Hey gang! The-Thinking -Christian is back after a long hiatus. It is time for me to get back to writing, recording audio, recording video and other things to help equip you to think according to the Biblical worldview. I will be rolling out new posts starting Monday February 12 and so please stop buy, take a look and send comments, ideas and anything else that will help us continue to serve you in this way. Also be on the lookout for speaking dates and other special events in 2018.
Thank you for your support and we look forward to engaging with you again very soon.
Dr. Tim Stafford
“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in Isaiah the prophet: "BEHOLD, I SEND M Y MESSENGER AHEAD OF YOU, WHO WILL PREPARE YOUR WAY; THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, 'MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT.'"” Mark 1:1-3 NASB
Using people to deliver messages is not that efficient. In a world where we email and text, you would think that God would use a much better platform of communication to get His message out. Using people just has issues. When we were kids, we used to play the "telephone" game where we would whisper into each other’s ears a message and there would be a line of us. As the message went from one person to another, it quickly stared to morph into something that it had not started out as and by the final person, most of the time the message was far from the very first utterance. People do not communicate well, even when we are whispering directly in to someone's ears.
Recently one of my graduate students completed here dissertation on a longitudinal study that she did on communication in organizations and whether policy could help us communicate better. Her findings showed that policy could help, but that miscommunication would happen even with the best of policies, and human intentions. I mean how many times do husbands and wives talk about a subject, appear to be disagreeing with each other, only to be saying the same thing? Or how many times do we give employees or students instructions and then get back a myriad of realities that in some cases did not mirror the instructions at all? Why would God use such a messaging platform?
The answer is simple - there is a power that can not be measured that resides in the passion of a human being, and when that passion is connected to a message then not only is the message heard, but it is powerful to gather and rally people around it. As you look at our world today, there are really only a limited number of voices that are heard, yet millions of voices are speaking. Why is that? It is because these who are being heard have connected their deepest, most passionate selves with the reality of that message and they are wiling to shout out among the noisy crowds hoping that someone will hear it and pay attention.
That is the best description I can give of the work if John the Baptist in connection with the birth of Jesus, and what real discipleship looks like.
From even the time before they were born, John the Baptist was passionate out the existence of Jesus - the Bible says that he leapt in the womb of his mother when Mary arrived to visit! He knew that the Truth was here to set us free and so he dedicated his life to declaring the reality of the life of Christ and the power of salvation that had come, and he spent his life getting out of the way so that Jesus could realized. This is a rare set of skills - be heard, but be meek.
When Jesus arrived, there was much celebration in the heavens, they can't help it, this is their King and this is what they do. They made the announcement of His arrival and the shepherd’s were blown away, as you would be if a host of angels appeared singing and declaring the birth of the savior. But John the Baptist was a spiritual farmer. He plated seeds, got people ready, prepared the hearts of those who would soon connect with the Son of God and then once He arrived, John the Baptist would disappear in to utter obscurity. It is not a flamboyant life, but it was a life that really mattered.
This Christmas, let's be sure that in 2017 we are prepared to be like John the Baptist - ready to loudly proclaim the savior who has come and that one that we serve openly without remorse or regret, and at the same time we are ready to become the least that He might become the most important thing in our lives and in the lives on those who are connected to us.
“Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, "I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life."”
John 8:12 NASB
As dawn rolls in each day, the darkness of night slowly is overtaken by the light of day. It is a spectacular experience as the heavens declare the overwhelming power of light. Then each night darkness returns and the cycle starts over. It is predictable and yet there are powerful truths to be learned from this cycle that started on the first day of creation. The first is that the light, even at its smallest pinpoint can overpower the darkness. Jesus makes it clear that He is the light of the world and that Hos light is an ever present existing reality in our world and in the world of eternity. Even on the darkest of nights we can look up and see the lights of the stars and the light of the moon, we are never without the light. In the same way, we are never without Jesus, even in the darkest hours of our days here on Earth, there is always a light that will give us hope that we can find our way.
At Christmastime, we put up lights. Lights on our doorways, lights in our halls, lights in our trees and bushes, and most of all lights in our Christmas trees. Every year I am amazed how alive the Christmas tree becomes when we turn the lights on. We go to "light up" ceremonies where a community's Christmas lights are turned on and every year it is spectacular. They are just lights, but they stand for so much more at Christmas. Each little light stands for a life that has hope in Jesus. Each little light stands for the reality of the Light of the World that has completely overcome the darkness. Each little light should remind us that Christmas is about hope even in the darkest of days.
For many, Christmastime is difficult. Loved ones who are no longer here and the pain and grief of the tragedies of life are often amplified at Christmas. It can be a very dark and difficult season. Now I am not a therapist, so this is not advice in that way, but my suggestion is to setup your Christmas tree anyway, turn on your lights and remember that God loves you and you are never in total darkness. Reach out to your community of believers. Many of us are praying for you and there is hope in the baby that was born under the twinkling of the night sky on that most sacred silent night.
The darkness is real, but so is the power of the Light. Follow Christ and you will not walk in darkness, and you will never walk alone.
“For in this case the saying is true, 'One sows and another reaps.' I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored and you have entered into their labor."”
John 4:37-38 NASB
Total disclosure - I always get choked up at services that honor soldiers. They affect me deeply. Men and women who are willing to run head long into harms way for me, so that I can enjoy everything that it means to live in the United States. Why would anyone do that? Because they see the United States as something greater than what they can sacrifice, and the understand that freedom comes with a price.
Jesus spoke of this very thing in a John Chapter 4. We as Christians who have had the life transforming reality of hearing the gospel, responding to it, learning from it, and are in the throes of being molded into His likeness and becoming like Him; we all must realize that the gospel has come to us with a great amount of sacrifice from a great number of people before us who realized that the gospel message much more vaulable than whatever they could ever sacrifice. There are so many people that I have ahd the privilege of working with that make this statement of Chrsit a living reality in my own life:
And finally, I think of Doug and Carol who have not only impacted the world for the sake of the gospel, but in the midst of the greatest lives of Godliness, were willing to put me and my family on their shoulders, so that I might become what God had intended for me and that are family could impact others.
Like the ornaments on a tree, these disciples of Christ are a part of the body of workers that have given up everything, that all of us all over the world might have the privilege of receiving the gospel. So when you look at the ornaments on your tree this year, think of those who have given sacrificially to the gospel, pray for them, give so that they may conitnue, write them, thank them, and then go and do likewise.
Below are the Gospel Organizations that are represented in this post - please give to these organizations this Christmas and New Years, join their email lists and see what God is doing all over the world in 2017!
“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.""
Matthew 2:1-2 NASB
Each person has a unique journey to Jesus. The reality of what the wise men and scholars did after Jesus was born is indicative of what happens with each of us who are seeking the Truth that is only found in Christ. These men studied the heavens and were looking for a sign that would show them the way. Once seen, they began a journey that would last a long time, but they were dedicated to finding the truth that they sought out after. Mist scholars believe that Jesus was about 3 years old when the wise men arrived, so their journey would have meant a major sacrifice for them in time, money, resources, possibly position, it's hard to know for sure, but three years is a long time to travel. But their purpose was singular, they wanted to worship the King of the Jews. They saw the sign and could not fight against the compelling reality that had been prophesied richly before them, Immanuel had finally come.
Our journies to Jesus are very similar. Our desire is to find the truth that can set us free. We study and learn and look to the heavens for the answers, until one day a bright speck of hope glistens before us that the eyes of our heart see clearly. We may not know exactly what it means, but we know what it is, it's a star. A light that is guiding us forward, and it beckons us to seek it out. So our journey begins. For to us a Son is given so we are more than compelled to find that Son, for He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
For many of us, this journey to find Jeus is a long one, full of difficulty and weariness, but when we finally find Him, we fall down and worship Him because the efforts of our journey have paled in comparison to the reality of who He is and what He means to us. So when you look at the star on your Christmas tree this season, let it remind you of the journey that you took to find the King of Kings and how finding Him changed your life for eternity!
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