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Biblical Messages

Two Christmas Gifts

Jesus is the gift, as we say at Christmas, but he brought with him two gifts that are also xmas as a childfor us.  We learn about them in John 1.6-14.  Have a listen, or watch the Facebook Live feed below (no account needed).  And yes, that’s me at a young age pictured.

 

 

 

 

 

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Encouragement From The Word

One Iota

There are memes-a-plenty on the Internet around this time of year, especially as we approach December 6, which is the Feast of St. Nicholas – the day when St. Nicholas is celebrated in many churches.  While we have translated St. Nicholas into “Santa Claus” with his trips down the world’s chimneys, leaving of gifts, and eating of sundry snacks left behind by enthusiastic children, the real St. Nicholas did more than give gifts.  He helped keep young women from being enslaved to men, for one thing, and he also was an ardent defender of biblical Christianity.  This is seen in one key way.

He defended the faith against Arianism, the notion that Jesus is subordinate to the Father.  In the early church, when theological issues arose, a council of the church’s greatest leaders was called to debate, discern, and ensure that the church was remaining faithful to the truth as set out in Scripture.  Thus, in Nicholas’ time, with Arianism holding sway over the church, the leadership (in the name of Emperor Constantine) called a council, which met in Nicaea, a place in what is now Turkey.  It was called the Council of Nicaea, and one of the principal doctrines it tackled was the very idea of whether Jesus was subordinate to the Father, or was equal to the Father.

At issue was one little Greek word:  homoousios.  Or was it homoiousios?  That was the question.  The word homoousios means “of the same substance”, while homoiousios means “of a similar substance”.  To make a long story short, the church affirmed that the Son was homoousios with the Father – of the same substance.  Anyone, like the Arians, who believed that the Son was homoiousios – of a similar substance – was deemed heretical and in need of correction.

That’s why, today, we have the English idiom, when two things are the same, that they differ “not by one iota”.  Iota is the Greek letter that we call “i”.  The only difference between doctrinal truth and error, on the issue of the substance of the Son of God, is one iota, between homoousios and homoiousios.

It doesn’t take much to be off significantly in doctrine.  And while this might seem like ‘angels dancing on the head of a pin’, it actually is a very important issue for the church, because if Jesus were only of similar substance to the Father, he was not technically God, and therefore could not atone for our sins perfectly.  If Jesus isn’t God, in other words, we’re still dead in our sins.  And that wouldn’t be good news.

It’s amazing what one letter can do.

Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.  He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation” (Colossians 1.15, NLT).

Biblical Messages

In the beginning

…no, not that “In the beginning” – the one in John 1.1-5!  We’re starting a series on John’s Gospel with this message, which starts the season of Advent.  This is the closest John comes to a birth narrative; listen, or watch, to find out why it’s One Of Those Things that’s Not Like The Others.

 

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Encouragement From The Word

Simple preparation

This weekend brings the beginning of the season of Advent, a time when God’s people prepare themselves – in every way – for the birth of his Son.  It’s what sets us apart from the rest of the world, that spends its time preparing for Christmas by shopping ‘til they drop.

For some, it is a very elaborate preparation:  there are special services, candles to be lit, prayers to be said, both at church and at home.  For others, it is a very simple preparation:  extra time spent in prayer, spiritually and emotionally getting ready to mark what followers of Jesus have been marking for over 2000 years.

This dichotomy is well expressed in one location.  If you’ve never been to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, I recommend you go at least once.  Upon arrival, you’ll see a very small door that opens into a large nave, at the front of which are some very elaborate decorations, common to the tradition that regularly worships in that building.  Underneath the front section of that worship space, one descends a small, narrow staircase into a grotto – a cave – where one can touch what is believed to be the very place where the birth of Jesus happened.

There’s a lot of bling on top, but at the very root of Jesus’ birthplace is rock.  Above the elaborate is simplicity.

You can have one, you can have the other, you can even have both – but whether your Advent is simple or elaborate, celebrate.  Get ready.  The birth of Jesus is nothing if not world-changing.  That deserves our attention, and our devotion.

Therefore, this is what the Sovereign Lord says:
‘Look! I am placing a foundation stone in Jerusalem,
a firm and tested stone.
It is a precious cornerstone that is safe to build on.
Whoever believes need never be shaken’
” (Isaiah 28.16, NLT).

 

Biblical Messages

Mission as Relief & Development

In this concluding message in our series on mission, we look at how relief and development can be a ministry of the gospel.  We looked at Micah 6.1-8.  Have a listen below, or watch the Facebook Live feed by clicking the link below that.

 

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Encouragement From The Word

Forgiveness

We all make mistakes.  Some days, our blunders are bigger than others, but even on our good days, there are booboos.  We need to deal with them quickly and constructively.

One of the things I help couples understand during marriage preparation is the importance of open communication – owning our own feelings, telling the other person in a constructive way if something is bothersome, or even offensive.  This is true in all our interpersonal relationships, of course, but most people don’t come and talk to me about it unless they’re preparing to get married, when I require them to have the conversation.  I wish it were required for all people at various times in life.  (Maybe if we had a crash course in interpersonal relationships as often as we have to get our licence plate stickers renewed, the world would be less encumbered by conflict!)

If you have been offended – I don’t mean in the trendy way of a new generation, but truly hurt – you have a responsibility to tell the person who hurt you and own up to how you feel.  The other party then has the responsibility to apologize for the offence and to make amends, even if she or he doesn’t think anything was done inappropriately.  After all, what the other person received was her or his reality, and something can be learned for the sake of the relationship if an apology is offered and the conflict is cleared up.  And then – this is sometimes the hard part – your next responsibility is to forgive that person quickly.

It may be hard to forget the offence, but for the sake of the relationship, it’s important to clear the slate and start fresh.  I often illustrate it this way:  I have a small scar near the knuckle of my left index finger.  I remember exactly how it got there.  I was adding weight to a freight car on my model railroad, about 16 years ago, when a dollop of hot glue landed on my hand.  Of course, my immediate reaction was to get rid of what was causing the pain.  As I brushed off the glue, it took some skin with it.  It healed, and I have the scar – but no pain.  I remember the incident, but it’s over.  It causes no angst, no pain; I am left only with the memory.

That can be the case in relationships, too.  We may remember the offence, but the pain is gone when we’ve forgiven the other person.

“…be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4.32, NLT).

Biblical Messages

Mission as Evangelism

Evangelism is something that not many church going people are good at, sometimes because we don’t know what it is, and sometimes because we don’t know why or how to do it.  In this message, from 2 Corinthians 5.11-15, we learn about that.

Near the end, we watched a video that you can find here.

 

 

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