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Blogs I Follow

The Presidents Club

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The Surest Defense Against Evil

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The Triumph of Grace

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Contemplating God’s Sovereignty

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How Should We Then Live?

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Not a Timid Christianity

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Finishing the Race

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Because the Time is Near

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Revelation Song (YouTube)

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Where The Wind Blows

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Doing Great Things

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Recognizing a False Prophet

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The Power of Forgiveness

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Created for Relationships

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The Only Way I Know

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Faith: The Misunderstood Doctrine

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Our True Home Address

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‘Tis the Season . . . for L-O-V-E

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The Paris Terrorist Attack and the Problem of Evil

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Cherry Picking 101

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Love Sweet Love

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So Goes The Culture

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Idols of the Heart

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Divisions Are Not Always Bad

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The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

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A Reminder for Christmas

Nativity-Merry-ChristmasI published this blog post on December 25, 2015 under the title of Christmas and the Christian Faith.” As I reread it this evening I decided to reblog it again for this year. Here is the entire contents of that blog post.

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I ran across the following article this morning on a Public Domain website titled, Recognizing the Importance of Christmas and the Christian Faith by Steven Arnold King (source here). It is actually a speech given by the Honorable Steve King of Iowa in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, December 11, 2007.

It’s significance cannot be underestimated. Here is the text of that speech (quote source here):

RECOGNIZING THE IMPORTANCE OF CHRISTMAS AND THE CHRISTIAN FAITH

SPEECH OF
HON. STEVE KING
OF IOWA
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Tuesday, December 11, 2007

manger cross kingMr. KING of Iowa: Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking the Ranking Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, the gentlewoman from Florida, Ms. Ros-Lehtinen, for her support and help in getting this important measure to the House floor for a vote.

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to address the House today to discuss the importance and relevance of Christmas, the Christian holiday celebrating the birth of our savior Jesus Christ.

As this resolution notes, there are approximately 225 million Christians in the United States, making Christianity the religion of over three-fourths of the American population. Beyond that, there are approximately 2 billion Christians throughout the world, making Christianity the largest religion in the world and the religion of about one-third of the world population.

And yet, Mr. Speaker, in recent decades there have been some who have undertaken efforts to diminish the significance of this great religion, and these efforts are no more apparent than during this time of Christmas.

It is not hard to look out over this great country of ours and find those who, for one reason or another, have engaged in a highly-politicized and highly-publicized crusade to rid the public square of any reference to the religious underpinnings of the Christmas holiday. These are individuals who have subscribed to a radical interpretation of our Constitution’s free exercise and establishment clauses and have sought to impose their secular views and beliefs on the nation as a whole.

In many respects, it is this ongoing effort to bring about the secularization of Christmas–and all of our everyday lives for that matter–that motivated me to bring this resolution before the House today.

Regardless of how others may define it, Mr. Speaker, Christmas is a religious holiday. It is the day on which Christians–those who identify themselves as believers in the salvation from sin offered to them through the death and resurrection of their savior, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and who, out of gratitude for the gift of salvation, commit themselves to living their lives in accordance with the teachings of the Holy Bible–celebrate the birth of their savior. For Christians, the birth of Jesus is cause for great celebration. As the Son of God, Jesus was sent to earth, by our Heavenly Father, to become a human being, live a sinless life, be crucified on a cross for our sins, and rise from the dead three days later. The purpose of this, as you well know, Mr. Speaker, was to save sinners from eternal death–the price to be paid for their sin.

And so, Mr. Speaker, the birth of Christ, as celebrated by Christians on Christmas is a truly important and significant day because it is celebrated as a recognition of God’s redemption, mercy and Grace.

The importance of Christmas, however, does not end with the tenets of Christianity. Because Christmas is one of the most important holidays on the Christian calendar, I believe that its annual passage should serve as an opportunity for all Americans, Christian or not, religious or not, to recognize the important role played by Christianity in the formation of our nation and in the founding of our civilization.

It is no coincidence, Mr. Speaker, that courthouses throughout this country proudly display the Ten Commandments. It is no accident that, in this very chamber, it is the face of Moses, the human author of those divinely dictated commandments, that looks down upon you, keeping close watch on all that transpires in this chamber. Mr. Speaker the framework of our laws and the fabric of our society is heavily dependent upon the maxims of Christianity, and I believe that as we Christians begin our annual celebration of the birth of our savior, the one from whom Christianity derives its name, it is wholly appropriate for us, as a nation and as members of this House, to take the time to acknowledge the contributions that the Christian religion has made to our country and our way of life.

Mr. Speaker, I think we all can agree that virtually any American, whether Christian, atheist, agnostic, or otherwise, when confronted with the fact that he has in some way wronged his neighbor, will rightly respond in one universal way–knock on his door, confess to him, repent, and ask for forgiveness. The neighbor would then forgive them as Christ has taught us. True and simple as this may seem, it is important to ask why we as Americans naturally react in such a way. The answer of course is that in this “conditioned behavior” we see very clearly the positive effect that Christianity has had on the development of our country and culture.

There are few places in the United States–if any–that you can visit where the laws “do not steal” and “do not murder” do not apply. Likewise, there are few households in this great country in which moral character is developed in young children without the invocation of the ninth and tenth amendments regarding lying and coveting that which belongs to others.

Mr. Speaker, we as Americans live in a moral society and in a country that is governed by moral laws. While many of these laws obviously cannot be found in any explicit sense within the pages of the Holy Bible, when we survey the content of that book–the document that outlines how it is the Christians are to live their lives here on earth–we do find much in the way of foundational principles that has come to guide not just the development of our laws, but also the foundation of our nation.

It was from the Bible and the example of Jesus that Pilgrims first established government on this continent, from which the Founders outlined the political thought that shaped our nation, and by which Congress first intended to educate our children. Furthermore, as the scholar David Barton and others have tirelessly pointed out, it was from the Bible that early American leaders derived concepts like private ownership, the free-enterprise system, an industrious work ethic, and workfare rather than welfare. As a result, the life and teachings of Jesus Christ have permeated every aspect of life in America. He has shaped our culture and transformed every great leader to rise from our population. As a testament to this, each of our American Presidents has acknowledged God’s hand on this Christian nation that is the United States. If there never had been a Jesus Christ, there would never have been an America.

In an address to the nation President Truman once said that, “In love, which is the very essence of the message of the Prince of Peace, the world would find a solution for all its ills. I do not believe there is one problem in this country or in the world today which could not be settled if approached through the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount. The poets’ dream, the lesson of priest and patriarch and the prophets’ vision of a new heaven and a new earth, all are summed up in the message delivered in the Judean hills beside the Sea of Galilee. Would that the world would accept that message in this time of its greatest need!”

Luke 2v13-14He went on to say that, “This is a solemn hour. In the stillness of the Eve of the Nativity when the hopes of mankind hang on the peace that was offered to the world nineteen centuries ago, it is but natural, while we survey our destiny, that we give thought also to our past–to some of the things which have gone into the making of our Nation.”

In 1940, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said of Christmas, “it is well for all humanity to remind itself that while this is in its name a Christian celebration, it is participated in reverently and happily by hundreds of millions of people who are members of other religions, or belong actively to no church at all. The reason is not far to seek. It is because the spirit of unselfish service personified by the life and the teachings of Christ makes appeal to the inner conscience and hope of every man and every woman in every part of the earth.”

President Eisenhower called the nation to reflect during his remarks at the lighting of the Nation’s Christmas Tree on December 15, 1957 when he said, “In a few days we shall all celebrate the birth of His Holiness on earth. We shall recreate in our minds, once more, the ancient coming of that Spirit who remains alive for millions in our time. We shall acknowledge the Kingdom of a Child in a world of men.”

He went on to say, “That Child–we should remember–grew into manhood Himself, preached and moved men in many walks of life, and died in agony. But His death–so the Christian faith tells us–was not the end. For Him, and for millions of men and women ever since, it marked a time of triumph–when the spirit of life triumphed over death. So–if this Christmas season in a time of war is to have real meaning to us, it must celebrate more than the birth of a Baby.”

During his Radio Address to the Nation on Christmas Eve, 1983 President Reagan pointed out that “It’s been said that all the kings who ever reigned, that all the parliaments that ever sat have not done as much to advance the cause of peace on Earth and good will to men as the man from Galilee, Jesus of Nazareth.” [YouTube Video of speech is available here. Length of video: 5:10]

As the words of these great men–these revered and honored presidents of the United States of America have clearly demonstrated, it is not a stretch to say that the precepts and principles of Jesus have so completely permeated the culture of this nation that even an American atheist would be hard pressed to separate his worldview from the impact of the first Christmas.

Though we are not all Christians, Mr. Speaker, we are all Americans. By virtue of that simple fact, I will again reiterate my belief that it is not only appropriate but, more importantly, is necessary during this special time of year to remember not only the birth of Jesus Christ, the savior of the world, but also to recognize the important impact that the Christian faith has had on the foundation and development of our society, our nation, and our civilization. (Quote source here.)

Joy to the world, the Lord is come. . .

Let Earth receive. . .

Her King. . .

YouTube Video: “Joy to the World” sung by Whitney Houston:

In case you’re interested, here’s the YouTube Video of President Reagan’s Radio Address to the Nation on Christmas Eve 1983 referenced in the speech above:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here
Photo #3 credit here

Behind the Scenes

behind the scenesYesterday afternoon I noticed a book on the shelves in the book area at a Goodwill store here in Orlando with a most intriguing title. I immediately recognized the author, Dr. R.C. Sproul, who is “an American theologian, author, and pastor. He is also the founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries and can be heard daily on the Renewing Your Mind radio broadcast in the United States and internationally” (quote source here). The book is titled, The Invisible Hand: Do All Things Really Work for Good? (1996; republished in 2003). No doubt there have been times when most–if not all–of us have asked that question, and most likely asked it far more than once.

The inside front flap of the hardcover edition states the following:

Is it merely coincidence when events occur that cause . . .

Joy to fill our lives,

Evil to seemingly triumph,

Our efforts to succeed,

Sorrow to engulf us . . . ?

Too often in today’s age of secularism we fail to see God’s hand in both the rewards and the trials of our lives. Because He is invisible to us, we erroneously think that many events happen by coincidence; we don’t sense God’s active presence in the course of human affairs. With these blinders in place, we look at the world’s past, present, and future and speculate, “What if . . . ?”

But as R.C. Sproul convincingly writes in “The Invisible Hand,” “There is no ‘what if?’ in God.” He doesn’t roll dice! Nor does He have to wait to see which fork in the road we choose…. He knows the future precisely because He wills the future as He did the past. “He is a God whose providence is in the details”. . . . (Quote source: inside front flap.)

From my own experience over the past seven years, “What if . . . ?” has been a question I’ve asked on a number of occasions. While I believe in God’s providence in all things that happen on this earth, from a human perspective the question is still a haunting one. “What if . . . ?”  And we all tend to ask it especially when the hard times hit, and even more so when those hard times stick around for a very long period of time–far longer then we imagined with still no resolution to the situation. My version of the “What if . . . ?” question goes like this:

What if I had never taken that job and moved to Houston over seven years ago?

Well, most likely I would not have been unemployed all this time and now, for the past fifteen months, living in hotels to keep a roof over my head (a situation I have explained in a previous post). Regardless of how often any of us might revisit the “What if . . .?” question, the fact remains that “What if’s . . . ?” don’t actually exist. There is only “What is . . . .”

Dr. Sproul’s book goes into great detail on this very subject. There are twenty chapters in his 210-page book, and he tackles every question we could possible come up with regarding God’s providence in our lives and in our world. The good, the bad, and the ugly are all there–from “Providence as Provision” to “Train Wreck”; from “Everything Is Against Us?” to “To God Alone the Glory”; from “The Invisible Hand” to “The Visible Hand”; from “Providence and Government” to “Providence and the Problem of Evil”; from “Providence and Miracles” to “Counterfeit Miracles” and “Providence and Prayer.” And those are just a few of the chapter titles.

Regarding my own “What if . . .?” question stated above–when I first lost my job in Housotn in April 2009, I had every confidence that God would help me find a new job soon as I was my only means of financial support. My initial focus and all of the my time from the first day after I lost my job in Houston in April 2009 was devoted to one specific goal–to quickly find another job, and before I ran out of money, too. Seven years later I can look back and see now at how narrow my view of the world was back then.

From our human perspective, it is very hard to understand why God doesn’t move in our circumstances (especially the hard circumstances that come to all of us at one time or another) as quickly as we would like him to move, or that the way He sometimes provides for us isn’t the way we had planned. If you’ve been a regular reader of my blog, you know that my current housing situation is one I never expected to happen and has lasted for over 15 months now. If I thought finding another job was hard (and it never has materialized), finding affordable housing on a Social Security income is just about impossible to find without waiting on a waiting list for long period of times (and I’m still waiting). So what is one to do in the interim? And due to that fact, I have found myself living in hotels for the past 15 months as I have been unable to secure more permanent housing that I can afford through the various avenues available to me. At this point in time, I wish I could just twitch my nose like Samantha did in Bewitched (a TV sitcom from 1964 to 1972) and finally find an affordable and more permanent place to live.

This situation brings to mind the subject of spiritual warfare. Most of us live according to the physical world that surrounds us–what we can think, see, feel, touch, do, and get, etc. For those of us who consider ourselves to be Christian, too often we are unaware of the spiritual battles surrounding us because we don’t recognize them for what they are–battles. However, the Bible is very clear about this spiritual world and it’s reality and that we are living in the midst of it all of the time. And that world more real then even the physical world all around us. The classic passage on spiritual warfare was penned by the Apostle Paul to the Ephesian believers and is found in Ephesians 6:10-18. And it’s pretty clear that this battle is a serious undertaking:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

When one is feeling weary, it’s hard to pray about a situation that never seems to change. And it is in that weariness that a spiritual battle can rage on. Last night I started writing this blog post without realizing how frustrated I had let myself get over my current housing situation. An incident came up yesterday morning when I was paying for another week to stay at this hotel that made me realize how weary I am getting from having to live in hotels while not being able to secure more permanent and affordable housing (and living in hotels is far from cheap). I was told that starting with the new year the weekly rate price was increasing, and that I would need to start paying the increased rate starting in February. Since it is a business, I understood why they were increasing the rate, but I never wanted to be living in hotels in the first place. And it sent me back to thinking about how all of this got started in my life in the first place . . . back to when I lost that job in Houston in April 2009.

Before I go any further I want to mention something that impacted me when I read it the other day. I’ve been reading the book, Bonhoeffer Abridged: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy,” by Eric Metaxas, and in a chapter titled, “The Great Decision,” (Chapter 8), Bonhoeffer was really struggling with a decision he needed to make for several reasons during the rise of Hitler in Germany in the late 1930’s. The details surrounding his decision are too long to go into in this blog post, but through a series of events he was sent to America from his beloved Germany for a year by others who wanted him out of the heat of what was going on in Germany at that time (this was in 1939). However, as noted on page 127, “He had not been in New York twenty-four hours, but Bonhoeffer was already deeply out of sorts. His mind continued to churn about the situation back home [in Germany], wondering how long he should stay in America, and whether he ought to have come at all.”

Bonhoeffer stayed in New York only twenty-six days and returned to Berlin with a stop in England on the way back to see family and colleagues living there. Bonhoeffer kept a diary and right after he decided that he needed to return to Germany (he was determined to obey God and was sure he was doing so in deciding to return to Germany), he wrote the following in his diary on the evening of June 20, 1939 as he “ruminated about the decision, puzzled by the strange mystery of it all” (p. 130):

It is remarkable how I am never quite clear about the motives for any of my decisions. Is that a sign of confusion, of inner dishonesty, or is it a sign that we are guided without our knowing, or it is both? . . . Today the reading [from the Bible–specific verses not mentioned] speaks dreadfully harshly of God’s incorruptible judgment. He certainly sees how much personal feeling, how much anxiety there is in today’s decision, however brave it may seem. The reasons one gives for an action to others and to one’s self are certainly inadequate. One can give a reason for everything. In the last resort one acts from a level which remains hidden from us. So one can only ask God to judge us and to forgive us. . . . At the end of the day I can only ask God to give a merciful judgment on today and all its decisions. It is now in his hand. (Quote from Bonhoeffer Abridged: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy,” by Eric Metaxas, Chapter 8 “The Great Decision,” p. 130.)

And as “he set his face toward Berlin, somehow he was again at peace” (p. 130). He made a decision that he knew he had to make and he followed through on it, and as difficult as it was once he had followed through with it he knew he had made the right decision.

As I look at my own set of circumstances, the hotel situation is just the latest thing to happen to me that reverberates back to when I lost the job in Houston. For some time now I have felt the need to express what I believe was and is really going that has caused me to run into “closed doors” at every turn no matter how hard I have tried to find work and now affordable housing. However, I never knew how to express what I believed was and has been happening that has prevented me from moving forward. Often, we like to believe that we are in control of our circumstances, but that is not always the case–in fact, it rarely is the case.

I moved 1000 miles to Houston from Florida at the end of September 2008 to start that job that I lost a scant seven months later in April 2009. I met with a lawyer on May 1, 2009, to have her review a separation agreement I had received from the company on the day I was fired, but we did not discuss any of the issues that I knew (but had no solid proof to show her) were going on leading up to the day I was fired. I met with her as I was told by my former employer that it was not advisable to sign the separation agreement without having a lawyer review it. She reviewed it and we both signed off on it, and I turned it back in to my former employer. Three months later in July 2009 I found solid physical evidence linking what had happened to me when I worked there but I thought that since I had already signed the separation agreement, it was too late to do anything with what I had found. However, by November 2009 I decided to write a letter to the lawyer I met with on May 1, 2009, detailing in a four-page single spaced letter what happened to me during the time I worked there and including the solid physical evidence that I had found. I know she received that letter as I sent it by certified mail, return-receipt requested, and I received the signed receipt back in the mail. I did not hear back from her.

Due to circumstances that have occurred to me since mailing that letter to her, I have come to believe that there was a some type of lawsuit that was filed or a settlement that was reached through my lawyer at some point after she received my letter in November 2009 stating the clear, physical evidence I presented to her of what was being done to me at my former place of employment that was both unethical and illegal. For whatever reason on their part, I was not contacted by my lawyer, and I believe my former employer contacted some of my family members and they dealt with the lawyer, and it was mutually agreed upon to keep me out of it for reasons that will go unstated at this time. However, due to some conversations I had early on it was apparent that a family member was hoping to get power of attorney over me so that the money would be diverted away from me. However, it was not their lawsuit, and I am in no need of designating a “power of attorney” to handle any of my affairs, and the parties involved have been keeping me at a distance from knowing anything about the lawsuit/settlement ever since this started.

Thank you for publicly pointing out my typosSince it is now several years later and no resolution has been found on their part (at least the resolution they have been hoping for which takes me completely out of the picture), I believe the original settlement has accrued to a very large sum of money. And the fact that no one will contact me continues to delay any action regarding it because they don’t want me involved, yet there would be no lawsuit if it wasn’t for what happened to me in the first place. The details are more complex than I have stated here but those details allude to how I have ended up living in hotels as this saga continues.

It’s amazing to me what greed will do to people. It can separate the best of friends; it can separate family members; it kills love; and it is incredibly selfish and self-serving. And public perception has been skewed to not favor (or even hear) my side of the story. From what I have experienced these past several years, it is shocking to see what greed will do to people. And all I’m asking is for some resolution and to be included.

Is that too much to ask for?

I’m asking . . . .

YouTube Video: “Games People Play” sung by Hank Williams, Jr.:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here
Photo #3 credit here

Righting a Wrong for the New Year

With the start of a brand new year today, January 1, 2016, many people are busy making a list of New Year’s Resolutions in an attempt to, once again, turn over a new leaf or to right a wrong such as changing bad eating habits or starting an exercise program; or perhaps making an effort to restore ailing family relationships or friendships or whatever else might be ailing them. Gaby Hinsliff, a columnist at The Guardian and former political editor of the Observer, stated that her New Year’s resolution for 2016 is to stop being a lousy friend.” And I’m sure most of us can relate to that one.

While I stopped making New Year’s resolutions at least a decade or two ago, a brand new year always holds out hope for new beginnings as I’m sure it does for most everyone else, too. There’s something fresh and squeaky clean about a brand new year beginning again, and while it seems it doesn’t take much (or very long) to put a smudge on it, we hold out hope for a world tangled in chaos. Just review some of the top news stories of 2015 if you don’t believe it isn’t chaotic in our world today. ABCNews reported, The San Bernardino shooting [on December 2, 2015] marked at least the 57th mass shooting this year where three or more people were killed, according to an ABC News analysis.” (Quote source here.)

While we may shake our heads with each new tragedy that strikes with ever increasing frequency, most of us haven’t got a clue how to solve the problem of the escalating violence taking place all around us in our nation and around the world. Prayer is the most powerful weapon we have for those of us who believe in God, but I know that sometimes there are simply no words to adequately express what is going on all around us. When words escape me and I honestly don’t know how to pray about what is going on, I often pray the prayer Jesus taught his disciples to pray, also known as The Lord’s Prayer,” found in Matthew 6:9-13:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be Your name,
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts (e.g., our trespasses),
as we also have forgiven our debtors
(e.g., those who have trespassed against us).

And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power
and the glory forever. Amen.”

We tend to stumble a lot over forgiving those who have trespassed against us, and perhaps this is one of the biggest causes of the human tragedies that happen in our world that are not caused by nature. And the ability to hate others we often don’t even know has been endemic in our world since the beginning of time. It is, indeed, the age old battle between good and evil. But the lines of evil have clearly been blurred over the past several decades. We’ve replaced the true meaning of evil with meaning something seemingly innocuous and self serving. “If it feels good, do it” became the “emerging values of the 1960’s and 70’s” (quote source here) and perpetuated to the following generations. When we look out only for ourselves without regard for others (especially those we don’t know), everyone eventually loses. A society cannot sustain itself for long if everyone is mostly concerned about what they can personally get out of life. If we take what we want from others without any regard for them, we shouldn’t be surprised if someone eventually comes along and takes it from us.

page-under-constructionUPDATE: I’m in the process of revising this post from this point to the end. Since it was originally published earlier today, I don’t plan to delete the post but I decided after rereading it that what I had written from this point to the end needed a lot of “tweaking” (and that’s putting it mildly) so it was just easier to delete it for now. I was actually bemoaning my plight since I lost my job in Houston almost seven years ago (in April), and while what I wrote was cathartic for me to get it off my chest, I do so hate pity-parties and I was having a major one when I wrote it. Listening to music and/or reading a good book usually gets me out of it (fortunately, I very rarely have pity-parties) so I spent the rest of the day reading a John Grisham novel, The King of Torts (2003), which is about a young lawyer in Washington D.C. who gets caught up in a “get rich quick scheme” that actually works through mass tort litigation.” However, greed certainly has it’s down side and this young lawyer gets the full brunt of it before the story ends. At least he gets to keep the old girlfriend.

Trust me when I say that reading that book was a much better deal then reading through what I had written on here before I decided I didn’t need to go so public with my own personal pity-party. What was name of that Leslie Gore song back in the 1960’s? It’s My Party and I’ll Cry if I Want To (click link for YouTube Video). Okay, so I did. Enough already . . . 🙂

So I’ll leave “Righting a Wrong” to those who need to right it (but haven’t so far). What I wrote earlier (and deleted) was actually “Writing a Wrong,” and I’ve written about it in previous posts. Ya’ll know my story by now… 😉

In the meantime while I figure out how to fill up this space (or maybe just leave it as it is), please enjoy the Rascal Flatts song, “My Wish,” linked below.

And Happy New Year!!!

Thanks!

YouTube Video: “My Wish” by Rascal Flatts:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Christmas and the Christian Faith

Nativity-Merry-ChristmasI ran across the following article this morning on a Public Domain website titled, Recognizing the Importance of Christmas and the Christian Faith by Steven Arnold King (source here). It is actually a speech given by the Honorable Steve King of Iowa in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, December 11, 2007.

It’s significance cannot be underestimated. Here is the text of that speech (quote source here):

RECOGNIZING THE IMPORTANCE OF CHRISTMAS AND THE CHRISTIAN FAITH

SPEECH OF
HON. STEVE KING
OF IOWA
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Tuesday, December 11, 2007

manger cross kingMr. KING of Iowa: Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking the Ranking Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, the gentlewoman from Florida, Ms. Ros-Lehtinen, for her support and help in getting this important measure to the House floor for a vote.

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to address the House today to discuss the importance and relevance of Christmas, the Christian holiday celebrating the birth of our savior Jesus Christ.

As this resolution notes, there are approximately 225 million Christians in the United States, making Christianity the religion of over three-fourths of the American population. Beyond that, there are approximately 2 billion Christians throughout the world, making Christianity the largest religion in the world and the religion of about one-third of the world population.

And yet, Mr. Speaker, in recent decades there have been some who have undertaken efforts to diminish the significance of this great religion, and these efforts are no more apparent than during this time of Christmas.

It is not hard to look out over this great country of ours and find those who, for one reason or another, have engaged in a highly-politicized and highly-publicized crusade to rid the public square of any reference to the religious underpinnings of the Christmas holiday. These are individuals who have subscribed to a radical interpretation of our Constitution’s free exercise and establishment clauses and have sought to impose their secular views and beliefs on the nation as a whole.

In many respects, it is this ongoing effort to bring about the secularization of Christmas–and all of our everyday lives for that matter–that motivated me to bring this resolution before the House today.

Regardless of how others may define it, Mr. Speaker, Christmas is a religious holiday. It is the day on which Christians–those who identify themselves as believers in the salvation from sin offered to them through the death and resurrection of their savior, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and who, out of gratitude for the gift of salvation, commit themselves to living their lives in accordance with the teachings of the Holy Bible–celebrate the birth of their savior. For Christians, the birth of Jesus is cause for great celebration. As the Son of God, Jesus was sent to earth, by our Heavenly Father, to become a human being, live a sinless life, be crucified on a cross for our sins, and rise from the dead three days later. The purpose of this, as you well know, Mr. Speaker, was to save sinners from eternal death–the price to be paid for their sin.

And so, Mr. Speaker, the birth of Christ, as celebrated by Christians on Christmas is a truly important and significant day because it is celebrated as a recognition of God’s redemption, mercy and Grace.

The importance of Christmas, however, does not end with the tenets of Christianity. Because Christmas is one of the most important holidays on the Christian calendar, I believe that its annual passage should serve as an opportunity for all Americans, Christian or not, religious or not, to recognize the important role played by Christianity in the formation of our nation and in the founding of our civilization.

It is no coincidence, Mr. Speaker, that courthouses throughout this country proudly display the Ten Commandments. It is no accident that, in this very chamber, it is the face of Moses, the human author of those divinely dictated commandments, that looks down upon you, keeping close watch on all that transpires in this chamber. Mr. Speaker the framework of our laws and the fabric of our society is heavily dependent upon the maxims of Christianity, and I believe that as we Christians begin our annual celebration of the birth of our savior, the one from whom Christianity derives its name, it is wholly appropriate for us, as a nation and as members of this House, to take the time to acknowledge the contributions that the Christian religion has made to our country and our way of life.

Mr. Speaker, I think we all can agree that virtually any American, whether Christian, atheist, agnostic, or otherwise, when confronted with the fact that he has in some way wronged his neighbor, will rightly respond in one universal way–knock on his door, confess to him, repent, and ask for forgiveness. The neighbor would then forgive them as Christ has taught us. True and simple as this may seem, it is important to ask why we as Americans naturally react in such a way. The answer of course is that in this “conditioned behavior” we see very clearly the positive effect that Christianity has had on the development of our country and culture.

There are few places in the United States–if any–that you can visit where the laws “do not steal” and “do not murder” do not apply. Likewise, there are few households in this great country in which moral character is developed in young children without the invocation of the ninth and tenth amendments regarding lying and coveting that which belongs to others.

Mr. Speaker, we as Americans live in a moral society and in a country that is governed by moral laws. While many of these laws obviously cannot be found in any explicit sense within the pages of the Holy Bible, when we survey the content of that book–the document that outlines how it is the Christians are to live their lives here on earth–we do find much in the way of foundational principles that has come to guide not just the development of our laws, but also the foundation of our nation.

It was from the Bible and the example of Jesus that Pilgrims first established government on this continent, from which the Founders outlined the political thought that shaped our nation, and by which Congress first intended to educate our children. Furthermore, as the scholar David Barton and others have tirelessly pointed out, it was from the Bible that early American leaders derived concepts like private ownership, the free-enterprise system, an industrious work ethic, and workfare rather than welfare. As a result, the life and teachings of Jesus Christ have permeated every aspect of life in America. He has shaped our culture and transformed every great leader to rise from our population. As a testament to this, each of our American Presidents has acknowledged God’s hand on this Christian nation that is the United States. If there never had been a Jesus Christ, there would never have been an America.

In an address to the nation President Truman once said that, “In love, which is the very essence of the message of the Prince of Peace, the world would find a solution for all its ills. I do not believe there is one problem in this country or in the world today which could not be settled if approached through the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount. The poets’ dream, the lesson of priest and patriarch and the prophets’ vision of a new heaven and a new earth, all are summed up in the message delivered in the Judean hills beside the Sea of Galilee. Would that the world would accept that message in this time of its greatest need!”

Luke 2v13-14He went on to say that, “This is a solemn hour. In the stillness of the Eve of the Nativity when the hopes of mankind hang on the peace that was offered to the world nineteen centuries ago, it is but natural, while we survey our destiny, that we give thought also to our past–to some of the things which have gone into the making of our Nation.”

In 1940, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said of Christmas, “it is well for all humanity to remind itself that while this is in its name a Christian celebration, it is participated in reverently and happily by hundreds of millions of people who are members of other religions, or belong actively to no church at all. The reason is not far to seek. It is because the spirit of unselfish service personified by the life and the teachings of Christ makes appeal to the inner conscience and hope of every man and every woman in every part of the earth.”

President Eisenhower called the nation to reflect during his remarks at the lighting of the Nation’s Christmas Tree on December 15, 1957 when he said, “In a few days we shall all celebrate the birth of His Holiness on earth. We shall recreate in our minds, once more, the ancient coming of that Spirit who remains alive for millions in our time. We shall acknowledge the Kingdom of a Child in a world of men.”

He went on to say, “That Child–we should remember–grew into manhood Himself, preached and moved men in many walks of life, and died in agony. But His death–so the Christian faith tells us–was not the end. For Him, and for millions of men and women ever since, it marked a time of triumph–when the spirit of life triumphed over death. So–if this Christmas season in a time of war is to have real meaning to us, it must celebrate more than the birth of a Baby.”

During his Radio Address to the Nation on Christmas Eve, 1983 President Reagan pointed out that “It’s been said that all the kings who ever reigned, that all the parliaments that ever sat have not done as much to advance the cause of peace on Earth and good will to men as the man from Galilee, Jesus of Nazareth.” [YouTube Video of speech is available here. Length of video: 5:10]

As the words of these great men–these revered and honored presidents of the United States of America have clearly demonstrated, it is not a stretch to say that the precepts and principles of Jesus have so completely permeated the culture of this nation that even an American atheist would be hard pressed to separate his worldview from the impact of the first Christmas.

Though we are not all Christians, Mr. Speaker, we are all Americans. By virtue of that simple fact, I will again reiterate my belief that it is not only appropriate but, more importantly, is necessary during this special time of year to remember not only the birth of Jesus Christ, the savior of the world, but also to recognize the important impact that the Christian faith has had on the foundation and development of our society, our nation, and our civilization. (Quote source here.)

Joy to the world, the Lord is come. . .

Let Earth receive. . .

Her King. . .

YouTube Video: “Joy to the World” sung by Whitney Houston:

In case you’re interested, here’s the YouTube Video of President Reagan’s Radio Address to the Nation on Christmas Eve 1983 referenced in the speech above:

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Beyond the Manger

Beyond-the-MangerI would like to believe that most of us living in America know the real story behind Christmas. Unfortunately, I’m not so sure that is true anymore. Today, many kids are being raised to believe in Santa then they are ever (if ever) taught about Jesus. Of course, that speaks to the issue of what their parents believe, and possibly how they were raised, too. Other than a surface glance at a religious/formal version of Jesus who appears to be anything but human except as a sweet little baby in a manger, they might wonder what Jesus could possibly have to do with them and the way they live their own lives today. And it’s a sad state of affairs that we learn to believe mostly in ourselves and to keep Jesus at a distance if we acknowledge Him at all.

Unless we are shopping in a specifically Christian store, we rarely find anything beyond Santa and all of his enticing presents glistening in store windows and aisles in the malls of America. And it’s been this way for a very long time, too. So long, in fact, that the younger generations among us often have no idea who Jesus really is and they don’t pay much attention, either. Their technology can do more for them then they think any Jesus might be able to do for them. And the version of Jesus they may get (if they get any version of Him at all) is rather weak and placid, which is absolutely nothing like the real Jesus that previous generations laid down their very lives to serve.

Jim Elliot quoteIn fact, the Bible tells the story of many, many people who gave up own their lives to serve Him (the twelve disciples as well as the Apostle Paul are classic examples, see also the people listed in Hebrews 11), and there have been many more down through the ages, too. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German theologian and pastor during the time of Hitler’s reign, comes to mind from the 20th Century (he lost his life at the age of 39 in 1945 right before the end of World War II). And it was Jim Elliot, missionary to the Auca Indians in Ecuador, who was murdered by them in 1956 at the age of 29. It was Jim Elliot who said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose” (quote source here). His wife, Elizabeth Elliot, later spent two years as a missionary (along with her infant daughter) to the tribe members who killed her husband, returning to the United States after many years in South America. She died recently on June 15, 2015 at the age of 88.

If we don’t believe there is actual power and forgiveness in the name of Jesus, we will never understand what He is all about and why He came in the first place. There is more power in the name of Jesus then in all the technological wonders available in our world today. But do we really believe that? We often only believe in what we can actually see and experience (or manipulate) until something comes along that rocks us to our very core and we have nowhere else to run.

But back to the topic at hand . . . Christmas. Another Christmas is rolling around, and commercialism reigns supreme once again during this season. However, there is One who transcends it all, and this is the story of His birth and early childhood (from Luke 2):

The Birth of Jesus

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

The Shepherds and the Angels

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest,
    and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Jesus Presented in the Temple

On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived.

When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”

Simeon's Moment by Ron DiCianni 2011 - www.tapestryproductions.com

“Simeon’s Moment” by Ron DiCianni

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all people,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.”

The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.

The Boy Jesus at the Temple

Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom. After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”

“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he was saying to them.

Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

Jesus Christ has always existed, even before this earth was created, and this is clearly stated in John 1:1-5, 14:

In the beginning was the Word [Jesus Christ], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. . . .

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Jesus-in-the-Old-TestamentIn an article titled, The Portrait of Christ,” by Adrian Rogers (1931-2005), Dr. Rogers clearly shows how Jesus Christ is pictured in the Old Testament and how He is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophesy:

[Jesus stated] “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” (Matthew 5:17-18)

We now have available, instantaneously, the wisdom of the ages. Or do we? We have the ability to read or hear or view the opinion or beliefs of anyone who thinks they are an intellect.

Now intellect is a wonderful thing.

• You can understand biology, but if you don’t know the Giver of life, you’re still uneducated.
• You can comprehend geology, but if you don’t know the Rock of Ages, you don’t really know anything of importance.
• You can know all about botany, but if you haven’t met the Lily of the Valley, your knowledge is useless.

You can know all the facts of history, but if you reject the central figure of history, your time has been wasted.

• The wise man who doesn’t know God is ignorant.
• The strong man who doesn’t know God is weak.
• The rich man who doesn’t know God is poor.

Only the Lord can fulfill all our needs and answer all our questions. Jesus came to fulfill all things.

The Lord said He had come to fulfill the prophets. The historical figure of Christ is the secret to understanding the Bible. Everywhere you look in Scripture, you see the writer pointing toward Christ.

In Luke 24:27, after His resurrection, Jesus appeared to two forlorn followers and began teaching them the secret to Scripture. “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” The Old Testament points toward Jesus Christ. Every story and every event leads directly to the Savior.

In John 5:39, the Lord Jesus told His followers to “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of Me.” Of course, the New Testament had not yet been written, so Jesus is telling His disciples to explore the Old Testament writings, because they all point toward Him.

As you read through God’s Word, see how it points you to Jesus.

• Christ is the Seed of woman and in Genesis 3:15 we are told He will one day crush Satan.
• In Exodus we find the story of the Passover Lamb, and Christ is the sacrificial Lamb given for us.
• In Leviticus we read of the high priests making sacrifices for the people, and Christ has become our High Priest, making the perfect sacrifice to atone for our sins.
• In Deuteronomy Moses prophesied of a prophet who would come that would be greater than Himself. Jesus is that Great Prophet.
• In the book of Joshua, Joshua met the Captain of the Lord’s host. That man is Jesus Christ.
• In Judges, the leaders were judges who delivered God’s people, each of them typifying the Lord Jesus.
• Boaz, the kinsman who redeemed Ruth‘s inheritance, is a picture of Christ.
• David, the anointed one, pictures Jesus and Jesus is described as being the Son of David.
• In 2 Samuel when the king is being enthroned, the entire scene is descriptive of the Lord Jesus.
• The books of Kings speak of the glory of God filling the temple and the Chronicles describe the glorious coming king, both referring to Jesus, the King of Kings.
Ezra depicts Jesus as the Lord of our fathers.
Esther offers a picture of Christ interceding for His people.
Job says clearly that the Redeemer is coming!

• Christ appears time after time in the Psalms, including when David describes Him as “the Shepherd.”
Isaiah details His glorious birth.
Jeremiah reveals that He will be acquainted with sorrows.
Joel describes Him as the Hope of His people.
Amos tells us that Jesus is the judge of all nations.
Obadiah warns of the coming eternal kingdom.
Jonah offers a picture of Jesus being dead for three days, then coming back to life to preach repentance.
Zephaniah says that He will be the king over Israel.
Zachariah is the prophet who speaks of Jesus riding on a colt.
Malachi is the one who calls Him the Son of Righteousness.

Can you see it? The entire Old Testament points toward Jesus as Savior, and if you miss that, you’ve missed the entire point of the Scriptures. Jesus is the Messiah and the fulfillment of prophecy.

four-gospelsThe New Testament opens up with the birth of Jesus Christ in the four Gospel accounts that also include details of his life, ministry, miracles, death, and resurrection. GotQuestions.org gives us the reason why there are four specific Gospel accounts:

While the entire Bible is inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16), He used human authors with different backgrounds and personalities to accomplish His purposes through their writing. Each of the gospel authors had a distinct purpose behind his gospel and in carrying out those purposes, each emphasized different aspects of the person and ministry of Jesus Christ.

Matthew was writing to a Hebrew audience, and one of his purposes was to show from Jesus’ genealogy and fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies that He was the long-expected Messiah, and thus should be believed in. Matthew’s emphasis is that Jesus is the promised King, the “Son of David,” who would forever sit upon the throne of Israel (Matthew 9:27; 21:9).

Mark, a cousin of Barnabas (Colossians 4:10), was an eyewitness to the events in the life of Christ as well as being a friend of the apostle Peter. Mark wrote for a Gentile audience, as is brought out by his not including things important to Jewish readers (genealogies, Christ’s controversies with Jewish leaders of His day, frequent references to the Old Testament, etc.). Mark emphasizes Christ as the suffering Servant, the One who came not to be served, but to serve and give His life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).

Luke, the “beloved physician” (Colossians 4:14 KJV), evangelist, and companion of the apostle Paul, wrote both the gospel of Luke and the Acts of the apostles. Luke is the only Gentile author of the New Testament. He has long been accepted as a diligent master historian by those who have used his writings in genealogical and historical studies. As a historian, he states that it is his intent to write down an orderly account of the life of Christ based on the reports of those who were eyewitnesses (Luke 1:1-4). Because he specifically wrote for the benefit of Theophilus, apparently a Gentile of some stature, his gospel was composed with a Gentile audience in mind, and his intent is to show that a Christian’s faith is based upon historically reliable and verifiable events. Luke often refers to Christ as the “Son of Man,” emphasizing His humanity, and he shares many details that are not found in the other gospel accounts.

The gospel of John, written by John the apostle, is distinct from the other three Gospels and contains much theological content in regard to the person of Christ and the meaning of faith. Matthew, Mark, and Luke are referred to as the “Synoptic Gospels” because of their similar styles and content and because they give a synopsis of the life of Christ. The gospel of John begins not with Jesus’ birth or earthly ministry but with the activity and characteristics of the Son of God before He became man (John 1:14). The gospel of John emphasizes the deity of Christ, as is seen in his use of such phrases as “the Word was God” (John 1:1), “the Savior of the World” (John 4:42), the “Son of God” (used repeatedly), and “Lord and…God” (John 20:28). In John’s gospel, Jesus also affirms His deity with several “I Am” statements; most notable among them is John 8:58, in which He states that “…before Abraham was, I Am” (compare to Exodus 3:13-14). But John also emphasizes the fact of Jesus’ humanity, desiring to show the error of a religious sect of his day, the Gnostics, who did not believe in Christ’s humanity. John’s gospel spells out his overall purpose for writing: “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31).

Thus, in having four distinct and yet equally accurate accounts of Christ, different aspects of His person and ministry are revealed. Each account becomes like a different-colored thread in a tapestry woven together to form a more complete picture of this One who is beyond description. And while we will never fully understand everything about Jesus Christ (John 20:30), through the four Gospels we can know enough of Him to appreciate who He is and what He has done for us so that we may have life through faith in Him. (Quote source and entire article at this link.)

And in the last book of the Bible, the Revelation of Jesus Christ, Jesus is presented as the “Alpha and Omega, First and the Last” (Rev. 1: 8-13), “Son of Man” (Rev. 1:13), “Son of God” (Rev. 2:18), “Faithful and True Witness” (Rev 3:14), “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” (Rev. 17:14), “the Beginning and the End” (Rev. 22:13), and “the Bright and Morning Star” (Rev. 22:16). And He will soon rule the nations (Rev. 22:16-21; also see this link at GotQuestions.org).

Jesus Christ is far more that a sweet little baby sleeping in a manger . . . .

He’s Alpha and Omega . . .

He’s the Beginning and the End . . . .

He is the great “I AM” . . . .

The blind will see.
The deaf will hear.
The dead will live again.
The lame will leap.
The dumb will speak
The praises of The Lamb.
(from “Mary Did You Know”)

YouTube Video: “Mary Did You Know?” sung by Kenny Rogers and Wynonna Judd:

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 here 
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