Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Who Is the Babe of Bethlehem?
Adrian Rogers

"In whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins; Who is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of every creature." Colossians 1:14-15

Of all the people who have walked planet Earth, only a handful have made any real, lasting impression or changed the world. And of that handful of people, there is One who stands head and shoulders above all the others. His name is Jesus. More attention has been given to Him, more devotion, more criticism, more adoration, more opposition than all of the others.

Every recorded word He said has been sifted, analyzed, scrutinized, and debated, more than all the historians, philosophers and scientists put together. The great historian Kenneth Scott Latourette said, "Jesus has had more effect on the history of mankind than any other of its race who ever existed."

To explain Jesus Christ is impossible. To ignore Jesus Christ is disastrous. To reject Him is fatal. Understand who Jesus Christ is. Jesus reveals the Father.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

10 Things About the Christmas Story
You May Have Missed

Joe McKeever

They were not "kings" from the east and there weren't three of them. And when they arrived in Bethlehem, Joseph and Mary and Baby Jesus were not still in the stable, but in a house, contrary to half the Christmas cards that will be arriving at your house.

And there's no indication there were cattle in that stable or anywhere nearby. In fact, the only thing that leads us to believe Jesus was born in a stable is that Luke 2:7 tells us Mary laid the Baby in a manger, a feeding trough.

But you knew all this.

And you knew that all of this was predicted through the centuries by God's prophets. We particularly treasure the promises of Isaiah 7:14 ("Behold a virgin shall conceive....") and 9:6-7 ("For unto us a child is born...."), as well as Micah 5:2 ("Bethlehem...out of you shall come forth One to be Ruler over Israel...").

And you knew that, contrary to the Christmas hymn "The First Noel," the shepherds in Bethlehem's fields did not "looked up and saw a star shining in the East beyond them far" (modern hymnals have revised that line to read "For all to see there was a star....").

But, allow me to point out some aspects of this wonderful story it's possible you might have missed. There is no particular order intended.

1. Joseph has no speaking lines.

This man who was to become the earthly father of our Lord Jesus was a man of action. He heard and he obeyed.

I recall hearing of a mother calling the school to inform the teacher that her son had a bad cold and would be unable to play Joseph in the Nativity play later that morning. It was too late to replace him, so they did the play without Joseph.

No one missed him.

2. Mary is a deep thinker.

Twice we read that she "pondered" these things. Once when Gabriel made the original announcement to her (Luke 1:29) and then when the shepherds entered the birth chamber (whatever it was, stable, etc.) to tell of the visitation of the angels (Luke 2:19).

The contrast between Mary and Joseph is fairly strong. He seems never to question a word from the Lord, but goes immediately to obey. Mary thinks it through, and even deigns to ask the angel of God how such a thing could be.

3. After the angels made their announcement to the shepherds, they did not command them to do anything.

Since the shepherds dropped everything and ran into Bethlehem to "see this thing which has come to pass," we might have expected the angels to have instructed them to go. Instead, the angel of God did something far superior: He informed them how to recognize the Christ-child once they found Him. "This shall be a sign to you: you will find the Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths."

God knew those He had chosen as the welcoming committee for His Son. He knew, that even though they were lowly shepherds--a category we would call unskilled labor--they were wise enough to come to Him as soon as they knew how.

4. There is great intrigue in this story.

A great cosmic drama is taking place here. On the one hand, we see Heaven opened and angels heralding the arrival of God's Son on earth. And on the other, hell's forces marshal to oppose Him and if possible, to kill Him and put an early end to this redemptive mission from Heaven.

Angels in the outdoors and Herod's soldiers entering homes to crush the skulls of infants.

The battle was joined and has raged ever since.

Readers wishing to explore this further should google "How God Fooled Satan at Christmas," my article on this subject.

5. Head knowledge is not sufficient.

In Matthew 2:3, all Jerusalem was abuzz with talk about the foreign visitors who had arrived in town, naively inquiring at every service station and convenience store, "Well? Where is He? Where is the One born King of the Jews?"

They figured that this wonderful news would be the talk of the city. Instead, no one else seemed to know anything about it.

Then, when Herod called the religious leaders to ask where the Messiah was to be born (Matthew 2:4), these doctors of theology informed him that the Old Testament prophet Micah had said Bethlehem was the place.

What we wonder is why they didn't go to Bethlehem. It's not like it was in the next hemisphere. Bethlehem lies some 5 miles south of Jerusalem, an easy walk for a healthy person.

The clear conclusion is that these religious leaders had the Bible knowledge but no real interest in God or the promise of Scripture.

6. The prosperity gospel stumbles at this story.

Mary and Joseph are poor. There is not a word in the text to indicate otherwise.

When they presented their Baby in the temple for the prescribed dedication of the first-born, unable to afford a lamb for an offering, the young parents gave a couple of birds (Luke 2:24; based on Leviticus 12:2,8).

7. The gold from the Magi had a very practical purpose.

Immediately after Matthew tells of the visit of the visitors from the East and their wonderful gifts, he tells how the Lord's angel spoke to Joseph in a dream, informing him that Herod was on a killing jag and he should take the family to Egypt.

Doubtless, the gold was provided by the Lord to finance this unexpected trip.

8. Notice the crossing of human lines and barriers in this story.

We have the young and the old (Mary, Joseph, the Baby, and Simeon and Anna in the temple. Luke 2).

We have the rich and the poor (the Magi and the young family. Matthew 2).

We have the Jews and the Gentiles (the Magi were the non-Jews).

We have the highest (angels) and the lowest (shepherds).

This wonderful story is clearly for "whosoever" and "all the world," as John 3:16 informs us.

9. Telling the story is a privilege.

It would appear that Mary and Joseph's account of the angels' appearances were so personal--and so unbelievable--that they either told no one at first or very few people.

The shepherds heard the message from the angels, left those miserable sheep to fend for themselves and raced into Bethlehem to see the Christ-child, then went out and told everyone what they had heard and seen.

Poor Zacharias. After questioning the angel inside the Temple (Luke 1), he was not allowed to tell what he had heard and seen until his son John was born.

Telling others of Jesus is a privilege many of us take for granted.

I think of the leper in Mark 1 whom Jesus healed. Then, the Lord instructed him to show himself to the priest and do what Moses commanded, but to otherwise keep the news to himself. However, he was just not able to do that. He went out and began to "blaze abroad" the matter.

Jesus tells you and me to tell everyone and we go home and sit down. Something is way wrong here.

10. Jesus did no miracles in His boyhood.

By all reports from Luke 2, Jesus had a normal childhood in Nazareth. In fact, John 2 informs us that the turning of water to wine at the wedding in Cana of Galilee was His first miracle.

Lest we are tempted to temper that by saying, "It was the first miracle of His ministry, but not the first one He had done," I submit the following.

Had the boy Jesus been doing miracles in Nazareth like an early "Superboy of Smallville," the world would have taken note of Him and beaten a path to His door. Satan would have noticed also and come running, ready to abort God's plans for His Son.

That did not happen because Jesus was not doing miracles, was not teaching, and was not distinguishing Himself in any way during his youth. That's why, when He did start to preach and heal and work wonders, His neighbors were astonished. Where did this man get these things? And what wisdom is this which is given to him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon?Are not his sisters here with us? (Mark 5:2-3).

Dr. Joe McKeever is a Preacher, Cartoonist, and the Director of Missions for the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans. Visit him at joemckeever.com/mt.

Ten Questions to Ask

at a Christmas Gathering

Many of us struggle to make conversation at Christmas gatherings, whether church events, work-related parties, neighborhood drop-ins, or annual family occasions. Sometimes our difficulty lies in having to chat with people we rarely see or have never met. At other times we simply don’t know what to say to those with whom we feel little in common.

Moreover, as Christians we want to take advantage of the special opportunities provided by the Christmas season to share our faith, but are often unsure how to begin. Here’s a list of questions designed not only to kindle a conversation in almost any Christmas situation, but also to take the dialogue gradually to a deeper level. Use them in a private conversation or as a group exercise, with believers or unbelievers, with strangers or with family.

1) What’s the best thing that’s happened to you since last Christmas?

2) What was your best Christmas ever? Why?

3) What’s the most meaningful Christmas gift you’ve ever received?

4) What was the most appreciated Christmas gift you’ve ever given?

5) What was your favorite Christmas tradition as a child?

6) What is your favorite Christmas tradition now?

7) What do you do to try to keep Christ in Christmas?

8) Why do you think people started celebrating the birth of Jesus?

9) Do you think the birth of Jesus deserves such a nearly worldwide celebration?

10) Why do you think Jesus came to earth?

Of course, remember to pray before your Christmas gatherings. Ask the Lord to grant you "divine appointments," to guide your conversations, and to open doors for the gospel. May He use you to bring glory to Christ this Christmas.

Copyright © 2003 Donald S. Whitney. All rights reserved.
For more short, reproducible pieces like this, see www.BiblicalSpirituality.org

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


This year has presented unique opportunitues to our family for growth, reflection, and obedience to the Lord. One such opportunity is our transition to a new church home. Pastor and author, Ray Pritchard of Keep Believing Ministries offers helpful advice on how to move forward! Thought you might enjoy this one.

How to Leave a Church by Ray Pritchard

An email came from someone asking for advice on how to leave a church. The details don’t matter except that both the husband and wife have concluded that after years of being in one particular congregation, the time has come for them to find another place of worship. Partly it involves their children and partly it involves a desire to be part of a church with a strong outreach to the community. I don’t know exactly where these folks live or what sort of church they’ve been attending nor could I tell much about the inner life of the congregation, except that it sounded rather stagnant.

In any case, the question was not, “Should we leave?” but rather, “How should we leave?” Here is part of what I wrote in response:

Leaving a church is always difficult and there is no perfect way to do it, but there are some ways that are better and some ways that are worse.

Three words should guide your actions:

Leave quickly.
Leave quietly.
Leave graciously.

Quickly means when you leave, you leave. Drawing out your exit rarely makes things better. It doesn’t help to “sort of” leave a church. When the time comes to leave, make your exit and go your way.

Quietly means you don’t try to explain yourself to others. In my judgment, you don’t owe a long explanation to every person in the church. If you have certain responsibilities in the church, you should let the leaders know so they can make proper plans. And quietly means you don’t write letters to the congregation or make a big announcement and you don’t try to explain yourself over and over again. That’s usually a big mistake. Sometimes people who leave a church try to control what other people say after they are gone. Forget about it. You can’t control what anyone says. Some people may be deeply hurt by your leaving. It may mean the end of some friendships. Certainly things will change.

You can’t say, “I want to leave this church but I want all my relationships to stay the same.” I think you’ll find that some people relate to you primarily as a part of the church, and they won’t be able to have the same relationship with you when you are gone. You have to be willing to let that happen and not try to control things. Leaving means letting go.

Graciously means you refuse to speak evil of those who remain in the church. Look forward, not backward. Focus on your new church, not your old one. Think carefully before you speak about your former congregation. Don’t say anything that could be remotely construed as criticism. Even casual comments could stir up needless controversy. Let the Golden Rule guide all your comments public and private.

In the end, Christ is Lord both of your former church and your new church. He loves both with an everlasting love. Those churches were both there before you came along and both will be there after you are off the scene. The church of Jesus is so much larger than anything we can imagine—and God’s work is far bigger than our limited vision.

When the time comes to leave, leave. Don’t hesitate, dawdle, and don’t be like Lot’s wife who looked back. You may not turn into a pillar of salt but looking back will do no good either. So leave with a good heart, trusting that the same Lord is Lord over both churches. He will care for both congregations. You can be sure of that.

Saturday, December 11, 2010


In 2003, my family moved to North Idaho and began the adventure of a lifetime.
By God’s gracious hand, we planted NorthStar Church out of a home Bible study and over these past seven years have continued to see God do amazing things there!

While in Coeur d'Alene, we labored with all our hearts to see a gospel presence flourish there. Our desire was to encourage obedience-based discipleship and to see reproduction and kingdom growth.

We knew that a successful church plant could not be centered upon the missionary or planter but must be centered upon the Word and upon the Holy Spirit as teacher.
In 2007, we sensed that God was moving us into a new chapter of ministry and our prayer was that as we transitioned away from NorthStar, that it would continue to be a disciple-making center and would grow in greater ways than ever before!

God has richly blessed NorthStar. Under Godly and capable leadership, the church has continued to grow and develop and is about to embark on building a permanent home for the ministry!

As 2010 comes to a close, I would ask that you consider making a gift to support this incredible ministry...

Tax-deductable donations can be sent to:

Northstar Baptist Church
1604 W Lee Court
Coeur d'Alene, Idaho 83814

More about the building project at “Life in the Big Potato Consider the power of partnership. Maximize your giving at year-end by supporting ministries that are making an eternal difference!

Advancing the Kingdom!

It’s that time of year again; the time when we enter a season of celebration and refection (Thanksgiving and Christmas). During these holidays we often get bombarded with thing that vie for our time, attention, and even money.

Organizations want us to volunteer to serve or collect items for the needy, newspaper ads show us sales that we need to take advantage of, and the amount of things that we can invest in seems limitless. So, when choosing how to best utilize your resources this holiday season, let the truths of the Bible be your guide.

In 2 Corinthians 9:7-12 we read these words…

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.” Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.

Now, what does this all mean?

First, that the generous giver will reap generously

Does that mean that if you give a lot of money, you will get a lot of money. By no means! what it does mean is that the extent to which you invest your resources into God’s kingdom is the same extent to which fruit will spring up.

Secondly, this verse is suggesting that giving should never be out of compulsion or reluctance

Instead, we should give freely, cheerfully, and willingly. That doesn’t mean that we should not encourage others to give! It just means that our encouragement is not the basis for people to give. People should out of their understanding of God’s grace in their lives.

Thirdly, giving is tied to faith.
You give because you believe that God is able to bless you abundantly and in fact, has blessed you abundantly. Notice, it doesn’t say you are blessed because you have a certain amount of money. That fact that you have money at all makes you blessed. God is not only able to bless you abundantly, but he is able to increase the amount you have so that you can give even more! How about that for God’s power?

Lastly, giving produces thanksgiving

For several days now, I've been talking about growing in gratitude... one of the best ways to live out and encourage thankfulness is to give! As you give to the needs of the saints, you are creating an atmosphere of gratitude and appreciation that blesses God and serves as a witness to others.

As 2010 comes to a close, I would ask that you consider making a gift to support an incredible ministry... NorthStar Church in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho!

Donations can be sent to:

Northstar Baptist Church
1604 W Lee Court
Coeur d'Alene, Idaho 83814

Check out Pastor Bennett Sanderson's Blog, "Life in the Big Potato

I’ve been away for a couple of weeks, but wanted to finish out the thought that I started over Thanksgiving about being a thankful person.

So far I’ve offered two observations about thanful people:

1) Thankful people don’t forget
2) Thankful people don’t complain

I want to add a third to the list...


Really this boils down to a heart attitude that God wants us to develop... GENEROSITY!

 Hoarding is the art of collecting without any interest in sharing. Pride kills thanksgiving, but the humble mind is the soil in which thanksgiving naturally grows. A proud person is seldom a grateful person, for they never think they get as much as they deserve-they often hoard up for themselves! Show me a generous person and I will show you a grateful person. Have you ever met a thankful person, who was not generous?

Living with open hands. If your hands are tightly clasped around what you have, then they cannot receive any more... If you live with open hands and freely give, then God can continue to fill those hands again!

Again it is odd, but the more we hold onto things the less thanksgiving we have. The more we give away the more reason we have to give thanks.

One pastor expressed it this way, “With apologies to St. James I offer this rendition of verse 18 in his second chapter, “But some will say, “You have generosity but I have thankfulness. Show me any generosity without being thankful? But I will show you my thankfulness by my generosity.”

In John 4, Jesus meets a woman by a well. A story we are familiar with. After her encounter with Christ, notice what she does she goes and tells others about the good work of God. She goes and gathers a crowd. She does not hoard this good news, she shares it. Her heart is so thankful she can’t contain herself.

Can we say with our mouths we are thankful and not be generous? Can we say a thanksgiving prayer and celebrate God’s bounty in our home when we have not opened our hand to help another? Can we fill our bellies and not give so that others’ bellies can also be full? Can selfish, hoarding people truly be called thankful people? I think not.

Like the woman at the well we show our thanksgiving with our generosity not with our mouths. When we tell others about the joy of Jesus, when we share God’s riches with others, when we are generous with our time, talents, and money then we can be called a thankful people.

"So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Corinthians 9:7). The Revised Standard Version has "not reluctantly or under compulsion."