Daily Archives: December 23, 2017

December 23 The Revelation of Man’s Destiny

“He did not subject to angels the world to come, concerning which we are speaking. But one has testified somewhere, saying, ‘What is man, that Thou rememberest him? Or the son of man, that Thou art concerned about him? Thou hast made him for a little while lower than the angels; Thou hast crowned him with glory and honor, and hast appointed him over the works of Thy hands; Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet.’ For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him” (Heb. 2:5–8).

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Man’s original intended destiny was to be king of the earth.

When we look at the vast, seemingly endless universe and then think about the little dot we call Earth in the middle of it all, we cannot help but wonder, “What is man? What right do we have to be on God’s mind so much?”

David had an answer: “Thou hast made him for a little while lower than the angels; Thou hast crowned him with glory and honor, and … appointed him over the works of Thy hands; Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet” (Heb. 2:6–8). The writer of Hebrews was quoting one of the Psalms (8:4–6) to show that God made man to be king.

David undoubtedly penned his psalm based on what God said in the beginning: “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Gen. 1:26). God’s original design for man in his innocence was to be king over an undefiled earth.

When God made Adam, who was pure and innocent, He gave him honor and glory. God crowned man king of the earth: “Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet” (Heb. 2:8). One day we again will be given the right to rule the earth, and all God’s creation will be put under our feet.

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Suggestions for Prayer:  Read Psalm 8, and offer it as your own praise to God.

For Further Study: Read Daniel 7:18, 27, and note the extent of the saints’ ultimate rule.[1]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 370). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

Why Did Jesus Come? The Reason for Christmas

What is Christmas all about? Obviously it has to do with the arrival of Jesus Christ on planet earth. But why did he actually come? Just why was he born? What led him to leave the comforts of heaven to appear in the flesh on this dark and dreary earth?

If you are a church pastor, minister, priest or leader, one of your most important jobs is to teach your flocks about who Jesus is and why he came. So it is especially appropriate at the Christmas season to ask again why it is the Incarnation took place. Why did Jesus visit this planet, and what did he seek to do while here?

We know of course there are plenty of wrong and reckless answers to these questions. Most non-Christians and many liberal believers will offer all sorts of patently false reasons, such as:

-He came to be an example for us
-He came to bring world peace
-He came to be a moral teacher
-He came to show us how to be nice to each other
-He came to spread peace and joy
-He came to tell us how to be good
-He came to promote social justice
-He came so we could all get along
-He came so we could find inner peace and personal fulfilment
-He came so that we might be happy
-He came so that we could get rich

All these answers are certainly NOT what the Bible says concerning the reason for Christ’s coming. Sure, some of these things may be secondary results or fruit of the real reasons he came. But no one reading the New Testament could come away with those rather pathetic reasons.

Why did Jesus come?

Scripture makes it quite clear as to why he came, and the whole of Scripture speaks to this in one way or another. But one way to get a handle on this is to list those passages that tell us exactly why he came. We can just let Jesus and the Bible speak on this.

Here then are some very direct and unequivocal verses on this matter. They are either the very words of Jesus, or the words of others about Jesus.

He came to offer truth and light
John 12:46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.
John 18:37 ‘You are a king, then!’ said Pilate. Jesus answered, ‘You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me’.

He came to deal with our sins
Matt 20:28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
Luke 19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.
1 Tim. 1:15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.
1 John 3:5 But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins.

He came to defeat the devil
1 John 3:8 The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.

He came to preach the good news
Luke 4:43 But he said, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.”

This last heading pretty much summarises the other three. The gospel is the good news, and the good news involves all the truth that God has revealed to us, including the unpleasant truth that we must hear the bad news before we can get the good news. And the bad news – as shown in some of the passages above – is that we are all sinners.

We are all alienated from God, under his wrath, and heading to a lost eternity. So the primary reason Jesus came is because we are sinners, and that condition means we are in a very bad place indeed. Indeed, we are fully subject to the devil and his wiles, so that is another part of the coming of Christ – to defeat Satan and his works.

Thus when Jesus speaks about spreading light and truth, it is not some vague, undefined feel-good light and truth, but a very specific variety. The darkness of sin, death and the devil is overcome by the light and truth of Christ and what he did on the cross. And that involves other specifics as well: we must appropriate what Christ has done.

Faith and repentance is the biblical response to the work and message of Christ. It does us no good just to hear about what Christ did for us, but then to think that is all there is. No, we must respond to what Christ said and did. Otherwise it is just a nice story.

I recall one Christmas when we were away from home, so we went to a local church. It was a somewhat liberal and non-evangelical church. The minister actually shared in a half-way decent fashion some of the gospel truths concerning the Christmas message.

But then that was it. Instead of tying it all together and telling the congregation, “OK, in light of all this, how will you respond?,” he just sent everyone on their merry or not so merry way. He seemed to see no connection between the Scriptural points he had just shared, and the need for the people there – including us visiting strangers – to latch on to these truths and make them ours.

As I said above, of all people, Christian leaders must get Christmas right. They must have a clear grasp of just what the Bible has to say about the coming of Christ. If we get this wrong we will get everything else about Christianity wrong as well.

Corrie Ten Boom offers us a brief but powerful summary of what this is all about: “Who can add to Christmas? The perfect motive is that God so loved the world. The perfect gift is that He gave His only Son. The only requirement is to believe in Him. The reward of faith is that you shall have everlasting life.”

Merry Christmas.

Source: Why Did Jesus Come? The Reason for Christmas

DECEMBER 23 GOD HIMSELF AWAITS OUR RESPONSE TO HIS PRESENCE

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

MATTHEW 5:8

A spiritual kingdom lies all about us, enclosing us, embracing us, altogether within reach of our inner selves, waiting for us to recognize it. God Himself is here waiting for our response to His Presence. This eternal world will come alive to us the moment we begin to reckon upon its reality.

As we begin to focus upon God the things of the spirit will take shape before our inner eyes. Obedience to the word of Christ will bring an inward revelation of the Godhead (John 14:21–23).

This is not by any trick of the imagination. May we not safely conclude that, as the realities of Mount Sinai were apprehended by the senses, so the realities of Mount Zion are to be grasped by the soul? The soul has eyes with which to see and ears with which to hear!

Such an inward revelation of the Godhead will give acute perception enabling us to see God even as is promised to the pure in heart. A new God-consciousness will seize upon us and we shall begin to taste and hear and inwardly feel the God who is our life and our all.

There will be seen the constant shining of the light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world. More and more, as our faculties grow sharper and more sure, God will become to us the great All, and His Presence the glory and wonder of our lives! This is what will make heaven more real to us than any earthly thing has ever been.[1]


[1] Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

The Lessons of Christmas: Incarnation, Not Enlightenment

Waiting. I have vivid childhood memories of Christmas Eves spent looking under the Christmas tree, curiously trying to figure out what was inside the carefully wrapped boxes. Was it the toy truck I couldn’t stop talking about? Was it the action figure I spotted at the department store that I just knew I “had” to have? Were my parents really listening to me when I passionately expressed my longings?

God’s Old Covenant people eagerly waited for a promised gift. Was God really listening to his people when they passionately expressed their longing for deliverance and redemption? During Christmas we celebrate the end of Israel’s waiting, and the arrival of Jesus Christ, the One whose appearing was so monumental that Western civilization has literally split its division of history around the perceived date of his birth.

Unfortunately, our commercializing culture has obscured the truest meaning of this holiday. Even Christians can be affected. Christmas is a season with deep theological implications. Beyond the joy of celebrating mere family get-togethers, the customary exchange of gifts, the delicious food, or even the vague sense of universal peace with all people based on little more than our common humanity–Christmas pushes further.

Christmas is radical. Christmas reminds us that our God gets his hands dirty. The infinite,personal God of the Bible isn’t a force. He punishes the wicked, but he also reconciles the lost. The invisible, immortal, intangible Word of God took on human flesh. By this in-fleshing, this incarnation, God the Son took on a new mode of existence marked by weakness, vulnerability, and mortality.”[1] Jesus did this, in the words of the Nicene Creed (325 AD), “For us and for our salvation.” The birth of Jesus is by far the greatest announcement humanity has ever received.

What Christmas Teaches us about Reality

Oneism, with its denial of the Creator-creature distinction, cannot be squared with the truth of Christmas. It leaves us forever waiting for a redemption that never finally arrives. Behind the holiday spectacles lie powerful Twoist truths. Embracing these truths moves us away from the cosmic confusion of Oneism, and plants us firmly on the unshakable ground of gospel truth. This is because the drama of Christmas addresses the root of our greatest problem, answers our greatest need, and presents the greatest news imaginable.

Lesson 1: Our Problem is Our Love of Sinful Affections, Not a Lack of Self-Awareness

Oneism appears in many forms, but they all insist that there is no true distinction between Creator and creature. Enlightenment is not given to us as a gift by from someone or something outside of ourselves. It comes from an awakening to our truest self, an awareness of the inner spark of the divine that runs through all people. Ignorance of self, not estrangement from God, is the great problem to be overcome, according to Oneism.

In sharp contrast, Twoism teaches us that our problem–the problem for which it was necessary for God himself to get involved–is our estrangement from the Creator due to our sin. The very essence of sin reveals the nature of reality. Theologian Millard J. Erickson summarizes biblical imagery for sin as including “missing the mark, irreligion, transgression, iniquity or lack of integrity, rebellion, treachery, perversion, and abomination.”[2] He likewise defines the essence of sin in terms of sensuality, selfishness, and the displacement of God.[3]

The root of human suffering is not ignorance of our inner divinity. When humanity embraced autonomy, the human and divine relationship was broken. War, injustice, racism, sexism, slavery, manipulation, theft, and sex trafficking are all expressions of the sinful, anti-God impulse. Having turned against our Creator, and therefore against one other–those made in the image of the Creator.  We are indeed estranged from ourselves, but not because we just haven’t realized that we are divine. We are estranged because we refuse to acknowledge our creaturehood (Rom. 1:21).

We cannot be our own Christmas heroes. The woes of the world are our own doing. The solution must come from somewhere else. and this brings us to our second Christmas lesson.

Lesson 2: Don’t Look Within, Look to Him

Christmas reveals our greatest need. As D. A. Carson said, if we had needed an economist, entertainer, politician, or doctor, God would have sent one of those to deliver us. Instead, God “perceived that our greatest need involved our sin, our alienation from him, our profound rebellion, our death; and he sent us a Savior.”[4]
We don’t need a shaman, a guru, or a yogi. We only do ourselves harm when we seek solutions to the world’s problem from the well of our own resources. We need a prophet to speak truth, a priest to take up our cause with God, and a king to defeat our enemies.

During Christmas we do not lift our gaze to the pinnacle of human spirituality with the hope of finally reaching enlightenment. Christmas is not about good advice. It is good news.

Christmas marks the launching of God’s kingdom and of God’s redemptive deathblow against the powers of sin, sickness, suffering, and Satan. During this time of year, we–like the shepherds of Luke’s Gospel–reflect on the glorious announcement of the arrival of Jesus Christ as king and redeemer. God has come in person. This gospel was the hope of God’s people surrounded by pagan Rome two thousand years ago, and remains the only hope of his people in the re-paganized west today.

So, though we continue to wait, we now wait in hope for the glorious return of the king.

[1] J. van Genderen and W. H. Velema,
Concise Reformed Dogmatics (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2008), 474.
[2] Millard J. Erickson,
Christian Theology, Third Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2013), 423.
[3] Erickson,
Christian Theology, 423.
[4] D.A. Carson,
A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1992), 109.

The post The Lessons of Christmas: Incarnation, Not Enlightenment appeared first on TruthXchange.

9 Things You Should Know About Christmas Traditions

Christmas is the most widely observed cultural holiday in the world and one with a variety of long-practiced customs. Here are nine things you should know about Christmas traditions.

1. Christmas trees – The tradition of bringing an evergreen tree into the house to be decorated is traced to Germany in the 1500s. The earliest Christmas trees were referred to as “paradises,” after the “paradise trees” used as part of plays held on the feast of Adam and Eve. As Edwin and Jennifer Woodruff Tait explain, these trees were often hung with round pastry wafers symbolizing the Eucharist, which developed into the cookie ornaments decorating German Christmas trees today.

2. Christmas lights — Legend has it that the German Reformer Martin Luther was not only the first person to bring a Christmas tree into the house (not true), he was also the first to decorate it with lights (also probably not true). The story is that when Luther was walking home on a winter night he was overcome by the beauty of a fir tree and the stars shining around it. Unable to communicate the majestic scene to his family, he is said to have brought a tree into his home and decorated it with candle tapers to mimic the stars. This is claimed to be the basis for adding lights to modern Christmas trees. (While it’s an intriguing tale, there is no historical evidence it actually happened.)

3. Candy canes — Folklore says that candy canes for Christmas originated in Germany in 1670. A choirmaster of a cathedral in Cologne gave out candy during worship service to keep the kids quiet. He is said to have asked the candy maker to add a crook to the top of each stick to represent the shepherds who visited baby Jesus. The oft-told story that a Christian candymaker in Indiana made the candy cane to incorporate several symbols from the birth, ministry, and death of Jesus Christ is an urban legend.

4. Christmas cards — The commercial Christmas card originated in London in 1843 when Sir Henry Cole, too busy to write letters, asked an artist friend to design a card with an image and brief greeting that he could mail instead. The artist, John Callcott Horsley, printed 1,000 cards and sold them at Felix Summerly’s Treasure House in London for a shilling each. Americans imported Christmas cards from England until 1875, when a German immigrant named Louis Prang, “the father of the American Christmas card,” created the first line of commercial Christmas cards in the States.

5. Christmas stockings — In the famous poem A Visit from St. Nicholas (1823)—the one that begins “Twas the night before Christmas”—stockings are mentioned while a Christmas tree is not. This is fitting since, throughout the 1800s, stockings were often more symbolic of the holiday than were Christmas trees. An article in The New York Times in December 1883 noted, “The stocking was for so many years so closely associated with Christmas that Christmas without stockings seemed inappropriately and insufficiently celebrated.” In contrast, the article says, “The German Christmas tree—a rootless and lifeless corpse—was never worthy of the day.” While no one knows how the tradition of hanging stockings truly arose, a popular legend is that Santa Claus heard about an impoverished family too proud to take charity. The father, recently widowed, was unable to provide a dowry for his three daughters, so Santa tossed three gold coins down the chimney that landed in the girls’ stockings hanging on the fireplace to dry. (Another version of the story says Santa gave three gold balls, which is where adding oranges or tangerines supposedly comes from.)

6. Eggnog — Eggnog is a drink that contains milk, cream, sugar, whipped eggs, some sort of an alcohol (brandy, cognac, rum, sherry, whiskey), and sometimes spices such as cinnamon or nutmeg. Historians of food believe that it originated from the early medieval Britain “posset,” a hot, milky, ale-like drink. Because of the readily available supply of milk and eggs in American colonies, eggnog became a popular holiday drink.

7. Christmas carols — Since the 14th century, carols have been considered a form of popular religious song. While Christmas carols had begun to become popular after the Reformation, they became a particularly common genre in the 19th century with the publication of music books dedicated to Christmas songs. For example, in 1833 an English lawyer named William Sandys published Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern, which contained the first appearance in print of “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen,” “The First Noel,” and “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” Also during the Victorian era in England, the tradition of visiting people’s houses and singing—a process known as wassailing—was adopted for Christmas and became synonymous with “caroling.”

8. Advent calendars — In Middle Ages the Advent season became directly linked to Christ’s first coming at Christmas. Today, Advent lasts for four Sundays leading up to Christmas, though most Advent calendars start on December 1 and mark the 24 days before Christmas. The tradition of Advent calendars is believed to have started in the mid-19th century, when German Protestants made chalk marks on doors or lit candles to count the days leading up to Christmas. The first printed Advent calendar was produced in the early 1900s by a German named Gerald Lang. When Lang was a child his mother sewed 24 cookies onto the lid of a box and allowed him to eat one of them every day during the Advent period. Lang used this as the model for his own Advent calendar in 1908.

9. Christmas presents – In this short video, Ryan Reeves explains the history of gift-giving on Christmas.

Source: 9 Things You Should Know About Christmas Traditions

5 Popular Misconceptions About the Christmas Story

“Another staple of modern nativity plays is the scene at the inn. Joseph and his wife, Mary—who is on the verge of giving birth—are cruelly turned away by the innkeeper who shows them no compassion. Here is another popular misconception. The Bible never mentions an innkeeper. In fact, it’s possible there was never even an inn at all.”

We experience the story of Jesus’s birth in a variety of ways throughout the Christmas season. The story is presented through nativity scenes, TV shows, story books, paintings, and Christmas pageants.

In fact, we encounter the Christmas story so often we’re convinced we know all the details of what happened that night. But many of the things we think we “know” about the Christmas story turn out to be incorrect.

Here are five common misconceptions.

1. There Was a Star the Night Jesus Was Born

It’s difficult to find a nativity scene (or Christmas play) without a star over the manger. Indeed, this might be the quintessential symbol of the birth of Jesus.

The problem is there’s no indication the star hovered over the manger on the night Jesus was born. On the contrary, when the angels announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds watching their flocks by night (Luke 2:8–11), they weren’t told to look for a star. They were told to look for something else: “And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:12).

The star was given not to the shepherds but to the Magi (Matt. 2:2), who appear to be visiting Jesus at a later time period. How much later is unclear, but the fact that Herod commands all the babies in the region younger than 2 years old to be killed suggests Jesus may have been in Bethlehem for some time.

2. There Were Three Wise Men

Speaking of the wise men, in both art and in song (“We Three Kings”) we get the undeniable impression there were three of them (also called “Magi”). The problem, however, is that this number is found nowhere in the biblical accounts.

Matthew simply tells us, “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem” (Matt. 2:1).

The idea of three wise men likely came from the fact that Matthew mentions three gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Matt. 2:11).

3. There Was No Room for Them in the Inn

Another staple of modern nativity plays is the scene at the inn. Joseph and his wife, Mary—who is on the verge of giving birth—are cruelly turned away by the innkeeper who shows them no compassion.

Here is another popular misconception. The Bible never mentions an innkeeper. In fact, it’s possible there was never even an “inn” at all.

Read More

The post 5 Popular Misconceptions About the Christmas Story appeared first on The Aquila Report.

Questions and Answers about Christmas

GotQuestions.org

Should Christians celebrate Christmas?

What is the true meaning of Christmas?

How should Christians respond to the War on Christmas?

Do some Christmas traditions have pagan origins?

Should we have a Christmas tree?

Does giving gifts take away from the true meaning of Christmas?

Why is the virgin birth so important?

Was Jesus born on December 25th?

Is Christmas related to Saturnalia?

Was Jesus actually born in September?

What does the Bible say about the three wise men?

What should parents tell their children about Santa Claus?

What is an advent calendar? How does an advent calendar relate to Christmas?

Should a Christian celebrate Hanukkah (Christmaskah)?

What is Epiphany / Three Kings’s Day and should Christians celebrate it?

What is Christmastide?

What was the star of Bethlehem?

Does Luke’s claim that Jesus was born in Bethlehem at the time of Quirinius’ census match the historical record?

Why did the Magi bring gold, frankincense, and myrrh to Jesus?

Is it wrong to say “Xmas” instead of “Christmas”?

What year was Jesus Christ born? When was Jesus born?

What is the origin of Christmas?

What is Kwanzaa? Should a Christian celebrate Kwanzaa?

What is a Christmas nativity?

Why was Jesus born in a manger?

What does it mean that baby Jesus was wrapped in swaddling clothes?

What is the meaning of Noel?

Where was Jesus born?

What is Advent?

What is the Annunciation?

What are holy days?

What are Chreasters?

Why do we celebrate Christmas?

Do the narratives of Jesus’ birth contradict each other?

Who/what is Krampus and what does it have to do with Christmas?

What is Yule, and what does it have to do with Christmas?

Top Weekly Stories from ChristianNews.net for 12/23/2017

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Federal Judge Grants Injunction Against Trump Admin’s Expansion of Religious Exemption to Obamacare   Dec 19, 2017 12:42 pm

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Judge Orders Trump Admin to Allow Two More Illegal Immigrant Teens to Obtain an Abortion   Dec 19, 2017 07:29 pm

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Judge Rules Partly in Favor, Partly Against Chief Fired Over Book Calling Homosexuality ‘Perversion’   Dec 21, 2017 08:00 pm

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