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Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Angel And The Shepherds

Have you ever tried to visualize the scene when the angel appeared to the shepherds to bring them the news of Jesus' birth? From the description the Bible gives us, we know that angels are majestic beings, tall and dressed in dazzling white. Can you imagine the reaction of the lowly shepherds, in their rough, smelly clothing accustomed to being surrounded only by nature and their sheep?  If the angel had appeared to one shepherd he might have thought he was hallucinating, but since it was a group, they held on to their wits.

And why did God allow them to be the first to see the heavenly Babe? I think it was to show us that God esteems highly those whom society considers insignificant. Remember when the prophet Samuel went to Jesse's house to anoint one of his sons to be king, Jesse didn't consider David. When none of Jesse's sons received God's nod of approval, Samuel asked him, "Are these all the sons you have?" It was only then Jesse remembered David.

"There is still the youngest," Jesse answered, "but he is tending the sheep" (1 Samuel 16: 11).

The father's words are full of meaning. He is a shepherd, dirty, smelly and of no account. But David was the man God chose to be king. 

I think another reason the angel appeared to the shepherds was to introduce them to the one who would one day become a shepherd like them, not to save animals, but to save the human race. 

Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep" (John 10: 11).  

This Christmas season as we think of God's great love in sending His dear Son into the world to die for us, let us consider how far-reaching that love is. It extends not only to the rich and powerful, but to the humble, the lowly, the outcast. It extends to each one of us.  

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Songs Of Christmas

Holiday songs on the streets in Sonoma
Holiday songs on the streets in Sonoma (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There is nothing like music to stir the soul and set the mood for any event. This is why we have music at sporting events, at parties, in church and even at funerals. Most of us have special types of music we play when entertaining our friends at home. Christmas time is no exception. Because this is such a joyful occasion, we celebrate by singing Christmas carols at home and in church. Nowadays, few radio stations play the traditional songs, but I have been fortunate to find one that does. If you are interested, it is The Bible Broadcasting Network (BBN). You can listen live on the internet or on your smartphone.

 When I was a child, caroling, as it was called, was a very common practice. A group of young people dressed in white outfits with red capes, led by their choirmaster, went from house to house singing the beautiful carols. At the end of their presentation, the homeowner would give them money and/or refreshments. I grew up to love Christmas carols, whether sung live or on the radio. I think it is fitting that we should show our praise and adoration to our Savior for leaving His heavenly home and coming to dwell among  us. 

The Bible tells us that after the angel appeared to the shepherds and announced the Savior's birth, there came "a heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men" (Luke 2: 13). The Bible doesn't say they were singing, but they may have been, because this was a joyful occasion. 

Therefore, if you think the birth of Jesus was a happy occasion why not fill your heart and home with the songs of Christmas? This video by the unforgettable Mahalia Jackson will surely warm your heart and put you in the Christmas spirit.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Fundamentals Of Christianity

Today I visited a forum where a question was asked about the fundamentals of
Christianity. The person who asked the question described himself/herself as a "progressive" and said that progressives and fundamentalists usually don't get along because fundamentalists make a lot of noise and offend everybody.

While I didn't understand what the person meant by being a progressive, someone in the forum seemed to support this view by saying that Christianity was changing and we ought to change with it. This made me wonder, what does a "progressive" believe in? Christian beliefs do not change because God does not change. (Malachi 3:6) And if He does not change, neither does His word.

One of the fundamentals of Christianity is the deity of Christ, that He is God in the flesh and He came to earth to redeem man to Himself.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1). 
 And the Word was made 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 (v 14). 

Christmas, the time when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, fulfills the first fundamental of Christianity. Another essential of the Christian faith is that He was born of a virgin. This was foretold by Isaiah centuries before Jesus was born.

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel (7: 14).  

Behold , a virgin shall be with child , and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us (Matthew 1: 23).  

This is why Christmas is such a special time in the Christian calendar. It's a time when we attend church services, get together with family and friends and exchange gifts. But more than that, it shows the world what we believe in - God who came to the world in the person of Jesus Christ.

Everyone is free to believe whatever one chooses, but the Bible gives clear reasons for what we must believe. 1. The deity of Christ. 2. Salvation by grace through Jesus Christ  3. The resurrection of Christ  4.  The truth of the gospel and  5. There is only one God. 

It's impossible to believe one and not believe all, and that's why they are called fundamentals. 

Saturday, December 06, 2014

What Does The Bible Say About Justice

President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the 1964 Civ...
President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the 1964 Civil Rights Act as Martin Luther King, Jr., and others, look on. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
"Let justice roll down like waters ..."

These words from the book of Amos flashed through my mind as I watched hundreds of people, black and white, march in protest of a Grand Jury's decision not to indict a white police officer for the killing of an unarmed black man. Suddenly, it seems we are back to the days of the Civil Rights Movement when people took to the streets to protest the unfair treatment meted out to them by a justice system that left them feeling marginalized and dehumanized.

As if this were not bad enough, African Americans have been and continue to be the disproportionate victims of violence, poverty, illegitimate births, sickness and disease. We, especially black males, have become an endangered species. The Bible has a lot to say about justice and the way we treat those who are less fortunate. Let's look at some of these verses:

'Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly. Leviticus 19: 15

"Cursed is the man who withholds justice from the alien, the fatherless or the widow." Deuteronomy 27: 19

The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern. Proverbs 27: 9

those who with a word make a man out to be guilty, who ensnare the defender in court and with false testimony deprive the innocent of justice. Isaiah 29: 21

But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream! Amos 5: 24

And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off ? Luke 18" 7

As with everything else, the words of the Bible are always relevant, and so is its Author. He is aware of what is taking place and has promised, "A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice" (Isaiah 42: 3). 

At a time when the majority of us are looking forward to celebrating Christmas with our loved ones, the Garners, the Browns, the Martins and others who have lost loved ones through these senseless slayings are in mourning. To them I say, "Take heart. 'The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed' (Psalm 103: 6). May the Prince of peace comfort and strengthen you at this Christmas time."