Monday, December 25, 2017

"The Christmas Child"

I had just finished reading Clément's first letter to the Corinthians this morning dated from 80AD to 140AD; I was looking at our Christmas tree as I contemplated what I had just read. What was standing out to me from the reading, was the numerous times Clement stated, "It is written in another place", then he would quote Scripture. He would remind his readers of what Jesus said or what the Apostles had said. He had nothing original to say of himself.

I began to think about the fact Christmas as we call it has no reference in Scripture. In early New England America it was illegal to even celebrate it, it was considered and abomination. Yet today it is almost sacred to our Christian culture.

I see the signet (Keep Christ in Christmas) and (Jesus is the reason for the Season) show up every year. Let me be bold and offend someone at this point, Jesus is not the reason for the season, we are. We have no Command from our Lord to celebrate this event, it is our own creation. Much that we understand about the Christmas story is fabricated as well as the Date. It is thought by some perhaps Christ was born sometime in September, but Scripture did not record this for us, for very good reason no doubt.

 So what is so bad about the Christmas season? For one thing, the truth of the Gospel is hidden and masked in the gift giving and Christmas cheer. We feel good about ourselves and it is said this time of the year brings out the best in us. Leaving us thinking we're not all that bad after all, and all that good just spills out this time of the year.

But the truth of the Gospel is that we are not all that good, and the good we do this time of the year is filled with pride and self exaltation for all our acts of kindness. The truth is this Child was born, this Child was given because of our depravity.

This depravity from time to time manifests itself among us and we are reminded what man is capable of. The last few years here in our own little community the kidnap, rape, and murder of a young girl shocked us into reality. From time to time this depravity shakes our own lives in a much closer venue. We are struck with broken homes, rebellious children, addictions, and so many things we are all too familiar with.

The birth of this Christ Child brought about the slaughter of Children from two years old and under by edict of the king. Soldiers entered into the homes of families and ripped their children from their arms and slaughtered them in the streets. This is a part of the Christmas story that many times gets overlooked. We want to sing peace on earth and good will toward men without understanding why there is a need for peace and good will. This peace and good will came from outside our world, to save us from ourselves and the wrath of God.

I did a search on the internet with the words, "pictures of Christmas". I looked at over 40 pictures, not one referenced anything Christian, with the exception of a Bethlehem star.

So, what is good about Christmas? It is a time most of the world is forced to acknowledge an event in History. This event is at the center of the world. History is dated such as to reference time, before and after this event.

It is reckoned in such manner, there is no doubt that something took place that changed the world. It is a time that affords us opportunity to speak of this Child that was born, this Child that was given. To remind the world of its fallen condition and the immense price that had to be paid for our redemption. It is a time that we as Christians can take great joy in God's love toward us and all mankind. Those who are broken can now be made whole, those who are lost can now be saved.

This Christmas season, let us not hide our eyes from the brokenness around us, the depravity of our human nature clothed in Christmas cheer, but boldly declare the Glorious Redemption that has been offered. Come to Christ! See His Beauty! Love His Words! Cry to God, let me see! Open my heart that I may be healed!

May the Grace of God be upon each of you,



Sunday, December 3, 2017

"Words, Mojis, and Critiques"

Due to a series of previous posts I have recently made, and the fact that I can't seem to escape being reminded of them; it seems necessary I visit with words, mojies, and my own critiques.

Written words are wonderful tools of communication, powerful as they are, we recognize they have their limits. Mojies are a creation we have devised to assist our written words. They help us convey the emotion driving the words we write, thus delivering another piece of valuable information.

Most of us are aware of the difficulty of expressing the emotion driving the thoughts being presented in written form. Words have meaning, those meanings are rooted in human emotions. The way we raise our voice, impose emphasis on certain words, raise our brows, move our eyes, all add meaning and clarity to the statements formed with words. When those words are printed in written form much of this is lost. This is especially true in critiques.

Paul understood this in 2Co 2:4  "For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you."

Paul inserted an early church moji to reveal the state of his heart in penning his words. The Corinthian Church had many things wrong. They had their view of marriage wrong, their understanding of the gifts wrong, their form of worship was wrong, their practice of the implementing the Lord's supper was wrong. They had mixed their Christian worship with so many pagan practices and human inventions it was barely recognizable as a Christian Church, yet his critique of those errors was made more pliable by the state of heart presented in his writing.

When we critique the actions of our brothers and sisters this should always be the state of our heart. We must be, ourselves, humble at heart and not to set our way of thinking as preeminent. It must always be a call to Biblical thinking and practice. As it is in church discipline, the purpose being not punishment and retribution, but obedience and restoration; so in our critiquing of Christian doctrine the purpose is not to force submission by argument, but a call to truth and understanding through the ministry of His Word.

In a number of previous posts I have ventured into the area of critiquing various doctrinal practices in a number of churches and Christian circles I have in past times been associated with. Choosing to do this always runs a risk of offending precious people, and it also puts the one critiquing at risk of reviving their own pride and arrogance.

This offense is often met with a response expressing the lesser friendly emotions toward the one critiquing, which stirs the lesser beneficial emotions in him. Yes, it does get complicated! It can also escalate into harmful and destructive actions.

I would beseech those who were touched by my critique of those doctrines, especially those who personally know me, to understand my sincere love for you.

Rom 15:4  For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Rom 15:5  Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus:
Rom 15:6  That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Rom 15:7  Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God.

We must not soften the written text of Scripture. The things we practice in our churches that cannot be supported by Scripture, or is of such that Scriptural terms must be redefined to form these new doctrines must be critiqued at all levels. That means even the leadership in small churches must guard against these inventions. If leadership are the ones promoting such practices, they must be held accountable and one must attempt to reason with them. This must be done with love and patience. Paul gives us a wonderful example in his reasoning with the Corinthian Church. He so expressed his love for them, yet spoke direct and straightforward.

I have left dear friends, separated from certain fellowships, and joined myself to new ones. These things are not easy, but they are necessary if we cannot be reconciled. But all effort must be made to communicate and bring to bear upon those disagreements the authority of Scripture. Our purpose in critiquing erroneous doctrines is not division but unity.

1Co 1:10  Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.   

Paul gave this command in the same letter that he gave rebuke for their numerous errors. Paul brought his rebuke strongly, yet considered his audience precious in his sight and precious to God. 1Co 1:2  Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:

When we bring rebuke upon certain practices among us, we must do so as speaking to brethren. All the while strongly rebuking the Corinthian Church, Paul acknowledged them as his dear Brothers and Sisters.  1Co 1:4  I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ;
1Co 1:5  That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge;

We must do all we can to maintain an expression of love, but we must understand that most will not receive a critiquing of their doctrines. They simply have too must invested in it, too much pride to consider a careful, honest, and prayerful study bringing the Scripture to bear upon those beliefs. We live in a world with an infatuation with the supernatural and mystical. We are looking for experiences and things that affect us emotionally, that give us a feeling in order to validate its reality. Yet all these things are subjective and are to be brought under the objective rule of Scripture.

If you find yourself the objective of my critique, please understand my heart aches for the truth. I love you, nothing can benefit either of us more than a more accurate knowledge of truth. Let us look beyond ourselves and search the Scripture for clear defined and sound doctrine.

Let us take every thing we believe and weigh it against the weight of Scripture. It matters not what certain Scriptures mean to us, what matters is what the text actually says and how the ones present at the time understood it. When that is discovered we can apply it to our lives today.

Help me to discover these things in our lives so that our differences and divisions may be weakened and our love for one another increased. Let us bring our experiences and emotional feelings into subjection to these understandings. Let us strive to   let the Scripture reign supreme over our lives.

May the Grace of God be upon each of you,