26 December 2014

This 'n' That

photo credit: hoyasmeg via photopin cc
Okay. Deep breath in….and…exhale…There, feel better? Christmas is over. Though the smell of cookies, pies, and turkey still lingers in the air, though you may not return to work until Monday morning, the fact remains that Christmas is over for another year. Soon the cookies will all be eaten and it will be time to un-trim the tree, pack away your childhood decorations, and take the antlers off of your car. You heard me. What are those antlers about? In the past, I lived in a city where everybody spent the weeks leading up to Christmas donning Santa hats. I didn't get it. I mean, why would anybody do that? But where I live now, there seems to be an inordinate amount of cars driving around wearing reindeer costumes. And I ask: "Why would anybody do that?" I just don't get it. But I'll be happy to see them go. At least until next December.

Yes, Christmas is over, but as Christians, is it really? The worldly celebration of it may have ended, and we may not dress in red and green all year long, but we worship the same Christ on December 26 as we did the day before. We praise our God everyday for the incarnation and we remember daily that Christ's life is not wrapped up in the manger. We need a Christ child who lived—perfectly, who died—undeservedly as an atoning sacrifice, and who was raised so that we may have eternal life. We need a Savior and because we need a Savior our worship does not stop with Christmas. So as we pack away Christmas for another year, let us not pack away our Lord with it.

As you sit today with your post-Christmas cocoa, or coffee, or tea, take some time to step away from your clean-up efforts and just relax as you enjoy your week in review (kind of):

25 December 2014

The Babe in the Manger, the Lord of All

For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 
(Luke 2:11)
The babe in the manger is...
Photo: Source

The Creator of the universe.
For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. (Col 1:15–17)
All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. (John 1:3)
The incarnation of the living God.
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. (Col 1:15)
The eternal God.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. (John 1:1–2)
Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.” (John 8:58)
The Lamb of God.
The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29)
And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth. (Rev 5:6)
The Lord and Judge of all.
But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. (Matt 25:31–33)
For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil 2:9–11)
The babe in the manger will come again, this time in unveiled glory.
And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” (Rev 19:11–16)
When we worship the babe in the manger, we worship the one, true, holy, righteous, perfect God. May we bless Him, praise Him, and glorify Him this day.

Merry Christmas.

24 December 2014

A Gift for My Readers this Christmas Eve

Two years ago, my family was without a church on Christmas Eve (or anytime, for that matter). Friends of ours were also 'church orphans', but we all desired to gather together on the eve of the celebration of our Lord's birth to worship, fellowship, and hear the Word proclaimed.

With a little help from iMovie, YouTube, and Vimeo, I created the following short video for us to gather together and watch. It contains carols, clips from the movie The Nativity Story, and a brief Christmas message from Pastor John MacArthur. I also created an accompanying program with song lyrics, etc., that can be accessed here.

This video is not perfect, and it certainly is no substitute for an actual church service. Nonetheless, I pray it glorifies our Lord and blesses you through its message. I share it with you now for your edification.

Merry Christmas.

(Note: I make no claims to the audio or video contained herein. I am thankful for the artists who made the material available to the public. For a full listing of attributions, please visit the video at its main site.)

A Silent, Holy Night

While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she 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. (Luke 2:6–7)

Two thousand years ago the creator of the universe, the eternal God, entered human society as a baby. The creator of the universe put on humanity. The Lord of heaven came to live on earth. On a night like every other night in Israel with no fanfare, no celebration by anybody, a child was born. It was a night like any other night but it wasn't a child like any other child. This child was the Lord Jesus Christ, God and man fused together in indivisible oneness. This birth was so monumental that it became the high point of history, the peak, the apex. All history before this birth is B.C., Before Christ. All history since is A.D., Anno Domini, Latin for "the year of our Lord." 

In the fullness of time God sent forth His Son born of a woman, Immanuel, the God of eternity stepped into time and space. The Lord of immensity, the Lord of omnipresence was confined to a body about ten pounds in weight and under two feet in length. That little life came out into the arms of that young father. And neither of them could fathom what was going on. And they had been told by an angel. And everybody around them had absolutely no idea. 

Further Reading
Come, Worship the King
The King Is Born
For Unto Us a Child Is Born

21 December 2014

Sunday Morning Christmas Praise

In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”
(Luke 2:8–14)

20 December 2014

Equipping Eve Episode #4: The Word Made Flesh

Jesus is…God? Man? Jesus is the God-man. During the Christmas season especially, the doctrine of the incarnation is at the forefront of the minds of most Christians. We sing, “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; Hail the incarnate Deity,” but how can we better understand this central doctrine of Christianity?A study of the incarnation of Christ will deepen your praise, wonder, and worship of the mighty king Jesus.

Equipping Eve is a No Compromise Radio production, and airs every other Saturday via the NoCo podcast feed. The fourth episode of Equipping Eve, "The Incarnation," is now available, and can be accessed here.

Additional Resources
Introducing: Equipping Eve
Equipping Eve: Episode 1, Who, What, Why?
Equipping Eve: Episode 2, How To Hear From God
Equipping Eve: Episode 3, Woe Is Me

19 December 2014

This 'n' That

Santa drives a Chevy. It's true. Everything you've heard about the sleigh and the reindeer…false. All one big lie. I saw it with my own two eyes. My bubble was burst. All those years of peering into the sky on Christmas Eve, trying to discern Rudolph's nose from the flashing lights of airplanes…all of those memories dashed to pieces in an instant.

Truly classic. I was just thankful that I was leaving the restaurant that Santa was about to enter. A child's birthday party was about to be held there and I would guess that Santa was the guest of honor. So…I'm thankful for a well-timed escape.

And speaking of Rudolph…here's a little insight into the gullibility of my child self. I used to believe that I needed to look for a white light in the sky, not a red one, when searching for Rudolph. Why? Because Santa's sleigh flew so high above the earth that Rudolph's bright red nose actually appeared white. Yeah. I believed that. Kind of embarrassing to admit, actually.

So yes, we did the Santa thing at my house growing up. My parents didn't know any differently. If you'd ask my mother today, she'd say if she could do it all over again as a true Christian, the Santa myth
never would have been a part of Christmas. It's amazing how good and gracious God is to change our perspectives on the world so drastically once we're saved. What is the point of Santa for the Christian family? Lying is a lot of work, so parents, why bother? Isn't it easier to be honest with your kids, especially since you expect them to be honest with you? Isn't it more precious to share with them the true story of Christmas?

Amid the hustle and bustle of Christmas, amid the carols and the shopping, the wrapping and the baking, we so easily lose sight of the one Person upon whom our eyes must always be fixed. That is why I love the Christmas season (or try to), in spite of the world's attempts to distort it for its own self-serving purposes. I love pondering the fact that our Savior—indeed, our Lord and King—humbled Himself to take on the form of man so that He might live the life that we cannot, die the death that we deserve, and rise again so that we who are reconciled to God by faith in Him alone might live forever with Him. There is no better story. There is no better reason for celebration. There is no better reason to lift up praise and thanks to our magnificent, loving, holy, forgiving, righteous, triune God.

Okay, let me climb down off of my soapbox so that you can take a few moments in these last days before Christmas to relax with a cup of cocoa and enjoy your week in review (kind of):

16 December 2014

Man's Predicament and God's Salvation

What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For He says to Moses, “I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION.” So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. 
(Romans 9:14–16)
God is not responsible for humanity's predicament. Human beings, because of the disobedience in the garden of Eden, are responsible for their condition in sin, disobedience, and coming judgment. Further, it is important to remember that God does exercise mercy with absolute freedom. Therefore, it is not unjust for him to do so, for God is not unjust. In fact, whatever he does is right. God himself is the standard of right and wrong. Election and reprobation are both divine prerogatives.

S. Lewis Johnson;
Photo: The SLJ Institute
Since his audience recognized the authority of Scripture, Paul turned to the Word of God for evidence of the truth of his message. He cites the words that God spoke to Moses in Exodus 33:19, "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion (cf. v. 15). Even though Israel had failed abysmally before Yahweh, he nevertheless acted in mercy toward them, and he acts in mercy sovereignly.

Thus, the apostle concludes, "It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy" (cf. v. 16). If ever a text indicated the unscriptural nature of "free will," this one does. "It is not of him that wills," the apostle says in the original Greek. The doctrine of free will—that it is in the power of a man to turn to God by himself—is contrary to the grace of God. Salvation becomes, then, the work of God and the work of man, and the purity of the grace of God is compromised. Salvation is only of the Lord.

Man is unable to come to God of and by himself. Jesus put it as strongly as anyone in Scripture: "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:44). We are unable to make a decision of the will for God and salvation until God has first worked in our wills to make us willing. Salvation is first of his willing (cf. James 1:18), and only then, of our response of faith.

— S. Lewis Johnson, Discovering Romans: Spiritual Revival for the Soul, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014), 158.

Further Reading
A Stronghold for the Oppressed
Nurturing Perversion
We Trust in Jesus for What We Cannot Do Ourselves

14 December 2014

Sunday Morning Christmas Praise

But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Too little to be among the clans of Judah,
From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.
His goings forth are from long ago,
From the days of eternity.
(Micah 5:2)

O Little Town of Bethlehem

Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she 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. (Luke 2:1–7)

It Came Upon the Midnight Clear

13 December 2014

Scripture Is the Touchstone of Truth

Do not be led away with the error of the wicked but "grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18).

photo credit: chiptape via photopin cc 
Light is the chariot which carries the influence of the sun. So the knowledge of Christ brings with it the influences of His grace into the heart. And how did Peter expect people to grow in the knowledge of Christ unless they read Scripture, the only book where it can be found? How wrong for teachers to want the people to learn this knowledge solely from their preaching, and not from the Bible! How can a congregation be sure they are hearing truth unless they have Scripture, the only touchstone to try the purity of the doctrine? God Himself directs His Word not to any one honored group—not to a select few—but to every man (Romans 1:7; 2 Corinthians 1:1). Why are laws made if they cannot be declared? And why was Scripture ever written if not to be read and known of all men? By the same authority with which the apostle wrote his epistles, he commanded them to be read in the church. Did ministers of the early church hide God's Word from the people instead of encouraging them to hide it in their heart?

It is true that some men do wrest Scripture to their own destruction, just as occasionally somebody chokes on a piece of bread if he is not careful when he eats. But must everyone starve for fear of getting choked? Some hurt themselves with sharp weapons; must the whole army then be disarmed, and only a few officers be allowed to wear the sword? If this argument were enough to seal up the Bible, we must deny it to intellectuals as well as to common men; for it is a known fact that the grossest heresies have bred in the finest minds. Whenever proud men insist on being wiser than God, their foolish minds get darker and darker until they become so accustomed to the blackness that they can no longer see His sovereignty.

— William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armor

Further Reading
Thinking Rightly About Loving God; Voskamp Gets It Wrong
Beth Moore Wants Scripture + Experience
Craving the Word? Get Fed.

12 December 2014

This 'n' That

Even your cat doesn't want to wear the Santa hat. 
Well, it is difficult to believe that another Friday has arrived! Has your week disappeared as quickly as has mine? Why is it that time seems to flurry past so much more quickly during the holiday season? There's never enough time to really enjoy those Christmas carols. And if you live in my house, so far there hasn't even been enough time to stand up a tree in the corner! Ah well, as long as there manages to be enough time to bake some cookies, right? I hope you are finding some time to linger on the pleasant memories of the season.

And speaking of things I'm hoping...I hope you aren't one of those people who wears a Santa hat everywhere you go for the entire month of December. What is that about? Thankfully I have not seen much of this where I currently live, but in past cities, it seemed to be all the rage. Every year. Santa hats. Everywhere. On everyone. Boy, girl, man, woman…Santa hats. Here's what I want to know: who was the first person who lied to his/her friend and said (with a straight face no doubt), "That Santa hat looks awesome on you. You should wear that all season." Then I want to know who the person was who was stupid enough to believe his/her mean friend. If you like Santa hats, here's a tip: put it on and then look in the mirror. Yeah, that's you. You look ridiculous. Stop it.

This hat is only adorable if
you're under age 4.
And while we're on the subject, what is the deal with those stocking caps that look like animals? Wait, scratch that…What is the deal with those stocking caps that look like animals being worn by grown adults? There is no acceptable excuse for this. You look ridiculous. Stop it.

As we reign in the silliness, however, and as we become more and more immersed in the Christmas season, I do hope that you and your family are joyfully celebrating in a way that honors Christ, not the world. Share with your children the songs of the season that speak of Christ. Teach them the true story of Christmas, and do not stop with the birth of Jesus, but proclaim to them the whole story of His perfect life and atoning death. Tis the season for the gospel!

And, since it is Friday, tis the time for your week in review (kind of):

10 December 2014

Mormons Launch 'He Is the Gift' Initiative

This Christmas, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (i.e., the Mormon Church) has launched a campaign that they are calling the 'He Is the Gift' Initiative. It is being introduced in large part by the following video:

It looks and sounds good, does it not? A call to step back from the busyness of the world's version of Christmas and remember that Christ is the greatest gift of all sounds very…well, Christian. In an age of deception, however, it is important to take a few moments and discover the Jesus who is embraced by Mormons and compare him to the Lord and Savior who is revealed in the Bible.

07 December 2014

Sunday Morning Christmas Praise

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:18–21)

What Child Is This?

Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: "Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name 'Immanuel,' which translated means, 'God with us.'"

And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.

(Matthew 1:22–25)

Infant Holy, Infant Lowly

06 December 2014

Equipping Eve: Episode 3

We all face times of despair and trial, and it is easy in those times to dwell on our situation and ourselves. But how can we turn our self-pity into praise of the living God? In this episode of Equipping Eve, we will turn to Psalm 13 and focus on the lovingkindness of the great God of the universe. Plus: Time to go shopping!

Equipping Eve is a No Compromise Radio production, and airs every other Saturday via the NoCo podcast feed. The third episode of Equipping Eve, "Woe Is Me," is now available, and can be accessed here.

Further Reading
Introducing: Equipping Eve
Equipping Eve: Episode 1
Equipping Eve: Episode 2

05 December 2014

This 'n' That

Photo: UglyChristmasLights.com
We can't avoid it. We can't escape it. It's Christmas. The neighbors have been saving their pennies all year to pay for this month's electric bill. Your coworkers are tense and stressed as deadlines loom larger with the promise of much-needed vacation days. Everyone is overworked, overwhelmed and frazzled. It must be that Christmas spirit I've been hearing so much about.

Instead of its usual 'Jesus-is-my-boyfriend' type tunes, the 'Christian' radio station is blaring 'Little Saint Nick' by The Beach Boys. Fake bells and baubles bigger than a person's head are dangling from front porches and from the trees in the aisles of Macy's. Candy and cookies are everywhere. Tis the season.

In spite of the world's feeble attempts at celebration, I still love Christmas. I love the music (the Christ-honoring music, that is). I love the colors. I love the scents and the sounds. But it may behoove us to honestly ask ourselves—and honestly answer—without these things, without your grandmother's sugar cookie recipe and without 'Silent Night' and without your 'Baby's First Christmas' ornament hanging from the tree, would you still love Christmas? If you believe the following verses, then you ought to be answering with an unhesitating 'yes!':
“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity.” Therefore He will give them up until the time When she who is in labor has borne a child. Then the remainder of His brethren Will return to the sons of Israel. And He will arise and shepherd His flock In the strength of the LORD, In the majesty of the name of the LORD His God. And they will remain, Because at that time He will be great To the ends of the earth. (Micah 5:2–4)
So often we read Micah 5:2 and see the prophecy of our Lord's birth. This is great indeed, but when we read further, we cannot help but rejoice even more, for these verses speak not only of Christ's first advent, but of His second. He is coming again. Soon, we hope, though we know that His timing will be perfect. The eternal Son who came humbly and was rejected will return one day to rule, to reign and to judge. So as we find ourselves remembering the great gift of His first coming, let us also look forward with eager anticipation to His second. And let us not be found lazy or lackadaisical when He comes, but let us be found by Him going about His business, calling those who are lost to repent and believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ alone for salvation.

But since I know that right now, as you read this, you are sipping hot cocoa and humming along to 'Last Christmas' (what is it about that stupid song?), take a few moments at the end of this fleeting week to enjoy your week in review (kind of):