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Archive for March, 2020

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This is a post from 2009, but I thought it needed to be published again. With Coronavirus, quarantines, and a lot of uncertainty, the gospel of Jesus Christ is something we can absolutely count on. It’s the most important message of this, or any, time.

Coram Deo

 

Every now and then, we need to be reminded of what’s really important. What’s really important is the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ.

As the church of Jesus Christ, we know our purpose – to glorify God, our mission – to make disciples of all the nations, and our objectives – evangelism, worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry/service. But what is our message? Our message is the gospel.

God created us to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever. We were meant to have intimate fellowship with Him and each other.

It’s painfully obvious, though, that something has changed in that relationship. It’s called sin. Adam and Eve, our first parents, disobeyed God and sought to be their own gods, in effect. As a result, they were removed from the garden of Eden, alienated and separated from God. Adam and Eve also passed their sin on to you and me…

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gehrig

Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig by Jonathan Eig is a book I’ve waited a long time to read. Gehrig has always been one of my favorite baseball players, especially after I watched a movie called “Pride of the Yankees” when I was in elementary school.

It shouldn’t be surprising that the movie is a Hollywood version of Gehrig’s story and not the complete picture (as is true of most movies). Eig’s account gives the actual story of a great baseball player cut down in the prime of life by a disease that now bears his name. It’s gritty, touching, and, most importantly, real.

It’s said that we should never meet one of our heroes because we’ll be disappointed. Reading about them in a biography can have the same effect, but in this case (for me) it helped to know that everyone is a package. We all have strengths and weaknesses – we’re mixed bags (even those of us who are Christians!) as was Gehrig. I learned a lot about Gehrig and was surprised in spots, but not disappointed.

Eig has captured Gehrig the baseball player and Gehrig the man in his book. I recommend it!

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Benedictus

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I needed the passage of Scripture I read and meditated on this morning in my devotions. It was Luke 1:67-80.

(Take a few minutes and read it. Go ahead, I’ll be here when you get back!)

It was so important because I can be irritable, and there are times when it doesn’t take much to trigger it. With all that is going on because of the Coronavirus, my old “friend” irritability has knocked on the door quite a few times. 1 Corinthians 13:5 says that love is not “irritable” (ESV), which the NASB translates as “provoked.” Irritability is closely related to ungratefulness and unthankfulness, both of which are poisonous.

The Lord spoke directly to this in His Word this morning. Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, was unable to speak after he balked at God’s promise of a son (Luke 1:18-20). After his son was born, Luke 1:67-68 say, “And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying: ‘Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and accomplished redemption for His people.”

Notice the first words that came out of the priest’s mouth were praise and thanksgiving, as he was filled with the Holy Spirit. He praised God because his son, John, would be the forerunner and prepare the way for the long-awaited Messiah, Jesus Christ! The rest of the passage (verses 69 through 79) is a string of pearls – quoting one Old Testament prophet after another – exclaiming his great joy.

What grabbed me was this: I can always praise God and give thanks to Him for the redemption of His people, which was accomplished by His Son Jesus Christ! My circumstances or feelings, like thick fog, can obscure my view of the many, many blessings which God has given me by His grace. But I can be certain there are clear skies above that fog – beautiful blue skies – and that there is coming a day when there will be no more fog (and no more irritations or irritability), only because of the saving work of Jesus on our behalf.

Thank God for a needed Benedictus, or “blessing”!

 

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Unknown

What follows is an account of the martyrdom of forty brave soldiers for Jesus taken from the Christian History Institute. If you’re a Christian, this is part of our family story. Be encouraged and inspired!

“Consider—you alone of Caesar’s troops defy him! Think of the disgrace you bring upon your legion. How can you do it?” Governor Agricola was speaking to forty soldiers in the 12th Legion of the Roman army who refused to offer sacrifice to the emperor while they were stationed near Sebaste in modern-day Turkey.

“To disgrace the name of our Lord Jesus Christ is more terrible still,” replied one of the soldiers.

The governor became exasperated. “Give up this stubborn folly. You have no lord but Caesar! In his name, I promise promotion to the first of you who steps forward and does his duty.”

When that lure did not break their ranks he increased the pressure. “You persist in your rebellion? Then prepare for torture, prison, death!”

The soldiers stood firm. “Nothing you can offer us would replace what we would lose in the next world. As for your threats—we’ve learned to deny our bodies where the welfare of our souls is at stake.”

Agricola ordered them flogged. Guards dragged the men out into the cold where they were stripped and tied to posts. Whips with hooks of iron tore the men’s sides. Unbelievably not one of the forty surrendered. “Chain them in my dungeons!” roared Agricola. He referred their case to Lysias, commander of the 12th Legion, whose coming was soon expected. When Lysias arrived he threatened a sharp penalty if the soldiers continued to disobey.

On this day, 9 March 320, the men remained respectfully defiant. A new torture occurred to Agricola. Nearby was a frozen pond. The March air was sharp. “You will stand naked on the ice until you agree to sacrifice to the gods,” he said.

The rebel soldiers tore off their own clothes and ran toward the pond in the freezing air. “We are soldiers of the Lord and fear no hardship,” shouted one. “What is our death but entrance into eternal life?” Striking up a song, they marched onto the frozen pond. Baffled, Agricola posted guards. He had baths of warm water heated as an incentive to the forty to come off the pond.

As dark closed in, the forty prayed, “Lord, there are forty of us engaged in this battle; grant that forty may be crowned and not one be missing from this sacred number.” It appeared their prayer was doomed to disappointment, however. Babbling, one of the forty crawled away from the ice. Guards helped him into a bath but the heat proved too much of a shock to his frozen system. He immediately went into convulsions and died.

However, one of the guards had seen a vision of angels with crowns hovering over the pond. Impressed by the bravery of the remaining thirty-nine, he shucked off his clothes and ran onto the ice. The martyrs numbered forty again!

When the sun rose, Agricola was told that the forty were dead. He ordered the bodies burned and their ashes dumped into a nearby river so the bones could not be collected and venerated. When the guards began stacking the stiff corpses onto a wagon, they discovered that Melito, the youngest of the soldiers, was still alive.

Melito was a local boy. The soldiers recognized his mom nearby. “Listen, Mother, take your boy home, save his life if you can. We’ll look the other way,” they said.

“What kind of talk is that?” scolded the woman. “Would you cheat him of his crown? I’ll never let that happen!” As the wagon began to roll away, she hoisted her son in with the others.

Ephrem the Syrian, who was a teenager when the forty were martyred, wrote an account. Basil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa, near-contemporaries, also produced accounts. Attempts to keep the forty’s relics from veneration were unsuccessful. Bits of bone washed up at a bend in the river. Faithful Christians gathered fragments and deposited them at churches dedicated to the forty.

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