He Gave Himself

By: Henry Morris

“Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father.” (Galatians 1:4)

There can never be a greater gift than this. Our Lord Jesus Christ not only has given us forgiveness and salvation and all spiritual blessings, He gave Himself! The pure, glorious Son of God gave Himself, substituting Himself in our place to suffer the righteous judgment of God on our sins.

Six times this wonderful affirmation is found in God’s Word. The first is in our text, assuring us that when He gave Himself, He paid the price to deliver us from this present evil world into the eternal world to come.

Then, in the next occurrence, this promise is made intensely personal. Christ “loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). The gift Christ gave is more than the world could ever give.

The supremely sacrificial nature of His gift is then emphasized. “Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:2). The sacrifice has brought us to Himself, for “Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it. . . . That he might present it to himself a glorious church” (Ephesians 5:25, 27).

The offering was sufficient to pay for the redemption of all sin, as He “gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time” (1 Timothy 2:6). This ransom is not merely to redeem us from the penalty of sin at the judgment, however, but also from the power of sin in our lives, and this is the testimony of the final occurrence of this great declaration. Christ “gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14).

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I Have Decided to Follow Jesus! A devotion by Yves Blouin

Billy Graham Time

Last week several people shared stories related to Billy Graham and his evangelistic crusades.

 

My wife came upon this story about how the hymn “I have decided to follow Jesus” came into being:

https://pastorbradabley.wordpress.com/2016/05/15/the-incredible-story-behind-the-hymn-i-have-decided-to-follow-jesus/

In the 1800’s, a missionary from Wales who had endured severe persecution finally saw his first converts in a particularly brutal village in the Northern Indian province of Assam. A husband and wife, with their two children, professed faith in Christ and were baptized.

Assam and its surrounding provinces was located in one of the most oppressive forms of Hinduism — a place where the caste system was entrenched, and where headhunters ruled.

Their village leaders decided to make an example out of the husband. Arresting the family, they demanded that the father renounce Christ, or see his wife and children murdered.

When he refused, his two children were executed by archers. Given another chance to recant, the man again refused, and his wife was killed. Still refusing to recant, this husband and father was martyred.

Witnesses later told the story to the Welsh missionary. The reports said that when asked to recant or see his children murdered, the man said: “I have decided to follow Jesus, and there is no turning back.”

After seeing his children killed, he reportedly said, “The world can be behind me, but the cross is still before me.” And after seeing his wife pierced by the arrows, he said, “Though no one is ready to go with me, still I will follow Jesus.”

According to this missionary, when he returned to the village, a revival had broken out, and those who had murdered the first converts had since come to faith in Jesus themselves.

The Welsh man passed along these reports to the famous Indian evangelist Sandhu Sundar Singh.

So Singh took the martyr’s last words, and put them to traditional Indian music in order to make one of the first uniquely Indian hymns.

The song immediately became popular in Indian churches, and it remains a mainstay of worship music there to this day.

Eventually some of the American missionaries returned from India and they brought that song with them.

Finally, it ended up with Canadian song writer George Beverley Shea, and he made it a staple at the Billy Graham crusades.

 

Follow Jesus

 

I’m inspired by Christians martyred for Christ – the strength of their faith. Last week’s persecuted church was about Samiha Tawfiq Awad of Egypt who’s face had been severely damaged by an explosion at her church and her reaction was that of thankfulness to be alive so that she could reach out to her attackers and their families for Christ. My faith isn’t that strong.

Last night my family watched a movie called “I’m not ashamed” based on the Columbine massacre and how a teenage girl touched millions for Christ. We don’t have to be spiritual giants to make a difference in other people’s life for Christ – we just need to desire to serve him in whatever way Jesus leads us to.

Billy Graham, as great a man as he was, didn’t give elaborate theological discourses at his crusades but a simple message – the good news of our salvation through Christ. He left it up to the Holy Spirit to do the rest. His audience has been estimated in the billions. Our call may not be the same but just to be ready to give an answer for our hope to whomever will listen. 1 Peter 3:15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,

When I go and pick up Bradyn (my grandson) at his home I will buzz his unit and he will hear my voice on the speakerphone.  By the time I get off from the elevator he is out of the door of his apartment and running down the hall, squealing, giggling and calling out Papa, Papa.  I would guess that annoys some of the other tenants as the hallways echo with the sound of his voice, but you can’t contain Bradyn’s excitement and it gives me great joy.  God calls us to Him.  There is no guarantee that we will respond.  The decision is ours.  If we do come to Him we will not be disappointed and God will be exuberant even more so than we are when our grandchildren run to us to give us a hug.  When we respond, is our excitement subdued because we don’t want to disturb the neighbours?  

child running to grandpa

Are we concerned about what will our friends and family think?  Are we too grown up to share our excitement with others?

God’s calling on our lives is both to turn to his son Jesus and to introduce others to Jesus.  The Holy Spirit does the rest – we’re not responsible for the outcome, just to be obedient in following Jesus and tell others of the joy and peace he can bring into their lives.

Sadhu Sundar Singh

By: Yves Blouin

 

 

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“Are You a Christian or a Muslim?”

For most Americans, it may seem a simple question. But if the person asking the question is a gun-wielding member of al-Shabab (Arabic for “the Youth”), your answer could mean the difference between life and death.
Al-Shabab terrorists have asked the question in a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya. They’ve gone door to door in a university dormitory asking students that question. And they’ve stopped buses in Somalia and asked every passenger the same question: Are you a Christian or a Muslim?

Muslims are allowed to leave, often after being ordered to recite a Quranic verse to “prove” they are really Muslim, and Christians are murdered.

Al-Shabab says they’re waging a “holy war” (jihad in Arabic) against enemies of Islam. Their goal is to completely eliminate Christians from Somalia. They’ve even circulated a list of suspected Christians; anyone whose name is on the list is executed immediately, if discovered.

Despite al-Shabab’s efforts, there are Christians in Somalia. You can learn about the challenges they face and the specific ways you can pray for them by requesting a free copy of VOM’s Christians Facing Islamic Extremists guide. After you’ve requested a copy for yourself, forward this special offer to your Christian friends so they can join in prayer for our persecuted family.

How can you pray for persecuted Christians? Get new, specific prayer requests by email each week.

Sign up at: www.iCommitToPray.com

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The Sin of Complaining

“And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul.” (Psalm 106:15)

Christians who complain about their circumstances would do well to ponder this sobering verse and its background. God had greatly blessed His people, Israel, delivering them supernaturally from slavery in Egypt, protecting them against their enemies—even miraculously supplying daily bread and water for them in the desert.

Still they complained—about their food, about the imaginary luxuries they had left behind in Egypt, and against their leaders. “And when the people complained, it displeased the LORD: and the LORD heard it; and his anger was kindled” (Numbers 11:1). Finally, when they complained about the manna, “the anger of the LORD was kindled greatly.” He sent them quail to eat in such abundance as to last “even a whole month, until it come out at your nostrils, and it be loathsome unto you.” Then, “while the flesh was yet between their teeth, ere it was chewed . . . the LORD smote the people with a very great plague” (Numbers 11:10, 20, 33).

God has blessed every Christian with forgiveness of sin and eternal life. He daily fulfills His promise to supply every need (not every desire, however), and we should live a thankful life in return, regardless of our particular lot in this world. “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5). “Do all things without murmurings and disputings” (Philippians 2:14). Complaining about what we don’t have may well result in God taking away what we do have—and still worse, sending leanness into our souls

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Cities of Refuge

“Ye shall give three cities on this side Jordan, and three cities shall ye give in the land of Canaan, which shall be cities of refuge.” (Numbers 35:14) GoodFishBadFish

City of Refuge

When the Israelites entered the promised land, God told Joshua to provide six “cities of refuge” into which those who had slain someone could flee for refuge until a trial could ascertain the facts and render a proper verdict. As such, these cities are a type of Christ, through whom “we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us” (Hebrews 6:18).

The names of the six cities are given in Joshua 20:7-8 as Kedesh, Shechem, Hebron, Bezer, Ramoth, and Golan. The meanings of these names seem planned especially to foreshadow this spiritual application.

map of cities of refuge

Kedesh means “holy place,” and Christ in the New Jerusalem is the ultimate refuge, for “the Lamb [is] the temple of it” (Revelation 21:22). Shechem means “strong shoulder,” which answers to the “strong consolation” we have in Christ when we flee to Him for refuge.

Hebron means “fellowship,” and we who have come to Christ have been “called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:9). Bezer means “strong hiding place.” The Scripture assures the believer that “your life is hid with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3).

Ramoth means “high place,” and when we are hidden in Christ, God also has “made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6). Finally, Golan apparently means “enclosure for captives,” and this would speak of our being set free from sin and death to become captive to Christ. “When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive” (Ephesians 4:8). Thus, the cities are appropriately named both for their immediate purpose and as a picture of Christ as the Savior of sinners.

Jesus is our city of refuge

 

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The Importance of Good News: Headlines You are Not Hearing

by Eric Metaxas

breaking news

It’s been a summer of rough news for America. Racism, riots, and political violence. Communities on the Gulf Coast continue wading through the devastation of hurricane Harvey, and now another storm is bearing down on Florida. We have plenty of reasons to be praying and doing all we can to alleviate suffering. There’s cause for grief about the news—but not for pessimism.

Oliver-Burkeman,-RWriting at The Guardian, Oliver Burkeman suggests that despite a dragging civil war in Syria, heart-rending photos of drowned refugees, North Korea’s nuclear saber-rattling, disasters, terrorist attacks, and racial violence, the world is objectively better now than it’s ever been.

 

 

Hard to believe? Well, here are the facts: Swedish historian Mark Norberg breaks down global indicators of human flourishing into nine categories: food, sanitation, life expectancy, poverty, violence, the state of the environment, literacy, freedom, equality, and the conditions of childhood. And in nearly all of these categories, we’ve seen vast improvement in my lifetime.

Despite the fact that nine out of ten Americans say worldwide poverty is holding steady or worsening, the percentage of people on this planet who live on less than two dollars a day—what the United Nation’s defines as “extreme poverty”—has fallen below ten percent, which is the lowest it’s ever been.

The scourge of child mortality is also at a record low. Fifty percent fewer children under five die today than did thirty years ago.

71 years of lifeWorldwide, 300,000 more people gain access to electricity every day. In 1900, global life expectancy was just 31 years. Today, it’s an impressive 71 years. And violent crime rates in the United States are the lowest they’ve been in half a century.

Nicholas Kristof wasn’t too far afield when he called 2016 “the best year in the history of humanity.” This year may see even more progress.

So why do these cheery pronouncements strike us as inaccurate—even outrageous? Why—according to a recent poll by YouGov—do a vanishingly small six percent of Americans think the world as a whole is becoming a better place?

bad newsBurkeman lays much of the blame on the press. Thanks to a 24-hour news cycle that actively seeks out and overplays the worst stories, our perception of the world is skewed. “We are not merely ignorant of the facts,” he writes. “We are actively convinced of depressing ‘facts’ that aren’t true.” And no wonder! It’s hard to sell papers and get Web traffic with good news. No one reports when a plane takes off. They only report when they crash.

But a great deal of the blame for our unjustifiably gloomy view of the world also falls on our shoulders. Quite simply, we often enjoy being angry about the state of the world, especially when it allows us to blame someone else. We are addicted to news-induced anger.

That’s why it’s so important—while acknowledging the desperate evil and suffering around us—to appreciate the good news, the progress, and the things we have to celebrate. After all, how can we truly comprehend what’s wrong with the world if we don’t recognize when something is going right?

War, famine, disease, and hatred should all remind us that God’s world, which He created and pronounced “very good,” is broken, and it’s our fault. But here’s the real comfort: It’s still—as the hymn says—our Father’s world. Let us therefore never forget that “though the wrong seems oft so strong God is the ruler yet.”

As Christians, we know where history is headed, and we know how the story ends—with the redemption and restoration of all things. We who have the good news should be the first to recognize all good news, not in spite of, but in the midst of the bad.

 

 

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My prayer for this New Year

We often hear people say, “what the church needs today is a revival”

Here’s how you can have a genuine, Spirit lead revival in your own life:

revival

Think back with me if you will, to that time when you became a follower of Jesus Christ. Your first “revival” was now taking place. You realized who Jesus truly was; He is The Judge, The King, The LORD, and our Propitiation.

repentant personYou were acutely aware of who you were in the eyes of God. You realized that you were not good enough, in fact, you saw just how wicked you were in His sight. Yet, He chose to save you from hell because of the atoning death of Jesus Christ who was then buried and resurrected to prove that he was in fact God and had power over death and hell. You asked the Judge of the universe to forgive you for all of your sins and subsequently fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him for saving your wretched soul.

Spurgeon on being happyThe realization that you would spend eternity with Jesus and that heaven was now your eternal home caused you to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself. (Luke 10:27)

 

The Holy Spirit would speak to your spirit as you would study the Word of God. He would convict you when you would sin and you in turn would confess it to Him without hesitation.Happy Christians He would work in you to make right any wrongs you would have done to others, and with joy in your heart, you would walk in His ways. You couldn’t wait to get together with your brothers and sisters in Christ and made the time to connect with them whenever you could. You worshipped in spirit and in truth. Worship was in everything you did. Whether you were preparing a meal, opening the door for a stranger, sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with others, worship permeated your soul.

As time went on, and the Holy Spirit would pinpoint sins that needed to be dealt with, you began to negotiate or justify your intentions. You would try and warrant your actions, ignoring the Spirit of Truth. Eventually, what once was a clear and distinct voice had now become a faint whisper, maybe even silence.

Now, your time of worship is limited to singing songs that stir up your emotions and not your knowledge of the entirety of God. Brothers and sisters in Christ are a reason you don’t like going to the weekly services or Bible studies. You think to yourself “If only these brothers and sisters would get on fire for God!”

Do you truly think that it would also re-ignite you?

reignite your walk

People that are going through a revival of their own don’t usually complain so much that the church needs revival because they themselves are immersed in one and they are so busy doing the Lord’s work that they don’t have time to look at what everyone in the church is or isn’t doing. They will look for those that are genuinely Spirit-filled and will gravitate towards them.

The recipe for revival is simple:  We must return to our first love.

Come to the Lord with a humble heart, a broken and contrite spirit. Ears that will listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. A change of mind in regards to our sin. A mouth that confesses iniquity. Feet that walk in the Spirit’s direction and eyes that are intently focused on the Lord Jesus

The song, ‘Restore My Soul’ is a wonderfully written lyrical address to this very topic.

“Restore my soul, revive my heart, Renew my life in every part

Reveal to me what sin remains, Then lead me to the cross again.

At the cross I’ll find the way, To live the life Your hand has made,

So find me there, Lord, and help me stay In true surrender with You, my Saviour

Re-light the fire that burned so strong, Reminding me what You have done

My one request is to be changed, So lead me to the cross again.”

My prayer is that each and every one of us will lay aside anything and everything that is hindering us from walking hand-in-hand with the Lord Jesus Christ. That we would lay our sin at the foot of the cross.

Hebrews 12

“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.” ~Hebrews 12:1-3

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Pride

“If there is a sin that is universal, it is this. Where is it not to be found? Hunt among the highest and loftiest in the world, and you shall find it there; and then go and search amongst the poorest and the most miserable, and you shall find it there. There may be as much pride inside a beggar’s rags as in a prince’s robe; and a harlot may be as proud as a model of chastity. Pride is a strange creature; it never objects to its lodgings. It will live comfortably enough in a palace, and it will live equally at its ease in a hovel. Is there any man in whose heart pride does not lurk?”

-Spurgeon

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A Christmas Devotional

By: Yves Blouin
Born in a manger
I’m going to share thoughts about God the Son, that is Jesus, that could seem irreverent or uncomfortable as we discuss Jesus’ humanity.  It would be more comfortable to keep the humanity out of the incarnation.  It would allow us to keep God distant in a neat package.  But God intended Jesus to take on our humanity because of his love for us.  Only through his humanity could he save us, to pull us out or our mire.  We need to be shocked afresh at the audacity that God became one of us.
 
We are emotional beings and since we were made in God’s image this tells us that God is definitely an emotional being.  The Bible is full of narratives where God displays emotions.  Sometimes it is anger, sadness, joy, but most importantly unqualified/unmerited love.
 
I remember when my children were born.  I was many things including silly, nervous but foremost full of joy.  My heart was bursting with excitement and love.  It only stands to reason that when Jesus was born God the Father was also ecstatic, bubbling with joy.  Imagine God the Father witnessing the human birth of Jesus – God the Son.  The Father’s joy at his Son’s birth.  It’s not a rational thing – it’s a full bore emotional thing.  Our minds should be spinning at that thought.  Can we fully understand or appreciate this?  This was the greatest miracle of all times – God with us!  I wonder if God the Father thought – Aw, Jesus is so cute, cuter than any other baby (by the way, full disclosure, in my totally unbiased opinion I can assure you my kids were the cutest babies).  Imagine God born as a fragile tiny little baby in a stinky stable.  Of all the places for the King of Kings to be born couldn’t God have picked a more royal setting?  And born as a baby, not exactly the picture of might and power, plus we all know what comes out of a baby.  Hardly what you would associate with the Creator of the universe.  Jesus needed to be washed, changed, taught to speak, read and write.  All the things that as a human he would require.  
Hebrew Child Being Taught
 
Did God laugh when Jesus did his first giggle, was he sad when Jesus first bruised himself or took a bad fall, was he proud when Jesus first counted from 1 to 10 or laughing when he gave Mary a kiss like only a toddler can.  I know that when Bradyn, my grandson, first grabbed my head with both hands, yanked it to his face and gave me a kiss straight on the lips, a) it surprised me and b) it made me laugh and filled me with joy.  Why would it be any different for God the Father?
 
I believe that Jesus, though a “perfect child”, was likely very much misunderstood at times. We would be forgiven to think that Mary and Joseph understood that Jesus was God and the Messiah given the revelations by the Angels but mostly through narratives that include Mary we suspect she didn’t quite understand until after the resurrection.  Imagine after Mary and Joseph had lost their 12 years old Jesus in Jerusalem for 3 days how anxious they must have been.  I’ve had to frantically look for one of our kids for only minutes when they slipped out of our sight.  I can’t imagine 3 days.
Joseph and Mary looking for Jesus Jesus teaching at 12
Joseph and Mary found Jesus Joseph and Mary reunited with Jesus
 
Luke 2:48-52 NLT
His parents didn’t know what to think. “Son,” his mother said to him, “why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been frantic, searching for you everywhere.” “But why did you need to search?” he asked. “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they didn’t understand what he meant.  Then he returned to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. And his mother stored all these things in her heart. Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people.
 
If they understood that he was God would Mary address him this way?  Why would Jesus knowingly make her and Joseph anxious about his absence?  They didn’t comprehend his response and Mary stored these things in her heart.  Two facts that also stand out – God was obedient to them – what a thought!  God being obedient to a lower life form – human parents.  Not that parents are a lower life form than other humans – though some teenagers would like you to believe this.  Also it points out that Jesus didn’t start off with full wisdom but grew in wisdom.  Again we can imagine God the Father being ever so joyful at every new accomplishments that Jesus would achieve or at every new act of wisdom.
 
Mary and Joseph had an incomplete picture of who Jesus was and what was to come, yet did God love them any less than a great theologian like Martin Luther?  Knowledge is great if it deepens your relationship with God and leads to godly wisdom but not if it takes away from spending time in intimacy with Him.  Knowledge can puff up and it can plant doubt, it may dampen our first love.  God is looking for those with a child-like faith that set their pride aside to realize their need of a saviour – The saviour Jesus Christ.
 
To quote theologian Woody Allen (speech to the graduates on Aug 10, 1979 – same year that I graduated from grade 13):
 
This is where worldly wisdom or intellect takes you.  If those are the only two paths then there is not much to pray about or hope.  I would rather trust Christ for my future.
 
Colossians 2:8-10 NLT: Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and highsounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ.  For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body.  So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority.

C.S.Lewis
To paraphrase CS Lewis: Some people say that because Jesus was both God and man then his sufferings and death would have been easy for him and therefore of no value.  What they fail to understand is that the perfect suffering, the perfect death were only possible because He was God.  If I’m drowning in a river and a man who has still one foot on the river bank offers to give me his hand to save my life will I refuse it because it’s not fair as he has an advantage given he still has a foot on the bank?  I think not.
 
Ephesians 1:7Jesus was closer to the Father than any one of us has ever experienced with anyone.  Jesus already had spent an eternity with the Father.  On the cross he felt the separation from the Father for our sakes.  Christmas is a time of celebrations but also for some it is a time of grieving as we remember and miss loved ones that are no longer with us.  We suffer when we’ve seen a love one suffer, whether due to illness like cancer or some other cause.  We suffer when a loved one dies, whether a friend, a parent, a child and even an infant through miscarriage.  At the cross God the Father endured the unimaginable pain of seeing his son both suffer and die for our sake. Why? Because he loved us and wanted to provide a means to redeem us from our sins.  Our God is not a cold God but one filled with emotions.
 
Some of the following thoughts are borrowed from G K Chesterton.  Maybe you wonder how can God care about you and I amongst so many people in this world in the past, today and in the future.  What is so special about you and I that He cares for us.  Each human birth may seem like a mindless repetition to no end if we were to trust the intellectuals of the world.  Some of them would say that this repetition is an indication of the absence of a higher purpose or life.  But to God each birth is an encore with new possibilities.  Children like things repeated and unchanged.  For instance Bradyn delights having his Papa (what he calls me) help him do somersaults over and over until his Papa can’t move anymore at the shout of “Do it again”!  Bradyn doesn’t have a lack of of life but an excess of it.  Us adults are not strong enough to delight in monotony.  We easily get bored but children of a certain age exult in monotony.  Perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony.  Perhaps God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun and at night “Do it again” to the moon.  The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical encore.  How much more do you think God gets excited at each of us as we step out in faith, whatever the challenge.  He knows the beginning from the end (Isaiah 46:10) but yet he is excited at our every step like a proud parent at their toddlers learning to walk.  He is saying – “That’s my child! Look at him or look at her!”.  You pretty much know that your toddler will likely eventually walk, so does that make you any less excited about his first steps?  I think not and so it is with God.
 
Matthew 18:3 NLT I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven.
 
Mark, in his gospel, often describes a Jesus full of emotions.  Of the gospel writers he seems to do this more.  Interestingly Mark wrote his gospel based on Peter’s accounts – and of all the apostles Peter probably was the most overtly emotional guy of the group.
 
Mark 10:13-16 NLT One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him. When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples. He said to them, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” Then he took the children in his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them.
 
How does a child receive a gift?  With unbridled joy – especially if they are destitute.  The younger the child the more likely they are to be free of ambitions and pride and more likely to be humble and teachable.  God wants us to receive the gift of Christ in a similar manner with humility and unbridled joy.  Pride will stand as an obstacle to receiving this gift.  We may believe that we don’t need Him, that we are self-sufficient, that we can do it on our own.  But we can’t.  Children don’t have their lives filled with other cares of the world and schedules unless us adults impose it on them for “their own good”. 
 
Billy GrahamTo paraphrase one of Billy Graham’s thoughts.  What was the innkeeper’s response to providing a room for the child to be born?  It wasn’t antagonism, hatred.  He had a full inn.  He was too preoccupied with the cares of this world to take notice that God, Christ was at his doorstep.  In a similar way how many of our relatives and friends are not opposed to God or deny his existence but other than at Christmas and Easter are too preoccupied with the cares of this world to find room for Christ in their lives.  Their heart is already crowded with other interests.  They feel they don’t really need him.  Maybe like what Bradyn does when going for a walk we need to slow down and stop to pick up every dandelion on the way – be amazed by them, see joy in them and in the process take the time to open our hearts to Christ.  In the rush of the Christmas season, maybe, just maybe Jesus wants us to slow down and find time for him and at the same time maybe, just maybe our stress level will go down.
 
As Charles Dickens said, “It is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty founder was a child Himself.”
 
Maybe you think you can’t be accepted by God because of your past.  For some of us there is so much past.  I’m reminded of it every time I have to bend down to tie my shoes.  The good news is that we’re not forgiven on the basis of what we do or did but on the basis of what Jesus did for us at the cross.  Jesus met a lot of sinners in his earthly ministry.  He didn’t get on their case about their past when they came to him for their salvation.  He didn’t dwell on it.  He didn’t say because of your past “well you’ll get a 3rd class salvation, and you’ll get a 2nd class salvation”.  We all get a 1st class salvation that wasn’t dependent on our merits but on our repentance and his grace.  Repentance is humbling ourselves to admitting that we can’t earn our way, that we fall short and that we bring nothing to the table but the need for His salvation.  The hope of our salvation lies in his resurrection.  Death had no hold on Jesus and neither will it for those who put their trust in him.
 
Don’t you prefer to have a gift you wanted than a gift someone thought you should have?  Christ doesn’t want our attempts to merit heaven as a gift. 
  • Romans 3:23 AMP We all have sinned and continually fall short of the glory of God.
  • Romans 5:15-16 NLT: But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ. And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin. For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins.

Shalom Napkin HolderChrist gave us many gifts.  Through his incarnation Jesus brought love to the rejected, joy to the downtrodden, hope to the hopeless and peace to the weary.  Lately (the last 25 years or so) I fit in the latter category of being weary.  Chester Donaldson one year asked me what I wanted for Christmas and I said peace.  This is what he brought me back from Israel.  Mr. D had quite a good sense of humour.  It says Shalom which we know means peace.  It stays on my desk as a reminder of Mr. and Mrs. D. but more importantly in my need to trust in Christ for peace.  I’ve definitely not reached the point where I trust Jesus without fail but I’m a work in progress and definitely have more peace with Him than without Him.  There is no such thing as happiness or peace apart from Jesus.  It is not simply not there.
 
In summary:
  • Colossians 1:19-20 NKJV For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.
 
What can we give Christ this Christmas in return for his great gift of dying for our sins on the cross?  Nothing we have is worthy of him but we can give him our hearts.  That is all he desires from us.

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Wikipedia Erases Scientist from Website for Supporting Intelligent Design

Günter Bechly

Günter Bechly censored by Wikipedia

Wikipedia has deleted a paleontologist’s page because he weighed Darwinism in the balances and found it wanting.

In 2006, Günter Bechly, a highly respected and well-known paleontologist, devised a clever plan to show the public that scientific evidence clearly weighs heavily in Charles Darwin’s favor. In preparation for a worldwide celebration commemorating the 150th anniversary of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, Bechly carefully designed an exhibit in which he placed a balance scale piled high on one side with books advocating creationism and intelligent design. The other side held only a lone copy of Darwin’s book. Of course he rigged the scale so Darwin’s manual weighed its side down while the books on the other side appeared featherlight. The message was clear: Darwin’s scientific evidence far outweighed any arguments skeptics could pose.

But then, a funny thing happened on Bechly’s way to the celebration. He read some of the books he had placed on the light side of the scale, and they opened his eyes to the incongruencies and impossibilities of Darwinian theory.

Nine years later, Bechly committed an unforgivable sin in the world of secular academia: He publicly criticized neo-Darwinism and proclaimed his support for intelligent design. Soon after, the State Museum of Natural History in Stuttgart, Germany, pushed him out of his job as curator. Bechly then became a senior fellow with the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture, but that wasn’t the end of his censorship story.

Despite Bechly’s numerous professional accomplishments, including a sizable list of scientific publications and the notoriety of having numerous species named after him, a group of anonymous editors at Wikipedia decided to erase his page from the internet encyclopedia because he is not “notable” enough.

“His turn to fringe creationist views does not seem to be notable at all, and cannot be covered without mainstream sources giving it an adequately neutral point of view,” one of the editors wrote on a Wikipedia discussion page. Other editors who tried to defend Bechly clearly understood the maneuver as censorship, noting “if he hadn’t changed his stance this wouldn’t even be an issue. The ones shouting ‘delete’ are just out to censor anyone who thinks differently.”

David Klinghoffer, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, noted that people commonly think Wikipedia disseminates objective information, but the expertise and fairness of the anonymous editors remains questionable. For example, one of the editors most influential in the decision to erase Bechly’s page identifies himself as 24-year-old Jo-Jo Eumerus, who also goes by “Septimus Heap,” after the popular juvenile fantasy series.

“It’s a mad world, a funhouse world, where the notability of a paleontologist of Günter Bechly’s stature is uncontested one day but, following his admission of finding ID persuasive, suddenly and furiously contested,” Klinghoffer wrote. “Such is the alternative reality of Wikipedia.”

 

Read Original Article Here

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