Tuesday, December 18, 2012

We'll Leave It All Behind Us

We'll Leave It All Behind Us
A Poem of Christ's Coming Again
by Sarah Jinright

December 24, 2012
Scripture Reading: I Thessalonians 4:13-18

Nation against nation
And kingdoms set apart,
And pestilence and famine—
Do you quake within your heart?—
Wars and rumors!—Are you troubled
And stirred up within your mind?
Oh friend in Christ, be not afraid,
We'll leave it all behind!

As lightning threaded over
The canvas of the sky
And striking through the storm clouds
With heaven's battle cry,
So comes the Son of Heaven,
His enemies to bind—
The days of darkness over—
Praise His Name!—Now left behind!

We'll leave it when the trumpet
Tramples oe'r the eastern sky,
When the saved surpass the summits
Of the mountains as they fly!
And Satan's final plummet
From his lie will then be nigh—
Yes, we'll leave it all behind us
When Christ calls us by and by.

The Perfect Present

The Perfect Present
A Christmas Study, Part 6
by Sarah Jinright

December 23, 2012
Scripture Reading: Luke 2: 25-38

Have you been scouring the mall looking for just the right gift to give each person on your Christmas list? Advertisements bombard us this time of year—on the television, in the mail, on the computer, and in the newspaper. Many advertisements boast that their product is “the gift that keeps on giving!” If that is so, why is it after Christmas, so many people keep right on wanting?
In our Scripture today, we are introduced to two devout servants of God who are faithfully serving God and believing that he will keep his promises. Like children waiting for Christmas morning, they were waiting with faith and expectation, that Someone truly wonderful would come from God. They were clinging to a prophecy made by the prophet Isaiah in regards to the Messiah:
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)
The world today is still looking for the characteristics described by these names of God. People are searching for the next best “wonderful” thing, for guidance and counsel, for power and beauty, for immortality, and for peace. During the Christmas season, we tend to rush around buying one another gifts that advance our pursuits for these fulfillments, when what we really need to end our search, is what God sent us so long ago on Christmas Day—the Christ child in the manger.
Isaiah 9:7 says that “Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.” The time surrounding Christ's birth and life were marked times of political unrest. We also live in a time when there is much concern over the state of our government. People were looking in Christ's time, as they are now, for the assurance of that perfect and just leader.
Fortunately, if we follow the star to the manger, we find help in this regard as well. No matter the state of the economy, we can always know that God's eye is on the sparrow and that He has promised to provide for our needs. No matter the outcome of an election, we can be confident that God's hand is in all things and that He is still on the throne in Heaven.
Whatever you find yourself searching for this Christmas season, open your heart to the wonderful, the counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace. Christ Jesus is all these things, and He is the child in the manger—the perfect gift of Christmas.

Looking Forward to the Light

Looking Forward to the Light
A Christmas Greeting
from Dr. Bryan Brooks

December 22, 2012
Matthew 24: 36-44

Dear Ones,

Matthew 24:44 says, “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” What a piece of advice! It encourages us to be ready all the time, not only for the end but for whatever the moment brings!
When we wake up, we should prayerfully commit to live the life God has given us to live right now. Don't live yesterday over and over again. Don't save your best self for tomorrow. Don't put off living the kind of life God desires us to live.
Live a caught-up life, not a put-off life, so that wherever you are—fishing in the ocean or grinding at the shipyard, caring for a family, or just going about the everyday business of your life—you are ready for God, for whatever happens next—not afraid but wide awake. Be watching for the Lord who never tires of coming to the world, and who someday will come again to take His own to eternal light.

Merry Christmas!
Dr. Bryan Brooks

Revelation 22:3-5,
and 16

“No longer will there be any curse.
The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city,
and his servants will serve him.
They will see his face,
and his name will be on their foreheads.
There will be no more night.
They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun,
for the Lord God will give them light . . . .
I, Jesus,
have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches.
I am the Root and the Offspring of David,
and the bright morning

Jesus, the Light of the World

Jesus, the Light of the World
by Hal Hostetler

December 21, 2012
Scripture Reading: John 1:1-9

Today is the “Winter Solstice,” the beginning of winter, the shortest day of the year. On this day everyone north of the equator will experience the least amount of sunlight for the whole year. The ancients recognized that fact and celebrated the return of the sun shortly thereafter. It was fitting therefore that Christ’s people would celebrate the coming of God’s light into the world during that same time-frame.

Today much of mankind looks with joy to “Christmas.” We who know Him, the great “I AM,” look to it as CHRISTmas. It is He, Christ, who is the light of the world. In John 8:12, Christ says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of
life.” In turn, Jesus made us to be light to the world around us.

Bearing light to others is a great responsibility. Light brings life, and Jesus is, in fact, both. John 1:4 says, “In him was life, and that life was the light of men.” But light also exposes, proves, and reproves. Not all wish to be in that light, and may reject it as described in John 3:19-20: “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.”

Nevertheless, our calling as believers is to shine Christ’s light into a world lost in darkness and sin. Acts 1:8 says, “ But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” If you know Jesus as Savior and Lord, you know these things, but like all believers, you must grow in His knowledge and grace. Even as we grow older, we need to read, study, and learn—though we may need a stronger light to do so!

If this is new to you, be assured that God loves you and is calling you even now to come to that light. Let Christ fill your heart and make His home within you. Give your R.S.V.P. to the invitation that is offered to all people in Revelation 3:20. “Here I [Jesus] am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”

So this Christmas when you put up your lights, “hang a shining star upon the highest bough, and have yourself a merry little Christmas” while reveling in the true Light of the world!


A Poem of Redemption
by Sarah Jinright

December 20, 2012
Scripture Reading: Genesis 22

In a time long forgotten, at the birth of the world,
Before dawn, two brothers sought God in a field.
One brought the fruit of the ground he had tilled;
One offered a lamb, and together, they kneeled.
When suddenly a voice, whispered through the haze,
Rebuked the sacrifice of Cain, now lost within the blaze.
But Abel's, He accepted—for someday He would raise
A sacrifice to cover for the sin of all man's ways.

There would be no wall to climb over, no altar to leap,
No penance to suffer, no stone law to keep,
No priest to confess to, no prayer to the east,
No care to lose rest to . . . For we would be RELEASED.

On the heights of a mountain, a man and his son
Had built up an altar and laid the wood on.
'Twas then Isaac realized what had to be done;
But for trust in his father's love, the child did not run.
His son upon the altar, Abram raised his knife.
How could he kill his only son? His heritage? His life?
When a voice from the thicket said, “Abram here is your relief,
Spare your son, and kill My Lamb; Be blessed for your belief.”

He had no wall to climb over, no altar to leap,
No penance to suffer, no stone law to keep,
No priest to confess to, no prayer to the east,
No care to lose rest to . . . for he had been RELEASED!

On the first Easter morning, a woman in tears
Crept early to the garden where a stone tomb appeared.
But to her amazement, she saw as she drew near,
The stone was rolled away! Her Lord was not here!
The angel said, “Fear not! He's risen from the dead!
The matchless Lamb of Glory has died in man's stead!”
She had come to the garden to weep for her Lord,
But to discover, her hope was restored!

There is no wall to climb over, no altar to leap,
No penance to suffer, no stone law to keep,
No priest to confess to, no prayer to the east,
No care to lose rest to . . . for we have been RELEASED!

Black Lights: Christmas Detectives

Black Lights: Christmas Detectives
A Christmas Study, Part 5
by Sarah Jinright

December 19, 2012
Scripture Reading: 2 Peter 1:19-21

“Okay, officer! Okay, I admit it! I'm guilty!” That's what I would have to say if you put me in an interview room at the police station and asked if I like crime dramas. Guilty as charged. I love NCIS, CSI, Numbers, The Mentalist, Bones, and Blue Bloods. The who-done-it question gets me every time, and I probably spend far to much time watching all these dramas unfold.
Imagine my excitement, when I started to discover a mystery unraveling in the Old Testament. In my favorite shows, I'd seen investigators apply a special substance to their crime scenes, and then hold up a black light to look for clues that they could not see with their naked eyes. Just like the crime fighters on TV, I started applying a steady solution of study to God's word and held up the black light of faith and curiosity. What was I looking for? Blood. Christ's blood.
Throughout the Old Testament, I found picture after picture of what Christ would do for us as the lamb of God, and how his blood would atone for our sins. We've already taken a look at the sign of the passover, but there are so many more awesome pictures of Christ the Redeemer!
One of my favorite clues is when, by God's command, Abraham takes his promised son Isaac to the top of mount Moriah intending to offer him as a sacrifice. Isaac is not a dumb kid. He asks, “Dad, we have all the stuff we need for the sacrifice, except the lamb. Did we forget something?” Abraham must have been in complete anguish, but he expresses faith to his son. “Isaac, God will provide a lamb.” But it isn't until Abraham's shaking hand is raised over his son's exposed chest—prepared to obey at any cost—that God says, “STOP!” He then blesses Abraham's faith, and provides a lamb in the place of Isaac. In the black light, we can see how Christ, the Lamb of God, will be offered in our place.
The trail of clues continues. When Joshua attacks Jericho, Rahab and her family are kept safe only through associating with the scarlet thread hung from the window of Rahab's house. Likewise, we cannot be saved from destruction without associating with the blood of Christ.
During the wilderness wanderings, God is displeased with the complaining of the Israelites, so He sends poisonous snakes to punish the people. God tells Moses to place a brazen serpent on a pole and carry it through the camp. Only those who choose to look to God's means of salvation are saved from the harmful bites. Each individual had to choose to “look and live.”
The clues go on throughout the Old Testament, from the story of Ruth who sought a kinsman redeemer to pull her out of a plight from which she could not save herself, to the very sacrificial system of Israel. The blood of bulls and goats would not always be required. God would provide the perfect lamb. Case closed!
Are you searching the Scriptures for yourself? Christ was God's gift to us at Christmas, but the Bible is God's gift to us every day of the year. Don't forget to open your presents, not just on Christmas morning, but every morning!

The Christmas Strangers

The Christmas Strangers
by George Brisbin

December 18, 2012
Scripture Reading: Matthew 2:9-16

The strangers have left their gifts and disappeared into the distance. Joseph, Mary and their new baby are left to wonder.  Strangers come from who knows where, leave gifts fit for a king and just ride off.  How unusual!
Then instructions come in a dream to flee to Egypt. The road most likely taken by Joseph would have been the road to Beersheba.  The road starts in Jerusalem and descends southward from Jerusalem, through Bethlehem, down through Hebron, and on to Beersheba—which is the other port of Palestine on the Egyptian desert.  Joseph had never traveled this road.  He had never been in any of the villages and towns along the way.  The further he and his family traveled south,the more difficult talking would be, since although the language was Arabic, the dialect was changing and word usage was different. 
Now they were strangers.  We know little of the journey to or from Egypt; we simply know that it took place, and that Joseph with Mary and baby Jesus were strangers in that land.  Someone in that land must have reached out to them and taken care of them. Someone must have assisted them with work, food, clothing and housing while they stayed in Egypt.  These people had no idea whom it was they helped, nor the situation from which they fled. Most of all, they had no idea how the child of those two strangers would change the world.
Today we live along an ocean highway. Ships loaded with roundabout 25 strangers come and go from our port daily.  Who are these strangers? Are they important?  Should we care?   We know that none of them are the earthly parents of Jesus, but who are they?  Maybe it is good that we do not know, for if we did, the human tendency would be to only care for those we deemed “important” in our own thinking.
God in His wisdom presents strangers to us as—well—strangers.  We have no idea who they are or if they are or are going to be “important” so we are to treat each of them the best that we can.  Almost everyday, the volunteers of the Portsmouth Seafarers Center, a division of Tidewater Transportation Ministries Inc., meet and help these seafaring strangers along their way. Just like those that took care of Joseph and his little family never knew who they were helping, we don’t know the details of the lives that we touch either.
Once in a while, we get a glimpse—like the wise men who knew the child they visited was special. One such glimpse for TTM  was the day a Filipino seaman requested Tagalog bibles for his brother, a pastor back home. This church had no Bibles until we shared some from the Seafarers’ Center. Who will come from that church? Perhaps it will be a great evangelist, a missionary of exceptional character, or a Christian political leader?  We will never know, but we all have a chance to serve strangers, and in serving strangers we should not forget that Hebrew 13:2 says,by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”