Saturday, December 22

Enjoy Grace by Hating Your Sin

The Babylonian Destruction of Jerusalem, from the Nuremberg Chronicle, 1493

Sin led to Judah's awful destruction. Jeremiah 39 tells us that Nebuchadnezzar killed all of the sons of Zedekiah (king of Judah) in front of him. Then he slew all of the nobles before him, put out Zedekiah's eyes, placed him shackles and led him away to Babylon! Dreadful scene. Unbelievably harsh. What is made clear is that sin was the cause. Jeremiah's case was the opposite. Nebuchadnezzar gave orders to take care of him. In verse 18, we read that the LORD (Yahweh) was the one who did all of this, the bad as well as the good. I so appreciated the emphasis that John Barry gives to this passage that I am copying it directly over to you. There's actually hope here. . . . IF

It’s important to pause occasionally to reflect on the cost of sin. If we don’t, we can find ourselves living in it without thought of the ramifications. Few passages illustrate the cost of sin more vividly than the fall of Jerusalem recorded in Jer 39. The fall of Jerusalem is brutal, depressing, and sadistic, but we can learn from Jeremiah’s account of the event.
We could view Jeremiah’s depictions as merely historical, or we could recognize the theological lessons they offer: Sin is expensive. Sin will destroy you. Sin will bring a nation to its knees. Sin will leave you begging for mercy. Sin is death. That’s what God’s people learned from this event: Disobeying Yahweh is a costly action. It’s not that God wants His people to endure this pain, but pain is a natural consequence of their decisions. He cannot defend people who refuse to live as beacons of light—of goodness, beauty, and blessing—to the world. If they aren’t willing to live in His image, then He is not willing to be their defender. If Yahweh did not allow for Nebuchadnezzar to destroy Jerusalem, the people would never learn. And the exile that comes in this moment is also a natural result of their sin.

When we’re faced with the horror of the destruction of Jerusalem, we’re given a choice: Will we listen to the prophets of our age and respond accordingly? Will we hear God when He calls us back to obedience? Or will we continue to live in sin and suffer the consequences?
As a side effect of the grace that God has given us in Jesus, many people assume that sin is somehow okay—that it’s okay to allow it to exist. God’s response is the opposite. The grace is unmerited, and we must respond with the only merited response: complete dedication and obedience to Him. We must see the death of sin and deny it.

What sin is currently present in your life? What do you need to repent from? Have you asked God for direct you in this?          
Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A Daily Devotional. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Friday, December 21

Fearing the End of the World? DON'T!!

At the risk of repeating what I just wrote to our Church members, after writing this, I thought it wise to send it out to "the world." Note: I've been sending John Piper's daily advent readings to the church on a daily basis. So, the first part is mine, and second, obviously, Piper's. God strengthen us all. 

Mayan prophecies and prince of Darkness considered, many might be, at least to some degree, prone to fear on this day when the end of the world is coming. Actually, the prophecies record that today would be the end of one era and the beginning of essentially, "The Age of Aquarius."

Did any of this make you fear? Don't! Today's reading suggests why. Jesus Christ is ETERNAL. So? you might ask. So, whatever prognosticator's and devil worshippers would have us believe (and we should take them somewhat seriously), nothing, I mean NOTHING takes our LORD by surprise, or throws Him off His plan. NOTHING! (Did I already say that?). And we should most definitely take God seriously!!

Read this closely. “No weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed, and you shall refute every tongue that rises against you in judgment. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord and their vindication from me, declares the Lord.” (Isaiah 54:17, ESV). Did you see that? "This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD." All the people of God, not just the Jews of Isaiah's day rest under this promise. Notice too: "And their vindication is from me, declares the LORD." This means that our success in the court of this world's attacks is assured since our Advocate (Lawyer) is God. And "if God be for us, who can be against us?" (Rom. 8:31. See also Num. 14:9; 2 Kgs 6:16; Ps. 118:6; 1 Jn. 4:4).

Be blessed as you stake your hopes in Christ alone!

Standing together before God,
Pastor Dave
Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” —John 18:37 
This is a great Christmas text even though it comes from the end of Jesus’s life on earth, not the beginning. 
The uniqueness of his birth is that he did not originate at his birth. He existed before he was born in a manger. The personhood, the character, the personality of Jesus of Nazareth existed before the man Jesus of Nazareth was born. 
The theological word to describe this mystery is not creation, but incarnation. The person—not the body, but the essential personhood of Jesus—existed before he was born as man. His birth was not a coming into being of a new person, but a coming into the world of an infinitely old person. 
Micah 5:2 puts it like this, 700 years before Jesus was born:
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. 
The mystery of the birth of Jesus is not merely that he was born of a virgin. That miracle was intended by God to witness to an even greater one—namely, that the child born at Christmas was a person who existed “from of old, from ancient days.”

Thursday, December 20

Hope in Dark Times from Gabriel's Announcement!

And the angel answered him, I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, . . .  (Luke 1:19)

Zechariah didn’t believe the angel. So, now the angel must identify himself as God’s messenger. In the most authoritative tone that rises to insurmountable proportions, Gabriel utters a word that sets not just Zechariah, but all unbelief back on it’s heels:

“I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God.” Volumes are bound up in these few words! It’s as if Gabriel were saying, “What? You don’t believe me? That’s the end of the matter. Who do you think you’re talking to now? What? Do you think that God is like everyone else, unable to see the whole picture? What? Is God’s mind so addled or his power so frail that he cannot perform this simple task? I’m not simply some “fly-by-night” messenger boy who just went through puberty. My knowledge of life didn’t begin yesterday. This message I bring to you was written on the parchment of eternity before ever there was a universe, much less an earth and sinners upon it. You imagine, do you, that your faithlessness can prevent the sure mercies of God? Can the Almighty not open the Red Sea and stop the sun in it’s path for a day. Has he not given life to the dead, and children to the childless, and salvation to the hopeless? What impossibility has the Lord God NOT performed that you should doubt him now? You are a mere man of few years and yet I cannot do as I say? I tell you, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God.” Rest assured, Christmas birth and Easter resurrection are my plan, and shall I not carry it out? In a universe of such complexity that boggles the minds of the wisest men, shall it be thought the least bit inconceivable that I have considered every possibility and planned out perfectly every detail and enabled every person in my will? Archimedes may have said, “Give me a lever and I can move the world.” That’s child’s play. I remind you again, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God.”

O dear Christian, what task looms so large before your eyes that God cannot change it? What sin has captured you from which this God cannot free you? What Katrina catastrophe or Connecticut* tragedy unseats our God from his throne of eternal wisdom and limitless compassion? When shall we learn like Job, to cup our hand over our mouth and say no more? Mysteries abound all about us. We have entered into a realm inexplicably outside our ability to understand. But, Oh, not one which we cannot appreciate. For he who formed all things beautiful has granted unto man the eyes to see it, so that both the beauty and our discerning eye swell our hearts for the Creator. 

*Reference to the senseless slaughter of an entire kindergarten class with the principal and teachers in Newtown, Connecticut on Friday, 14 Dec., 2012.