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Friday, December 16, 2011
Sunrise over Lake Huron
(Photo by Howard Blichfeldt)
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"The Biblical Jesus"
"Jacob, the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of who was born Jesus, who is called the Christ" (Matthew 1:16).
Yesterday Christopher Hitchens, perhaps the most outspoken atheist "scholar" of our age met his Maker, who he so vehemently denied. In response to a question during an interview he unwittingly but powerfully asserted the essence of Christian faith:
Question from Unitarian minister Marilyn Sewell: "The religion you cite in your book is generally the fundamentalist faith of various kinds. I’m a liberal Christian, and I don’t take the stories from the scripture literally. I don’t believe in the doctrine of atonement (that Jesus died for our sins, for example). Do you make a distinction between fundamentalist faith and liberal religion?"
Christopher Hitchens: "I would say that if you don’t believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and Messiah, and that he rose again from the dead and by his sacrifice our sins are forgiven, you’re really not in any meaningful sense a Christian." To this specific response I say a hearty "Amen".
Usually at this time of year, as well as Easter, we can count on the liberal press presenting numerous articles questioning the authenticity of Jesus and the integrity of the Biblical record. I recall the cover story several years ago of a "US News and World Report" titled "The Jesus Code – America is rethinking the Messiah – again." It seems like unbelievers will always be rethinking this theological matter that was once for all settled from the courts of heaven over 2000 years ago!
Throughout the centuries there are those who have been on a quest to "reinvent" Jesus, essentially making Him into their own image. I've heard such expressions as "demythologizing" Jesus or "discovering the historical Jesus." Of course these endeavors begin with the assumption that the Gospels and New Testament record are unreliable.
When I read these articles I am always struck by the designations such as "scholars" assert, which tends to lend credence to these faddish theories. Those still seeking and ungrounded may find their faith shaken. I consider another New Testament verse, "Professing to be wise, they became fools" (Romans 1:22).
The designation "scholar" is interesting and can be so misleading. Indeed there are many who are educated and attain the title "scholar" who do not have faith in Christ but there are also many who do. Some have kept their faith in spite of the onslaught of cynicism and unbelief they faced while attaining a "higher education". Others, who at one time did not believe, have actually examined the evidence and by God's grace have turned in faith to the Lord.
Lee Strobel, a journalist who at one time was a skeptic, came to believe in the Christian faith. He wrote the "The Case For..." series. The Case For Christ is written from the perspective of a seeking skeptic searching for the truth about Jesus Christ. In it he interviews a series of world-renowned scholars who are recognized specialists in their field of study. I'm particularly blessed by the way he asks many of them at the end of the interview how their study had impacted their personal faith and life.
Today I use the final verse in Matthew's genealogy, a portion not often quoted; "Jacob, the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of who was born Jesus, who is called the Christ". The genealogy of Christ, although not among the most exciting reading in Scripture, places our Lord Jesus Christ clearly in the historical record. He was not a mere myth who needs to be demythologized.
I can learn of the historical Jesus in these sacred pages of Holy Scripture and I'm not interested in a reinvention, nor a reinvention of the reinvention, for when we dabble that's what happens. I firmly believe that the Gospels present the truth about Christ and I rest my faith on this teaching rather than the fickle views of the latest "scholarly" musings.
I find great encouragement in the Apostle Peter's straightforward reminder: "We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty" (2 Peter 1:16). Many years ago Brooksyne and I, before we ever came together, chose to follow the Biblical Jesus and this day we once again make that declaration! We urge all our readers to do the same.
One day when heaven was filled with His praises,
One day when sin was as black as could be,
Jesus came forth to be born of a virgin—
Dwelt among men, my example is He!
Living, He loved me; dying, He saved me;
Buried, He carried my sins far away;
Rising, He justified freely forever:
One day He's coming—O glorious day!
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily Prayer: Father, there is much authenticity available through the annals of history and most importantly the written Holy Scriptures that You sent Your Son, Jesus, to earth in the form of a babe to be born to a virgin maiden. Your Son was sent for the major purpose of bearing the sins of humankind upon Himself as He died in our place. Those unwilling to receive these facts based upon the Scriptures will constantly be searching and find only the ever-evolving explanations, rationalizations, clarifications, enlightenment, whatever the current fad teaching is during their quest. When we come to faith we accept that which is written in Scripture and base our lives upon its teaching. We crucify our lives with Christ, even though we live. It's actually not us but the Christ who lives within, and the life we now live we live by faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave Himself for us. We love You and thank You for Jesus who gave His all for us. Amen.
Especially attacked and ridiculed at this season is the Biblical doctrine of the Virgin Birth. Carl F. H. Henry, one of the foremost evangelical theologians in our time, who is now with the Lord, argued that the Virgin Birth is the “essential, historical indication of the Incarnation, bearing not only an analogy to the divine and human natures of the Incarnate, but also bringing out the nature, purpose, and bearing of this work of God to salvation." See this excellent article on this matter.
Click here to read the rest of the Christopher Hitchens interview mentioned above. As one blogger notes regarding this answer: In this response what Hitchens has done for Christianity is nothing short of prophetic, or maybe Ecclesiastes-ic.
Interestingly his younger brother Peter Hitchens, who was once also an atheist, has placed his faith in Christ. In his book "The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me to Faith", he chronicles his personal journey through disbelief into a committed Christian faith.
Yesterday we shared the story of the legacy of Hannah Smucker. A reader responds "I feel that I need to let you both know that your message from yesterday meant a great deal for me. My wife and I are in some regards first generation followers of Christ. We have been thinking about how to pass down our relationship & faith with Christ to our two girls. Your message yesterday reminded me of the importance of this and to keep focused on what is important. This at times gets lost especially this time of year. Thank you again for the reminder of keeping life simple and the importance of passing down a legacy of faith and not stuff."
Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
"One Day" Video This is a wonderful old hymn by J. Wilbur Chapman written over 100 years ago. The tune and arrangement is a newer rendition by Jeff Johnson, but thankfully the powerful lyrics are not altered. (For this version it's been renamed "Glorious Day".) This song goes through the life of Christ from His birth to His second coming. We sang it Sunday in our church.
"My Faith Has Found A Resting Place" Video A stately version of the traditional hymn by Bobby Michaels. "It is enough that Jesus died and that He died for me!"
"I Believe In A Hill Called Mount Calvary" Video From my (Stephen) earliest days in the faith I have found this song a powerful and meaningful expression of my resolve to follow Christ wholeheartedly. It still moves me each time I hear it and this version by the Gaither Vocal Band certainly does it justice!
Today we mentioned Lee Strobel books. Here are links to several:
The Case for Christ: A Journalist's Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus By Lee Strobel / Zondervan Corp. If you were a journalist, how would you investigate the hottest news story in history? Join award-winning reporter Strobel as he probes the life of Jesus Christ. Interviewing 13 of the country's top Christian scholars, he ferrets out incontestable historical, scientific, and psychiatric evidence to support the claims of Jesus. A unique approach to apologetics! 336 pages, hardcover from Zondervan.
The Case for a Creator By Lee Strobel / Zondervan Corp. From evolutionary icons to the uniqueness of planet Earth, from irreducible complexity to the kalam cosmological argument, Lee Strobel gives full rein to his keen analytical mind in addressing these issues and more. But don't expect an inaccessible tome of arcane scientific terms; Strobel's years of newspaper reporting gives the book a conversational style. Relying on transcriptions of his interviews with experts in the pertinent fields, he tells the incredible stories about the hard science behind what some have termed creationism. Extensively researched, this book should a classic apologetic text for years to come.
The Case for Christmas By Lee Strobel / Zondervan Corp. You never know who may start asking life-changing questions this Christmas. Here's a great way to share the gospel---and the true reason for the season! The Case for Christ author and journalist Strobel investigates the facts behind Luke 2:8--18 and asks: Was it all a hoax---or truly the pivotal event of human history? 112 pages, softcover from Zondervan.
Today's photo was taken by our friend Howard Blichfeldt, a professional photographer from the Pittsburgh area and committed Christian. More samples of his photographs are on his website.
Resources for Christmas Celebrations
(We will leave these resources posted below our daily messages through Christmas)
Each year we share several online resources that we have used over the years and that may be a blessing to families and churches during this Christmas season.
"In Remembrance of Me" pdf This is a passion-filled Scripture reading for two adults. Brooksyne and I have used this reading with great receptivity during Christmas Eve services many years. We suggest, if possible, a musical background as the message is read. It is also a great lead-in to a Communion service. It should be thoroughly practiced and read with great feeling.
"When Christ Was Born" pdf This is an adaptation to the tune of "How Great Thou Art". It's a great song to sing as a congregation since most are familiar with and love the tune.
Responsive Christmas Scripture readings for church or family:
John 1:1-18 pdf
"O Come Let Us Adore Him" pdf
My First Christmas In Heaven This is a blessed reminder for all who lost a loved one this year. This is the poem that Brooksyne read and wrote about in this message.
Christmas Knowledge Test
We have also posted two Christmas carol quizzes here (scroll down).
Are you Christmas shopping online?
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