Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Dinner

I would like to share the following which is written by Ravi Zacharias from his book, Jesus Among Other Gods, (Nashville, Word Publishing 2000), 44-46.

“Some years ago, we were spending Christmas in the home of my wife’s parents. It was not a happy day in the household. Much had gone wrong during the preceding weeks, and a weight of sadness hung over the home. Yet, in the midst of all that, my mother-in-law kept her routine habit of asking people who would likely have no place to go at Christmas to share Christmas dinner with us.

“That year she invited a man who was, by everyone’s estimation, somewhat of an odd person, quite eccentric in his demeanor. Not much was known about him at the church except that he came regularly, sat alone, and left without much conversation. He obviously lived alone and was quite a sorry-looking, solitary figure. He was our Christmas guest.

“Because of other happenings in the house, not the least of which was that one daughter was taken to the hospital for the birth of her first child, everything was confusion. All our emotions were on edge. It fell upon me, in turn, to entertain this gentleman. I must confess that I did not appreciate it. Owing to a heavy life of travel year-round, I have jealously guarded my Christmases to be with my family. This was not going to be such a privilege, and I was not happy. As I sat in the living room, entertaining him while others were busy, I thought to myself, This is going to go down as one of the most miserable Christmases of my life.

“But somehow we got through the evening. He evidently loved the meal, the fire crackling in the background, the snow outside, the Christmas carols playing, and a rather weighty theological discussion in which he and I were engaged—at his instigation, I might add. He was a very well-read man and, as I found out, loved to grapple with heavy theological themes. I do, too, but frankly, not during an evening that has been set aside to enjoy life’s quite moments, not someone’s polemical mind.

“At the end of the night when he bade us all good-bye, he reached out and took the hand of each of us, one by one, and said, “Thank you for the best Christmas of my life. I will never forget it.” He walked out into the dark, snowy night, back into his solitary existence.”

“My heart sank in self-indictment at those tender words of his. I had to draw on every nerve in my being to keep from breaking down with tears. Just a few short years later, relatively young, and therefore to our surprise, he passed away. I have relived that Christmas many times in my memory.

“The Lord taught me a lesson. The primary purpose of a home is to reflect and to distribute the love of Christ. Anything that usurps that is idolatrous. Having been lifted beyond the prejudice of culture, Jesus repositioned for the disciples the place of wealth. So staggering was the impact that many of them in the years to come would leave their own homes to go to distant parts of the world in order to proclaim the heaven-sent message that redefined their earthly homes. Eleven of them paid for that message with their lives.

“The first time I walked through the noisy streets of Bethlehem and endured its smells, I gained a whole new sense of the difference between our Christmas carols, glamorizing the sweetness of the “little town of Bethlehem,” and the harsh reality of God becoming flesh and dwelling among us. Ah! But it is not a part of the wonder of God’s disclosure of reality that He point to what we live with to show us what true living is meant to be?

“For the disciples, Jesus’ answer to their simple question—“Where do You live?”—was to lift them beyond race and culture, beyond wealth and power, beyond time and distance to make them true citizens of the world, informed by the world to come. He brought them into a dramatically different way of living and thinking from the one to which they were accustomed. He showed them the inclusiveness of His love for the whole world. But implicit in that was the exclusivity of His truth, for which they were willing to give their lives. We have reversed Jesus’ order. We have made truth relative and culture supreme and have been left with a world in which wickedness reigns.

“Jesus brought truth to light and a different world to His message. In Him my heart finds its true home.

“G. K. Chesterton has captured the wonder in how Jesus’ earthly address changes ours, as only he can do.

"A child in a foul stable,
Where the beasts feed and foam;
Only where He was homeless
Are you and I at home;
We have hands that fashion and heads that know,
But our hearts we lost—how long ago!
In a place no chart nor ship can show
Under the sky’s dome.
To an open house in the evening
Home shall men come,
To an older place than Eden
And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and that are,
To the place where God was homeless
And all men are at home."

G.K. Chesterton, “The House of Christmas,” from Robert Knille, ed., As I Was Saying (Grand Rapids: William B. Erdmans, 1985), 304-5.

“Where does Jesus live? Come to Christ and see what it means to live.”

From the Seehusen's to you--God bless you and your family this Advent Season.

Jesus, welcom to our world. May we follow where you lead us. May we use all our gifts and talents to Your glory. May we go to a hurting world even when we want to come home and be cozy and comfortable. Forgive us. Amen. Amen

Thursday, December 17, 2009

What’s all the hub-bub about?

He came into my office already possessing a negative attitude. He asked, “Do you get involved with all this hub-bub concerning Christmas?” I told him, “Yes, but I try my best not to go overboard.” We talked; he, like many, knows the Christmas story. But, he said his sporadic childhood church attendance at a Catholic church didn’t leave much of an impression. He, like the world, knows the story but the meaning has been lost in the shuffle or should I say, lost in the “hub-bub”.

Why all the hub-bub? God comes to earth in the person of Jesus, walks among us, dies for our sins upon a gruesome cross, takes God’s wrath intended for us, and by God’s power, Jesus is raised from the dead victorious over sin and death. We are pardoned slaves to sin who will live eternally. It is all a gift to us and we shall reign eternally with God. This should all be a comfort to those of us who believe.

Some may say they know the Story. They think they even know what it means but how is Jesus going to make tomorrow any better than today? We sinners are all short-sighted. Does God care that I lost my wife and the loneliness and tears have been crushing? Does Christ make any difference today and in the future? Remember these things in these perilous days:

1. God cares about your tears. He keeps track of them. Psalm 56:8 says, “Record my lament; list my tears on your scroll-- are they not in your record?” God Himself will wipe our tears away. “For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes." Rev. 7:17.

2. Your prayers are heard—the angels gather them up. Rev. 8:3-4: “Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel's hand.”

3. Your death is precious to God. “Then I heard a voice from heaven say, ‘Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.’ I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one ‘like a son of man’ with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand.” Rev. 14:13-14.

4. We are slaves to sin, purchased by Christ to serve God and reign with Him eternally. Rev. 5:9-10: “And they sang a new song: ‘’You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth."

5. Do not be afraid! For Jesus Christ is with us now and He will return. He has and will always be in control. Rev. 1:12-19: “I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone "like a son of man," dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. "Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later.

Lift up your head; you are a child of THE King. Yes, though we may suffer for a little while, God cares, God rules and we will reign with Him, and He will come again. Don’t be afraid. Jesus was born God man—the manger is empty. Jesus was slain for our sin—the cross is empty. Jesus was dead and is now alive forever—the grave is empty; our God reigns. That is what all the hub-bub is about.

Friday, December 11, 2009

When People Are Afraid…Remember this…

Luke 1:74 : “to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear

The Age to Come vs. The Age that Has Been
“The central and simple message of the New Testament is that the promised age to come has dawned, the promised victory over what has emptied life of meaning and filled it with confusion and dismay has been won. . . . Were it not for the resurrection, Paul suggests, abandoning ourselves to a life of empty party-making and a fatalistic sense of doom would be quite logical.

There is no hope in ‘this age.’ It lies under the judgment of God. It is all, despite its brilliance, now dying. It has no future. It can offer many pleasurable experiences, many momentary distractions, but it is doomed. It has no long-term future and can offer no meaning besides what it manufactures for the moment, which is as fleeting as the morning mist.”
- David F. Wells,
The Courage to Be Protestant (Grand Rapids, Mi.: Eerdmans, 2008), 203.

Evil and the Purposes of God
“The mystery of iniquity is at work in the world during this interim time, and it is not always clear how its malignant work is being checked, overridden, or woven into the glorious purposes of God. We need to remember, though, that while Judas betrayed Christ, and woe to him for doing so, it was God’s plan that Christ was thus betrayed. Evil by its very nature opposes the purposes of God, but God, in his sovereignty, can make even this evil serve his purposes.”
- David F. Wells,
The Courage to Be Protestant (Grand Rapids, Mi.: Eerdmans, 2008), 206.

About Martin Luther
“They came to Martin one day, and they said, 'Martin, it is all over with the Reformation cause now, for the Emperor of Germany has sworn a solemn oath to help the Pope.' 'I do not care a snap of my finger for both of them,” said he, “nor for all the devils in hell! This is God’s work, and God’s work can stand against both emperors and popes.'

"There was a man who trusted, really, intensely, and because of this he was not afraid. Is not that much better than being afraid, and then having to trust to banish the fear? Now, God is with me, and come what may:

“Should earth against my soul engage,
And hellish darts be hurled;
Now I can smile at Satan’s rage,
And face a frowning world.
“Let cares like a wild deluge come,
And storms of sorrow fall:
I shall in safety reach my home,
My God, my heaven, my all.”

“Oh! If we can all get to this brave assurance of faith, happy shall we be in the midst of the worst trouble."
~ Charles Spurgeon, The Fear of Temporal Trouble (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1991) 29

“When we fear God and God only, we are no longer bound by all of the other fears that would hold us captive. The fear of death, the fear of failure, the fear of rejection, the fear of insignificance—all of the fears that know us by name and haunt us in the dark of the night become powerless when we know the fear of the Lord. And if this is not enough, we discover that perfect love casts out all fear. Not even God will hold us or control us by fear. When we fear Him, we in essence begin to live a life where we are fearless."

"The freedom to love and the freedom from fear make us an entirely different species within the whole of humanity. This may be the most extraordinary mark of the Spirit of God within the heart of humanity: the freedom to live out dreams greater than ourselves. Yet, if we were honest with ourselves, the church would be the last place most people would go to have their dreams nurtured, developed, and unleashed. "
- Erwin Raphael McManus, The Barbarian Way, (Nelson Books, 2005) 101-102

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Doubting what God says or I’ll believe what I want

About 10 years ago, I was preaching in a small rural church from Isaiah 47. In verse 13 it says this: “All the counsel you have received has only worn you out! Let your astrologers come forward, those stargazers who make predictions month by month, let them save you from what is coming upon you.”

I did not dwell on the astrology; it was not the center point of the sermon. After the service a young woman in her 20’s said this to me, “I don’t care what you said about astrology, I’m still going to read my horoscope.”

God shows us astrology is of no use. The young lady was not going to listen to God’s word or Jerry’s. Notice, she said, “I don’t care what YOU said.” I may have said it but it was and is God’s word whether we like it or not.

I have wondered over the years, is God offended by my unwillingness to trust or believe what He says?

Sometimes we can become arrogant, little pipsqueaks, thinking we know better; think we are smarter than God Himself. (i.e. I’m going to believe in astrology whether God likes it or not.) God has cared enough to preserve this word for His honor and glory and for our benefit. Much blood has been shed so that we have God’s words in our own language, holding it in our own hands. How stupid can we be! I mean like God would purposely mislead us! Why should we doubt Him? That is not His character and surely not His plan. I may not understand everything in His word and I don’t understand everything but God’s Word is His word and I should not doubt what He says.

Romans 1:21-25 says this: “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. 24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator--who is forever praised. Amen.

Left to ourselves, our thinking will become futile, our hearts will be darkened. Praise be to God He has NOT left us to ourselves. In Romans 11:33-36 is says: "Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! 34 "Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?" 35 "Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?" 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.”

In spite of my sometimes doubting nature, God remembers that I am but dust yet He forgives me and even forgets my sin. Oh what a Lord; what a Savior! His Word is truth. Enough said!