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Saturday, December 31, 2011

12/31/11-Wrapping up- New Blog to start 1/1/12

I am starting a new blog for the 2012 year about faith hope and love. 
The three really go together.

Our world tends to be enthralled by post-modernism's call to "just get along" (aka Rodney King syndrome).   Often I hear that it really doesn't matter what you believe, and you can pick cafeteria style what you want to believe.  All of us do that to a certain extent (Christians differ on secondary things- like amillenialism, postmillenialism, premillenialism).  But the basics and essentials bring us together.
Believing in anything, it seems, is under attack today. 

But the secondary effect of not believing is not having ultimate meaning.  "Why are we here?" cannot truthfully and meaningfully be answered if we do not have a God who made us for a purpose.

Without purpose, we lose motivation for ethics.  If the only ethic is "not to get caught", then it puts a burden on the police to make more laws and send out more cameras and officers.  But all morality cannot be legislated either.  Being kind instead of selfish is hard to "catch." 

Maybe others say the ethic is to "do no harm."  But why?  If we are just a bunch of atoms thrown together by accident, what difference does it really make?  If some say, "We should do no harm lest others harm us", does this mean the only ethic is to avoid harm/pain/uncomfortableness?   If so, then the main reason for living is our comfort- which I find to be quite uncomfortable.  Such comfort can easily slide into another form of selfishness. 

But if we have a God who lovingly made us for a purpose- and calls us to be what we are made to be- people of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control- then we have a reason for behaving selflessly- with kindness (in short- love).

More than that- we can have hope.  It is hard to have hope for the future if we have no meaning in the present.  Faith and love foster hope- and hope in turn encourages us to have faith and not give up when pain/harm/discomfort comes.  Hope also encourages us to stick with love as the better way through the fights, misunderstandings, miscommunications, poverty, sickness, sorrow, or the pride that comes with riches/health, and temporary happiness. 

Without faith hope and love, the anti-trinity of fear superstition and selfishness grow.  As faith has decreased in our society- superstition and fear have increased. 

Faith hope and love are a trinity of sorts that encourage each other.  Hope without faith is optimism with no reason.  Love without faith is nice but misses the calling and accountability of God.  God calls us to love others- even when they are our enemies- or even to turn the other cheek in self-sacrifice.  This is hard (if not meaningless) without faith.  So in 2012 I will be writing a blog on faith- throwing in love and hope whenever possible.  I will start out using the Westminster Shorter Catechism as an outline, and will re-translate it in 2012 English.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

12/25/11- Merry Christmas!

12/25- Day 29- Simeon’s Prophecy- A Sword will Pierce your soul as well Luke 2:29-35
Light all the candles including the Christ candle.

29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. 30 For my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.” 33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 2:29-35)

(Simeon the Righteous Alexey Yegorov 1830-40)

Thoughts: This was the first prophecy recorded after the birth of Jesus.  Joseph and Mary were bringing Jesus to the Temple to dedicate their firstborn son and offer a sacrifice in His stead.  Simeon was a godly man, but was not known as a prophet.  He was waiting for the Messiah to come, and God had told him that he would see the Messiah before his death.  The prophecy about the Christ is that he would cause the falling and rising of many of Israel.  It is a bringing down of the powerful (falling), and a lifting up of the humble (like Mary and Joseph and some fishermen).  The pride and know-it-alls in their faith (the priests and Pharisees) would fall, but the common people who sought God with their heart would rise.  But the dagger at the end of this is that a sword would pierce Mary’s heart too.  It was not a physical blade, but a double-edged blade of conviction and sorrow. She would come to believe in her son, and she would feel the piercing sorrow of watching him suffer as a sacrifice.

Prayer: Help me, Lord, to humble myself and allow you to penetrate my heart with your presence and love.

Friday, December 23, 2011


12/24- Day 28- The Angel’s prophecies-  Matthew 1:20-21; Luke 1:26-38
Light four candles.  If lighting them in the evening, you may also light the Christ candle.

20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,[f] because he will save his people from their sins.”
(Matthew 1:20-21)

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” 34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.” 38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.  (Luke 1:29-37)

(The Annunciation Paolo Matteis  1712)

Thoughts: The angel Gabriel proved a prophet- being a messenger of the Messiah.  He predicted that the Messiah would come through Joseph, and Mary.  All the prophetic predictions about the Messiah were narrowing down to within a few months.  It was becoming very clear exactly what God wanted, and how He was going to bring His son into the world- through a common couple and as a baby.  God was announcing His plan becoming real right then- which was a shock to Mary and Joseph.  The time waited for and predicted for centuries was coming to reality. God comes to us in smaller ways, but often in surprising ways to accomplish His plans.  Our response should be as Mary’s- may it be to me as you have said.  On Christmas Eve, we rejoice that God accomplishes His plan for our salvation.

Prayer: Lord, may your plan be accomplished in me.  May I accept your Son, your salvation anew.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

12/23- Day 27- Light four candles.
 The Messiah would suffer for our sins and raised- Isaiah 53; Matthew 27, 28

(Isaiah 53) 3 He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
4 Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. 7 He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished. 9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. 10 Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. 11 After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.
(Isaiah 53 selections)

(Vouet 1622)

Thoughts: Isaiah foresaw that the Messiah would not come in triumph without also suffering.  So much of Christ’s suffering is illuminated in these verses and in Psalm 22- so much so that some think Jesus simply tried to duplicate what was said.  But Jesus had no control over being pierced  (Jn. 19:34), or having his clothes gambled for, or being given a grave with Nicodemus.  Isaiah foresaw the Messianic sacrifice- atoning for sin. Isaiah also foresaw that after his suffering and being assigned a grave he would see the light of life (a reference to the resurrection- vs. 11).  The amazing thing is that the Creator suffered because of our sins.  It is hard to get our head around this kind of love and grace.  In some ways Jesus came to suffer and die.  He said at the beginning of his ministry, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).  Christ came to suffer for us that we might have our iniquities borne away.

Prayer: Your deep, amazing love, O God, strengthens me.  Help me to live a grateful life because you came and died on my behalf.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

12/22/11 Advent 26- The Messiah Prophesied to be Betrayed

12/22- Day 26- Light four candles.
 The Messiah would be betrayed by a friend for 30 pieces of silver- Ps. 41:9; Zech. 11:2; Mt. 10:4; 26:15

9 Even my close friend, someone I trusted, one who shared my bread, has turned against me (Psalm 41:9)

12 I told them, “If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it.” So they paid me thirty pieces of silver. 13 And the LORD said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—the handsome price at which they valued me! So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them to the potter at the house of the LORD. (Zechariah 11:12-13)

15 and [Judas] asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. (Matthew 26:15)

I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me…Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” Jesus answered, “Yes it is you.” (Matthew 26:21,25)

 (Judas betrays Christ with a kiss)

Thoughts: Betrayal is a terrible act in life.  Dante had Brutus as well as Judas in the depths of hell because of their betrayal of someone who trusted them.  Judas betrayed Jesus with a sign of love- a kiss.  Jesus predicted the betrayal early on in his ministry, and predicted it through Judas at the table of the Last Supper.  The Bible says that Satan entered Judas when he went to the Pharisees agreeing to money (30 pieces of silver) to betray Jesus, and that Satan also entered him at the Last Supper.  Betrayal is ultimate evil.  The opposite is loyalty and faithfulness.  Let God find us faithful and loyal this Christmas.

Prayer: Help me to be loyal to you, O Lord.  Keep me from betrayal and shaming you by my actions or words.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

12/21/11- Advent Day 25 - Messiah is to be Rejected by His people, but a Light for the Gentiles

12/21- Day 25- Light four candles .
The Messiah would be a stumbling block for the Jews and Light for the Gentiles Ps. 118:22 (1 Pt. 2:7);
                            Isa. 60:3; Acts 13:47-48

22 The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; 23 the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. (Psalm 118:22- quoted in 1 Peter 2:7)

1 “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. 2 See, darkness covers the earth
and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you. 3 Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. (Isaiah 60:3)

47 For this is what the Lord has commanded us: “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles,
that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’” (Acts 13:47)

“My eyes have seen your salvation… a light to the Gentiles.” (Luke 2:30-32)

(Simeon prophesying Jesus as the light for the Gentiles).

Thoughts: We already saw on day 3 that God’s plan was to bless all peoples through the choosing of Abraham.  Jesus is the means to that blessing.  In His ministry Jesus healed non Jews, evangelized Samaritans, and told parables of the Good Samaritan to open the way to the Gentiles.  The Jews would not be the only ones to know about God- the way would be open to “whosoever believed.”  God is God of all the earth.  For those who wished for only a small group of pure Jews to know God (like the Essenes or Saducees) then Jesus was a huge disappointment.  We too are called to be lights to the world- testifying to His great Light.

Prayer: May I be a light to those around me, pointing to your true light.

Simeon's Song: "Now That I've Held Him in My Arms" Michael Card

12/20/11- The Messiah Prophesied to Enter Jerusalem on a Donkey

12/20- Day 24- Light four candles . The Messiah would Enter Jerusalem on a Donkey- Zechariah 9:9; Luke 19:35-37

9 Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (Zechariah 9:9)

  35 They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36 As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road. 37 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:
(Luke 19:35-37)

(Palm Sunday procession- James J. Tissot)

Thoughts: A sign that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of David, was how he entered Jerusalem.  He came not on a war horse, but a humble colt.  People were looking for a Messiah who would come on a donkey according to Zechariah's prophecy.  Luke records the miracle of the disciples finding a donkey at the right time and place (Lk. 19).  Jesus rode the colt that no one had ridden before- he tamed the donkey- as He tames us!  When God exalts us, let us seek not to relish in it, but to seek humility in the midst of praise.

Prayer: Lord, give me grace to be gracious and humble even when others want to exalt us.

Here is a great site of messianic prophecies fulfilled in Jesus- listed by book: