Tuesday, November 30, 2010

NOVEMBER 30—Third Day of Advent

JOHN 1:18
No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him

Just as we saw from verse 14, that the Word, who is God, took on human flesh, and lived among men and was seen by men, as the glorious one who is from the Father in heaven, so this verse teaches us that the ministry of Jesus upon the earth was a ministry of revelation. What kind of revelation? A revelation of God himself, particularly the Father.  The incarnation of Jesus was not something outside of God's character. It was not something done by Him that was foreign to His nature. Not at all.  In fact, Jesus, in His incarnation, was expressing and revealing the very character of God.  By taking on our human flesh, and living in it for thirty-three years, Jesus was revealing to us, was telling us, about our Father in heaven. Even though no man has seen the Father, as He is a Spirit and does not have a body like men, nevertheless, through the life of Jesus we do see and come to know the Father. Jesus could do this because He is the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, who has been in communion with the Father for eternity. And so through His life on earth, the love and community that He enjoyed with the Father is displayed for us, even as we are invited into that community ourselves! Through Jesus, we come to know the Father in heaven as our own Father.

—Pastor Burke Shade, Cornerstone Reformed Church, Carbondale, Illinois

O heavenly Father, we thank you that you have not left us alone to wonder in ignorance about your love and character. We thank you that you have revealed yourself to us through the sending of your Son in our flesh, that we may know you, love you, and obey you. Teach us to believe and to remember at all times that no man comes to you but through your Son Jesus. AMEN.

Discuss with family members how knowing Jesus reveals the character of God the Father in heaven. Point out that in knowing and trusting in Jesus as our King and Savior, God's people are also placed into relationship with God the Father as their own Father. Point out how Muslims don't and can't know the Father and His love because they don't believe that Jesus is the eternal Son of God.

Monday, November 29, 2010

NOVEMBER 29—Second Day of Advent

John 1:14
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT After a long, tiring day of shopping, Jim and Sue came upon the gift they had been looking for. There was one particular bicycle that their son, Bobby, had wanted. Now, at last, they found what must have been the only one still available. It was a Ranger Racer, complete with all kinds of shiny gadgets and sparkling features. Quickly, they latched on to the bike and started pushing through the store to the check out area. Unexpectedly, Jim stopped, looked at Sue, and said, "What are we teaching our son about the real meaning of Christmas?"

A couple of weeks later, Bobby woke up extra early on Christmas morning, ran downstairs, and woke the whole household with shouts of joy over his discovery of something special near the Christmas tree. Bobby was grasping not just the handlebars of a new bicycle, but something greater—the meaning of Christmas. The Advent of Jesus Christ is the most materialistic, the most physical, the most worldly message of the Bible. The Word, who we know is Jesus Christ, became flesh. He became human, a person, a baby, flesh and blood; yes, a real, live, crying, eating, sleeping baby boy. For a period of some thirty plus years, God the Son lived here on planet earth. John says that he and his friends beheld Jesus' glory. Like Bobby squealing with delight over a new bicycle, the disciples experienced the excitement of standing next to Jesus, eating lunch with Jesus, sitting at a lesson listening to Jesus, and watching Jesus teach, preach, and perform miracles.

Jesus is the ultimate Christmas gift. But the gift of Christ is not something that we can put into a holy box labeled "Spiritual." Rather, a flesh and blood Christ came into this physical world to save us in the here and now, as well as in eternity. His coming here on earth in the flesh gives us the greatest of reasons to truly enjoy all the physical gifts of God, including bicycles.

—Pastor Ben House, Grace Covenant Church, Texarkana, Arkansas

God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, in our earthly condition, we thank You for sending Jesus to us, for making Him a human, just like us, for showing Him to us. We behold His glory and rejoice. We thank You for all the physical gifts of this season, for the feasts and the presents, the decorations and the celebrations. Thank you that in Christ, we can enjoy all things. AMEN.

Discuss with your family how Christians can truly enjoy material gifts in ways that non-Christians cannot enjoy them. Discuss what the disciples must have felt and thought when they were spending their days with Jesus.

Christin’s Quote Book

  • I'm not a vegetarian because I love animals. I'm a vegetarian because I hate plants. – A. Whitney Brown
  • Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no effect on society. – Mark Twain
  • Politicians are like diapers: the both need changing regularly and for the same reason. – Unknown
  • Money is like a sixth sense without which you cannot make a complete use of the other five. – William Sommerset Maugham
  • To the man who is afraid, everything rustles. – Sophocles

Sunday, November 28, 2010

NOVEMBER 28—First Day of Advent

JOHN 1:1-5
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

Our Advent meditations begin with the recognition that in the ancient pagan world, this gospel proclamation begins with a statement that the Greeks might misunderstand and therefore accept in the wrong way. The philosopher Heraclitus had used the term Logos in his speculative philosophy, and so when John starts out by saying something apparently inscrutable—the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God—the sentiment might have seemed suitably opaque to them. But John is doing something quite different. He is engaged in overthrowing the ancient wisdom, not compromising with it.

In v. 14, we will discover that the Logos became flesh and dwelt among us. For the apostles, and for all faithful Christians since, the Incarnation means that ultimate Truth has a birthday, and a mom, and ten fingers, and a liver. This kind of thing was absolutely appalling to the ancient philosophical mind—foolishness to the Greeks, as Paul noted.

There are indications that this is where John is deliberately taking us, right from the start. He begins with the same language that starts the book of Genesis (v. 1). We are talking about a new creation here, not another ethereal world elsewhere. The Word was with God in the beginning, and the Word was God. Lest there be a mistake, John repeats it. He was in the beginning with God (v. 2). And then the philosophical Greek encounters his first great difficulty. The earthiness of God's Word is seen in the fact that He made every single thing, and not one created thing was made apart from Him (v. 3). Ultimate reality is not contaminated by matter, but rather rejoices over its origin, calling all of it good. Not only was this Word creative, but He was filled with life. He is no impersonal principle, and His life is the light of men (v. 4). He is the living God.

When this Spoken God, this Word, comes into the world, He shines in the darkness of this world. And as He does so, the darkness cannot comprehend what is going on. But fortunately, the darkness is not there to be persuaded, but rather to be banished by the arrival of the Light.

And so this is what we anticipate every Advent, and this is what we are privileged to see celebrated yet again. The Word was with God; the Word was God. The Word is with man; the Word is man.

—Pastor Douglas Wilson, Christ Church, Moscow, Idaho

Our great Father, we rejoice before You as the God who fulfills all Your promises. We glory in the mystery of the Incarnation, knowing that we worship You through the one who is fully God, and fully man. We remember that He is Your apostle, representing God to man. And we call upon You to remember that He is our high priest, representing us to You. We receive Him by faith, as the Creator, as the Spoken God, as the life of men, as the light of the world, and as the conqueror of all the darkness in the world. We pray to You in His strong name, the name of Jesus Christ, and AMEN.

Prepare the members of your family to think of Advent and Christmas in very material terms. This is not a season that celebrates vague spiritualities, but rather the season that celebrates God taking on flesh. The instinct to give gifts, to eat chocolate, to cut down a tree in the woods to bring it home, is therefore all very healthy and in line with the holiday. Matter enables us to give, and not just to grab.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Introduction to Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany

Advent is that period of great anticipatory joy—it is a time of preparation for the celebration of Jesus' arrival in Bethlehem as a helpless infant. In the Western liturgy, Advent begins four Sundays prior to December 25th—the Sunday closest to November 30. The annual commemoration of Jesus' birth begins the Christmas cycle of the liturgical year—a cycle that runs from Christmas Eve to the Sunday after the feast of the Epiphany.

The four weeks of Advent are often thought of as symbolizing the four different ways that Jesus comes into the world: (1) at his birth as a helpless infant at Bethlehem, (2) at his arrival in the hearts of believers, (3) at his death, and (4) at his arrival on Judgment Day. Because Christmas falls on a different day of the week each year, the fourth week of Advent is never really finished; it is abruptly, joyously, and solemnly abrogated by the annual coming again of Jesus at Christmas.

As we celebrate Christmas, few of us think of Christmas Day as a beginning. For most families Christmas is the culmination of weeks of planning, shopping, and anticipation. Many are not aware that Christmas is but the first day of the twelve-days of Christmas.

Ever since the Council of Tours met in 567 and proclaimed the twelve days from Christmas to Epiphany as a sacred and festive time, the Church officially has observed both an Advent season in preparation for, and a Christmas season for the celebration of our Lord's nativity. Recognizing how the Church year dramatizes the biblical story of what Christ has done for the salvation of all people, we have been trying to recover some of the richness of these celebrations. The church year forms an annual curriculum that tells the story of our faith: those who understand it understand the basics of the gospel.

The Christian calendar, therefore, is a great way for families to focus their worship and tradition. Repeated traditions (within biblical boundaries) help all of us know and remember who we are, developing our identity as God's covenant people. And celebration of the themes and seasons of the life and work of Christ helps families express their faith.

The twelve days of Christmas traditionally end with the celebration of the eve of Epiphany on Twelfth Night, January fifth. Broadly speaking, the word "epiphany" means a sudden manifestation of the essence or meaning of something; a comprehension or perception of reality by means of a sudden intuitive realization. In the context of the Christian Church, Epiphany has a more specific reference: it celebrates the manifestation of the divine nature of Jesus to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi. The feast of Epiphany is observed on January sixth, twelve days after Christmas.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Preparing for Advent

When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. —Matthew 2:9

Advent and Christmas seasons are with us again. Like the seasons of the year in nature, the season of the ecclesiastical calendar and the national calendar come full circle. This is only appropriate since:  "For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. 18And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence" (Col. 1:16-18).

These are seasons of annual focus and remembrance. But as is true of all liturgy or form, it can point to a true or a false declaration. There is much in the national liturgy that points away from the advent of Christ. Our purpose, in these next few weeks, will be to draw attention to the true message of Advent, Christmas and Epiphany. These are central events in the life of Christ and are profoundly significant for all of human history. God became a man. He came to rescue His people. This is worthy of all our celebratory efforts. 

Staring on Sunday, November 28th and for the next 40 days, I will be posting daily Readings and Devotions for Advent, the Twelve Days of Christmas, and Epiphany. These were written by pastors from all over the country and can be used for family or personal devotions.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

More Thanksgiving

Psalm 92
1 It is good to give thanks to the Lord, and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High;
2 To declare Your lovingkindness in the morning, and Your faithfulness every night,
3 On an instrument of ten strings, on the lute, and on the harp, with harmonious sound.
4 For You, Lord, have made me glad through Your work; I will triumph in the works of Your hands.
5 O Lord, how great are Your works! Your thoughts are very deep.
6 A senseless man does not know, nor does a fool understand this.
7 When the wicked spring up like grass, and when all the workers of iniquity flourish, it is that they may be destroyed forever.
8 But You, Lord, are on high forevermore.
9 For behold, Your enemies, O Lord, for behold, Your enemies shall perish; all the workers of iniquity shall be scattered.
10 But my horn You have exalted like a wild ox; I have been anointed with fresh oil.
11 My eye also has seen my desire on my enemies; my ears hear my desire on the wicked who rise up against me.
12 The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree, he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
13 Those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God.
14 They shall still bear fruit in old age; they shall be fresh and flourishing,
15 To declare that the Lord is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.

Thanksgiving Day
Today many will give no thanks at all. Many others will be thanking a pantheon of false Gods. They might feast but with no more gratitude than hogs in a trap feast upon the grain. But, as we celebrate our national Day of Thanksgiving, I want us to think about a few ways in which we show the world our gratitude and thanksgiving to the true and living God.

We begin with confessing our faith in Jesus Christ. This is both invisible and visible. While the visible and the invisible are distinct, they remain inseparable. We give thanks for both invisible and visible things, and we have both invisible (inward) and visible (outward) expressions of gratitude. Since thanksgiving is flowing from our hearts, we show our gratitude privately and publicly. It's an expression of who we are in Christ—the children of God. We do this in worship, in eating and drinking, and in giving to others. Thanks is something we give—it's a sacrifice. It's an acknowledgement that we're not self-sufficient, but rather dependent on God and others. We've received a blessing and now we give something in return. Calvin said: "Every blessing that God confers upon us perishes through our carelessness, if we are not prompt and active in rendering thanks."

The giving of thanks, which is an expression of joy and one of the fruits of the Spirit, must be a part of our daily habit. It must fill our homes. It must flow from our mouths. It must be seen in our actions and gifts toward others. We must be liberals when it comes to the giving of thanks to God and man. Allow me to urge you express your gratitude to your family members and friends. In so doing, you'll also be giving thanks to Godand it's good to give thanks.

Thanksgiving 2010

First Thanksgiving
The Pilgrims set ground at Plymouth Rock on December 11, 1620. Their first winter was devastating. At the beginning of the following fall, they had lost 46 of the original 102 who sailed on the Mayflower. But the harvest of 1621 was a bountiful one. And the remaining colonists decided to celebrate with a feast —including 91 Indians who had helped the Pilgrims survive their first year. The feast was more of a traditional English harvest festival than a true "thanksgiving" observance. It lasted three days. 

1676 Thanksgiving Proclamation

On June 20, 1676, the governing council of Charlestown, Massachusetts, held a meeting to determine how best to express thanks for the good fortune that had seen their community securely established. By unanimous vote they instructed Edward Rawson, the clerk, to proclaim June 29 as a day of thanksgiving

"The Holy God having by a long and Continual Series of his Afflictive dispensations in and by the present War with the Heathen Natives of this land, written and brought to pass bitter things against his own Covenant people in this wilderness, yet so that we evidently discern that in the midst of his judgments he hath remembered mercy, having remembered his Footstool in the day of his sore displeasure against us for our sins, with many singular Intimations of his Fatherly Compassion, and regard; reserving many of our Towns from Desolation Threatened, and attempted by the Enemy, and giving us especially of late with many of our Confederates many signal Advantages against them, without such Disadvantage to ourselves as formerly we have been sensible of, if it be the Lord's mercy that we are not consumed, It certainly bespeaks our positive Thankfulness, when our Enemies are in any measure disappointed or destroyed; and fearing the Lord should take notice under so many Intimations of his returning mercy, we should be found an Insensible people, as not standing before Him with Thanksgiving, as well as lading him with our Complaints in the time of pressing Afflictions: 

The Council has thought meet to appoint and set apart the 29th day of this instant June, as a day of Solemn Thanksgiving and praise to God for such his Goodness and Favor, many Particulars of which mercy might be Instanced, but we doubt not those who are sensible of God's Afflictions, have been as diligent to espy him returning to us; and that the Lord may behold us as a People offering Praise and thereby glorifying Him; the Council doth commend it to the Respective Ministers, Elders and people of this Jurisdiction; Solemnly and seriously to keep the same Beseeching that being persuaded by the mercies of God we may all, even this whole people offer up our bodies and souls as a living and acceptable Service unto God by Jesus Christ." 

George Washington's 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation 

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me to "recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:"

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us. 

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best. 

Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the 3d day of October, A.D. 1789.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

With All Your Money

One way to figure out who a man is and where his heart is, is to see how he handles his money. Does he make the decision to tithe one time or does he decide each payday? Money is a medium of exchange by which we acquire something we perceive to be of value; a way of ordering our priorities. When a man has money for his own pleasures while slacking on his duty to the Lord, he has said a great deal.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your money is another way of saying, "You shalt love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength." Jesus warned us when He said, "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matt. 6:19-21). Or, from another angle, where your heart is, there your treasure will be also.

Bone of My Bone and Flesh of My Flesh

At our recent Family Camp, Pastor John Barach, from Covenant Presbyterian Church in Sulphur, LA, preached an outstanding sermon on marriage titled, Bone of My Bone and Flesh of My Flesh. You can download it HERE.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Cost of Security

Freedom has no guarantees. You might be free but you're not secure. If you want security then you'll have to give up some of your freedom. How secure do you want to be? Partial security will cost a little freedom. Total security requires you to relinquish all your freedom. To be risk-free means not being free at all. Big brother can cover you, front and back, but he'll have to move in―24/7―and he has his own agenda. And Oh yes, he'll also need complete access to all your files and accounts. But think about how much easier you'll sleep, knowing he's got you and the whole world in his hands! Esau sold his birthright for a mess of pottage!

  • "Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."
    ―C.S. Lewis-
  • "Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority. It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters."
    —Daniel Webster
  •  "History has well substantiated the fact that, under the right conditions, fallen and foolish man has always given up independence and freedom, for even the illusion of peace and security. If society's great international architects can manufacture the precise conditions, as in their adventures in Europe, all vestiges of freedom will fall in America."
    —Samuel L. Webster, 1935

Monday, November 22, 2010

Christin’s Quote Book

  • Half the world is composed of people who have something to say and can't, and the other half who have nothing to say and keep on saying it. – Robert Frost
  • As far as I'm concerned, you may take Pliny the Younger and put him where the monkey put the nuts. – P.G. Wodehouse
  • Trying to understand modern art is like trying to follow the plot in a bowl of alphabet soup. – Unknown
  • Writing about music is like dancing about architecture. – Unknown
  • We have about $84.32 in the bank- which makes us about four and a half trillion dollars richer than the federal government. – Jim Borgman

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Responsibility is Respondability

What is responsibility? Responsibility is the ability to re­spond as God says man should respond to every life situation, in spite of difficulties. It is the ability to do good to those who despitefully use you. It is the ability to feed one's enemy when he is hungry. It is the ability to give him a drink if he is thirsty. It is the ability to overcome evil with good (compare Romans 12:9-21 and also Matthew 5:43-48). Responsibility is respond-ability: the God-given ability to respond to any situation of life in accordance with his commandments. It is the ability to respond biblically to whatever God or man does or says. It is the ability, as Romans 15:1-3 says, to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please our­selves. It is the ability to please one's neighbor for his good to his edification. It is the ability to emulate Christ who did not please himself, "but, as it is written, the reproaches of those who reproached thee fell upon me."

Jay E. Adams, Competent to Counsel

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Offense of the Faith

I believe it to be a grave mistake to present Christianity as something charming and popular with no offense in it. Seeing that Christ went about the world giving the most violent offense to all kinds of people it would seem absurd to expect that the doctrine of His Person can be so pre­sented as to offend nobody. We cannot blink the fact that gentle Jesus meek and mild was so stiff in His opinions and so inflammatory in His language that He was thrown out of church, stoned, hunted from place to place, and finally gibbeted as a firebrand and a public danger. Whatever His peace was, it was not the peace of an amiable indifference; and He said in so many words that what He brought with Him was fire and sword. That being so, nobody need be too much surprised or disconcerted at finding that a determined preaching of Christian dogma may sometimes result in a few angry letters of protest or a difference of opinion on the parish council.

―Dorothy L. Sayers, Creed or Chaos

Friday, November 19, 2010

It's Who I Am

It’s not uncommon for people to excuse their sins and immaturity by claiming “this is just who I am.” They have resigned themselves to this “fact” and are prepared to leave the matter right there. But a Christian can’t be allowed to plead that he is what he is and that nothing can be done about it. It’s difficult to change because it means doing something new, usually something that hasn’t been done before. It means replacing old bad habits with new good habits. This can be viewed as threatening or trilling, depending on your attitude. As Christians, we’re called to a life of newness and adventure. Christ is the “Author and Finisher” of our faith, and we are God’s “workmanship, created in Christ Jesus” and, therefore, we must trust Him for the future. We sin when we allow ourselves to become static and sedentary, fearing positive biblical change while clinging to the broken past. When we resist sanctifying change we’re also resisting and grieving the Holy Spirit. Growth means change, and we must change if we’re to become more like Christ.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 35 asks: What is sanctification? It answers: Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness. It’s the fundamental work of pastors to shepherd people in this sanctification (i.e., change); to put off the old way and take up a new way.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Conspiracy Theories

On the political left and the political right we have theories about conspiracies in history. We've had the illuminate and the Tri-lateral Commission, we've had McCarthyism, and we've had an alleged "Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy." In fact, almost no major public event occurs, without some immediate postulation of conspiracy.

The Bible tells of various conspiracies: Joseph's brothers: "And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay him" (Gen. 37:18). Saul believed there was a conspiracy against him: "Why have you conspired against me, you and the son of Jesse…" (1 Sam. 22:13). There were conspirators against David: "Then someone told David, saying, "Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom." And David said, "O Lord, I pray, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness!" (2 Sam. 15:31). There was a conspiracy to prevent the rebuilding of the wall at Jerusalem: "Now it happened, when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites heard that the walls of Jerusalem were being restored and the gaps were beginning to be closed, that they became very angry, 8 and all of them conspired together to come and attack Jerusalem and create confusion" (Neh. 4:7-8).

There was a conspiracy to do away with Paul: "And when it was day, some of the Jews banded together and bound themselves under an oath, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. 13 Now there were more than forty who had formed this conspiracy" (Acts 23:12-13). No doubt, some of these (and other) conspiracy theories are true, or contain some elements of truth. Once we buy into a conspiracy theory, everything becomes evidence of the conspiracy, even the lack of evidence can be proof. Certainly, people have in the past and do continue to conspire in many and various ways.

Nevertheless, the conspiracies of men, real or imagined, are vain. "A man's heart plans his way: but the LORD directs his steps" (Prov. 16:9). "O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walks to direct his steps" (Jer. 10:23). God says: "Vengeance Mine, and recompense; their foot shall slip in due time; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things to come hasten upon them" (Deut. 32:35).

Monday, November 15, 2010

Christin’s Quote Book

  • One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas, I'll never know. – Groucho Marx
  • The computer can't tell you the emotional story. It can give you the exact mathematical design, but what's missing is the eyebrows. – Frank Zappa
  • Too many people are ready to carry the stool when the piano needs moving. – Unknown
  • Health is merely the slowest rate at which one can die. – Unknown
  • The borders of his country are the sides of his skull. – Flannery O'Connor

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Hand of Christ

Did you see the hand of Christ this week, or His foot or leg? He was present with you, functioning to serve you and help you. In fact, He engaged all His many powers to sustain you, maintain you and advance you. He prayed for you, talked with you, corrected and encouraged you. He greeted you, embraced you and comforted you, and He did all of this and much more through His Body―the Church. "For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another" (Rom. 12:4-5). Look around youHe is everywhereand you too are part of His Body.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Two Ears and One Mouth

Don't speak unless you can improve upon the silence.

"Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers" (Eph. 4:29).

"…let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak…" (James 1:19).

Friday, November 12, 2010

Fire! Fire! 11-12-10

So, what do you do when there's a fire? Water or gas? The answer seems obvious, yet when it comes to the fires of conflict many reach for the gas can. Instead of trying to lower the temperature of a situation they react by adding more fuel to the fire, or at least fanning the existing flames. "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. 2 The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly, but the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness" (Pr. 15:1-2).

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thank You Veterans

Almighty God, we commend to Your gracious care and keeping all the men and women of our armed forces at home and abroad. Defend them day by day with Your heavenly grace; strengthen them in their trials and temptations; give them courage to face the perils which beset them; and grant them a sense of Your abiding presence wherever they may be; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Nonsense and Faith

"And here we fancy that nonsense will, in a very unexpected way, come to the aid of the spiritual view of things. Religion has for centuries been trying to make men exult in the "wonders" of creation, but it has forgotten that a thing cannot be completely wonderful so long as it remains sensible. So long as we regard a tree as an obvious thing, naturally and reasonably created for a giraffe to eat, we cannot properly wonder at it. It is when we consider it as a prodigious wave of the living soil sprawling up to the skies that we take off our hats.... This is the side of things that tends most truly to spiritual wonder.... This simple sense of wonder at the shapes of things and at their exuberant independence of our intellectual standards and our trivial definitions, is the basis of spirituality as it is the basis of nonsense. Nonsense and faith (strange as the conjunction may seem) are the two supreme symbolic assertions of the truth that to draw out the soul of things with a syllogism is as impossible as to draw out Leviathan with a hook."

G.K. Chesterton, The Defendant

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

But I Don’t Like It

In addition to many other similar things, there are a number of good reasons for teaching children to eat certain things they don't like e.g., it's good for them, it's a means of showing gratitude, it's an act of obedience and, over time, they might even learn to like it. When we constantly indulge children concerning their likes and dislikes we do, indeed, spoil them. This is ugly in children but it's horrific in adults. I often told my children, "You don't have to like it, but you do have to eat it."

My likes and my duties frequently run in different directions. Our liking or not liking something doesn't change our duty. The world doesn't exist for me, and neither does the family or the church. I'm part of various communities and I have obligations to all of these that will, inevitably, mean doing things that I don't particularly like, yet are necessary as a matter of my being part of the whole. I must learn to ask more than "what's in it for me?"; I must also consider what's in it for others. It's not simply a matter of what do I get out of it but also what do I contribute? This might involve sacrifice, service, and even suffering. Nevertheless, when I sacrifice, serve or suffer, the Bible teaches us that we do benefit from these as well. Many duties override my immediate desires e.g., participation, giving, labor, prayers, submission, etc. When we do our duty we are often blessed in ways we did not or could not have imagined.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Christin’s Quote Book

  • Golf is an ineffectual attempt to direct an uncontrollable sphere into an inaccessible hole with instruments ill-adapted to the purpose. – Winston Churchill
  • I have noticed that the people who are late are often so much jollier than the people who have to wait for them. – E. V. Lucas
  • Neither of them was quite enough in love to think that three hundred and fifty pounds a year would supply them with the comforts of life. – Jane Austen
  • Karate is a form of martial arts in which people who have had years and years of training can, using only their hands and feet, make some of the worst movies in the history of the world. – Dave Barry
  • If you have an important point to make, don't try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time – a tremendous whack. – Winston Churchill

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Pineywoods 2010

Wow! What a great Family Camp. It was so good to see everyone and to enjoy the fellowship and outstanding weather. Pastor Barach's sermon was outstanding way to wrap things up. After fourteen years it now feels more like a big family reunion.

Thank you, 
Pastor Booth

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Things We Wish We Could Say…Sometimes

  • "He was so narrow minded that if he fell on a pin it would blind him in both eyes." — Fred Allen
  • "He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends." — Oscar Wilde
  • "Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go." — Oscar Wilde
  • "He's liked, but he's not well-liked." — Arthur Miller
  • "He had a big head and a face so ugly it became almost fascinating." — Ayn Rand
  • "He had delusions of adequacy." — Walter Kerr
  • "He knows so little and knows it so fluently." — Ellen Glasgow
  • "He was one of the nicest old ladies I ever met." — William Faulkner
  • "In her single person she managed to produce the effect of a majority." — Ellen Glascow

Friday, November 5, 2010

Respect Your Family

If a man mocks his wife to a friend, or a wife rags on her husband to a neighbor, or a parent puts down one of their children, or a child voices disdain for one of their parents, it's a disgrace. It's not only disrespectful to the family member, it's disrespectful to God who put you in that family to learn to love, serve, submit, rejoice, and respect. The family is a place where we should be protected and we should, therefore, go out of our way to protect it. It's not enough to later declare that you were "only joking," or that you "didn't mean anything by it," etc. We're called to promote the good name of our neighbors and our family is comprised of our closest neighbors. Every family has its faults, but "love covers a multitude of sins."

The church is a family too…

Thursday, November 4, 2010

This Pun’s for You

A pun is defined by Webster as "the humorous use of a word, or of words which are formed or sounded alike but have different meanings, in such a way as to play on two or more of the possible applications; a play on words." BTW, there are only 15 recorded deaths attributed to punning.

What do folks have to say about punning?

  • Fred Allen: "Hanging is too good for a man who makes puns; he should be drawn and quoted."
  • Dave Barry: "Puns are little 'plays on words' that a certain breed of person loves to spring on you and then look at you in a certain self-satisfied way to indicate that he thinks that you must think that he is by far the cleverest person on Earth now that Benjamin Franklin is dead, when in fact what you are thinking is that if this person ever ends up in a lifeboat, the other passengers will hurl him overboard by the end of the first day even if they have plenty of food and water."
  • James Boswell: "... among the smaller excellencies of lively conversation."
  • Anthony Burgess: "... plurality of reference is in the very nature of language, and its management and exploitation is one of the joys of writing."
  • Samuel Taylor Coleridge: In a lecture on Shakespeare, he said that punning "may be the lowest, but at all events is the most harmless kind of wit, because it never excites envy."
  • William Combe: "A paltry, humbug jest; those who have the least wit make them best."
  • John Dryden: ... to "torture one poor word ten thousand ways."
  • Henry Erskine: When asked if the pun is the lowest form of wit, he replied, "It is, and therefore the foundation of all wit."
  • Oliver Wendell Holmes: "People that make puns are like wanton boys that put coppers on the railroad tracks. They amuse themselves and other children, but their little trick may upset a freight train of conversation for the sake of a battered witticism."
  • Oliver Wendel Holmes: "There is no such thing as a female punster." (I guess that means that punning is a crime for malefactors only!)
  • Samuel Johnson: "If I were punished for every pun I shed, there would not be left a puny shed of my punnish head."
  • Arthur Koestler: "... two strings of thought tied with an acoustic knot."
  • Charles Lamb: "... a noble thing per se. It fills the mind, it is as perfect as a sonnet; better."
  • Oscar Levant: "A pun is the lowest form of humor—when you don't think of it first."
  • Leonard L. Levinson: "... a joke based on the infirmities of language."
  • Christopher Morley: "... language on vacation."
  • Edgar Allen Poe: "Of puns it has been said that those who most dislike them are those who are least able to utter them."
  • Sydney Smith: "The wit of words. They are exactly the same to words which wit is to ideas, and consist in the sudden discovery of relations in language."
  • Jonathan Swift: "... a talent which no man effects to despise but he that is without it."
  • Jonathan Swift: "Punning is an art of harmonious jingling upon words, which, passing in at the ears, excites a titillary motion in those parts; and this, being conveyed by the animal spirits into the muscles of the face, raises the cockles of the heart."
  • Louis Untermeyer: "... something every person belittles and everyone attempts."
  • Noah Webster: "... a low species of wit."
  • Ambrose Bierce: "... form of wit, to which wise men stoop and fools aspire."

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Body of Christ

As we hear about the "visible" and "invisible" Church we must be careful not to think in terms of two different entities, but rather one Body with both visible and invisible attributes. The Church is the Body of ChristChrist Himself is the Head of that Bodyand while the Head is invisible; the rest of the Body is visible in this world. Church members are engrafted into the Body of Christ by way of their baptism and are called to "abide in Him." The world cannot see Christ directly but it does see us (Matt. 5:16). Local churches are outposts of the Kingdom of God and our families (and us as individuals), are outposts of the Church. We bear His name and act on His behalf. In serving and loving our neighbors we also serve and love Christ, our Head (Matt. 25:31-46).

True love for Christ is always manifest by true love for His Church (i.e., His Body), and love for Christ is not simply a sentimental feeling toward Jesus but rather the day-to-day service we give to one another (Gal. 6:9-10). Like any healthy body, the Body of Christ demonstrates its health by functioning in harmony for the good of the whole. "Speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love" (Eph. 4:15-16). We are always connected to one another and are either helping or hindering the Body of Christ. Scriptures calls us to love one another, pray for one another, serve one another, weep with one another, rejoice with one another, exhort one another, edify one another, submit to one another, comfort one another, etc. All of this is seen in the real-life visible actions of hospitality, visitation, physical labor, communication, support, participation, sharing, prayer and much more.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

I Can’t Hear You

There are two times when it's hard to get people to listen: when they want to get married and when they want to get divorced. Of course, these are the two times they need to listen the most since there's so much at stake. This is one of the reasons God puts us in communities. He has given us both our immediate family (especially parents), and He has placed us in His church. There is wisdom in a multitude of counselors, and when those counselors are people who love us we're especially obliged to seek their counsel and receive it. All wisdom doesn't reside in me. No matter how badly I might want something, wanting it doesn't make it right or wise. Part of trusting God is learning to trust the people He has placed in our lives. This will often require both humility and patience on our parts, and it can certainly test our faith. Yet God has provided these communities for our protection and often what we most need to be protected from is ourselves.

For example, the in Westminster Confession of Faith, the chapter 24 On Marriage and Divorce, paragraph 6, speaking of divorce says that the church and the civil magistrate together make judgments about the matter and "…the persons concerned in it not left to their own wills, and discretion, in their own case."

Think back even five years. How much have you learned since then? Well, you're going to learn that much more in the next five years. God has blessed you with many people who have lived loner and seen more than you. They know things you can't know and thus can provide wisdom that you don't have within yourself. It's too common for people to seek only the counsel of their immediate peers since it's easy to get them to agree with you because their wisdom is often equal to your own. The counsel of godly friends is often helpful but on important matters a broader counsel is needed. Less than godly counsel is positively dangerous, and close friends often have their judgment clouded by their own prejudice toward us. It's also common for folks to simply avoid any counsel from those who they suspect will not tell them what they want to hear.

Wisdom, speaking in the Proverbs, says: "My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. 21 Do not let them depart from your eyes; keep them in the midst of your heart; 22 For they are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh."

Don't Forget...


Monday, November 1, 2010

Christin’s Quote Book

  • The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right place but also to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment. – Dorothy Neville
  • Wagner's music is better than it sounds. – Mark Twain
  • Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever. – Napoleon Bonaparte
  • The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits. – Unknown
  • The British have never been a spiritually minded nation, so they invented cricket to give them some notion of eternity. – Lord Mancroft