Monthly Archives: December 2014

A Heart To Make Things Right

Alex Collins, HuntingThe Chester County Sheriff’s department runs a program to take kids hunting and fishing as a reward for good behavior. The program is meant to keep kids out of trouble by getting them interested in the outdoors. When 9-year-old, Alex Collins, learned on Facebook about a contest to get selected for the program, he was ecstatic…he had never been hunting, he had no one to take him, and he desperately wanted to go.

So Alex wrote a letter asking to be chosen, and his mother went to the sheriff’s office to deliver it. But when she arrived, the Sheriff’s office said there wasn’t a contest. The problem? It was the wrong Chester County Sheriff’s department! You see, the information Alex had seen on Facebook was for Chester County, South Carolina, not Pennsylvania where Alex lives. Alex was heartbroken!

It turns out, though, that the two Chester County Sheriffs are friends who met at a conference last year. They got on the phone, and made Alex’s dream come true. Donations poured in from all over the country, the Pennsylvania Sheriff’s Department chipped in to get Alex to SC, and the South Carolina Sheriff’s department chipped in to get him his gear and take him hunting. And, as of yesterday, the news reports that Alex is having a great time!

Chester County SheriffsNow, there is no confusing the two Sheriffs on the outside. One is a self-described, short, white, female,   “Yankee,” while the other is a tall, black, male, Southerner! But on the inside, they both had a heart to make things right for Alex. So a heartbreaking misunderstanding turned into an “Awesome” day!

Usually misunderstandings don’t work out very well. People misread signs and instructions every day. Consequences range from minor inconvenience to major damage. And sometimes misunderstandings lead to spiritual destruction.

In the Garden of Eden, Adam & Eve were harmed by mistaking bad advice for good. In Jeremiah 23, many people misread the signs and thought peace was coming, an error which led to their destruction. In Mark 12:24, Jesus told the Sadducees that they were in grave error about the resurrection because they had misread scripture.

Thankfully, for those who hear His voice today, there is still time. God made arrangements to overcome all our bad decisions and misunderstandings of the past if we will just accept the gospel of Christ today. He has paid for our trip to Heaven with the blood of Jesus because He has a heart to make things right. There is so much misleading information out there; don’t be fooled! Look to the Word of God today!

“…we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts” (1 Thessalonians 2:4).

Did You Check Behind The Tree?

 So you are cleaning up after Christmas morning, wrapping paper is everywhere, and the kids have run off to play with their toys. And then, “uh oh!” As you take a look around the tree, you see it…that one unopened present! Whose is it? Who didn’t get their gift?

Well, hopefully this didn’t happen at your house! I would hate for someone to miss the joy of getting all their gifts. But did you know that there is an unopened gift sitting in houses all over the world?

And it  has an urgent message on it – “open immediately!” You see, this one is from Jesus; and it is called grace.

Did you notice? Did you receive the gift from Christ this year? Jesus freely gave, but you have to “open” your present! Grace is one gift you don’t want to lose. Don’t let it get pushed to the side in your busy life! No other gift is so important.

If you aren’t a Christian, receive Christ today and accept His free gift of grace – it will be the best gift you ever opened! Be forgiven of your sins by trusting in His gospel of salvation.

If you are a Christian, it may be that this Christmas, you got so hectic that you put Jesus second in your life, even if just for a moment. Let’s get back on track quickly. Live for Him and for His Kingdom, remembering the wonderful gift of grace.

So, check behind your tree for lost presents, but check your heart and God’s Word for the grace of Christ.

 

Did Jesus Celebrate Chanukah? No Doubt!

ChanukahMenorahBeing a preacher who grew up Jewish, I often get asked questions about the links between Judaism and Jesus. Around this time of year, the question usually gets asked, “Did Jesus celebrate Chanukah?” To that, I respond, “No doubt!” But maybe our definition of “celebrate” needs discussion.

Here’s the Cliff’s Notes version of history:

During the ~400 year “intertestamental period,” the Greeks dominated much of Central Asia and the Mediterranean Sea. After the death of Alexander the Great, his empire divided primarily into Ptolemies (Egypt) and Seleucids (Syria). The Seleucids practiced extreme “Hellenization” (forcing Greek language, beliefs, and practices on those they conquered). Around 175 BC, Antiochus Epiphanes, in an effort to stamp out Judaism altogether, sacrificed a pig on the altar and desecrated the 2nd temple.

In the revolt that followed, the Jews drove out their persecutors and restored a general peace and self-rule in the land. When the Jews tried to cleanse the Temple and resume worship, they needed oil for the consecration and sanctification of the holy objects that had been defiled. It is said that they had only 1 day of oil, but it lasted an amazing 8 nights, thus the 8 nights of the Jewish festival.

Now, back to Jesus and Chanukah…

In Jesus’ day, the commemoration celebration we call Chanukah, or the Festival of Lights, was called “The Feast of the Dedication” (John 10:22). John records that, as the Dedication Feast is taking place, Jesus goes into the Temple and teaches people to follow Him. But the Dedication Feast was not merely the candle lighting, gift giving occasion that Jews celebrate today. It was packed with Messianic meaning.

The Jews were looking for a Messiah (anointed one) as prophesied in scripture. He was supposed to come in the days of the Roman Empire, in the line of Judah through David, born in Bethlehem, and proven by signs and wonders. So when Jesus walked into the Temple during THAT week…he received quite an audience! They asked, “How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ (Messiah), tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me” (John 10:24-25).

So, did Jesus “celebrate” Chanukah?

Well, the Bible doesn’t technically record Jesus playing with a dreidel, lighting candles, or eating yummy latkes. But consider what “celebrating” really means:

  1. He celebrated the spirit of Chanukah by cleansing the Temple in John 2, and again in Matthew 21 and Mark 11, of the impure money changers, just as the defiled temple had to be cleansed after the sacrificing of a pig on the altar.
  2. He celebrated Chanukah by giving us a pure Temple and Priesthood – His body, rather than the stained, Roman controlled temple & priesthood of the day (John 2:21; Hebrews 6:20).
  3. Jesus offers believers a perfect temple, not made by human hands (Acts 17:24), but God dwelling with His people in glory, in Heaven, forever (Revelation 21:22).

Regardless of whether we can prove Jesus “celebrated” Chanukah, He definitely celebrated true Dedication, and so should we! Whether you light a candle or give gifts this week, be sure to celebrate the REAL reason for Chanukah – God’s people dedicating themselves to worshiping Him as commanded in scripture (John 14:21). God bless, and Happy Chanukah!

The Grilled Cheese Cronut? Well-played, Satan. Well-played.

cronutAccording to a recent article in Medical Daily (click here), “Pastry hybrids are all the rage with today’s food frenzies.” In the hybrid category, the “Cronut” (basically, a donut-like crescent) has been king since October 2013, when Chef Dominique Ansel introduced it. King, that is, until now!

Our newest obsession? The Grilled Cheese Cronut. Looking delicious and tempting, pictures of the Cheese Cronut have been making the rounds on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media as the “must try” treat of the season. And, while the grilled cheese cronut might fulfill a craving for the perfect pastry hybrid, no sane person would argue that it is a healthy snack.

And, sadly, this is where fantasy ends and reality begins. While this caloric nightmare might look good, smell good, and taste good, it is terrible for us! Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good, fried treat as much as the next person, perhaps more. But if we become hooked, we will follow our taste buds into heart disease, high blood-pressure, cholesterol problems, and other chronic conditions.

The Bible warns us about the same problems, but with spiritual junk food. And many people have already given themselves over to a steady diet of meaningless stories, “moving of the Spirit,” tales from beyond, and “devotional” books that look good and feel good, but leave the reader with no actual, scriptural nutrition.

The writer of Hebrews plainly states, “Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, through which those who were so occupied were not benefited” (Hebrews 13:9). Are you being benefitted by what you consume? If it isn’t the teaching and commands of scripture, then it might taste good, but it won’t give you the nutrients you need for life.

So, I say, well-played, Satan; the cronut is an impressive temptation to my diet. But no “leading of the Spirit” will ever tempt me to disregard the clear teaching of scripture. God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33). He does not say one thing in His Word and the opposite through feelings we have.

2 Timothy 4:3-5

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.