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As we enter the New Year, consider the message of Proverbs 29:18: “Without a vision a people perish.”
What is Your Vision?
Before Isaiah could have a vision of God, he had to experience a vision of the evil that people do (Isaiah 5:8 - 6:8).
Do You Have a Vision of the World’s Need?
The Apostle Paul’s vision of the Lord included a vision of what the world outside of Christ really is – lost, blind, in darkness, under the power of satan, bound, unforgiven, condemned and guilty (Acts 26:18).
Do You Have a Vision of Hell?
The great cricketer turned pioneer missionary, C.T. Studd, had a vision of hell. That is why he declared: “Some like to live within sound of church or chapel bell – I’d like to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell!”
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Whatever Happened to Sin?
The rampant looting sprees and malicious damage to property that saw 200 shopping malls and warehouses looted with R50 Billion losses and over 370 deaths in KwaZulu/Natal and Gauteng in South Africa has led many to ask: whatever happened to respect for life and property?
God Hates Sin
The Bible makes clear that God hates sin. “These six things the Lord hates. Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren.” Proverbs 6:16-19
Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God
The Great Evangelical Awakening was sparked by Jonathan Edwards’ sermon: “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” For the most of church history. preachers have thundered from the pulpits against the seven deadly sins of lust, gluttony, greed, laziness, anger, envy and pride. Today, few people would be able to even identify the seven deadly sins.
Modern Therapeutic Sermons
Today it may be more likely that one might hear a sermon on “God in the Hands of Angry Sinners”, than “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God!” The old Doctrines of Sin, Redemption and Repentance are out of fashion and the modern therapeutic language of self-esteem, self-actualization and self-love are in.
“We must all appear before the Judgement seat of Christ; that everyone may receive the things done in his body, according to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” 2 Corinthians 5:10
Live in the Light of Eternity
A thousand years from now, the only questions that will matter is: Who is in Heaven? and Who is in hell?
What are you doing of significance today that will matter a million years from now?
When you stand before the Judgement throne of Almighty God, it will matter on that day whether you told a very lost and dying world about Jesus,
whether you shared the most precious thing you have with everyone you could.
Make a Difference
As a new Christian I confronted one of the worst foul-mouthed blasphemers at my school: “You are lost! If you were to die today you would go straight to hell!”
Now that is hardly the way we are advised to evangelise.
Yet, by the grace of God, I did have the privilege to lead that pagan to Christ that very night!
We must be bold for the Lord.
Do something that will make a difference for all eternity!
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“Nevertheless the gloom will not be upon her who is distressed, as when at first he lightly esteemed the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward more heavily oppressed her, by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, in Galililee of the Gentiles. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined. You have multiplied the nation, and increased its joy; they rejoice before You according to the joy of harvest, as men rejoice when they divide the spoil. For You have broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian. For every warrior’s sandal from the noisy battle, and garments rolled in blood, will be used for burning and fuel of fire. 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, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and over His Kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgement and with justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.” Isaiah 9:1-7 (see also Isaiah 7:14 and 11:19; Luke 1:67-79).
Isaiah is a mini Bible in structure. Like the Bible, Isaiah has 66 chapters in 2 main sections: 39 chapters in the first section (like the Old Testament) and 27 in the second (like the New Testament).
The Old Testament opens with God's case against man because of his sin. Isaiah opens the same way (Isaiah 1:18). The first section closes with the prophecy of the coming King of Righteousness and the redemption of Israel (34-35), just as the prophets close the Old Testament with predictions of His coming Kingdom.
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"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
Whatever one may think of the euphoria, flags and enthusiasms associated with the world cup soccer extravaganzas, one can only admire the training and team work of teams that made the world cup and excelled in it. Success never comes by accident. It is the result of dedication, hard work, strict physical training, careful coaching, clear direction and team work.
No one person can win a match on his own. To win a soccer match, you need a good goal keeper, a strong defence, fast wing men, an effective and aggressive centre-forward team and strikers and determined players who work together to score goals.
"And they sang a new song, saying: 'You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals; for You were slain and have redeemed us to God by Your Blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.'" Revelation 5:9
Any city requires well-organised delivery and defence systems. Every municipal area requires supplies of water, food and electricity. These supplies are delivered through a complex infrastructure. Thousands of trucks travel down the freeways, roads and side streets delivering essential supplies to stores and homes. Other trucks remove refuse to allow the city to function effectively and thrive.
It is a biological fact that our bodies have a transportation system far more complex and complete than that of a metropolis. Our bodies' transportation system cuts through every tissue and organ by means of a network of approximately 100,000km of blood vessels. Each cell of your body is a hair's breadth from a blood capillary. The heart of this vast system is a pump about the size of an apple that has to pump thousands of litres of blood through its chambers every day, sending blood to every part of your body. This blood carries vital, life-giving oxygen and nutrients to every cell in your body.
Jesus Christ changed the world forever. When He was born, He transformed the very way we measure time. He turned aside the river of the ages and lifted the centuries off their hinges. His birthday, His Incarnation, touched and transformed time. Now the whole world counts time as Before Christ (BC) and AD (Anno Domoni - in the year of our Lord). Jesus Christ is the central figure of history. More books have been written about Jesus Christ than any other person in history.
The world before Christ was a world without hospitals, a world without charity, a world without respect for the sanctity of life. Hospitals were an innovation of Christianity. Hence the healing symbol of a cross represents hospitals. The nursing profession was founded by Christians such as Florence Nightingale out of devotion for Christ. One of history’s greatest humanitarian movements, the International Red Cross, was founded by Christians in response to the Scriptural injunctions to care for the sick and the suffering. Christians such as Dr. Louis Pasteur have fuelled some of the greatest practical advances in medicine. Pasteur has probably saved more lives than any other individual in history through his inventions.
Caring for the Poor
The whole concept of charity was a Christian innovation. Benevolence to strangers was unknown before Christ. The teachings and example of Jesus Christ have inspired the greatest acts of generosity, hospitality, self-sacrifice and service for the poor, sick and needy over two thousand years.
One of the more recent Christmas traditions has been the repeated assertions, on the internet, in the press and from some pulpits, that the 25th December could not have been our Lord's actual birthday.
Examining the Historical Record
According to this position, He could have been born on almost any other day of the year, except 25 December. It is asserted that 25 December. had originally been the pagan winter solstice festival, which had been taken over by the Christians to promote the new Faith. In doing so, many of the old pagan customs crept into this new Christian celebration. Numerous articles, booklets, radio programmes and T.V. documentaries have been produced asserting this position.
The Myths of Time
However, this opinion is itself based upon historical myths, incomplete research and ignorance of history.
Christmas Predates Constantine
Christians have celebrated the Incarnation and Nativity of the Lord Jesus on December 25 since the earliest centuries. Long before the conversion of Constantine in AD312, and the end of the persecution by the Roman Empire, 25 December was already established as a venerable and tenured tradition for celebrating Christmas Day.
Christmas is the greatest holiday in the year, celebrating the birth of the greatest Person who ever lived. Yet, every year, there are numerous high profile attacks on Christmas as the celebration of the Birth of Jesus Christ. There are also many insidious attempts to hijack Christmas. One such attempt is seen in the many e-mails circulating concerning the real meaning and origin of "The Twelve Days of Christmas."
What is the Source?
According to this widely circulated email: "from 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly. Someone during that era wrote this carol as a catechism song for young Catholics. It has two levels of meaning: the surface meaning plus a hidden meaning known only to members of the church. Each element in the carol is a code word for a religious reality which the children could remember."
The problem with this theory is that it's premise is false. Roman Catholics were not persecuted for their faith. They were not forbidden to practice their faith openly. The dates chosen are most interesting. 1558, is the year when Bloody Mary died and the Catholic persecution of Protestants in England came to an end. Mary Tudor was well called "Bloody Mary" because she repudiated the religious freedoms which her brother, King Edward VI, had instituted. Mary passed laws providing for Protestant "heretics" to be tried in church courts and handed over to civilian authorities for execution.
Wise men seek Christ. The question is: What are you seeking for?
Is it fun, friends, fame and fortune? Popularity, prestige and power?
Have you noticed the impressive large Christmas trees set up in many shopping malls? Surely you have noticed the beautifully wrapped presents piled up under most of these trees? You will see many children’s eyes wide as they look at these bright, shiny, shimmering presents, often with attractive ribbons around them?
Over the years, when my children were very young, they each asked: What's in those boxes? The answer is: Absolutely nothing! They are beautifully wrapped and attractively presented, but the presents under these Christmas trees in the shopping malls are all empty!