The Christmas “Star”: It’s Not What You Think

This weekend my sermon is titled “The Fourth Wise Man” and as I was working on it, I realized I was trying to cram 60 minutes of material into a 40-minute sermon.🙂 So I decided to cut out a portion of it and post it in this blog instead. Here goes…

There are some fascinating details in the biblical account of the Christmas story that are often overlooked. Here’s what the Bible says:

After [the Magi] had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. – Matthew 2:9-10

Those verses contain details I always wondered about when I heard the Christmas story at St. Ronald’s Catholic Church as a kid. After all, how could a star that is a million miles up in space MOVE around in the sky and then STOP over a house? And how would the wise men know which house it stopped over if it was that far up in space?

Those details never made sense to me.

And then I did some research.

Biblical scholars have had a field day trying to figure out what this star was. And in this blog I wanted to share the top two theories I came across…

One widely discussed possibility is a very rare astronomical event that took place on May 27 of 7 B.C. On that date, Jupiter, Saturn, and the constellation of Pisces all aligned. This theory states that the star in the Christmas story was these three things converging.

And what makes this significant is what each of those things represents:

  • Jupiter was seen as the primary god in Babylonian astrology
  • Saturn was a planet associated with the Jews
  • The Pisces constellation represented Palestine

So according to this theory, these three coming together told the Magi “who, what and where.” Jupiter told them the “who” — a King was born. Saturn told them the “what” — it involved the nation of the King. And the Pisces constellation told them the “where” — it explained where they were to look for him.

And maybe God did something supernatural that you often see in movies that depict this event: that light from the convergence of these 3 things came down from space in a tight beam and focused on the manger. And if God created all things, then He could take a natural event like the convergence of Jupiter, Saturn, and the constellation of Pisces and do something supernatural with the light it emitted, couldn’t He?

So that’s one theory of what the Christmas Star was. And I think it’s a pretty cool one.

Here’s another theory . . . and this one suggests the star was NOT really a star at all.

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The Kopp family manger on our front lawn

We have a manger scene we put up in our front yard just before Thanksgiving. Kellie inherited it from her grandparents. It has a star that’s on an 8-foot pole and we put the star right over the wooden manger. Then we cover the star with Christmas lights and rows of streaming lights so everyone can see it up and down our street.

While we don’t have plastic Magi figurines to go along with our manger scene, everyone on our block could find baby Jesus if they used our Christmas Star as their guide. Simply look for the lit up star and then look down about 8 feet!🙂 There’s baby Jesus being held by His mommy, the Virgin Mary! Nice and simple.

But the star in the biblical account isn’t 8 feet up in the air, because stars are millions of miles up in space. So how were the Magi led by this star??? Here is the theory…

The Christmas Star was not really a star at all, but it was actually an angel. That might sound weird at first, but there is precedent for it in the Bible. In the Scriptures, angels are sometimes referred to as stars. For example: The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches… (Revelation 1:20)

Some scholars think this is what was going in the Christmas Story. This would explain why this “star” could lead the Magi… and how it could stop over a house.

According to this theory, The Christmas “Star” (Angel) wasn’t a million miles up in space. It was probably just a little higher than the star we have on our pole for our manger scene.

In fact, there is some early church tradition that agrees with this theory. Here is a quote from an early church writing called The Gospel of the Infancy. I need to stress this book is not part of the Bible, but it is part of early church tradition which carries some weight.

This writing is all about the birth of Jesus, just like chapter 2 of the gospel of Matthew. But this ancient text contains additional details:

In the same hour there appeared to them an angel in the form of that star which had before guided them in their journey, and they went away, following the guidance of its light, until they arrived in their own country. – Gospel of the Infancy (chap. 7)

In commenting about this non-Biblical source, one Christian scholar said: “This, I believe, only makes explicit what is implicit in Matthew, namely, that the guiding star was a guiding angel.”

Again, we don’t know what the Christmas Star was for sure. But both of those are pretty fascinating theories.

***This Sunday kicks off a new series at our church. It’s called “The Rest of the (Christmas) Story.” We’ll be look at passages that are part of the Christmas narrative in the Bible that contain profound theological truths but never get preached on. My sermon this Sunday is called The Fourth Wise Man. Here is a “sneak preview”: claymation videos of the “three wise men” and Christmas Carols about the “three kings” have led us to picture something far from what the Bible actually teaches. After all, if it was just 3 harmless elderly men riding on camels carrying gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh… why does the gospel of Matthew say that King Herod and all of Jerusalem were afraid of them? (see Matt. 2:3). That verse tells us that there is a lot more to the story than we think! Please join us on December 4th at 10:30am at The Eastside Vineyard Church. More info at tevchurch.org***

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What Matthew and Simon Teach Us About Hillary and Donald

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In the shadow of the election, I felt a nudge from the Holy Spirit to take a sermon I preached at our church last week and turn it into a series of blogs. (Click HERE for Part 1 and HERE for Part 2). Here is my latest installment…

When I left off last time I shared how
2 of the 12 Apostles weren’t just “Matthew” and “Simon” but Matthew THE TAX COLLECTOR and Simon THE ZEALOT (see Matthew 10:1-4). And I hinted that including both of those guys in Jesus’ inner circle would have been shocking if we were alive back in the first century.

Let me explain why.

First, a bit about Tax Collectors….

2,000 years ago the Roman Empire controlled the lands of Israel. Since there was no Roman version of the IRS, they needed ways to collect taxes from people living under their rule and reign. So they hired people from local communities to be their collectors. One of these guys was Matthew.

So Matthew was a Jew who basically sold out his own people. Matthew collected taxes from fellow Jews on behalf of the Roman authorities. So he was a friend of Rome, a defender of the status quo. Tax collectors were as far to one side of the political spectrum as you could go.

On the other end of the spectrum you have the Zealots…

Zealots were extremely pro-Jewish. They were political revolutionaries, using violence when necessary, and willing to fight to the death for Jewish independence from Rome. In fact, when the Jews rebelled against the Romans in 66 A.D. and tried to gain their independence, the Zealots were at the forefront of the revolt.

Zealots were even known to assassinate Tax Collectors because of their affiliation with Rome. They were as far to the other side of the political spectrum as you could go.

So Tax Collectors and Zealots were on opposite ends of the political spectrum. In today’s terms, one of them would be like an ultra left wing liberal while the other would be like an ultra right wing conservative.

And here is the major point I don’t want you to miss: Jesus called them both to be His Apostles. If Jesus was walking the earth today and choosing the Apostles in 2016, what He did back then would be like inviting a right-wing conservative and a left-wing liberal to be part of the 12.

It was amazing that Jesus did this. On the outside it would seem to be a recipe for disaster. And yet . . .that is exactly what Jesus did.

Now I am sure Matthew and Simon had some interesting political chats along the way!🙂 They probably argued about who was right. Maybe they got into some fights. We don’t know for sure because the Bible is silent about those details.

But here is what we do know: their contrasting political views were considered irrelevant when it came to advancing the Kingdom of God.

And 2,000 years later, that tells us that the Kingdom of God is big enough for both political parties. In fact, here is something to chew on . . .

Sometimes Jesus Himself was more left-winged that most Democrats. Don’t believe me? Well, consider this text: Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21)

I remember back in the 2008 election Barack Obama got slammed in the conservative media when he told Joe the Plumber (remember that guy?) that he wanted to “spread the wealth around.” What Obama told Joe was nothing compared to what Jesus told this guy! Jesus didn’t ask this man to spread his wealth around a bit. He wanted this guy to sell ALL of his possessions and give the money to the poor!

At times, Jesus was more left-winged than most Democrats. Other times Jesus was more right-winged than most Republicans. Don’t believe me? Consider this text: “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.” (Matthew 5:31-32)

Talk about an ultra-conservative position! That is more conservative than most Republicans, especially when you consider the conservatives who have been divorced like Rush Limbaugh and Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump.

These examples tell me that Jesus is NOT a Democrat OR a Republican. Instead, His movement is big enough for both. It was big enough for both Matthew the Tax Collector AND Simon the Zealot. So it ought to be big enough for people regardless of how they vote on November 8th.

***By the time you come to church next Sunday, a new President will be elected. My sermon will be all about how Christians ought to respond, whether or not your candidate wins. I will be taking a look at the first 300 years of church history, from the day of Pentecost to the reign of Constantine. During this time period, up to 50% of the Roman Empire became Christians! This growth is even more incredible when you remember that Christianity was a persecuted illegal religion AND that churches didn’t have didn’t have buildings, ordained clergy, or even a completed Bible! How did they do it? And how can we follow in their footsteps so that Christianity can rise in America once again? Please join us on November 13th at 10:30am!!! More info at tevchurch.org***

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The Surprising Politics of Jesus

screen-shot-2016-11-03-at-10-48-51-pmIn the shadow of the election, I felt a nudge from the Holy Spirit to take a sermon I preached at our church last week and turn it into a series of blogs. (Click HERE for Part 1). Here is my latest installment…

Let me begin by asking a trivia question: in the four gospels, what subject did Jesus teach about more than any other? Think about it.

Got your answer?

What subject did Jesus teach about more than any other? The answer is: the Kingdom of God. In fact, the phrase “Kingdom of God” (along with “Kingdom of Heaven” which is a Jewish way of saying the same thing) is mentioned 96 times in the 4 gospels!

If the Kingdom of God is the subject taught by Jesus more than any other, that must mean it was a big deal in His eyes, right?

So what is it? What is the “Kingdom of God”? Simply put, it was a movement to save and to transform the world and everything in it.

But that answer leads to another question. If that was His goal, how did Jesus go about accomplishing it?

Before I answer how He actually did it, let me share how He chose NOT to do it. First, Jesus did not bring about the Kingdom of God on earth by creating a political party. Second, He did not do it by overthrowing the Roman government. Finally, He did not do it by holding massive rallies at the Roman Coliseum, converting 50,000 people at a time.

Jesus COULD have done any or all of the above if He wanted to, right? But He chose another path.

How did He go about building His Kingdom on earth? In a pretty surprising way, in fact!

Jesus looked at all of the people who had been following Him to one degree or another, and He chose 12 men, described as everyday, ordinary men in Acts 4:13 and He designated them as “Apostles.” But when Jesus saw them, He didn’t see everyday, ordinary men. He saw world changers.

The Apostles were the guys Jesus chose to be in His inner circle. They were the primary ones He trained and equipped to advance the Kingdom of God on earth.

Most folks know about the 12 Apostles, even if you can’t name every one of them by memory. But here is something I am guessing most of you don’t know. It’s a fascinating fact about who Jesus chose to be part of the 12, a fact that points to the surprising politics of Jesus. In the gospel of Matthew it says: These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew . . . (Matthew 10:2-3a)

Some of these guys who are listed are anonymous like Bartholomew while the rest are described in terms of relationship: Simon and his brother Andrew. James, son of Zebedee and his brother John.

But two names on the list aren’t described that way. Instead of describing them in terms of relationship, they are described in another way. The list continues: . . .Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. (Matthew 10:3b-4).

Did you catch the distinction? The gospel writer listed a whole bunch of names, but made a special point to highlight two of the guys, not by WHO they were but by WHAT they were.
Realize that the author did not have to do it that way. He could have just said “Matthew” and “Simon.” But he didn’t. The Holy Spirit guided him to include additional info, pointing out that Matthew was a tax collector and Simon was a Zealot.

Now having a tax collector and a Zealot in the same small group probably doesn’t seem like that big of a deal to you. But 2,000 years ago, it was huge. It was such a big deal that Matthew emphasized it.

Now, if Jesus had either one or the other in the 12, it wouldn’t have raised any eyebrows. But the fact that He had both of them — a tax collector AND a zealot — that would have been not just surprising, but shocking. And it hints at how Jesus approached politics which is what I am going to unpack in my next blog.

Sorry for the cliffhanger but this post is already pushing 800 words, which is 300 more than the experts recommend.🙂 So please stay tuned!

***If you liked this blog please come to The Eastside Vineyard Church this Sunday as we continue our series “Perspective on the Election.” November 6th at 10:30am (EST). More info at tevchurch.org***

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Perspective on the Election

screen-shot-2016-11-02-at-9-16-42-pmIt’s been a while since I have written a blog, but with all that is going on in our country right now concerning the election, I decided to break my silence.

In fact, I interrupted the sermon series I have been preaching on in order to launch a new series this past Sunday, one that was centered on the election.

No matter your age I am guessing you haven’t ever seen an election season quite like this one! It has been incredibly polarizing. The accusations from both parties have been out of this world. The debates have given the late night talk shows plenty of material to make fun of. And that is just the tip of the iceberg!

When it comes to how Christians have engaged in the election, here is what is absolutely fascinating to me: There are Jesus-loving, Bible-believing Christians on BOTH SIDES of the so-called aisle. And they are convinced that if Jesus was alive today, He would be on the campaign trail for THEIR candidate.

And they are certain that a vote for the OTHER candidate, will usher in the end of America as we know it, and perhaps the end of the world. Some prophetic voices out there have gone so far as to say that if one of the candidates gets elected, it’s a certain sign that the End Times are upon us and we would be wise to be working on that bunker just in case.🙂

Believe it or not, if I took a poll of those who read my blog, you would probably be surprised that not everyone thinks that YOUR candidate is GOD’s candidate. Trust me on that.

By the way, thanks to the wonderful world of Google, I discovered that there are actually six candidates to choose from on November 8th, not just the two we are all well aware of.

And because of the election, there are a lot of emotions and actions that are coming out of Christians that simply won’t be found in Heaven: Fear. Anxiety. Confusion. Despair. Gossip. Hatred. Helplessness.

Those emotions and actions won’t exist in Heaven. So they should not exist in us right now. After all, Jesus said the will of God is simply this: “…on earth as it is in Heaven.” (Matthew 6:10).

But radio talk show hosts and 24-hour cable news networks and social media have all done an amazing job of fanning emotions like fear and anxiety into flame.

So because of all of the above, I decided to write this blog. (In fact I hope write a series of them in a short period of time. Please pray I am able to!)

Before I get any further, I want you to know up front that my goal in writing isn’t to try to convince you to vote for who I am going to vote for on November 8th. In fact, I’m going to leave you guessing when it comes to my candidate of choice.

Instead, I am going to challenge you to look at this election in a whole new way. And I am going to use the Scriptures to prove my point.

I pray that you choose to have an open mind as you read.

I say that because it is hard to do that. Especially when it comes to politics. Most of us are set in stone in our views when it comes to this subject. We assume it’s obvious regarding how our faith ought to impact our vote. And it doesn’t stop there. We also assume it’s obvious regarding how our faith should impact every person who declares Jesus to be Lord.

So it can be quite a shock to our system when someone who is Heaven-bound sees this current election differently than we do.

We tend to think who to vote FOR or who to vote AGAINST is incredibly obvious. But that would actually only be true if JESUS was running for President.

But Jesus isn’t running for President of the United States. In fact, when Jesus walked the earth 2,000 years ago, He didn’t choose to become the new Caesar in Rome either (As the Son of God, He had the power to do that if that was part of the Divine plan. But it wasn’t.)

In fact, Jesus didn’t seem to care all that much about who was the ruler of the Roman Empire. Instead, He chose to make His Kingdom come, not by ruling from the throne in Rome, but by pouring into a dozen unlikely world changers. And the ones He chose to become the Twelve were as politically diverse as Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. But that is the subject for another blog. Stay tuned!🙂

Between now and then, let me leave you with one Scripture, a verse that is true today… and it will be true on November 8th… and it will be true on November 9th regardless of who wins the election: “The LORD reigns…” (Psalm 93:1).

***If you liked this blog please come to The Eastside Vineyard Church this Sunday as we continue our series “Perspective on the Election.” November 6th at 10:30am (EST). More info at tevchurch.org***

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What My Dad Taught Me About Kindness

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With Father’s Day coming up and with it being the first one that we’ll be celebrating without my dad, I wrote a blog earlier this week about what he taught me about humility. (Click HERE to read it).

Since that blog was so well received I thought I’d write another one. And just like the last one, while this blog will be a tribute to him, I am writing it in such a way to apply to your life and mine. Here goes…

In his letter to the Galatians, the Apostle Paul wrote: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. – Galatians 5:22-23

While we would love to bear all nine aspects of the fruit of the Spirit listed above, there are a few that we tend to demote in order of importance.

Like “kindness.”

We all want more “love” and “joy” and “patience” but “kindness” is most likely not at the top of your prayer list of things to ask God for.

And yet, here is what Paul wrote to the early church in Rome: Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? – Romans 2:4

I love that Scripture because it points out how we often get it wrong. When it comes to wanting people to repent and turn to Jesus, Christians often use fear or guilt or manipulation or the threat of God’s wrath and hell.

But this verse says God’s kindness is the key to everything. God’s kindness is intended to lead people to repentance.

In Jesus in the Mirror, fellow Vineyard pastors Tri Robinson & Jason Chatraw write, “God’s kindness is meant to lead us to repentance. It’s that important. When we’re kind, we’re reflecting the ingredient that draws us to God . . . Given the importance of kindness in reflecting God’s desire to draw people to Himself, it is essential that we take time to examine where we are with kindness in our own lives.”

So with that in mind, let me ask you some questions…

How do you tend to treat people who are there to serve you? Like when you go to a restaurant, how do you treat a waitress? If you go to Wal-Mart, how do you treat the cashier? Think about how you treat them and does the word “kind” describe your behavior?

Next question. How would you treat others if you were rushed to the emergency room due to shortness of breath and severe pain?

Next question. Let’s up the ante. How about if you were diagnosed with stage 4 cancer? Would you be “short” with those around you after getting that diagnosis and prognosis?

Would you feel like you earned a free pass to be less than “kind” toward your loved ones and anyone else that crossed your path?

As you all know unfortunately that series of questions is not hypothetical, but questions I began to ask myself over the last 2 months of my dad’s life as I saw him in action.

Because over and over and over again, my dad was kind to me, to my mom, to my brother, to our kids. And he was kind anyone else that crossed his path, from the ER doctors to his oncologist to the nurses to the orderlies.

One example of this still stands out in my mind. It was the day that dad went to the ER for the final time. By this point he knew he was very sick and intensive care was on the near horizon.

He had already been in the ER a half dozen times, and because of that he began to recognize the staff. And that’s something you hope never happens. Recognizing staff in the ER because you are there so often. But that’s what happened to us.

So a nurse came in the room, someone he recognized, someone who had worked on him in past trips to the ER.

And she was trying to poke him to draw blood. As she was struggling to find a vein, he said something to her along these lines: “I know you’ll get it. You always do.”

Kindness.

In Life on the Vine, Phillip Kenneson writes, “Because the Greek word for ‘Christ’ (christos) was so similar to the word for ‘kind’ (chrestos) apparently many people mistakenly (though perhaps fittingly) called Jesus’ early followers not ‘Christians’ but ‘the kind ones.’”

And that quote lead me to think this: We would be way more effective at reaching the world for Christ if we were simply more kind.

Kind to one another. Kind to other Christians who don’t believe every single thing point of doctrine that we do. For Protestants to be more kind to the Catholics. For Catholics to be more kind to the Protestants.

We would be way more effective at reaching the world for Christ if we were simply more kind. Kind to people of other faiths. Kind to people of no faith. Kind to our parents. Kind to our children. Kind to our spouses. Kind when we are sad. Kind when we are mad. Kind when we are angry.

After all… Because the Greek word for “Christ” (christos) was so similar to the word for “kind” (chrestos) apparently many people mistakenly though perhaps fittingly called Jesus’ early followers not “Christians” but “the kind ones.”

***In light of the horrific nightclub shooting in Orlando, I am changing my sermon up a bit. The new title is “Does God Ordain The Bad Things That Happen?” It will still be part of our Building a Wall of Faith series but its application will be broader than originally planned. Here is a sneak preview: When an accident or tragedy happens or when someone gets sick or diagnosed with a disease… Do you get mad at the devil? Do you lament the fact that we live in a fallen world? Or have you found yourself saying (or thinking) something like this: “The Lord works in mysterious ways” or “Everything happens for a reason.” While those quotes make for good sound bytes on greeting cards, do they actually provide comfort for those grieving? And more importantly, do they line up with what the Bible teaches? Please join us on June 19th at 10:30am at The Eastside Vineyard Church. More info at tevchurch.org***

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What My Dad Taught Me About Humility

dad dan weddingFather’s Day is just a few days away. And this is going to be the first one we will be celebrating without my dad. He was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer last July and less than two months later we were at St. Lawrence cemetery.

So in honor of my dad, I thought I’d write a blog about one of the key character traits I saw in him throughout his life, one that especially bubbled to the surface during those final two months. And while this blog will be a tribute to him, I am writing it in such a way to apply to your life and mine. Here goes…

In Uprising Erwin McManus writes, “It seems hard for us to believe, but God is not impressed with talent nearly as much as He is with character. Perhaps no characteristic is more central to the heart of God than humility.”

As humans we tend to focus on talents and abilities. After all the TV show isn’t titled America’s Got CHARACTER, is it?🙂

So we focus on outward behaviors, while God looks on the inside. And McManus says: “Perhaps no characteristic is more central to the heart of God than humility.”

And that is one character trait that defined Dallas Kopp: humility.

Now before I go any further, let me define the term. Because when it comes to “humility”, we know it when we see it. We know when someone is being humble and when they aren’t. But it’s hard to define.

So here is my favorite definition of humility. It’s found in Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. By the way, Mere Christianity was one of the very first books I ever read when I started going back to church back in 1996, after the 5 year period of my life when I was an atheist and agnostic… a 5-year period of my life that gave my dad a lot of gray hair, where I would often come home about the time he got up to go to work.

But I digress…🙂

C.S. Lewis writes, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”

True humility is not thinking you are a piece of trash or acting like you can’t do anything. It’s not about throwing yourself under the bus. It is a way of thinking. It’s all about how much you think about YOU versus how much you think about and focus on OTHERS.

And that is exactly what the Bible says “…in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus…” – Philippians 2:3-5 (NIV)

Throughout his life and especially during his last two months, my dad did that over and over and over again.

Here is one example of a myriad I could share. Let me take you back to July 31, 2015. My dad, mom, and I had just met with his family doctor in Clinton Township and received the diagnosis: A golf-ball size tumor was growing in his pancreas. Stage 4. With a prognosis of 4-6 months to live if he chose to do nothing.

We were reeling.

His doctor pulled some strings and the next thing we knew we were driving across town to the oncologist’s office.

Let me press the pause button for a moment. I don’t mean to speak a curse over you, but if that was you, where would your thoughts be focused… on OTHERS or on YOURSELF?

As we arrived at the oncologist’s office and got admitted to a room, the nursing assistant came in to ask some general questions about my dad’s health. He quickly redirected the conversation asking her what her name was, where she went to school, and if she liked her job.

Mind you, he was minutes away from hearing about various cocktails of chemotherapy drugs and their scores of side effects. And yet he chose to make those moments not about himself, but about others.

Now you might be thinking that my dad was doing this as a defense mechanism. To take his mind off of his mortality. But I don’t agree. Because what I witnessed in the oncologist’s office that afternoon, I witnessed over and over again during his final two months…. and I witnessed it throughout his life before the diagnosis as well.

I saw true humility, where he didn’t think less of himself; he simply thought of himself less.

Now when it comes to humility, it’s easy to think that it’s something you have or something you don’t have. That some people are just naturally more humble — like my dad — while others are more prideful.

We tend to think that humility is like your height, we can’t make ourselves taller or shorter. Our height is our height and there is nothing we can do it about it.

So that’s what we tend to think. But what does the Bible teach when it comes to humility? Here is what the Apostle Peter wrote, “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” – 1 Peter 5:5 (NIV)

So Peter tells us to clothe ourselves with humility, implying that just like we choose what to clothe ourselves with on the outside, we can choose what to clothe ourselves with on the inside.

We can choose to clothe ourselves with humility. And we ought to. After all, when Peter wrote that verse originally in the Greek language, the words “clothe yourselves” is an imperative which means it’s not just a suggestion but a command.

Verses like that that led Erwin McManus to write this: “We are never called in the Bible to pray for humility; instead we are commanded to be humble. There are some things God does and some things God requires. While humility is a divine attribute, it is placed squarely on our shoulders to choose this path.”

So with all of that being said, here is my challenge to you and to me: choose the path of humility.

In other words… You can choose how much any given conversation is about you. You can choose how much you think about yourself. You can choose how sorry you feel for yourself. You can choose how to treat those “below” you on the pecking order of life.

So choose the path of humility. In other words, do what Jesus did…over and over and over.

And see how God blesses you as a result, because the Bible says “God opposes the proud… but shows favor to the humble.” He gives grace to the humble. He takes delight in the humble.

May you and I choose the path of humility where we don’t think less of ourselves; but think of ourselves less.

***In light of the horrific nightclub shooting in Orlando, I am changing my sermon up a bit. The new title is “Does God Ordain The Bad Things That Happen?” It will still be part of our Building a Wall of Faith series but its application will be broader than originally planned. Here is a sneak preview: When an accident or tragedy happens or when someone gets sick or diagnosed with a disease… Do you get mad at the devil? Do you lament the fact that we live in a fallen world? Or have you found yourself saying (or thinking) something like this: “The Lord works in mysterious ways” or “Everything happens for a reason.” While those quotes make for good sound bytes on greeting cards, do they actually provide comfort for those grieving? And more importantly, do they line up with what the Bible teaches? Please join us on June 19th at 10:30am at The Eastside Vineyard Church. More info at tevchurch.org***

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What D-Day Teaches Us About the Devil and the Cross

Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 4.26.27 PMIn honor of the 72nd anniversary of the
D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944, I tracked down a blog I wrote a few years ago and updated it a bit. May it offer insight on Satan and the power of the Cross…

Jesus triumphed over the devil on the Cross. And yet Satan is still wreaking havoc on planet earth. So how can Satan be defeated and yet still be stealing, killing, and destroying?

Here is an analogy to consider, and this is one of those analogies that is so good I wish I came up with it :) but it originated with theologian Oscar Cullman.

June 6, 1944 is known as D-Day. It’s the day that the Allies established a beachhead on the European mainland in Normandy, France. Looking back in history, war historians say at that point — when D-Day was successful — the Allies won the war. The moment they established a beachhead on the European mainland, they broke the back of the Germans.

So war historians say that the Allies won the war — in principle — on D-Day. On June 6, 1944.

But the Allies victory was not fully realized until VE-Day. VE stands for “Victory in Europe” and that took place 11 months later on May 8, 1945.

On D-Day, the defeat of Nazis was a foregone conclusion. On D-Day the war was over (in principle), but there was lots of fighting between D-Day and VE-Day. There was tons of bloodshed before the actual surrender of the Germans. In fact, some of the bloodiest battles of World War II occurred between D-Day and VE-Day. Germany was a defeated enemy, but they weren’t going down without a fight. The Germans fought fiercely, but fought a losing battle.

On D-Day the Germans were defeated but that defeat was not fully realized until VE-Day.

You and I are living in between God’s D-Day and His VE-Day, in-between the Resurrection and the Second Coming of Christ. When Jesus died on the Cross and then rose from the dead — that was God’s D-Day. And when the Second Coming of Christ happens — that will be God’s VE-Day.

So we are living in the time between the times, between God’s D-Day and VE-Day.

Because of D-Day, Satan is a defeated enemy. Speaking of what happened on Good Friday, Paul writes: God stripped the spiritual rulers and powers of their authority. With the cross, he won the victory and showed the world that they were powerless. (Colossians 2:15)

Because of God’s D-Day, Satan is a defeated enemy. Jesus won the victory. But just like the Germans, the devil is not raising the white flag of surrender.

One day in the future Satan will be completely destroyed: And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever. (Revelation 20:10).

One day Satan will no longer be the ruler of our world. And yet as I write this blog, he is still ruling it. A verse I find absolutely fascinating is one the Apostle Paul wrote 20 years after the Cross and Empty Tomb: The devil who rules this world has blinded the minds of those who do not believe (2 Corinthians 4:4 NCV). Two decades after Jesus’ death and resurrection, Paul describes Satan as the one who is still ruling planet earth! (see also
1 John 5:19 and Ephesians 2:2).

In Mere Christianity C.S. Lewis wrote, “One of the things that surprised me when I first read the New Testament seriously was that it talked about a Dark Power in the universe – a mighty evil spirit who was . . . behind death and disease and sin . . . Christianity agrees . . . the universe is at war . . . and we are living in a part of the universe that is occupied by the rebel. Enemy-occupied territory – that is what this world is.”

One day Satan will be destroyed. God’s D-Day ensured this victory. But we are living between D-Day and VE-Day in the equivalent of war torn France during the height of World War II.

Satan is a defeated enemy. But he is not going down without a fight.

***We are launching a new series this Sunday titled “Building a Wall of Faith.” And in the kickoff sermon I will be addressing some things that put proverbial cracks in our wall of faith, namely a theology that God does NOT want to heal people. A classic argument against the belief regarding God’s will for healing is the Apostle Paul’s “thorn in the flesh.” We are going to dig deep into the Scriptures as there is much more going in in 2 Corinthians 12 than meets the eye! Please pray join us at The Eastside Vineyard Church on June 12, 2016 at 10:30am! More info at tevchurch.org***

 

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