A Christmas Carol From Paul

A Christmas Carol From Paul

By David R. Stokes

Christmas is more than a day in December — it is a season.  Reminders of this are all around us — the weather, the gatherings, the music on the radio.  It is not unusual for savvy media outlets to saturate their formats with all things Yuletide for a few weeks at the end of the year.  It puts us “in the mood” — not to mention puts money in their accounts.
What’s your favorite Christmas song?  Some like to hear about chestnuts roasting on an open fire — others love to think about bells jingling.  Yet others tear up (with good reason) thinking about a Holy Night so long ago.  They may even want to fall on their knees.
A case can be made that the greatest Christmas song ever written is one with no familiar music.  The tune is no longer available to us.  But the lyrics — ah, those lyrics — well, they’re actually inspired.  As the Apostle Paul was writing to young Pastor Timothy about everything from order in the church to the dangers of greed, he gave us an easily overlooked but enduring Christmas nugget.
It may be not be a toe-tapper like I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus — but it completely captures the essence of Christmas.  That essence is incarnation.  This means that God became one of us so that He could reach those of us willing to surrender to Him.
As the Apostle winds up a series of thoughts about the church and those who serve and lead, he pauses to reflect on a larger issue.  Strategies and structure are not ends in themselves.  They are secondary to powerful ideas.  While he may have felt the need to give Timothy some practical advice about how to do his important job, he never lost sight of the why in all of it — nor should we.  There can be many controversies in life — macro and micro.  All of them require attention.  Some of them require systems and structure.  No doubt, this was something with which Timothy wrestled.  Therefore, his wise mentor, Paul, offered his advice. 
Things that tend to polarize people often have little to with objective truth.  Instead, subjective experience is allowed to play too large a role in our lives and passions.  When this happens, Paul’s writings suggest that we need to stop and sing.  And we should sing something very specific — the most beautiful of all Christmas carols — though it is highly unlikely that we’ll hear the words blended with any seasonal music. 
We are not told the style of music, nor are we told the instrument or instruments used to express it (if any).  We are given just the words.  They are inspired — and they have endured.  They are ancient words, yet ever new. 
The first Christmas Carol is introduced in scripture this way: “Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great…” (I Timothy 3:16 NIV).
Communities of faith throughout history have wrestled with many things.  But Paul reminds us all these centuries later that there are some no-brainers for the faithful.  First and foremost is that most powerful of all ideas is that God has come to the earth — the Word has been made flesh. 
So, this season, let us reach back for one of the forgotten “oldies” — a first-century worship favorite.  They likely sang it in places like Ephesus, Thyatira, and Philippi.  There were no ornate cathedrals or padded pews, no multimedia presentations to tantalize the eyes — just words, powerful and profound.  Go ahead and make up your own music — but don’t mess with the words.  They are from God.  They are a Christmas gift from the one who gave us the reason for the season. 
And, one…two…three…
“He appeared in a body,
Was vindicated by the Spirit,
Was seen by angels,
Was preached among the nations,
Was believed on in the world,
Was taken up in glory.” 
 - I Timothy 3:16 (New International Version)
Merry Christmas!
David R. Stokes is a minister, author, columnist, and broadcaster.  His new book, The Shooting Salvationist (foreword by Bob Schieffer), will be released by Random House in July of 2011.

Page Printed from: http://www.americanthinker.com/2010/12/a_christmas_carol_from_paul.html at December 25, 2010 – 10:48:19 AM CST

Who He Is

Who He Is

By Vasko Kohlmayer

Some two thousand years ago, the man whose birthday we celebrate during this season was walking with his disciples through a region which is today known as the Golan Heights.  As they were making their way through those hilly parts, Jesus turned to his companions and asked, “Who do people say that I am?”

The disciples told him that many ideas circulated as to his identity: “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
Things have not changed much in the intervening two millennia.  Today, as then, people hold many notions about who Jesus was.  Some say that he was a great moral teacher, others that he was a bold social reformer.  Still others claim that he was a wise man or a charismatic leader.  If you asked ten different people, it is quite possible that you would get ten different answers.
To get at the truth, we can do no better than to go to the ultimate source and authority on Jesus’s life.  None of the statements below is a conjecture or a fanciful invention; they all come straight from the Word.
What follows is the Jesus of the Bible.
***
He was from the beginning.  He was with God, and He is God.  He is the firstborn over creation, and in Him the fullness of God dwells.
All things were created by Him and for Him.  He laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of His hands.  Without Him, nothing was made that has been made.
He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.  He upholds the universe by the word of His power.  It is through Him that we exist.  He is the mystery of God, Who created all things by Jesus Christ.
In the fullness of time, God sent Him to be the Savior of the world.  He came to do away with sin by the sacrifice of Himself.
He was made flesh and dwelt among people.  Full of grace and truth, He was the image of the invisible God and the exact representation of His being.
Born in the likeness of man, He took upon Himself the form of a servant.  He became poor so that we may become rich.
The radiance of God’s glory, He walked in love and compassion.  He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him.
Meek and gentle, He was treated harshly, yet He did not protest.  Despised and forsaken, He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.  Though He was tempted as we are, He did not sin.
He came to deliver those who through fear of death were all their lives subject to bondage.  He humbled Himself and became obedient to death — even the death of the cross.  He assumed human form to mediate between God and men.
He was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities.  He bore our trespasses in His body and washed our sins with His own blood.
He was made a curse so that we could be made right with God.  He was raised for our justification.  It is by His wounds that we are healed.  It is He who brings us back to God.
Manifested in the flesh, He was justified in the spirit.  Having been buried, He was raised on the third day.  He ascended on high and led captivity captive.
To those who receive Him He gave the right to become children of God.  Whoever calls upon His name shall be saved, and whoever believes in Him has eternal life.
Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name by which men may be saved.  He is the way, and the truth, and the life.
This is how God showed His love for us: He sent His one and only Son that we might live through him.  For God so loved the world that he gave His only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
In Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.  He guides the meek and teaches them His ways.  Exalted of God, in Him is the mystery of godliness.
He will judge the living and the dead, and every knee shall bow down before Him.  He will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and expose the motives of men’s hearts.  He will gather the wheat into his garner and burn the chaff with unquenchable fire.
But to those who thirst, He shall give from the spring of the water of life, for He is full of unfailing love and faithfulness.  He who believes in Him shall live.
He is the bright morning star.  Crowned with glory and honor, He holds all authority in heaven and on earth.  It is through Him that God brings everything back to Himself.  It is through Him that God speaks to us.
The first begotten of the dead, He is the heir of all things.  He is the light, and the darkness has not overcome him.  He is the prince of peace and the bread of life.  His love surpasses all knowledge.  He is the life of men.
His throne will last forever, and His days will never end.  Righteousness is the scepter of His kingdom.
He is the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come.  He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.
He fills everything in every way.  He is the Almighty One.
He who has ears, let him hear.  Let those who are wise understand, for these things have been written that we may believe and, by believing, have life in His name.

Page Printed from: http://www.americanthinker.com/2010/12/who_he_is.html at December 25, 2010 – 10:41:45 AM CST

Kathy Griffin’s Jesus remark cut from Emmy show

Kathy Griffin’s Jesus remark cut from Emmy show

Tue, Sep 11 2007

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Comic Kathy Griffin’s “offensive” remarks about Jesus at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards will be cut from a pre-taped telecast of the show, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences said on Tuesday.

Griffin made the provocative comment on Saturday night as she took the stage of the Shrine Auditorium to collect her Emmy for best reality program for her Bravo channel show “My Life on the D-List.”

“A lot of people come up here and thank Jesus for this award. I want you to know that no one had less to do with this award than Jesus,” an exultant Griffin said, holding up her statuette. “Suck it, Jesus. This award is my god now.”

Asked about her speech backstage a short time later, an unrepentant Griffin added, “I hope I offended some people. I didn’t want to win the Emmy for nothing.”

The speech drew fire from a leading Roman Catholic group, the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, which condemned Griffin’s remarks as “obscene and blasphemous.”

“It is a sure bet that if Griffin had said, ‘Suck it, Muhammad,’ there would have been a very different reaction,” Catholic league president Bill Donohue said in a statement posted on the group’s Web site. He called on TV academy president Dick Askin to denounce Griffin’s “hate speech” and on Griffin to apologize.

An edited version of the Creative Arts Emmys is set to air on cable television’s E! Entertainment Network on Saturday, the night before the live Fox network broadcast of the main Primetime Emmy Awards.

“Kathy Griffin’s offensive remarks will not be part of the E! telecast,” an academy spokeswoman said on Tuesday. An “abbreviated version” of her acceptance speech will air, instead, she said.

Griffin’s reaction to the imbroglio, according to a statement issued by her publicist: “Am I the only Catholic left with a sense of humor?”

Muhammad or Jesus?

Memo to John Edwards: Jesus Was Not a Leftist

Memo to John Edwards: Jesus Was Not a Leftist
By Dennis Prager
FrontPageMagazine.com | March 13, 2007

Democratic presidential candidate and former Sen. John Edwards told an interviewer from the religious website beliefnet.com that Jesus “would be disappointed” at how little Americans help the destitute who live among them. Jesus, Mr. Edwards said, “would be appalled” at our selfishness.

In the view of John Edwards and other Christians on the Left, Jesus would raise taxes, promote single-payer, i.e., socialized, medicine, be pro-choice and advocate same-sex marriage. But most of all, Jesus would be anti-war, opposed to the military and essentially be a pacifist.

This is based largely on one of His most famous statements: “Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

The flaw in interpreting such statements as policy statements on how a nation should behave is that Jesus was speaking about the life of the individual — the micro — not about nations and the macro.

This confusion of micro and macro morality not only afflicts the Left, it also afflicts the Right. One example is when religious conservatives equate public and private cursing. While ideally one should refrain from using expletives in private as well as in public, there is no moral comparison between using such words in private conversations and using them in public. One trusts that if a religious conservative overheard a teacher using an expletive in a quiet conversation with one other person, he would not compare such speech to the teacher’s using that expletive while teaching a class. The first may be a personal sin, but the second is destructive of society.

Nevertheless it is the Left that is most oblivious to the distinction between the micro and the macro. Its understanding of Jesus is a good example. The Left would have us as a nation put this admonition of Jesus into practice: “If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

But Jesus was clearly referring to interpersonal relations. It is critically important when trying to understand any portion of the Bible or any other text to read a passage within the context of the surrounding material. As biblical commentaries often put it, “Context is king.”

Noting what precedes and what follows this verse shows that it deals with attitudes and behaviors of individuals in such matters as anger against another individual in one’s personal life, adultery, divorce, oath-taking, giving to the poor, prayer, fasting, prioritizing, worrying, etc. Jesus was talking about interpersonal relations and noted that in our relations with people in our lives, it is not generally a good idea to hit back.

Now imagine applying this to nations: Should we have said to the Japanese after they attacked Pearl Harbor, “Now that you have attacked us in the West, please also bomb our cities in the East”?

The idea that a country should offer its other cheek to an aggressor is simply immoral, not to mention suicidal. Such thinking renders Jesus and the Christian Bible foolish.

It also shows how hypocritical are the Left’s attacks on religious conservatives for taking the Bible literally. It is the Left that engages in a far more dangerous literalism when it applies Jesus’ words to national policy. Those on the religious Right who believe that God created the world in six 24-hour days are engaged in, I believe, a completely unnecessary literalism. But it is hardly dangerous. The Left’s biblical literalism, however, applying “turn the other cheek” to millions of its own citizens, is fatally dangerous.

Besides literalism, another point of hypocrisy: The Left attacks the religious Right for threatening to replace our democracy with a theocracy that will impose fundamentalist Christianity on the nation. Yet the people who loathe conservatives for using Scripture have no difficulty with those who cite Jesus’ words when arguing their positions — even when citing them incorrectly.

Jesus was no leftist. He was, among other things, a religious Jew who knew and believed his Hebrew Bible, which contains verses such as this one from Psalms: “Those of you who love God must hate evil.” That, not offering another city for terrorists to bomb, is likely what Jesus believed.

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