To whom much is given…

In Luke chapter 12: 35-48 Jesus tells a parable about men waiting for their master to return home from the wedding feast. The men are to be ready to open the door for their master when he knocks — regardless of the time of day.

Peter asks if the parable is just for the disciples or for everyone.

Jesus answers by describing the actions of a wise manager who portions out food to the household at the proper time. Such a manager is blessed when his master finds him behaving so. Jesus then contrasts the wise manager to one who, with disregard to the return of his master, mistreats the other servants and eats and drinks until he is gorged and drunk. This kind of manager does not fair well upon the master’s return.

Jesus concludes the parable this way…

“From everyone who has been given much, much will be required…”

Everyone who is a member of the household of God is expected to serve the master with the gifts he or she has been given. And, the ones who have been given much are expected to serve more.

Dear believer: Our God-given talents and abilities have been given to us by God. They are His and are to be used for His purposes. In the west we have been blessed by God with financial wealth on a scale the world has never before seen. This is a fact and it begs some questions…

  • Is our wealth a gift from God?
  • Do we really regard it as His and not ours?
  • Do you think God will hold us accountable for how we’ve managed His money?
  • How do we think we will fair if the Lord returns to find us spending on ourselves the money He entrusted to us?

Those are uncomfortable questions, aren’t they?

Consider this: It is not unusual for churches in the United States to spend millions of dollars on building programs. Did you know that it costs about $5,000 to build a very simple meeting hall for believers in Ethiopia? Do the math — the money used to build a church building in the U.S. that costs $7 million could build 1,400 meeting halls in Ethiopia.

These kinds of facts force me to ask myself which is more important…

  • …for me to have a shiny new sanctuary with padded theater-style seating and jumbo-sized multi-media screens or for my brothers and sisters in Ethiopia to have a place to meet that is out of the wind and rain?
  • …for me to have the trendy new electronic gizmo or for the children of indigenous missionaries in India to get an education?
  • …for me to have a newer model car so I can “get around in style” or for the pastors of northern India to have bicycles so they can get around at all?

Thid-bicycleThese questions are not merely speculative. They represent real needs of real brothers and sisters in Ethiopia and India. Dave Black, a professor of New Testament and Greek at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, has been engaged in missions in these two areas of the world and constantly challenges the readers of his blog to become involved in missions. He has pointed out that it takes $420 a year to support one full-time native missionary compared to the $50,000 it takes to support a western missionary.

It is easily within our power to financially support indigenous missionaries (like Ram Mohan).

If you are interested in supporting missions in this way, contact Joel Bradsher via e-mail at joelbradsher@gmail.com.

As Brother Dave Black has pointed out on his blog… “Folks, this approach just makes sense.”

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The “War on Christmas”

There are a variety of news stories floating around highlighting what is considered to be the “war on Christmas.” You know, the stories that spark outrage over secular culture taking Christ out of Christmas. The initial reaction among many in the Christian community is to fight it out with the forces of secularism by getting in their face and wishing them a “Merry CHRISTmas” whether they like it or not.

But is this really the attitude Jesus would have us exhibit in His name?

Lee Shelton doesn’t think so. In fact, he makes a compelling case that getting “up in arms” over the use of the word “Christmas” is exactly the wrong reaction…

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The Calvinist: A Poem by John Piper

Go here to see a printed version of the poem. For more resources about the sovereignty of God in everyday life visit desiringGod.org.

Prophecy and Providence

The world has always known political oppression — and God’s people have frequently lived under it. This is a fact of history that American Christians tend to forget because for more than 200 years Americans have enjoyed a certain level of liberty. And, when American Christians begin to experience a rise is political oppression, one of their very first reactions is to pray for the removal of said oppression because it is a clear violation of their rights.

Thid-CaesarBut, this reaction is more American than it is Christian.

World history goes back much farther than the 200-plus years America has been on the scene — much of it marked with God’s people living under oppression. And, if God is sovereign over all things (and He is), then this has happened with His full intent.

Consider the oppressive nature of the Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus. He was concerned only with his own power. Yet, God allowed Caesar Augustus to reign over God’s own people NOT because Caesar Augustus was a worthy ruler, but because Caesar’s oppressive rule served God’s purposes. Caesar was nothing more than a tool in God’s hand — even when issuing decrees intended to benefit himself…

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. — Luke 2:1-5

It didn’t matter that a journey to Bethlehem would be quite uncomfortable for a pregnant woman and potentially dangerous for her unborn child. Caesar gave an order and it was to be followed. Such is the nature of tyrants. But Caesar was not really in charge here, was he?

The child Mary carried was the long-awaited Messiah — Jesus. And, if prophecy was going to be fulfilled (and there was never a doubt that it would), then Jesus was going to be born in Bethlehem.

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. — Micah 5:2

God made sure Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem prior to the birth of our Lord and He used Caesar to do it…

The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes. — Proverbs 21:1

This should be a great comfort to believers everywhere. God’s purposes are accomplished and His timing is perfect. As Christians, if we find ourselves living under the oppression of an evil government, we need to remember that it is only because our King has allowed it to happen. But, you may still wonder, “what about our rights that are violated by wicked men?” The apostle Paul reminds us of our proper place…

You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. — 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

If God ordains that we live under the oppression of wicked men then let us trust in Him who “works all things according to the counsel of His will.” Let us trust that He is accomplishing His purposes and conforming us to the likeness of His Son. Let us pray as Jesus taught us to pray, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done.” And, if we can’t see the hand of providence unfolding in our own circumstances, let us look to the evidences God has provided in the past. Remember, Caesar thought he was in charge — but his reign ended thousands of years ago.

Our King is still on His throne.

Why did his name have to be “Jesus”?

Did you ever wonder why Jesus Christ’s name had to be “Jesus”?

Alex Stewart provides the answer.

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Should Christians celebrate Christmas?

There is a trend among some Christians to dismiss Christmas — some even treat Christmas with contempt. This is done for a variety of reasons:

  • December 25 was chosen by the Roman Catholic Church to coincide with a pagan festival.
  • We don’t really know the date of Jesus’ birth, so it is impossible to celebrate it on the actual date.
  • The Christmas tree has its origin in a pagan festival.
  • The Holiday is a celebration of materialism and commercialism.
  • There is no biblical imperative to celebrate or commemorate Christ’s birth.

I get that.

However — if you will allow me to mix a cliché and a pun — let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. More than 100 years ago Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the prince of preachers himself, was well aware of the list of objections cited above. Yet, he did not shy away from celebrating the birth of Christ at this time of year. Why not? I’ll let him speak for himself…

We have no superstitious regard for times and seasons. Certainly we do not believe in the present ecclesiastical arrangement called Christmas… because we find no Scriptural warrant whatever for observing any day as the birthday of the Savior; and consequently, its observance is a superstition, because not of divine authority.

Superstition has fixed most positively the day of our Savior’s birth, although there is no possibility of discovering when it occurred. … It was not till the middle of the third century that any part of the church celebrated the nativity of our Lord; and it was not till very long after the Western church had set the example, that the Eastern adopted it. … Probably the fact is that the “holy” days were arranged to fit in with the heathen festivals. We venture to assert, that if there be any day in the year, of which we may be pretty sure that it was not the day on which the Savior was born, it is the twenty-fifth of December.

Nevertheless since, the current of men’s thoughts is led this way just now, and I see no evil in the current itself, I shall launch the bark of our discourse upon that stream, and make use of the fact, which I shall neither justify nor condemn, by endeavoring to lead your thoughts in the same direction.

Since it is lawful, and even laudable, to meditate upon the incarnation of the Lord upon any day in the year, it cannot be in the power of other men’s superstitions to render such a meditation improper for today. Regarding not the day, let us, nevertheless, give God thanks for the gift of His dear Son. — Charles Haddon Spurgeon, from his sermon delivered on December 24, 1871

Christ’s birth is a defining moment in history. The long-promised Messiah has come. The theological implications of this event are unfathomable. This is the fulfillment of numerous prophecies. The virgin birth tells us so much — it is how Jesus was both God and man. It is how He entered into this world uncorrupted by sin. It is the reason He was able to be the perfect sacrifice, the substitute who endured God’s wrath for us. His birth and his death are inseparable, for the Christ child was born to die. And, the fact that it is recorded is Scripture indicates it is something on which we should meditate.

Thid-ChristmasTreeIf the account of Christ’s birth has become corrupted by the efforts of sinful man then take the opportunity of this holiday to help un-corrupt it. Remember, Christmas isn’t the only thing man has ruined. Man has ruined everything. Our sinfulness is the reason the entire world groans under a curse. Left to ourselves we have no ability to fix it and we have no hope.

THIS is why Christ came. He is THE hero in the greatest narrative ever told. And, even though we don’t know exactly when He was born, His birth is worth celebrating every single day of the year…

…even on December 25.

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