Monday, December 4, 2017

Should We Celebrate Christmas? I say yes.

I wrote this some years ago. My sister (Cheri) was gravely ill. They amputated her leg a few days before Christmas and the doctors at Mayo Hospital were fighting a raging infection in her hip that would eventually require a hip replacement. I thought to myself how can we possibly celebrate Christmas with her lying in that hospital bed? How can we find any cheer in this season with so much misery in our lives at that moment? Then I remembered the story of the soldiers during World War I and how for a few hours on that cold starry Christmas Eve in 1914, they stopped killing each other and met in the no man's land between the front lines and there they celebrated Christmas together. Only their common faith in Christ and their common longing for home could suspend the hatred and violence of that war, if only temporarily. It made me realize and remember that Christ came into such a horribly damaged world, a world...a creation that had once been perfect was now decaying and filled with so much evil and so much ugliness and despair. That's why He came. It wasn't all that jolly in Bethlehem, certainly not for Mary and Joseph. Christmas is about healing and restoring and saving after all. What better time to remember the coming of the Christ child than when we are suffering? Christ is the cure for our suffering, for all suffering. So Merry Christmas! Worship Him and rejoice, even through pain and tears. Don't be afraid! Rejoice in His salvation! He will heal you. He has promised that He will.
 
 
 
THEY CAN’T STOP CHRISTMAS FROM COMING
 

 

There seems to be a lot of worry lately about Christmas being under attack. Newspapers are full of stories this time of year…Nativity Scenes being ordered removed from town squares, children not being allowed to sing Christmas carols in school programs. Why should this surprise us or worry us?

Even from within the Christian community there is disagreement and controversy about whether or not to keep Christmas. In fact keeping Christmas has always been controversial, ever since the Roman emperor Constantine replaced the pagan winter festivals with holy days commemorating the birth of Christ, around 320 AD. Because of this, many sects or groups within Christendom have, over the centuries, objected to celebrating Christmas, and many still do today. The Puritans certainly tried to keep Christmas from coming. They banned the observance of Christmas outright in the colony of Massachusetts, from 1659 until 1681:

“For preventing disorders, arising in several places within this jurisdiction by reason of some still observing such festivals as were superstitiously kept in other communities, to the great dishonor of God and offense of others: it is therefore ordered by this court and the authority thereof that whosoever shall be found observing any such day as Christmas or the like, either by forbearing of labor, feasting, or any other way, upon any such account as aforesaid, every such person so offending shall pay for every such offence five shilling as a fine to the county.”

From the records of the general Court,

Massachusetts Bay Colony

May 11, 1659

Certainly, an argument can and should be made, that excessive revelry and merriment should be avoided at any time of the year, as well as at Christmastime. We should honor Christ by keeping his commandments always. Statistics plainly tell us that all of the crimes of human weakness and all the measurements of human misery increase during the season of Christmas, because we live in a world that is in rebellion against God. People feel the pinch of sin in their lives at Christmas, if they have not reconciled their lives to God through Christian obedience. The Christ child reminds them how far away from home they are, how far removed from God they are.

Christians should share the Puritan’s concern regarding human avarice, vice and wickedness. We should be careful how we keep Christmas. We should not allow ourselves to be dazzled or distracted by worldly splendors, so that we forget the lowly estate of the baby born in a stable, and we should never forget the poor and the poor of spirit who are always with us.

As to the concerns that all of the symbols of Christmas are pagan, I would say this:

The lifeless gods of paganism never held any power. They were hollow manifestations of false gods, created by Satan, to deceive and mock mankind. If a decorated evergreen tree was a pagan symbol for fertility and regeneration, so what? Did not my God create the evergreen tree? Does this history so corrupt the evergreen that I am now forbidden to decorate a Christmas tree? Did he not also create the holly and mistletoe? If the Germanic people of northern Europe, and the druid Celts of the British Isles utilized these as symbols in their animism and nature worship, may I not assign new meaning to these as symbols of the passion of Christ and life everlasting through him? Did not the apostle Paul tell us that all things are now clean, regardless of their former affiliation with idols (Romans 14:14)? God declared to Peter, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy" (Acts 11:9-NASB). We should be careful about making declarations that disagree with God’s declarations.

Some have objected to the celebration of Christmas, because we are not directed to observe it by Jesus himself, or by any gospel writer. It is true that we are not commanded to observe or remember the coming of Christ, as we are his death, burial, and resurrection, through the Lords Supper (Luke 22:19). Does this mean that we are not permitted to rejoice at the coming of the Christ Child? Would God deny us celebration for the coming of light into this dark world? If so, why did he deliver to us his Word, with multiple accounts of Christ’s birth that fill our hearts with joy and rapture? Centuries before Christ came into this world, the prophets proclaimed his coming. The world had been waiting a long time.  Surely we should rejoice at his coming.

Does it matter to God on what date we celebrate the birthday of his son? I think it would please him if we celebrated his coming every day. Whether we celebrate in the winter or spring, summer or fall, every season is God’s season. Every day in our lives should be Gods’ day. What better time to celebrate the coming of Christ, than in the dark days of the dead, cold, silent winter? What better time to remember the words of the prophet Isaiah?

“The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light. They that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them have the light shined.” 

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”

Isaiah 9:2, 9:6

Don’t worry about Christmas coming. If Satan couldn’t stop it from coming, then the world can’t stop it either. No politician or Grinch can keep it from coming. No school board, or city council, or cranky neighbor, or miserable, wretched creature can keep it from coming. Nor can sickness, or financial ruin, or catastrophe, or decree.

Christmas will come because He came. Christmas will come because God loved us enough to send his only son into this world as a little baby. Christmas will come because Christ chose to empty himself of all of his heavenly glory, and abide with us. He chose to walk among us so that we could know him, so that we could know that he understands what it means to suffer, and work, and live in this world. He came here so that he could save us, by paying our debt, a debt that could be paid only by him, a gift to the world from that little baby, born in Bethlehem. He came here to lead us home, to the light of the home fire and hearth of that heavenly place that awaits us at the end of our long cold journey, through the winter of life. That is why we should remember his coming. That is why we should keep Christmas.

Christmas will come again this year, despite wars - pray for peace, despite famine - pray for plenty, despite sickness – pray for healing, despite hatred – pray for forgiveness, despite our woes and fears - pray for his strength, and wait. It will come, because He has come!

 

 

                                                                                                M.J. Smith

                                                                                                12/21/04

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Remember Me - A Devotion



“Remember me”, Jesus’ command to his disciples before he went to the cross, His command to us! Remember me.
Remember my power when I calmed the seas, when I healed the crippled, when I raised the dead.
Remember me when you see the majesty of my sunrise and my creation.
Remember me when you walk thru this world that I made for you.
Remember me when you are afraid, when you are heartbroken, when you are in pain.
Remember me in your joy and in your laughter and in your abundance.
Remember me… and my Spirit will stir within you and I will fill you with my power and with my peace.

Remember my love…as I prayed over you and wept over you and taught you…to love.
Remember my cross and my suffering and my sacrifice, my abandonment by Father God, my taking of shame and sin, of your sin.
As we remember Jesus today, let’s take up Paul’s blessing and prayer to the Philippians, and let’s apply it to Jesus.
“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you”. I thank my God every time I remember you Jesus.
Let’s remember Him now. Let’s thank Him now.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Resurrection


1 Corinthians 15:14
“…If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless, and so is your faith.”
The Resurrection - the single most important event in human history, without a doubt the most incredible event in human history.
Consider the evidence, the historical evidence and the evidence of logic that support it.
Because if it doesn’t hold up under careful scrutiny, if the evidence doesn’t support it, then our faith is useless. Our hope is buried with him. Our salvation is lost. Kinda important stuff, wouldn’t you agree?
Jesus was born of a virgin. He came from heaven. He laid aside his glory and took upon himself the form of flesh.
I know that sounds incredible. It is incredible! But it really happened. The Word of God records it.
 Being God, he became a man and walked among us. He taught and he healed and he calmed the seas and he raised the dead.
He did things that no mere man could have done, because He was the Messiah. He is the Messiah. The Chosen One, the Son of God.
 He was rejected by his own people, and was flogged and spit upon, and stretched out on a cross and crucified. For us. For you. For me.
He died for us.
He took our sins upon himself and he bore the penalty for them. He paid a ransom for us.
And they laid him in a borrowed tomb. He didn’t need it for very long. Only three days.
He was dead. The Romans knew how to kill people.
They were experts at it. They were professionals.
The military unit who took him out there to that place and nailed him to that cross had executed many such condemned men.
 They didn’t make mistakes. He wasn’t mostly dead… He was ALL dead! He was completely dead.
On the third day, on Sunday, the women came to the tomb. It was empty. He wasn’t there.
He rose from the grave. He really did! He is alive!
Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, our Lord and Savior. He lives.
He showed himself to his disciples. He showed them his wounds. He counseled and comforted them. He ate with them. Once He appeared to over 500 people at once.
Finally, after forty days, he took his disciples out to the Mount of Olives and he told them what they needed to do.
Make disciples, baptize them, teach them what I have taught you, to believe, to love, to be disciples who make disciples. He promised that he would be with them and with us always.
And then he ascended back to heaven, where he sits at the right hand of God, until he returns again one day.
 These events occurred. It really happened. It has been studied and analyzed and attacked and deconstructed and still it stands as the most significant event in history. It cannot be explained away. I invite you to examine the historical evidence.
To deny the Resurrection of Christ is like trying to deny an atomic explosion.
 The impact of the resurrection of Christ is just as evident in history, as are the rippling impact waves, and the fiery cloud that rises from the center of a nuclear explosion.
 There is no other way to explain the sudden, immediate, and continued rising of Christian faith in history, the ripples of transformed lives, the shock waves that emanated outward from Calvary, overthrowing kingdoms and liberating the lost, the least and the last of every race and culture, ever since… not with force, not with the sword, but with love. The love of Christ, what an amazing gift.
Jesus who did this amazing thing for us.
There’s no way to explain the explosion of Christianity without the Resurrection.
Consider this. Consider this one fact:
 All of his disciples, all of the men who became apostles for Christ… they all died proclaiming the gospel facts… that Jesus was the Son of God and that he was crucified, and rose from the grave and ascended into heaven, before their very eyes.
 All of his disciples, except John, were murdered for their belief in Christ.
 James, the son of Zebedee was beheaded in Jerusalem in 44 AD, the first of the disciples to be martyred.
Andrew was crucified on an X shaped cross.
Phillip was crucified in AD 54.
Matthew was killed by an axe in 60 AD.
Peter was crucified upside down outside of Rome in 64 AD.
Bartholomew was skinned alive and then beheaded near the Caspian Sea.
Thomas was killed by spear in Madras, India in 72 AD.
James, son of Alphaeus was stoned, and then clubbed to death at age 90.
Jude was crucified.
Simon the zealot was crucified in AD 74.
Matthias, the replacement of Judas Iscariot, was stoned and beheaded.
 Now I want you to think about something.
Men will lie about a lot of things. They will lie for many reasons.
 And men will die for a few things. But men don’t die for lies.
 At the end, they tell the truth. They only die for what they believe to be true.
Every one of the twelve apostles died professing the facts of Jesus… that they had seen, and that they had lived.
Their lives were given for this truth. Their lives were spent preaching this truth. Because it is true!
The word, Martyr comes from the Greek word Martys, which means witness.
They died because they were witnesses of the events of Jesus’ life and death and resurrection!
He made us and he bought us. We belong to him, whether we like it or not. We belong to him.
But he has left us the decision, whether to accept his gift of life, whether or not to accept his Lordship.
 The bible says that one day, “every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord”, but for some who bow on that day, it will be too late to claim the inheritance.
So we have to decide what we’re going to do about this truth.
We are responsible before God, now that we know these things.
 Believers or those who don’t.
Claimers of our inheritance or those who reject it.
We have to choose which side of that fence we are going to stand on.
 That’s why we are here, and that’s what this whole deal is about.

He is Risen…you’re move.

MJS

 

Monday, April 10, 2017

A Physician Analyzes the Crucifixion

Dr. Truman Davis was one of our family physicians when I was growing up and he was also a friend of my father's. I heard him present this information in sermons twice, the first time at Central Christian Church in Mesa when I was a little boy, the second at Camelback Christian Church some years later.

 It isn't pleasant to read about human suffering, but I think that it is important that we hear about the crucifixion of Christ from a clinical viewpoint. It is important for at least two reasons; first, so that we will truly understand the amount of pain and suffering that Christ endured for us on the cross; second, we can see the science behind the descriptions of Jesus' crucifixion, when a physician interprets the information presented in the gospel accounts and correlates it with actual medical conditions.


A Physician Analyzes the Crucifixion

From New Wine Magazine, April 1982.
Originally published in Arizona Medicine, March 1965,
Arizona Medical Association.

A medical explanation of what Jesus endured on the day He died
by Dr. C. Truman Davis
Dr. C. Truman Davis is a graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Medicine. He is a practicing ophthalmologist, a pastor, and author of a book about medicine and the Bible.

Several years ago I became interested in the physical aspects of the passion, or suffering, of Jesus Christ when I read an account of the crucifixion in Jim Bishop's book, The Day Christ Died. I suddenly realized that I had taken the crucifixion more or less for granted all these years - that I had grown callous to its horror by a too-easy familiarity with the grim details. It finally occurred to me that, as a physician, I did not even know the actual immediate cause of Christ's death. The gospel writers do not help much on this point. Since crucifixion and scourging were so common during their lifetimes, they undoubtedly considered a detailed description superfluous. For that reason we have only the concise words of the evangelists: "Pilate, having scourged Jesus, delivered Him to them to be crucified ... and they crucified Him."

Despite the gospel accounts' silence on the details of Christ's crucifixion, many have looked into this subject in the past. In my personal study of the event from a medical viewpoint, I am indebted especially to Dr. Pierre Barbet, a French surgeon who did exhaustive historical and experimental research and wrote extensively on the topic.

An attempt to examine the infinite psychic and spiritual suffering of the Incarnate God in atonement for the sins of fallen man is beyond the scope of this article. However, the physiological and anatomical aspects of our Lord's passion we can examine in some detail. What did the body of Jesus of Nazareth actually endure during those hours of torture?

Gethsemane

The physical passion of Christ began in Gethsemane. Of the many aspects of His initial suffering, the one which is of particular physiological interest is the bloody sweat. Interestingly enough, the physician, St. Luke, is the only evangelist to mention this occurrence. He says, "And being in an agony, he prayed the longer. And his sweat became as drops of blood, trickling down upon the ground" (Luke 22:44 KJV).

Every attempt imaginable has been used by modern scholars to explain away the phenomenon of bloody sweat, apparently under the mistaken impression that it simply does not occur. A great deal of effort could be saved by consulting the medical literature. Though very rare, the phenomenon of hematidrosis, or bloody sweat, is well documented. Under great emotional stress, tiny capillaries in the sweat glands can break, thus mixing blood with sweat. This process alone could have produced marked weakness and possible shock.

Although Jesus' betrayal and arrest are important portions of the passion story, the next event in the account which is significant from a medical perspective is His trial before the Sanhedrin and Caiaphas, the High Priest. Here the first physical trauma was inflicted. A soldier struck Jesus across the face for remaining silent when questioned by Caiaphas. The palace guards then blindfolded Him, mockingly taunted Him to identify them as each passed by, spat on Him, and struck Him in the face.

Before Pilate

In the early morning, battered and bruised, dehydrated, and worn out from a sleepless night, Jesus was taken across Jerusalem to the Praetorium of the Fortress Antonia, the seat of government of the Procurator of Judea, Pontius Pilate. We are familiar with Pilate's action in attempting to shift responsibility to Herod Antipas, the Tetrarch of Judea. Jesus apparently suffered no physical mistreatment at the hands of Herod and was returned to Pilate. It was then, in response to the outcry of the mob, that Pilate ordered Barabbas released and condemned Jesus to scourging and crucifixion.

Preparations for Jesus' scourging were carried out at Caesar's orders. The prisoner was stripped of His clothing and His hands tied to a post above His head. The Roman legionnaire stepped forward with the flagrum, or flagellum, in his hand. This was a short whip consisting of several heavy, leather thongs with two small balls of lead attached near the ends of each. The heavy whip was brought down with full force again and again across Jesus' shoulders, back, and legs. At first the weighted thongs cut through the skin only. Then, as the blows continued, they cut deeper into the subcutaneous tissues, producing first an oozing of blood from the capillaries and veins of the skin and finally spurting arterial bleeding from vessels in the underlying muscles.

The small balls of lead first produced large deep bruises that were broken open by subsequent blows. Finally, the skin of the back was hanging in long ribbons, and the entire area was an unrecognizable mass of torn, bleeding tissue. When it was determined by the centurion in charge that the prisoner was near death, the beating was finally stopped.

Mockery

The half-fainting Jesus was then untied and allowed to slump to the stone pavement, wet with his own blood. The Roman soldiers saw a great joke in this provincial Jew claiming to be a king. They threw a robe across His shoulders and placed a stick in His hand for a scepter. They still needed a crown to make their travesty complete. Small flexible branches covered with long thorns, commonly used for kindling fires in the charcoal braziers in the courtyard, were plaited into the shape of a crude crown. The crown was pressed into his scalp and again there was copious bleeding as the thorns pierced the very vascular tissue. After mocking Him and striking Him across the face, the soldiers took the stick from His hand and struck Him across the head, driving the thorns deeper into His scalp. Finally, they tired of their sadistic sport and tore the robe from His back. The robe had already become adherent to the clots of blood and serum in the wounds, and its removal, just as in the careless removal of a surgical bandage, caused excruciating pain. The wounds again began to bleed.

Golgotha

In deference to Jewish custom, the Romans apparently returned His garments. The heavy patibulum of the cross was tied across His shoulders. The procession of the condemned Christ, two thieves, and the execution detail of Roman soldiers headed by a centurion began its slow journey along the route which we know today as the Via Dolorosa.

In spite of Jesus' efforts to walk erect, the weight of the heavy wooden beam, together with the shock produced by copious loss of blood, was too much. He stumbled and fell. The rough wood of the beam gouged into the lacerated skin and muscles of the shoulders. He tried to rise, but human muscles had been pushed beyond their endurance. The centurion, anxious to proceed with the crucifixion, selected a stalwart North African onlooker, Simon of Cyrene, to carry the cross. Jesus followed, still bleeding and sweating the cold, clammy sweat of shock. The 650-yard journey from the Fortress Antonia to Golgotha was finally completed. The prisoner was again stripped of His clothing except for a loincloth which was allowed the Jews.

The crucifixion began. Jesus was offered wine mixed with myrrh, a mild analgesic, pain-reliving mixture. He refused the drink. Simon was ordered to place the patibulum on the ground, and Jesus was quickly thrown backward, with His shoulders against the wood. The legionnaire felt for the depression at the front of the wrist. He drove a heavy, square wrought-iron nail through the wrist and deep into the wood. Quickly, he moved to the other side and repeated the action, being careful not to pull the arms too tightly, but to allow some flexion and movement. The patibulum was then lifted into place at the top of the stipes, and the titulus reading "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews" was nailed into place.

The left foot was pressed backward against the right foot. With both feet extended, toes down, a nail was driven through the arch of each, leaving the knees moderately flexed. The victim was now crucified.

On the Cross

As Jesus slowly sagged down with more weight on the nails in the wrists, excruciating, fiery pain shot along the fingers and up the arms to explode in the brain. The nails in the wrists were putting pressure on the median nerve, large nerve trunks which traverse the mid-wrist and hand. As He pushed himself upward to avoid this stretching torment, He placed His full weight on the nail through His feet. Again there was searing agony as the nail tore through the nerves between the metatarsal bones of this feet.

At this point, another phenomenon occurred. As the arms fatigued, great waves of cramps swept over the muscles, knotting them in deep relentless, throbbing pain. With these cramps came the inability to push Himself upward. Hanging by the arm, the pectoral muscles, the large muscles of the chest, were paralyzed and the intercostal muscles, the small muscles between the ribs, were unable to act. Air could be drawn into the lungs, but could not be exhaled. Jesus fought to raise Himself in order to get even one short breath. Finally, the carbon dioxide level increased in the lungs and in the blood stream, and the cramps partially subsided.

The Last Words

Spasmodically, He was able to push Himself upward to exhale and bring in life-giving oxygen. It was undoubtedly during these periods that He uttered the seven short sentences that are recorded.

The first - looking down at the Roman soldiers throwing dice for His seamless garment: "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do."

The second - to the penitent thief: "Today, thou shalt be with me in Paradise."

The third - looking down at Mary His mother, He said: "Woman, behold your son." Then turning to the terrified, grief-stricken adolescent John, the beloved apostle, He said: "Behold your mother."

The fourth cry is from the beginning of Psalm 22: "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?"

He suffered hours of limitless pain, cycles of twisting, joint-rending cramps, intermittent partial asphyxiation, and searing pain as tissue was torn from His lacerated back from His movement up and down against the rough timbers of the cross. Then another agony began: a deep crushing pain in the chest as the pericardium, the sac surrounding the heart, slowly filled with serum and began to compress the heart.

The prophecy in Psalm 22:14 was being fulfilled: "I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint, my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels."

The end was rapidly approaching. The loss of tissue fluids had reached a critical level; the compressed heart was struggling to pump heavy, thick, sluggish blood to the tissues, and the tortured lungs were making a frantic effort to inhale small gulps of air. The markedly dehydrated tissues sent their flood of stimuli to the brain. Jesus gasped His fifth cry: "I thirst." Again we read in the prophetic psalm: "My strength is dried up like a potsherd; my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou has brought me into the dust of death" (Psalm 22:15 KJV).

A sponge soaked in posca, the cheap, sour wine that was the staple drink of the Roman legionnaires, was lifted to Jesus' lips. His body was now in extremis, and He could feel the chill of death creeping through His tissues. This realization brought forth His sixth word, possibly little more than a tortured whisper: "It is finished." His mission of atonement had been completed. Finally, He could allow His body to die. With one last surge of strength, He once again pressed His torn feet against the nail, straightened His legs, took a deeper breath, and uttered His seventh and last cry: "Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit."

Death

The common method of ending a crucifixion was by crurifracture, the breaking of the bones of the leg. This prevented the victim from pushing himself upward; the tension could not be relieved from the muscles of the chest, and rapid suffocation occurred. The legs of the two thieves were broken, but when the soldiers approached Jesus, they saw that this was unnecessary.

Apparently, to make doubly sure of death, the legionnaire drove his lance between the ribs, upward through the pericardium and into the heart. John 19:34 states, "And immediately there came out blood and water." Thus there was an escape of watery fluid from the sac surrounding the heart and the blood of the interior of the heart. This is rather conclusive post-mortem evidence that Jesus died, not the usual crucifixion death by suffocation, but of heart failure due to shock and constriction of the heart by fluid in the pericardium.

Resurrection

In these events, we have seen a glimpse of the epitome of evil that man can exhibit toward his fellowman and toward God. This is an ugly sight and is likely to leave us despondent and depressed.

But the crucifixion was not the end of the story. How grateful we can be that we have a sequel: a glimpse of the infinite mercy of God toward man--the gift of atonement, the miracle of the resurrection, and the expectation of Easter morning.

 

 

 

Monday, May 30, 2016

On Memorial Day

On this Memorial Day, for those who have laid a costly sacrifice at the altar of freedom.

 
A Price So Dear
 
Where are you going, little boy fair?
With dancing eyes and flaxen hair.
You've games to play, and rhymes to say,
With never a worry, or shadow, or care.
 
The brook and meadow calls to you.
Birds are singing, wild voices ringing,
As pirate ships collide,
Or kings with knights in armor stem the tide.
You've games to play and rhymes to say,
With never a worry or care.
 
But always at days end, to home,
And empty pockets of treasures borne,
To sleep the rest of youthful bliss.
We mark these days, and passing, mourn.
 
O' where are you going soldier blue?
The fife and drum are calling you.
You've left your boyhood games behind.
No more playing, no more rhymes.
It's war you'll see, and death, and blood.
A sergeant's call, "to the line!"
No glory there, only carnage and mud.
 
Now where do they carry my boy so frail?
With hollow face, so still, so pale.
A flag is draped upon his bier.
A bugle calls for all to hear.
A life is taken.
A son is taken.
A price so dear.
 
A stillness lies,
An empty chair,
Silence now upon the stair.
Silent now, the brook and meadow,
Setting sun, and growing shadow,
A vision clear,
In my minds eye and ear,
His face, his voice, his mirth,
Memories dear.
 
Where are you going, little boy fair?
With dancing eyes and flaxen hair.
You've games to play, and rhymes to say,
With never a worry, or shadow or care.
 
                           
                       MJS
                        9/03
 
 



Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Resurrection


Jesus was born of a virgin. He came from heaven. He laid aside his glory and took upon himself the form of flesh.

I know that sounds incredible. It is incredible! But it really happened.

 Being God, he became a man and walked among us. He taught and he healed and he raised the dead.

He did things that no mere man could have done, because He was the Messiah. He is the Messiah. The Chosen One, the Son of God.

 He was rejected by his own people, and was flogged and spit upon, and stretched out on a cross and crucified. For us. For you. For me.

He died for us.

He took our sins and he bore the penalty for then. He paid a ransom for us.

And they laid him in a borrowed tomb. He didn’t need it for very long. Only three days.

He was dead. The Romans knew how to kill people. They were experts at it. They were professionals. The military unit who took him out there to that place and nailed him to that cross had executed many such condemned men. They didn’t make mistakes. He wasn’t mostly dead… He was ALL dead! He was completely dead.

On the third day, on Sunday, the women came to the tomb. It was empty. He wasn’t there.

He rose from the grave. He really did! He is alive! Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, our Lord and Savior. He lives.

He showed himself to his disciples. He showed them his wounds. He counseled and comforted them. He ate with them. Once He appeared to over 500 people at once.

Finally, he took his disciples out to the Mount of Olives and he told them what they needed to do. Make disciples, teach them what I have taught you, to believe, to love, to be His disciples. He promised that he would be with them, and with us always.

And then he ascended back to heaven, where he sits at the right hand of God in heaven, until he returns again one day.

 These events occurred. It really happened. It has been studied and analyzed and attacked and deconstructed and still it stands as the most significant event in history. It cannot be explained away. I invite you to examine the historical evidence.

To deny the Resurrection of Christ is like trying to deny an atomic explosion.

 The impact of the resurrection of Christ is just as evident in history, as are the rippling impact waves, and the fiery cloud that rises from the center of a nuclear explosion.

 There is no other way to explain the sudden, immediate, and continued rising of Christian faith in history, the ripples of transformed lives, the shock waves that emanated outward from Calvary, overthrowing kingdoms and liberating the lost, the least and the last of every race and culture, ever since… not with force, not with the sword, but with love. The love of Christ, what an amazing gift. Jesus who did this amazing thing for us.

There’s no way to explain the explosion of Christianity without the Resurrection.

Consider this. Consider this one fact. All of his disciples, all of the men who became apostles for Christ… they all died proclaiming the gospel facts… that Jesus was the Son of God and that he was crucified, and rose from the grave and ascended into heaven, before their very eyes.

 All of his disciples, except John, were murdered for their belief in Christ.

 James, the son of Zebedee was beheaded in Jerusalem in 44 AD, the first of the disciples to be martyred. Andrew was crucified on an X shaped cross. Phillip was crucified in AD 54. Matthew was killed by an axe in 60 AD. Peter was crucified upside down outside of Rome in 64 AD. Bartholomew was skinned alive and then beheaded near the Caspian Sea. Thomas was killed by spear in Madras, India in 72 AD. James, son of Alphaeus was stoned, and then clubbed to death at age 90. Jude was crucified. Simon the zealot was crucified in AD 74. Matthias, the replacement of Judas Iscariot, was stoned and beheaded.

 Now I want you to think about something.

Men will lie about a lot of things. They will lie for many reasons.

 And men will die for a few things. But men don’t die for lies.

 At the end, they tell the truth. They only die for what they believe to be true.

Every one of the twelve apostles died professing the facts of Jesus… that they had seen, and that they had lived. Their lives were given for this truth. Their lives were spent preaching this truth. Because it is true!

He made us and he bought us. We belong to him, whether we like it or not. We belong to him.

But he has left us the decision, whether to accept His gift of life.

 Whether or not to accept His Lordship.

 The bible says that one day, “every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord”, but for some who bow on that day, it will be too late to claim the inheritance.

So we have to decide what we’re going to do about this truth.

We are responsible before God, now that we know these things.

 Believers or those who don’t.

Claimers of our inheritance or those who reject it.
Eternity with our Lord in the New Jerusalem, or eternity without God, completely removed from His presence and His Grace.

We have to choose which side of that fence we are going to stand on.

 That’s why we are here, and that’s what this whole deal is about.

 

          MJS

 

 

 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Christmas Glories

I've been going through my dad's old files lately. It's hard to believe that it's been nearly a year since his passing. I ran across this article of his, which was published in the December 1965 edition of "The Stetho Scoop", newsletter for Mesa Lutheran Hospital (now closed). I was touched by the elegance of my father's words, and was also amazed at how well these sentiments still translate to our world today. In 1965 the world was war torn and sin torn and rife with every form of hatred and violence... political, ethnic, and religious. Fast forward to 2015 and nothing much has changed, the same strife, just different names and entities. But this war torn, sin torn, fallen world will one day be altogether changed. It will be wiped clean, and made new.

Christmas reminds us that one thing will never change. God doesn't change. His faithfulness is changeless. His Glory is everlasting. Our hope is real and our reward is sure. The victory is already won. Praise God for the coming of His Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.

I wonder what the "Christmas Glories" look like in heaven, something more than tinsel and glitter and five watt bulbs, I'll bet. Merry Christmas dad.

 
CHRISTMAS GLORIES
 
An old colored gentleman who shines shoes remarked the other day that the workmen around the shopping center were putting up the Christmas "glories." It was a striking word to use for the tinsel and the glitter of the yuletide decorations, reflecting the sensitivity and perception of his race. It is fascinating in a country so surfeited with the application of cardboard and color as is ours that the use of tinfoil and five watt lamps can with justice be associated with the word glory. But it is so! There is a halo of glory surrounding Christmas that illumines even little pine trees and dime-store decorations.
 
Several times this fall the urge has come to send Christmas cards to treasured non-Christian friends in far-away lands. It is acutely painful to realize that they would appreciate the greeting, but they could not share the glory. Over-commercialized though it may be, the glory of Christmas shines in the eyes of little children and the hearts of the aged. It is reflected from Bethlehem's star. It comes from the Christ-child in His manger-crib. it is mediated by the Spirit of God.
 
Half the world will fear the other half this Christmas night. They have no Christmas glories. They have dipped the stars in blood.
 
But Bethlehem's star is beyond their reach, and they cannot jam the angels' song: "Glory to God in the highest, and peace and good will to men." Christmas will always have its glories. They live in the hearts of men. They come from the heart of God.
                                                                                                                 Joe C. Smith