Monthly Archives: December 2020

What Year is It Again?

“Bishop Hippolytus of Rome ( c. 170 AD – c. 235 AD) wrote a commentary on the Book of Daniel sometime around 202 AD in which he claimed:

‘The first coming of our Lord, that in the flesh, in which he was born at Bethlehem, took place eight days before the Kalends of January, a Wednesday, in the forty-second year of the reign of Augustus…This puts the birth of Christ at December 25th, 2 B.C.’

Julius Sextus Africanus claimed the same date in his Chronographiai, which was written around the same time as Hippolytus.” — Joshua Gibbs, teacher of classical literature at Veritas School in Richmond, Virginia

If Professor Gibbs and other scholars are correct, our Gregorian calendar is off by a couple of years. Meanwhile, some want to replace A.D. (Anno Domini, “year of our Lord”) with C.E. (“common era”). And other calendars exist.

Despite these quibbles, the first advent of Jesus Christ has become the historical anchor by which we reckon our common journey into the future…it is “common era” to the whole world because of Him!

Why will it not be 12 A.M. New Year’s day 246 that shortly sweeps through the globe’s time zones, counting the signing of the American Declaration of Independence as year 1? Why isn’t year 807 about to begin, setting as year 1 the drafting of the Magna Carta, so foundational to the blossoming of the enjoyment of freedom by many? Why will Friday January 1 be the first day of 2021, and not 1021 or 3021?

It is because of the birth of the Potentate of Time, as one hymn writer praised Him. It is because of the recently observed nativity of the Son of God Who brings true and everlasting freedom (cf. John 8:36). That transcendent, miraculous event utterly eclipses all other historical events, just as His eternal kingdom already has spread to every corner of the Earth, and inexorably continues to grow!

Enjoy your inescapably Christo-centric holiday on Friday, and may the whole 2,021st year of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be the year which brings His richest blessings of grace to you.

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No Prognosticator Here

Here are a couple of statements from an early Christian leader. He left this Earth and all its woes and sorrows approximately A.D. 65:

“We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.”

“For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

In the almost 2,000 years since Paul of Tarsus was martyred (according to tradition) by that wantonly savage beast, Roman emperor Nero, Christians have been comforted in times of bereavement, strengthened in times of fiery persecution, and filled with exhilarating hope in times of disappointment and dreariness by those words Christ’s apostle wrote long ago in letters to his fellow Christians in Corinth and Philippi.

They promise not merely the continuation of self conscious existence, but also of life that is LIFE indeed. They promise the personal, full fruition of God consciousness, of seeing Him in Whose presence there is fullness of joy, of being with Him at Whose right hand there are pleasures forevermore.

Now here is a prediction. In this Orwellian, Newspeak time where linguistic IEDs are hidden in the landscape of open conversation, Christians expressing their hopes that extend beyond the grave will be counted as “entertaining thoughts of suicide.” (This despite the fact that Paul’s words refer to physical death, but say nothing of death by suicide: recognized by Christians as a sin against God our loving Creator and a horrible tragedy whenever it occurs.)

Is the day coming? On that day, suffering Christian, tell the wrong person how you long to be with your Savior in Heaven and be prepared to be denounced or reported as a danger to yourself and society, a threat that must be removed, an “extremist” whom the DHS or whatever new or expanded agency of the ever ballooning nanny state must control.

Since my predictions are quite fallible, I can only hope that I am dead wrong. Oops, I better use a different word for emphasis. I hope I am plain wrong. That’s more appropriate here on the threshold of the drab, colorless, humorless, oppressive society we might become.

As Paul might have written (transliterated from the Greek) ME GENOITA! Translation: May it never be! God forbid!

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Proverbially Speaking

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7)

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10)

In the original language of these two proverbs, the words translated WISDOM and KNOWLEDGE overlap in meaning. Together they teach us that reverently honoring our Creator, Provider, and Judge is foundational for the prudence, discretion, and life skill which is often manifest in people with little formal education.

On the other hand, it is also the only starting point on the journey to becoming learned. And no academic institution owns that journey’s many roads – some toll free, all scenic. Whether his field is history, one of the so called natural sciences, or art even a highly “educated” person is ultimately a fool, commonly an arrogant one, without that crucial fear of the LORD. That fool despises sound wisdom and instruction just as God’s infallible and redemptively aimed proverbs predict.

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Big Brother

At the time, Judah the son of Jacob knew only that the man from whom he and his brothers had purchased sustenance in Egypt was the pharaoh’s prime minister. When that food ran out, Jacob told his sons to go back to the man and buy more.

At that point Judah reminded Jacob that this man of great authority and strange ways had solemnly warned the brothers that he would not deal with them again unless Benjamin, Jacob’s youngest, returned with them. Jacob, at the time thinking he had already lost another son (Joseph) protested in anguish of heart.

So Judah made a daring promise to his father. He volunteered to sacrifice his own welfare with these courageous and loving words: “I myself will be surety for him; from my hand you shall require him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame forever.”

Perhaps you are acquainted with the outcome of the poignant account. Judah did not have to bear perpetual blame, for Benjamin was not lost. The pharaoh’s prime minister turned out to be the very Joseph whom Jacob thought to have been killed by wild animals. Joseph sent Judah, Benjamin, and all his other brothers back to their father Jacob with food and riches. He proclaimed to them that what they had meant for evil (selling Joseph into bondage), God had meant for greater good.

Another courageous elder Brother, moved by unfathomable depths of love, volunteered to be surety for the redemption of not just one, but an untold multitude of the patriarch Jacob’s spiritual descendants. Unlike Christ’s ancestor Judah, He the Root and the Offspring of David had to follow through on what He promised His Father He was willing to do.

Because of His incarnational dignity and infinite value, the prevailing Lion of the tribe of Judah was able to bear the weight of perpetual blame once for all time. His broken body and shed blood is spiritual food; Heaven’s most precious riches for those dwelling in a spiritually hungry and impoverished land.

What those who crucified Jesus meant for evil, God intended for the eternal good of many.

“For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren…” (Hebrews 2:11)

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The Almost and the Actual

In Genesis 22 God has recorded the account of how He severely tested Abraham’s faith. God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, but stopped him from doing so “in the nick of time” when He saw that Abraham was willing to do even that, if God required it. Abraham passed that test of faith with flying colors.

What might escape our attention is Isaac’s similar faith and obedience. Isaac was not a baby or a toddler at this time. He was a youth, able to ask intelligent questions of his father and able to carry a bundle of wood. Meanwhile, Abraham had been 99 years old at the time of Isaac’s miraculous conception.

Isaac could have easily overpowered his aged father and fled when he became aware of what was coming. Instead he proved willing to present his body a living sacrifice.

So Abraham was willing to give his son, and Isaac was willing even to die in obedience to his father.

A little over 2,000 years ago there was an even more miraculous conception. When He became a young man, the fruit of that blessed womb also carried some wood, the wood of a cruel instrument of execution. He also had questioned His Father on the way to a death He would not escape. He had asked, in Gethsemane, if it were possible that He not endure unimaginable pain and be sacrificed.

It was NOT possible – if sinners were to be forgiven. There would be no reprieve for this obedient Son. The loving Father went through with the sacrifice by which many would be saved. The Son loved His Father and He loved the ones He came to save, as an angel told Joseph, the carpenter who would serve as the blessed earthly dad of the Christ child:

“…Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” (from Matthew 1)

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