2792.) Philemon

December 31, 2019

A hundred years after Christ, the bishop of Ephesus was a man named Onesimus. Ancient tradition says he is the same Onesimus as in this letter.

Philemon  (English Standard Version)

As we enter the New Year, we are looking at the five books in the Bible that have only one chapter. 

The Bible Project produces short videos that “help people experience the Bible as a unified story that leads to Jesus.” It is entertaining and informative to watch and learn! 
HERE  is their 6.5-minute presentation on Philemon.

Greeting

1Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus,

General agreement is that Paul wrote this personal letter during his first imprisonment in Rome, a house arrest as described in Acts 28:30-31. He does not, however, describe himself as a prisoner of Rome. He sees himself as a prisoner in obedience to the call of the Lord Jesus Christ.

and Timothy our brother,

To Philemon our beloved fellow worker 2and Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house:

Map of Asia Minor (present-day Turkey) showing the town of Colosse. Smyrna is present-day Izmir.

Philemon was a Greek landowner living in Colosse. He had been converted under Paul’s ministry and now his house serves as the meeting place for the church there. (Perhaps Apphia was his wife and Archippus his son — but that is speculation.)

One scholar has written:  

“Up to the third century we have no certain evidence of the existence of church buildings for the purpose of worship; all references point to private houses for this. In Rome several of the oldest churches appear to have been built on the sites of houses used for Christian worship.”

3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Philemon’s Love and Faith

4 I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints, 6and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.

Philemon had been a blessing to Paul. He had opened his heart and his home to the followers of Jesus.

Paul’s Plea for Onesimus

8Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, 9yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you—I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus— 10I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment.

Now we get to the point of this letter. Onesimus was a domestic slave who belonged to Philemon. Onesimus had run away from Philemon to Rome, where he had run into Paul (a close friend of Philemon — cue the music “It’s a Small World After All” . . .) and been brought to Christ, or as Paul says, he “became my son.” A master in the Roman Empire had the legal right to kill a runaway slave. Paul wants to show Philemon a better way.

11(Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.)

This is a cute play on words from Paul — the name “Onesimus” means “useful” or “profitable.”

12I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart. 13I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel, 14but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord.

Clearly, Paul wanted Onesimus to stay, because he had become a big help. Paul sweetened his appeal in three ways.

First, if Onesimus stayed he could serve Paul on your behalf. “Philemon, if you leave Onesimus with me, it’s like you serving me, because Onesimus is your rightful servant.”

Secondly, if Onesimus stayed he helped a man in chains. “Philemon, I know Onesimus might be of some use to you. Yet I am in chains, and need all the help I can get.”

Thirdly, if Onesimus stayed he helped man in chains for the gospel. “Philemon, please don’t forget why I am here in chains. Remember that it is for the sake of the gospel.

But without your consent I wanted to do nothing: Paul made his appeal and made it strong and skillfully. At the same time, he really did leave the decision to Philemon. He would appeal in love, but he would not trample over the rights of Philemon.

–David Guzik

15For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while,

Again we see Paul’s diplomacy and facility with language. How much nicer it sounds to say “he was parted from you” than “your slave ran away from you.”

that you might have him back forever, 16no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

Paul is asking no small thing — that Philemon see his runaway slave now as his own brother, his equal in Christ!

Colossians 3:1, 11

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

17So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. 18If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account.

What an encouragement this must have been to Onesimus! Paul’s genuine love for him surely strengthened his new faith!

19 I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it—to say nothing of your owing me even your own self. 20Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ.

21 Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say. 22At the same time, prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that through your prayers I will be graciously given to you.

Final Greetings

23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, 24and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers.

Each of these names is also mentioned in the conclusion of the letter to the Colossians (Colossians 4:10-17)

25 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

_________________________

Martin Luther liked this short book. “This epistle,” he wrote, “shows a right noble lovely example of Christian love…. Even as Christ did for us with God the Father, thus also does St. Paul for Onesimus with Philemon… We are all his Onesimi, to my thinking.”

_________________________

Did Onesimus go back? Did Philemon welcome him as a brother? We do not know. Yet — who could refuse Paul’s heartfelt request?

The letter to Philemon is all about reconciliation. Our world, like Paul’s, is filled with barriers between people — race, social class, age, political leaning, ethnicity, language, gender, and so on. Other separations come from disagreements and quarrels and misunderstandings. This letter proclaims the good news that Christ can transform even seemingly hopelessly broken relationships into deep and loving friendships. May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ in our spirits allow these transformations to happen in us and through us, to the glory of God!

_________________________

Music:

HERE  is a beautiful song — “Song of Reconciliation”  sung by Susan Ashton, Margaret Becker, and Christine Dente.  Lyrics follow.

Where there is love there is a peace
And in the cages that bind the bitter heart it is release
Hold it close to your chest, let it move and let it rest
For it is here to set your mind at ease
Where there is love there is a peace

Where there is hope there is a dream
To rise above, to remit and to redeem
To go back, to go where there’s no hurt or anger there
To find the song that you once could sing
Where there is hope there is a dream

Where there is faith there is a chance
To alter the course and fight the winds of circumstance
Not to scar, but mend, not to break, but to bend
And not to know but to understand
Where there is faith there is a chance
Where there is hope there is a dream
Where there is love there is a peace

_________________________

English Standard Version (ESV)   The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.

Images courtesy of:
Onesimus.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/06/onesimus1.jpg
map.     http://oneyearbibleimages.com/colossae.jpg
heart and home.     https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/06/homeiswheretheheartis.jpg
if you please.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/if-you-please.jpg
clasped hands.    http://www.britsattheirbest.com/images/h_alban_hands_220w.jpg
“Philemon: Forgiveness that leads to Reconciliation.”     https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/06/philemon-title-slide-slide01.jpg
Paul, signature.   http://www.rowforhope.com/html/images/Paul%20-%20Signature.GIF

2791.) Obadiah

December 30, 2019

Obadiah  (NLT)

As we enter the New Year, we are looking at the five books in the Bible which have only one chapter. 

The Bible Project produces short videos that “help people experience the Bible as a unified story that leads to Jesus.” It is entertaining and informative to watch and learn! 
HERE  is their 5-minute presentation on Obadiah.

 1 This is the vision that the Sovereign Lord revealed to Obadiah (a prophet from Judah) concerning the land of Edom.

Edom was the rocky range of mountains east of the Arabah, stretching about 100 miles north and south, and about 20 miles east and west. It was well watered, with abundant pasturage. Sela (Petra), carved high in a perpendicular cliff, overlooking a valley of marvellous beauty, far back in the mountain canyons, was the capital. Edomites would go out on raiding expeditions, and then retreat to their impregnable strongholds high up in the rocky gorges.

Edomites were descendants of Esau, but were always bitter enemies of the Jews, perpetuating the enmity of Esau and Jacob (Genesis 25:23, 27:41). They refused passage to Moses (Numbers 20:14-21) and were always ready to aid an attacking army.

–from Halley’s Bible Handbook

Edom’s Judgment Announced

We have heard a message from the Lord
that an ambassador was sent to the nations to say,
“Get ready, everyone!
Let’s assemble our armies and attack Edom!”

2 The Lord says to Edom,
“I will cut you down to size among the nations;
you will be greatly despised.
3 You have been deceived by your own pride

Proverbs 16:18 (NIV)

   Pride goes before destruction,
   a haughty spirit before a fall.

because you live in a rock fortress
and make your home high in the mountains.
‘Who can ever reach us way up here?’
you ask boastfully.

Petra  is a historical and archaeological city in the Jordanian governorate of Ma’an that is famous for its rock cut architecture and water conduits system. Established sometime around the 6th century BC as the capital city of the Nabataeans, it is a symbol of Jordan as well as its most visited tourist attraction. It lies on the slope of Mount Hor in a basin among the mountains which form the eastern flank of Arabah (Wadi Araba), the large valley running from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba.  Petra has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985.

The site remained unknown to the Western world until 1812, when it was introduced by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt. It was described as “a rose-red city half as old as time” in a poem by John William Burgon. UNESCO has described it as “one of the most precious cultural properties of man’s cultural heritage.” Petra was chosen by the BBC as one of “the 40 places you have to see before you die.”

–Wikipedia

So they boasted of their natural defenses . . .

4 But even if you soar as high as eagles
and build your nest among the stars,
I will bring you crashing down,”
says the Lord.

5 “If thieves came at night and robbed you
(what a disaster awaits you!),
they would not take everything.
Those who harvest grapes
always leave a few for the poor.
But your enemies will wipe you out completely!
6 Every nook and cranny of Edom
will be searched and looted.
Every treasure will be found and taken.

7 “All your allies will turn against you.

. . . and they boasted of their alliances . . .

They will help to chase you from your land.
They will promise you peace
while plotting to deceive and destroy you.
Your trusted friends will set traps for you,
and you won’t even know about it.
8 At that time not a single wise person
will be left in the whole land of Edom,”
says the Lord.

“Job and his friends” by Eberhard Waechter (1762-1852)

. . . and they boasted of their wisdom.

Speaking of men who were regarded as wise — Eliphaz, one of Job’s three friends (Job 2:11), was from Teman in Edom. Herod the Great was also an Edomite (Luke 1:5), but we can’t count him among the wise!

“For on the mountains of Edom
I will destroy everyone who has understanding.
9 The mightiest warriors of Teman
will be terrified,
and everyone on the mountains of Edom
will be cut down in the slaughter.

Reasons for Edom’s Punishment

10 “Because of the violence you did
to your close relatives in Israel,
you will be filled with shame
and destroyed forever.
11 When they were invaded,
you stood aloof, refusing to help them.
Foreign invaders carried off their wealth
and cast lots to divide up Jerusalem,
but you acted like one of Israel’s enemies.

“Death of Caesar” by Vincenzo Camuccini

from Morning and Evening,
by Charles Haddon Spurgeon

“Even thou wast as one of them.” –Obadiah 1:11

Brotherly kindness was due from Edom to Israel in the time of need, but instead thereof, the men of Esau made common cause with Israel’s foes. Special stress in the sentence before us is laid upon the word thou; as when Caesar cried to Brutus, “and thou Brutus”; a bad action may be all the worse, because of the person who has committed it. When we sin, who are the chosen favorites of heaven, we sin with an emphasis; ours is a crying offense, because we are so peculiarly indulged. If an angel should lay his hand upon us when we are doing evil, he need not use any other rebuke than the question, “What thou? What dost thou here?” Much forgiven, much delivered, much instructed, much enriched, much blessed, shall we dare to put forth our hand unto evil? God forbid!

A few minutes of confession may be beneficial to thee, gentle reader, this day. Hast thou never been as the wicked? At an evening party certain men laughed at uncleanness, and the joke was not altogether offensive to thine ear, even thou wast as one of them. When hard things were spoken concerning the ways of God, thou wast bashfully silent; and so, to on-lookers, thou wast as one of them. When worldlings were bartering in the market, and driving hard bargains, wast thou not as one of them? When they were pursuing vanity with a hunter’s foot, wert thou not as greedy for gain as they were? Could any difference be discerned between thee and them? Is there any difference? Here we come to close quarters. Be honest with thine own soul, and make sure that thou art a new creature in Christ Jesus; but when this is sure, walk jealously, lest any should again be able to say, “Even thou wast as one of them.” Thou wouldst not desire to share their eternal doom, why then be like them here? Come not thou into their secret, lest thou come into their ruin. Side with the afflicted people of God, and not with the world.

12 “You should not have gloated
when they exiled your relatives to distant lands.
You should not have rejoiced
when the people of Judah suffered such misfortune.

1 Corinthians 13:6 (NIV)

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

You should not have spoken arrogantly
in that terrible time of trouble.
13 You should not have plundered the land of Israel
when they were suffering such calamity.
You should not have gloated over their destruction
when they were suffering such calamity.

Amos 1:11-12 (NCV)

This is what the Lord says:
    “For the many crimes of Edom,
       I will punish them.
    They hunted down their relatives, the Israelites, with the sword,
       showing them no mercy.
    They were angry all the time
       and kept on being very angry.
So I will send fire on the city of Teman
       that will even destroy the strong buildings of Bozrah.”

You should not have seized their wealth
when they were suffering such calamity.
14 You should not have stood at the crossroads,
killing those who tried to escape.
You should not have captured the survivors
and handed them over in their terrible time of trouble.

All in all, Edom treated God’s people terribly when distress and calamity came upon them. For all this, God’s judgment was coming upon them.

  • First they did nothing
  • Then they rejoiced in their distress and calamity
  • Then they took advantage of their vulnerable state
  • Then they joined in the violence against God’s people

–David Guzik

Edom Destroyed, Israel Restored

15 “The day is near when I, the Lord,
will judge all godless nations!
As you have done to Israel,
so it will be done to you.
All your evil deeds
will fall back on your own heads.

God will give simple justice to the Edomites, no more and no less. What they did to the people of Judah will also be done to them. The same principle is often true for us, so if we want mercy from God, we do well to give mercy to others.

16 Just as you swallowed up my people
on my holy mountain,
so you and the surrounding nations
will swallow the punishment I pour out on you.
Yes, all you nations will drink and stagger
and disappear from history.

17 “But Jerusalem will become a refuge for those who escape;
it will be a holy place.
And the people of Israel will come back
to reclaim their inheritance.
18 The people of Israel will be a raging fire,
and Edom a field of dry stubble.
The descendants of Joseph will be a flame
roaring across the field, devouring everything.
There will be no survivors in Edom.
I, the Lord, have spoken!

The trials and burdens among God’s people are only temporary, because among them they will find a refuge and they will reclaim their inheritance. However, the attack coming against Edom will be different — Israel will be the fire and they will be the stubble, and Edom will be completely devoured.

The word of the Lord through Obadiah proved true. The Edomites fought side by side with the Jews the rebellion against Rome in 66-70 A.D. and were crushed by Rome, never to be heard of as a people again. The predictions of Obadiah 1:10 and 1:18 were precisely fulfilled. You just won’t meet an Edomite today.

–David Guzik

19 “Then my people living in the Negev
will occupy the mountains of Edom.
Those living in the foothills of Judah
will possess the Philistine plains
and take over the fields of Ephraim and Samaria.
And the people of Benjamin
will occupy the land of Gilead.
20 The exiles of Israel will return to their land
and occupy the Phoenician coast as far north as Zarephath.
The captives from Jerusalem exiled in the north
will return home and resettle the towns of the Negev.
21 Those who have been rescued will go up to Mount Zion in Jerusalem
to rule over the mountains of Edom.
And the Lord himself will be king!”

Revelation 11:15 (NIV)

The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said:

   “The kingdom of the world has become
   the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah,
   and he will reign for ever and ever.”

_________________________

Music:

HERE  is “King of Kings” — a Messianic praise song sung by Karen Davis. What a joy it will be, to sing to Jesus together with all the saints and the angels in heaven!

_________________________

New Living Translation (NLT)    Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Obadiah title.  http://jimlepage.com/blog/word-obadiah
Petra.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/petra.jpg
Waechter.   http://media.kunst-fuer-alle.de/img/41/m/41_00288012~eberhard-waechter_job-and-his-friends.jpg
Camuccini.   http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/a/ac/Cesar-sa_mort.jpg/400px-Cesar-sa_mort.jpg
Love never fails.   https://darrellcreswell.wordpress.com/2011/03/14/true-love-never-fails/
bad choice.    http://whimsicalleaf.blogspot.com/2012/11/wrong-choices.html
all gone.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/allgone.jpg
King Jesus.  http://www.clarion-call.org/yeshua/feasts/rosh/jesus2.gif

2790.) Christmas 3

December 27, 2019

THE CHRISTMAS/EASTER STORY

From the Gospel of Luke
Rearranged for two speakers by Dennis Dewey

I am re-posting the text for the Christmas Day entry, because this surely is the heart of the Good News:  Christ came to save sinners! I invite you to re-read the Christmas and Easter stories during these three days, and let the glory of the Lord and the gracious purpose of God’s eternal plan for salvation shape your heart for Jesus!

“Here’s a side to the Christmas story that isn’t often told: Those soft little hands, fashioned by the Holy Spirit in Mary’s womb, were made so that nails might be driven through them. Those baby feet, pink and unable to walk, would one day stagger up a dusty hill to be nailed to a cross. That sweet infant’s head with sparkling eyes and eager mouth was formed so that someday men might force a crown of thorns onto it. That tender body, warm and soft, wrapped in swaddling clothes, would one day be ripped open by a spear.

Jesus was born to die.

Don’t think I’m trying to put a damper on your Christmas spirit. Far from it—for Jesus’ death, though devised and carried out by men with evil intentions, was in no sense a tragedy. In fact, it represents the greatest victory over evil anyone has ever accomplished.

The author of Hebrews illustrates how the full story of His birth includes His sacrificial death:

But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings. . . . Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. (Hebrews 2:9-10, 14-15)

–John MacArthur

ONE: In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. (This was the first enrollment when Quirinius was governor of Syria.)

TWO: Pilate then called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him. I will therefore chastise him and release him.”

ONE: And all went to be enrolled to their own cities. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.

TWO: But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified. And their voices prevailed. So Pilate gave sentence that their demand should be granted. He released Barabbas, the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, whom they asked for, but Jesus he delivered up to their will.

ONE: And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered.

TWO: And when they came to the place which is called the skull, there they crucified him, and two criminals, one on the right and one on the left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.

ONE: And she brought forth her firstborn son and wrapped him swaddling cloths…

TWO: And they cast lots to divide his garments.

ONE: …and laid him in a manger because there was no place for them in the inn. And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

TWO: And the people stood by, watching.

ONE: And an angel of the Lord appeared to them. And the glory of the Lord shone around them. And they were filled with fear! But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for, behold, I bring you good news of great joy which shall be for all the people. For to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

TWO: But the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others! If this IS the Christ of God, God’s chosen One, let him save himself!”

ONE: And this will be a sign for you…

TWO: And while the sun’s light failed, the curtain of the temple was torn in two. And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!”

ONE: ….You will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths…

TWO: Then Joseph of Arimathea took down the body of Jesus and wrapped it in a linen shroud…

ONE:  …and lying in a manger.

TWO:  …and laid him in a rock-hewn tomb.

Selah.  So much for us to ponder. So much for which to be thankful!

TWO: And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and earth peace among people of God’s favor!”

ONE: The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how his body was laid, and returned and prepared spices and ointments.

TWO: When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened that the Lord has made known to us!”

ONE: And on the first day of the week at early dawn they went to the tomb.

TWO: And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

ONE: And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb! But when they went in, they did not see the body!

TWO: And when the shepherds saw the babe lying in the manger, they made known the saying which had been told them concerning the child.

ONE: While they were perplexed about this, suddenly, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel, and they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? Remember how he told you when he was still in Galilee that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinners and be crucified and on the third day rise?”

TWO: And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds had told them. But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.

Rest on The Flight into Egypt, c. 1510, by Gerard David (National Gallery of Art)

ONE: And they did remember his words, and, returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest!

TWO: And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as it had been told them!

ONE: But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.

_________________________

Music:

HERE  is “We Three Kings,” for the kings understood the purpose of the Child’s birth — to be our “King, and God, and Sacrifice.” The Robert Shaw Chorale presents a flawless performance!

_________________________

Images courtesy of:
Birth. Death. Resurrection.   https://truthinscripture.net/2017/12/15/epilogue/
riding into Bethlehem.   https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/bible-videos/videos/mary-and-joseph-travel-to-bethlehem?lang=eng#gallery=img-7
Mary holding baby Jesus, by Lovetta Reyes-Cairo.  https://www.etsy.com/il-en/listing/542703622/christmas-card-with-mary-and-baby-jesus
angel appears to the shepherds.   https://www.worshiphousemedia.com/motion-backgrounds/27379/angel-appears-to-shepherds
Jesus in the manger.   https://www1.cbn.com/devotions/jesus-in-the-manger
angels singing to the shepherds.   https://speeches.byu.edu/posts/walking-with-the-shepherds/
olivewood nativity.   https://www.holyart.com/christmas/nativity-scenes/jerusalem-olive-wood-nativity-scene/holy-family-with-stable-in-olive-wood-from-bethlehem-25x20x15-cm
David.   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madonna_(art)#/media/File:Gerard_David_-_The_rest_on_the_flight_into_Egypt_(National_Gallery_of_Art).jpg
Rejoice!   https://www.redbubble.com/people/shawntking/works/9623065-rejoice-christ-our-savior-is-born

2789.) Christmas 2

December 26, 2019

THE CHRISTMAS/EASTER STORY

From the Gospel of Luke
Rearranged for two speakers by Dennis Dewey

I am re-posting the text for the Christmas Day entry, because this surely is the heart of the Good News:  Christ came to save sinners! I invite you to re-read the Christmas and Easter stories during these three days, and let the glory of the Lord and the gracious purpose of God’s eternal plan for salvation shape your heart for Jesus!

“Her (Mary’s) Son first had to be the Child of the Father in order then to become man and be capable of taking up on his shoulders the burden of a guilty world.”
― Hans Urs von Balthasar, Unless You Become Like This Child

ONE: In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. (This was the first enrollment when Quirinius was governor of Syria.)

TWO: Pilate then called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him. I will therefore chastise him and release him.”

ONE: And all went to be enrolled to their own cities. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.

TWO: But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified. And their voices prevailed. So Pilate gave sentence that their demand should be granted. He released Barabbas, the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, whom they asked for, but Jesus he delivered up to their will.

ONE: And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered.

TWO: And when they came to the place which is called the skull, there they crucified him, and two criminals, one on the right and one on the left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.

ONE: And she brought forth her firstborn son and wrapped him swaddling cloths…

TWO: And they cast lots to divide his garments.

ONE: …and laid him in a manger because there was no place for them in the inn. And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

TWO: And the people stood by, watching.

ONE: And an angel of the Lord appeared to them. And the glory of the Lord shone around them. And they were filled with fear! But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for, behold, I bring you good news of great joy which shall be for all the people. For to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

TWO: But the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others! If this IS the Christ of God, God’s chosen One, let him save himself!”

ONE: And this will be a sign for you…

TWO: And while the sun’s light failed, the curtain of the temple was torn in two. And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!”

ONE: ….You will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths…

TWO: Then Joseph of Arimathea took down the body of Jesus and wrapped it in a linen shroud…

ONE:  …and lying in a manger.

TWO:  …and laid him in a rock-hewn tomb.

Selah.  So much for us to ponder. So much for which to be thankful!

TWO: And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and earth peace among people of God’s favor!”

ONE: The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how his body was laid, and returned and prepared spices and ointments.

TWO: When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened that the Lord has made known to us!”

ONE: And on the first day of the week at early dawn they went to the tomb.

TWO: And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

ONE: And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb! But when they went in, they did not see the body!

TWO: And when the shepherds saw the babe lying in the manger, they made known the saying which had been told them concerning the child.

ONE: While they were perplexed about this, suddenly, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel, and they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? Remember how he told you when he was still in Galilee that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinners and be crucified and on the third day rise?”

TWO: And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds had told them. But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.

Rest on The Flight into Egypt, c. 1510, by Gerard David (National Gallery of Art)

ONE: And they did remember his words, and, returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest!

TWO: And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as it had been told them!

ONE: But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.

_________________________

Music:

HERE  is “Mary, Did You Know?”– a relatively recent Christmas song, written in 1984 by Mark Lowry. The lyrics evolved from a series of questions that Lowry scripted for a Christmas program at his church:

I just tried to put into words the unfathomable. I started thinking of the questions I would have for her if I were to sit down & have coffee with Mary. You know, “What was it like raising God?” “What did you know?” “What didn’t you know?”

None of the questions are answered in the song. Instead, the lyrics poetically invite the listener to contemplate the relationship between Mary and her newborn divine son.

The text has received criticism for perceived ambiguity or lack of scriptural or theological depth. For example, Lutheran writer Holly Scheer, in addressing the rhetorical question of the song’s title, wrote: “Anyone who has even a slight familiarity with the biblical account of Christ’s conception and birth shouldn’t need to ask if Mary knew, because the Bible plainly tells us she did.” Baptist theologian Michael Frost suggests it is the “most sexist Christmas song ever written… It treats her like a clueless child… Could you imagine a song asking Abraham 17 times if he knew he’d be the father of a great nation?”

I agree with the objections, but I also like how this song joins together the birth and the death of Christ. “This child that you’ve delivered . . . Will soon deliver you.”

_________________________

Images courtesy of:
Birth. Death. Resurrection.   https://truthinscripture.net/2017/12/15/epilogue/
riding into Bethlehem.   https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/bible-videos/videos/mary-and-joseph-travel-to-bethlehem?lang=eng#gallery=img-7
Mary holding baby Jesus, by Lovetta Reyes-Cairo.  https://www.etsy.com/il-en/listing/542703622/christmas-card-with-mary-and-baby-jesus
angel appears to the shepherds.   https://www.worshiphousemedia.com/motion-backgrounds/27379/angel-appears-to-shepherds
Jesus in the manger.   https://www1.cbn.com/devotions/jesus-in-the-manger
angels singing to the shepherds.   https://speeches.byu.edu/posts/walking-with-the-shepherds/
olivewood nativity.   https://www.holyart.com/christmas/nativity-scenes/jerusalem-olive-wood-nativity-scene/holy-family-with-stable-in-olive-wood-from-bethlehem-25x20x15-cm
David.   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madonna_(art)#/media/File:Gerard_David_-_The_rest_on_the_flight_into_Egypt_(National_Gallery_of_Art).jpg
Rejoice!   https://www.redbubble.com/people/shawntking/works/9623065-rejoice-christ-our-savior-is-born

2788.) Christmas Day

December 25, 2019

THE CHRISTMAS/EASTER STORY

From the Gospel of Luke
Rearranged for two speakers by Dennis Dewey

ONE: In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. (This was the first enrollment when Quirinius was governor of Syria.)

TWO: Pilate then called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him. I will therefore chastise him and release him.”

ONE: And all went to be enrolled to their own cities. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.

TWO: But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified. And their voices prevailed. So Pilate gave sentence that their demand should be granted. He released Barabbas, the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, whom they asked for, but Jesus he delivered up to their will.

ONE: And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered.

TWO: And when they came to the place which is called the skull, there they crucified him, and two criminals, one on the right and one on the left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.

ONE: And she brought forth her firstborn son and wrapped him swaddling cloths…

TWO: And they cast lots to divide his garments.

ONE: …and laid him in a manger because there was no place for them in the inn. And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

TWO: And the people stood by, watching.

ONE: And an angel of the Lord appeared to them. And the glory of the Lord shone around them. And they were filled with fear! But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for, behold, I bring you good news of great joy which shall be for all the people. For to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

TWO: But the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others! If this IS the Christ of God, God’s chosen One, let him save himself!”

ONE: And this will be a sign for you…

TWO: And while the sun’s light failed, the curtain of the temple was torn in two. And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!”

ONE: ….You will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths…

TWO: Then Joseph of Arimathea took down the body of Jesus and wrapped it in a linen shroud…

ONE:  …and lying in a manger.

TWO:  …and laid him in a rock-hewn tomb.

Selah.  So much for us to ponder. So much for which to be thankful!

TWO: And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and earth peace among people of God’s favor!”

ONE: The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how his body was laid, and returned and prepared spices and ointments.

TWO: When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened that the Lord has made known to us!”

ONE: And on the first day of the week at early dawn they went to the tomb.

TWO: And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

ONE: And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb! But when they went in, they did not see the body!

TWO: And when the shepherds saw the babe lying in the manger, they made known the saying which had been told them concerning the child.

ONE: While they were perplexed about this, suddenly, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel, and they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? Remember how he told you when he was still in Galilee that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinners and be crucified and on the third day rise?”

TWO: And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds had told them. But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.

Rest on The Flight into Egypt, c. 1510, by Gerard David (National Gallery of Art)

ONE: And they did remember his words, and, returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest!

TWO: And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as it had been told them!

ONE: But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.

_________________________

Music:

HERE is one of my favorite Christmas carols, “What Child Is This.” I especially like verse 2 —

Nails, spear shall pierce him through
The cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made Flesh,
The Babe, the Son of Mary!

It tells us of the connection between Christ’s birth and his suffering. We can rejoice at his coming into the world as one like us, but we should not ignore what this will mean for Christ: that he will suffer and die. For our salvation. So much for us to ponder. So much for which to be thankful!

_________________________

Images courtesy of:
Birth. Death. Resurrection.   https://truthinscripture.net/2017/12/15/epilogue/
riding into Bethlehem.   https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/bible-videos/videos/mary-and-joseph-travel-to-bethlehem?lang=eng#gallery=img-7
Mary holding baby Jesus, by Lovetta Reyes-Cairo.  https://www.etsy.com/il-en/listing/542703622/christmas-card-with-mary-and-baby-jesus
angel appears to the shepherds.   https://www.worshiphousemedia.com/motion-backgrounds/27379/angel-appears-to-shepherds
Jesus in the manger.   https://www1.cbn.com/devotions/jesus-in-the-manger
angels singing to the shepherds.   https://speeches.byu.edu/posts/walking-with-the-shepherds/
olivewood nativity.   https://www.holyart.com/christmas/nativity-scenes/jerusalem-olive-wood-nativity-scene/holy-family-with-stable-in-olive-wood-from-bethlehem-25x20x15-cm
David.   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madonna_(art)#/media/File:Gerard_David_-_The_rest_on_the_flight_into_Egypt_(National_Gallery_of_Art).jpg
Rejoice!   https://www.redbubble.com/people/shawntking/works/9623065-rejoice-christ-our-savior-is-born

2787.) Psalm 98

December 24, 2019

Ps98 joy

Psalm 98   (NRSV)

Praise the Judge of the World

1O sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things. His right hand and his holy arm have gotten him victory.

A new song: “The song of redeeming grace can never grow old, even though the same words recur…. Are not His mercies new every morning, and His faithfulness every night? Is not His love always at work spreading thy table for new meals, making thy bed for new slumber, contriving new alleviations and delights? Look out for these till meditation induces thanksgiving.”

–F. B. Meyer

_________________________

Music:

A young teenager once complained to his father that most of the hymns they sang in church were boring to him because they were too far behind the times. His father put an end to his son’s complaints by saying, “If you think you can write better hymns, then let’s see you try.” So the teenager went to his room after church and wrote his first hymn. It was back in the year 1690, and that 16-year-old teenager was Isaac Watts. And once he started, he continued writing hymns.

Later in life Watts turned to another task, metrical translations of the Psalms with a distinctly Christian perspective. At the age of 45, he sat under a favorite tree on the estate where he lived and penned the now famous words of “Joy to the World.” His 1719 hymnal, Psalms of David Imitated in the Language of the New Testament, included the words under his original title for the poetry: “The Messiah’s Coming and Kingdom.”

As part of his effort to bring New Testament meanings to the Old Testament psalms, Watts based “Joy to the World” on the last half of Psalm 98: “Shout for joy to the Lord all the earth, . . . Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy; let them sing before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth.” (vs. 4, 8).

Psalm 98 celebrates God’s protection and restoration of his chosen people. Watts’ carol rejoices in the same, as it expresses praise for the salvation that began when God became man. Both the psalm and the hymn also look ahead, to Christ coming again to reign: “He will judge the world with righteousness” (v. 9).

“Joy to the World” includes references to other Bible verses as well, including Gen. 3:17, Rom. 5:20, and Luke 2:10. And despite its lack of reference to Mary, Joseph, shepherds, angels, wise men, or the manger, it has become one of the most loved Christmas carols!

By the time of his death, Watts had written over 750 hymns, some of which are still well known and loved now, some 300 years later.

HERE  is Pentatonix (an American a cappella group from Arlington, Texas) singing “Joy to the World.” I bet Isaac Watts would enjoy hearing this version!

_________________________

2The Lord has made known his victory; he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations.

3He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.

from Mary’s Magnificat:

Luke 1:54-55   (NLT)

“He has helped his servant Israel
    and remembered to be merciful.
For he made this promise to our ancestors,
to Abraham and his children forever.”

4Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises.

5Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody.

6With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord.

7Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who live in it.

8Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills sing together for joy

9at the presence of the Lord, for he is coming to judge the earth.

Ps98 let-heaven-and-nature-sing
He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.

Joy to the world! Why? Because God sent Jesus into the world to be our Savior.

Joy to the world! Why? Because Jesus is a good and righteous King over all the earth.

Joy to the world! Why? Because Jesus is returning as Judge over all the nations. He will judge all sin and wickedness. He will make all things right – including the beautiful creation that he made by the power of his word.

Joy to the world! The Lord has come! Let earth receive her King!

–Ray Fowler

_________________________

The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Joy to the world.   http://fairfieldwestbaptistchurch.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/joy-to-the-world_t-copy2.jpg
angel singing.   https://www.pinterest.it/pin/103582860157702895/
Let heaven and nature sing.   http://www.recoveringself.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/let-heaven-and-nature-sing.jpg

2786.) John 16:1-15

December 23, 2019

John 16:1-15   (NRSV)

“I have said these things to you to keep you from stumbling. 2They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God. 3And they will do this because they have not known the Father or me. 4But I have said these things to you so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you about them.

Regarding persecution:

Jesus foresaw this and gave warning beforehand. He did not want anyone to be able to say that he had not known what to expect when he became a Christian. When Tyndale was persecuted and his enemies were out for his life because he sought to give the Bible to people in the English language, he said calmly, “I never expected anything else.” Jesus offered men his glory, but he offered them a cross as well.

–William Barclay

The Work of the Spirit

“I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. 5But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts.

7Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.

It was better because Jesus could be with every believer all the time. Jesus promised, For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them (Matthew 18:20). That was not a promise He could keep after flesh, but only after the Spirit. He had to go away for that promise to be made true. If Jesus were present bodily on this earth, there would be some Christians who would be overjoyed – those in His immediate presence. But for most Christians, they would have the overwhelming sense that Jesus was not with them. Truly, it was all to your advantage.

It was better because now we can have a more trusting relationship with God. If Jesus were present bodily on this earth, there would be a great challenge to our walk of faith. Paul said, Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. (2 Corinthians 5:16) God wants us to walk by faith, and not by sight, and if Jesus were here bodily, there would be great temptation to walk by sight, and not by faith. Truly, it was all to your advantage.

Before Jesus left the disciples were confused, thick headed, afraid, selfish and self-centered. After Jesus left and after the Helper had come they were wise, surrendered, bold, and giving. Truly, it was to your advantage that Jesus left.

–David Guzik

8And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 9about sin, because they do not believe in me; 10about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; 11about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.

Sin is the truth about man,
righteousness is the truth about God,
judgment is the inevitable combination of these two truths.”

–David Guzik

AND it is also the work of the Holy Spirit to help us find the One who will rescue us from sin and judgement, and clothe us in his righteousness. How sweet to meet our Savior!

12“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

Jesus frankly admitted that His own teaching was incomplete, and anticipated the further instruction of the church by the Holy Spirit. This statement of Jesus leads us to anticipate the formation of the New Testament.

Jesus Himself refutes those who say “I’ll take what Jesus taught, but not what Paul or the others taught.” Paul and the other New Testament writers taught us the many things that Jesus spoke of.  Today, the Holy Spirit continues to personally lead us into truth, but never in opposition to the Scripture.

The Holy Spirit’s ministry is revealing Jesus to us. He has many different ways, and He uses many different gifts to accomplish this, but the purpose is always the same: to reveal Jesus.

–David Guzik

_________________________

Music:

“I have many things to say to you,” Jesus says in verse 12.  HERE  is “Speak, O Lord,” from the Gettys.

Speak, O Lord, as we come to You
To receive the food of Your Holy Word.
Take Your truth, plant it deep in us . . . 

_________________________

Reflections:

1)  Are you facing any “persecution” now — are you encountering opposition as you serve God? Thank the Lord now that all the details of your situation are already known to him, and that he will bring you through the hard times while teaching you more about who Christ is and your need of him. Ask him to help you be faithful in the struggle. The promise is sure:  God works ALL THINGS together for good to those who love him!

2)  Jesus says the Spirit of truth will “guide you into truth” and “glorify me.” How do you experience the Spirit’s work in these respects in your own life? Pray for open eyes to see the Spirit’s ministry in and through you!

_________________________

The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 Images courtesy of:
verse 13.   https://i.pinimg.com/736x/64/46/1e/64461e893a8767e20bafbcf17e660073–scripture-quotes-bible-verses.jpg
your advantage.    https://images.knowing-jesus.com/i/john-16-7-will-send-the-helper-black
books of the New Testament.  https://www.calvarytahoe.com/?page_id=135