Monday, December 31, 2007

At the End of the Year

"Mark the providences of this year; how clearly you have seen His hand in things which others esteem chance! God, who has moved the world, has exercised His own vast heart and thought for you. . . . He who counts the hairs of our heads, and keeps us as the apple of His eye, has not forgotten you, but still loves you with an everlasting love."

- Charles Spurgeon, in a letter to his mother, 1850

Thursday, December 27, 2007

It's Still Christmas, You Know

From Wikipedia:
The Twelve Days of Christmas and the associated evenings of those twelve days (Twelve-tide), are the festive days beginning the evening of Christmas Day (December 25) through the morning of Epiphany (January 6). The associated evenings of the twelve days begin on the evening before the specified day. Thus, the first night of Christmas is December 25–26, and Twelfth Night is January 5–6. This period is also known as Christmastide.
READ ON . . .

"A Brief History of Christmas"

THIS INTERESTING PIECE by John Steele Gordon appeared at on Christmas Day. It makes the same distinction C.S. Lewis humorously made HERE. The introduction:
Christmas famously "comes but once a year." In fact, however, it comes twice. The Christmas of the Nativity, the manger and Christ child, the wise men and the star of Bethlehem, "Silent Night" and "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" is one holiday. The Christmas of parties, Santa Claus, evergreens, presents, "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "Jingle Bells" is quite another.

But because both celebrations fall on Dec. 25, the two are constantly confused. Religious Christians condemn taking "the Christ out of Christmas," while First Amendment absolutists see a threat to the separation of church and state in every poinsettia on public property and school dramatization of "A Christmas Carol."

A little history can clear things up.
READ ON . . .

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Birth of Jesus Christ

Luke 2:1-21

And it happened in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus to register the whole world. This registration first happened when Qurenius was governor of Syria. And everyone went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth into Judah, into the town of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was from the household and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary who was engaged to him, who was pregnant. And it happened while they were there the days were fulfilled for her to deliver, and she delivered her first-born son and wrapped him in baby clothes and put him to be in a feeding trough, because there was no place for them in the inn.

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the fields keeping watch over their flocks by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shined around them, and they feared greatly. And the angel said to them, "Do not fear, for behold I bring to you good news of great joy which is for all the people, that a savior was born to you today in the town of David who is Christ the Lord. And this is the sign for you: you will find the baby wrapped in baby clothes and put to bed in a feeding trough." And it happened that there appeared with the angel a multitude of the army of heaven praising God and saying, "Glory to God on high, and peace upon the earth, goodwill to mankind."

And it happened as the angels departed from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go into Bethlehem and see this word which has happened, which the Lord made known to us." And they went hurriedly and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby put to bed in a feeding trough. And they beheld what was made known to them in the word which was spoken to them concerning this child. And they all marveled when they heard what was told them by the shepherds. But Mary gathered up all these words, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds departed glorifying and praising God for the things they heard and saw just as it was spoken to them.

And when eight days were fulfilled they circumcised him and called his name Jesus, the name given him by the angel when he was in the womb.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Just in time for the holidays, Josh Harris is in the middle of a series of posts on "affluenza." From part 1:
What is "affluenza"? Affluenza is a nifty little word that some clever sociologist created by mixing two different words together. The word affluence means having a great deal of money. Influenza is a highly contagious and potentially fatal disease. When you mash these two together, you get affluenza, which is a useful word for describing the problems generated by a rich consumer culture that has an endless hunger for more and more stuff. Affluenza is the disease of greed. It's the materialistic mindset that says getting more money and possessions is the ultimate aim of life. Affluenza is the spirit of our age, and it has infected all of us.
From part 4:
Suppose we could, from heaven's vantage point, identify the greatest spiritual peril that Christians in each nation face. Don't you think heaven's "greatest challenge" verdict over American Christians would be the danger of loving the things of this world more than God himself? Is there any question that our greatest peril is having the possessions and the wealth of this world cling to us so much that we take our eyes off the heavenly city to which we're called? Those of us here in the States must acknowledge our unique vulnerability to affluenza if we are going to be vigilant against greed.
Read part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Tell Them

I read the following passage yesterday, and received it from the Lord as a good reminder of what should be a regular practice for me and what I should particularly look to do when I'm home this Christmas:
As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. And he did not permit him but said to him, "Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you." And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.
(Mark 5:18-21)
O gracious and merciful Lord,
May we be so satisfied in you, so aware of our wretchedness before you, and so grateful for your grace and mercy which we do not deserve, that we are not afraid to speak of the glorious gospel of Christ to our friends and family who do not know you, and to invite them to believe it. Embolden us to "proclaim the excellencies of him who called [us] out of darkness and into his marvelous light." Persuade our hearts that if we do not share Christ with them, we have not loved them but rather hated them. Please make our witness effective for your name's sake, granting faith and repentance to our friends and family.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Wednesday is Word Day

Look for an opportunity to work this word into a conversation over the next few days. Let me know if you succeed. I listed some common misstatements, and many more were listed in the comments, here.


favorable to or promoting health or well-being <salubrious habits>
Latin salubris; akin to salvus safe, healthy

Saturday, December 08, 2007


There is no joy like the joy of heaven,

for in that state are no sad divisions, unchristian quarrels,
contentions, evil designs, weariness, hunger, cold,
sadness, sin, suffering, persecutions, toils of duty.

O healthful place where none are sick!
O happy land where all are kings!
O holy assembly where all are priests!
How free a state where none are servants except to thee!
Bring me speedily to the land of joy.

- from The Valley of Vision, p. 162.

She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.

She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.

Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:

"Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all."

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.

Give her the reward she has earned,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

- Proverbs 31:25-31

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Biblical Equality and Ephesians 5:21-33

Does the Bible teach husbands to submit to their wives?

In an an article at the CBE website, Gilbert Bilezikian says that whenever the word head is used in the New Testament to refer to Christ, it means "provider of life" or "source" (in the way that the head of a river is its source, its place of origin) and does not mean "authority, boss or leader." Using this definition he makes the following comment on Eph 5:23:
As head of the church, Christ is its Savior. If head had meant authority, the appropriate designation for Christ would have been "Lord" instead of "Savior" which is consistently a self-sacrificing, life-giving servant role in the New Testament.
His point is that, given his definition of head, Eph 5:23 has nothing to do with authority and everything to do with mutual submission (mentioned two verses earlier, in 5:21). Therefore, according to Dr. Bilezikian, Eph 5:23 does not teach male leadership and female submission.

A bit earlier in the article he mentions that, "A basic rule of sound hermeneutics requires that no biblical term or concept be infused with meanings foreign to it." Of course. And another rule is that every verse should be read in its context. I would suggest that Dr. Bilezikian's interpretation of the present verse does not fit the context in which the verse is situated:
15Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
From the verses above it seems clear, even if we grant Dr. Bilezikian's definition of head (which I am not sure I do), that authority is indeed in view in this passage. Whatever Paul means by head he means it as the ground or reason for the command in verse 22 that wives should submit to their husbands as to the Lord. He repeats this command in verse 24, adding that a wife's submission to her husband is to be like the church's submission to Christ. Therefore, we must reject Dr. Bilezikian's interpretation that Christ is portrayed in this passage merely as a "servant provider." Whatever head means here, the thrust of the passage is that the church owes obedience to Christ and wives owe the same kind of obedience to their husbands.

I would also suggest that verse 24 might explain what Paul means by head in verse 23.

But what should we do with verse 21 ("submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ")? This much is clear. Paul can't mean "all submit to all," for immediately after saying "submit to one another" he goes on to explain at length precisely what he means: Wives are to submit to husbands (verses 22-33), children to parents (6:1-4) and servants to masters (6:5-9). Rather than "all submit to all," Paul seems to mean something like, "Submit to one another in the following relationships."

When Dr. Bilezikian concludes from Eph 5:21 that "Christ makes of husbands servants to their wives in their relationship of mutual submission," he comes close to making a great blunder. It is this. If Eph 5:21ff teaches that husbands and wives should submit to one another, it must also teach that Christ and the church should submit to one another, since that is what the husband-wife relationship is compared to. But this is unthinkable (and perhaps blasphemous). Christ, as Lord of the church, deserves her obedience and owes her none. The book of Ephesians itself teaches us this in numerous places (see for example 1:2, 3, 15, 17; 2:21, 3:11, 4:1, 5; 6:23, 24). Has any of us, in time of prayer, ever commanded Christ to submit to us? I think not.

In conclusion, it seems clear that Eph 5:21-33 teaches us that husbands are to exercise loving and humble leadership over their wives, and that wives are to graciously and gladly submit to their husbands' leadership, even as the church gladly submits to Christ. Every believer knows that personal obedience to Christ is part of the Christian life. We don't think it demeaning to submit to our Lord. Quite the opposite in fact. Don't we all admire those Christians whose lives are marked by humble and unswerving obedience? We see Christ in them - Christ who himself submits to the Father (see John 5:30ff, 8:28). In this connection Dr. Bruce Ware has noted that, "if Christ, who is equal with the Father in essence and glory, submits to the Father, then it is as God-like to submit as to lead." Eph 5:21-33 would have us believe that the wife's submission to her husband is appropriate and beautiful and praiseworthy.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Exmas and Christmas

Here's a little essay on Christmas by good old Jack.


A Lost Chapter from Herodotus
By C.S. Lewis

And beyond this there lies in the ocean, turned towards the west and the north, the island of Niatirb which Hecataeus indeed declares to be the same size and shape as Sicily, but it is larger, and though in calling it triangular a man would not miss the mark. It is densely inhabited by men who wear clothes not very different from other barbarians who occupy the north- western parts of Europe though they do not agree with them in language. These islanders, surpassing all the men of whom we know in patience and endurance, use the following customs.

In the middle of winter when fogs and rains most abound they have a great festival which they call Exmas, and for fifty days they prepare for it in the fashion I shall describe. First of all, every citizen is obliged to send to each of his friends and relations a square piece of hard paper stamped with a picture, which in their speech is called an Exmas-card . But the pictures represent birds sitting on branches, or trees with a dark green prickly leaf, or else men in such garments as the Niatirbians believe that their ancestors wore two hundred years ago riding in coaches such as their ancestors used, or houses with snow on their roofs. And the Niatirbians are unwilling to say what these pictures have to do with the festival, guarding (as I suppose) some sacred mystery. And because all men must send these cards the market-place is filled with the crowd of those buying them, so that there is great labour and weariness.

But having bought as many as they suppose to be sufficient, they return to their houses and find there the like cards which others have sent to them. And when they find cards from any to whom they also have sent cards, they throw them away and give thanks to the gods that this labour at least is over for another year. But when they find cards from any to whom they have not sent, then they beat their breasts and wail and utter curses against the sender; and, having sufficiently lamented their misfortune, they put on their boots again and go out into the fog and rain and buy a card for him also. And let this account suffice about Exmas-cards.

They also send gifts to one another, suffering the same things about the gifts as about the cards, or even worse. For every citizen has to guess the value of the gift which every friend will send to him so that he may send one of equal value, whether he can afford it or not. And they buy as gifts for one another such things as no man ever bought for himself. For the sellers, understanding the custom, put forth all kinds of trumpery, and whatever, being useless and ridiculous, sell as an Exmas gift. And though the Niatirbians profess themselves to lack sufficient necessary things, such as metal, leather, wood and paper, yet an incredible quantity of these things is wasted every year, being made into the gifts.

But during these fifty days the oldest, poorest and the most miserable of citizens put on false beards and red robes and walk in the market-place; being disguised (in my opinion) as Cronos. And the sellers of gifts no less than the purchasers become pale and weary, because of the crowds and the fog, so that any man who came into a Niatirbian city at this season would think that some great calamity had fallen on Niatirb. This fifty days of preparation is called in their barbarian speech the Exmas Rush.
But when the day of the festival comes, then most of the citizens, being exhausted with the Rush, lie in bed till noon. But in the evening they eat five times as much supper as on other days and, crowning themselves with crowns of paper, they become intoxicated. And on the day after Exmas they are very grave, being internally disordered by the supper and the drinking and reckoning how much they have spent on gifts and on the wine. For wine is so dear among the Niatirbians that a man must swallow the worth of a talent before he is well intoxicated.

Such, then, are their customs about the Exmas. But the few among the Niatirbians have also a festival, separate and to themselves, called Crissmas , which is on the same day as Exmas. And those who keep Crissmas, doing the opposite to the majority of the Niatirbians, rise early on that day with shining faces and go before sunrise to certain temples where they partake of a sacred feast. And in most of the temples they set out images of a fair woman with a new-born Child on her knees and certain animals and shepherds adoring the Child. (The reason of these images is given in a certain sacred story which I know but do not repeat.)

But I myself conversed with a priest in one of these temples and asked him why they kept Crissmas on the same day as Exmas; for it appeared to me inconvenient. But the priest replied, It is not lawful, O Stranger, for us to change the date of Crissmas, but would that Zeus would put it into the minds of the Niatirbians to keep Exmas at some other time or not to keep it at all. For Exmas and the Rush distract the minds even of the few from sacred things. And we indeed are glad that men should make merry at Crissmas; but in Exmas there is no merriment left. And when I asked him why they endured the Rush, he replied, It is, O Stranger, a racket; using (as I suppose) the words of some oracle and speaking unintelligibly to me (for a racket is an instrument which the barbarians use in a game called tennis).

But what Hecataeus says, that Exmas and Crissmas are the same, is not credible. For the first, the pictures which are stamped on the Exmas-cards have nothing to do with the sacred story which the priests tell about Crissmas. And secondly, the most part of the Niatirbians, not believing the religion of the few, nevertheless send the gifts and cards and participate in the Rush and drink, wearing paper caps. But it is not likely that men, even being barbarians, should suffer so many and great things in honour of a god they do not believe in. And now, enough about Niatirb.