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Friday, August 1, 2014

The Pilate in all of us…

Posted by Gary on April 15, 2014

Luke 23:13-15  Pilate summoned the chief priests and the rulers and the people, and said to them, “You brought this man to me as one who incites the people to rebellion, and behold, having examined Him before you, I have found no guilt in this man regarding the charges which you make against Him. “No, nor has Herod, for he sent Him back to us; and behold, nothing deserving death has been done by Him.”

Luke 23:24 “And Pilate pronounced sentence that their demand be granted.”

“Pontius Pilate” there are few names more infamous, few people who will be remembered so long as he has. What a tragic man, famous for the ages for ordering the murder of the Son of God.

What thoughts come to mind when you think of Pontius Pilate? I am thinking of him this Easter season mindful of the verses listed above that tell us that after inquiry and consideration, Pilate found no guilt in Jesus Christ. For two thousand years now, Pilate has been marveled at for his willingness to crucify Jesus though Scripture tells us more than once that he found no guilt in him and even sought to release Him (John 19:12).

How careful we must be though not to focus on Pilate and miss the fact that God forces every person to make a judgment regarding His Son. No one escapes their moment in Pilate’s shoes, for God has decreed that every man, woman and child declare either their allegiance to or rejection of Jesus Christ.

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

The Peter in me

Posted by Gary on March 29, 2012

Matthew 26:56 “Then all the disciples forsook him and fled.”

Peter’s three-time denial of Jesus is as well known as any event in the Bible save the crucifixion and resurrection itself. To be fair to Peter you will note from the passage above that all the disciples forsook Jesus and fled. We tend to rake Peter over the coals for his unfaithfulness and not without justification. Though all the disciples said they would die for Jesus, Peter did distinguish himself and say that even if the rest of them would cave in, he never would:

Matthew 26:33-35 But Peter said to Him, “Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away.” Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you that this very night, before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” Peter said to Him, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You.” All the disciples said the same thing too.”

Christian, certainly you know that there are many times that you and I are like Peter right? There are times when you and I don’t want others to know that we are one His disciples right? Let me guess, you never do this right? Have there been times when you have had opportunity to speak about Jesus and for Him and you did not for fear of what someone would think about you? Have there been times when Christ’s truth needed to be declared and you kept silent because you  were afraid of others? Are you as willing to have others know you are Christ’s as you are to have them know who your favorite sports team is or who your favorite singer is? Do you declare Him like you do the Yankees, Phillies, Bono or Elvis?

If we are honest we will acknowledge freely that there is much of Peter in us. Let us remember though, that after Pentecost and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, Peter and the other Apostles were very different men, bold, brave and faithful. May God by His Spirit make us like them.

Please take a moment to read these thoughts from Charles Spurgeon’s “Morning and Evening” that I came across this week. They will humble you and challenge you: WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Preparing for Christmas #3-J.C. Ryle on the Incarnation

Posted by Gary on December 14, 2011

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

“The plain meaning of these words is, that our divine Savior really took human nature upon Him, in order to save sinners. He really became a man like ourselves in all things, sin only excepted. Like ourselves, he was born of a woman, though born in a miraculous manner. Like ourselves, he grew from infancy to boyhood, and from boyhood to man’s estate, both in wisdom and in stature (Luke 2:52). Like ourselves he hungered, thirsted, ate, drank, slept, was wearied, felt pain, wept, rejoiced, marveled, and was moved to anger and to compassion. Having become flesh, and taken a body, He prayed, read the Scriptures, suffered being tempted, and submitted His human will to the will of God the Father. And finally, in the same body, He really suffered and shed his blood, really died, was really buried, really rose again and really ascended up into heaven. And yet all this time He was God as well as man! 

Nowhere, perhaps, shall we find a more wise and judicious statement than in the second article of the Church of England. ‘The Son, which is the Word of the Father, begotten from everlasting of the Father, the very and eternal God, and of one substance with the Father, took man’s nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin of her substance: so that two whole and perfect natures, were joined together in one Person, that is to say, the Godhead and the manhood were joined together in one person, never to be never to be divided, whereof is one Christ, very God and very man.’” (J.C. Ryle from: Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of John)

Preparing for Christmas #2

Posted by Gary on December 13, 2011

Philippians 2:5-11Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

While the great majority of people will say they believe in Jesus, I wonder how many know the Jesus of Scripture? I fear that many have based their understanding of Jesus on what they have been told by a Discovery Channel documentary or from a Newsweek or Time cover story about Jesus in which often liberal theologians and educational experts gather together to define Jesus from a darkened understanding and unbelieving heart.

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

Preparing for Christmas #1

Posted by Gary on December 12, 2011

Romans 5:6-8 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

“Many want the joy of Christmas without wanting the cause of the joy, Jesus the Son of God. Many are determined to have joy without Christ with the use of substitutes: Family, friends, food, possessions, singing and decorations.

Some people are blatant and honest in their pursuit of joy apart from Christ at Christmas. They do not pretend to want or know Christ.

Many others are in perhaps a more dangerous position. They give an appearance of desiring and possessing Christ yet they have not yet truly come to know Him. They may insist that the fact that they go to church at Christmas proves that their spiritual state is not as bad as the Bible depicts it. They say they have the joy of Christmas yet have never acknowledged their separation from God and their lost state. They have not yet repented and submitted to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

These will go to church, decorate their homes, make a large meal, surround themselves with family and gifts and tell themselves that all is well and all the while, they are still estranged from God, religious as they may be.”

(From the East Gate Presbyterian Church Pulpit: “The Danger of Christmas”)

Frightening Christmas-God’s dealings with Herod the Great

Posted by Gary on December 18, 2010

Hebrews 10:31 “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

Scripture’s account of Christ’s birth introduces us to many people who played a role in God’s plan of salvation. One of them is Herod the Great whose evil desire to retain power for himself and his family led to his “Slaughter of the Innocents”. The Bible tells us that Herod, upon learning from the magi that the Christ had been born within about a two year period before his conversation with them, ordered the death of all Jewish male children two and younger in Bethlehem and its environs (Matthew 2:16-23).

A few years ago, I came across some information from the Jewish historian Josephus about Herod’s death. As I read it I could not help but think about the justice and severity of God upon those who commit evil in His sight and do not repent. What Herod did was one of the most evil things ever done in this world most of all because of its intent to murder the Son of God.

God is merciful but when He sets out to punish, the results are devastating. We tend to focus on the warm fuzzy things about the Incarnation story but never forget that there was much that was sinful and frightening. Take a moment to read the description of Josephus of Herod’s last days:

WAIT! There is more to read… read on »

The Incarnation-Christ born for you

Posted by Gary on December 19, 2009

Take a moment and read these truthful, helpful thoughts from Charles Spurgeon on the Incarnation of Christ and what it can mean for you:

This joy began with the shepherds, for the angel said to them, “Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” Reader, shall the joy begin with you to-day? It avails you little that Christ is born, or that Christ died, unless unto you a Child is born, and for you Jesus bled. A personal interest in the birth, life, and death of Christ is the main point for each one of us…

…Jesus is the Friend of the poor, the sinful, and the unworthy. You, poor ones, need not fear to come unto Him; for He was born in a stable, and cradled in a manger. You have not worse accommodation than He had; you are not poorer than He was. Come and welcome to the poor man’s Prince, to the peasant’s Savior. Stay not back through fear of your unfitness; the shepherds came to Him in all their dishabille (casual dress). I read not that they tarried to put on their best garments; but, in the clothes in which they wrapped themselves that cold midnight, they hastened, just as they were, to the young Child’s presence. God looks not at garments, but at hearts; and accepts men when they come to Him with willing spirits, whether they be rich or poor…

…No aristocratic Christ have I to commend to you, but the Savior of the people, the Friend of publicans and sinners. Jesus is the true “poor man’s Friend;” He is “a Witness to the people, a Leader and Commander to the people.” Oh, that each one of us might truly say, “Unto me is Jesus born”! If I truly believe in Him, Christ is born unto me, and I may be as sure of it as if an angel announced it personally to me, since the Scripture assures me that, if I believe in Jesus, He is mine, and I am His, and through union with Him I become a partaker in His everlasting life, and in all that He has.

Charles Spurgeon from “The Incarnation: The Foundation of the Christian Faith”

It is one thing to declare that we believe that Christ is the Son of God and that He was born of a virgin. But do you believe that He died and rose again as the payment for sins? Even this is not enough…do you believe that He was born for you? That He died for you? That He rose again for the forgiveness of your sins? Christ is not yours until He becomes yours by an act of personal faith and reception of Him into your life. Is Christ yours?

Well said

Posted by Gary on December 16, 2009

I heard local radio host Bill Colley read from this column by Garrison Keillor today in the Baltimore Sun. The column is entitled, “Non believers, please leave Christmas alone”. While somewhat caustic, I think Keillor says well what many of us think about the never ending attempt to high-jack Christmas. Here is an excerpt:

You can blame Ralph Waldo Emerson for the brazen foolishness of the elite. He preached here at the First Church of Cambridge, a Unitarian outfit (where I discovered that “Silent Night” has been cleverly rewritten to make it more about silence and night and not so much about God), and Emerson tossed off little bon mots that have been leading people astray ever since. “To be great is to be misunderstood,” for example. This tiny gem of self-pity has given license to a million arrogant and unlovable people to imagine that their unpopularity somehow was proof of their greatness.

And all his hoo-ha about listening to the voice within and don’t follow the path, make your own path and leave a trail and so forth, encouraged people who might’ve been excellent janitors to become bold and innovative economists who run a wealthy university into the ditch.

Unitarians listen to the Inner Voice and so they have no creed that they all stand up and recite in unison, and that’s their perfect right, but it is wrong, wrong, wrong to rewrite “Silent Night.” If you don’t believe Jesus was God, OK, go write your own damn “Silent Night” and leave ours alone. This is spiritual piracy and cultural elitism, and we Christians have stood for it long enough…

…Christmas is a Christian holiday – if you’re not in the club, then buzz off. Celebrate Yule instead or dance around in druid robes for the solstice. Go light a big log, go wassailing and falalaing until you fall down, eat figgy pudding until you puke, but don’t mess with the Messiah.

Garrison Keillor

The Resurrection

Posted by Gary on April 13, 2009

“For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.”

1 Corinthians 15:16-17

“The divinity of Christ finds it surest proof in His resurrection (Romans 1:4). Christ’s sovereignty also depends on His resurrection (Romans 14:9). Again, our justification hangs on Christ’s resurrection (Romans 4:25). Our very regeneration depends on His resurrection (1 Peter 1:3). And most certainly our ultimate resurrection rests here (Romans 8:11). The silver thread of resurrection runs through all the blessings, from regeneration onward to our eternal glory, and binds them together.”

Charles Spurgeon

“Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime.”

Martin Luther

“The resurrection of our divine Lord from the dead is the cornerstone of Christian doctrine. Perhaps I might more accurately call it the keystone of the arch of Christianity, for if the fact could be disproved, the whole fabric of the gospel would fall to the ground.”

Charles Spurgeon

"Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead."

Acts 17:30-31

An open letter to the inventor of the twisty tie method of securing children's toys

Posted by Gary on December 19, 2007

Picture 005 Picture 012

Re-posted from last year…

Dear Inventor of the Twisty Tie Method of Securing Children’s Toys:

As a father of five young children, I am writing this Christmas to tell you (whoever you are) that I don’t like you very much. I haven’t liked you for some time but have not bothered to write until this year when my frustration reached a  level that warrants venting. Can I ask you Mr. Twisty Tie Man, why you ever thought of your excessive, frustrating and honestly, unneeded method of securing children’s toys in their box?

I could never estimate how many of your twisty ties I have untwisted since the birth of my first two children (twins). I know that the set of 150 emergency workers and vehicles that my mother-in-law purchased my son some years ago was enough by that one experience to almost drive me mad and cause me to dislike you greatly. Why sir, did you feel it necessary to twisty tie down almost every man who was only two inches tall? Why do you run the twisty ties around and around the wheels of the vehicle? Further, why do you feel it necessary to then place a wide piece of tape over your twisty ties on the underside of the cardboard? Are you fearful of a nuclear explosion dislodging the toy from the box? Don’t you know that if there is a nuclear explosion we will either not be here to buy toys or that if we survive, buying toys will not be a priority?

I do not begrudge you a twisty tie or two to deter shoplifters, but eight? ten? The goal is to deter shoplifters, not to keep the child from ever being able to enjoy the toy, which is likely to happen when a frustrated father throws it into the trash more willing to bear the crying of his child then to deal any further with your twisty ties. Why sir could you not use a twisty tie that is easily cut with a pair of scissors? Why have you chosen to use industrial strength twisty ties that cannot be cut without using a utility knife and likely severing a finger? You’ve secured the toy for shipping and deterred shoplifters wonderful, but must you on top of that make it difficult for me to get the toy out quickly? Could you not use a twisty tie that I could snip with scissors so that I could move on to the thirty other toys that await me which also have eight to ten twisty ties on them?

I am led to believe Mr. Twisty Tie man that you must have had a very unfortunate childhood or that you have suffered some other form of trauma and mistreatment in your life that has led you into an unfortunate desire to make other people’s lives miserable. Do you find joy in knowing that tens of millions of parents are plunged into frustration and anger on Christmas morning because of your method? You have a sick sense of humor. How you prevailed upon toy manufacturers to adopt your method is a marvel. You must all be very unhappy people.

I go to bed knowing that my letter will make no difference. You have known how frustrating your method is for years and have done nothing to make things easier for parents. But I will sleep a little better tonight having finally told you what I think about your twisty ties. Never forget, what goes around, comes around.