Posts Tagged Jesus

A Christmas story by Chip (age 49 1/2)

Christmas red gift box with gold ribbon and bow - top view vector illustration. Glitter glow on red background.

Glitter… the gift which keeps on giving.

Thus far, my 2016 Christmas season has been both joyful & triumphant. Joyful because I have yet to hear any version of ‘Last Christmas’ in any retail venue, and triumphant because I was able to find exactly what I wanted to give my sweet wife as a gift.

Don’t get me wrong, I actually enjoy Christmas music. You know, real Christmas music… the kind which features Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, or Ella Fitzgerald. Problem is, it is almost impossible during this time of year not to be exposed to what other people think is Christmas music. And don’t even get me started on the multiple, painfully awful, covers of the Christmas song. Shopping centers are the worst for song selection with the exception of Hobby Lobby. I like Hobby Lobby. Generally speaking, they have cool stuff for people like me who still enjoy the large box of crayons which features the sharpener in the back. (Regularly priced at Hobby Lobby for $5.99 but if you use their weekly 40% off coupon you can snag them for $3.60 plus tax. What?!) It’s no secret, I have always loved Crayola crayons… especially the 64 count box. I have a very discriminating palate which appreciates the finer qualities of Crayola brand over those knock-off types. You know, the kind which substitute brick dust and hog fat for wax. Trust me, over the years of my childhood I have tasted several brands and find Crayola to be most enjoyable.

Now, Hobby Lobby has an interesting type of music featured in their stores which is designed to enhance the shopping experience. I think it is intended to get you to impulsively drop cash on a purchase but in a way which makes you think the Holy Spirit was leading you to that item. As you shop you suddenly find yourself humming to a catchy tune which you almost recognize as ‘Quiet, Lord, my froward heart‘ but you’ve never heard it played on synthesized keyboard. ‘Yup… that’s it.’ you say to yourself, smiling, as the irony of the moment is lost in the shuffle. For my non-Christian friends, this music is kind of the religious counter to hearing your favorite 80s rock ballad played on an obscure instrument over a cracked speaker. Kinda like hearing ‘Jump‘ played in Walmart on an accordion.

Music aside, Hobby Lobby is the ‘go to’ place for holiday decorative stuff for my wife and I enjoy it except for the ‘Borg‘ of Christmas. Yes, I am speaking of that bane of my existence and device of Satan against which I shall always stand and fight… glitter. It simply isn’t possible to go near a Hobby Lobby without being covered in glitter. As I type this, I can say with confidence, if I were to look in the mirror right now I would find at least one speck of glitter on me. This, in spite of the fact I have showered, shampooed & shaved many times since my last trip to the glitter fest. We have a decontamination chamber for glitter as you enter into our house which features special vacuum devices, multiple shower heads, decompression and an ultraviolet light inspection before you’re allowed to be robed in the paper jumpsuit for the mandatory 48 hr period which follows a trip to HL… aaaaaand, I still found glitter while eating a banana for breakfast this AM. Glitter and fruit is not natural.

Which brings me to the ‘triumphant’ portion of this saga. Since I was able to find exactly what I was looking for as a gift for my sweet wife, I envisioned the box sizes needed, and the theme I would employ as I wrapped her packages. Three boxes would be required and I already had two but needed to purchase one of those really cool craft paper colored boxes at the Lobby. Found it! Now, on to the theme. Rita’s tree is kind of a country elegant… Christmas country chic… with flowers and fancy stuff expertly placed. So, her packages had to have some bling-like qualities, but in an understated manner, in keeping with her tree theme. Like finding a diamond in a chicken coop… the finished product looks great but you never envisioned your wife hanging it from a tree in your house.

Anyway, I began my pursuit of the perfect wrapping paper. It needed to be a craft paper color/texture but feature a quality of uniqueness so as to catch her eye. Fortunately, although the Christmas paper selection did not fit the bill, I was able to find just what I needed in the birthday section. My selection featured an elegant Victorian styled print in black as a contrast to the craft paper upon which it was printed. Now, off to the flower section. As a substitute for the bow I wanted a crafty looking flower to match her tree. A burlap rose, paired with slightly lighter colored burlap flowers with little black dots… one set for each package… were placed in my basket as I began my pursuit for ribbon. With all items soon acquired, I rushed home to wrap before she arrived. Not to brag… but I can wrap a gift. My OCD kicks in and every pattern must perfectly align on the gift before it is neatly folded at the edges and taped… no slouch job here. As a foundation for the finish, I chose a wide silver ribbon, upon which a narrower black ribbon with rhinestone looking dots would be placed. When I opened the silver spool it happened. A glitter bomb exploded all over our dining room. The nice, silver ribbon was, in fact, glitter ribbon and I was standing in the epicenter of a glitterpocalypse. Having just come home from the funeral home, my black slacks looked like something Elvis, or Liberace, would wear and my good, black ostrich boots were likewise covered in the festive fungus. Too late to back out now! Christmas gift wrapping is not for the weak… so, I pressed onward.

Fashioning the ribbon in a cross like pattern over each package, I now proceeded to the task of putting the flowers together for the bow and fastening them to the ribbon on each package. At Hobby Lobby they sell a florist tape which is what I decided would work best for the task. As it happens, it comes in various colors and I chose silver because it would blend into the ribbon better. Upon opening the tape I realized it is also covered in glitter. Of course it is! Nevermind, I must complete the goal for the perfect package. By the way, apart from using industrial strength construction adhesive, there is no way to fasten burlap flowers onto glitter ribbon. In retrospect, I could have used duct tape but, to be honest, I panicked in the fray of glitter which encompassed my person, and it never even occurred to me as an option until I finished. To make it even fancier, I went with the old standby… curling ribbon. Not one color, mind you, but two… black and silver. Sure, I could have just purchased a couple of the pre-curled ribbon sets for each package in both colors but, truly, how hard is it to curl ribbon? Listen to me. I confidently speak to all you who can curl ribbon and make it look so easy anyone can do it when I say I hate your guts and livers. Everyone who can’t curl ribbon hates you but because we have to tolerate people now, and we need you to do our packages, and we have the gummy residue of glittery floral tape on our fingers we will allow you to stay but we aren’t taking any of your condescending ‘I can look the other way and talk to my friend while I curl ribbon all day long’ attitude so don’t push it. OK? Just curl the ribbon and slide it over to me without making eye contact and no one gets hurt.

So, here I am, finally, with three packages wrapped for my wife now placed neatly under the tree. In my mind they looked better than they turned out, which is more coop than diamond. Just before she arrived she called me to let me know she was on the road. When she called I was in the delusional condition of kidding myself into thinking glitter can be cleaned up. Sweeping, using a Swiffer broom, dust mop and steam mop only serve to relocate glitter, and make it wet. Our dining table is oak and has a lovely grain in the wood surface within which now reside bajillions of glitter. You can’t get rid of the stuff. I scrubbed, used Clorox wipes, wet dishcloths, and even Endust to no avail. At least the table looks festive. ‘Look honey, I decorated for Christmas!’

When she came home she was all sweet and excited about the packages and even asked if she could open them. That was the moment in the conversation where an awkward death threat which was supposed to just be in my head, somehow, slipped out of my mouth. I smiled, and distracted her with the glitter, and everything was OK but, trust me, it took me HOURS to wrap those things and they are NEVER getting opened now. NO! My wife is caught in that difficult place of being notoriously honest, yet sensitive to people in the truth. She is the type who lovingly offers you a breath mint, and urges you to try it because they taste really good and she doesn’t want to come right out and tell you your breath is the death. So, upon seeing the packages she was enthusiastic and told me how pretty they were. In her mind she had to have been saying ‘Bless his heart’ in that Southern kind of ‘he ate too many crayons as a child’ sort of kind way.

Christmas memories of my childhood flood in as I approach the 2nd Christmas as a ‘Big Papa’ to my precious granddaughter. As for Christmas gifts, I remember a few from my childhood but I mostly remember the family gatherings. Mom’s chili, my Aunt’s fudge and my Grandi’s home made chocolate pudding while it cooled on the window sill… and her molasses cookies. I know, most of my memories involve food but they are also deeply tied to a lot of laughter, hugs and love which I cherish today. Nana & I have pink packages under the tree for our little princess but I don’t intend to allow the stuff, like glitter, to be the thing which sticks to her. My hope is we are able to show her the kind of security and love which can only be found in a loving family. Lipstick kisses from Nana and tickles from Big Papa, or playing princess tea time is what I will be doing over the days I have with my kids. All of which is tempered with the understanding of how very blessed I am to know The Messiah, and to experience the daily joy of celebrating the purpose of His arrival here and the hope which can only be found in Him. That is what I wish for you, and for my baby girl, this Christmas season… glitter and all.

Merry Christmas!

Small gift boxes wrapped in tan paper with a black victorian print. Each packages has a bow made of silver, glitter ribbon and features a bouquet of burlap flowers with a burlap rose in the center. The packages are neatly placed under a Christmas tree with lights twinkling.

Glitter Bomb wrapped gifts.

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Sons & Daughters #1: “Intimacy”

Young couple enjoying a walk along the beachThe topic of sex has been taboo for many years in the Church. Unfortunately, many preachers & teachers have strayed from teaching on the topic, apart from condemning misconduct in a general way. This void of responsible, Biblical instruction on Sex has created an environment of dysfunction, compounded by guilt and shame. It has also created the false understanding that the Church is opposed to human sexuality, condemning it as ‘dirty’ or ‘sinful’ in any capacity apart from procreation.

The American culture has become increasingly saturated with images & conversation regarding sex, yet, the Church has largely held to a Puritanical ideology in respect to the subject. The irresponsible, immoral teachings & practices advocated (propagated) by culture, coupled with the relative silence of teaching from the Church, have created a sense of “We can’t talk about that here.” For many Christians, sex is something which carries a negative connotation and is better left unspoken. For non-believers, the idea that Christians are celibate, or prudish, or hypocrites only closes the door for the Gospel. Their thinking is that they are unwilling to consider faith in Christ if it demands that they deny their sexuality. Who can blame them? After all, if we are going to be very honest with ourselves, we must admit that sexuality is a large part of who we are as a person.

Upon opening the pages of the Bible, and reading passages from Song of Solomon, one becomes frustrated. The frank manner in which sex is described within its pages leads a person to think that God is OK with human sexuality… even encouraging it’s practice within the right boundaries… yet, it remains an elephant in the sanctuary. When did Christianity come to the idea that sex is a ‘dirty’ topic? Why has this element of the human experience become so awkward a topic among the assembly? Is the Christian free to enjoy sex?

For many Christians, sex is something which carries a negative connotation and is better left unspoken. For non-believers, the idea that Christians are celibate, or prudish, or hypocrites only closes the door for the Gospel.

For the next four weeks (the entire month of February) I am covering the topic of sex in the morning assembly. The entire series is intended for all Christians… married & unmarried alike. We’ll address the Biblical perspective on sex, and delve into why it has become such a taboo topic over the years. My goal is to instruct and in so doing, remove the myths, misconceptions & false teachings on the topic. I will be respectful, but frank on the topic… as I believe any Christian should be. It should be noted that the assembly will be covering a mature topic, which I intend to handle in an open & mature manner. Therefore, parents are urged to use discretion in allowing their children to remain with them in the assembly. Our children’s programs offer unique, age appropriate learning during our assembly which will aid parents during this sermon series.

Due to the nature of the topic, I will be using a slightly different approach to this sermon series.

  • First, this blog will contain devotional information to aid you in discovering what the Bible says on the various topics. Typically, this info is posted by Wednesday evening.
  • Second, since questions are inevitable, and I wish to answer your questions, you are encouraged to bring your cell phone into the assembly & text your questions directly to me during the sermon. My cell number is listed in the bulletin & will also be displayed on the screen at various points during the sermon.
  • Third, all questions will be answered discretely on this blog during the following week.
  • Lastly, the final sermon will provide answers to text only questions in a question & answer session during the message. This final sermon will be the only one in which I will receive & answer text questions ‘live’ during the message.

For those of you who do not have text capabilities, or who do not like to text, I am also receiving questions via email. It should be noted that questions in text format have a certain sense of anonymity to them, in that unless I have your contact info in my cell, I will not know who has asked the question. The email format loses some of the sense of anonymity since I typically will know who sent the email. Having said that, I want to assure you that I will maintain complete confidentiality in the handling of these questions & answers.

The sermon series is entitled “Sons & Daughters” and is based upon 1 Peter 3, Ephesians 5 and some other select passages. Sermon #1 (February 7th) deals with Intimacy. In preparation for the message, please read the following passages & consider the questions which accompany the passage reference.

    Genesis 2

  • What is the context & meaning of the term ‘suitable’ as used in vs. 20?
  • What was man’s response to the woman according to 2:23?
  • The expectation placed upon the man & woman by God was (is) what, according to 2:24?
  • What is the meaning behind the use of the term ‘one flesh’ as used in vs. 24?
  • Why were the man & woman naked?
  • How did God describe His creation in 1:31?
    1 Peter 3:6

  • What responsibilities are placed upon the sons & daughters of Sarah?

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The return of Jesus

There are no shortages of theological positions & views on the coming appearance of Jesus. Such diversity of opinion can create real confusion in the minds of believers, and it is difficult to settle the disputes they bring. Of this we can be certain: they cannot all be correct, however, it is possible for all to be incorrect. Therefore, we must be cautious to allow Scripture to remain the authority on the subject, and to be cautious of embracing those which have no Biblical foundation.

Scripture is explicit on certain details regarding the return of Jesus, which cannot be denied.

First, His return is imminent, or expected at any time. This further confirms the understanding which has been asserted, namely, that no one apart from the Father knows the time of Jesus’ return. Some have suggested that because the Apostles & 1st century believers expected Jesus’ return at any day, that to hold to the imminent return teaching today is wrong. This thinking is that it could not be imminent today & at the time of the apostles as well. Because of this erroneous thinking, some have presumed that the return of Jesus has already occurred… a thought common in the time of the apostles, and further developed around a fascination with the events of 70AD. Such thinking cannot be further from the truth. The urgency with which the Apostles conveyed the imminent return of Jesus only underscore the realization that no one (Jesus, Apostles, Angels, Prophets) apart from God the Father knows the time of Jesus’ return. Of this we can be sure, it will be in the fullness of God’s timing, it will be at the perfect time, and it will be at a future time.

Second, Jesus’ return will be apparent to all humanity… no secret appearing. Every eye shall see, and there will be an audible announcement with the voice of the archangel & the trumpet of God. During the time of the Apostles, the false teaching of the resurrection having already occurred was already infiltrating into the Churches, and creating confusion & discouragement among the saints. Scripture is very clear that the coming of Jesus will be evident to all humanity, dead & living included. Many outside the faith have questioned such a simultaneous appearing by the Lord, citing the know time zones of the earth. It should be noted, however, that Jesus is not limited by time, space, or the reason of man. What is impossible with man (even to understand) is possible with God.

Third, it will be Jesus Himself, accompanied by the angels, who will appear. This is one of the most encouraging aspects of the Christian faith. God will send Jesus Himself to claim His bride, the Church. And, who better than the King to appear at His coronation? This will not be a messenger or another agent of God, but Jesus Himself.

Fourth, the dead in Christ shall rise… all of the dead in Christ. This is the expected resurrection, which the saint’s in John’s vision longed for and asked “How long?” (Rev. 6:10) “bringing His saints with Him” (1 Thes 4:14) The resurrection has yet to occur. Scripture does speak of the graves breaking open at the death of Jesus, and recognized people appeared throughout the area. It should be noted, that the Scripture never designates this as the final resurrection, but it is a miraculous resurrection of the recent dead… recognized by those still living… as a sign of Christ’s redemptive death. Many confuse this resurrection with the final resurrection of the dead, yet, this resurrection is no different from that of Lazarus at the word of our Lord.

Fifth, His appearing will be sudden, as a thief in the night… just as in the days of Noah. (Luke 17:26,27) This is a further word of caution for those who would be tempted to listen to the ‘date setters’ or ‘prophets’ of today. Mankind has been setting dates since the ascension of Jesus, but Jesus Himself made clear that no one apart from the Father would know the day established for His appearing. Knowledge & awareness of His coming is always upon His arrival, suddenly & without warning.

Sixth, His appearing will be final… offering no second chances at repentance & obedience. One of the most destructive doctrines within the religious world is this idea of a 2nd opportunity of Grace. Some site as a proof text the appearance of our Lord in the place of the dead while in the grave, preaching to those who had died. A simple examination of the text, and a proper understanding of the language reveal that His preaching was not evangelistic in nature (urging repentance) but it was a declaration of the fulfillment of His coming & sacrifice. Jesus left no unanswered question regarding the time of his atoning death… everyone among the dead, both saints & wicked, had full understanding of His appearing.

And Lastly, it shall be triumphant, as a reigning, victorious King. John’s vivid imagery of the returning Christ is one which conveys a victorious, conquering, reigning King. Every symbolic image reveals within its use the fact that Jesus is over all… King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Jesus will not cower secretively in His appearing at a secret location to a select few… He will return with thousands upon thousands of angels, the dead in Christ shall arise “coming with Him” and those who are alive & remain shall be changed in an instant. The reigning king shall then be seated in a place of judgment over al people & nations and complete His actions of redemption by purchasing for Himself a people through His own blood, poured out at Calvary. The return of Jesus will be nothing short of a victorious, conquering appearing of the eternal reigning King of Kings.

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The Nostradamus Effect

Projections & predictions of the coming destruction of earth and doom of mankind have been presented throughout man’s history. It would seem that, as with most things, there is somewhat of a cycle at play in the process. To be sure, what was once considered to be old & outdated in the world of such projections will be repackaged as ‘new’ in a coming age.

One such ‘prophet’ who continues to enjoy a resurgence of popularity is Nostradamus. Michel de Nostredame (December 14, 1503 – July 2, 1566) whose father was a merchant and notary, has generally come to be known as a ‘seer’ or ‘prophet’. His family “converted” from Judaism to Christianity in the early 1500s, under the demand of French King Louis XII who forced Jews to be baptized or leave the region. It is purported that Michel was educated in classical language, astrology and possibly even occult Jewish literature. As a young man he aspired to become a doctor and applied for acceptance at the well-regarded Montpellier Medical School. Followers ascribe the title of ‘Doctor’ to him, yet the only records available from the school indicate that he was expelled upon disrespectful attitudes toward instructors, though he is credited as being an apothecary.

Following his brief experience in the medical school, he preferred to use the Latinized version of his name, Nostradamus, and began traveling the country as a sort of surrogate instruction for medical school. In this period the black plague began to ravage his countrymen & he began to present himself as a sort of seer and healer. He is reported to have worked with many ill from the plague but attention was given to his claims when his wife & son contracted the illness and died, in spite of his best efforts to heal them. Once again, Nostradamus was exposed as a fake or a “poser”, in older terms… a con man. Adding insult to injury, the Church leveled charges of heretical teachings against Nostradamus, and he chose to leave the region rather than face trial. Subsequently, he traveled for several years before moving to Salon-de-Provence in 1547. The following year, he married Anne Ponsarde, with whom he would have six children. Following this move, his studies of astrology and the occult intensified and it is noted that he would work late into the night in his study, reportedly entering a trance-like state in which he’d have visions.

Nostradamus had his ‘visions’ printed in his first almanac, containing a very general, non-specific ‘prediction’ for each month in the calendar year. His publication proved popular and he set out to publish a new almanac each year until his death. His predictions & horoscopes created a loyal following, yet he is best known for his book Les Propheties (“The Prophecies”), the first edition of which appeared in 1555.

Certainly, this is not an exhaustive examination of Nostradamus… yet, it is detailed enough to determine the following about the man:

1. Nostradamus was a gifted charlatan. His ‘career’ is filled with exploits revealing his lack of dedication or discipline with only one exception… his obsession with the occult & astrology.
2. Though credited as a devout Catholic, there is no evidence of Christian faith in his writings, apart from his attempts to intermingle the occult & faith. Such a practice is condemned openly in Scripture. The conversion of his father & family is suspect at best, revealing a desire for self-preservation over sincere conversion of faith.
3. His writings are vague and non-specific. Such a tactic has been used for centuries by other ‘seers’, like those who gaze into crystal balls at county fairs, or read palms or tea leaves. By contrast, a true prophet is very specific & detailed in their predictions of the future.
4. His batting average of fulfilled prophecies is exceptionally low. His writing is so vague & mysterious that one becomes lost in his ramblings and must place great effort into ‘interpreting’ his predictions. Very few are bold enough to claim understanding of his predictions until after an event has ofurred & is ascribed to his writing as a prediction. By contrast, true prophecies offer a clear meaning & indication of specific signs to watch regarding coming events.

So, why does this matter? Well, for the Christian, it only matters because a number of people are led astray by such foolishness. Some will argue by saying “Some of his prophecies have come to pass”, to which I must ask “What about the others which have failed?” You see, true prophecy demands 100% accuracy… nothing less satisfies the Biblical definition of prophet. I will also note that the Bible has accounts of ‘seers’ who did not receive visions of events from God, but, rather through demonic sources. Such actions are clearly condemned in Scripture & Christians are sternly warned to avoid such influences. An old saying says “Even a hog will find an acorn every now & again” such is the case of anyone who makes wild projections of the future, almost always receiving money for such prophecies.

As we approach the study of Nostradamus’ predictions & others like them, study the following passages:

  • Deuteronomy 18:15-22
  • 1 Samuel 28
  • Acts 8:4-24
  • Acts 16:14-21

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