Saturday, December 31, 2011

Through the Eyes of Faith

 

41 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 42 How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

—The words of Jesus as recorded by the Apostle Luke from Luke 6:41-42

 

Are you looking for a New Year’s resolution? Perhaps this video will help orient your thinking and point you in the right direction:

 

 

The Scripture passage at the beginning of this blog post gives us clear instruction from the Lord Jesus. As a new year begins, it’s high time we began to look at the people around us with the eyes of Jesus’ love for them. I’m in. How about you?

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Jesus to be our Savior. Thank You for sending us Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us.

Help us throughout this new year to look at the people who cross our pathway with the eyes of Your love. We offer our bodies as living sacrifices. Please use us as instruments of your grace in this dying world.

Holy Spirit, we ask You to so fill us with your love that it will overflow and touch the lives of everyone around us. Speak words of Your calm assurance into our hearts and minds that we might share Your peace with those in need.

Thank You, dear Father, for Your grace that is greater than all our sin. And, thank You for hearing our prayer in and through the precious Name of Your Son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Serving in God’s Strength

 

7 The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. 8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

—The words of the Apostle Peter from 1 Peter 4:7-11

 

“I’m sorry to have to tell you this. But, you have just about four months to live.”

Any reasonable person would hope against all hope not to ever hear anyone say such words to him or her. The truth remains. At some point, we will all die. If we don’t, it will be because the end of the age has come.

The Apostle Peter, in the Scripture passage at the beginning of this blog post, felt strongly that “the end of all things is near.” Looking at his statement, from our perspective nearly 2,000 years later, was Peter wrong?

Imagine how Peter’s first letter must have been received. “The end is near? Yeah, right!”

Peter addresses this very concern in his second letter, when he writes in 2 Peter 3:3-10:

3 First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4 They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” 5 But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. 6 By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. 7 By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.

8 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.

So, Peter understood that people would scoff at the idea that the end times were near. And, some still scoff today. The fact that some sadly misguided individuals have predicted a certain date for the end of the world that passes without incident has fed those same scoffers. Yet what should believers in the Lord Jesus do?

Peter asserts that we should:

  • Be clear minded. Do not let anything cloud our thinking, so that we will turn away from God’s truth as revealed in His Word.

  • Be self-controlled. Keep a grip. Stay focused. Don’t let the emotions of the moment tear us away from what we know is true.

  • Love each other deeply. Peter uses the Greek word “philadelphoi” or “loving the brothers” (and sisters). This word—one of four words for “love” in biblical Greek—expresses a love like the love within a family unit. The love of a father and mother for their children. The love that a sibling has for his or her other siblings.

  • Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Willingly and generously welcome your brothers and sisters in Christ into your homes in order to fellowship with one another.

  • Use whatever God-given gift you’ve received to serve others in order to faithfully administer God’s grace.

  • If you speak, speak in such a way that it would mirror what God might speak. Thus, guard your tongue and let your words be godly words.

  • If you serve, rely on the strength that God provides. Don’t try to do acts of service in your own strength. Rely on God-given strength to perform works in His behalf.

  • Do all these things for one purpose: so that God, alone, will receive the praise. Never seek praise for yourself. If anyone gives you praise, acknowledge that what you have done, you have done to the glory of God. Let all the praise flow to Him.

Once we realize that, in these last days, the task that stretches out before us gives us an opportunity to faithfully do God’s work in this world in His strength and for His praise and glory, it greatly simplifies our motivation and shapes the way we will operate in our “doing.”

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Jesus to be our Savior. Thank You for sending us Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us.

Continue to remind us that whatever we do in this world, we must do it relying on Your strength and in such a way that it brings glory and praise only to You. Keep us from seeking praise for ourselves. Help us to step out of the spotlight and remain in the shadows. Help us to do Your work without calling attention to ourselves.

More than anything, we acknowledge that we need You to continue to teach us how to obediently follow Your will. We need You to make Your Word come alive in our hearts and minds, as we read it each day. We need the intervention of Your Holy Spirit in our daily lives to enable us to follow the pathway You have set out before us.

Thank You, dear Father, for hearing our prayer in and through the precious Name of Your Son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Monday, December 26, 2011

“...I know what love is!”

 

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.

—The words of the Apostle Paul from 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a

 

As I writer, I always watch a movie with a critical eye, looking for the arc of the story. In the movie, Forrest Gump, the apex of the story arc occurs when Forrest confronts his life-long love, Jenny, with the words, “I’m not a smart man, Jenny. But, I know what love is!”

I sometimes wonder whether or not we know what love is. As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, our lives should have such a filling of His love that the love will flow out of us and touch the people around us. Sometimes, we suppress our love. We do this because someone has hurt us deeply, or because we’re afraid, or selfish, or angry, or—for a host of reasons.

It’s probably a good idea for us to take a little quiz, from time to time, based on the Scripture passage at the beginning of this blog post. We need to ask ourselves, “Do I really know what love is?”

  • Love is patient.
  • Love is kind.
  • Love does not envy.
  • Love does not boast.
  • Love is not proud.
  • Love is not rude.
  • Love is not self-seeking.
  • Love is not easily angered.
  • Love keeps no record of wrongs.
  • Love does not delight in evil.
  • Love rejoices with the truth.
  • Love always protects
  • Love always trusts.
  • Love always hopes.
  • Love always perseveres.
  • Love never fails.

So, how did you do? I know that I got caught on the ninth bullet point: “Love keeps no record of wrongs.” Why, I have a long list of people who have hurt me that goes way back to when I was 14 years old—over 50 years ago. Shame on me. I confess my sin of holding on to a painful past.

How about you? What stands in the way of you letting the love of Christ flow through you to touch the world around you?

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Jesus to be our Savior. Thank You for sending us Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us.

I confess my sin of holding on to a painful past. I ask You, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to help me turn my back on those incidents where people have hurt me, and look forward to the pathway that You have laid out before me. Cleanse me through and through, I pray. And, for those praying with me in this moment, I ask You to reveal to them any barrier they may have erected to stay the flow of Your love through them.

Please continue to teach us how to obediently follow Your will. May Your Word come alive in our hearts, as we read it each day. And, help us to steadfastly follow that pathway You have set out before us. Thank You, dear Father, for hearing our prayer in and through the precious Name of Your Son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Kiss the Son

 

1 Why do the nations conspire
      and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth take their stand
      and the rulers gather together
      against the LORD
      and against his Anointed One.
3 “Let us break their chains,” they say,
      “and throw off their fetters.”
4 The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
      the Lord scoffs at them.
5 Then he rebukes them in his anger
      and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,
6 “I have installed my King
      on Zion, my holy hill.”

7 I will proclaim the decree of the LORD:
      He said to me, “You are my Son;
      today I have become your Father.
8 Ask of me,
      and I will make the nations your inheritance,
      the ends of the earth your possession.
9 You will rule them with an iron scepter;
      you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”

10 Therefore, you kings, be wise;
      be warned, you rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the LORD with fear
      and rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry
      and you be destroyed in your way,
      for his wrath can flare up in a moment.
    Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

—The words of the Psalmist from Psalm 2:1-12

 

In the last verse of the Scripture passage that appears at the beginning of this blog post, the Psalmist entreats the people singing this prophetic Psalm to “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry.” This urgent message may seem a bit odd in our culture today. We think of kissing either in terms that express romance, or at lest, affection. But, in times not that long past, a kiss also symbolized a submission of one person’s will to another.

Thus, as a subject entered the presence of a king or ruler, he or she would bow. And, if the ruler extended his or her hand, the subject would kiss the ruler’s hand. The kiss signified an obedience, a submission, a bending of the subject’s will to the will of the ruler.

On certain occasions, slaves in ancient times also gave their master a symbolic indication of their assent to the master’s will by means of a kiss. Sometimes the slave kissed the master’s hand. Other times, as part of an embrace, the slave would kiss the master’s cheek.

In our culture today—as a part of our rightful expression of deep regret for that period in our history where we captured and transported fellow human beings from Africa and other parts of the world and brought them to America to serve under bondage—we do not like to even use the word “slave.” But, in reality, the Apostle Paul refers to himself as a “bondslave of Christ and a steward of the mysteries of God.” (see 1 Corinthians 4:1).

As I have explained in previous blog posts, with particular reference to Deuteronomy 15:12-18, the Apostle Paul has clearly understood that when we open our hearts to receive God’s gift of salvation, in and through the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit bonds us to God forever. Because God chose us to belong to Him before the foundation of the world, once we bow our knee in fealty to Him, He graciously grants us the extreme honor and deep privilege of becoming His bondslave, or if you prefer, bondservant.

But, our relationship does not end there. No, indeed. Because we have acknowledged this great gift of eternal life that God has freely given us in Christ, God promotes us to the position of “steward” in His Kingdom. A “steward” is a “slave elevated to a postion of responsibility in the Master’s kingdom.” Still a slave, the steward now exercises authority given by the Master to help bring about the success of the Master’s goals and objectives. The Master accomplishes His work in partnership with His stewards.

So, in the prohecy expressed in Psalm 2, the Psalmist looks toward the coming of the Messiah, or Christ—same word: one in Hebrew, the other in Greek—to bring the freedom from sin. At this most sacred time of year when we celebrate both the Incarnation and also express our longing for Christ’s return, it seems very fitting for us to “Kiss the Son.” But, not because we fear His anger. Rather, we joyfully and reverently and humbly “Kiss the Son” as a sign, once again, that we consciously, purposefully, and obediently bend our will to His. We acknowledge that our own interest has no importance. We live to serve the Great King. We strive to obediently do His will.

When we pray the prayer that Jesus taught His disciples and say, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven...” we pledge our part in this great task. As bondslaves of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God, we bring forth the reality of this season of the year in the depths of our hearts. We do this in such a way that the very Kingdom of God will spring forth throughout every moment of every day for all the remaining days of our lives here on earth.

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Jesus to be our Savior. Thank You for sending us Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us.

In the depth of our hearts we obediently “Kiss the Son” to acknowledge our total dependence on You to fulfill Your purpose on this earth. We speak to You in genuine humility and express our gratitude that You have claimed us as Your own and made us a part of Your great plan for mankind. How we thank You that, in Your mercy and grace, You have elevated us to the position of stewards in Your Kingdom.

Precious Father, even as we celebrate the birth of Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, we long for Him to return with power and in great glory. Vouchsafe for us the time of His coming.

Please continue to teach us wholehearted obedience through Your Word. And, help us to steadfastly follow the pathway You have set out before us. Thank You, dear Father, for hearing our prayer in and through the precious Name of Your Son, Jesus, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Joy in the Midst of Sorrow

 

6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

—The words of the Apostle Peter from 1 Peter 5:6-7

 

For most people, the Christmas season offers one of the brightest and best times of the year. The festive crowds, the bright lights, the sound of carols, the laughter of children, all conspire to lift our hearts and dazzle our minds, filling them with Christmas cheer. But, for some individuals—albeit a rather small sampling of the total population in the United States—Christmas offers an all-too-sharp reminder of loss. I am one such person.

On December 15, 1981, my father passed from this life into the arms of his Savior. After exhausting himself trying to start an errant snow blower, my dad entered his house, complained to my mother about not feeling well, climbed the stairs to his bedroom, laid down on his bed, and died. My mother was so shocked that she didn’t even have the presence of mind to call 9-1-1. Instead, she ran downstairs to the kitchen telephone, the only one in the house, and dialed her best friend. It was her friend that, after quickly ending the call with my mother, dialed 9-1-1.

A few minutes after two o’clock in the afternoon, I received a telephone call at work. When I answered, a member of the fire department, who had responded on the rescue squad, told me my father had died. He then put my mother on the phone. Naturally, she was confused and in shock. I told her I would get on an airplane and arrive at her home as quickly as I could.

I will spare you the long, intervening saga. Suffice it to say that my mother never really recovered from my father’s death. She came to live with my wife and me for the next four years. Then, on Sunday, December 15, 1985, sitting next to me in church, she told me she felt ill. I helped her up and out into the hall. It soon became apparent something very serious was wrong. I drove her to the hospital. In minutes, a cerebral hemorrhage caused her to lapse into a coma from which she never awoke. She passed into the arms of her Savior a few minutes after seven o’clock the next morning, making her date of death four years and one day after my father died.

I have learned a lot of things in the intervening 30 and 26 years, respectively, since my parent’s death. One of those things is that you never really get over the death of those you love. Even now, all these years later, at the oddest of moments, a sudden wave of grief will wash over me. I feel, usually for just a few minutes, an overwhelming sense of loss and sorrow. Oh yes, I know that my dear, dear parents currently experience unspeakable joy in the Presence of God. I know that Jesus welcomed them. I know they have been reunited with all their loved ones who preceded them. I am glad, beyond my ability to express, that every frailty of this life has now given way to new bodies, that Jesus Himself has wiped every tear from their eyes, and that every day in heaven is but a prelude to blissful days that stretch into eternity.

So, while the Christmas season does offer a sense of festivity and excitement, it also offers a sense of remembrance and wistful sorrow. I imagine that just such sentiment motivated Christina Rosetti to pen the words to a most unusual Christmas carol:

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, Whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, Whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

Rosetti originally penned these words in response to an assignment from the magazine, Scribner’s Monthly.Of course, snow does not normally fall in the Bethlehem hills, south of Jerusalem. But, the initial “bleakness” of the stark imagery in Rosetti’s poem seems undeniable. Add to the sonorous nature of the words the tune, “Cranham,” by Gustav Holst, and you have a perfect setting to illustrate how the gloom of emptiness and loss gives way to the glory of the Incarnation.

So, I speak on behalf of all those who punctuate the joy of Christmas—and the blessedness of God taking on human flesh that He might pay the ultimate penalty for our sin—with a tinge of sorrow at the loss of those we love. May the Giver-of-Every-Good-and-Perfect-Gift grant us the joy of His Presence in this very special time of year.

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Jesus to be our Savior. Thank You for sending us Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us.

We humbly ask You to wipe the tears from our eyes that we may see the Light of Your Presence and celebrate the joy of the Incarnation. Grant us, in Your mercy and grace, a special touch from Your Holy Spirit to buoy our spirits and lighten our hearts. We give all our sorrow to You, knowing that You gladly bear our burdens. We cast all our cares on You.

Precious Father, even as we celebrate the birth of Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, we long for Him to return with power and in great glory. Vouchsafe for us the time of His coming.

Please continue to speak to us through Your Word. And, help us to obediently follow the pathway You set out before us. Thank You, dear Father, for hearing our prayer in and through the precious Name of Your Son, Jesus, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Comfort and Joy in a Crazy World

 

12 “Even now,” declares the LORD,
      “return to me with all your heart,
      with fasting and weeping and mourning.”
13 Rend your heart
      and not your garments.
    Return to the Lord your God,
      for he is gracious and compassionate,
      slow to anger and abounding in love,
      and he relents from sending calamity.
14 Who knows? He may turn and have pity
      and leave behind a blessing—...

—The words of the Prophet Joel from Joel 2:12-14a

 

If I insist that “It’s a crazy world out there!” will you disagree with me? I think not. While I am not a proponent of longing for the “good old days,” I am keenly aware that fifty years ago we lived in a much simpler, and generally calmer, world.

Now, at every turn, we face a marked increase in the amount of overtly discernible sin. Chaos reigns throughout our government, the economy, the church, and far too many of our personal lives. I don’t know about you, but I long for some comfort and some joy.

The other day, I heard an old, familiar Christmas carol on the radio. “God rest ye merry gentlemen, let nothing you dismay. Remember Christ the Savior was born on Christmas Day.” The carol goes on to speak of “O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy.”

I don’t know why I never put those two words together in my mind so clearly before. But, as I think about it, “comfort” and “joy” do seem to go together. When God grants us comfort, He also brings us joy!

In the Scripture passage at the beginning of this blog post, the Prophet Joel urges us to return to the Lord our God. And, not only does he urge us to return, he urges us to return with all our hearts.

A wholehearted return to God. That’s exactly what we need in the midst of this crazy world. A wholehearted return to God would give us comfort in the midst of the chaos of our lives. A wholehearted return to God would not only comfort us, it would give us great joy.

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Jesus to be our Savior. Thank You for sending us Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us. We bow before You and humbly acknowledge that, more than anything else, we desire to return to You with our whole hearts. We ask You to help us—to enable us by the power of Your Holy Spirit—to love you with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. We consciously give you our emotions, our intellect, our spiritual being, and our physical being.

Precious Father, having acknowledged our desire to love You with the totality of our beings, we wait expectantly and reverently for a great outpouring of Your comfort and Your joy.

Please continue to use Your Word to help us clearly see the illumination You provide to enlighten the pathway of our lives. And, thank You, dear Father, for hearing our prayer in and through the precious Name of Your Son, Jesus, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Careful Investigation

 

1 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3 Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.

—The words of the Apostle Luke from Luke 1:1-4

 

With the words of the Scripture passage at the beginning of this blog post, the Apostle Luke begins his quest to write down all that he has learned through his exhaustive research about the Lord Jesus Christ—God in human flesh, the Messiah, the Christ, the Annointed One, the Promised One, God with us.

How fascinating it is to me, in this age of a quickly pouncing media who far too often seem to release partial and inaccurate information about developing news stories without gathering the complete facts, that Dr. Luke chose to take the time to make a detailed inquiry of every person he could possibly talk with before he penned his gospel and its sequel, the Acts of the Apostles.

In my imagination, I can see Marty, who worked in the press room of the Jerusalem Gazette, harping on Dr. Luke to get his copy in before the presses begin to roll. Luke refused to do so. He wasn’t going to write anything down until he had garnered all the factual information. Luke had a clear goal of presenting an “orderly account” for his friend, Theophilus.

As we make our way through this season of Advent, into Christmas and, finally, into a New Year, perhaps we can all take a strong example from Dr. Luke. Before we jump to conclusions, let’s do what he did: get all the facts first. We may not earn the kind of reputation that Luke has earned—that of the most brilliant and scholarly of all the Gospel writers. But, we will certainly do less harm when we base our reports on an exhaustive investigation into the facts.

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Jesus to be our Savior. Thank You for sending us Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us. We ask You to help us always quest for the truth by seeking to learn the most we can about any situation. Before we report to others, we ask You to set off an alarm bell that reminds us to make certain we truly know the facts, to the best of our abilities.

Precious Father, we approach you with our heads bowed and our hearts open to a ministry of Your grace. Please continue to use Your Word to clearly and effectively illuminate the pathway of our lives by the power of Your Holy Spirit. And, thank You for hearing our prayer in and through the precious Name of Jesus, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Incarnation

 

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

6 There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. 9 The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.

10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

—The words of the Apostle John from John 1:1-14

 

The Scripture passage above encapsulates the amazing truth of God coming to earth in human form: The Incarnation. While this overwhelming act of God’s grace will always crackle with the electricity of a mystery, Fr. Eric Kouns—a chuch-planting priest in the Anglican Church in North America—has recently posted a blog entitled, “Christianity’s Most Vital Truth.” In sharing thoughts concerning his weekly worship service, Fr. Eric writes:

Every week we intone the words (of the Nicene Creed)…
We believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten from the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten not made, of one being with the Father. For us and for our salvation He came down from heaven. By the power of the Holy Spirit He became incarnate from the Virgin Mary and was made man.
Those are powerful words whenever they are repeated, but the significance of that declaration is especially meaningful at this time of year—Advent and Christmas.

When I taught Christian doctrine at a small Bible college, I used to ask my students what they believed to be the most important truth in all of Christianity. Their most common response was generally the Resurrection of Christ. Some suggested His Crucifixion. And these, along with a few others, are worthy suggestions. But I always told my students that I considered the Incarnation—the truth that the all-powerful and infinite God took on human form and became a human being who lived among us on earth—to be the single most important tenet in all of Christian doctrine.

After all, if Jesus was not really God in human form, then his death, while perhaps notable, was still just the death of a man. If he was not really God incarnate, then the literal truth of his resurrection from the grave can legitimately be challenged, and that story can just as easily be interpreted in ways that do not require any miraculous element.

But if Jesus Christ was “true God from true God” who “became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,” as the Creed declares and as orthodox believers understand the Scriptures to teach, then his crucifixion was far more than merely the death of a man. And if it was God in human form who died on that cross, then it is silly to deny the possibility of a literal, bodily resurrection.

In other words, if Jesus was not the incarnation, the “enfleshment,” of God, then everything else Christians say they believe about Jesus loses all significance. There is no more foundation for its truth. If, however, as we Christians believe, Jesus was in fact God in human flesh, then everything else the Creeds and the Gospels say about him is altogether reasonable and consistent with what we would expect from a God-man.

It was a fresh appreciation for the significance of the Incarnation of Christ some years ago that set me on this relentless pursuit of authentic faith. I began to subject every element in my practice of Christian faith to questions like these: “Is this worthy of association with one who was really and truly God in human flesh? Does this belief or this practice reflect the dignity, the gravitas, the majesty that should be accorded to one who was, and is, God with us?”

There is little more I can add regarding this critically important subject than what Fr. Kouns has already stated. I would invite you to add a link in your browser’s “favorites” to Fr. Eric’s blog. Please click here to go to his blogsite.

As we contemplate the arrival of the Christ-child this Advent Season—and even moreso, as we long for His second coming—may we continue to marvel at God’s magnificent grace. “Grace that is greater than all our sins.”

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Jesus to be our Savior. Thank You for sending us Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us. We consciously open our hearts to the gift of love the coming of Your Son represents. Help us to live in such a way that we honor His coming. Encourage us with the great hope that He is coming again. Please, O Lord, may it be soon!

Precious Father, with humility, and also with great joy, we say to You over and over again that we desire to live our lives in obedience to Your will and Your Word. Please continue to brightly illuminate the pathway of our lives by the power of Your Holy Spirit. We praise You and thank You for hearing our prayer in and through the precious Name of Jesus, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Speak the Truth from Your Heart

 

1 Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary?
     Who may live on your holy hill?

2 He whose walk is blameless
     and who does what is righteous,
     who speaks the truth from his heart
3 and has no slander on his tongue,
     who does his neighbor no wrong
     and casts no slur on his fellowman,
      4 who despises a vile man
but honors those who fear the Lord,
     who keeps his oath
     even when it hurts,
5 who lends his money without usury
     and does not accept a bribe against the innocent.

     He who does these things
     will never be shaken.

—The words of King David from Psalm 15:1-5

 

Every day, television and radio, newspapers and magazines, chat rooms, blogs, and other internet sources bombard us with lies. Does that assertion sound harsh to you? Well, if some statement that someone speaks or prints does not fully contain the total and absolute truth, then it becomes a lie. In fact, individuals and corporations lie to us so much, we’ve almost become used to it. Yes, we’ve become so used to the lies that it has become increasingly more difficult to discern the truth.

Some lies contain information that the liar wishes to be true. A statement explaining some action often represents a good example of this kind of lie.

“We took this action because...”

And, out comes the lie. The ones composing the statement of explanation may have come to the place in their own thinking where they actually believe the lie they now tell to others. But, it’s still a lie. That’s right. Just because they have convinced themselves that a lie they may tell is “true,” their self-deception does not relieve them from the responsibility for telling that lie.

On this blog, I’ve written a great deal about “first sources.” When you live your life in such a way that you rely only on information from first sources, you will never simply accept some important information that someone tells you without investigating. Such an investigation requires you to seek out first sources.

Here’s an example. If someone tells me that Mary Jane—I just picked some names randomly—has said that Sally Ann’s volunteer work at the eastside clinic was always substandard, I don’t accept that statement on its face. Rather, I must go to Mary Jane and inquire as to whether she actually said that about Sally Ann.

“Wait a minute!” you may say. “Do you actually believe that Mary Jane would tell you the truth about what she said?”

Well, I don’t know for sure. Maybe not. But, I have to go to the first source in order to give Mary Jane a chance to set the record straight.

Now, what if twenty people tell me that Mary Jane made a statement about Sally Ann at a particular place and at a particular time? And, what if all twenty witnesses tell me essentially the same story?

I will still need to go to Mary Jane and ask her. After all, she, and she alone, is the first source. I may allow the multiple reports to also inform my investigation. In fact, if Mary Jane denies making such a statement about Sally Ann, I will tell her that twenty people have reported to me what she said, on what occastion, and at what time. Then, I will wait to hear Mary Jane’s response. I will also weigh whether or not Mary Jane has consistently told me the truth over the course of our relationship.

In addition to individual pronouncements, be very careful of lies told by any group. Just because a bunch of people sign a document, and seemingly attest to its truthfulness, that does not necessarily mean it is true. Many organizations consist of “sheep” who do not listen with a skeptical ear to what they are told. They are far too easily led by stronger members of the group.

You would be amazed at the file I have of documents from my 46 years in business created by a few members of a group and then signed by a host of other members of that group without any trustworthy underlying substantiation for the truthfulness of the information in the document. Yet, when receiving such a document, most people read it, look at all those who signed it, and believe the information it contains, without investigating the truthfulness of that information by going to first sources.

It’s easier just to believe the lies they’re told than to take the time to seek out first sources. But, by failing to thoroughly investigate things they’re told, they do a disservice to the truth.

God expects us to be people of the Truth. Read again the Scripture passage at the beginning of this blog post. King David asks who can dwell in God’s sanctuary. He then answers his own question based on what God has revealed to him: “He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue...”

So, as I have urged you in past blog posts, when someone tells you something, or you read something about another person, make certain you go to first sources before you take any action. And, particularly check first sources before you pass that information on to someone else. While you’re at it, don’t automatically and non-critically trust what anyone says, no matter who they are. Some of the seemingly most trustworthy people have proven to be pathological liars.

To protect your own integrity, treat skeptically—not cynically, but skeptically— everything anyone tells you, no matter who they may be. Always seek out first sources. Read printed statements carefully. Look for nuanced words. When an author of a document uses words that seem too carefully nuanced, beware.

“Al Jones has had difficulty working with at least one previous manager.”

That statement once appeared in a personnel evaluation that crossed my desk two decades ago. When I investigated further, I discovered that indeed Al Jones—not his real name—had had some difficulty with one—exactly one—previous manager. The other five managers that had supervised Al since that first manager had found Al to be a most excellent, team-playing, highly effective employee. But, I would never had known that if I had taken the statement at face value. Instead, I went to those five managers and made very specific and detailed inquiry into Al’s previous performance under their leadership.

The highly nuanced words left the impression that Al had long been a trouble-maker. That was an outright lie. It was a subtle lie, but a lie nevertheless. Had I not insisted on going to first sources, I would have repeated that lie whenever I spoke about Al. I would have perpetuated the lie and I would have bolstered the lie. In so doing, I would have sinned against Al. Thank goodness my skeptical nature—born from all those years as a fire protection engineer consulting with industrial properties and investigating losses— served me well, once again.

Please, please, please learn from my experiences and seek out first sources. Don’t believe the lies that people originate. Don’t believe the lies that other people pass on to you. And, most importantly of all, don’t be a liar yourself.

God highly values the truth. In fact, He is a God of Truth. As His dearly loved child, He wants you to be a person of Truth, as well.

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Jesus to be our Savior. Thank You for sending us Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us. Even as you have given us Truth, help us to consistently become people of Truth. Help us to reject lies by seeking information from first sources. Help us to stop propagating the lies that others tell. Make us skeptical, but not cynical, as we examine the things that other people tell us. Particularly, help us guard our minds and hearts against the evil influence of lies.

Precious Father, we declare, once again, that we desire to live our lives in obedience to Your will and Your Word. Please continue to brightly illuminate the pathway of our lives by the power of Your Holy Spirit. And, as we always do, we thank You for hearing our prayer in and through the precious Name of Jesus, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

O Come to My Heart, Lord Jesus

 

28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

—The words of Jesus recorded by the Apostle Mark in Mark 12:28-31

 

No matter how hard we try, we cannot manufacture love. True love comes to us as a gift from God, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

One of the great blessings of the Season of Advent arrives at the doorstep of our heart in the form of a longing for the Messiah, the Christ. That longing comes from the gentle, or not so gentle, wooing of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit whispers to the ear of our hearts. He tells us of the magnificent glories that wait for us at the feet of Jesus. No wonder Emily E. Elliott was moved to pen these words that Timothy R. Matthews set to music:

Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown,
When Thou camest to earth for me;
But in Bethlehem’s home was there found no room
For Thy holy nativity.

O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee.


Heaven’s arches rang when the angels sang,
Proclaiming Thy royal degree;
But of lowly birth didst Thou come to earth,
And in great humility.

O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee.


The foxes found rest, and the birds their nest
In the shade of the forest tree;
But Thy couch was the sod, O Thou Son of God,
In the deserts of Galilee.

O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee.


Thou camest, O Lord, with the living Word,
That should set Thy people free;
But with mocking scorn and with crown of thorn,
They bore Thee to Calvary.

O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee.


When the heav’ns shall ring, and her choirs shall sing,
At Thy coming to victory,
Let Thy voice call me home, saying “Yet there is room,
There is room at My side for thee.”

My heart shall rejoice, Lord Jesus,
When Thou comest and callest for me.

As these weeks of Advent lead us to the stable in Bethlehem—and as they herald the return of the Great King Jesus—let us join with brothers and sisters in Christ to express our longing:

O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee.

Will you pray with me?

Thank You, God, for loving us. Thank You for sending Jesus to be our Savior. Thank You for sending us Your Holy Spirit to dwell within us. As we experience another Season of Advent, we open our hearts to You and invite You to fill us full of Your Presence. Help us, each one, to learn how to surrender our heart, mind, soul, and strength to You.

Precious Father, we desire to live our lives in obedience to Your will and Your Word. Please continue to illuminate the pathway of our lives by the power of Your Holy Spirit. As always, we thank You for hearing our prayer in and through the precious Name of Jesus, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Copyright © 2011 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.