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Archive for July, 2013

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As a Jamaican-born and British Commonwealth expatriate, I watched with the rest of the world the media frenzy over the birth of Will and Kate’s baby, George Alexander Louis, who became “His Royal Highness Prince George of Cambridge,” third in line to the British throne.

During this royal hubbub, I thought of another royal birth, that of Jesus of Nazareth.

While Prince George’s birth was announced and anticipated less that a year ago, the coming of a divine king who would save his people from their sin was prophesied over 300 times throughout the Old Testament and over 1,000 years before Jesus was born. And there are at least 50 New Testament verses that show how Jesus’ birth and life fulfilled these Old Testament prophecies.

Yet, despite over 1,000 years of advanced announcements, very few people were aware of Jesus when he finally arrived. There was no royal palace, no resplendently clad and beaming parents of worldly importance, no colorful military honor guard, no booming 21-cannon-salute, and no worldwide media gathering to capture the moment of this future king’s arrival in Bethlehem.

There was only the sudden and frightening appearance of a choir of angels to announce his birth to a few shepherds who then left their flock of sheep and ran to find this newborn king in—of all places—a stable.

Apart from three wise foreign dignitaries, few people recognized the royalty of this child or suspected the impact that he would have on his country over the next thirty years or how his life, death, resurrection, and teachings would influence and change peoples and cultures over the next two thousand years and beyond.

Today, many people do not recognize Jesus as their lord and king, but the Bible proclaims:

“God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.” (2 Cor. 5:19)

And the Bible ascribes the title of king not only to God, but to Jesus when he returns to set up his new Kingdom on a new earth:

“Glory and honor to God forever. He is the eternal King, the unseen one who never dies; he alone is God.” (1 Tim. 1:17)

“For at the right time Christ will be revealed from heaven by the blessed and almighty God, the King of kings and Lord of lords.” (1 Tim. 6:15)

“Together they [an alliance of evil world powers] will wage war against the Lamb [Jesus], but the Lamb will defeat them because he is Lord over all lords and King over all kings, and his people are the called and chosen and faithful ones . . . On his robe and thigh was written this title: King of kings and Lord of lords.” (Rev. 17:14; 19: 16)

If and when Prince George ascends the throne of England as king, he will also become the ceremonial head of the Church of England with the title, “Supreme Governor of the Church of England.”

It is my prayer that, far from being a ceremonial head, he will have a genuine faith in Jesus Christ and be numbered among the faithful ones of Christ’s people.

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All the above Bible references are from the New Living Translation, 1996.

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I recently watched with fascination as Nik Wallenda walked across a high wire 1,500 feet above the Grand Canyon floor without a safety harness. And as he inched his way across the empty span of nearly five football fields, he constantly thanked and praised Jesus.

Nik, a Christian, is a seventh generation member of the Wallenda family of high-wire performers, and began walking the wire at age four.

But could you or I accomplish such a feat? After all, have we not believed or quoted Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”? (King James Version, KJV)

When the Apostle Paul penned those words to the Philippians, did he mean that Jesus Christ would grant us superhuman abilities to accomplish anything we imagine?

Could we use that verse to affirm our way to earthly riches, as proponents of the “prosperity” gospel try to do?

Many believers quote Philippians 4:13 and try to apply it to their lives without fully understanding the context in which the Apostle Paul wrote it.

He was imprisoned in Rome and was writing to Christians at the church in Philippi to encourage them to be joyful and contented in every circumstance because of their faith in Jesus Christ, even when things went badly for them. He also wrote to thank them for their financial gift to him in prison, and added:

“Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to get along happily whether I have much or little. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need. But even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty.” (Phil.4: 11-14, New Living Translation, NLT)

The “everything” or “all things” refers specifically to Paul’s ability to be contented and joyful in all circumstances that life threw at him. Because he relied on Christ to strengthen him and supply his needs, he could be thankful and joyful:

• Whether in times of plenty or times of great need, in feast or famine
• Whether preaching the Good News in prison or on the outside (Phil. 1: 3-7; 12-14)
• Whether living and suffering for Christ or dying for him (Phil. 1: 20-24; 27-30)

His was a joyful acceptance of Christ’s will and provision for him in every aspect of life.

And that should be our attitude in our journey with Christ—finding in his will equal contentment and joy whether in wealth or poverty, sickness or health, fame or obscurity, failure or success, marriage or singleness.

Can we do all things? Only those things that are within Christ’s will and plan for us, in which case he will give us the strength and resources to do them. He does not give us superhuman abilities to accomplish anything we want if they do not serve his purpose or are not in his best interest for us.

The Apostle James warns about self-confidence and rushing ahead with our own plans and desires without regard for God’s will:

“Look here, you people who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.’ How do you know what will happen tomorrow? For your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, ‘If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.’ Otherwise you will be boasting about your own plans, and all such boasting is evil.” (James 4:13-16, NLT)

Solomon expressed this succinctly when he wrote in Proverbs 17:9, “We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.” (NLT)

Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 8.01.04 PMOn Sunday, June 23, 2013 I saw Philippians 4:13 and Proverbs 17:9 lived out over the Grand Canyon as Nik’s years of training and planning proved successful when the Lord guided his steps safely across that high-wire.

Nik became the first human to tightrope across the Grand Canyon, and a worldwide television audience of millions saw and heard him thank and praise Jesus Christ.

Can I accomplish that same feat? As of now, no, because so far it doesn’t seem to be in God’s plan, training, or mission for me. And I am certainly okay with that.

 

 

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In his latest Stand to Reason blog post, the Christian apologist Greg Koukl writes of the “born-that-way” debate over homosexuality:

“Christians find themselves in a fight they did not choose—facing overwhelming odds and fierce opposition—with a culture demanding we abandon the Bible on homosexuality and instead ‘celebrate diversity.’

“Unfortunately, believers often oblige. Faced with an apparent dilemma of fidelity to faith or fidelity to friends, they choose their friends. They may not abandon Christ, but they reject the Bible, at least on this issue, making it easier to compromise again on other inconvenient truths.

“With controversial issues, you have to start with facts before you start giving opinions.”

I encourage you to log on to Greg’s post in which he and Alan Shlemon provide empirical and scientific evidence on:

• Birth of the Born-That-Way Theory

• Choice to be Gay?

• Heterosexual Development in Males

• Homosexual Development in Males

• Biology and Gender Identity

• Homosexual Development in Females

• Is Change Possible?

• The Best Hope

And they provide insight into how to maneuver through the issue with tactical wisdom and grace.

Theirs is a must-read post for those on both sides of the issue, but especially for those who honestly seek to follow Jesus Christ but are confused by the way events and decisions are trending in our culture.

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Related Stand to Reason post: Homosexuality: Know the Truth and Speak It with Compassion

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