Friday, December 12, 2014

Theology In The Christmas Carols

The story of Christmas is one of the most doctrinal sections of God’s revelation. The sentimental recalling of the Christ child’s birth points us to the fullest meaning of the Baby’s personhood. Charles Wesley laid it out clearly for us in a carol we sing each year “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; Hail th’incarnate Deity, Pleased as men with men to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel.” Do you get it? Jesus is God, God manifest in the flesh, fully God and fully man.

Many years ago a grandfather in the congregation I was serving at the time told me something his granddaughter, then around eight or ten years old, said. Referring to the pulpit ministry in the church. She asked something like, “They always talk about Jesus here. When are they going to talk about God?” That question represents those, and I think there are a some in the church, and many outside it, who do not get what the Bible makes plain in the Christmas passages. It’s all summed up in one scriptural name: Jesus is Emmanuel. Emmanuel means, literally, God with us. When you get that, you get Christmas!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A Devotional Thought From 1 Chronicles

Moreover David and the captains of the host separated to the service of the sons of Asaph, and of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who should prophesy with harps with psalteries and with cymbals;…    
1 Chronicles 25:1

It is interesting that, of some of the music ministers in the temple, there was the expectation that they would prophesy the truth of God through their music. I don’t know how that worked in the temple, whether they prophesied or preached already revealed truth of God through their music, or whether God sometimes revealed new truth through Psalms later incorporated in the Scripture, but it seems clear that the Lord did minister to the hearts of the king and people through the music they heard, and, perhaps, sang themselves in their worship.

Certainly the gospel hymn writers of the past and our day, though not inspired in the same way that the temple singers were, bring us the truth of God in the great hymns and wonderful praise songs that bless the church. For example look at Bishop Phillips Brooks’ great stanza in his beloved Christmas carol “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”
How silently, how silently The wondrous Gift is giv’n!
So God imparts to human hearts The blessings of His heav’n.
No ear may hear His coming, But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still, The dear Christ enters in.

One of the glorious things about the Christmas season, at least in America, is that you don’t only hear the gospel message in song in our church services, but if you keep your ear attuned to the background music in grocery stores, department stores, and even restaurants you may hear the gospel proclaimed in those public places because of the music of God’s people. How many people have there been, and how many more will be, impacted to let the dear Christ enter in because of the Christmas prophesies of the carols and songs that fill the air at Christmas?

Especially in the Christmas season sing the gospel: at church, in your home, in the stores, while walking the streets. Be a singing telegram from God.

Friday, December 5, 2014

A Devotional Thought From 1 Chronicles

For at that time day by day there came to David to help him, until it was a great host, like the host of God.     1 Chronicles 12:22

     David’s followers and supporters came to him day by day, on a regular basis, building a ground swell of support that helped make his kingdom great. Wouldn’t this be a great thing for a local church pastor? To have people coming day by day until his congregation grew to be a great size and ministry to God, as King David experienced?

     Such a thing only comes about through the work of God, but, of course, God uses people. So what kind of leader and ministry might attract people like David did? A guy with a biblical calling. A strong expository preacher of God’s word. A genuine shepherd to his congregational “sheep.” A pleasant and joyous personality. A man in the world but not of it. A lover of Christ, His people, and all humanity. A man of God dependent on the Holy Spirit.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Thanksgiving Sermon
Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise; be thankful unto him, and bless his name.     Psalm 100:4
In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.   
1 Thessalonians 5:18

If you come into church and silently pray “Thank you for saving me, O Lord. Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!” you’ve got it right. First things first: The God of the universe gave His Son to die for you and completely change your situation from unsaved to saved. “Thank you for saving me, O Lord. Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!”
Then, after you have said thanks from your heart, live thanks from your heart. Someone has said, “The art of Thanksgiving is thanks living.”
It is gratitude in action;
it is thanking God for the gift of life by living it triumphantly with faith in Christ;
it is thanking God for your talents and abilities by using them to His glory;
it is thanking God for the good He has done for you by doing good to others;
it is thanking God for happiness by helping others to be happy;
it is thanking God for your health and strength by taking good care of your body;
it is thanking God for opportunities by accepting them as creative challenges to mold your life and those around you for the Savior;
it is adding to your prayers of thanksgiving acts of thanks living. 

From the moment of salvation onward, it is living a life that is one long season of gratitude.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A Devotional Verse From 2 Kings

And the LORD sent against him bands of the Chaldees, and bands of the Syrians, and bands of the Moabites, and bands of the children of Ammon, and sent them against Judah to destroy it, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake by his servants the prophets.     2 Kings 24:2

When a man became king in Bible days, he thought he had it made. He was absolute ruler. The army, thousands of men, would draw their swords in his defense, and lay down their lives for him. He held the power of life and death. In recessionary times he still got the best food, and all he needed. People obeyed his every command. He thought he was safe and secure. He could do whatever he wanted, without fear of consequences, or so he thought.But when kings did evil in the sight of the LORD they were "crusin' for a brusin'" as we used to say in the 1950's.

Jehoiakim, king of Judah, was just one of many kings of the northern and southern kingdoms of Israel and Judah who did evil in the sight of God. He also did stupidity, in rebelling against Nebuchadnezzar. Before Nebuchadnezzar finally came and deported the Jewish nation to Babylon, this verse tells us that God sent against Jehoiakim gangs of terrorists, or marauders, so that even without his immediate problems with the king of Babylon he still had his hands full. This verse caught my attention because it mirrors the bands of terrorist and troublemakers roaming in the world today.

No king, or government, is safe without conscious vigilance to protect its people and property; without wisdom to avoid the stupid decisions that can hurt and disrupt a nation; and most importantly, without the realization that the LORD God not only ordains governments, but can bring them down as he chooses. The nations who seek the LORD, or, at least, seek righteousness and seek to do good to their people and the world are most likely to survive because of the blessing of God.

Friday, November 14, 2014

A Devotional Thought From 1 Kings
So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name, and sealed them with his seal, and sent the letters unto the elders and to the nobles that were in his city, dwelling with Naboth. And she wrote in the letter saying, Proclaim a fast, and set Naboth on high among the people: And set two men, sons of Belial, before him, to bear witness against him, saying, Thou didst blaspheme God and the king. And then carry him out, and stone him, that he may die. And the men of his city, even the elders and the nobles who were the inhabitants in his city, did as Jezebel had sent unto them, and as it was written in the letters which she had sent unto them. They proclaimed a fast, and set Naboth on high among the people. And there came in two men children of Belial, and sat before him: and the men of Belial witnessed against him, even against Naboth, in the presence of the people, saying, Naboth did blaspheme God and the king. Then they carried him forth out of the city and stoned him with stones, that he died.     1 Kings 21:8-13

Ahab pouted because his neighbor Naboth refused to sell a vineyard that had been in his family since they entered the promise land. Jezebel, Ahab’s wife and wicked queen, said leave it to me. I’ll get it for you.

Her plan was very simple. She put political pressure upon the leaders of the city of  Jezreel to get rid of Naboth. Suborn perjury she instructed: Get two wicked men to claim that he had blasphemed God, and the king also, convict him and kill him.

The pliant leaders did exactly that, and Naboth died by stoning, a tragic and wicked story.

Such things still happen today. Christian believers in countries dominated and ruled by other religions have often been accused of blasphemy against the dominant religion they do not believe in. They are convicted, jailed and even murdered in this quasi legal form at the word of one person, when the cause of unfounded charges may have been nothing more than a property dispute, or jealousy, or bad feelings between parties.

Sometimes the countries that allow these travesties have clauses in their constitutions  supposed to protect freedom of religion, yet they have these unfair blasphemy laws that essentially strip freedom of religion and certainly freedom of speech out of the culture of those nations. It often takes the outcry of the whole world just to save one of the many individuals who suffer this way. This is an area in which the United Nations should show its value to the world by supporting and enforcing religious freedom for minority religious groups in nations worldwide.

It is time to do away with the kind of actions committed by Jezebel and Ahab.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

A Devotional Thought From 1 Kings

The LORD our God be with us, as he was with our fathers: let him not leave us, nor forsake us: That he may incline our hearts unto him, to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and his statutes, and his judgments, which he commanded our fathers.     1 Kings 8:57, 58

Solomon’s blessing, for the people of Israel, at the dedication of the Temple teaches us a great truth. He asks that the LORD will be with them just as He was in the days passed when He brought Israel through the Red Sea, kept them in the wilderness, gave them the promised land, and raised up his father, David, as a good and great King. But the prayer for God’s presence had a purpose beyond feeling that God loves them. Solomon prays that in God’s presence with them God will incline their hearts to Himself and to walking in God’s ways, according to His directions, and keeping those things He commanded the children of Israel. God’s presence determines faith living.

It is so in our modern Christian lives as well, God’s presence determines faith living. There are those who would say they believe in Christ as savior, that God is a presence in their lives, and yet they reject certain of the directions in His word because the directions cramp the lifestyle they desire to live. For example, fornication, among other sins, is often committed with no appreciation that committing such sin is not walking in the ways of the Lord. Non-Christian society looks on such sin as akin to something like exceeding the speed limit and not getting caught. Hence, they say, it’s much ado about little, but such sinning calls into question an individual’s quality of Christian commitment.

Praying for God’s presence in your life, believing for God’s presence in your life, living with God’s presence in your life means living His way even if the non-Christian social order gives you permission to sin.