The True Message of Christmas

Nativity - Andrea Sabbatini (16th century)

Every year it becomes sadly apparent that fewer and fewer Americans understand what Christmas really means.

Christmas is an international celebration of a moment in history on planet Earth when God’s eternal Son, whom we know as the Lord Jesus Christ, became a genuine and permanent member of mankind in order to die for our sins upon a cross.

The key word is love—not our love, but God’s love. In spite of our profound selfishness, pride and indifference to the claims of a holy and loving God, He—not willing that any should perish—provided the perfect sacrifice, the Lamb of God, to die in our place—as our substitute, our divine and sinless representative—and to rise from the dead.

Christ (the Messiah) was born in Bethlehem of Judea and raised in Nazareth of Galilee 2,000 years ago. He was sent into the world by God the Father because of His love for human beings. Read more about The True Message of Christmas

From the Archives: Humanism's Delusional Dream

A Humanist Manifesto was signed by thirty-four men in 1933. Scorning any notions of religion based on divine revelation, the signatories cast vision and set guidelines to achieve peace and goodwill on earth through enlightened human effort. Six years later, the world’s superpowers tumbled headlong into a catastrophic World War. Millions were slaughtered.

Following World War II, millions more were butchered by regimes laboring in the supposed interest of economic utopia. The agenda of these regimes synchronized with the Manifesto’s vision decrying “profit-motivated society” and calling for “radical change in methods, controls, and motives.” The Manifesto contended that “a socialized and cooperative economic order must be established to the end that the equitable distribution of the means of life be possible…. Humanists demand a shared life in a shared world.” Apparently the Humanist signatories never envisioned the barbaric means by which dictators such as Stalin and Mao would “demand a shared life.”

In 1973 Humanist Manifesto II was signed by twenty-one Nobel laureates. The document began with these telling words: Read more about From the Archives: Humanism's Delusional Dream

Following in the Footsteps of Faith Part 6: The Life-Long Process of “Faith Refinement”

Meeting of Abraham & Melchizedek, Dieric Bouts the Elder, 1464–67

Read the series so far.

Listen sometime to an NFL or college football coach after they have just won a Super Bowl or national championship. Almost inevitably you will get some excitement about this achievement in their lives and how much it means to the players, etc. But that interview always seems to come back to this theme: “that was great, but it means that the coaches who didn’t make the playoffs have had this much time to get a head start on next season.” It’s a never-ending process.

On a much smaller scale I go through this each week with sermon prep. I study, pray, meditate, study some more, and form a message (hopefully from God) from the text for the week. I stand up Sunday and deliver a word from the Lord, then go home exhausted. Sunday night we do it again. Monday is a day of rest, and the cycle begins again on Tuesday. Read more about Following in the Footsteps of Faith Part 6: The Life-Long Process of “Faith Refinement”

From the Archives: Christmas Marvel

Seven hundred years before Christ (i.e., Messiah) was born, the prophet Isaiah was told that He would be one person with two natures—divine and human.

At a time of great crisis for Israel, the house of David was given a great promise. “Then he said, ‘Hear now, O house of David! Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son [i.e., fully human], and shall call His name Immanuel [i.e., God with us, fully divine]’” (Isa. 7:13-14). In the very next chapter, the prophet is told that the God of Israel is “Immanuel” (Isa. 8:8; cf. 8:10).

But how could a virgin have a child? That was the urgent question that Mary asked Gabriel, the messenger-angel sent from God: “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” (Luke 1:34). The answer was astounding, and is recorded by Luke, “the beloved physician” (Col. 4:14): “And the angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit [i.e., the third person of the triune God] will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God…. For with God nothing will be impossible’ ” (Luke 1:35-37). Read more about From the Archives: Christmas Marvel

Bible Colleges in the 21st Century (Part 2)

From Voice, Nov/Dec 2014. Used by permission. Read part 1.

Most of the innovations sweeping higher education are products of the Internet that is quickly transforming virtually everything and making our entire world more global, mobile, social, visual and digital.

Global

The world of work is increasingly international. As more and more companies move to the global marketplace, it is common for work teams to span continents and be culturally diverse. Working from his home country of St. Vincent, a West Indian pastor/graphic artist designed the current Piedmont logo. That seemed most appropriate to me as we added “International” to our school name and featured the curvature of the earth in the logo. Read more about Bible Colleges in the 21st Century (Part 2)

Bible Colleges in the 21st Century (Part 1)

From Voice, Nov/Dec 2014. Used by permission.

Just a few weeks after terrorists hijacked planes and used them to attack the Pentagon and World Trade Center, I was asked to become the president of Piedmont International University in Winston Salem, North Carolina. I had no way of knowing the extent of how the tragic events of September 11, 2001 would transform our world, nor could I have imagined the changes that would sweep across the higher education landscape. Like many other Bible college leaders, I had to quickly learn to navigate a variety of shifting currents in the post 9/11 economy and deal with the continuous emergence of disruptive innovations and new technologies. In addition, I felt the urgent need to address the two horrible trends that have been plaguing American higher education for years. Read more about Bible Colleges in the 21st Century (Part 1)

Ministry Success & The Great Commission

A two-fold assumption is often evident when believers are evaluating the effectiveness of churches, ministries, movements, and denominations. The assumption is, first, that the Great Commission is the standard of measurement and, second, that effectiveness is measured by the number of people who are hearing the gospel or are being brought into worship services.

Certainly it’s exciting whenever thousands or tens of thousands are gathering for worship and hearing the gospel. If they’re doing so in multiple locations linked by cutting edge video technology—well, many of us see that as progress into a new and wonderful future for the body of Christ.

But, to understate, exciting and wonderful in our estimation is not always exciting and wonderful in God’s—even when our hearts are in the right place. Four principles argue that if we’re going to evaluate churches, ministries, and movements in a way that approximates God’s evaluation, we’ll have to consider more than the Great Commission, understood as number of souls reached. Read more about Ministry Success & The Great Commission

“Whatever it takes”: My Summer at Minnesota’s Gigachurch

Yes, Minnesota has a gigachurch. The baffled reaction of most hearers notwithstanding, it’s true.

For the unconversant, a “gigachurch” is one with average weekly attendance of at least 10,000. The United States has about fifty in total; about half of the states have none. Churches that reach this size frequently have wide-ranging reputations, with many people near and far at least cognizant of the church’s existence. In contrast, mentioning Minnesota’s gigachurch often triggers perplexed looks even from long-time Minnesotans. Yet this church is perhaps America’s 12th largest, with average weekly attendance currently twice the gigachurch threshold.

Over this past summer I became drawn to discover who this inconspicuous colossus is. And so a fascinating journey began. Read more about “Whatever it takes”: My Summer at Minnesota’s Gigachurch