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Joyous Time of the Year

     I just received an appeal from a pagan organization.  It starts off with "After all, with the most joyous - and hectic - time of the year rapidly approaching, I imagine you are busy preparing for the holiday season.  But it is exactly because the hope-filled holiday season is upon us that I urge you to think . . .
      The appeal is so close, but so far away from Christ.  Why is the Christmas season so joyous?  Because we have the Gospels, the Good News, that Jesus Christ has come to save us from our sins.  That is why it is a HOLY day season.  (It is interesting that people don't want to say "Merry Christmas" so they say "Happy HOLYdays," which is just as Christian!). 
        And why is it a "hope-filled HOLYday season"?  Precisely because Jesus Christ is our consolation, our comfort, our hope.  Luke 2:25 states:  "And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him."

This is indeed a joyous and hope filled HOLYday season.  So explain to others about why you are so joyous and why you are so filled with hope.

Thanksgiving = Worship

   Luke recorded in the 17th chapter of his gospel the story of Jesus healing the ten lepers.  Only one of the ten lepers returned to Jesus Christ to thank him for the healing.  Luke relates that he "turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving him thanks." 
   Notice that he glorified God.  That is worship.  Glorifying God, not himself. 
   He worshipped God with with a loud voice - he was not ashamed of his faith - or of what others would think about him.
   He fell down on his face.  That is worship
and trust.  When you are lying prone on the ground your are very vulnerable.  Today we look someone in the eye and give him a good firm handshake.  But the healed man is bowing down with his fact to the ground.
    He fell facedown at Jesus feet.  He knew Who had healed him. 
    Is our worship one of thanksgiving to God?

Today's Prophets

    The church today needs to speak out in a prophetic voice.  On Friday as I was going through the Atlanta-Hartsfield airport, a quote from Martin Luther was prominently displayed:  "But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream."  What the airport did not realize was that Martin Luther was just quoting the Bible, specifically the book of Amos, chapter 5, verse 24. 
    Mother Theresa spoke prophetically when she said to President Clinton "But I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child, a direct killing of the innocent child, murder by the mother herself."  And this year when the Houston pastors stood up against the city council, they were acting prophetically. 

My plea to you is to speak the truth in love.

The Prophets - Elijah vs. Ahab

     Another example of a prophet speaking the truth against the state is when Elijah challenges Ahab.  In I Kings 25 we have one of the most wicked kings coveting (desiring extraordinarily to the point of evil) Naboth's vineyard.  After the conquest by Joshua and division of the land, the land should stay perpetually with that family.  In Numbers 36:7 we read "No inheritance in Israel is to pass from tribe to tribe, for every Israelite shall keep the tribal land inherited from his forefathers."
    Ahab coveted a plot of land next to the palace owned by Naboth.  Since Naboth would not sell and since there was no eminent domain (which gives the government the right to seize a citizen's land), he had trumped up capital (crimes so serious that the person could be sentenced to death) charges brought up against Naboth by scoundrels.  Naboth is put to death on the trumped up charges, and Ahab seizes the land. 
   Elijah is then told to go and challenge evil King Ahab with these words:  "This is what the Lord says, 'Have you not murdered a man and seized his property?' Than say to him, "This is what the Lord says:  In the place where the dogs licked up Naboth's blood, dogs will lick up your blood-yes, yours!' "

God, as a prophet, and Cain

    In the beginning of time, there was no formal church, and there were no prophets.  So after Cain killed his brother Abel, God, taking on a prophet's role, asked Cain "Where is your brother Abel?"  Cain replied "Am I my brother's keeper?"  He knew as he had killed him and probably buried him as well.  He was the top man - his opposition had been destroyed. 
    Thus, God, in essence the first prophet, accuses Cain of doing evil.
     This is the role of the church in the political world.  It needs to speak up against evil and act as a counter-weight to the government.

Miracles

"The believers in miracles accept them (rightly or wrongly) because they have evidence for them. The disbelievers in miracles deny them (rightly or wrongly) because they have a doctrine against them.”  G.K Chesterton

The Prophets - Nathan speaks to David

Last week we talked about Ambrose criticizing the Christian emperor Theodosius I for killing 7,000 people and then trying to take communion without any repentance.  Ambrose was following a long tradition of prophets who were willing to stand up to the government and who were willing to give unwelcomed, but needed, advise.
    One prophet who spoke courageously against the state was prophet Nathan.  To recap the story as found in II Samuel 11-12, David committed adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, one of David's thirty mighty warriors.  She becomes pregnant while Uriah was still at battle.  Then to hide his sin, David withdrew his forces leaving Uriah exposed.  The result was that the enemy killed him, not technically David.  David then married Bathsheba who gave birth to a son.
    On that same day, Nathan the prophet now arrived and pointed a finger at the guilty king and condemned David.  David is cursed and the following things would happen to David because he committed such grievous sins:
1.  there would always be warfare during David's reign.
2.  rebellion would come from within David's own house
3.  one of his own sons would sleep with David's wives
4.  the sleeping with David's wives would occur publicly
5.  his newborn son would die.
    Nathan and Ambrose both had prophetic voices - speaking for God against the government. 

Lord, grant us the wisdom and courage to speak prophetically against the state.