Monday, November 28, 2016

Why Christmas Matters

If Christmas is true, then it makes all the difference.

We sing it every year in our Christmas carols, especially in “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” when we cry out: “Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see; hail the incarnate Deity.”

The Apostles’ Creed doesn’t use it, but it teaches the doctrine of it when we read, “Conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary.”

Incarnation. If you understand the word, you’ll understand what Christmas is about.

Christmas is, frankly, doctrinal. The invisible has become visible, the incorporeal has become corporeal. In other words, God has become human.

This is not only a specific doctrine, but it’s also unique. Doctrine always distinguishes you. One of the reasons we’re afraid to talk about doctrine is because it distinguishes us from others.

Here’s why the doctrine of Christmas is unique. On one hand, you’ve got religions that say God is so immanent in all things that incarnation is normal. If you’re a Buddhist or Hindu, God is immanent in everything. On the other hand, religions like Islam and Judaism say God is so transcendent over all things that incarnation is impossible.

But Christianity is unique. It doesn’t say incarnation is normal, but it doesn’t say it’s impossible. It says God is so immanent that it is possible, but He is so transcendent that the incarnation of God in the person of Jesus Christ is a history-altering, life-transforming, paradigm-shattering event.

Christmas is not just frankly doctrinal; it’s also boldly historical. The manger, the resurrection, the story of Jesus is not just a story. It’s true.

Christmas is not just frankly doctrinal; it’s also boldly historical.

This goes completely against what the average person believes. The average person says they’re parables. They’re legends. They didn’t happen.

The point of Christmas is that Jesus Christ really lived, and He really died. It happened in history. He did these things. He said these things.

You may think, What’s the big deal? You’re being doctrinaire here. No. People say, “I like the teachings of Jesus. I like the meaning of these stories—to love one another, serve one another. I like that. But it doesn’t matter if these things really happened. Doctrine doesn’t matter. What matters is you’re a good person.”

The great irony is, that is a doctrine. It’s called the doctrine of justification by works. What they’re saying is that it doesn’t matter that Jesus actually lived the life we should have lived and died the death we should have died; all that matters is that we follow His teaching. That is a doctrine that says, “I’m not so bad I need someone to come and be good for me. I can be good. I’m not so cut off from God, and God is not so holy that there has to be punishment for sin.”

The Gospel is not that Jesus Christ comes to earth, tells us how to live, we live a good life and then God owes us blessing. The Gospel is that Jesus Christ came to earth, lived the life we should have lived and died the death we should have died—so when we believe in Him, we live a life of grateful joy for Him. If these things didn’t happen, if they’re just parables, what you are saying is that if you try hard enough, God will accept you.

If Jesus didn’t come, the story of Christmas is one more moral paradigm to crush you. If Jesus didn’t come, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere around these Christmas stories that say we need to be sacrificing, we need to be humble, we need to be loving. All that will do is crush you into the ground. Because if it isn’t true that John saw Him, heard Him, felt Him, that Jesus really came to do these things, then Christmas is depressing.

First John 1:3 says, “Our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son.” “Fellowship” means that if Jesus Christ has come, if Christmas is true, then we’ve got a basis for a personal relationship with God. God is no longer a remote idea or a force we cower before, but we can know Him personally. He’s become graspable.

If Jesus Christ is actually God come in the flesh, you’re going to know much more about God. You’re seeing Him weep. You’re seeing Him upset. You’re seeing Him cast down. You’re seeing Him exalted. If Jesus is who He says He is, we have a 500-page autobiography from God, in a sense. And our understanding will be vastly more personal and specific than any philosophy or religion could give us.

Look at what God has done to get you to know Him personally. If the Son would come all this way to become a real person to you, don’t you think the Holy Spirit will do anything in His power to make Jesus a real person to you in your heart? Christmas is an invitation to know Christ personally. Christmas is an invitation by God to say: 

Look what I’ve done to come near to you. Now draw near to Me. I don’t want to be a concept; I want to be a friend.

By Tim Keller
December 10, 2011
Timothy Keller is the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, which he started in 1989 with his wife, Kathy, and three young sons.  For over twenty years he has led a diverse congregation of young professionals that has grown to a weekly attendance of over 5,000.

He is also Chairman of Redeemer City to City, which starts new churches in New York and other global cities, and publishes books and resources for faith in an urban culture. In over ten years they have helped to launch over 250 churches in 48 cities. More recently, Dr. Keller’s books, including the New York Times bestselling The Reason for God and The Prodigal God, have sold over 1 million copies and been translated into 15 languages.

Christianity Today has said, “Fifty years from now, if evangelical Christians are widely known for their love of cities, their commitment to mercy and justice, and their love of their neighbors, Tim Keller will be remembered as a pioneer of the new urban Christians.”

Dr. Keller was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and educated at Bucknell University, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and Westminster Theological Seminary. He previously served as the pastor of West Hopewell Presbyterian Church in Hopewell, Virginia, Associate Professor of Practical Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary, and Director of Mercy Ministries for the Presbyterian Church in America.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Does a Husband Have the Authority To...?

Central to my teaching and counseling ministry to men is the gospel, exhorting them to live in light of it's power, grace, truth and freedom, and reminding them of their identity in Christ. We live in the most confused and compromised generation in our history about what it means to be a man. Therefore, the most critical message to them is that authentic manhood - real masculinity - is grounded in the gospel of Jesus Christ and modeled by Him in His 33 years on earth.

One of my continual reminders to men about their God-given roles, responsibilities and privileges is this: A husband has no right to force his wife to do something against her will or to rule over her. Rather in emulation of Christ, he is to love her unconditionally and sacrificially, to cherish her, to shepherd her and to cause her to flourish in faith and practice. Mary Kassian puts this blessed biblical truth well when she writes, “It is not the husband’s right to force or coerce his wife to submit. Submission is voluntary on a wife’s part, and her choice entirely.” Read more from Mary below:

Does a husband have the authority to take his wife’s phone away, preventing her from making calls?

Does a husband have the authority to take his wife’s car keys? House keys?

Does a husband have the authority to physically prevent his wife from leaving the home?

Does a husband have the authority to physically force his wife to accompany him when he leaves the home?

Does a husband have the authority to lock his wife out of the house?

Does a husband have the authority to keep financial documents away from his wife?

Does a husband have the authority to take the wife’s personal property without consent?

These are not theoretical questions. They were posed to me by Ruth Tucker, a woman whose ex-husband claimed the Bible gave him the right to do these things. I share them here with her permission.

All of Ruth’s questions pertain to the issue of whether a husband has a right to force his wife to do something against her will. I believe that the Bible teaches that a husband’s position as head of the home does not give him the right to rule, but rather the responsibility to provide loving oversight. A husband is not imparted with privilege; he is entrusted with obligation—the obligation to love, cherish and shepherd, in emulation of Christ.

Though complementarians have consistently upheld this view, this truth deserves to be stated and restated with clarity: It is not the husband’s right to force or coerce his wife to submit. Submission is voluntary on a wife’s part, and her choice entirely.

A Radically Different View of Authority

Culture upholds authority as the right to rule and lord it over others, but Scripture paints a radically different picture about the true nature of authority. It teaches that:

Authority is not self-appointed; it’s delegated by God.

Authority is not personally owned; it merely stewards and manages that which belongs to God.

Authority is not about rights; it’s about responsibility.

Authority is not about seeking prominence; it’s about giving prominence.

Authority is not domineering and dictatorial; it’s humble and gentle.

Authority is not about getting; it’s about giving.

Authority is not about selfish gain; it’s about selfless sacrifice.

Every authority is accountable to a higher authority, and all are accountable to God the Father, who is the ultimate authority.

Godly authority is motivated by love and commitment. Godly authority builds up; it doesn’t tear down. Godly authority serves as a channel of God’s protection and blessing. Godly authority watches over the well-being of others. Godly authority works with them, and for their joy. Godly authority doesn’t glorify self; it glorifies God. It puts His character on display.

It Must Not Be Like That Among Us

So my answer to Ruth’s questions—and the answer I would expect from all my fellow complementarians—is a clear and resounding “no.”

No. A husband does not have the right to take his wife’s phone away, preventing her from making calls.

No. A husband does not have the right to take his wife’s car keys or house keys.

No. A husband does not have the right to physically prevent his wife from leaving the home.

No. A husband does not have the right to physically force his wife to accompany him when he leaves the home.

No. A husband does not have the right to lock his wife out of the house.

Jesus condemned a personal-power view of authority. He condemned men who exercised authority in a selfish, domineering manner. He said, “It must not be like that among you!” (Mark 10:43-45)

The misuse/abuse of authority is an abomination to God. He wants leaders to be shepherds after His own heart.
(Jeremiah 23:2; Ezekiel 34:1-4; Zechariah 11:17).

Some of the Bible’s most scathing condemnations are directed toward leaders who fail to exercise authority in a godly manner. The Lord’s anger burns hot against them (Zechariah 10:3).

According to the Bible, a wife’s submission is her choice alone. A husband does not have the right to force or coerce her to do things against her will. He does not have the right to domineer. He does not have the right to pull rank and use strong-arm tactics. He does not have the right to make his wife submit. No. According to the author of our faith, it must not be like that among us!

Mary Kassian is an award winning author, internationally renowned speaker, and a distinguished professor of women's studies at Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. She is a member of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW). She has published several books, Bible studies and videos, including: In My Father's House: Finding Your Heart's True Home, Conversation Peace, and Vertically Inclined. At home in Alberta, Canada, Mary watches lots of sports! Three teenage sons play ice hockey, and her husband, Brent, is chaplain for the local professional football team. The Kassians enjoy biking, hiking, snorkeling, music, board games, mountains, campfires, and their family's black lab, General Beau. Read more about Mary at her personal web site:

Monday, July 18, 2016

What It Means To Be a Policeman by Paul Harvey

Legendary broadcaster Paul Harvey was born Paul Harvey Aurandt (1918-2009). He was the son of an Oklahoma police officer who was shot and killed when Paul was only two years old.  Paul shortened his name to simply “Paul Harvey” for his three quarters of a century on the radio.

Paul Harvey’s dad and a police detective were off duty and had been rabbit hunting in the woods outside Tulsa when three would-be robbers shot them while sitting in their car.  Despite wounds in his lung, leg and liver, Paul’s dad…Officer Aurandt…drove a mile to a farmhouse seeking help…and died two days later.

Paul Harvey never really knew his dad…but knowing what had happened, having the benefit of a strong surviving family unit and an inherited work ethic, and probably because of the times and atmosphere in which he grew up…Paul had an abiding and deep rooted respect for “law and order”…and he broadcast its values to the world until he died at age 90.

On one of his broadcasts back in 1970, when there was rising concerns about crime and violence, Paul Harvey told of how his generation saw and treasured law enforcement officers…by appropriately, respectfully telling the story…”What Is A Policeman”.  In honor of and appreciation for all those who serve us uniform, even giving up their lives for our sake, we share the text and video clip of Paul Harvey's 1970 broadcast with you below:

“What are policemen made of? A policeman is a composite of what all men are, mingling of a saint and sinner, dust and deity. Gulled statistics wave the fan over the stinkers, underscore instances of dishonesty and brutality because they are ‘new.’ What they really mean is that they are exceptional, unusual, not commonplace.

“Buried under the frost is the fact: Less than one-half of 1 percent of policemen misfit the uniform. That’s a better average than you’d find among clergy!

“What is a policeman made of? He, of all men, is once the most needed and the most unwanted. He’s a strangely nameless creature who is ‘sir’ to his face and ‘fuzz’ (or worse) to his back. He must be such a diplomat that he can settle differences between individuals so that each will think he won.

“But if a policeman is neat, he’s conceited; if he’s careless, he’s a bum. If he’s pleasant, he’s flirting; if not, he’s a grouch. He must make an instant decision which would require months for a lawyer to make. But if he hurries, he’s careless; if he’s deliberate, he’s lazy.

“He must be first to an accident and infallible with his diagnosis. He must be able to start breathing, stop bleeding, tie splints and, above all, be sure the victim goes home without a limp. Or expect to get sued.

“The police officer must know every gun, draw on the run, and hit where it doesn’t hurt. He must be able to whip two men twice his size and half his age without damaging his uniform and without being ‘brutal.’ If you hit him, he’s a coward. If he hits you, he’s a bully.

“A policeman must know everything and not tell. He must know where all the sin is and not partake. A policeman must, from a single strand of hair, be able to describe the crime, the weapon and the criminal, and tell you where the criminal is hiding. But, if he catches the criminal, he’s lucky; if he doesn’t, he’s a dunce. If he gets promoted, he has political pull; if he doesn’t, he’s a dullard.

“The policeman must chase a bum lead to a dead-end, stake out 10 nights to tag one witness who saw it happen — but refused to remember. The policeman must be a minister, a social worker, a diplomat, a tough guy and a gentleman. And, of course, he’d have to be a genius — for he will have to feed a family on a policeman’s salary.”