Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's Resolution J.C. Ryle Style.

I hate New Year's resolutions, but here is one that I am bound to keep,
"Let us strive, every year we live, to become more deeply acquainted with Scripture. Let us study it, search into it, dig into it, meditate on it, until it dwell in us richly. (Coloss. 2:16.)
In particular, let us labor to make ourselves familiar with those parts of the Bible which, like the book of Psalms, describe the experience of the saints of old. We shall find it most helpful to us in all our approaches to God.
It will supply us with the best and most suitable language both for the expression of our wants and thanksgivings. Such knowledge of the Bible can doubtless never be attained without regular, daily study.
But the time spent on such study is never misspent. It will bear fruit after many days."
--J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke, Vol. 1 (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1879), 35. Ryle is commenting on Luke 1:46-56.

h/t Tolle Lege 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

I've Got Nothing

Thinking about this the Christmas season makes me thankful for the gift that God gives us. How many of us are thinking "the gift that God gave us" as if that Christmas so long ago were but a dim, fading memory, a legend, a myth, a cute story?

This week some of us accepted the challenge of trying to recall our earliest memories of Christmas at the Stand Firm in Faith web site, and what I found was that our memories all seem to revolve around family, and not around church or any special feeling of being in God's presence.

Christmas may forever face this challenge, the challenge of God's gift being lost among all the other gifts, be they toys, gizmos, socks, sweaters, or the gifts of food and family.

We humans exchange gifts.

God gave himself to us on Christmas.

Can we possibly give Him anything comparable in return?

I am afraid that I've got nothing.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Were You There?

"Were You There on That Christmas Night", Natalie Sleeth (1930-1992)

Were you there? Were you there
On that Christmas night?
When the world was filled with a holy light?
Were you there to behold as the wonder foretold
Came to Earth?

Did you see? Did you see?
How they hailed him king?
With their gifts so rare that they chose to bring?
Did you see how they bowed as they praised him aloud
At his birth?

Did you hear how the choirs of angels sang
At the glory of the sight?
Did you hear how the bells of Heaven rang
All through the night?

Did you know, did you know
It was God's own son?
The salvation of the world begun?
Did you know it was love that was sent from above
To the Earth?

Did you know it was love that was sent from above
To the Earth? --Natalie Sleeth

Merry Christmas Eve everyone!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

A Denunciation of the "Myth of the Annunciation"

In church today, many of us heard the story of the Annunciation.
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, "Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you." But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" The angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God." Then Mary said, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word." Then the angel departed from her. Luke 1:26-38

This story is close to my heart. I was raised in a church of that name: "Annunciation". I held fast to that little church... literally. As children, we used to climb along a ledge on its outer walls pretending to be litle cat burglers and little spidermen while our mothers performed their altar guild duties (until the sexton came outside and swatted us with his broom). I have circled the most difficult corner for us spiderpeople to negotiate.

I have held fast to Luke's account as well in spite of all efforts to sweep the story away.

I read one such attempt the other day at, and I think it should be required reading because it shows what Christian apologetics is up against. The post is craftily worded and rather lengthy, and will seem quite convincing to many modern readers (not that our youth are much into reading these days). I will only quote the conclusion, because in the end, this is where all such attempts to explain away the Bible wind up.
 "Instead of taking the nativity stories in Matthew and Luke literally, and thereby doing a disservice to historicity and rational thought, we should accept them as religious myths. They are beautiful legends embodying faith in the supernatural and the efficacy of prophecy. They are attempts by these gospel authors to put into words their conception of a momentous, divine event. And they do so in a manner consistent with what credulous people in ancient times expected.
Although we shall never be sure about the exact circumstances of Jesus' birth, we do know that about two thousand years ago, there was born in what is now called Palestine an extraordinary Jew who was to change profoundly the course of human history." -
R.C. Symes "Myths surrounding Jesus' birth," as interpreted by Progressive Christians. 
They end in heresy.

In this case, Arianism?

In any case, the ultimate conclusion from any argument that attempts to prove that the virgin birth is a myth is to find that God is not omnipotent. The argument thus ends up saying that, "Here is something that God cannot do."


The above example of a denunciation of the Annunciation is just one of many attempts to discredit the Christmas story that you might see each year around this time. In my opinion, these are showing up with increasing frequency. They sometimes are heard within the walls of the church itself (case in point Bishop Spong). This increase means that the enemies of the Gospel are growing in power, and the apocalyptic part of me is concerned that the day is coming when the followers of the Gospel will be "bombed back into" the first century, maybe not with bombs made from explosives, but instead with the social bombs of discrimination, name calling, and isolation.

If this happens, the Gospel will of course survive, but it will be up to determined defenders of the Faith to help pass it along to some future generation that will respond to its call.

And when revisionists have taken over the historic church buildings, it just might take a new generation of little cat burglers and little spidermen to break in and shatter the myths of the modern mythologists.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Private Communications, Hackers, Dictators, Terrorists, Bishops, and Hollywood

In a curious confluence of the stars and meteors, this week presented us with leaks of hacked Hollywood communications, the possible involvement of a foreign dictator's hackers, and an Episcopal bishop's publication of letters  inhibiting him and in effect deposing him because he expressed a desire to bridge the gulf that separates the Diocese of South Carolina from the Episcopal church.

The fact that all electronic communications are subject to potential publication is somehow infuriating to the Hollywood left now that they have been exposed and everyone gets to see what used to stay hidden behind the  silver screen.
Why are people so upset? I do not believe it is just because of possible terrorist threats on the film industry. There must be something more. I think it is because this explodes the modern secular human myth that privacy truly exists.

Is anything really private?

Don't we Christians believe in the omniscience of God? What could we possibly keep from Him?


We all are totally exposed, naked, there is nowhere to hide before Him.

So what should be our reaction to being hacked?
"What is the proper response to God’s omniscience? The inspired apostle Paul provided a fitting answer in Colossians 3:24: 'And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.' Those who refuse to serve the Lord should be frightened by God’s omniscience, because God knows of every sin. And unforgiven sin will be punished (Psalm 90:8; Romans 6:23). For God’s children, however, the implications of God’s knowledge are sources of peace and strength (2 Timothy 2:19; 1 John 3:22; Romans 11:33). Ultimately, the God Who knows everything will judge humans based on how we use the knowledge that has been revealed to us. We must act based on our knowledge to prepare for eternity." Caleb Colley, Ph.D. at Apologetics Press 
The whole Hollywood hack fuss may be bad for their business, their pride, and their reputations, but I would hope that it would be an occasion to point them towards that which is truly important.

Lord, if this year's season of Advent does anything at all, let it shine The Light on our lost paths, and help us to see that all of our secrets are revealed to you, and that we must beg for your forgiveness and forever thank you for coming to our rescue in the form of Jesus Christ.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Advent Lights Are Not Enough

Last night I went outside to look for any Geminid meteors that might be bright enough to be seen through the urban light pollution, some of which was due to all the houses in our neighborhood that had placed electric "candles" in the windows as part of our typical Advent/Christmas decorations.

Mea culpa

The brightness of the sky-glow made me question the need for all those Advent/Christmas lights. Jesus should be able to find his way without our help. It seemed to me that humanity's ability to light the night might be a reflection our growing amnesia of the powers of darkness, of our needs, and of some of our ancient Christian themes.
"A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel." Luke 2:32 King (KJV)
Only children are afraid of the dark these days. We make our own light.

Today's lesson featured the interrogation of John the Baptist, who testified to the light, and the question posed to him of by what authority he performed his baptisms.
"There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.
This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, 'Who are you?' He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, 'I am not the Messiah.' And they asked him, 'What then? Are you Elijah?' He said, 'I am not.' 'Are you the prophet?' He answered, 'No.' Then they said to him, 'Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?' He said, 'I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, "Make straight the way of the Lord," as the prophet Isaiah said. Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, 'Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?' John answered them, 'I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.' This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing."
John 1:6-8,19-28
John was clearly a target not only of Herod but also of the priests and Levites, much like Jesus will be during his time.

Given the importance of John the Baptist, isn't it odd that he is not commonly found as a Christmas tree ornament? Maybe one holding a candle?

Given his usual depiction, maybe not.

But doesn't our season of Advent remind us to also be preparing the way for the Lord?

Now I don't expect you all to rush out and don a garment of camel's hair with a leather belt around the waist, nor do I expect you to live on a diet of locusts and wild honey, but maybe in this increasingly secular world where children may not have been raised in the Christian faith, maybe we should step up and proclaim the good news as well,
" give knowledge of salvation unto his people." Luke 1:78
We are still a people in need of salvation, and I think that is where the Christian understanding of reality differs from the prevailing worldview in the west. As Albert Mohler wrote in his blog this week,
"The Christmas story cannot be reduced to a sentimental tale that gives humanity a warm glow." 
No, humanity was and still is broken, living in darkness, and we are still in need of a redeemer.

So maybe we need to keep the candles lit in the windows of our homes to signal to the rest of humanity the need for the True Light to come into our darkened world.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

TEc Bling: "The Episcopal Church, We don't suck"

This was given out by an Episcopal bishop at a youth event and posted on Facebook,

"The Episcopal Church We don't suck"
C'mon man! Bishop dude needs to stash the bling.

I have to agree with the message in a way: TEc certainly has not been sucking in new members.

Question: "Just what is that great sucking sound that we hear in TEc anyway?"

Answer: "The sound of people being sucked out the door."

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Pearl Harbor Reflections

"The lesson of Pearl Harbor ought never to be forgotten... We need to keep that in mind." Oliver North 

If you ever go to Hawaii, you must not forget to pay your respects to those who died at Pearl Harbor. For us, it was a sacred duty as well as a rewarding experience. I pulled these from my photo album.

Oil droplets ascending from the U.S.S. Arizona

Flag over the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial
"But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed." 2 Peter 3:10

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

The Slippery Staircase

The first step away from God is when we deny the authority of the scriptures found in the Bible.

I saw this illustration over at Churchmouse Campanologist, and I agree that it as true today as it was in 1922, and I asked if there were any steps lower than the last two. You will have to step over to Churchmouse's pages to see what we came up with.