Tag Archives: Christ Child

Gaudette, Rejoice Sunday Zechariah 3 December 13, 2015 First St Johns

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who rejoice in the hope and promise of Jesus Christ said … AMEN!

As Christians we cannot say enough, we cannot overemphasize, the hope that we have, the only true hope, the hope that comes in Jesus and I cannot imagine for the life of me, although we’ve seen it, we know people who are like why any Christian would not rejoice in the hope that we have in Jesus. We are reminded every year of that hope specifically, right now, right this time, every Christmas is the true and  eternal promise that we have in a baby, God came to us as a child. The scenario is complete, there is a young, innocent girl betrothed, about to be married to a man who, for his time, is doing well. Mary would have a godly, hardworking faithful husband. They would both care, support and love each other. And then we have the angel Gabriel, the angel who stood in the very presence of God ready to announce God’s Word to wherever the Father would direct him to go. We have the humblest of the respectable. People below the shepherds were not respectable, the tax collectors, the prostitutes, but the shepherds were invited by the multitude of the heavenly host, lesser angels than Gabriel, but still magnificent, who would also attend the birth of Jesus. There are the magi, wealthy and important in their lands. The magi were gentiles, they weren’t Jewish. Jesus was born a Jew, but He came as “true Israel”, the true Israel Isaiah had prophesied about 600 years earlier, where all the nations would come to Israel to Jesus, to salvation. That Jesus is the hope of all the world. All creation; supernatural, Jew, Gentile. Among the greatest and among the most humble are led to the salvation of the world, our Lord Jesus the Christ, Messiah, the One anointed by God the Father to save mankind.

God inspired Zephaniah to write 600 years, before Jesus’s birth. “ESV Zephaniah 3:14 Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! ESV Zephaniah 3:15 The LORD has taken away the judgments against you; he has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst; you shall never again fear evil.”

The people of Zephaniah’s time were about to be overrun, killed or at least exiled from their homeland.

The people at that time knew that their time as a nation was about to end. It did not seem like a time to sing aloud or to rejoice or to exalt. It wouldn’t have seemed as if there was much to be joyful or to rejoice about. Yet for us, we who are baptized in the Name of Jesus, reborn into that new life as children of God the Father, we who have the promise of salvation and eternal life in the new world in Christ, how can you not be joyous about that?

Yeah, Christmas is that time with the pretty lights and the decorations and joyful singing, feasting, exchanging gifts, to be with family and friends. Yes we should be joyous, we should celebrate regularly, we have every reason to celebrate, we should. God tells Jeremiah, and ironically we refer to Jeremiah as the weeping prophet, Yahweh tells Jeremiah: “Thus says the Lord, behold, I will restore the fortunes of the tents of Jacob and have compassion on his dwellings. The city shall be rebuilt on its mound and the palace shall stand where it used to be. Out of them shall come songs of thanksgiving, and the voices of those who celebrate. I will multiply them, and they shall not be few; I will make them honored, and they shall not be small.” (Jer 30: 18-19)

Who was God talking about to Jeremiah? To us! We Christians. We should sing thanksgiving, we should celebrate. The Father said He will honor them and they will not be small. God does honor us and Christians are certainly not small. Despite some of the popular perceptions these days, Christians are the largest religious group in the world by far. God has multiplied His people, Christians.

Even in those times of trial and certainly Christians are being tried in America right now, times of trial will probably increase going forward. Certainly Israel was being tried in the time of Jeremiah, Zephaniah, Isaiah. Even in that we are called to rejoice, to celebrate. We know the world tells us it’s crazy to celebrate when things look bad, when we’re being oppressed, when we’re being tried. What does the world tell us? Be angry, lash out, be bitter. The misery loves company thing. In comparison to the people in Zephaniah’s time, Christians in the United States have so much to celebrate, to be thankful for, to rejoice in. We too often we let those inevitable trials steal our joy, keep us from celebrating.

We restrict our celebrating to the time between Black Friday and Christmas Day, the season does go straight to Epiphany twelve days later. The day after Christmas though, we’re back to the races, fighting tooth and nail through the stores. Grousing because “well Christmas really didn’t turn out the way I thought it should”. What does St Paul say in today’s reading in response to    : “Rejoice in the Lord, always, again I will say rejoice …And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:4, 7) Yea even in a foot of snow in February, even in the hectic times of life, the trials, the heat and humidity of summer, the lowering darkness of Autumn, so much that the world can drag us down about and God, even in the darkest time, is telling His people to rejoice, exalt with all your heart. You shall never fear evil, rejoice always, I say rejoice.

The short name for this Sunday is “Gaudette”, it is Latin, it means rejoice. We need to be told to rejoice, we need to be reminded, nothing wrong with that. Make it a point to rejoice today! Rejoice knowing that the birth of God the Son, Jesus our Savior, our Creator, our Redeemer, our loving, compassionate, giving, Lord and God is going to be remembered in less than two weeks. At least take this time to rejoice, to stop in the middle of the season and rejoice.

You’ve all heard the Christmas carol “I heard the Bells on Christmas Day”. Our dear friend Terry Downes posted the origin of this carol. Too often we hear these Christmas carols and they seem kind of gratuitous, platitudes, nice things to say, things we’re supposed to say for days like Christmas and to raise up to God.

More often than note the stories behind the lyrics and the music are the result of genuine trials, pain and grief that’s been endured by others. Pain and grief that should not be minimized. That we should appreciate as real world testimonies of what God has done for us, does for us, even in the most difficult circumstances.

Terry passed on this article by Justin Taylor. The story is about Henry Longfellow, a good Massachusetts boy, and his son Charles Appleton Longfellow, a grandson of one of America’s greatest poets, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Charles left his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, traveled to Washington, D.C. in order to enlist in the Union Army in the Civil War in 1861 right at the beginning of the war.

He enlisted as a private, but he impressed his fellow soldiers and officers so much that he was promoted to Second Lieutenant in 1863. He fell ill with typhoid fever, which was a very common problem at the time because the Army did not have very good hygienic practices. Charles was sent home for three months to recover. Shortly after his return to duty he was shot and nearly paralyzed in battle. Charles’ father Henry traveled to Washington to be with his son. Henry had recently lost his wife, her dress caught fire and she died the next day from the injuries that she received. This man had lost his wife, his son had been wounded and still might be paralyzed as a result of the wound, who was living through all the tragedy and violence of the Civil War. While he was with Charles he was listening to the Christmas bells of the local churches. This is how he was inspired to write the lyrics that we know today.

“I heard the bells on Christmas day, their old familiar carols played, of peace on earth good will to men. Then from each black accursed mouth, the cannon thundered from the south, and with the sound the carols drowned. And in despair I bowed my head, there is no peace on earth I said, for hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men. Then peeled the bells more loud and deep, God is not dead nor doth He sleep, the wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth goodwill to men.”

Through the bells God gave Henry the renewed hope and promise of Jesus. Even after the loss of his wife, the serious injury to his son that might leave him paralyzed, he knew the hope and peace in the Lord Jesus that God gives us, the promise knowing that even in the midst of loss and the national tragedy that was going on around him, that God will always prevail. We will be saved, we will be raised up in new life, and to life eternal in Jesus. The same hope on Christmas Day that Henry was revived in 150 years ago he passes on today in the carol that he wrote. The Father gives to us every day in our baptism, in our new birth in Jesus that hope. We can let the world drag us down into bitterness and anger or we can hear the bells on Christmas Day, every day and remember the peace hope and promise that Jesus gives us every day.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom

Relationships, strength, encouragement, shared joy, on and on, only come through the smaller, Bible believing Christian church

Another blogger opined that since the millenials (ages from about 18 years old to 30 years old), don’t go to church and use their computers, almost exclusively, for socializing, that we should have “on-line” church.

I’m not opposed to putting worship on-line. We have plans for doing that here at First St Johns. Sure there are people out there who we should be reaching and need to be included in church and, for whatever reason, cannot attend brick and mortar churches. I get it.

The problem is this, how much do you really encourage this growing dependence on using a computer for “fellowship”. A great deal of being in church is to fellowship, is to show support and be a part of something bigger. We already have way too many people who huddle away in some part of their house, all by themselves and genuinely think they have a lot of “friends”, that is the Face Book, Twitter, Snapchat, type friends. Sorry but this is, in no way, shape or form a healthy trend. How do you baptize someone on line? How do they receive the Body and Blood of Jesus? On-line confession and absolution? No, that’s just a phoney way out. How do you really build relationships on line? You don’t!

Being a part of the Body of Christ is being with a group of people who have shared beliefs and shared doctrine in Jesus. Please don’t hand me the lame line that it’s all about “love”, first off, how do you really “love” on-line? Ya, there are those who do. Look me in the face and tell me that’s healthy.

You need that contact with people, we encourage each other, strengthen each other, learn from each other, often help in material ways. Sorry, but I’m not going to jump through hoops for someone who can’t even schlep down to worship on a regular basis, who could otherwise. I’ve had people try it on me. Ya, no! Go to the big-box churches, if you will settle for the illusion of worship and fellowship. Otherwise drag yourself down to First St Johns.

In some ways it’s like saying that it’s the same as being at Fenway Park, being part of the crowd, having it all in front of you, being able to personally booh the Yankees. You can sit at home and listen on the radio, but who you going to fuss at when Papi grounds out in the shift?

But really, being in, sharing with, showing support of worship has always been what is a fundamental part of being a Christian. It’s not just what you benefit from, but often what you do in order to help others. How about the elderly man or woman in the pew in front of you. Quite often, their only genuine human contact is church. To those of you who are children, young man or woman, the 20 something family with the little boy and girl. I really want you to realize that you give real joy and encouragement to others around you who have very little contact with younger people, who often only see people in their own age group. Are you away from your family, but you’d still like your children to have a whole bunch of spiritual grandparents, aunts, uncles? Take ’em to church, your cup will overfloweth.

The person who is going through some kind of crisis and who comes to church to share, maybe he’s led there by the Holy Spirit in order to be in front of you who can readily help. Seriously where is that in the rest of our society?

It’s tough enough being a Christian in today’s world. For the people who are out in the work force and hardly ever encounter a fellow Christian. For the mom at home who often has little adult contact and also, not often with another Christian. Children who need real contact with other kids their age who are Christians. The world is not a friendly place to Christians. Where are you going to get that contact, that encouragement, that strength to carry on? On-line? No! You’re just not and you know it. It’s truly sad to imagine how many people thought they could see the world through their computer and because they had no one else, no other Christian to be there for them that they lost hope in the Holy Spirit which is only truly efficacious when they share with other Christians.They forgot about the promise of Jesus, because the guy who stands with them at the altar to receive the Lord’s Supper, isn’t beside you, because you’re not there.

The writer of Hebrews directs: “ESV Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Bibleworks) Certainly we see “the Day drawing near.” How can you show brotherly love over the computer, really? How can you show Christian hospitality. All the virtues that are being lived out in Christian worship, will simply not be obvious.

I have this posted on First St Johns FB page: “WORSHIP – Rekindles our hope, reenlists us for service, renews our confidence, restores our perspective, restores our joy, releases our anxieties, reconnects us with God.”  I would add that sitting at home, simply reminds us how sad our life has become and not only does not equip us with those benefits, but reminds us how far away we are. That is not going to give us the hope and promise of Jesus, but sink us into further despair and make us feel even more distant from Jesus.

And since I’m riding this hobby horse, I would also like to point out that the opposite is true. You can sit at home and be isolated, and you can also sit in a big crowd and be isolated. Want to talk to the pastor? Yea, good luck with that. These “big box” pastors have more important things to do than make house calls or hospital calls to give you personal attention. Everybody around you, they’re there for the same reason you are, to hide in the open. They’re not interested in you, they’re only interested in what they want. Jesus did the first two plus years of ministry among groups and very much in the public. He didn’t hide away, he was right there in the middle of people. Not some new-age big screen television, talk about “Big Brother”. In a smaller congregation you build those relationships, I’ve only been a pastor for just less than five years. In my first twenty or so years as a Christian I probably have, at least, a half dozen each spiritual mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and pastors that I have had the opportunity to grow in Christian love with. Ya, tell me you’re going to get that at home on the computer or at the “big box”. Find a smaller, vibrant, liturgical, Bible believing, truly Christian church. You want growth, encouragement, strength for the journey, joy, service, confidence, connections, being in God’s presence with serious believers. It’s churches like First St Johns that will provide it. The “millenials” are all hung up on authenticity, being genuine and then hide at home instead of being where it’s at? And that goes for more than just the twenty-somethings. Try really being genuine and authentic. Put the phones and ipads etc away and get with real people. Otherwise, you should just put a cork in it, because you have no clue what genuine authenticity it.

Sabiduría en un mundo de pragmatismo, la “sabiduría” del mundo 1 Reyes 3 Lucas 2: 47 First St Johns

Hacemos nuestro comienzo en el Nombre de Dios el Padre y en el nombre de Dios el Hijo y en el nombre de Dios el Espíritu Santo y todos los que que quieren ser fuertes en la sabiduría de Dios dijo … AMEN!

No sabemos mucho acerca de la infancia de Jesús, nuestra lectura de hoy es sobre el único registro que se tiene de su infancia en absoluto. Pero las lecturas de hoy son sin duda un contraste en la sabiduría. En nuestra lectura del Antiguo Testamento vemos, lo que, al menos, parece ser, una especie de acto altruista por parte de Salomón. El texto dice: “Salomón amó a Jehová, andando en los estatutos de su padre David; sólo, … “Pero también vemos Salomón poniendo un poco demasiado atrapados en los caminos de la política mundial. Se casó con una hija de Faraón. Ahora bien, esto es contrario a la Ley que Jehová dio vuelta en el Pentateuco, los primeros cinco libros de la Biblia. Eliezer Shemtov escribe: “La fuente primaria de la que la prohibición de que un Judio se case con un no-Judio se encuentra en (Deut. 7: 3):” No casarse con ellos (los gentiles), que no dará su hija a su hijo y no tomarás a su hija para tu hijo “.

La razón de esta prohibición está claramente en el siguiente versículo: “Porque él va a llevar a tu hijo descarriado de Mí y que servirá dioses extraños …” (“dioses ajenos” pueden también ser interpretados en el sentido de esos ideales y ‘ismos’ que no se ajustan a los dictados de la Torá, …) 1 vemos Salomón conseguir un poco atrapados en los caminos del mundo y olvidar lo que Jehová les había dicho que hiciera. La Biblia de Estudio cronológico escribe: “El matrimonio es un medio eficaz para la creación de alianzas entre las naciones antiguas. La esperanza era que uno podría tratar más amablemente con los familiares que con los extraños. No hay mayor evidencia de la importancia de Salomón entre los países vecinos sería que para registrar su matrimonio con una hija de un faraón egipcio. Como política, los faraones de Egipto no dieron sus hijas a los reyes extranjeros. “2 El pasaje de 1 Reyes 3: 1 nos dice:” Salomón hizo una alianza matrimonial con Faraón rey de Egipto. Él tomó la hija de Faraón, y la trajo a la ciudad de David … “(ESV) Además, el pasaje nos dice que” … el rey fue a Gabaón a sacrificar allí, porque ese era el lugar alto principal. Salomón usó para ofrecer mil holocaustos sobre ese altar “(1 Reyes 3: 4). Esa es una impresionante sacrificio! Pero ¿por qué Salomón hacer una ofrenda allí? El Arca de la Alianza, el tabernáculo estaba en Jerusalén. ¿Por qué no hacer sus sacrificios? La tradición de las religiones paganas era hacer sacrificios en “lugares altos”. Más tarde, en 2 Reyes, el escritor señala: “Y el pueblo de Israel hizo en secreto contra el Señor su Dios las cosas no rectas. Ellos construyeron para sí mismos lugares altos en todas sus ciudades, … “(2 Reyes 17: 9) Hay 75 versículos en el Antiguo Testamento acerca de” lugares altos “y todos ellos condenan el hecho de que Israel adoró en” lugares altos “. Ya en Levítico Jehová dice: “Y destruiré vuestros lugares altos, y derribaré vuestras imágenes, y pondré vuestros cuerpos muertos sobre los cuerpos muertos de vuestros ídolos, y mi alma se abominará.” (Lev 26:30) Doesn ‘t parece haber ninguna duda de que hay! Está claro que Israel no es el uso de “lugares altos” para la adoración de Yahvé. Sin embargo, es en Gabaón que Yahvé viene a Salomón en un sueño y le dice “Pide lo que te daré.” Salomón ciertamente dice las cosas correctas. Habla de cómo Jehová fielmente amado padre de Salomón David y David amaba a Yahvé. Salomón reconoce que Yahvé ahora lo ha hecho rey de Israel, y por lo que parece que Salomón realmente entiende por qué está donde está. Sus palabras están justo en el mensaje: “Dale a tu siervo un corazón con entendimiento para gobernar a tu pueblo, para discernir entre el bien y el mal, porque ¿quién podrá gobernar este tu pueblo tan grande” Salomón sabe que Israel es el pueblo de Yahweh, que sólo Dios hábilmente puede gobernar y Salomón parece entender que él ha sido puesto allí para gobernar con fidelidad como Jehová lo ha colocado allí.

Salomón fue sin duda brillante, Israel se elevó a la altura de su poder bajo Salomón. Se convirtió en el reino más poderoso de la región, era rico más allá de la imaginación. Se dice que Salomón no hizo uso de la plata para decorar cualquiera de sus edificios porque el oro era tan común. La Reina de Saba viajó desde su reino africano de tomar en la sabiduría de Salomón. Pero con toda la sabiduría, el poder y el material bendición del mundo, Salomón hizo demasiado enamorado de su poder mundano y lo hizo todo lo necesario para mantener su poder y riqueza. Él ya no confiaba en la sabiduría de Jehová a gobernar a Israel, pero confiaba en la sabiduría del mundo. Él construyó su poder mundano al casarse con mujeres de muchos reinos diferentes: “Pero el rey Salomón amó a muchas mujeres extranjeras, además de la hija de Faraón: moabita, amonita, edomita, de Sidón, y las mujeres hititas, … Él tenía 700 esposas, princesas y 300 concubinas. Y sus mujeres desviaron su corazón. “(1 Reyes 11: 1, 3) El escritor de Reyes señala:” Jehová había dicho a los hijos de Israel: “No contraer matrimonio con ellos, ni se ensayarán con usted , porque ciertamente harán inclinar vuestros corazones tras sus dioses “. Salomón se aferró a ellas en el amor “Más inquietante Isho’dad escribe:”. La razón de esa prohibición era no sea que [sus hijas] podría hacer que sus hijos también se prostituyen a sus dioses “3 Todas estas mujeres de diferentes partes del mundo,. éstos a Salomón un gran hombre en el barrio. Todas las naciones que lo rodean entienden su poder debido a todas sus esposas y alianzas. Vieron su poder como resultado de estas alianzas, y no como resultado de lo que el Señor había previsto para él y lo hicieron a través de él. Porque Salomón confió en el poder en el mundo, comenzó a ignorar Yahweh y confiar en los “dioses” de sus esposas. Eso resultaría en un desastre para Israel, que pasaría de ser el gorila de 800 libras, que dividida, pobre, constante lucha interna y, finalmente, sería invadida y su gente asesinados o deportados a países extranjeros. Sólo podemos imaginar lo que Israel habría sido como si Salomón y los reyes posteriores habían seguido fielmente Yahweh.

Mientras Salomón parecía venir aparte debido a su sabiduría, vemos que Jesús también comenzó como sabio. Salomón era joven cuando fue concedido gran sabiduría por Dios y, desde luego, ya que Jesús es Dios, Él tenía una gran sabiduría desde el principio. Demostró que la sabiduría desde el principio. Los maestros del templo, los hombres que han pasado toda su vida estudiando Torá “se admiraban de su inteligencia y de sus respuestas.” Esto sería como un niño de doce años de edad hoy en día ir a una reunión en la Escuela de Derecho de Harvard y “sorprendentes” todos los profesores ya está. Es sólo que no iba a pasar, los maestros del templo probablemente tenía un conocimiento más profundo de la Torá entonces los profesores de Harvard tienen de la ley.

La diferencia es la siguiente. Mientras que Salomón llegó a pedazos como escribió en el libro de Eclesiastés: “Vanidad de vanidades, dice el Predicador, vanidad de vanidades! Todo es vanidad. “Todo es inútil cuando seguimos la sabiduría del mundo, todo sólo se rompe. Pero con Jesús: “Y Jesús crecía en sabiduría, en estatura y en gracia ante Dios y los hombres.” (Lucas 2: 52 ESV)

Lo vemos a nuestro alrededor. La gente se llena de sí mismos debido a su poder o sabiduría o la riqueza. Ellos ya no confían en la dirección de Dios, confían en lo que está a su alrededor. Ellos confían en el mundo y su propia comprensión y al final, como Salomón, se encuentran con que todo era inútil, que no hace ningún bien a nadie, si algo causa daño y destrucción. Por otro lado, Jesús ciertamente no llegó a ser rico o poderoso, ni ninguno de sus discípulos. Sin embargo, lo que dejaron fue una iglesia que sigue sirviendo, edificar y animar a la gente de Jesús. La vida de Jesús terminó en la cruz y lo que podría parecer en la pérdida y la derrota, pero Él venció a la muerte. Jesús resucitó de entre los muertos para darnos la promesa de la vida eterna. No puede haber mayor contraste, la mundanidad y la derrota de Salomón, tan lleno de promesas. La santidad y la victoria de Jesús, que vino al mundo sin nada, vivían una vida que el mundo diría nada y, sin embargo, nos da la promesa y la esperanza de Su en este mundo y también en la eternidad.

Salomón falló, confiando en el mundo. Jesús triunfó confiando en la esperanza y la promesa de Dios. Ya que estamos en el comienzo de un nuevo año, vamos a tomar un giro diferente en nuestras resoluciones del Año Nuevo y realmente pensar en lo mucho que nos hemos alejado de el plan de Dios para nuestra vida y de confianza demasiado en las promesas del mundo.

¿Qué podemos hacer en nuestras vidas para volver a dedicarnos a Dios y su voluntad para con nosotros y comenzar a mirar las cosas en nuestra vida que son demasiado acerca de riqueza, el poder, la comodidad y muy poco acerca de la vida en Cristo, por nosotros y por todos los que nos guía el Espíritu Santo para testificar a.

La paz de Dios que sobrepasa todo entendimiento, guardará vuestros corazones y vuestros pensamientos en Cristo Jesús. Shalom y Amin.

Wisdom in a world of pragmatism, the world’s “wisdom” 1 Kings 3 Luke 2: 47 First St Johns

Please click on the above link to hear the audio of this sermon or copy and paste into your browser.

This is my 300th post, so Yaaaay, appropriately enough it’s my sermon from last week.

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who who want to be strong in God’s wisdom said … AMEN!

We don’t know much about Jesus’ childhood, our reading today is about the only record we have of His childhood at all. But today’s readings are certainly a contrast in wisdom. In our Old Testament reading we see, what at least appears to be, a sort of altruistic act on the part of Solomon. The text says “Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of David his father; only,…” But we also see Solomon getting a little too caught up in the ways of world politics. He married a daughter of Pharoah. Now this was contrary to the Law that Yahweh gave back in the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. Eliezer Shemtov writes: “The primary source upon which the prohibition for a Jew to marry a non-Jew is to be found in (Deut. 7:3): “You shall not marry them (the gentiles), you shall not give your daughter to their son and you shall not take his daughter for your son.”

The reason for this prohibition is clearly spelled out in the following verse: “Because he will lead your son astray from Me and they will serve strange gods…” (“Strange gods” can also be interpreted to mean those ideals and ‘isms’ that do not conform to the dictates of Torah,… )1 We see Solomon getting a little caught up in the ways of the world and forgetting what Yahweh had told them to do. The Chronological Study Bible writes: “Marriage was an effective means for creating alliances among ancient nations. The hope was that one would deal more kindly with kin than with strangers. No greater evidence of Solomon’s importance among the nearby countries would be than to record his marriage to an an Egyptian pharaoh’s daughter. As policy, Egypt’s pharaohs did not give their daughters in marriage to foreign kings.”2 The passage in 1 Kings 3: 1 tells us: “Solomon made a marriage alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt. He took Pharaoh’s daughter and brought her into the city of David…” (ESV) In addition the passage tells us that “…the king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the great high place. Solomon used to offer a thousand burnt offerings on that altar.” (1 Kings 3:4) That’s quite an impressive sacrifice! But why would Solomon make an offering there? The ark of the Covenant, the tabernacle was in Jerusalem. Why not make your sacrifices there? The tradition of the pagan religions was to make sacrifices on “high places”. Later in 2 Kings, the writer notes: “ And the people of Israel did secretly against the LORD their God things that were not right. They built for themselves high places in all their towns,…” (2 Kings 17:9) There are 75 verses in the Old Testament about “high places” and all of them condemn the fact that Israel worshiped on “high places”. As early as Leviticus Yahweh says: “And I will destroy your high places and cut down your incense altars and cast your dead bodies upon the dead bodies of your idols, and my soul will abhor you.” (Lev 26:30) Doesn’t seem to be any doubt there! It is clear that Israel is not to use “high places” for the worship of Yahweh. Yet it’s at Gibeon that Yahweh comes to Solomon in a dream and says “Ask what I shall give you.” Solomon certainly says the right things. He talks about how Yahweh faithfully loved Solomon’s father David and David loved Yahweh. Solomon acknowledges that Yahweh has now made him king of Israel and so it appears that Solomon really understands why he is where he is. His words are right on message: “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?” Solomon knows that Israel is Yahweh’s people, that only God can capably rule and Solomon seems to understand that he has been put there to faithfully rule as Yahweh has placed him there.

Solomon was definitely brilliant, Israel rose to the height of its power under Solomon. It became the most powerful kingdom in the region, was wealthy beyond imagination. It’s said that Solomon didn’t use silver to decorate any of his buildings because gold was so common. The Queen of Sheba traveled from her African kingdom to take in the wisdom of Solomon. But with all the wisdom, power and material blessing of the world, Solomon became too in love with his worldly power and did whatever was necessary in order to maintain his power and wealth. He no longer trusted in Yahweh’s wisdom to rule Israel, but trusted the wisdom of the world. He built his worldly power by marrying women from many different kingdoms: “Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women,…He had 700 wives, princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart.” ( 1Kings 11: 1, 3) The writer of Kings points out: “the LORD had said to the people of Israel, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love.” More unsettling Isho’dad writes: “The reason for that prohibition was lest [their daughters] might make your sons also prostitute themselves to their gods.”3 All these wives from different parts of the world, these made Solomon a big man in the neighborhood. All the nations around him understood his power because of all his wives and alliances. They saw his power as a result of these alliances and not as a result of what Yahweh had intended for him and did through him. Because Solomon trusted in the world’s power, he began to ignore Yahweh and trust in the “gods” of his wives. That would result in disaster for Israel, it would go from being the 800 pound gorilla, to divided, poor, constant in-fighting and eventually it would be overrun and it’s people killed or deported to foreign countries. We can only imagine what Israel would have been like if Solomon and subsequent kings had faithfully followed Yahweh.

While Solomon seemed to come apart because of his wisdom, we see that Jesus too started out as wise. Solomon was young when he was granted great wisdom by God and certainly, since Jesus is God, He had great wisdom from the start. He demonstrated that wisdom from the beginning. The teachers of the temple, men who spent their entire lives studying Torah “were amazed at his understanding and his answers.” This would be like a twelve year old today going to a meeting at the Harvard Law School and “amazing” all the professors there. It just wouldn’t happen, the teachers of the temple probably had a more profound knowledge of Torah then Harvard professors have of the law.

The difference is this. While Solomon came apart at the seams as he wrote in the Book of Ecclesiastes: “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” It’s all pointless when we follow the world’s wisdom, it all just breaks down. But with Jesus: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” (Luke 2: 52 ESV)

We see it all around us. People get full of themselves because of their power or wisdom or wealth. They no longer trust God’s leading, they trust what is around them. They trust in the world and their own understanding and in the end, like Solomon, they find that it was all pointless, it doesn’t do anyone any good, if anything it causes harm and destruction. On the other hand, Jesus certainly didn’t become wealthy or powerful, nor did any of His disciples. Yet what they left was a church that continues to serve, build up and encourage the people of Jesus. Jesus’ life ended at the Cross and it might appear in loss and defeat, but He defeated death. Jesus rose from the dead to give us the promise of eternal life. There can be no greater contrast, the worldliness and defeat of Solomon, so full of promise. The holiness and victory of Jesus, who came into the world with nothing, lived a life that the world would say had nothing and yet gives us the promise and hope of being His in this world and also in eternity.

Solomon failed, trusting in the world. Jesus triumphed trusting in the hope and promise of God. Since we are at the beginning of a New Year, let’s take a different twist on our New Year’s resolutions and really think about how much we have fallen away from God’s plan for our life and trusted way too much in the world’s promises.

What can we do in our lives to rededicate ourselves to God and His will for us and to start to look at the things in our life that are too much about wealth, power, comfort and too little about life in Christ, for us and for all those who the Holy Spirit guides us to witness to.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin.

2Chronological Study Bible p 454

3Marco Conti Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture OT V p 13 quoting Isho’dad of Merv quoting Ex 34:16

Christianity may be making a comeback? It was never gone.

In 2015, Christianity May Be Making a Comeback

Posted: 01/05/2015 6:42 pm EST Updated: 01/05/2015 6:59 pm EST
JESUS CHRIST

Just when everyone thought God was dead, The Creator seems to be making a serious comeback. Although non-believing cultural elites in media, academia, and entertainment may be the loudest voices in the room, a new Pew Research Studyindicates they’re becoming the smallest group in the room. Among it’s findings:

  • 73 percent of U.S. adults believe Jesus was born to a virgin.
  • 81 percent, the baby Jesus was actually laid in a manger.
  • 75 percent, wise men guided by a star brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
  • 74 percent, an angel announced the birth of Jesus to shepherds nearby.

The study indicates that 65 percent of Americans believe all four of these elements of the Christmas story, and a mere 14 percent believe none. And just when you thought these numbers reflected the Bible Belt, it turns out that 54 percent of liberals believe in the virgin birth, and for adults with postgraduate degrees, 53 percent affirm the virgin birth of Jesus.

Hollywood apparently saw it coming. For decades producers and studios have bent over backwards to reach out to special interest groups like feminists, the gay community, environmentalists, and others. But simply looking at the numbers, they finally discovered the Christian community is the largest special interest group of all. So while they’ve had some Bible movies hit and miss, they understand the Christian audience isn’t going away soon. In fact, if they’ve learned anything after the productions of Noah and Gods and Kings, they’ve hopefully learned they need to get it right. The more a movie sticks to the Biblical account, the bigger the box office.

So the question becomes, where has Christianity been? Early in the 20th century, the Church embraced motion pictures, radio, then television and now the Internet and social media. But in the vast majority of cases today, they’re not using those platforms to engage the greater culture, but instead living inside a bubble. After all, why tweet, when you can join a Christian alternative to Twitter? And don’t go to eHarmony or Match.com if you’re looking for a mate, use Christian Mingle. From the web, to publishing, to record labels, TV networks, universities and more, the last 50 years have seen a remarkable withdrawal from mainstream culture and a move back to a cloistered, protective bubble.

In all honesty, the Church hasn’t been losing it’s voice, it’s been giving it away. As a result, they’ve lost remarkable influence in the culture. It’s a tragedy, because since the founding of this country, Christianity has been a powerful engine behind social service outreaches, educational institutions, hospitals and more.

So while the majority of the population still professes religious belief, will Christianity ever regain it’s influence in the culture? I believe it can, and there are plenty of signposts:

  • Vibrant churches are growing in major urban centers around the United States. From New York City to Chicago, to Los Angeles and Seattle, young pastors who have a passion for their cities find it difficult to locate facilities large enough for the crowds.
  • A new generation of talented writers, filmmakers, musicians, and other artists are unapologetic about their faith. As a result, they’re breaking out of traditional “Christian”-branded record labels, film distributors, and publishers, and are finding success with mainstream audiences.
  • Episodic television programs like Mark Burnett and Roma Downey’sThe Bible series broke audience records in the United States. Their new series “A.D.” based on the New Testament book of Acts debuts this spring, and a remake of the epic film Ben Hur is in the works.
  • The first Ebola cases to be treated on American soil were Dr. Kent Brantly and his assistant Nancy Writebol. Both were fighting the disease in Liberia with the Christian group “Serving in Mission.” Today, massive relief operations like “Mercy Ships,” “The Salvation Army,” and “Medical Ministry International” are all driven by Christian convictions and are making a dramatic difference in the most desperate places on the planet.

Honestly, it shouldn’t be a surprise. When the Iron Curtain fell, we discovered that Communism couldn’t silence the Church, and despite horrific torture and executions by ISIS militants, Christians in that region refuse to recant. So it shouldn’t be shocking that here in the West, for all the criticism and clatter from nonbelievers, or advertising campaigns from atheists, Christianity is actually growing.

In 2015, it will be obvious that Christianity is back. But truthfully, it never left.

Bedouin shepherds in Israel

Saw these guys during our travels around the area of Capernaum. Even today there are shepherds out with their sheep, no doubt it’s pretty lonely and not the easiest way to make a living. Shepherds doing the same thing shepherds were doing 2,000 years ago when they were singled out for the announcement that would change the course of human history. Men, probably, who probably became disciples of Jesus during His earthly incarnation and ministry.

A Decree Went Out From the Father, His Son our Lord Jesus Luke 2 First St Johns December 24, 2014

A BABY CHANGES EVERYTHING

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who “have seen a great light”, our Savior Jesus, said … AMEN

Almost 700 years before He was born, some of the greatest words of Jesus were said by the prophet Isaiah: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;…” Who are the people who have walked in darkness? … Yes, we are. Sure the sun in the sky may be out and shining, but so often we feel that we are in darkness. We all know what darkness is like, especially this time of year. When I worked in Boston, I would have to take the train and it would come pretty much around dawn this time of year, I would get into the city and the trip would mostly be in the dark and when I left at or later than 5pm, it would always be dark and get darker on my way home. The cold of walking to the train station through city streets, often walking through snow and wind, that would just take your breath away and cut you down. My only hope was to make it to the dim light and less cold of the train station to get on a train, that would at least, get me out of the weather and give me enough light to read a newspaper.

Even in the brightest summer day we really walk in darkness, especially if we don’t know Jesus as Lord. We all live in the same world, the world is dark and evil. I really hate winter weather, even when the weather is relatively mild, I never refer to it as “warm” just “less cold”. In the same way, yes we have light, but it’s really only “less dark”, the real light is in Jesus and that’s what He brought into the world in the dark night in Bethlehem. No one who was there would say that it was any “lighter”, whether it was at the beginning of winter or early spring, there really is never any light in a dark and evil world. A baby changes everything, in this case the Baby Jesus. The dark and the evil of the world is why Jesus came into it, He brings His eternal and more than sufficient light into the world, He brought it with Him to Bethlehem. But for all those people out there, right at this very moment, maybe even scurrying around for that one last Christmas item, present, decoration, card, food for the feast, they scurry in the dark.

No matter how hard they try to “understand” God, unless they are guided by the Holy Spirit, they cannot understand; God’s wisdom, His Will, His light, His Word and frankly they just don’t want to. It has to be about God and His way or it’s not at all. Only those who are in Jesus will understand God’s will for the world. For each one who has been baptized, hears the preached Word and takes the Body and Blood of our Lord. I hesitate to say “understand”, because I doubt that any of us would say we “understand” God even as His born again children, even though we do accept what He does and understand when He does it. Only to His children in Jesus, will God’s will, word, His Light, and Warmth be accepted. John 1:9 describes it as the “true light, which enlightens everyone”. But John 3:9 acknowledges that people really don’t love the light; “…the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil.”

Faith Hill’s song “A Baby changes everything”, she’s talking about Mary and how her life goes from being, probably, a teenage girl, getting ready to be married, a huge step for anyone, how anyone of us has a boatload of expectations for marriage and then Mary is told that she will be the mother of Messiah. Her life has now been changed extraordinarily, she knows that this is of God and that she has been honored above all women, but her life is taking a course that she could never have expected. This baby has certainly changed everything for her, a life beyond her expectations, she has only an inkling of how this Baby has changed everything for man. Before this Baby our sin separated us from a completely just, completely holy God we were in a state of hostility with God. Now this Baby has changed everything and we are at peace with God. Before we were brought to eternal death, now we are saved eternally because we are at peace with God, we are His children. When we are “born again” through our baptism in Jesus and our nature is changed from the world and flesh to a nature that is in Jesus, a divine nature. We are still sinful beings, but in Christ, in that “Baby” who has changed everything, we are saved as eternal beings, we will be resurrected in the flesh. But no longer will that flesh be corrupted, it will be perfect in a perfect, physical world, that we were always intended by God to live in.

Ceasar Augustus issued a decree and all the people of the Roman Empire picked up and moved in order to be counted by the Roman government. That was for a time, and those people who were counted soon died. God the Father, the Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, the Godhead, issued a decree, that there would be a great light that would come into a world of darkness. That decree was originally issued through Isaiah who promised that great light would shine on all men and it would result in great rejoicing.

A Baby changes everything, Caesar Augustus issued a decree for a time. God the Father, through His Son, born a Baby issued a decree for eternity and His Son was the messenger. St Augustine writes: “Christ was called the Angel [Greek for messenger] of Great Counsel because he brought the message of the kingdom of heaven and the will of the Father.”1 That because of His incarnation, His birth as a baby that everything would be changed between us and the Father, we would have peace with the Father and be saved because that Baby would grow to be a man who would be the sacrifice, the payment for our sins.

I like to use a story that Paul Harvey would tell on Christmas to illustrate how the Father came down to us so that we would understand who He is and His will for us:

The man to whom I’m going to introduce you was not a scrooge, he was a kind decent, mostly good man. Generous to his family, upright in his dealings with other men. But he just didn’t believe all that incarnation stuff which the churches proclaim at Christmas Time. It just didn’t make sense, and he was too honest to pretend otherwise. He just couldn’t swallow the Jesus Story, about God coming to Earth as a man.

I’m truly sorry to distress you,” he told his wife, “but I’m not going with you to church this Christmas Eve.” He said he’d feel like a hypocrite. That he’d just stay at home, but that he would wait up for them. And so he stayed and they went to the midnight service.

Shortly after the family drove away in the car, snow began to fall. He went to the window to watch the flurries getting heavier and heavier and then went back to his fireside chair and began to read his newspaper. Minutes later he was startled by a thudding sound…Then another, and then another. At first he thought someone must be throwing snowballs against his living room window. But when he went to the front door to investigate he found a flock of birds huddled miserably in the snow. They’d been caught in the storm and, in a desperate search for shelter, had tried to fly through his large landscape window. Well, he couldn’t let the poor creatures lie there and freeze, so he remembered the barn where his children stabled their pony. That would provide a warm shelter, if he could direct the birds to it.

He put on a coat, galoshes, tramped through the deepening snow to the barn. He opened the doors wide and turned on a light, but the birds did not come in. He figured food would entice them in. So he hurried back to the house, fetched bread crumbs, sprinkled them on the snow, making a trail to the yellow-lighted wide open doorway of the stable. But to his dismay, the birds ignored the bread crumbs, and continued to flap around helplessly in the snow. He tried catching them…He tried shooing them into the barn by walking around them waving his arms…Instead, they scattered in every direction, except into the warm, lighted barn.

And then, he realized that they were afraid of him. To them, he reasoned, I am a strange and terrifying creature. If only I could think of some way to let them know that they can trust me…That I am not trying to hurt them, but to help them. But how? Because any move he made tended to frighten them, confuse them. They just would not follow. They would not be led or shooed because they feared him.

If only I could be a bird,” he thought to himself, “and mingle with them and speak their language. Then I could tell them not to be afraid. Then I could show them the way to safety, warm…to the safe warm barn. But I would have to be one of them so they could see, and hear and understand.” At that moment the church bells began to ring. The sound reached his ears above the sounds of the wind. And he stood there listening to the bells – Adeste Fidelis – listening to the bells pealing the glad tidings of Christmas. And he sank to his knees in the snow.”2

Foil Satan and hell, sin and death—foil them with the joy only Christ Jesus gives. Let Him comfort and defend you. Let Him feed and strengthen you. For He who once was born of Mary, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and placed in a manger, is here for you in His Holy Word and soon will be wrapped in bread and wine and placed on a plate and in a cup for Your salvation!

Yes, we’re surrounded by troubles and heartbreaks, and Satan, sin and selfishness relentlessly attack, but don’t just sit there—sing for joy! Your Savior is born! There is peace on earth for you, come for all, to set us free.”3 A Baby does change everything.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin.

1Augustine quoted by Steven McKinion Ancient Christian Commentary Old Testament X p 69

2[1]Keiki Hendrix, Everyday Christian, Christmas Classics: The Man And The Birds By Paul Harvey (December23,2012, http://www.everydaychristian.com/blogs/post/christmas_classics_the_man_and_the_birds_by_paul_harvey).

3God’s Love at Christmas CPH sermon