Friday, December 30, 2011

A Mighty Fortress

Martin Luther is a towering giant in the history of the Church, and an iconic figure in the Protestant Reformation. Born in Germany 498 years ago, he became a Roman Catholic Priest, scholar and professor. His study of God's word led him to rebel against the teachings of the church which allowed for sin to be forgiven by monetary purchase. His "Ninety-Five Theses", presented in 1517 brought him in direct conflict with the Catholic Church. Pope Leo X demanded that Luther retract his writings. Luther refused, and as a result, was excommunicated from the Church.

Luther is perhaps best known for his teaching of Justification by Faith. He taught that salvation came through Christ alone, and could not be earned by our good deeds. This Biblical doctrine teaches that only a belief in the vicaroious death, burial, and bodily resurrection of Christ could bring one into right standing with God. He rejected the concept of the Papacy and taught the priesthood of all believers.

His translation of the Latin Bible into the language of the people, made a tremendous impact on the church, by making God's Word more easily accessible to the common man. It also led to further translations, and influenced the the King James translation in 1611.

Luther also authored several hymns. One of those hymns has become one of my very favorites. It has long been a standard and a comfort to believers who face tribulation and persecution. It was inspired by Psalm 46, and my heart thrills when I sing (or even just read) the words of this great treatise of faith. I joyfully share this message with you today.

A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

A mighty fortress is our God. A bulwark never failing;

Our helper, He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing.

For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;

His craft and power are great, and armed with cruel hate,

On Earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing.

Were not the right man on our side, the Man of God's own choosing.

Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;

Lord Sabaoth, His name, from day to day the same;

And He must win the battle.

And tho' this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us;

We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us.

The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;

His rage we can endure, for lo, his end is sure,

One little word will fell him.

That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;

The Spirit and the gifts are ours, through Him who with us sideth:

Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;

The body they may kill; God's truth abideth still,

His kingdom is forever.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas from C.J. and Linda!

2011 is winding down to its last few days, and Christmas is only two days away.

Linda and I want to take this opportunity to wish a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of our friends, at home, and around the world!

Christmas is a busy time. Decorations are out. Shopping is being done. Get togethers are underway for church, business, and families. For a few short days, we take a break from most of the cares and worries of life and bask in the glow of the Christmas holiday.

At Christmas time, during this season of gift giving, I am always reminded of the greatest gift ever given (John 3:16) and of all the blessings that come with that gift, to those who believe.

I am thankful for Jesus. Thankful for the fact that He, alone, brings access to a personal relationship with Almighty God. Thankful for the family of God into which I have been adopted. Thankful for the forgiveness, grace, and mercy that He has brought to my life. Thankful for the treasures of eternal and abundant life that reside in this temporary earthen vessel. Thankful for a peace that passes earthly understanding and a joy that is unspeakable and full of glory. Thankful for the ultimate healing that He has brought to my never dying soul.

When we celebrate His advent during this very special time of the year, I always try to focus on the true reason He came to earth. He came, not just to be the Holy Child in the stable, but the one who came to show us the Father - the one who came to reconcile us to Him - the Lamb of God who became our sacrifice - the risen Savior with healing in His wings.

As we celebrate His first coming, nearly 2000 years ago, let us look forward with anticipation to His coming again - not as a helpless baby in an obscure stable - but as King of King and Lord of Lords!

We wish you all the blessings and joy of knowing that you are His - at Christmas time, and all 365 days of the year!

Until He Comes,
C.J. and Linda Adkins

Friday, December 9, 2011

What If...?

It’s that time again, and we are constantly reading and hearing news reports about “The War on Christmas”. As followers of Christ, we know what Christmas is all about. We all know and regularly use the current religious clich├ęs, ie. “Jesus is the Reason for the Season”, “Christmas begins with CHRIST”, and “Don’t take Christ out of Christmas!”

Many of us go out of our way to find Christmas cards with religious messages and depictions of Nativity Scenes, (complete with shepherds, wise men, barnyard animals, a big star, and Mary, Joseph and the Baby) or cards with singing Angels, or at least cards with depictions of quaint churches in little villages under a cover of snow. We make sure the inside message makes reference to Christmas (with words like “Peace” and “Joy” prominently displayed) rather than the secularly popular “Happy Holidays” or the most bland “Season’s Greetings”. The faithful among us eschew the very mention of a “Holiday Tree” and make sure that the trees that decorate our homes, and the public square are properly named, “Christmas Trees”. We’ll protest loudly or sign petitions if they are called anything but the proper nomenclature.

After all, this is “war”. Right?

Why should we be surprised by a “war on Christmas”? There has been one going on for centuries. The Enemy has done everything within his power to derail God’s eternal plan of redemption. The Old Testament gives several examples as to how Satan has used kings and nations to try to stamp out the Jewish people before “The Anointed One” could arrive through the Tribe of Judah and the lineage of King David. If he could short circuit the promise of the “protoevangelum” (Genesis 3:15) or nullify the Messianic promises given by God to Israel and Judah by ancient Hebrew prophets, perhaps he could continue to keep mankind enslaved to sin. But alas, the genocide against the Jewish people, by the likes of Pharaoh and Haman were overcome, and his other plans were to no avail.

Even after Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, the Enemy used Herod the Great to try to eradicate the Messiah by the slaughter of the infant boys under the age of two! Satan has been, and still is, serious about nullifying the message of Christmas.

I’m going to risk making some wonderful folks angry here, but let me advance a proposition this Christmas.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that we scrap the trees, garland, tinsel and holly, or any of the other trappings with which we are familiar. I certainly advocate the scriptural message for any greeting cards sent by Christ Followers. Nativity Scenes in our yards and in our homes should certainly hold a more prominent place than Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, and the big guy in the red suit. “The true meaning of Christmas” most certainly should be taught to our children.

But what if we went beyond even that?

What if we weren’t so militant about demanding our rights to publicly celebrate Christmas?

What if we celebrated Christmas in a different way?

What if we REALLY believed that Christmas is the real prelude to Easter, and celebrated it as such?

What if we explained to our children that the tree in our living room should be a bold reminder of a tree that was once used to fashion an old rugged cross, where our Savior died as our substitute.

What if we used the red lights and bows and greenery to be reminded about the True Light who came to a sin darkened world? He shed His red blood on the cross of Calvary, and died as a sacrifice for our sins.

What if we let the familiar evergreen boughs of the tree serve as a reminder that Jesus is the author and the only source of eternal life?

What if we were not so focused on the Baby Jesus, but rather on the adult Jesus who taught with authority?

What if we focused on following His radical teachings, denied ourselves, took up our crosses daily and followed Him?

What if our actions would identify us as His followers?

What if we allowed Him to fill us with His Spirit and cultivate His Fruit in our lives?

What if the gifts we gave one another spoke more about God’s great gift to us?

What if we were more focused on His example, and we learned that it is more blessed to give than to receive?

What of others would know that we are Christians by the love that we have for one another?

What if we were not only grateful recipients of His Grace, but also active conduits of it?

What if we had the faith of a grain of Mustard seed?

What if we really were Salt and Light in the world?

What if we were more mindful of the spirit of giving, and shared more quickly with others what God has given us through Jesus?

What if we smiled and exchanged more cheery greetings with others like we often do at Christmas time?

What if we did more random acts of kindness, gave more food, clothing, and water to those in need, in the name of Jesus?

What if we were so transparent in our motives, speech, and actions that others could readily see Jesus in us?

What if we followed the marching orders He gave us, and took the message to every people group on Earth?

And what if we did all these things 365 days per year, and not just on December 25th?

Surely the true Spirit of Christmas, would be so prevalent in the lives of Christ’s Followers, that we would never have to concern ourselves with the “war on Christmas”.
Lives would be changed, eternity would be effected, and Satan’s influence would be nullified in the lives of those who hear and accept.

After all, the victory was completed in Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, nearly 2000 years ago.

We know that Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th. But we know that He WAS born, of a virgin, and we know the familiar story. However, the events surrounding Christmas many years ago in Bethlehem would be meaningless without the events of Passover week, centered around an execution site called Golgotha and a borrowed tomb that was only used for a portion of three days.

What if those “Good tidings of great joy” would be published to every people group, from around the corner to around the world?

It’s up to us.