Archive for December, 2008
One of my favorite Christmas hymns is “O Holy Night” and this year I’ve been particularly struck by the phrase “the weary world rejoices.” Perhaps now, more than ever, the world is weary.
The world is weary from pain and suffering. The world is weary from broken promises. The world is weary from unsatisfied hopes. The world is weary from strained relationships and broken families. The world is weary from chasing after the wind of material possessions and empty stuff. The world is weary of false saviors who never deliver.
It all reminds me of Solomon’s description of life as vanity in Ecclesiastes:
All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. (Eccl 1:8)
In the midst of this weariness and vanity, Jesus breaks through. He broke through as a baby to bring good news of salvation and joy to all who were burdened by bondage to sin, and he will break through again someday to heal the world of all remaining sin and to “make all things new” (Rev 21:5).
Come Lord Jesus! This weary world will rejoice!
For me, this season leading up to Christmas (what’s called “Advent”) has been more exciting than ever. I think this is for two reasons:
1) I learned for the first time that the church has historically looked at Advent as a time to anticipate Jesus’ second coming. I always thought that Advent was designed to remember Jesus’ birth–and that is definitely part of it. But the earlier generations of the church looked at Advent as a chance to anticipate his coming. They thought to themselves, “What if Jesus came back again on Christmas day? Would I be ready?” This approach has made this Advent season much more reverent and Christ-centered.
2) This past year I’ve done quite a bit of study on the big-picture story of redemption. Through books like The Drama of Scripture and Salvation Belongs to Our God, I’ve discovered that God’s ultimate design is not just to save individuals, but to redeem and restore all things to the way he originally created them. This means that the Kingdom of God that Jesus announced will culminate in his return and in the New Heavens and the New Earth.
These two things have added a real richness to Christmas and an anticipation for the Age to Come. This is summarized well in a few lines from “Glory Be” a Christmas song put out by Sojourn Community Church in Louisville (click here for other free songs from their “Advent Songs” album).
Hallelujah, the Lord of Life has come,
To reconcile the nations to their God!
Hallelujah, He’s coming back again,
To finish what began in Bethlehem!
May our hearts sing for joy not only that the child has come to set us free, but that he’s coming back again to renew and restore his world!
Ed Stetzer posted this video to his blog today and it’s worth watching and meditating on. It’s of Penn Jillette, a comedian and illusionist who happens to be an atheist, describing a recent encounter he had with a Christian.
I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. If you believe that there’s a heaven and hell, and people could be going to hell, and you think, ‘Well, it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward’… How much do you have to hate somebody not to proselytize?
I have so much fun with my family and particularly with my two-year old Abby. Check out one of our latest causes for laughter:
At Second Mile, we love hearing stories of how God is working in people’s lives. We often share them during our Sunday worship gatherings. I recently came across a new website – www.iamsecond.com – that is filled with stories of how God has worked in people’s lives to help them realize that they come second.
Some would be people you’re familiar with like outfielder Josh Hamilton, American Idol’s Jason Castro, former Korn guitarist Brian Welch, driver Darrell Waltrip, or actor Stephen Baldwin. Others were names I didn’t necessarily recognize, but they are still great stories and well produced.
So I’m on a bit of a James MacDonald kick right now. Let me recommend one of his brief messages from this past year’s Straight Up Conference – “One Thing.”
If you could have just one thing in life, what would it be?
The end of Acts 12 has a startling description of the death of Herod, who had been a chief persecutor of the early church:
On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them. And the people were shouting, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!” Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last. But the word of God increased and multiplied (Acts 12:21-24, emphasis mine).
The first-century Jewish historian, Josephus (not a Christian), confirms this hard to believe account, vividly describing how Herod suffered:
His entrails were also exulcerated, and the chief violence of his pain lay on his colon; an aqueous and transparent liquor also settled itself about his feet, and a like matter afflicted him at the bottom of his belly. Nay, farther, his privy member was putrified, and produced worms; and when he sat upright he had a difficulty of breathing, which was very loathsome, on account of the stench of his breath, and the quickness of its returns; he had also convulsions in all parts of his body, which increased his strength to an insufferable degree. (The Works of Josephus: Ant 17.169).
Ouch. This is obviously a horrible way to die. The question that comes to my mind is, why would God strike Herod down in this particular way? There were many ways to strike Herod other than this. What might we learn from it?
I think the lesson from this is that giving way to pride and self-exaltation is like allowing your life to be eaten alive from the inside out. Pride is an inner disease that sometimes even hides itself in those who appear humble. It eats away at your heart and slowly decays your ability to love, worship, serve, and give.
Want to die on the inside? Then don’t give God the glory, honor, and credit he deserves. It might feel good now, but soon enough your life will be ruined from the inside out.
Every person who is a disciple of Jesus is in ministry. He or she may not do it vocationally, but God has called every believer to be a minister (which means servant) to those around. Sometimes we have unrealistic ideas of what ministering to people is like, and this often leads to discouragement.
I recently heard a message by James MacDonald called “The Pattern of Ministry,” which describes what we can expect individually and as a church if we are doing faithful ministry. It’s from a pastor’s conference, but has tremendous application for every believer. MacDonald is the pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel in Rolling Meadows, IL, which has been doing some aggressive church planting over the last few years. He’s a terrific Bible teacher and I found this message quite helpful and encouraging.