Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Category

Emmanuel!

posted by pastorken
Dec 15

“Immanuel”

A poem by Charles Spurgeon

 

When once I mourned a load of sin,
When conscience felt a wound within,
When all my works were thrown away,
When on my knees I knelt to pray,
Then, blissful hour, remembered well,
I learned Thy love, Immanuel!

When storms of sorrow toss my soul,
When waves of care around me roll,
When comforts sink, when joys shall flee,
When hopeless griefs shall gape for me,
One word the tempest’s rage shall quell,
That word, Thy name, Immanuel!

When for the truth I suffer shame,
When foes pour scandal on my name,
When cruel taunts and jeers abound,
When “Bulls of Bashan” gird me round,
Secure within Thy tower I’ll dwell,
That tower, Thy grace, Immanuel!

When hell, enraged, lifts up her roar,
When Satan stops my path before,
When fiends rejoice and wait my end,
When legion’d hosts their arrows send,
Fear not, my soul, but hurl at hell
Thy battle-cry, Immanuel!

When down the hill of life I go,
When o’er my feet death’s waters flow,
When in the deep’ning flood I sink,
When friends stand weeping on the brink,
I’ll mingle with my last farewell,
Thy lovely name, Immanuel!

When tears are banished from mine eye,
When fairer worlds than these are nigh,
When Heaven shall fill my ravish’d sight,
When I shall bathe in sweet delight,
One joy all joys shall far excel,
To see Thy face, Immanuel!

What a wonderful testimony of the Christian’s life and hope!


An Advent Meditation

posted by pastorken
Dec 1

Longing For Home: An Advent Meditation;

by Tim Harmon

The holiday season (which is well under way) seems to carry with it a sense of longing for something we call “home.” In the words of that ubiquitous holiday anthem popularized by Perry Como:

Oh, there’s no place like home for the holidays Cause no matter how far away you roam If you want to be happy in a million ways For the holidays, you can’t beat home, sweet home

Now, being home, of course, is about something more than just being in a particular place. No, more than that, it’s about being with particular people.

This is illustrated perhaps no better than in that modern cinematic classic, where we find that being home for the holidays isn’t very happy at all, if one is Home Alone (even if it does afford one the opportunity to ward off robbers by building booby traps).

Out of a desire to be home for the holidays, over 90 million people travel to visit friends and family between Christmas and New Years. People are willing to endure long lines, and bad traffic, and flight delays all for the sake of being ‘home’. And it’s worth it, I think – especially when we consider that the opportunities we have to gather with our loved ones is finite.

One of my strongest holiday memories is of traveling each year to my grandmother’s house, to gather with my aunts, uncles, and cousins. My grandmother lived in a small, old-fashioned, rural home, set on a large plot of land.

A wood stove heated the house, and a blast of hot air would hit my face whenever I would walk through the front door. Inside, the wood floors were squeaky and the walls were covered with stoic photos of distant relatives who had passed away long before I was even born.

I’m glad that I spent the time that I did there at my grandmother’s house over holidays past, because my grandmother is no longer alive, and her property has long since been sold. That “home” does not exist anymore – neither the structure, nor many of the people who filled it.

When I think of this, I feel a small pang in my heart. It’s an ache that all of us know. It is a longing to be home . . . not just for a little while . . . but forever.

It is precisely this ache that is addressed in the true story that the Bible tells. The opening pages of this book describe an earthly home that is perfect in every way. It is a place of un-interrupted peace, love, and joy. It is a space where human relationships flourish, as they remain in fellowship with and under the wise care of the Creator.

But early on in this story, something tragic happens.

Humans reject the good order of the Creator, in effect choosing emancipation from the Heavenly Father’s household. As a result, these first humans were required to leave this glorious home. Ever since, all humans have been born estranged from God, and alienated from the one place that would ever truly feel like home.

And so, though we are each unique in many ways, at the core we are all the same. Our deepest longing – indeed our deepest need – is to find our way back home. But on our own, all of our efforts have fallen flat. There is simply no way, on our own, to get back what has been lost.

Today, we are still waiting for the day when Jesus comes again, to bring God’s people home forever.

And that’s precisely why this holiday season – the season that celebrates the advent of the Christ child – is so special. For, according to the Scriptures, the coming of Jesus was the coming of the Creator. And He came for this reason: to do what we, on our own, could not do.

He came to bring God’s people home.

In Jesus, God took on humanity, embarking on a mission to a far country. Because we could not find Him, He came and found us, and He made His home with us.

This involved a humbling of the highest order. It would be like the Queen of England giving up Buckingham Palace and entering the company of homeless street dwellers. And yet even this does not capture the degree of God’s condescension, as He came to live as and among us. For God not only took on humanity, but at the cross He also took upon Himself the just penalty for the rebellion of those He had come to bring home.

Regarding this home, before Jesus went to the cross, he spoke these words to his disciples: “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (Jn. 14:3). And a bit later, after being questioned about the way to where Jesus was going, Jesus said the following: “I am the way” (Jn. 14:6).

There is one way home, and Jesus Christ is that way.

Today, we are still waiting for the day when Jesus comes again, to bring God’s people home forever. That’s why we, as Christians, celebrate Advent – a term that literally means, “coming.” As we look back to Jesus’ first coming, we also look forward to that day when he will come again.

On that day when Jesus returns, it will be a home-coming of epic proportions – for it will be a day when those who have turned from their rebellion, and have placed their trust in Jesus, will be home not just for the holidays, but home forevermore.

And so, this holiday season, whatever gladness is experienced as we enjoy the people and places that we identify with “home,” let us remember that these serve as but a small approximation of the infinite goodness of that coming day when the innermost yearnings of the human heart are met, when God’s people are called home, once and for all.



The Bible Story:;

by R.C. Sproul Jr.

A friend of mine has been known to encourage me to produce my own study Bible. Happily, his vision for my study Bible isn’t quite the mammoth undertaking that putting together a real study Bible is. He suggests that my Bible just have a few notes, repeated over and over again. Things like, “See this promise? Believe it.” Or, “This sinner in this story—he’s just like you. Learn to see yourself in the Bible’s great sinners.” These two themes—that we need to learn to believe more fully, down to our toes, the promises of God, and that we need to come to a more potent, existential awareness of our sins and our weaknesses—are a big deal to me. The themes find their way regularly into my writing and into my teaching.

That, in itself, is not a bad thing. Wisdom calls us to recognize, as much as we are able, our own peculiar callings. If God gives you a cannon, He expects you to fire it. There is, however, also a danger. Just as it has been said that to the man with a hammer everything can look like a nail, so when we come to the Bible with our pet passions we will find ourselves tempted to see things in the text that aren’t there, and to miss things in the text that are there. We will show ourselves workmen who need to be ashamed for mishandling the Word of God.

There are, of course, metanarratives to go along with biblical narratives. A narrative, simply put, is a story. A metanarrative is a storythattranscends stories. It is the overarching story. The Boston Tea Party is a narrative. America as a fearless bastion of freedom—that’s a metanarrative. The two, of course intersect, just as they do in the Bible. Abraham and Isaac on Mount Moriah is a story that illumines the metanarrative of substitutionary atonement and of fathers sacrificing sons (see also John 3:16). Nathan’s confrontation of David is a story that illumines the metanarrative of blindness to sin.

Because there are metanarratives, we are wise to see them in the narratives we read. But because there are many, we need to be careful not to put square narratives into round metanarratives. Trouble is, because there is more than one metanarrative, we face the temptation to seek out the metametanarrative, the story that transcends the stories that transcend.

Consider covenant theology and dispensational theology. These big-picture interpretative grids are so broad, so all-encompassing that each side often finds itself struggling to correct the other. Our differences are so foundational, touching on how we understand all of God’s Word that we seemingly have nothing to do but talk past each other. We can’t walk inside each other’s shoes because we’re walking in opposite directions. I have my own convictions on the issue, strong ones. But I’m not afraid to confess that I am virtually uncorrectable from my friends on the other side, simply because this is such a foundational issue.

Which makes me long for an unimpeachable answer, a meta-meta-metanarrative that comes from the lips of Jesus Himself. Is it just possible that all the Bible’s stories about substitution, about covering, about creation, fall, redemption, about covenant are subsumed under one grand story? Perhaps so. What if, in the end, it were all about the kingdom? What if that is why Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness”? What if He was clueing us in on the big picture? What if the dominion mandate, the Great Commission, the promise that all things are being brought into submission to the reign of Christ—what if these were all the one great story?

This doesn’t, of course, undo the other stories in the Bible. It’s still true that the Bible is the story of Jesus’ rescuing not the beautiful princess, but the ugly hag. But in doing so, He secures a queen for His kingdom. It doesn’t undo His death and resurrection for us. But in doing so, He wins citizens for His kingdom. It doesn’t undo creation–fall–re-creation. But it affirms that God created a kingdom, Adam failed to rule it, and Jesus now succeeds where the first Adam failed.

When Jesus calls us to seek first His kingdom, He isn’t turning sanctification, evangelism, sound doctrine, atonement, and meeting the needs of widows and orphans into secondary matters. Rather, He is telling us why we pursue these things, the end for which they exist. It is affirming the forest that helps us understand the trees.

There is, however, one more step. The Bible is only penultimately the story of the kingdom. For the glorious truth is that the kingdom exists for the sake of the King. The Bible is Jesus’ story from beginning to end. He is the Alpha and Omega of the Bible, even as He is the Alpha and Omega of history. We understand history, we understand the Bible, therefore, only insofar as we understand Jesus. That is what each is for: to show us the glory of the Only Begotten, to the everlasting praise of the Father. May we never, in all our study, lose sight of Him.


What Would You Ask For???

posted by pastorken
Dec 1

What Would You Ask For?  

(Joseph Alleine, “Alarm to the Unconverted” 1671)

“That night God appeared to Solomon in a dream and said: What do you want? Ask, and I will give it to you!” 2 Chronicles 1:7

If God would give you your choice, as He did to Solomon – what would you ask for?

Go into the gardens of pleasure, and gather all the fragrant flowers there – would these satisfy you?

Go to the treasures of mammon – suppose you may carry away as much as you desire.

Go to the towers, to the trophies of honor – and become a man of renown.

Would any of these, would all of these satisfy you, and make you to count yourself happy? If so, then certainly you are carnal and unconverted. Converting grace turns the heart from its idols to the living God. Before conversion, the man minded his farm, friends, pleasures more than Christ. He found more sweetness in his merry company, worldly amusements, earthly delights than in Christ. Now he says, “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ!” Philippians 3:7-8