01 Dec

Jesus Is the Answer – Hope

 

Advent - Jesus Is the Answer

This week we begin our season of Advent, which is the Christian season of preparation for Christmas. The word “advent” comes from the Latin word adventus, which means “coming” or “visit.” In the Advent season, we keep in mind both “advents,” both “visits” of Christ, the first in Bethlehem and the second yet to come.

Our theme this year is “Jesus Is the Answer.” This week we focus on Read More

18 Dec

Why Did Jesus Take on Flesh?

Jesus in Manger

At the center of this and every Christian season is the baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.  This mysterious bundle of joy is none other than the eternal Son of God who took on flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14).  That’s the very thing we celebrate here at Christmas—the enfleshing of the Son of God, the incarnation.  He was sent on a mission from the Father to save sinners, and one of the absolutely necessary things Jesus had to do to complete His mission was take on a flesh and blood body just like we have.  But, why was that so crucial?  Why did Jesus take on flesh?  The Bible gives us at least ten reasons.

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24 Dec

My Christmas Poem: “The Promised One of Old Is Finally Here”

“The Promised One of Old Is Finally Here”

Welcome one and welcome all!
Gather round, sit down, and hear
Of the baby born in a manger stall,
Who conquered death, sin, and fear.

It’s a story ancient old,
But some still fail to know it.
So I bring it bold
This morning afresh as a preacher poet.

The beginning of that babe was not the beginning.
The story actually began long, long before
When our first father Adam in the Garden introduced sinning
And God in mercy pushed them out and closed the door.

But in grace before that,
He promised a child, meek in mind
Yet determined to crush the old serpent’s head flat
And eradicate sin of each and every kind.

You see, from Adam would multiply a fallen race of humanity
Such that each would be born condemned for eternity
For what Adam did as our representing entity
And for then piling on our own sin seemingly into infinity.

Adam’s curse was quite clear:
The ground he worked would yield thistle and thorn,
Toiling until his death; Eve within a year
Would have pain as babies are born.

And sin in this world began to grow.
With pain Eve had one son, then two,
And as they grew, one brother killed the other bro.
All of this was only the start of man’s coup.

Population increased, but so did wickedness
Until God finally had His fill.
His plan of judgment was quite precipitous;
Every man would wish he had a gill.

But even here one man found favor with God.
Noah and his family and two animals of each kind
Were to enter the ark, safe from the flooding sod
As forty days of water God did unbind.

Oh but what of this one promised to kill Satan and sin?
He was still coming and would be the Son who’s obedient again and again;
He’d be the brother who would never pierce your skin;
He’d be the boat that would protect you within.

The story of the coming of the babe in the manger continued on.
God called a man from the city of Ur
Named Abram for a while but Abraham from then on.
A great covenant upon him did God confer.

“A great nation of you I will make indeed
And a great name and land will be yours.
Through a great one coming who is you seed,
I will bless the world with the cure of cures.”

This covenant was passed from father to son.
Abraham begat Isaac, and Isaac begat twins–
First Esau then Jacob who wrestled terribly within their mothers oven–
And it was prophesied the older would serve the younger of kin.

Therefore, it was to Jacob whom the covenant passed;
The Lord renamed him Israel, and he had twelve sons.
My goodness that nation grew fast!
These twelve sons became twelve tribes with people in tons!

But, a drought pushed them in to the foreign land
Of Egypt where Israel’s son Joseph had become rather grand.
However before long Joseph was a forgotten hand,
And Israel became slaves to pharaoh’s command.

But God raised up a deliver there along the Nile–
Moses whom He called into service through a burning bush.
Pharaoh’s resolve would be broken in just a while,
And after ten plagues he sent them out with a rush.

And so out of Egypt God’s people went heading east
With miracles along the way–
Like the sea parting, heaven raining down a feast,
And many more than here I can say.

And as they traveled, God spoke to and through Moses
And delivered ten commandments in stone,
But at them soon Israel would wrinkle their noses,
And long to sit under pharaoh’s throne.

Nevertheless, Israel God faithfully led,
Marching eastward toward the Promised Land.
Near the end of the journey it was announced, “Moses is dead!”
And a successor named Joshua lead them across Jordan’s sand.

“But, what of the babe?  Where is He?  Where is he?!”
Slowly but surely God’s plan came to be.
So, be patient, my friend, and you soon shall see
The birth of the One sent to set you free!

As time passed, the people began to cry for a king
In the likeness of the pagan nations ’round,
And since God was their king, it was no small thing
To have a fallen mortal crowned.

So, God gave them what they wanted in a man named Saul,
From the tribe of Benjamin, tall, handsome, and strong.
God did this to Israel as a lesson; see, Saul’s love for God was small,
And as a few years passed it was clear Saul was all wrong.

But, God had in mind a king who’d love Him with all of his heart.
You see, God doesn’t see man the way man sees man.
We look at the outside while He looks within from the start;
And so Saul’s replacement was found in Judah’s clan.

The boy’s name was David, a shepherd of the field,
Full of faith, love, integrity, and reliance upon the Lord.
To the leadership of God, David was quick to yield,
And upon him a great portion of the Spirit was poured.

King David was a valiant warrior, and God he did love
So much he wanted to build a house for the Lord above,
But God said, “My son, a house is not what I’m in need of.
Instead I’ll build you a house, my strong beloved.”

So, God cut a covenant with David that day
To forever have one of his sons sit on Israel’s throne.
The house and kingdom of David would never sway,
And the sons of David God would never disown.

But, as David went the way of man to the grave,
Things degraded terribly by the next generation.
First King Solomon’s foreign wives led him to idol crave;
Then King Rehoboam split up the nation.

Now there were two kingdoms–one south, one north,
And as you know a house divided will not stand.
Add to this that wicked kings were continually put forth;
Israel and Judah were indeed a troubled land.

Those under the king were not much better.
They loved false gods like Asherah and Baal.
And so, God like a father who disciplines with leather
Within a few hundred years ordained the kingdoms to fail.

In their hearts the people longed for a David-like king,
One who would not depart from God, to God he would cling.
The Messiah, as He was called, would certainly bring
Peace, prosperity, protection like a mother hen’s wing.

God’s prophets foretold of this coming Prince.
Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Micah, Malachi
Told about the coming Anointed One, and since
They spoke directly from God, you know it wasn’t a lie.

“He’ll be born of virgin in Bethlehem,” they told,
“And set on the throne of David his dad.
The government will be upon His shoulders rolled
With wisdom, righteousness, and justice He will be clad.

“His name will be Eternal Father, Prince of Peace,
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God.
His peace and government will always increase,
And He’ll hold in his hand an iron rod.

“For God His Father, He’ll be perfectly zealous,
Never turning to the left or to the right.
He’ll bring good news to all the ladies and fellas;
Death and darkness, He’ll divinely put to flight.”

The people had waited through all these years,
Had longed, groaned, moaned, and cried many tears,
Had faced tragedy, tribulation, and stinging jeers,
But He’s here.  Finally here!  Get ready for the cheers!!

In about the year 6 or 5 BC,
An angel of the Lord visited the virgin Mary.
“Favored of God, you will soon be with Child
He’ll be the true Son of God so meek and mild.”

She said, “But I am a virgin.  How can this be?
He said, “The power of the Most High will overshadow thee.
Call His name Jesus for He’ll save you all from sin
He’ll be the King of Kings that ever have been.”

“God is giving Him the throne of His father David.
You’ll bring forth an amazingly, marvelous kid!
You see, with God nothing is impossible!!”
Needless to say, Mary’s heart was full.

Nine months later, Mary and her new husband Joseph
Traveled down to Bethlehem with lots of love.
They had to go down because of Caesar’s decree.
How many people in his empire he wanted to see.

The journey from Nazareth was rather rough,
But nevertheless Mary was tough
And as they traveled be sure that anxiety traveled too
Because at any moment her baby due.

As they came into town, they wanted see
If there was an inn with any vacancy,
But Bethlehem was packed, and the inn was full.
The only vacancy was out back in the stable.

They gladly took it because they weren’t conceited,
And while they were there, Mary days were completed.
She brought forth a Baby, wrapped Him in swaddling clothes.
Whether or not it was silent, only God knows.

And God sent forth His angelic choir to go and proclaim
To shepherds nearby, singing of Jesus’ fame
They sang, “Glory to God in the highest!” then
“Peace on earth God will to men!”

They said, “You’ll find a Baby laid in a manger,
And to your hearts He’ll be a glorious stranger.”
And straight away they went to see of what they had heard.
Because of the great news their hearts had been stirred.

And Magi came from the east.  How many we’re not told,
But they brought three gifts:  frankincense, myrrh, and gold.
They followed the bright star which God gave as a sign;
It was the brightest that you’ve ever seen shine.

Friends, this is the Babe, the long-awaited One,
The savior, the king, God’s only-begotten Son.
He came to save us from our sin and rebellion
And to keep us from becoming an eternal hellion.

The promise is this to all who will receive:
Turn from your sin and on Jesus believe;
To those that do, Heaven’s gates open wide,
And you’ll spend eternity at the Father’s side.

This Christmas, this Christmas, rejoice with me
As we celebrate the birth of God’s special baby
Who grew up to crush the serpent’s head
By dying on the cross and rising from the dead!

This Christmas, this Christmas, won’t you accept
The good news that God his promise He’s kept:
He has blessed the world through Abraham’s seed.
Jesus Christ is He, the Messiah indeed!

-by Ben Simpson, written Christmas 2012

18 Dec

Merry Xmas!!!???

Well, December 25 is almost here.  I pray that you have a Merry Xmas!!!  Oh wait, did I just unintentionally take Christ out of Christmas?

MerryXMAS_title2

Every year we as Christians endure the seeming jab of people replacing the word “Christmas” with the word “Xmas.”  Given the increasing secularization of our great winter festival celebrating the incarnation of Jesus, it would seem that their intention is to kick the Baby Jesus out and keep all the rest of the cultural fluff.  That certainly might be the intention of some who use “Xmas,” but it might surprise you that that’s not necessarily the case.

History tells us that it was actually English-speaking Christians who first used “Xmas.”  Why in the world would Christians do such a thing?  Well, that’s because while they very well might have been writing “Xmas” /exmus/, they were actually meaning “Chi-mas” /kiemus/.  You see, the Greek letter chi (pronounced /kie/ in Greek, not /chee/) looks exactly like our English letter X and is the first letter in the Greek word for Christ, which is Χριστός.  Therefore, the Greek letter chi has long been the symbol for Christ, dating at least back to the 4th century A.D. and probably even before.

Perhaps a little help from a lexicographer will shed further light:

So, Xmas indeed has a long Christian tradition and was never meant to take Christ out of Christmas.  However, in communicating today, something often gets lost in translation.  Very few know that Xmas is actually Chi-mas, and in the end, we can unwittingly communicate something offensive.  Our unoffensive Xmas can be received offensively.  Therefore, I think it is wise to be cautious in using “Xmas.”  If you absolutely must abbreviate the word Christmas, either be ready to educate people on the history of “Xmas” or do what I do.  I simply use the more English-friendly abbreviation “C-mas.”

Any way you go, whatever you do, whether you use the “X,” the “C,” or the whole word, please keep Christ at the center of your Christmas!

Merry_Christmas

21 Dec

One Messed Up Family!

Well, the Christmas season is finally fully upon us.  Indeed, it is the most wonderful time of the year, but it’s also one of the most stressful times of the year.  Can I get a witness?!  Do you ever walk away from a holiday family get-together saying, “Man, I’ve got one messed up family,”?  I mean, everybody has that Cousin Eddie from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation in their family tree that you sort of want to just choke a little bit.  Ya know what I’m saying?  In fact, you might even be the Cousin Eddie!  Sometimes it all can be just a bit much.

Take heart, my friend, because you are in good company.  One of the things that gives me encouragement when I look at my own family is the reality of Jesus’ family.  Have you ever thought about the sort of people there are in Jesus’ family tree?  Although He himself was perfect and sinless, His earthly lineage was far from it.  He had one messed up family!

We find the genealogy of Jesus in the opening book of the New Testament, Matthew 1:1-17, which breaks the family tree into three stages:

  • v1-6a, The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers. Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez was the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram. Ram was the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon. Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab, Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse. Jesse was the father of David the king.
  • v6b-11, David was the father of Solomon by Bathsheba who had been the wife of Uriah. Solomon was the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asa. Asa was the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah. Uzziah was the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah. Hezekiah was the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amon, and Amon the father of Josiah. Josiah became the father of Jeconiah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.
  • v12-17, After the deportation to Babylon: Jeconiah became the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel. Zerubbabel was the father of Abihud, Abihud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor. Azor was the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud. Eliud was the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob. Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah. So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.

The Bible doesn’t tell us much about the last third of Jesus’ family tree, but we know a lot about the first two-thirds.  Many of them are heroes of the faith, but even these heroes of the faith were serious sinners:

  • Abraham was a liar and a polygamist (Genesis 20:1-3; Genesis 16:1-4).
  • Isaac was a liar also and showed favoritism in his children (Genesis 26:6-9; Genesis 25:28).
  • Jacob was an extortionist and a swindler (Genesis 25:29-34; Genesis 27:1-27).
  • Tamar, who is the mother of Perez, was a fornicator and a deceiver (Genesis 38:6-26).
  • Rahab, the mother of Boaz, was a pagan prostitute (Joshua 2:1).
  • Ruth once worshipped false gods (Ruth 1:4).
  • David was a polygamist, adulterer, murderer, and poor father (1 Samuel 25:39-44; 1 Chronicles 14:3; 2 Samuel 11:1-3; 2 Samuel 11:14-17; 2 Samuel 13:1-39).
  • Solomon was a polygamist and was drawn away from God by his many pagan wives (1 Kings 11:4).
  • Rehoboam foolishly split the kingdom of Israel and led Judah to sin (1 Kings 12:1-24; 1 Kings 14:21-31).
  • Abijah walked in the sins of his father and was not devoted to God (1 Kings 15:1-3).
  • Uzziah disobeyed the worship regulations of God and was struck with leprosy (2 Chronicles 26:16-21).
  • Ahaz was very wicked, even leading Israel to sacrifice children (2 Chronicles 28:1-4).

Just a quick glance at the ancestry of Jesus makes Romans 3:23 that much more gripping!  The shear universality of all sinning and falling short of the glory of God is astounding, but even more shocking is the nature in which these in Jesus’ family sinned.  Many of them are very grievous sins.  Humanity is sinful and depraved, indeed.  Jesus’ family sorely needed a savior.

As I reflect on this family history, it causes me to wonder what would have been recorded of me if I had been born in the lineage of Jesus.  I’ve got all of these terribly shameful things flashing through my mind, and it’s painfully clear to me that I would be terribly embarrassed if an author had written them down.  But even more than embarrassment flooding my mind is the stark reality that I sorely need a savior.  I know that I have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and that I cannot be good enough to enter into Heaven.  I’m one messed up dude!

But in light of all of this, praise God that the Father sent His only-begotten Son to take on flesh to live the life of sinless perfection that we cannot live and to die the excruciating wrathful death that we deserve!  Praise God for a Holy Substitue!

This Christmas season may we celebrate the fact that Jesus came on a mission to save sinners like those in His own family and like me!  No matter what you have done, you are not out of the reach of God’s mercy and grace found in Christ Jesus if you will turn from your sin and trust in Jesus.  May the truth of Romans 5:8 be our joy, But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us!  May we receive and rejoice in the grace that is provided to all who will believe on Jesus Christ!  May we hunger for the day when our one messed up family is one Christ-like family!  It’s coming.  That’s why Christ was born.

Merry Christmas!