Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Importance of Church by Tim Bonebright

The importance of church is established at home. If a family fills its schedule at the expense of attendance at church, it is to the detriment of the family, and a valuable opportunity to teach faithfulness has been missed. In its place, the family has learned that church is not of great importance, that church is good when it is convenient. When someone says that they do not attend Sunday night service because that is family time, what they are teaching is that their church family and attendance is not important. They are teaching that secular activities that take place during the week are of higher value than the church. Too often we fill our week with events to the detriment of the family and time spent together. I cannot think of a better night to have family night than Monday night, Tuesday night, Thursday night, Friday night, and Saturday night.

As I look back to my childhood, I now understand that there was a reason why my parents did not book our week with events. There was a reason why we spent our evenings together. There was a reason why the family dinner table was frequented daily. There was a reason why our family had just one TV. There was a reason why this TV was not allowed to be turned on until 8:00 pm if it was turned on at all. There was a reason that as I got older my parents did not allow me to be out every evening. Finally, there was a reason why my friends always wanted to be at my house.

There is stability when the family is spending time together. Then your life is not always rushed. Then there is an excitement when together as a family church is attended.

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Tim Bonebright is the second of my wife Janet’s three sons. He was a youth pastor for six years and is currently between churches. He has a Master of Arts Degree in Biblical Studies from Maranatha Baptist Bible College.  Update, 2015:  Tim is now Pastor of Goodland Bible Church, Goodland, Kansas.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Evolution: Compatible with the Bible?

Many Christians are willing to accept the idea that evolution is compatible with the Bible. They seem very ready to throw out literal Genesis in an effort to appear “intellectual” and “credible.” The sad truth is that while many Christians are na├»ve about this, the evolutionists know that evolution is nothing more and nothing less than a major attack on the gospel of Christ. They are therefore more than willing to give lip service to the absurd idea of so many Christians that two opposite things can be compatible. Yet, they reveal their true position in quotes such as the following:

"Atheism is science’s natural ally. Atheism is the philosophy, both moral and ethical, most perfectly suited for a scientific civilization. If we work for the American Atheists today, atheism will be ready to fill the void of Christianity’s demise when science and evolution triumph. Without a doubt humans and civilization are in sore need of the intellectual cleanness and mental health of atheism. Christianity has fought, still fights, and will fight science to the desperate end over evolution, because evolution destroys utterly and finally the very reason Jesus’ earthly life was supposedly made necessary. Destroy Adam and Eve and the original sin, and in the rubble you will find the sorry remains of the son of god. Take away the meaning of his death. If Jesus was not the redeemer who died for our sins, and this is what evolution means, then Christianity is nothing!" (Bozarth, G. Richard, "The Meaning of Evolution," American Atheist, February 1978, page 30.)

It is too bad that Bozarth’s statement that "Christianity has fought, still fights, and will fight science to the desperate end over evolution" is no longer as true as when he said it. In many places, the fight is gone. It is time we recognize evolution for what it is – a man-made philosophy, an attack on the truth, and an assault on the gospel – and it is time we stand against it in every way. There is no room for compromise in our churches, in our Christian schools, and in our families.

Dr. John MacArthur addresses this topic in a short article entitled "Is Evolution Compatible with Christianity?" which is found here. He says, "The abandonment of a biblical view of creation has already borne abundant evil fruit in modern society. Now is no time for the church to retreat or compromise on these issues. To weaken our commitment to the biblical view of creation would start a chain of disastrous moral, spiritual, and theological ramifications in the church that will greatly exacerbate the terrible moral chaos that already has begun the unravelling of secular society."

One Last Christmas Post, by My Anonymous Friend

Greetings to you on the last Sunday of 2009!

I hope your Christmas was happy and joyous for you and your family.

Before we leave the Christmas theme (it seems the celebrations and festivities begin earlier each year but surely end quickly), I wish to think with you today about the wise men who came to inquire about the birth of Jesus. These men are somewhat mysterious and it is hard to know what is fact and what is tradition and fiction when one reads about them.

I have long been intrigued to think about how motivated these wise men or magi were. They traveled a great distance to find out more about the birth of a King. Perhaps they came from present day Yemen, or maybe from what is today, Iran or Iraq. All are many hundreds of miles away from Bethlehem.

Contrast this with the religious leaders in Jerusalem. They were less than 10 miles from the place of Jesus' birth. I do not read that they had the slightest interest in visiting His birthplace or to visit the Baby themselves. They clearly did not lack for knowledge. When the magi inquired, they appeared to be able to give the correct answer very easily. Their knowledge seems so academic and cerebral. That is as far as things went with them. There is no evidence that any of the religious leaders in Jerusalem cared the slightest wit about the birth of Jesus.

The wise men have much to teach us. Their thirst for information and their desire to worship the new King are inspiring to behold. They were persistent and determined. Unlike most men, they were not afraid to ask for directions!!

Are we content with our knowledge of Jesus? I know it is dangerous to comment on a topic so controversial, but when I listen to music in the worship services of the church today, it seems to me that a very large percentage of it focuses on the fact that Jesus died and rose again for our sins. This is obviously basic and fundamental to the faith and we can never really talk about or sing about this theme too often. However, I am just wondering with you today. Could we not sing about other aspects of Christianity as well? It has been years since I have heard a sermon (or given one for that matter) on the subject of the return of Jesus for example.

I am just musing with you today! What do you think? Those magi, however many of them there were, are truly inspiring! I wonder how long they had to travel to reach Bethlehem? How big was their entourage? What exactly motivated them to check out this story and to follow a star that seemed to point the way for them? How long did they stay in Bethlehem before God impressed on them that they ought not to report back to Jerusalem? We do not know a definite answer to any of these questions. It is clear though that they were motivated. They had focus to their lives. They were on a mission and they were determined to see it through.

Perhaps a resolution that we could make for the year ahead is that we could expand our knowledge of and appreciation for Jesus in some specific ways. Perhaps we might resolve to allow what we know about Christ to impact our lives in some tangible way. We surely do not want to emulate the religious leaders in Jerusalem for whom theology was basically just head knowledge. It surely did not motivate them to action of any sort. I am just wondering!!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Merry Christmas - by My Anonymous Friend

I have been intrigued, (dare I say amused in a way) in recent weeks about the almost comical and certainly strange method God chose to introduce a Saviour to this world. God's ways often are simply "weird". He does not do things the way we would or think we would do them. A culture is looking for a deliverer and a political leader. How do such leaders appear usually? Well obviously with great fanfare and pomp. Bands play, people prepare, thousands gather in anticipation! Announcements are made and anticipation builds!

It was not so with the birth of Jesus! Yes, announcements were made all right but they were apparently not taken seriously or understood well. It makes me smile to think that an unmarried woman, a smelly barn or cave, a band of shepherds, and an obscure village, would be the setting for the arrival of the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Prince of Peace, Wonderful Counselor, Everlasting Father. It does not compute in my brain. No armies, no bands playing! No fanfare whatsoever! That is how it was though.

So I wish you a wonderful Christmas as you perhaps too remind yourself of the most basic part of what Christmas is about.

Behold, I bring you great tidings of great joy!

For unto you is born this day in the city of David,

A Saviour Who is Christ the Lord!

Jesus may have entered this world in humble, almost comical circumstances but never has anyone had the impact He had then and continues to have! Years ago I came across an attempt by James Allen Francis to put into words the uniqueness of Jesus. I have inserted what he wrote here below:

"He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another obscure village and worked in a carpenter shop until he was thirty. Then for just three years he was an itinerant preacher.

"He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never owned a home. He never had a family. He never went to college. He never put his foot inside a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place where He was born. He never did any of the things that we normally associate with greatness. He had no credentials but himself.

"While he was still a young man the tide of popular opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. He was turned over to his enemies. He went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves and his executioners gambled for the only piece of property he had on earth, and that was his coat. When he was dead, he was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.

"Two thousand years have come and gone and today he is the central figure of the human race and the leader of the column of progress.

"All the armies that ever marched, and all the navies that ever sailed, and all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as has that one solitary life."

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Christmas Wish: Jesus is the Reason for the Season, by Ralph Petersen

Another busy holiday season is here and our thoughts are turned to family, gifts, goodwill, and world peace. And have you noticed that there seems to be an aggressive effort to secularize this season and remove all references to religion in general and Jesus Christ in particular? That seems ludicrous to me; the reason for the season is all about the celebration of the birth of a baby who made the greatest impact on this world in all of human history. Without Him, Nick would not be a saint, Frosty would not be merry, Rudolf would have no reason to light the darkness and the little drummer boy would have no reason to play his drum.

We are all somewhat familiar with the events around this baby’s birth as they are related in our traditions and recorded in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. To some, He was a prophet, a teacher, a religious leader or a martyr. But He was much, much more than that.

In the opening verses of his Gospel, John reveals something very profound about the unique nature of this baby:

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God…Everything that was made was made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made…In Him was life…And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

Have you heard the contemporary Christmas carol, “Mary, Did You Know?” Ponder these great words from that song:

Mary, did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?

This child that you delivered will soon deliver you…

Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?

When you’ve kissed your little baby, then you’ve kissed the face of God.

Think about that. The world loves the little baby. But that little baby is God. It is improper, if not irrelevant to consider His entrance into the world without understanding His purpose in coming. This is the King of Creation wrapped in rags and placed in a filthy feeding trough. He’s the Righteous One of the Universe who opens His arms of love to the wicked. He is the Giver of Life and He came to die. The One who makes the Law and the only One who has ever kept the Law; the Judge of the world comes to offer complete pardon and mercy. The highest is made lowly and humble. In Him, poverty becomes riches, tears become joy, death becomes life, trash becomes treasures and sinners become saints.

And, by the way, the Christmas story, by itself, is a non-event. It is incomplete and meaningless without the Easter story. Jesus Christ, God wrapped in flesh, was born of a virgin, lived a perfect, sinless life, died a horrible death on the cross and rose alive on the third day. He did that all for me. He paid the penalty for my sins and satisfied the justice of God. Someone has described that like this: “I owed a debt I could not pay. He paid a debt He did not owe.”

I hope you too, know that your sins are forgiven and that eternal life is yours. If not, why not just ask him to forgive your sin and receive God’s free gift of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ?

“Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift” (II Corinthians 9:15).

Merry Christmas to you all.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Bethlehem, Calvary, and the Empty Tomb

At this time of year when the world celebrates a secular form of Christmas, others celebrate the winter solstice, and Christians celebrate the birth of Christ, it is extremely important to remember the Savior as more than just a baby in a manger. Jesus Christ, God the Son, the Creator of the universe, entered time and space and came into this world on a mission. His mission was the redemption of lost sinners, and He accomplished that not through His birth or His righteous life, but through His death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead. There are three key locations connected with the earthly life and mission of our Lord Jesus Christ, and those are Bethlehem, Calvary, and the empty tomb.
BethlehemThe nativity scene is the symbol of Christmas for those who understand that Christmas is about Christ, not the worldly trappings of the holiday. This event happened at exactly the time and place God intended. “…when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5, NKJV).
The angel Gabriel announced to a young teenager by the name of Mary that she was to be the mother of the virgin-born Son of God. We can be certain than many things went through her mind, but her response was one of willingness and obedience, whatever the cost. "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38, NKJV). Mary and her husband-to-be, Joseph, traveled to Bethlehem to register for Roman taxation, and there Jesus was born in a lowly stable, visited by lowly shepherds. It is quite significant that the birth of the Lamb of God was first announced to shepherds. “Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger’” (Luke 2:10-12, NKJV).
Calvary As important as the birth of Christ is, the baby in the manger does not save anyone. After thirty years of relative obscurity, growing up and living in the home of a carpenter, Jesus began His earthly ministry. He taught many things and performed many miracles, all of which validated His identity as the Son of God. In the end, the religious authorities turned on Him because of their fear of losing their influence over the people and the crowd was incited to demand His crucifixion by the Romans. This was all part of God’s plan. In reality, it was not the crowd, it was not the Jewish people, and it was not the Romans who crucified Him. It was our sin that nailed Him to the cross, and He willingly laid down His life as a sacrifice for our sins. The Apostle Paul said, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15, NKJV). “…God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8, NKJV).
The Empty Tomb – The fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the pivotal event in all of history. Without it, the Gospel becomes meaningless. With it, Christianity is true without any doubt. In recent years, in a Christian school not far from here, a student who practiced the religion of Islam had his Bible class the last period of the day. He did his work and studied well, and he was one of the best students in the class. He stayed after class almost every day to discuss biblical issues with the teacher. One day, he made a particularly revealing admission. He said, “If the resurrection really happened, Christianity is true.” How right he was! Although he accepted neither the resurrection nor Christianity, he had made a profound statement.
“…if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty...For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. But now Christ is risen from the dead…” (1 Corinthians 15:13-20, NKJV).
The message of Christmas is incomplete without all of the Gospel. The birth of Jesus is only important in relation to what it made possible – His death, burial, and resurrection. “…I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved…that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once…Then last of all He was seen by me also…” (1 Corinthians 15:1-8, NKJV).
This Christmas season is a great time to come in faith to the Christ of Christmas, the One who was born into poverty, who went to the cross to pay the penalty for sin, and who rose again to defeat death forever.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Let’s Keep Christ IN Christmas, by Ron Livesay

“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up in glory” (I Timothy 3:16, NKJV).

Each year it seems more and more as if the Lord Jesus Christ is being excluded from the holiday that purports to celebrate His birth. His name is not even permitted in certain places, and anything that has any kind of a ring of being remotely “religious” is systematically removed from every phase of official life. In some quarters, even the term “Christmas Break” has been replaced by “Winter Break.” There are those who refuse to recognize the birth of the Savior but celebrate the “Winter Solstice” as an excuse to “party.” It has become utterly ludicrous that people celebrate a holiday but totally ignore the One to Whom that holiday is supposedly dedicated.

The story of Christmas is the story of Jesus Christ. It does not end in a manger in Bethlehem. It does not even begin there. It begins in eternity past. God the Son, Jesus Christ, is the great Creator of the universe. Yet, he willingly humbled himself to be born in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago and become a perfect, sinless human being. He came because of the His great love for us. There is certainly no other reason for His having done this. He lived for thirty-three years, doing good, healing the sick, raising the dead, preaching and teaching among the people. He never did even the slightest wrong thing, yet sinful, rebellious mankind accused Him of all sorts of crimes and condemned Him to death.

Never in their wildest imaginations did any of these individuals realize that the hand of God was at work, even in the many lies they told about Him. God is so wise that He can use even the sinfulness of man to bring about His will, and that is just what He did in the trial and execution of His Son. Jesus Christ came to this earth to be the perfect sacrifice for our sins, yet He said of Judas, who betrayed Him, “The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born” (Matthew 26:24, NKJV). How can this be? Because God is absolutely sovereign, and His plan cannot be thwarted. Even the rebellion and foolishness of man play right into the hands of Him Who ultimately controls everything. What a comfort for the Christian!

In the single most significant event in all of history, the Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead three days after He was crucified. This made the salvation of all believers totally and permanently secure. Nothing and no one can ever change that. Satan, sin, and death are defeated foes that are only temporarily present. They cannot ultimately do us any harm. The skeptics often claim the Resurrection is a hoax, but it is, in fact, a historical fact of absolute status. It is more provable and demonstrable, even outside of the realm of faith, than a very large percentage of other historical facts. This single fact vindicates the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. It proves who He is, and it proves what He did. It proves the Bible to be true from cover to cover, from the literal creation of the universe and all it contains, to the ultimate judgment of all of all humans and the culmination of all temporal things into eternity future. This fact of the Resurrection totally validates the sinfulness of man, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the need in the heart of all people for the salvation that only He can provide. It makes foolish all the arguments of ungodly men and challenges them with the haunting question of the Roman Governor, Pilate, who asked the crowd, “What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” (Matthew 27:22, NKJV). Every human being must personally answer this question. There will be no exceptions.

At this special time of year, please consider Jesus Christ and what He has already done for you. Often, people get depressed around the holidays. Yet, all that He has done for us gives us every reason to be anything but depressed. He has proven the great love of God for us. Nothing further must be done in order for God to prove He loves us. It has already been done. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, NKJV). You need Him as your Savior. If you come to Him, He will give you eternal life, which is His great gift to you. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23, NKJV). “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved…that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures…” (I Corinthians 15:1-4, NKJV).

THE WISE MEN, by Wayne W. Livesay

"Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, Behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem."

In the second chapter of Matthew we see events which are usually presented in con­junction with the birth of Christ, but which actually took place twelve to eighteen months later. Christmas programs usually picture shep­herds visiting the stable, and before they move from the stage three wise men appear on the scene.

The Word of God shows that the shep­herds came to a babe in a manger but the wise men visited a young child in a house. Let us remember that these wise men came from the east, which could have referred to Babylon, India or perhaps China. No fast modes of travel were available and there were very few roads except for the camel paths used by traders of that area. The actions of King Herod after he was out­smarted by the wise men adds further proof that the wise men came at a much later time than the shepherds. The wicked king set out to kill all the male children from the age of two years old and younger which clearly indi­cates that there was a considerable lapse of time before the visit of the wise men. The decree from Herod was to make sure that the young Jesus could not survive.

It was very significant to note that the journey of the wise men was a westward trek. In the Old Testament record we see that every time the tabernacle was set up in the wilderness the open door always faced the east. This made it necessary for the priests to turn their backs to the east and move west­ward as they entered the tabernacle. East is the favored direction in all pagan worship, so man, if he is to worship the true and living God, symbolically turns from the east and moves in a westerly direction. It was no acci­dent that these wise men came from the east.

How many wise men were there? Although most artists and Christmas story writers have settled upon three as the number, there is no Scripture to substantiate the claim. They brought three gifts, but the number of wise men could have been two or 102. The important thing is to see the purpose of their visit and the meaning of the gifts they brought with them.

They came to worship, but what power moved them over those many miles to see the Saviour? When we accept the simple truth we will say that they saw a star and then followed it until they found the young child. We have no record that anyone else saw the star and it is an injustice to Scripture to assume that they did. The man who denies the sovereignty of God will have a lot of difficulty with this point for there is no other way to explain this event but to realize that God chose these men and revealed unto them the message of Christ's birth. They responded as the elect of God always do. Whether it be an Abram living in a pagan land or a Saul on the road to Damascus, people receive salvation when God's selec­tive grace moves in their direction. This is not a religious work, not a reformation, not sim­ply a changing of the mind. Salvation is a divine revelation.

The gifts brought by the wise men picture the three aspects of worshipping Christ. The order in which they are mentioned is also of much importance as they give forth the message of Christ to a lost and dying world.

GOLD - The first substance mentioned among the gifts from the wise men was GOLD. Literal gold is referred to as the ultimate in wealth and power. In the symbolic sense, gold represents purity, that which is precious and of a divine standing. A study in the struc­ture of the Hebrew tabernacle teaches us that numerous articles of the furniture con­tained pure gold or wood overlaid with gold. In type, these all spoke of the deity of the Messiah who was to come. Today, in fulfill­ment, the first order in the worship of the Lord Jesus Christ is to see Him as God. Unless we see the child of Mary as the Son of God, we miss the basic point of worship.

FRANKINCENSE - Frankincense is a gum which comes from trees in Arabia, Africa, and India. It was used in tabernacle worship as one of the ingredients in the incense used at the altar of incense. Frankincense put forth a sweet aroma and as such it was a type of the human perfection of Christ. This reveals to us the second point of worship as Jesus was perfect in every aspect of his humanity. He did no sin and no guile was found in Him. At the outset of His ministry, John the Baptist said to Christ, “I have need to be baptized of thee,” while at His trial Pilate stated, "I find no fault in this man." In all true worship of the Lord Jesus Christ we must recognize His sinless humanity.

MYRRH - Myrrh, the gum from a small tree grown primarily in Arabia, has a strong and bitter taste. The myrrh tree produces no fruit, but it is important to note that numerous thorns are put forth from every branch. Thorns first appeared as a result of sin when Adam and Eve disobeyed God (Gen 3:18). All through the Word of God thorns are used as a symbol of sin as the path of man's depravity pollutes all of mankind with the legacy of eternal death. This renders man hopeless and alienates him from God's blessing and fellowship.

At Calvary, Christ was lifted up as the one and only mediator between sinful man and a Holy God. It was very appropriate that the crown He wore was fashioned with thorns, for every king must be properly dressed for his hour of coronation. Peter saw the significance of the scene when he recorded, "Who His own self bore our sins in His own body on the tree" (I Peter 2:24).

The pattern for worship becomes complete when we see Christ as DEITY, as PERFECT HUMANITY, and as the one who SUFFERED FOR OUR SIN. The gold, frankincense, and myrrh reflected the true wisdom of men who traveled for several months in order to see their Saviour. At this season of the year, when the world speaks of these wise men, let us proclaim the real message of their visit with a renewed zeal so that others might see the child as the Saviour who bled at Calvary for their sin.