Sunday, December 21, 2014

A Harmony Of The Birth Narrative Of Jesus The Christ


**While this is certainly no academic endeavor, it does represent what I believe to be a plausible harmonic account of the Mathew and Luke narratives of the birth of our Lord. It is from the New King James Version, and Luke's texts are in blue, while Matthew's are in red. For your Christmas reading pleasure, I present the King Steve Version of:

A Harmony Of The Birth Narrative Of Jesus The Christ

The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”  And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit 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. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.” Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Now  Mary was betrothed to Joseph, and before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “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.” (So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying:  “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”)  Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son.  

And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was still with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. And Joseph called His name Jesus.

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.  Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.

And when eight days were completed for the circumcision of the Child, His name was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.’”

 Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.” When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way. Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.” When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.” Now when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child’s life are dead.” Then he arose, took the young Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel.

So when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth. And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Green Grits and Ham

The most perfect food in all of the world are grits. When made right. No Yankee grits. ecch! I discovered Yankee grits on my recent trip to Long Island New York. Yankees put sugar and milk in their grits. That's just down right blasphemous. To be made perfect, they must have salt, pepper, and butter. A few weeks ago, Patty and I were eating at a posh, eloquent, Southern restaurant...the Waffle House. It is at Waffle House that one can experience the elevation of Southern grits. You see, there is only one thing that can make Southern grits any better. When warm, melting grape jelly slides off your toast and into your grits. It is just a small taste of heaven. The yellow butter mixes with the bluish jelly to form a kind of green grits. The Wedding Feast in heaven will have green grits. And ham...honey baked, not green. I am sure of it because Daniel and his three friends ate green grits. (A little known exegete of the Hebrew in Daniel 1:12 reveals that the word Zeroa` [pulse], would be better translated as grits.)


So, my oldest daughter Shea said to me one time, “I think you should say that Jesus is sinless instead of perfect. His life wasn’t perfect, it was sinless. He had a lot of rough times, a lot of hardship; it was less than a perfect life.”

Hmmm. Well, she is like everyone else I encounter. They all have the right to be wrong. (tounge-in-cheekly, he said.)

I am very proud of her. She is thinking things through, which is important. Desire t-bone steaks, not baby formula, Paul tells us. I wish more of my congregation desired to think things though instead of being spoon-fed their theology.

But the fact is that this next generation does think this way about life. And the problem is that their view of life being perfect as measured by ease and comfort should give us pause. The Bible didn’t promise us a life free from troubles. As I have stated to my church many times, if you don’t have any problems let me know. I’ll pray that you get some!

Jesus had hardships, but that doesn’t mean He was out of God’s will. So why do we think that a trouble free, easy life is the only life that is perfect? A lack of problems is not a sign of God's will, just as the presence of trouble is not a sign of the absents of God's will.

What does this all have to do with green grits? Most people wouldn’t consider green grits perfect, either. The fact is, you really can’t make them that way. Trust me on this one. I've tried. Grape jelly and grits don’t work as a recipe. But when it happens, it’s...well...perfection.

So it is with life. The things that we endure make us who we are. The things we sacrifice builds us into who God wants us to be. Would I like more stuff? Yeah, why not? But in reality, I have more house than I deserve, more cars than I deserve, and more love than I deserve. And to me, that’s just about as perfect as it gets.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

A Biblio-centric View of College Football in the South

July in the South means one thing...College Football starts in less than 2 month! (April means football starts in 5 months. May: 4 months. You get the point.)

So it is in just a few weeks now. Cancel your Lifetime subscription, ladies. You won't be watching any Meridith Baxter Burney marathons for a few months. Church will drastically change in both temperament and color variation, as clashing team colors are proudly displayed. Sunday school classes are taken over by discussions of the Coach's Poll (OSU pre season #1? Seriously!?) and the etiquette of eating candy corn and peanuts is heatedly debated. (Pick out the Indian Corn, or just grab a handful?)

As a dutiful shepherd and pastor of the flock, here are ten tips for getting things right this season.

1) When your biggest rival loses, only taunt their fans outside of the sanctuary.

2) Remember this; God's TV room is painted Red and Black.

3) While it may not be a sin to wear Orange to church, it is a transgression.

4) "Sanford Stadium" in the original Greek, means, "The Place Where God's Glory Dwells" (κατοικεί δόξα)

5) The Faithful will all ways pull against their in-state rival, despite what the False Prophet of the Play-Off-System saith.

6) Our mascot is cuter than your mascot.

7) Notre Dame will always be ranked pre-season, despite the inability to win against ranked opponents. They are the Cotton Candy of College Football. Lots of size, not much substance. A lot of taste at first, then it melts away when any real contact is made. Give-me-a-break.

8) Pastors do a lot more "sermon prep" on Saturday's in the Fall. As in, "I can't make it to the Chairman of the Deacons funeral this Saturday, I.. uh..need sermon prep."

9) Buy soft things that can be used as projectiles and thrown at the TV. And if you live in a parsonage, for the love of all that is holy, sound proof the TV room.

10) Enjoy College football. It is one of the most relaxing, de-stressing, and morally sound things I know! :)

Sunday, June 15, 2014

SBC Pastor’s Conference Day #1


SBC Pastor’s Conference Day #1

We heard two amazing messages tonight. The 2nd one from Russ Moore was spot on; as usual. He always amazes me at how he starts with a seemingly innocuous story that grabs your attention, then jumps to a passage and expounds on it, then comes full circle to bring home the point from his story. Which, it turns out, wasn’t so innocuous after all. While the message had more to do with just this one point, it is so timely and on target that I must share. In respect to the changing culture, Moore said (possibly slightly paraphrased) “God is not as concerned about America getting into step with the church, as He is with the church getting out of step with America.” I completely agree. It is high time the church stop lamenting the America that was, and deal with the America we have. It is time to stop thinking more patriotism is the answer to the problem of lagging church attendance, and realize the gospel is the solution to lagging American ethics.

The 1st sermon was on target as well. One of the take-a-ways was the idea of helping plant churches north of the Mason-Dixon Line. Patty had an interesting comment after we left. Why can’t churches have the same passion about saving churches down South? Her idea would be, for our particular context, having a larger church in Charlotte recruit “missionaries” from among their younger married adults. These missionaries would attend Lakewood to fill pews with younger faces, put some children in our kids programs so visiting children could have a better experience, and provide younger voices to help implement contemporary worship, and all around spend volunteer hours with community outreach. There would be no need to take an expensive trip to Columbus, or Oregon, or overseas to do mission work. There is plenty of need right here in Dixie. Volunteers would just commit to give the next 6 months worth of Sundays and two or three Saturdays to a drive to Kannapolis. This is not to throw cold water on those who have the resources and desire to travel; however, it does give the larger churches another avenue to provide resources to existing brick and mortars that still desire to have a gospel impact.

Just a few thoughts from Day one. More to come. 

Monday, June 2, 2014

More New Creatures In Christ

We serve a big God, loving and compassionate. Come see us a Beaverdam some Sunday and discover what these new creatures found out about this glorious God.

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV)


 I love those eyes and that smile!


Father and Son

Brandon with Chris looking on
 Love that smile. Worth a thousand words, right there! (Brandon's smile is pretty cute, too!)


What The Apostle Paul Would Say About Common Core


In this day of anti-Obamacare, anti-Common Core, and anti-political party posts galore, I am glad that I really can stay above the fray. Oh, I have my political views, and I still love the country that I served, and still make an occasional political post or share a funny picture caricaturizing the other side’s views. I still care that our country represents the ideals of freedom and justice. But I have no qualm with the way of the world either. I have a dual citizenship, and I care more about the heavenly kingdom and its King, than I do the USA and her presidents, past, current, or future. I will most likely vote for the Republican candidate, whomever that ends up being, because they usually line up with my views on social justice and conservatism. But here is what I will not do:

I will not deny the political process its due. For over two-hundred years approximately half of the country has been disappointed on the second Wednesday in November. Unless Barack Obama calls out the Marines to keep from being ejected from the White House, I will peaceably claim the next victor as my president, whichever party wins the office.

I will not call an educational system “evil.” For goodness sake, people, it’s a curriculum. It is not Satan incarnate as educational programing, nor is the Devil possessing teachers because common core is implemented.  As a system, I see many things wrong. But mostly I see examples of the extreme fringe posted, not what the system represents as a whole. Like everything else man invents, it has good and bad points. But to call Common Core "evil" is to make a mockery of true evil. True evil like women forced into a slave trade; children being abused; or the use of chemical agents by a goverment on its citizenry. True evil like satanic oppression of missionaries, evil like the abuses in the Word of Faith movement that tells people dying of cancer that they don't have enough faith, or God would cure them. It's called perspective. Look it up!

I will not allow a devoted Mormon to tell me what is or is not godly. All you devotees of Glenn Beck should wake up and see that the Satan rests, not in common core, but in cultic practices and pseudo-religionists like Beck. He’s a comedian…and he is funny. But his alarmist tactics and quasi-religiosity are all a ruse, designed by the Devil to make this cult look “normal.” Be like Joseph and FLEE, from that nut-case. (Genesis 39)

I will not be straddled with anyone’s political agenda. My ONLY agenda is the proliferation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  “But Steve,” you ask, “wouldn’t the proliferation of the Gospel be easier in a free, democratic, Christian society?” Nope. Never has, never will. Two things: #1 The Gospel thrives in persecution. The church grows stronger and deeper in conviction the more oppression she faces. The church grows in false doctrine and/or complacency in the ease of contentment and safety.  #2 The USA may be a free, democratic society. But she is certainly not Christian. Hello?! If we were a Christian nation, we would not have homosexual marriage, high abortion rates, and high crime rates.

When Paul wrote “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same." (Romans 13:1-3 KJV. I put this in the King Jimmy just for you KJV Only folks) he was writing about the most oppressive, anti-Christian, ruthless government that had ever existed, the Roman Empire. 
Listen to this in the NCV: “All of you must yield to the government rulers. No one rules unless God has given him the power to rule, and no one rules now without that power from God. 2 So those who are against the government are really against what God has commanded. And they will bring punishment on themselves. 3 Those who do right do not have to fear the rulers; only those who do wrong fear them. Do you want to be unafraid of the rulers? Then do what is right, and they will praise you.” 

Paul said all of this, to all of us who claim the name of Jesus, about a tyrannical government that had him arrested for his faith, and sentenced many of his companions to death for the name of Christ. Paul wrote that statement while sitting in a Roman dungeon. and so I am content with where I am. I’m not happy about homosexual marriage, high abortion rates, and a different medical system than I’m used to. But I know one thing and know it well, Jesus is my King, and He has the final say over everything that happens…to me…to you…to Obama…and He never makes a mistake. 

Even so, come Lord Jesus!