romans 13:1-7 tell us about the only required giving in the church age, which is the paying of taxes to the government. Interestingly enough, we in America presently pay between 20 and 30 percent of our income to the government--a figure very similar to the requirement under the theocracy of Israel. 

The guideline for our giving to God and His work is found in 2 Corinthians 9:6-7: "Now this I say, he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully. Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver."

27 December 2009

Sunday Morning Praise

 Since Christmas was only two days ago, I think it's still appropriate for us to worship with Christmas carols! After all, Christ's gift is one for all seasons!

Angels We Have Heard on High


Angels we have heard on high
Sweetly singing o’er the plains,
And the mountains in reply
Echoing their joyous strains.


Refrain


Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!


Shepherds, why this jubilee?
Why your joyous strains prolong?
What the gladsome tidings be
Which inspire your heavenly song?


Refrain


Come to Bethlehem and see
Christ Whose birth the angels sing;
Come, adore on bended knee,
Christ the Lord, the newborn King.


Refrain


See Him in a manger laid,
Whom the choirs of angels praise;
Mary, Joseph, lend your aid,
While our hearts in love we raise.


Refrain

25 December 2009

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

May God bless all of you as you celebrate this blessed day! Merry Christmas!



Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.


Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.


No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.


He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

24 December 2009

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVE!

SILENT NIGHT

Silent night, holy night,
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin mother and Child.
Holy Infant, so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.


Silent night, holy night,
Shepherds quake at the sight;
Glories stream from heaven afar,
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ the Savior is born,
Christ the Savior is born!


Silent night, holy night,
Son of God, love’s pure light;
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth.


Silent night, holy night
Wondrous star, lend thy light;
With the angels let us sing,
Alleluia to our King;
Christ the Savior is born,
Christ the Savior is born!


May you and your family have a blessed Christmas!

Luke 2:1-20

 Luke 2:1-20


The Birth of Jesus Christ

2:1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

The Shepherds and the Angels

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,


14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”


15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.


Thursday's Spurgeon

2 Corinthians 8:9
For your sakes he became poor.

The Lord Jesus Christ was eternally rich, glorious, and exalted; but "though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor." As the rich saint cannot be true in his communion with his poor brethren unless of his substance he ministers to their necessities, so (the same rule holding with the head as between the members), it is impossible that our Divine Lord could have had fellowship with us unless He had imparted to us of His own abounding wealth, and had become poor to make us rich. Had He remained upon His throne of glory, and had we continued in the ruins of the fall without receiving His salvation, communion would have been impossible on both sides. Our position by the fall, apart from the covenant of grace, made it as impossible for fallen man to communicate with God as it is for Belial to be in concord with Christ. In order, therefore, that communion might be compassed, it was necessary that the rich kinsman should bestow his estate upon his poor relatives, that the righteous Saviour should give to His sinning brethren of His own perfection, and that we, the poor and guilty, should receive of His fulness grace for grace; that thus in giving and receiving, the One might descend from the heights, and the other ascend from the depths, and so be able to embrace each other in true and hearty fellowship. Poverty must be enriched by Him in whom are infinite treasures before it can venture to commune; and guilt must lose itself in imputed and imparted righteousness ere the soul can walk in fellowship with purity. Jesus must clothe His people in His own garments, or He cannot admit them into His palace of glory; and He must wash them in His own blood, or else they will be too defiled for the embrace of His fellowship. O believer, herein is love! For your sake the Lord Jesus "became poor" that He might lift you up into communion with Himself.
 From "Morning by Morning" by C. H. Spurgeon

How's THAT for a great Christmas present?

23 December 2009

Wednesday Worship


God rest ye merry, gentlemen, let nothing you dismay,
Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day;
To save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray.


Refrain
O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy;
O tidings of comfort and joy.


In Bethlehem, in Israel, this blessèd Babe was born,
And laid within a manger upon this blessèd morn;
The which His mother Mary did nothing take in scorn.


Refrain

From God our heavenly Father a blessèd angel came;
And unto certain shepherds brought tidings of the same;
How that in Bethlehem was born the Son of God by name.


Refrain

“Fear not, then,” said the angel, “Let nothing you afright
This day is born a Savior of a pure Virgin bright,
To free all those who trust in Him from Satan’s power and might.”


Refrain

The shepherds at those tidings rejoiced much in mind,
And left their flocks a-feeding in tempest, storm and wind,
And went to Bethl’em straightaway this blessèd Babe to find.


Refrain

But when to Bethlehem they came where our dear Savior lay,
They found Him in a manger where oxen feed on hay;
His mother Mary kneeling unto the Lord did pray.


Refrain

Now to the Lord sing praises all you within this place,
And with true love and brotherhood each other now embrace;
This holy tide of Christmas all others doth deface.


Refrain

God bless the ruler of this house, and send him long to reign,
And many a merry Christmas may live to see again;
Among your friends and kindred that live both far and near—

That God send you a happy new year, happy new year,
And God send you a happy new year.



It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold;
“Peace on the earth, good will to men,
From Heaven’s all gracious King.”
The world in solemn stillness lay,
To hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come
With peaceful wings unfurled,
And still their heavenly music floats
O’er all the weary world;
Above its sad and lowly plains,
They bend on hovering wing,
And ever over its Babel sounds
The blessèd angels sing.

Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love-song which they bring;
O hush the noise, ye men of strife
And hear the angels sing.

And ye, beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing!

For lo! the days are hastening on,
By prophet-bards foretold,
When with the ever circling years
Comes round the age of gold;
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling,
And the whole world send back the song
Which now the angels sing.

20 December 2009

Christmas Musings

It's almost Christmas. Where has your focus been the past couple of weeks? Has it been on the usual hustle and bustle, the stress of finding the perfect present and having the perfectly decorated house? Or has your focus been on the true meaning of the season...Jesus Christ. I admit, I found myself yesterday trapped in the former. Frantically looking for that last gift and completely devoid of any sort of Heavenly Christmas spirit, I ended the day extremely disappointed in myself on my knees before God. And so, as we embrace these final few days of the Christmas season, I pray we will all set aside those momentary, earthly joys of gift wrap and garland and instead bask in the heavenly joy of a baby in a manger. A baby born to die. A baby without whom you and I would have no hope of eternal salvation. Jesus Christ was that perfect Christmas gift. Perhaps this year we should all offer that perfect gift to someone who has not yet received Him.

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. Luke 2:1-7


All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). Matthew 1:22-23

Sunday Morning Praise - Fourth Sunday in Advent


The First Noel, the Angels did say
Was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay
In fields where they lay keeping their sheep
On a cold winter's night that was so deep.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel
Born is the King of Israel!

They looked up and saw a star
Shining in the East beyond them far
And to the earth it gave great light
And so it continued both day and night.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel
Born is the King of Israel!

And by the light of that same star
Three Wise men came from country far
To seek for a King was their intent
And to follow the star wherever it went.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel
Born is the King of Israel!

This star drew nigh to the northwest
O'er Bethlehem it took its rest
And there it did both Pause and stay
Right o'er the place where Jesus lay.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel
Born is the King of Israel!

Then entered in those Wise men three
Full reverently upon their knee
And offered there in His presence
Their gold and myrrh and frankincense.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel
Born is the King of Israel!

Then let us all with one accord
Sing praises to our heavenly Lord
That hath made Heaven and earth of nought
And with his blood mankind has bought.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel
Born is the King of Israel!



What Child is this who, laid to rest
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?


This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
Haste, haste, to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.


Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.


Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.


So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh,
Come peasant, king to own Him;
The King of kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone Him.


Raise, raise a song on high,
The virgin sings her lullaby.
Joy, joy for Christ is born,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

19 December 2009

From Heaven Above to Earth I Come

I saw this hymn a couple of weeks ago and loved it so much I wanted to share it! You can find the information and lyrics below here at NetHymnal. I had never seen or heard this hymn of Luther's and figured many others were perhaps unaware of it as well. I wish I could have found a video to share, but nevertheless it is a beautiful Christmas poem...enjoy!

From Heaven Above to Earth I Come
 
Luther wrote this hymn for his five year old son Hans; it was not pub­lished un­til four years lat­er. It was sung at the an­nu­al Christ­mas Eve fes­ti­val at the Lu­ther home: a man dressed as an an­gel would sing the open­ing verses, then the child­ren would greet him with the verse, “Wel­come to earth, thou no­ble guest…”

From Heaven above to earth I come,
To bear good news to every home;
Glad tidings of great joy I bring,
Whereof I now will say and sing.

To you, this night, is born a Child
Of Mary, chosen mother mild;
This tender Child of lowly birth,
Shall be the joy of all your earth.

’Tis Christ our God, who far on high
Had heard your sad and bitter cry;
Himself will your Salvation be,
Himself from sin will make you free.

He brings those blessings long ago
Prepared by God for all below;
That in His heavenly kingdom blest
You may with us forever rest.

These are the tokens ye shall mark,
The swaddling clothes and manger dark;
There shall ye find the young Child laid,
By Whom the heavens and earth were made.

Now let us all, with gladsome cheer,
Follow the shepherds, and draw near
To see this wondrous Gift of God,
Who hath His own dear Son bestowed.

Give heed, my heart, lift up thine eyes!
What is it in yon manger lies?
Who is this Child, so young and fair?
The blessèd Christ Child lieth there!

Welcome to earth, Thou noble Guest,
Through Whom e’en wicked men are blest!
Thou com’st to share our misery,
What can we render, Lord, to Thee!

Ah, Lord, who hast created all,
How hast Thou made Thee weak and small,
To lie upon the coarse dry grass,
The food of humble ox and ass.

Were earth a thousand times as fair,
Beset with gold and jewels rare,
She yet were far too poor to be
A narrow cradle, Lord, for Thee.

For velvets soft and silken stuff
Thou hast but hay and straw so rough,
Whereon Thou King, so rich and great,
As ’twere Thy heaven, art throned in state.

Thus hath it pleased Thee to make plain
The truth to us, poor fools and vain,
That this world’s honor, wealth and might
Are naught and worthless in Thy sight.

Ah, dearest Jesus, holy Child,
Make Thee a bed, soft, undefiled,
Here in my poor heart’s inmost shrine,
That I may evermore be Thine.

My heart for very joy doth leap,
My lips no more can silence keep,
I too must sing, with joyful tongue,
That sweetest ancient cradle song.

Glory to God in highest Heaven,
Who unto man His Son hath given,
While angels sing, with pious mirth,
A glad New Year to all the earth.

Words: Mar­tin Lu­ther, 1531 (Von Him­mel hoch da komm ich her); tran­slat­ed from Ger­man to Eng­lish by Ca­ther­ine Wink­worth, Lyra Ger­man­i­ca, 1855, alt.
Music: Von Him­mel Hoch, from Geist­liche Lied­er, by Val­en­tin Schu­mann (Leip­zig, Ger­ma­ny: 1539); har­mo­ny by Jo­hann S. Bach

Tis the Season to be...Busy!

I apologize for not posting very much lately. It's certainly not for lack of topics, but due to the time of year and the business of the season. The enemy is gleefully watching, I'm sure, as I am distracted not only by Christmas preparations, but by extra stress and pressure from work as well. My consolation is that, likely many of my readers have just as little time to read any editorials as I have to write them! In the meantime, I will try to continue to post articles written by others far more well-versed than me (assuming, of course, that I have time to even read these!). Praying that all of you have a Christmas season full of His peace, even amidst trials, and that you would remember His first magnificent coming, and longingly look up for His promised Second Advent!

Maranatha!

17 December 2009

Thursday's Spurgeon

This excerpt first appeared here at The Daily Spurgeon.

The Strong Man in Christ
Others in our churches do something for Christ, and know that they are alive, but their whole spiritual system is relaxed. If they take up the hammer and work for God, they strike such feeble blows that the nails do not know it. If they take the spade in their hand to dig in the Master’s vineyard, the weeds laugh them to scorn. They are so exceedingly feeble, and generally so changeable, so fond of new work, and of running after this and that, that they are of little or no real service to the church.

But the strong man in Christ Jesus is one who, if he fights, dashes to pieces the helmet of his foe; and if he wields the sling and the stone, takes care that the stone shall be sent with force enough to go through Goliath’s skull. He is a man who, if he prays, makes the gates of heaven shake and the vaults of heaven to ring. He is a man who, when he pleads with sinners, pleads all over - hands and face, and every muscle revealing his earnestness.... He feels that if religion be worth anything it is worth everything, and he throws his whole being into it - body, soul, and spirit, ardently and to the utmost pitch of energy, being given up to the Master’s cause.

From a sermon entitled "Unto You, Young Men," delivered May 13, 1868.

16 December 2009

Worship for Wednesday

I know that "Away in a Manger" may not be the most accurate Christmas song. After all, I'm sure the line "but little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes" is not entirely true! Babies cry and the infant Jesus most likely cried as well to express his hunger or discomfort. Nevertheless, it is a sweet, peaceful song and I love it. I remember singing it as a child...it was likely one of the first Christmas songs I learned! When my grandfather passed away seven years ago just days before Christmas, we sang this song at his funeral. "And take us to Heaven to live with Thee there..." Wow, what a great picture! That was the first of many Christmases in Heaven with Jesus for my grandpa. This year, my grandma joined him and they are both experiencing the eternal joy of being with the Lord. I look forward to the day when I and the rest of Christ's Church can join them, and I'm excited that that day is drawing ever closer! Come quickly, Lord Jesus!



Away in a manger,
No crib for His bed
The little Lord Jesus
Laid down His sweet head

The stars in the bright sky
Looked down where He lay
The little Lord Jesus
Asleep on the hay

The cattle are lowing
The poor Baby wakes
But little Lord Jesus
No crying He makes

I love Thee, Lord Jesus
Look down from the sky
And stay by my side,
'Til morning is nigh.

Be near me, Lord Jesus,
I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever
And love me I pray

Bless all the dear children
In Thy tender care
And take us to heaven
To live with Thee there

15 December 2009

The Truth of the Nativity

This article originally appeared here at Grace To You.



The Truth of the Nativity
Selected Scriptures 

John MacArthur

The story of the first Christmas is so beloved that singers and storytellers across the centuries have embellished and elaborated and mythologized the story in celebration. However, most people now don't know which details are biblical and which are fabricated. People usually imagine the manger scene with snow, singing angels, many worshipers, and a little drummer boy. None of that is found in the biblical account.
Christmas has become the product of an odd mixture of pagan ideas, superstition, fanciful legends, and plain ignorance. Add to that the commercialization of Christmas by marketers and the politicization of Christmas in the culture wars, and you're left with one big mess. Let's try to sort it out. The place to begin is in God's Word, the Bible. Here we find not only the source of the original account of Christmas, but also God's commentary on it.

We can't know Jesus if we don't understand He is real. The story of His birth is no allegory. We dare not romanticize it or settle for a fanciful legend that renders the whole story meaningless. Mary and Joseph were real people. Their dilemma on finding no room at the inn surely was as frightening for them as it would be for you or me. The manger in which Mary laid Jesus must have reeked of animal smells. So did the shepherds, in all probability. That first Christmas was anything but picturesque.

But that makes it all the more wondrous. That baby in the manger is God! Immanuel!
That's the heart and soul of the Christmas message. There weren't many worshipers around the original manger--only a handful of shepherds. But one day every knee will bow before Him, and every tongue will confess He is Lord (Philippians 2:9-11). Those who doubt Him, those who are His enemies, those who merely ignore Him--all will one day bow, too, even if it be in judgment.

How much better to honor Him now with the worship He deserves! That's what Christmas ought to inspire.

Unvarnished Truth

Luke 2:7 sets the scene: "[Mary] gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn."

That verse is explicitly concerned with a lonely birth. There were no midwives, no assistance to Mary at all. The Bible doesn't even mention that Joseph was present. Perhaps he was, but if he was typical of first-time fathers, he would have been of little help to Mary. She was basically on her own.

Mary brought forth the child; she wrapped Him in swaddling cloths; and she laid Him in a manger. Where usually a midwife would clean the baby and wrap Him, there was no one. Mary did it herself. And where usually there would have been a cradle or basket for the baby, there was none. Mary had to put Him in an animal's feeding trough.

When Christ entered the world, He came to a place that had some of the smelliest, filthiest, and most uncomfortable conditions. But that is part of the wonder of divine grace, isn't it? When the Son of God came down from heaven, He came all the way down. He did not hang on to His equality with God; rather, He set it aside for a time and completely humbled Himself (Philippians 2:5-8).

Unlikely Testimony

Luke 2:8-20 describes the experience of the shepherds when Jesus was born. Think about that for a moment. Out of the whole of Jerusalem society, God picked a band of shepherds to hear the news of Jesus' birth. That's intriguing because shepherds were among the lowest and most despised social groups.

The very nature of shepherds' work kept them from entering into the mainstream of Israel's society. They couldn't maintain the ceremonial washings and observe all the religious festivals and feasts, yet these shepherds, just a few miles from Jerusalem, were undoubtedly caring for sheep that someday would be used as sacrifices in the temple. How fitting it is that they were the first to know of the Lamb of God!
More significant, they came to see Him the night he was born. No one else did. Though the shepherds went back and told everyone what they had seen and heard, and though "all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds" (v. 18), not one other person came to see firsthand.

Scripture doesn't describe how the shepherds' search for the baby Jesus actually unfolded, but it's not unreasonable to assume that they entered Bethlehem and asked questions: "Does anybody know about a baby being born here in town tonight?"

The shepherds might have knocked on several doors and seen other newborn babies before they found the special Child lying in the feeding trough. At that moment, those humble men knew for certain that the angels' announcement was a word from God. After their encounter with Joseph and Mary and Jesus, the shepherds couldn't help but tell others about what the angels had told them. They became, in effect, the first New Testament evangelists.

The shepherd's story is a good illustration of the Christian life. You first hear the revelation of the gospel and believe it (Romans 10:9-10). Then you pursue and embrace Christ. And having become a witness to your glorious conversion, you begin to tell others about it (Luke 2:17).

May God grant you the life-changing spiritual experiences and the ongoing attitude of enthusiasm and responsiveness that causes you to tell others that you, too, have seen Christ the Lord.

Adapted from God's Gift of Christmas.


Available online at: http://www.gty.org/Resources/Articles/A313
COPYRIGHT ©2009 Grace to You

13 December 2009

Sunday Morning Praise - Third Sunday in Advent

I asked some friends this week what their favorite Christmas carols were. Specifying, of course, that I wanted real Christmas carols that celebrated the birth of Christ, not "Let it Snow!" Below are the top two favorites:

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing!

Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”
Joyful, all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With th’angelic host proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”


Refrain

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”


Christ, by highest Heav’n adored;
Christ the everlasting Lord;
Late in time, behold Him come,
Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail th’incarnate Deity,
Pleased with as man with man to dwell,
Jesus our Emmanuel.


Refrain

Hail the heav’nly Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Ris’n with healing in His wings.
Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die.
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.


Refrain

Come, Desire of nations, come,
Fix in us Thy humble home;
Rise, the woman’s conqu’ring Seed,
Bruise in us the serpent’s head.
Now display Thy saving power,
Ruined nature now restore;
Now in mystic union join
Thine to ours, and ours to Thine.


Refrain

Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface,
Stamp Thine image in its place:
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in Thy love.
Let us Thee, though lost, regain,
Thee, the Life, the inner man:
O, to all Thyself impart,
Formed in each believing heart.


Refrain

O Holy Night


O holy night, the stars are brightly shining;
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary soul rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!
O night, O holy night, O night divine!


Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here came the wise men from Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus in lowly manger,
In all our trials born to be our Friend!
He knows our need—to our weakness is no stranger.
Behold your King; before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King; before Him lowly bend!


Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His Gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His Name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy Name!
Christ is the Lord! O praise His name forever!
His pow’r and glory evermore proclaim!
His pow’r and glory evermore proclaim!

10 December 2009

America's Misguided "Christians"

Watch this video:




That's right, Rick Warren side-stepped another opportunity to clearly and unashamedly declare the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the only true way. And yes, you heard correctly, he said "Can't we all just get along?" No, "Pastor" Rick, we can't all get along. If Christians sit back and choose to "get along" with other faiths instead of boldly proclaiming the Gospel (which just so happens to be offensive to those who are perishing) then we are failing terribly in the Great Commission given to us by our Lord! Maybe your Hindu neighbor won't be as friendly to you anymore, but if you've shared with him the Truth of Jesus, then you have done your duty, Christian. We answer to God, not to man.

Now, read the following USA Today article:


More U.S. Christians mix in 'Eastern,' New Age beliefs

With mega"pastors" like Rick Warren giving pluralism the "A-OK and also teaching and practicing such New Age techniques as contemplative prayer, is it any wonder that America's "Christians" have infused so much false religion into their faith that very few of them are likely Christians at all? No, I am not surprised. But I am grieved.



Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' Matthew 7:22 (NASB)

Thursday's Spurgeon

Acts 18:10
I have much people in this city.

This should be a great encouragement to try to do good, since God has among the vilest of the vile, the most reprobate, the most debauched and drunken, an elect people who must be saved. When you take the Word to them, you do so because God has ordained you to be the messenger of life to their souls, and they must receive it, for so the decree of predestination runs. They are as much redeemed by blood as the saints before the eternal throne. They are Christ's property, and yet perhaps they are lovers of the ale-house, and haters of holiness; but if Jesus Christ purchased them He will have them. God is not unfaithful to forget the price which His Son has paid. He will not suffer His substitution to be in any case an ineffectual, dead thing. Tens of thousands of redeemed ones are not regenerated yet, but regenerated they must be; and this is our comfort when we go forth to them with the quickening Word of God. Nay, more, these ungodly ones are prayed for by Christ before the throne. "Neither pray I for these alone," saith the great Intercessor, "but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word." Poor, ignorant souls, they know nothing about prayer for themselves, but Jesus prays for them. Their names are on His breastplate, and ere long they must bow their stubborn knee, breathing the penitential sigh before the throne of grace. "The time of figs is not yet." The predestinated moment has not struck; but, when it comes, they shall obey, for God will have His own; they must, for the Spirit is not to be withstood when He cometh forth with fulness of power-they must become the willing servants of the living God. "My people shall be willing in the day of my power." "He shall justify many." "He shall see of the travail of His soul." "I will divide him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong."
 From C.H. Spurgeons Morning by Morning, December 4.

09 December 2009

Wednesday Worship

I heard this on the radio driving home from work tonight and thought it was amazing! I couldn't wait until Sunday, I had to share it with you tonight! This may be one of the best renditions of O Come, All Ye Faithful/Adeste Fideles that I've ever heard. Hard to believe this was the same man who played Gomer Pyle, isn't it? What a God-given talent!

08 December 2009

Contemplating Rick Warren

Christian Research Network briefly reports on Rick Warren's latest blatant dive into apostasy:

Rick Warren Now Openly Promoting Contemplative Spirituality

Rick Warren has an upcoming conference at his Saddleback Church in February called Radicalis that features Perry Noble and Mark Driscoll, in addition to himself.
In the latest email promoting this conference, entitled Chat Live with Radicalis Speaker, Pete Scazzero, Wednesday, December 9 at 11 am pst. Warren writes:
Chat live with Pete Scazzero, tomorrow, Wednesday, December 9 at 11 am pst (2 pm est). Pete will be teaching how to develop emotionally healthy leadership in churches at Radicalis this February.
Pete, along with his wife, Geri, are co-founders of Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, a groundbreaking ministry that integrates emotional health and contemplative spirituality to pastors, leaders and local churches.

I'm waiting for the next headline, "Rick Warren Goes Mystic..."

Joy in the Trials

After a really terrible and stressful day at work, a wonderful friend reminded me of these comforting words of God. I know I'm not the only one being thrown into the fire these days, so I thought I would share. May we persevere in what God has placed before us to refine us, bringing all glory to Him! I hope these words encourage you as they did me!

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” James 1:2-5

06 December 2009

Sunday Morning Praise - Second Sunday in Advent

Merry Christmas! Now that it's December I'm allowed to offer a Christmas greeting without too many sideways glances! I absolutely love the Christmas season! I love reflecting on Christ's birth and first coming to Earth while also looking forward to His very near second Advent! Of course, I also love the music of the season. Christmas carols are among my favorite songs all year long, so I'm happy to have a month to freely hum them, again without too many sideways glances! That being said, I may be sharing more than one song with you each week so sit back and enjoy praising our Lord, Emmanuel, God With Us!

Friday night a friend and I attended Moody Bible Institute's Candlelight Carols. I think this was the first time that I heard "Angels from the Realms of Glory" sung through in its entirety. The video below is organ music only, so I've posted the lyrics so you can sing or hum along (come on, I know you're sitting at your computer unashamedly praising God this morning)! Wait until you get to the last verse...you'll love it!




Angels from the realms of glory,
Wing your flight o'er all the earth;
Ye who sang creation's story,
Now proclaim Messiah's birth:
Come and worship,
Come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King!


Shepherds, in the fields abiding,
Watching o'er your flocks by night,
God with man is now residing,
Yonder shines the infant Light;
Come and worship,
Come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King!


Sages, leave your contemplations,
Brighter visions beam afar;
Seek the great desire of nations,
Ye have seen His natal star;
Come and worship,
Come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King!

All creation, join in praising
God, the Father, Spirit, Son,
Evermore your voices raising
To the eternal Three in One
Come and worship,
Come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King!



Saints before the altar bending,
Watching long in hope and fear,
Suddenly the Lord, descending,
In His temple shall appear:
Come and worship,
Come and worship,
Worship Christ, the newborn King! 

"O, Little Town of Bethlehem" is such a peaceful Christmas carol! So humble, so quiet, Bethlehem was nestled in the shadow of Jerusalem and yet it was there that God chose to bring forth the King of Kings! Can you imagine? Just think of what Bethlehem missed "while they were sleeping" (to borrow a line from Casting Crowns). May we not also be found asleep when our Lord returns!


This video unfortunately leaves out a verse, but I've posted all the lyrics below.



O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight


For Christ is born of Mary
And gathered all above
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch of wondering love
O morning stars together
Proclaim the holy birth
And praises sing to God the King
And Peace to men on earth


How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may his His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him still,
The dear Christ enters in.


O holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born in us today
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell
O come to us, abide with us
Our Lord Emmanuel

04 December 2009

To Sign or Not to Sign? Important Follow Up

Quite honestly, over the past week or so I've been shocked to see or hear so many glowing, favorable responses to the Manhattan Declaration (MD) from seemingly grounded Christians. I think it's a perfect example of the deceptive abilities of the Enemy, as the disconcerting facets of the MD are not difficult to see! I thought by now that the hullabaloo would have quieted down among evangelicals but if anything, it is more noisy. Ironically, the people who have signed it are more defensive than those who have not. Yes, methinks thou dost protest too much!

Again, my issues with the MD can be broadly placed into two categories: 1. The word "gospel" is mentioned but is not clearly defined. 2. The document states that Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox Christians, and Evangelicals are all "Christians" and I would beg to differ. The latter two religions teach a work-based, even New Age gospel and so I would be remiss to place my name on a document next to Bishop so-and-so. Never let it be assumed that I advocate such a religion of works! Number 2 is precisely the reason why number 1 is necessary.


The irony of this controversy is that nobody with any political power is paying any attention to it. Sure, it has the evangelical circles all in a tizzy, but those who the MD is supposedly standing up against could care less that the document exists! And so what has it accomplished? It has accomplished only further division of evangelicals. It has also accomplished what I assume to be a great goal of Satan, two actually: not only are evangelical circles now divided on yet another issue, but now we have strong, grounded Christian men and women who are aligning themselves with false religions! Oh how the Enemy must be celebrating!

The approval of this document by so many self-professed Christians also brings me great sadness. How are we not more discerning? Yes, we have all been fooled at one time or another by smooth talkers or flashing lights or loud music, but after careful subsequent reviews of this document, how could one who perhaps signed in eagerness not go back and withdraw his name? Could it be that we are more concerned with standing up to a secular society than we are with preaching the Truth? We cannot deny that we do not live in a Christian nation, so why do we expect the leaders to adhere to Christian values? I am not saying that we should not stand against these abominable practices in our nation (abortion, same-sex marriage, stem cell research, etc) but the inconvenient truth is that we are never going to change society. We are in a downward spiral that cannot be reversed. But there is good news! The first is, of course, that this means that the return of Christ is very near! The second bit of good news is that there is an arena with which we should be standing up against these very same abominations. That arena is our churches.

Our "safe" little evangelical world is infested with false teachers who teach that these same practices spoken of in the MD are okay. Countless Emergent churches and outlaw preachers (not to mention Lutherans and Methodists) teach that homosexuality is not a sin and that it is okay to be a practicing homosexual and still be a Christian. Why are we not more upset about this? This is our battleground, brothers and sisters. Jesus did not enter the courts of Herod and condemn the government. No, he entered the temple and condemned the religious leaders. Have you not read the end of the Book? Society and culture do not change, they get worse! But while we are here, let us speak out against those who are twisting the very Word of God and perhaps we can open the eyes of even a few who are as of now being hopelessly led down a trail to Hell. And I will say it again--the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox are among these teachers with a false gospel. They are among the wolves. Why, dear Christian, would you "stand united" with such a group?

Below are some links to further explanations regarding the Manhattan Declaration. I know you won't click on all of them, but I wish you would.

Lighthouse Trails Research offers its opinion here. If you only click on one link, please make it this one. LTR has discovered that the masterminds of the MD are promoting contemplative spirituality as well as the works of leaders of the Emergent Church. Ironic really, considering emergents advocate homosexuality. There are additional links at the end of this article that I also suggest you review.

Nineteen Questions for the Signers of the Manhattan Declaration

Dr. John MacArthur's response

Moriel Ministries

Alistair Begg's response

Phil Johnson (Executive Director of Grace to You) offers a link to his interview on the Paul Edwards Program during which they discussed the MD here.

03 December 2009

Thursday's Spurgeon

Thanks to The Daily Spurgeon for this post.

Nothing Else but Jesus Christ


“Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.” — Acts 3:19.

Peter... preached not merely the gospel of good news, but Christ, the person of Christ; Christ crucified — crucified by them, Christ risen, Christ glorified of his Father. Depend upon it, this is the very strength of the Christian ministry, when it is saturated with the name and person and glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. Take Christ away, and you ungospelise the gospel, you do but pour out husks such as swine do eat, while the precious kernel is removed, seeing you have taken away the person of the Lord Jesus Christ....

Peter would tell them about Jesus Christ, and about nothing else but Jesus Christ. He knew this to be the power of God unto salvation, and he would not flinch from it; so to them, even to them, he delivered the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, with a pungency as well as a simplicity scarcely to be rivalled. Notice how he puts it: “Ye” have slain him; “ye” have crucified him; “ye” have preferred a murderer. He is not afraid of being personal; he does not shirk the touching of men’s consciences; he rather thrusts his hand into their hearts and make them feel their sin; he labors to open a window into the darkness of their spirits, to let the light of the Holy Ghost shine into their soul.

Even thus, my brethren, when we preach the gospel, must we do: affectionately but graciously must we deal with men. Far hence be all trimming and mincing of matters. Accursed let him be that takes away from the gospel of Jesus Christ that he may win popular applause, or who bates his breath and smoothes his tongue that he may please the unholy throng. Such a man may have for a moment the approbation of fools, but, as the Lord his God liveth, he shall be set as a target for the arrows of vengeance in the day when the Lord cometh to judge the nations. Peter, then, boldly and earnestly preached the gospel — preached the Christ of the gospel — preached it personally and directly at the crowd who were gathered around him.

From a sermon entitled "Apostolic Exhortation," delivered April 5, 1868.

EBenz note: Amen and Amen. May we never shrink from preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ...the WHOLE Gospel of Jesus Christ!