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Beautiful Lake Murray in La Mesa, CA. I have run/walked/biked around this lake for 30 years now!

Lake Murray in La Mesa, CA

It was cold and bitter when I departed Omaha yesterday on a Frontier flight that connected to Denver and then on to beautiful San Diego. It was around 50 degrees when I landed. It was perfect. Today will get up to 78 degrees! I am looking forward in enjoying the sun and the warmth!

Duck Dynasty wins! GLAAD loses!

RELIGIOUS LIBERTY

Posted Dec. 27, 2013, 09:05 p.m.

The gay lobby’s power is limited. The A&E television network late Friday afternoon, facing a backlash and threatened boycott, reversed its decision to suspend Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson. The Robertson family offered no immediate comment.

A&E’s official statement: “[A]fter discussions with the Robertson family, as well as consulting with numerous advocacy groups, A&E has decided to resume filming Duck Dynasty later this spring with the entire Robertson family.” Now it will be fun to see whether the Robertsons agree to another A&E season once the current one is done.

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by John Piper | December 26, 2013

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Cross is a new student conference on missions. It begins tomorrow evening.

This conference is a dream come true for me. I give four reasons for why in my message tomorrow night. So I won’t give them here. You can live-stream all the main sessions at desiringGod.org/live, beginning at 8:15 PM (EST) tomorrow (full live-stream schedule below).

The premise of the conference is that biblical Christians care about all suffering, especially eternal suffering. We believe that God sent his eternal Son into the world to bear sin’s penalty for his people and to rescue them from eternal suffering, and to give them ever-increasing and everlasting joy in the glory of redeemed bodies, on a redeemed earth, free from all misery and all sin. Everyone who receives this gift through faith in Christ will have it. It is offered to all, and free for all.

Focusing on the Unreached

God’s purpose is to gather this redeemed people from all the peoples and tribes and languages of the world. Frontier missions is the heralding of this news to the remaining unreached peoples of the world. That’s our focus at Cross.

It is not a conference about evangelizing people in general. It’s a conference about the peculiar task of missions: the task of crossing cultures, and learning languages, and, by the miracle-working grace of God, establishing biblically faithful churches among the unreached peoples.

Radiant with Hope

Cross is radiant with hope, because it is built on the absolute sovereignty of God in the salvation of the hardest sinners. If sinners were decisive in saving themselves, the outcome of missions would be up for grabs. It’s not.

The “musts” and “wills” and “shalls” of God are inviolable.

  • “I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd” (John 10:16).
  • “This gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14).
  • “All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you” (Psalm 22:27).

Christ has ransomed a people among all the peoples of the world. “By your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9).

Missions Cannot Fail

They are his, and he will have them. He has chosen and destined them for adoption from the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4–5).“Those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Romans 8:30). None will be lost.

The way he calls his sheep is missions. And it cannot fail. When a people group seems distant, hidden, resistant, hostile, Jesus has a word to say about that. When the skeptic, and the doubter say, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus responds, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God” (Mark 10:25–27).

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by BETHANY JENKINS

If we do not understand the weight of the miracle of Christ’s incarnation, it is because we do not understand the weight of the holiness of God. The incarnation is shocking. It is outrageous to think that an infinite and holy God would voluntarily become finite to live with unholy sinners. In fact, the incarnation is so appalling that it separates Christianity from Islam and Judaism. The Jerusalem Talmud says, “If man claims to be God, he is a liar” (Ta’anit 2:1), while the Qur’an says, “Allah begets not and was not begotten” (Sura al-Ikhlas 112). Jews and Muslims understand how ludicrous it is to think that a holy God would humiliate himself by becoming human.

south-african-nativityThe holiness of God is fearful. But if we want to know God and ourselves, we must begin by seeing how much God loves his holiness and cherishes his purity. If we do not start here, the gospel will become cheap to us. As A. W. Tozer wrote, “Unless the weight of the burden is felt, the gospel can mean nothing to man; and until he sees a vision of God high and lifted up, there will be no woe and no burden. Low views of God destroy the gospel for all who hold them” (The Knowledge of the Holy).

Under the old covenant, people responded to the holiness of God with awe and reverence. When Moses met the Lord, he “hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God” (Exodus 3:6). Then, years later, when he begged to see God’s glory, God said, “You cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live” (Exodus 33:20). When the ark of the Lord was being brought back to Israel, some men looked inside of it and, as a result, the Lord struck down 50,000 men. The people despaired, “Who is able to stand before the LORD, this holy God?” (1 Samuel 6:20). When David was bringing the ark to Jerusalem, one man merely touched it, and God struck him down immediately. “And David was afraid of the LORD that day, and he said, ‘How can the ark of the LORD come to me?'” (2 Samuel 6:9). The nearer Ezekiel approached the throne of the Lord, the less sure his words became: “Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell on my face” (Ezekiel 1:28).

Not only did people tremble at his holiness, the Lord himself frequently spoke about it.

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by JOE CARTER

Christmas is the most widely observed cultural holiday in the world. Here are nine things you should know about the annual commemoration of the birth of Jesus:

nativity-scene-background1. No one knows what day or month Jesus was born (though some scholars speculate that it was in September). The earliest evidence for the observance of December 25 as the birthday of Christ appears in the Philocalian Calendar, composed at Rome in 336.

2. Despite the impression giving by many nativity plays and Christmas carols, the Bible doesn’t specify: that Mary rode a donkey; that an innkeeper turned away Mary and Joseph (only that there was no room at the inn); that Mary gave birth to Jesus the day she arrived in Bethlehem (only that it happened “while they were there”); that angels sang (only that the “heavenly host” spoke and praised God); that there were three wise men (no number is specified) or that the Magi arrived the day/night of Jesus’ birth.

3. Rather than being born in a stable, Jesus was likely born in a cave or a shelter built into a hillside. The hills around Bethlehem were dotted with small caves for feeding and boarding livestock. The exact site of Jesus’ birth is unknown, but by the third century, tradition had established a probable cavern. Constantine’s mother, Helena, erected the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem over the small space.

4. During the Middle Ages, children were bestowed gifts in honor of Saint Nicholas (the namesake for Santa Claus). In an attempt to turn away from the Catholic veneration of saints and saint’s days, Martin Luther laid gift-giving in his household on Christmas Eve. He told his children that “Holy Christ” (Christkind) had brought their presents. The tradition caught on with many Lutherans, though later St. Nick would get the credit as often as Christkind.

5. Martin Luther is widely credited as the first person to decorate Christmas trees with lights. Walking toward his home one winter evening, composing a sermon, he was awed by the brilliance of stars twinkling amidst evergreens. To recapture the scene for his family, he erected a tree in the main room and wired its branches with lighted candles.

6. The X in Xmas was not originally intended, as some people believe, to “take Christ out of Christmas.” The written symbol X was frequently used to represent the letter in the Greek alphabet called Chi (the first letter in the Greek word Christos). In many Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, X abbreviates Christos (Xristos). This practice entered the Old English language as early as AD 1000 and by the 15th century, “Xmas” was widely a used symbol for Christmas.

7. The Puritans objected to the celebration of Christmas. In 1647, the Puritan government canceled Christmas, forbidding traditional expressions of merriment, ordering shops to stay open, churches to stay closed, and ministers arrested for preaching on Christmas Day.

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KEVIN DEYOUNG

The Scandal of the Semi-Churched

This is one of those posts I’ve wanted to write for awhile, but I wasn’t sure how to say what I think needs to be said. The danger of legalism and false guilt is very real. But so is the danger of disobedience and self-deception.

I want to talk about church members who attend their home church with great irregularity. These aren’t unchurched folks, or de-churched, or under-churched. They are semi-churched. They show up some of the time, but not every week. They are on again/off again, in and out, here on Sunday and gone for two. That’s the scandal of the semi-churched. In fact, Thom Rainer argues that the number one reason for the decline in church attendance is that church members don’t go to church as often as they used to.

We’ve had Christmas and Easter Christians for probably as long as we’ve had Christmas and Easter. Some people will always be intermittent with their church attendance. I’m not talking about nominal Christians who wander into church once or twice a year. I’m talking about people who went through the trouble of joining a church, like their church, have no particular beef with the church, and still only darken its doors once or twice a month. If there are churches with membership rolls much larger than their average Sunday attendance, they have either under-shepherds derelict in their duties, members faithless in theirs, or both.

I know we are the church and don’t go to church (blah, blah, blah), but being persnickety about our language doesn’t change the exhortation of Hebrews 10:25. We should not neglect to meet together, as some are in the habit of doing. Gathering every Lord’s Day with our church family is one of the pillars of mature Christianity.

So ask yourself a few questions.

1. Have you established church going as an inviolable habit in your family?You know how you wake up in the morning and think “maybe I’ll go on a run today” or “maybe I’ll make french toast this morning”? That’s not what church attendance should be like. It shouldn’t be an “if the mood feels right” proposition. I will always be thankful that my parents treated church attendance (morning and evening) as an immovable pattern. It wasn’t up for discussion. It wasn’t based on extenuating circumstances. It was never a maybe. We went to church. That’s what we did. That made the decision every Sunday a simple one, because there was no real decision. Except for desperate illness, we were going to show up. Giving your family the same kind of habit is a gift they won’t appreciate now, but will usually thank you for later.

2. Do you plan ahead on Saturday so you can make church a priority on Sunday? We are all busy people, so it can be hard to get to church, especially with a house full of kids. We will never make the most of our Sundays unless we prepare for them on Saturday. That likely means finishing homework, getting to bed on time, and foregoing some football. If church is an afterthought, you won’t think of it until after it’s too late.

For the rest of the post…

The culture wars will always be with us. Most recently, Phil Robertson, the godly patriarch of the Robertson clan on the very popular Duck Dynasty show on A & E, was suspended by the network because of his anti-gay comments.  Soon after, the Robertson family issued statement indicating the show probably could not continue without Phil. I would hate to see the show end because it really quacks me up. I also love the show because of its focus on Christian values and family. Plus, I have guns and am a hunter!

This will not be the last battle in the culture wars in our country.  Thus, it is important that those who claim to follow Jesus need to act like Jesus especially in the heat of the battle. I have been a Baptist pastor for 30 years, and I am dedicated to the Word of God which is the Bible. If the Bible is not true, then I have wasted my life, along with thirteen years of higher education.

There are Biblical principles that the followers of Jesus need to remember when it comes to the culture wars…

  • We are to love all people! Jesus made this crystal clear in Matthew 22:37-38: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Our “neighbor” is everyone around us. It does not matter how different our neighbor is from us, we are to love that person. We are even to love those people who hate us: “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Jesus in Matthew 5:44).
  • We are to honor everyone! 1 Peter 2:17 commands us this: “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” As Christians we are honor and respect our political leaders and everyone else. It does not matter if the person disagrees with us when it comes to politics, favorite sport’s team (Go Huskers, Red Sox, Steelers and Blue Jays Basketball!), religion (or lack of it), sexual orientation or anything else. We are to honor and respect and love all people. This is the way of Jesus.
  • We are to exhibit the character of Jesus. Our country needs to see authentic Christians in action. When people think of an “evangelical Christian”, they often think of someone who is angry and is against stuff. Most Christians that I know are not angry and busy signing petitions. But there are just enough angry followers of Jesus out there to give the impression that the mission of the church is to protest and fight for the rights of Christians.

That is why I am against boycotts. How many people have turned to Jesus for salvation because of a boycott that originated with Christians? I doubt any have. What should the Christian look like? Well, according to Galatians 5:22-23, Christians are to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”  In other words, we are to be like Jesus.

Now, Jesus, the most loving and joyful person who ever lived, was against sin. That is why, as the eternal son of God, he came into our world nearly 200o years ago. His God-ordained mission in life was to go to the cross as the perfect Lamb of God to die for our sins and to absorb the wrath of God on our behalf. His death and resurrection broke the power of sin and death and Satan.

Yet, Jesus loved all people. Let us do the same!

Dietrich Bonhoeffer lived a messy faith, believing Jesus continually brings us to choices that require total dependence upon him in order to take the next step. This means we stop being afraid of making mistakes, trusting that, if we mis-step, God sweeps us with his grace, is faithful to forgive, and will work things out to get us back on track because he wants us to move forward in our journey. Bonhoeffer teaches that a life of such extraordinary risk is expectation, not the expectation for any disciple of Jesus  (Jon Walker, Breakfast With Bonhoeffer15).

“Not hero worship, but intimacy with Christ.” 
― Dietrich BonhoefferThe Cost of Discipleship

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