Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Christmas Story (the real one) - Final Part 4

Matthew tells us the part of the story with the Magi, the "wise men" from the east. Read about the visit from the Magi; Mary, Joseph, and Jesus' escape to Egypt to save Jesus from being killed by Herod; and the family's return to Nazareth in Matthew 2:1-23.

May your mind wonder after God's gift of grace, and may your heart wander after Him all your days.

Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Christmas Story (the real one) - Part 3

Find the next part of the Christmas story in two locations:

Read about Jesus' birth and the shepherds in Luke 2:1-40. Here you'll also read about two people who recognized the baby Jesus when his parents took him to the temple when he was eight days old.

Then also read Jesus' human genealogy in Matthew 1:1-17 and Matthew's version of the birth of Jesus in Matthew 1:18-25.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Modern Language Bible - free and online

If you'd prefer not to have to purchase the NIV Study Bible I recommended a few days ago or any other Bible, but you'd like to have a modern language Bible available now without having to wait for it to be delivered...by Santa or by UPS, there is a web site where you can look up passages of the Bible in several different versions (translations).

Check out: http://www.biblegateway.com/

On this site you can plug in the books, chapters, and/or verses you want to read and select the version you'd like to read it in, and viola...there it is. You can also print it out for future reading away from your computer.

On Biblegateway.com you can look up passages (by plugging in the book, chapter, and verse), find a passage by searching for key words in the passage, or do a word study by searching for all the Bible passages containing a certain word. There's lots you can do on this site.

To get started, why not look up the Christmas story I've been talking about in the past couple posts and in the next couple posts? You can even compare how they read in different translations, such as the New International Version, the New King James Version, and the New Living Translation.

Go exploring. And have fun!

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Christmas Story (the real one) - Part 2

Next in the Christmas story comes the announcement of the coming birth of Jesus. Mary then leaves to visit her relative, Elizabeth, who is pregnant in her old age with John the Baptist.

Read Mary's story and about John's birth in Luke 1:26-80.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Modern-Language Bible (my recommendation)

If you don't have a favorite Bible, one that you can read the Christmas story out of this time of year, I'd like to recommend my favorite.

I love the "New International Version" (NIV) of the Bible. No more of that old English with the "thees" and "thous" and the obscured meaning of the King James Version! Obscured simply because we don't talk like that any more. I can actually understand the NIV!

There are lots of NIVs out there--meaning you can buy just an NIV Bible, no frills, no bells and whistles. But if you're going to get yourself a new Bible, why not get one with some bells and whistles? There are also lots of "study Bibles" out there too. Study Bibles include footnotes and charts and maps and introductions to books of the Bible, etc. It's important to be able to trust whoever wrote all that stuff. That's why I like the one from Zondervan publishers simply called the NIV Study Bible. The notes and extra stuff were written by a panel rather than one person, so it seems to me there would be less chance of one person's possible bias entering into the material.

The NIV Study Bible first came out in 1985, but they updated it and added new features in 2002. Therefore my vote for favorite Bible goes to Zondervan's fully revised NIV Study Bible.

You should be able to find one in major bookstores, in Christian bookstores, and in some discount stores like WalMart. The cover price for the hardcover is $39.99 but you can find it on sale or at discount outlets for less. Please note that you can spend a lot more on a leather cover if you want that, but everything on the inside of the book is all the same. If you're interested, or if you'd like more information, there's a link to this Bible at Amazon.com on my web site here:

Why not consider giving yourself a new NIV Study Bible for Christmas? It's the most important book you'll ever read.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Christmas Story (the real one) - Part 1

In some households it is tradition to read the Christmas story from the Bible during the Christmas season or on Christmas Eve or Christmas day. What about yours? If not, perhaps you'd like to read it this year. Or begin a tradition of doing so.

Some of you know where to find it in the Bible, but for those of you who don't, during these final weeks of 2007 I'll post the references here. Why not look it up and read it for yourself...perhaps for the first time. Or if it's already familiar to you, why not read it again as if for the first time...with all the wonder and magic?!

The story is told in two of the gospels: Matthew and Luke. The birth of John the Baptist, the forerunner and relative (perhaps a cousin?) of Jesus comes first. He was conceived about six months before Jesus (according to Luke 1:26).

John's birth, too, was a miraculous birth, and God did miracles (like sending an angel and taking the father Zechariah's voice away) to get the word out that something special was going on.

Read about the announcement of the coming birth of John, Jesus' relative, in Luke 1:1-25.

If you don't have a good, modern-language Bible, I'll discuss that and give you some suggestions next time.

Friday, December 14, 2007

THE NATIVITY STORY - A movie to see

This Christmas season we watched the movie The Nativity Story which came out a couple of years ago. I really enjoyed this movie for several reasons.

First, I loved the special effects that had the Temple in Jerusalem sitting atop the Temple Mount. Of course the Temple was destroyed in 70 AD and hasn't been rebuilt, so it isn't currently there for any movie shots. So having it in the movie had to be done by whatever magic those special effects people use. But to see it in several shots... That was cool! I enjoyed it because the Temple in Jerusalem is of special interest to me. I've been studying it for years, and have been studying it even more in recent years and months. In my opinion, the Temple, among other things, is a barometer of the relationship between humans and God: in B.C. days when the people (mainly the Jews, but not all) were in a good and right relationship with God, the Temple was vibrant and alive, used in everyday practice and well kept. When the relationship between people and God declined, when the people disregarded God (for the most part--there are always a faithful few), then the Temple fell into disrepair and was destroyed by the enemies of God's people. See? I have a special interest in the Temple in Jerusalem. Maybe we'll talk about that more sometime.

The second thing I loved about this movie was the accuracy. So much of it came straight from Scripture. There was a little extra added in like conversations between Herod and his son. Whether the movie writers wrote that in themselves or found it documented somewhere besides the Bible, I don't know. Either way, the movie was so true to the events as described in the Bible I didn't mind these "add ins" at all.

Finally, I loved the humor. The three wise men had personalities, and that was fun!

I'd like to see this movie again. And again. I'm going to look for it to buy for my home DVD library. You might like to buy or rent it for a family night at the movies, but if you have younger children be warned: there is violence in the movie that can be disturbing. I don't know what the movie is rated, but you might want to check that before you show it to your kids.

Over all, though, I recommend it highly.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Can God die? (Part 3)

Can God die? Isn't it an interesting question to ponder considering all the implications?

Here are the words to one of my favorite hymns. It was written by Charles Wesley. It's not a really well-known hymn--I hardly ever hear it. But the first time I heard it, it was the words that caught and captured my attention:

And Can It Be?

And can it be that I should gain an interest in the Savior's blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain, For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be that thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

Amazing love! How can it be that thou, my God, shouldst die for me!

He left His Father's throne above, so free, so infinite His grace!
Emptied Himself of all but love, and bled for Adam's helpless race!
'Tis mercy all, immense and free, for O my God it found out me.

Amazing love! How can it be that thou, my God, shouldst die for me!

Long my imprisoned spirit lay fast bound in sin and nature's night.
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray: I woke--the dungeon flamed with light!
My chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

Amazing love! How can it be that thou, my God, shouldst die for me!

No condemnation now I dread: Jesus, and all in Him, is mine!
Alive in Him, my living Head, and clothed in righteousness divine,
bold I approach the eternal throne, and claim the crown, through Christ my own.

Amazing love! How can it be that thou, my God, shouldst die for me!

Philip Pullman, the writer of The Golden Compass children's movie and self-described atheist, said, "My books are about killing God" and that he was "trying to undermine the basis of Christian belief" (according to an article on Snopes.com). I hope someday (soon) Philip Pullman discovers God did indeed die...for him, so he can truly live.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Can God die? (Part 2)

Some people, like the writer of the new children's movie The Golden Compass, think (or perhaps simply wish) that God can be killed. If that were possible, if God was killed, what would happen?

  • Would everything stop?
  • Would the world stop spinning?
  • Would our solar system...or the universe fly apart?
  • Would we humans cease to exist?
  • Would everything cease to exist?
  • But who can kill God? (Oh wait...I know. Some renegade Jewish leaders and some Gentile soldiers and an out-of-control mob of people and some power-hungry kings. But wait, that was representative of all humans and the result and culmination of sin.)

Perhaps a more important question is why would anyone want to kill God? Or fantasize that he can be killed? Or work to kill God in the minds of children?

  • Would the death of God mean the removal of all moral restraint? (Would that be a good thing?)
  • Would it mean no more rules? No more responsibility?
  • Would it mean no more war? (Some seem to think so.)

The thing is, death is directly related to sin. Sin always leads to death. That's why sin-filled people (no different than us) killed God in Jesus in about 30 A.D. That's also why the sin-less God couldn't stay dead.

"For by him [in context, that is Jesus] all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together." Colossians 1:16-17, NIV (emphasis mine).

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Can God die?

Although The Golden Compass movie brings to light the disturbing thoughts some people have about getting rid of God, it also brings up a interesting question: Can God die?

You may remember as I do that photograph from a few decades ago of the man holding the sign that states "God is dead." Oh really? Ya think?

Perhaps some people think God has been silent for so long that He isn't around any more. I think others believe if they could kill off God, then that would remove all moral restraint and, being able to do whatever they wanted, life would be more enjoyable. They're as wrong about that as they are about God.

God is alive and well and at work in the world. And I find it extremely interesting that this movie comes out during the Advent season...the season where we anticipate the coming of Christ.

After all, what was the main reason Christ, God in flesh, was born on earth? Answer: to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.

In other words, Jesus, who was and is God, came to earth to die.