07 December 2011 / Pastor's Pen
Christmas! To merchants it’s about ringing up the cash registers or swiping the credit cards. To children it’s about toys and toys and more toys. To many people it’s about shopping and food and parties and social events. But to Christians it is, and should be, about the Incarnation, God becoming man.
In the prologue to the Gospel according to John we read: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God....And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us..."(Jn. 1:1,14). Isaiah prophesied and Matthew recorded the fulfillment of that prophesy saying, “‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call his name Im‐ manuel’ which is interpreted ‘God is with us.’” (Isa 7:14; Matt 1:23)
To talk of Christmas in terms of Incarnation and Immanuel is not mere rhetoric that is of little consequence to the Christian faith. Rather, this mystery of God becoming man is the very heartbeat of the Christian faith. It is what Christmas is truly about. The eternal God stepped into the framework of limited time. The Creator God condescended to identify with His creation. The infinite God takes upon Himself finite dimensions. As someone has put it, "for a brief period of time in a particular part of the world, God ate and slept, worked and walked, lived and died with the very people He had created."
C.S. Lewis wrote about the Incarnation in this manner: "The Christian story is precisely the story of one grand miracle, the assertion being that what is beyond all space and time, what is uncreated, eternal, came into nature, into human nature, descended into His own universe, and rose again, bringing nature up with Him."
On Wednesday evenings we are currently studying some of the miracles of Jesus. However, there is no greater miracle than that of the Christmas story, God becoming man in order to redeem us from our sins and offer us eternal life. It is this one grand miracle that makes it possible for us to enter into a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. God came to earth, incarnate in Jesus Christ, that you and I, through Jesus Christ, might come back to God.
Let us reclaim the wonder of Christmas in the mystery of the Word that became flesh and dwelt among us, and in Him may we behold the glory of God.
07 November 2011 / Pastor's Pen
Thanksgiving Day was established as a time for us to corporately as well as individually express our gratitude to God for His bountiful blessings. It is also intended to encourage us to live in a spirit of gratitude all year long. It is not enough to give thanks on one day alone, forgetting to acknowledge and express gratitude to God the rest of the year for He has provided and made possible for us.
In this season of Thanksgiving it is good to re‐ member that all we have is a gift from God, a trust given to us to use wisely. We are stewards, or caretakers, of God's wealth and provisions. In light of that, John Wesley, the father of Methodism, gave three practical guidelines that should reflect our Christian living. I have shared these three thoughts before and they are worth revisiting.
1. Gain all you can.
The Bible does not say that money is evil but that it is the root of all evil. But, just as it has the potential for evil, it also has the potential for much good. Money can be used to provide food for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, clothes for the needy, medicine for the sick, etc. Wesley warned, however, that we should not seek our gain at the expense of our neighbors, or at the expense of our health, or our soul. Wesley did not mean that the making of money should be our priority or goal in life. He meant that we should not be lazy, but that we should be gainfully employed.
2. Save all you can.
Wesley said we should not spend money merely to gratify our desires. He urged Christians to buy only what they really need in life, and he did so for two important reasons. First he noted that spending money on things we don't need, or using it frivolously, is a waste of resources. We can probably all think of many, many things that we have spent money on over the years only to realize later we would have been better off if we had saved our money. Second, and more important, frivolous spending only serves to increase our appetite for more things, or more pleasures. The more we get, the more we want. So Wesley says, save all you can.
3. Give all you can.
This third step is crucial. Without it we become selfish and self‐centered individuals. We are not to gain and to save for our own enrichment. We are to gain and to save in order to be able to give. Wesley said, "Render unto God, not a tenth, not a third, not half, but all that is God's, be it more or less; by employing all on yourself, your household, the household of faith, and all mankind, in such a manner, that you may give a good account of your stewardship...." Wesley believed that with increasing income, what should rise is not our standard of living, but our standard of giving. He practiced that in his own life, holding fast his standard of living and ever increasing his standard of giving. What about you?
If you really want to express and live in the spirit of thanksgiving, then I encourage you to live by these practical Christian guidelines. This will help you to realize that God owns everything you have and you are a steward, entrusted to manage your resources in a way that pleases Him, and thus expresses true thanksgiving.
04 February 2011 / Pastor's Pen
Having had a long‐time regard for Dietrich Bonhoeffer, I was pleased when I received for Christmas a newly written biography of Bonhoeffer entitled Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. It was written by Eric Metaxas and came highly recommended. Having just finished reading this book of well over 500 pages, I was not disappointed. I would highly recommend it to anyone.Read More...