Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Year-End Beginning

It's time for another progress report on the face I'm painting with Painter Lite:
Okay, so I'm not John Singer Sargent! I'm learning to use Painter Lite, though, and maybe I'll improve as time goes on. If not, I'm still enjoying myself.

I'll work on her hair next week. Although hair challenges me, I find it the most interesting part of painting. Playing with color to create texture and sheen enlivens my imagination, and gives my painting a sense of personality. I look forward to seeing what I can do with hair in Painter Lite, given that it doesn't  have filters like Paintshop Pro has.

Yet, the lack of filters requires me to create effects the way traditional painters do. No more short-cuts or hand-holding! Now I must use brushes, colors and canvas (adjusted, I admit, as I manipulate settings in the software program) to develop my paintings without relying on cut-out shading, blurs, drop shadows or any of my other Paintshop Pro tricks. I am moving onward.

This painting merely begins my journey into new realms of digital painting, so I really shouldn't be surprised at it's crudeness. As I learn the program, gaining experience with the brush tips themselves and their various interactions with the canvas, perhaps my paintings will become...well, works of art!

Monday, December 30, 2013

The Importance Of Smelly Preaching

A friend from church posted this picture on his Facebook feed yesterday. It definitely contrasts the seeker-sensitive posture of 21st Century churches. In our day, we minimize the seriousness of sin (if we mention it at all), sometimes even denying that certain behaviors should even be considered sinful in the first place. After all, we reason, we must make the Lord attractive, so people will actually want to come to our churches (and, as a result, fill our offering plates).

Making church appealing to our friends and family may be good salesmanship, but it doesn't fulfill the Great Commission. Jesus never told us to sign up young, potentially affluent, wage-earners to fund our building projects. He instead commanded us to make disciples by passing on His doctrine and calling others to obey Him (Matthew 28:16-20). Part of making disciples necessitates helping people acknowledge their sin and move toward repentance.

Such demands repel those people whom the Lord has not called to salvation. But the elect, who mourn over their sin because they know how deeply it offends the Savior, will embrace such preaching as a portal to eternal life. Indeed, Paul and his co-workers observed this very principle, and mentioned it to the church in Corinth:

14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? ~~2 Corinthians 2:14-16 (ESV)

Preaching, whether in a church setting or in personal evangelism, can't afford to coddle sin. God's servants don't sell a product; we proclaim the truth--including the fact that the Lord, being perfect in Holiness, cannot and will not tolerate sin among His people. Wondrously, He shed His blood to atone for the sin of those who believe, providing us the grace to live in holiness! May we have the courage to declare the whole gospel, trusting the Holy Spirit with the results.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

His Glories Now We Sing

On this last Lord's Day of 2013, what better than a hymn enumerating some of the many reasons to recognize Jesus Christ as the King of creation? As this hymn swells with praise for Who He is and what He's done, it sweeps us into worship.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Disney In A Supporting Role

This past Monday, John took me to see Saving Mr. Banks.

The trailer indicates that the movie is a fun representation of Walt Disney's efforts to convince P.L. Travers to sell him the rights to her character, Mary Poppins, causing most people to miss the PG-13 rating and expect a feel-good family movie. It does have a happy ending, as well as several fun moments and good humor. It even has some deeply touching scenes such as when her limousine driver opens up to her about his physically disabled daughter.

But the movie tells a deeper story of a woman dealing with childhood hurts stemming from her father's alcoholism and her mother's unsuccessful suicide attempt. Hardly suitable subject matter for young children!

That said, I do recommend  Saving Mr. Banks to adults and mature teens. The story, though dark in places, holds your attention as P.L. Travers faces her past. The fun moments in the rehearsal room not only offer the audience respite from the writer's private angst, but they allow it to enjoy the familiar songs from Mary Poppins from a different perspective.

Tom Hank's portrayal of Walt Disney more than lived up to my high expectations, but Emma Thomson eclipsed his performance as, in the role of Pamela Travers, she wrestled with gruesome childhood memories. I've always admired Thompson's acting, but I'd never seen her give any other character quite as much depth and texture.

If you want a wholesome family movie, rent Mary Poppins. But if you want a date night, Saving Mr. Banks offers entertainment plus plenty of good discussion matter afterward. John and I look forward to buying the DVD as soon as it goes on sale.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Walk Away By Following Self

I follow two "deconversion" blogs. The author of one blog still considers himself a Christian, but he rejects conservative doctrine in favor of a theology that embraces homosexuality and permits him to interpret Scripture through the grid of personal experience. The other believes she's on the road to atheism, certain that her reasoning abilities demonstrate the Bible's fallacies.

Both depend on themselves to determine truth.

Truth, however, relies on objective facts, not personal intuition. For that reason, I cling to the accounts of Christ's resurrection,  which people in the First Century could easily verify. If the disciples had merely fabricated the resurrection, their gospels wouldn't have mentioned the sealed tomb and the Roman guard. Paul wouldn't have mentioned the 500 men who saw Jesus after His resurrection. And, as cowardly as these guys were around the time of the crucifixion, it makes no sense to suppose that they would allow themselves to be martyred if they knew they were lying. The evidence for the resurrection quiets all doubt.

From the point of accepting the historical  fact of the resurrection, I can then reason that Jesus obviously has to be Who He claimed to be--God Incarnate. Subsequently, all the other points of doctrine fall into place. Thus,  my faith is founded on historical evidence, not on my self-contrived ideas, my experience or fluttery feelings I get when I think spiritual thoughts.

The "journeys" of the two bloggers I read (interesting that they both use the term "journey") sadden me because they've both chosen to measure truth by themselves. Thankfully, God has grounded His truth, not in subjective human feelings, but in historical fact that lends itself to investigation. I pray that these bloggers would set aside their self-worship long enough to examine the evidence and accept the truth.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

She Shows The Need For Christmas

When we turned on our local news this morning, we heard about a woman in Barnstable (MA) who gave her neighbors a ride to pick up presents that Toys For Tots had collected for their children. Once the toys had been loaded into her car, she sped off, leaving her neighbors to call a taxi to get home. They confronted her, then called the police. The police only recovered some of the stolen toys.

Of course her actions evoke outrage. They should!

But at the end of our righteous indignation, perhaps we should recognize her behavior as the logical conclusion of taking Christ out of Christmas. When we focus on material things, it shouldn't surprise us when greed overtakes reason. Scripture teaches, in no uncertain terms, that man is hopeless depraved and unable to do good.

10 as it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
11     no one understands;
    no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
    no one does good,
    not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
    they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14     “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16     in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18     “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” ~~Romans 3:10-18 (ESV)

The Barnstable woman did something absolutely despicable, but nothing that should surprise anyone who takes the Bible seriously. Rather, she epitomizes the very necessity of God the Son taking on human flesh and shedding His blood in payment for our sin. Apart from Jesus, each of us is just as corrupt; our corruption just isn't as visible or socially unacceptable as hers.

Praise God that a Savior, Christ the Lord, was born!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Not The World's Christmas

As Christmas approaches, I think of the moral and spiritual disarray spreading through Western society. Some people may vaguely acknowledge Christ's birth, though they have relatively little interest in what His Incarnation means and almost no interest in how it impacts their lives. This year, we collectively vilify a reality TV personality for his biblical stand, calling his statements outdated. Really? Don't we see how we thumb our nose at the Lord, even as we profess to celebrate His birth?

I enjoy the lights, the presents and the food as much as anyone, and I love our Christmas tree with its subtle scent of  pine. But the wise men who followed the star to Bethlehem set the example of worship that I desire to maintain at Christmas...and throughout the year.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

It Drives Angels To Worship

At the heart of Christmas lies the profound mystery of  God becoming Man, entering this broken world through the womb of a virgin. The wonder of His Incarnation drives me to worship, just as it drove hosts of angels to burst into praise and adoration when they announced His birth to the shepherds in  the fields of Bethlehem.

My all-time favorite Christmas hymn, which I've saved for this last Sunday of Advent, postulates that the angels who heralded Christ's birth celebrated the miracle of God's Incarnation. I love how the lyrics linger on that point. As you watch this video, join me (as I, in turn, join the angels) in worshiping the Incarnate Deity.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

I Had Nothing to Do With It

From my perspective, I sought Christ from a young age, wanting to know what His Father looked like, whether or not astrology was compatible with  Christianity, and why Jesus died on the cross. My parents' church presented  Bibles to the Sunday School children on the completion of third grade, and I read mine often...although haphazardly. As I reached puberty, I became interested in paranormal phenomena and the occult, always finding reasons to reconcile them with  God as I understood Him.

My parent's church was liberal. In Youth Group, they explained that Jesus died on the cross because,   like Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr., He preached about love and social justice. Little was said about His resurrection. Nothing about His deity.

He eventually brought me into contact with Christians who shared the Gospel with me, and He began transforming me into His child. For decades, I tried to take some type of credit for "accepting" Jesus and "making Him my Lord and Savior," wanting commendation because I'd "made a decision for Him." I failed to recognize that He had had His hand on me, even as I flirted with demonic teachings like astrology, to draw me to Himself. I'll never understand why He brought me to salvation, but I now know that He did so with no help from me. 

Her Face Is Becoming

Just wanted to show the progress on my watercolor painting using Painter Lite:

Friday, December 20, 2013

Deviant Christians

No true Christian would deny the crucial importance of putting God's Word into practice. Practical application demonstrates trust in His authority, and a willingness to act on that trust. The entire epistle of James focuses on the necessity of proving our faith by acting on the commands of the Lord.

22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. ~~James 1:22-25 (ESV)

In emphasizing practical application, however, Christians dare not ignore the foundational place of sound doctrine. If someone misunderstands the Bible's teachings, or adulterates those teachings with other philosophies and spiritual disciplines, his deviation from Biblical doctrine will ultimately result in a life that draws him away from obedience to the Lord.

A popular teaching may very well seem consistent with Scripture, particularly if it's supported by Bible verses that are wrenched from their context and manipulated into mere proof texts. But, as the following graph illustrates, an idea that begins as only a  small deviation from God's Word will, if followed, take a person extremely far away from truth.

Christians, because we are still encumbered with fallen sin natures, can allow false teachers to lure us into all sorts of deceptions. Most of these deceptions start as innocent misapplications of Scripture (barely perceptible), only to lead us miles away from Biblical Christianity.  To protect us from such departures from truth, the Holy Spirit prompted Paul to counsel Timothy:
Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. ~~1 Timothy 4:16 (ESV)
Many translations render this verse, "Watch your conduct and your doctrine." Indeed, Christian conduct flows out of Biblical doctrine. Until we learn to properly interpret God's Word, mastering its great doctrines, how can we hope to apply it correctly. By all means, the Lord wants His people to put our faith into action, proving that our faith is authentic. But let's make sure to apply those principles that Scripture actually teaches.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Ability Isn't Necessarily Calling

Though I'd rarely admit it, I've always struggled with a desire to preach and teach God's Word. Society makes it difficult for women like me, who have abilities in communication coupled with a passion for the great doctrines of the Bible, to resist the compulsion to seek teaching ministries. Our secular counterparts have broken all kinds of glass ceilings in politics, medicine, academia, law and business, assuring everybody that women can do everything men can do...and probably better.

Christians, I'm sorry to say, have followed the world by opening positions of church leadership to women. Even otherwise conservative churches that would never accept a woman as their senior pastor  make seemingly innocuous compromises. As adamantly as they'd deny it, churches that allow women to take leadership in corporate worship or teaching men prefer  current traditions to the Bible's clear instruction in 1 Timothy 2:11-12.

And Jesus reprimanded the Pharisees, not for obeying God's law, but for replacing it with the traditions of their time.

Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly, holding to the tradition of the elders, and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,
“‘This people honors me with their lips,
    but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
    teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’
You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”
And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 11 But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God)— 12 then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.” ~~Mark 7:1-12 (ESV)
Since Paul wrote 1 Timothy 2:11-12 under the direction of the Holy Spirit, shall 21st Century Christians nullify it to replicate secular culture's new norm of feminism? Or should we humbly accept Paul's prohibition on women exercising ecclesiastical authority, trusting that the Holy Spirit included the prohibition in the canon of Scripture for His purposes? I have made my choice.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christmas Mourning

On December 18, 1989, my friend Bob lost his battle with AIDS. Or maybe he won it, since he found emancipation from his body that so frequently had sent him to hospitals and the rest of the time  chained him to various medications. When I tearfully lamented that I'd expected God to heal him, someone pointed out that God had given him the ultimate healing.

That statement provided little solace at the time, mostly because I focused on my loss rather than Bob's gain. As my Bible Study group gathered at my house that evening for a Christmas potluck, I resented the lights on the tree and the laughter that punctuated the various conversations. Earlier that day, I'd begged our Bible Study leader to  cancel the party, but he said there wasn't enough time to notify everyone. Eventually, I burst into tears, and someone pushed me to my room so I could cry. I'd successfully ruined the party.

Christmas that year intruded on my grief. All the lights and presents and joyful voices at church only intensified the pain. Bob was gone. Christmas merriment? Bah humbug!

Looking back, I see my selfish attitude that Christmas, as well as my unwillingness to focus on the Lord. He had rescued Bob from the suffering of living with AIDS. Bob now could fully adore Christ the Lord without distraction, celebrating His life, death and resurrection as he beheld His glorious Face. While the world merely celebrated Christmas, my friend Bob celebrated Christ!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Responding At The End Of Reason

The  Gospel of John starts boldly! "In the beginning was the Word...and the Word was God...and the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us." John, the disciple who enjoyed the closest friendship with Jesus, gave us the most direct (and therefore the most startling) statement of Jesus' deity. Where some consider the Son of God as being distinct from God the Father, John's Gospel confronts us with God the Son.

This Incarnation, like the Trinity Itself, bypasses human intellect, leaving us uncomfortable with our inability to comprehend the Creator of all things "reducing" Himself to inhabit His virgin mother's womb. Offended by this apparent assault on our reasoning capabilities (as if we have some sort of right to equality with God), many of us invent false theologies that deny Jesus' deity...or badly distort it. Ever prideful, we demand a God that yields to our understanding--not one Who confronts us with our cognitive limitations.

Yet, John knew Jesus. He knew Him enough to be convinced that He was the very God of all creation. John had watched Jesus die on the cross, and only days later had eaten a fish breakfast with Him after His resurrection. The resurrection, more than any of the other miracles, verified Jesus' claim to be God. Intellect must always bow to fact, especially when fact defies intellect.

So we can best respond to the Incarnation, not by analyzing it or by trying to explain it, but by coming to the Lord in worship and adoration. With our intellects, we discern the overwhelming evidence for His resurrection, and from that point we reason that His claim to be God in the flesh is irrefutable. But then, trying to figure out  how He could at once be fully God and fully Man must be set aside, letting us kneel at the manger.

Friday, December 13, 2013

More Than Syntax And Grammar

A writer needs, before anything else, to read other writers. Reading shows a writer how words can give shape and texture to otherwise abstract ideas  going beyond dry lessons on syntax and rules of grammar. More importantly, reading sparks a writer's imagination by compelling him or her to contribute to the vast and intricate conversation that weaves through human history.

My writing accepts blogging as its primary venue, so I turn to other blogs for both instruction and inspiration. Humility may not be one of my primary character traits, but I do understand that other bloggers have much to teach me.

One such blogger is Lydia, a friend of a friend of mine. Her blog, Lydsloookonlife, honors the Lord as she muses on sports, wine, food and her experiences with Cerebral Palsy. Typing with one hand, Lydia can only manage one post a week, but each post skillfully unites seemingly disconnected thoughts and images to illustrate great truths from Scripture.

Currently, her posts focus on Advent, explaining the significance of each candle as she delights in the various aspects of the Savior's birth. Regardless of whether you come from a liturgical background or not, you'll find her Advent posts inspiring as Lydia draws you to Scripture and the Lord Himself.

Lydia writes thoughtfully, sometimes using gentle humor and always depending on God's Word as her final authority. Her posts are amazingly long (especially when you understand that she types slowly and without the aid of a headstick or mouthstick), but her easy conversational style makes you eager to keep reading. In short, I dearly hope you'll celebrate Advent by becoming acquainted with http://lydslookonlife.wordpress.com/. You need not be a writer to benefit from her wonderful blog.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Amended Poinsettias

When will I learn that  graphics for print need to be lighter, and less condensed, than graphics for the web? When I printed out the poinsettia today, it looked positively garish! So I did some quick revisions, and produced this:

Don't you wish God would correct our flaws so quickly?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Poinsettia Challenge

With the birthday of a family member only a week away, you'd think I'd have enough sense to use a drawing I'd already completed for her birthday card. Well, but I knew she likes poinsettias. And once the idea of making her a birthday card depicting a poinsettia had lodged itself in my pretty little head, nothing else seemed worthy of consideration.

Since poinsettias never ranked very high on my list of favorite Christmas decorations, however, I felt ill-prepared to draw one. So I Googled images of them, and commenced my work Sunday afternoon. When I looked back at the pictures later that evening, I saw that I'd done it all wrong, so I started all over again yesterday.

I finished drawing it today. It turned out to be a fanciful rendering, but I like it! Perhaps, if I can overcome my tendencies toward procrastination, I'll manage to draw a more realistic poinsettia for next year's birthday card. In the mean time, I'll content myself in the knowledge that I accepted a challenge and learned from it. And, after all, learning from challenges, no matter what the context of each challenge, causes growth.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

He'll Still Come

Still observing Advent, I'm thinking of the centuries upon centuries that Israel's faithful waited for the promised Messiah. When He came, few recognized Him.

 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. ~~John 1:11 (ESV)

John 1:11 is, in my opinion, the most heart-wrenching verse in the Bible! But, like Israel, many Gentiles (including those who honestly believe themselves to be Christians) also close their hearts to Him, preferring to make Him a mere addendum to spiritual systems of their own design.

Thankfully, the real Jesus continues to offer Himself to those who truly want Him. As Israel prayed for His first coming, so we can individually pray that He'll come as the Ruler of our lives. He will free us, not only from sin's eternal consequences, but from its power to keep us from Him. And He will come again to take those who truly belong to Him to live in His Kingdom.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Vindication Doesn't Last

As a young teen, I'd take immense satisfaction in listening to mom scold my sister for fighting with me. Sometimes, Mom went so far as to declare that  I was right. Let me tell you, I'd absolutely bask in the feeling of vindication! Alas, Mom always cut my basking short by turning to me, with her frown of disapproval still in place, to utter the dreaded phrase: "And as for you, young lady..."

As I transition from yesterday's blog post to today's, I chuckle a little as, like Mom addressing faults on both sides of those sibling rivalries between me and my sister, I  now intend to challenge the very people I defended yesterday.

I still stand by my conviction that those who chronically vent about their problems desperately need patience, understanding and compassion. Scripture demands as much:

And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. ~~1 Thessalonians 5:14 (ESV)

Having said that, I'd like to speak from my own struggles with self-pity and venting. Besides enumerating my many woes (real and perceived) to anyone who would listen, I kept a journal for 14 years in which I'd frequently lament my lot in life. At long last, the Lord helped me realize that both these practices merely perpetuated my misery, to the point that my co-workers had to confront me for generating a negative atmosphere at the office.

Far from offering true ventilation, my habitual complaining kept me so focused on my problems and disappointments that I refused to see God's goodness to me. Essentially, the more I vented, the more I compounded my self-pity. Slowly, and with way too many failures to be obedient, I've turned away from  chronic venting, even refusing to keep a private journal.

Both those who offer unsolicited advice and those of us who wallow in our problems need to kneel before the cross in humility and repentance. Much like me and my sister in our early adolescent years, both camps of people need to own their error. At that point, Christians can work together for the Lord's glory.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Too Important For Another's Pain

Why do we respond to people who  repeatedly vent by 1) offering unsolicited advice and 2) by getting frustrated and angry when the people venting choose not to follow the advice that, after all, they never requested? I'll admit  that listening to someone continually rehash the same complaints year after year, while making little effort toward improving either the situation or their attitude can  get wearying. (But that's tomorrow's blog post.) In our desire to  "help," or to shut the person up, I believe we often forget to show compassion.

When people hurt, they long to feel understood. Even when they bring problems on themselves, they seek out sympathy...or at least acknowledgment and validation.

Certainly, there comes a time for compassion to lead to confrontation. We mustn't coddle sin, lest we lead the person further into the sin of self-pity. At the same time, Scripture commands that Christians deal with another person's physical or moral weaknesses by demonstrating attitudes of gentleness and forbearance.

 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. ~~Galatians 6:1-3 (ESV)

If I'm honest, I'll admit that I'm too selfish to listen to someone else's chronic venting. I'd much prefer to shift the conversation to my supposed expertise on the matter, so the person can gratefully thank me for solving their problem with my abundance of wisdom. That way, I get to bask in the notion of my spiritual superiority, reminding myself (and perhaps others) of my important role of dispensing God's wisdom. All the while, I grieve the  Holy Spirit with my insensitivity to broken, hurting people.

Monday, December 2, 2013

35 Years Of Christmas Greetings

Operation Christmas Letter has dominated my day, as is appropriate. I have my graphics ready,  so tomorrow I plan to actually write it.

My Christmas letter tradition began in 1978, when I realized the impracticality of writing the same information in Christmas cards using a mouthstick and an electric typewriter. One person complained that it seemed impersonal (now she sends Christmas letters which consist solely of grandchildren photos and no text), but she may not have understood that I send Christmas greetings to roughly 100 people each year. By the mid 1980s, people looked forward to the letters, which evolved as I included half-toned photos.

Naturally, the advent of personal computers, and then email, took my letters to new levels, making me less dependent on family and Personal Care Attendants to address, stamp and mail them for me. A few people have complained, claiming they consider it more personal to receive them in the regular mail. That's all well and good, but their preferences don't take into account that sending letters snail mail places extra demands on those who have to help me.

Operation Christmas Letter allows me to reflect on the Lord's goodness over the past year, to appreciate my many friends and family members, and to focus on the amazing doctrine of the Incarnation. Far from a dreaded chore, producing these letters fills  me with joy and gratitude. Tomorrow will be a good day!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Ancient Prayer Renewed

On this first Sunday of Advent, how could I not think back to ancient Israel longing for the promised Messiah? And I grieve that, when He came, most of them failed to recognize Him. Yet He did come, offering salvation to Jew and Gentile alike.

He lived a sinless life, only to offer Himself to be executed as a common criminal. Yes...He voluntarily allowed Himself to be nailed to the cross, where He shed His blood to atone for the sins of all who believe in Him. On the third day, He rose again, signifying that God the Father had accepted His sacrifice.

Now His followers await His Second Advent, when He will gather us to our heavenly Home. At last, His true Israel (those Jews and Gentiles who trusted exclusively in His shed blood for our righteousness) will experience the satisfaction of our longing. Like ancient Israel, we now pray for Emmanuel  to come.


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