Unsentimental Christmas By Timothy George , Special to CP

I was in New York City when it happened, some thirty-five miles  from an event so horrific we can hardly imagine it, much less describe it.  “Words strain, crack, and sometimes break, under the burden, under the tension,  slip, slide, perish, decay with imprecision,” wrote T. S. Eliot. Horror,  tragedy, murder-all slip-sliding words for what happened in Newtown,  Connecticut. Such words do not work because we also use them in other less  serious senses. We speak of horror films, tragic dramas, and murder on the  Orient Express. Something deeper, darker is going on here.

Who, what, when, where,  were quickly answered. But the why question lingers, festers. Not  only why Adam Lanza, a young man barely out of his teens, could have done what  he did-was it the broken family, violent video games, too easy access to weapons  of war? But also the deeper “why?” Why we live in a world where things like this  happen, why God didn’t step in and stop the bullets, and why human beings  continue to ask why, and why Jesus asked why in the darkest moment of his life  on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Matt. 27:46).

On Sunday I went to Central Presbyterian Church where my Beeson colleague,  Doug Webster, led the service. He asked the children of the congregation to come  forward for a special time of prayer with him. He asked whether they had noticed  any extra hugs and kisses from their parents of late. He told them that because  it was the Christmas season,  and because of what was happening in the world, they could expect to be held  extra tight over the next few days. He told them how precious they were, how  very much they mattered to their moms and dads and to God. He was talking to the  kids, but he was speaking to all of us who long to be embraced in Jesus’s arms,  those strong and everlasting arms.

Doug’s sermon was on one of the most unusual Christmas texts in the Bible,  from the Apocalypse the apostle John received on the island of Patmos (Rev.  12:1-6). In his earlier Gospel, John has no account of Jesus’s birth. There he  begins with the eternal Word in the “bosom of the Father.” He tells us that the  Word became flesh, but he does not say when, or how, or by whom (John 1:14-18).  Mary makes only two appearances in the fourth Gospel, one at the wedding feast  in Cana, the other beneath the cross at the end. But Mary comes back in the  apocalyptic vision of the star-crowned woman, surrounded by the sun and the  moon. This same woman cries out in pain “ready to be delivered” in the dolors of  childbirth.

But there is a second part to John’s vision in Revelation 12: a great red  dragon on the prowl for his prey, ready to pounce, to kill. In John 10, the  dragon becomes the wolf who scatters the sheep, whose mission is to kill, steal,  and destroy. In 1 Peter 5:8, he is the ravenous lion on a hunt for something,  for someone he can devour. We like our Christmas stories told with other  animals, friendlier animals  like sheep, oxen, and donkeys. We want the manger without the mess, Bethlehem  without Calvary, gentle Mary meek and mild-not an unwed teenage mom, a peasant  girl writhing in pain as the red dragon lurks. But in Jesus Christ God gives us  an unsentimental Christmas. As Doug Webster put it, “The Gift we celebrate at  Christmas was not wrapped, it was crucified. It was not under the tree, it was  nailed to the tree, and it was not opened on Christmas Day, it was opened on Easter morning.”

When Jesus stood at the grave of his friend Lazarus, he wept (John 11:35).  Those were not only tears of grief, but also of anger-he snorted like a warhorse  ready for battle, the Greek text says. Confronted by the thick evil of human  suffering, violence, and death, Jesus Christ identifies with our loss, our  brokenness, our bewilderment-which means that he is not divorced from us, he is  with us; which means there is no bed in hell we can make so wretched but that  the Son of God has not already slept in it. This is what we read about Jesus in  the book of Hebrews: “We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our  reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all-all but the  sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the  mercy, accept the help” (4:15, The Message).

After it was all over, the people of Newtown came together in houses of worship to embrace, to listen, to  pray, and to wait. For, as Eliot also wrote, “The faith and the love and the  hope are all in the waiting. So the darkness shall be the light, and the  stillness the dancing.”

http://www.christianpost.com/news/unsentimental-christmas-87049/#GPShy0boKy4emPEH.99

Interruptions

“But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus’. ” Luke 1:30-31

Interruptions are inevitable. It’s just the way life works. But, I keep asking myself, why is it that they come at such inopportune times? After listening to a zillion options in the phone-answering menu, someone will start talking to me and I miss the key moment only to have to redial and go through the whole thing again! And who’s the bozo that always rings the doorbell just when the game-changing play is about to happen? Well, I guess we could learn to live with interruptions if it weren’t for the fact that some of life’s interruptions are disruptive on a far more serious scale—a phone call from the doctor giving you bad news about your cancer tests, that pink slip on your desk, the unexpected loss of a loved one, or an unwanted job transfer all stack up as devastating surprises.

Which brings to mind how Joseph and Mary must have felt when their lives were dramatically interrupted by angelic announcements. Their future was bright until the divine announcements threatened their sense of well-being to the core. If all you have is the Christmas-card mentality—Oh, how precious to see Mary, Joseph, and the child with angels fluttering over them!—then you’ve missed the magnitude of just how disruptive God’s interruptions were. What would Mary tell her mother, to say nothing of all the relatives and busybodies in her little village? Do we think for a moment that any of them would believe the story that began with “An angel told me . . .”? And for Joseph’s part, everyone would conclude that he had violated his fiancée’s virginity—which in those days would have been a damning breach of religious and cultural standards. Believe me, no one would want a “Kitchens by Joseph” sign in his or her front yard anymore!

Given the weight of it all, the amazing element in their story is that they both accepted the interruptions with a sense of resolved surrender. A surrender that put them in a place where God could accomplish far more through them than their uninterrupted lives ever would have dreamed of. Though awkward and challenging, God’s unexpected change in their plans gave them the honor of parenting the very Son of God. And our world has never been the same again—to say nothing of our lives!

There’s a lesson here for us. When God interrupts our best laid plans and expectations—even when it seems like the outcomes are devastating—He has a far greater thing in mind for us. God’s worthiness and glory is far more evident when it is expressed in the midst of suffering. There is no greater confirmation of the trustworthiness of God than when we trust Him even in the face of the unexpected insecurities and uncertainties of life. And who knows what He has in store through you in terms of impact in future generations when He rearranges your life? I can’t always tell you what God is up to, but I can assure you that He uses interruptions to do things far beyond what we ever dreamed.

So this Christmas, let’s get the point. When interruptions come, stop resisting. Surrender and start looking for the hand of God as you serve Him obediently in spite of the uncertainty that is staring you in the face.

I’ve often wondered: What if Noah had said, “I don’t do boats!” or if Moses had complained, “I don’t do crowds!” or if Job had insisted, “I don’t do suffering” or if Mary had declined, “No thanks, a virgin birth is too great a risk” or, ultimately, if Jesus had said, “I don’t do crosses!”?

Trust Him. He knows what He is doing with your life!

YOUR JOURNEY…

  • Reflect on a time when God “interrupted” your life at a seemingly inopportune moment. What was your first reaction to that interruption? What was the outcome?
  • Is it hard for you to trust God when unusual circumstances invade your life? Find a verse that will help anchor your trust in Him next time He “interrupts” you!
  • Read the account of the angelic interruptions in Luke 1:26-38 and Matthew 1:18-25. What can you learn from Mary and Joseph’s reactions to the news that turned their lives upside-down? Ask the Lord to give you the same quiet resolve to surrender yourself to His plan.

http://getmorestrength.org/daily/interruptions/

The Drawing of the Father

No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him . . . —John 6:44

When God begins to draw me to Himself, the problem of my will comes in immediately. Will I react positively to the truth that God has revealed? Will I come to Him? To discuss or deliberate over spiritual matters when God calls is inappropriate and disrespectful to Him. When God speaks, never discuss it with anyone as if to decide what your response may be (see Galatians 1:15-16). Belief is not the result of an intellectual act, but the result of an act of my will whereby I deliberately commit myself. But will I commit, placing myself completely and absolutely on God, and be willing to act solely on what He says? If I will, I will find that I am grounded on reality as certain as God’s throne.

In preaching the gospel, always focus on the matter of the will. Belief must come from the will to believe. There must be a surrender of the will, not a surrender to a persuasive or powerful argument. I must deliberately step out, placing my faith in God and in His truth. And I must place no confidence in my own works, but only in God. Trusting in my own mental understanding becomes a hindrance to complete trust in God. I must be willing to ignore and leave my feelings behind. I must will to believe. But this can never be accomplished without my forceful, determined effort to separate myself from my old ways of looking at things. I must surrender myself completely to God.

Everyone has been created with the ability to reach out beyond his own grasp. But it is God who draws me, and my relationship to Him in the first place is an inner, personal one, not an intellectual one. I come into the relationship through the miracle of God and through my own will to believe. Then I begin to get an intelligent appreciation and understanding of the wonder of the transformation in my life.

http://utmost.org/the-drawing-of-the-father/

ADA: Sharia, pornography, TV monitoring, broadcasting, standing up in 2012

ADA:  Sharia, pornography, TV monitoring, broadcasting, standing up in 2012
 

The relentless battle goes on day by day in our embattled America. The challenges are real to us on so many fronts.

For those of you who have stood with us during this past year, you are a great help and encouragement to us as we continue ministering in Christ’s Name.

If you appreciate our work, particularly those who have never given, your year-end gift would be a great encouragement to us as a demonstration that our support-base is increasing despite the despairing times.

Click on the 2012 year in reviewand make a financial contribution here.

One thing is clear. Each of us is called to be faithful. By the grace of God, we will be!

An important aspect of the work of the American Decency Association is to educate, inform, exhort, convict and encourage.

Here is a short list of ADA accomplishments for 2012 followed by a link for a full review of 2012.

First the short list:

* Continued our aggressive television monitoring against targeted shows and influenced the cancellation of All American Muslim, Are You There, Chelsea?, and GCB after numerous corporations dropped their ads.

* Began a one minute radio program “A Decency Minute” that currently airs nationally, Monday – Friday, on Sirius XM’s “Family Talk” satellite radio and also airs in West Michigan on American Family Radio (91.7 FM). This broadcast gives a tremendous opportunity to speak into the hearts and minds of listeners on a variety of spiritual and salt and light topics.

*  Spoke with and gave counsel to numerous individuals who sought our help regarding a personal struggle with pornography or have a spouse or family member who are struggling with this concern.  These calls came as a direct result of our radio broadcast, church bulletin insert, or daily email alerts. Keeping a list of recommended Christian counselors who specialize in this area, we also refer individuals to a professional counselor.

*  At the request of a local concerned citizen, testified at a city council hearing in Mt. Pleasant, MI regarding a gay rights ordinance.  Out of hundreds in attendance, Bill Johnson, representing ADA, was  the only one who spoke in opposition.

Our monitoring list in 2012 has included: All American Muslim; the debauched Are You There, Chelsea?; GCB – (“Good Christian B—ches”) – blatant Christian bigotry; Sister Wives which promotes polygamy; Glee – targeting our youth; The New Normal – pushing the gay agenda; the perverse Fox shows – Fam- ily Guy, American Dad, and The Cleveland Show; Don’t Trust the B—- in Apt. 23; and numerous others. Staff members monitor the programs for content, make record of the advertisers, research corporate contact information and email addresses, and update our advertiser database. We warn parents and viewers of concerning content and urge corporations not to support destructive, immoral messages with their advertising.

* Informed and educated on the threat of radical Islam, stealth Jihad, and the insidious efforts to slowly implement Sharia Law within our judicial system.

* Worked diligently within the boundaries of our C(3) non-profit status to encourage Christians to register to vote and to vote for biblical values during the 2012 election season and distributed over 4,000 voter guides locally.

* Made concerted efforts to rally pastors (sadly, with little success) encouraging them to speak into the issues of the day in keeping with God’s Word and urge their congregation to be salt and light in the culture and political arenas.

* Held our annual summer event featuring Curtis Bowers, producer of the powerful documentary Agenda: Grinding America Down, and Rev. Don Wildmon, Founder of American Family Association. Both stirring presentations were enthusiastically received.

* Hosted a conference of grave importance on the topic of “Political Islam, Sharia Law, and the American Constitution,” featuring premier experts Frank Gaffney and William Wagner. This was a rare opportunity to learn about this vital concern and the large audience in attendance most definitely had their eyes opened to this stealthy, yet very real, threat America is facing today. The overwhelming response was very affirming.

* Targeted JC Penney for their embrace of the homosexual agenda with their Mother’s Day and Father’s Day ads promoting lesbian and gay parents. Shed light on other corporations also pushing the homosexual agenda such as Starbucks, General Mills, Walt Disney World, Google, Fifth Third Bank, and UPS through their corporate policies.

* Opposed Macy’s policy which allows transgender men to change in women’s dressing rooms.

*  The Friday following the presidential election we showed our DVD recording of Frank Gaffney from our event “Political Islam, Sharia Law, and the American Constitution” with a matinee and evening showing. This was quickly planned and timed to allow kindred spirits to come together after the election. Several people asked for many copies of the Gaffney DVD to distribute it. During the discussion time following the Gaffney DVD showing, a 76 year old former Marine whom we’d never met shared his love and concern for children, family and nation. He was a patriot who clearly loved the Lord, weeping for our nation’s lack of discernment – he needed to get it off of his chest. With him was his granddaughter, a young high school student, also burdened over what is happening in our country. This teen shared her heartache that a teacher mocked her subject choice when she said she wanted to write a research paper on terrorism. Fellow students in the critique time after the oral presentation of her paper thought it funny that she would write on terrorism. This teen asked to get involved in community service with ADA.

Click here for full review of 2012

http://www.americandecency.org/full_article.php?article_no=1645

Crossing The River Jordan

After the death of Moses, Jehovah said to Joshua, Moses’ helper, “Moses my servant is dead: Now arise, go over the Jordan with all this people to the land which I am about to give to the Israelites. As long as you live no one will be able to stand against you. As I was with Moses, so I shall be with you: I will not fail you nor forsake you. Be brave and strong, for you shall give this people the land which I solemnly promised their fathers I would give them. Only be brave and strong to keep faithfully all the law, as Moses my servant commanded you. Turn not from it to the right nor to the left, and you shall have success wherever you go. Have I not commanded you? Be brave and strong; fear not nor be afraid, for Jehovah your God is with you wherever you go.”

Then Joshua gave this order to the officers who were over the people: “Go through all the camp and give this command: ‘Prepare food for yourselves, for within three days you are to cross this Jordan, to go in and take the land which Jehovah your God has given you as your own.'”

While Joshua was at Shittim, he secretly sent two men as spies, with the command: “Go, explore the land and especially Jericho.” So they went and entered the house of a woman named Rahab, and stayed there.

It was reported to the king of Jericho, “Some men came here to-night from the Israelites to explore the land.” Therefore the king of Jericho sent to Rahab and said, “Bring out the men who entered your house, for they have come to explore all the land.”

Now the woman had taken the two men and hidden them; so she said, “It is true, some men came to me, but I did not know where they came from. When the time came to shut the gate at night, the men went out and I do not know where they have gone. Follow after them quickly, for you may overtake them.” She, however, had brought them up to the roof and hidden them with the stalks of flax which she had spread out there. So the men of Jericho followed after them in the direction of the fords of the Jordan; and as soon as the men of Jericho had gone out, the gate was closed.

The spies had hardly lain down when Rahab came up to them on the roof and said, “I know that Jehovah has given you the land and that fear of you has seized us and that because of you all who live in the land are losing heart. Now therefore swear to me by Jehovah, since I have treated you with kindness, that you will also treat my family kindly, and promise me that you will save the lives of my father, my mother, my brothers, and my sisters, together with all that they have, and will not put us to death.” The men said to her, “We are ready to give our lives for you, if you do not tell what we are doing; and when Jehovah gives us the land, we will treat you kindly and faithfully.”

Then she let them down by a rope through the window, for the house in which she lived was built into the city wall. She said to them, “Go into the hills, that the men who are looking for you may not find you, and hide yourselves there three days until they have returned. Then you may go on your way.”

The men said to her, “We shall be free from our solemn promise to you, unless, when we come into the land, you bind this cord of scarlet thread in the window through which you let us down and gather your father, your mother, your brothers, and all your family into your house. If any one goes out of the doors of your house into the street, he shall be responsible for his death and we shall be innocent. If any one stays with you in the house, we will be responsible for his death if any one lays hands on him. But if you tell what we are doing, we shall be free from our solemn promise to you.” She replied, “It shall be as you say.” So she sent them away. And when they were gone, she bound the scarlet cord in the window.

So they left and went into the hills and stayed there three days until those who were looking for them had returned. They sought for them in every direction but did not find them. Then the two men came down from the hills, crossed the river, and came to Joshua and told him all that had happened to them.

Joshua rose up early in the morning and set out from Shittim. And he and all the Israelites came to the Jordan and spent the night there before crossing. And Joshua said to the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for to-morrow Jehovah will do wonders among you. Come and hear the words of Jehovah your God. By this you shall know that a living God is with you: the ark of the Lord of all the earth is about to pass over before you into the Jordan. When the priests who bear the ark of the Lord of all the earth step into the waters of the Jordan, its waters shall be cut off, so that the waters that come down from above will stand still in a heap.”

So when the people left their tents to pass over the Jordan, the priests, who were carrying the ark were in front of them. And when the bearers of the ark came to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests who were carrying the ark dipped in the brink of the water–for the Jordan overflows all its banks during the harvest time–the waters that came down from above stood still and its waters rose in a heap a long distance up the river at Adam, the city that is near Zarethan. The waters that went down toward the Dead Sea were wholly cut off, while the people crossed over opposite Jericho. The priests who were carrying the ark of Jehovah stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, while all the Israelites passed over on dry ground, until the whole nation had completed the crossing of the Jordan.

When they had all crossed, Jehovah said to Joshua, “Command them to take from the middle of the Jordan, out of the place where the priests’ feet stood, twelve stones and carry them over with you and lay them down in the camping-place, where you pass the night, that this may be a reminder to them. Then when your children ask from time to time: ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ you shall say to them, ‘They are reminders that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of Jehovah, when it passed over the Jordan.’ These stones shall be a constant reminder to the Israelites.”

So the Israelites did as Joshua commanded and took up out of the middle of the Jordan twelve stones corresponding to the number of the tribes of the Israelites. They carried them over with them to the place where they camped and laid them down there.

Then the waters of the Jordan returned to their place and the river overflowed all its banks as before.

http://kids.ochristian.com/Childrens-Bible/Crossing-The-River-Jordan.shtml

“My tongue also shall talk of Thy righteousness all the day long” (Ps. lxxi. 24).

It is a simple law of nature, that air always comes in to fill a vacuum. You can produce a draught at any time, by heating the air until it ascends, and then the cold air rushes in to supply its place. And so we can always be filled with the Holy Spirit by providing a vacuum.

This breath is dependent upon exhausting the previous breath before you can inhale a fresh one. And so we must empty our hearts of the last breath of the Holy Spirit that we have received, for it becomes exhausted the moment we have received it, and we need a new supply, to prevent spiritual asphyxia.

We must learn the secret of breathing out, as well as breathing in. Now, the breathing in will continue if the other part is rightly done. One of the best ways to make room for the Holy Spirit is to recognize the needs that come into the life as vacuums for Him to fill, and we shall find plenty of needs all around us to be filled, and as we pour out our lives in holy service, He will pour His in–in full measure.

Jesus, empty me and fill me
With Thy fulness to the brim.

http://devotionals.ochristian.com/a-b-simpson-devotional.shtml