Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Straight No Chaser - 12 Days of Christmas

Do you like to laugh? Do you like Christmas music? How about acapella Christmas music? Well if you've answered yes to all three of those, have I got a treat for you! Well, even if you answered no to one or more of the questions, I can still guarantee that you will enjoy this video from Straight No Chaser! If you've seen this before, go ahead and click on the link anyway....they add a new twist to "Dreidel"..... Enjoy!

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

On Celebrating His Birth....

I sometimes think that Christmas can become overly sentimental….almost to the point of being “syrupy”. We get so focused, at times, at beholding the birth scene…..pointing all of our attention towards a baby in a manger. Now certainly there’s something here that ought to grab our attention and hold captive our imagination, if only for a short time. First of all, there was never before, nor has there been since, a birth like this one. The woman who gave birth was a virgin – indeed, this birth was a physiological impossibility! Furthermore, there has at no other time been a birth that caused an eruption from a multitude of the heavenly hosts! And then (and I say this at the risk of fostering further syrupy sentimentalism) there was the child himself…..God in the flesh. Upon His birth Mary did something that had never been done before: she kissed the face of God. We don’t know all that much about Mary and Joseph….but what must have been going through their heads as they held this infant…..the Messiah….God in the flesh? When they heard his cry, did they consider the fact that this voice spoke and the world came into order? When they felt his breath on their cheek, did they ponder that this is the same breath that breathed into Adam’s nostrils so that he would become a living soul? Certainly, these (as well as many others) are questions worthy of pondering briefly as we gaze upon this scene in Bethlehem. It gives us some grasp of the significance of the whole thing. But this birth, the birth that we celebrate more than any other event in the life of the Christ, is nothing more than an introductory note to the Gospel records. But what an introduction!

In the brief paragraphs given to us in Scripture relating the occasion of Jesus’ birth, there is a great deal of significance in the sheer number of Old Testament prophecies fulfilled. Indeed, this night was the beginning of that to which all the prophets of old pointed. But let us keep in mind this fact… was only the beginning. As we read through the New Testament, we find that there just isn’t much time spent in dealing with the Birth of Jesus – amazing as it was. No, there is much more time spent in dealing with His life, His message, His ministry, His death, and His resurrection. As a matter of fact, after His birth we only see Christ for a couple of brief moments prior to his entering public ministry as a man in his 30’s. After this, His birth is only referenced in the sense that it occurred. In Philippians we are told to look at His birth as an example of the extreme humility that exemplified His life…..a humility that we are to try to imitate.

This birth offers a moving and beautiful scene and we ought to look at it and marvel. However, let’s not forget the real story…the fact is that without the death and (more importantly) the Resurrection that occurred less than 40 years later, this scene that we now celebrate would be lost to history….insignificant in its standing. If He were not the Lamb of God here to take away the sins of the world, there would be no star, no heavenly hosts celebrating, and no virgin birth. There would be nothing significant to celebrate. It would have been just another birth – most likely occurring some months later in Nazareth rather than in Bethlehem.

Excuse the rambling nature of this article – bear with me as I get to my point now. While we celebrate this birth of Christ – no doubt the most significant birth in human history – let us keep in mind its true meaning: This is salvation from Heaven. Redemptions plan, put in motion in eternity passed, is coming to fruition. The fulfillment of all prophecy is He Who lies wrapped in that rough crib. His purpose in coming is to show us what perfect godliness and love looks like….to show us the one way to God….to introduce us to an adoption like no other. Let our emotion-filled wonder not be fixated on this tiny babe in a manger, but rather on the life He lived and the death he defeated.

My friends, I urge you to celebrate this season, but not because of the small baby that lies in the manger in a cave in Bethlehem. Rather, because of the path that leads from this cave to the Cross. We celebrate because this birth has marked the beginning of His death, His Resurrection, and our life!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Sanctity of Life

I came across an article last night discussing the case of a 14 year old girl. Some time ago she was brought into a hospital with severe brain trauma and she has spent the last two years of her life in an "irreversible vegetative state". The courts ruled that her condition was hopeless and that she should be removed from life support....she was no longer vital and had, essentially, ceased from being a human being. They removed the life support....and she lived. She's now recovered and in court testifying about the abuse of her parents that landed her in the hospital in the first place.

As a I read this, I was reminded of an article I wrote for another website before I launched this blog. I wrote it on the heels of the murder of Terri Schiavo in Florida several years ago. What follows is my article entitled "Life vs. Death".

The Terri Schiavo case has been filled with emotion. It has caused all of us to ask ourselves some difficult questions, requiring us to find a deeper, more meaningful reaction than our first instinct, knee-jerk reactions. We’ve had to face the tough questions and then come to a conclusion that satisfies our emotional, logical, moral, religious, and social consciences. What is life? When does it begin? When does it end? What is quality of life? All of these questions have been asked and answered from many different perspectives, but there is one lingering question to which I’ve not heard a proper answer. Why were some folks so set on seeing this young woman die? I don’t just mean her husband – I’m talking about the tens of thousands of people around the country who supported him and just wanted to see this young woman die.

I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised. One of the worst punishments of God that we see in the Bible occurs when He simply gives men up to their own desires. It’s almost laughable, but James 1:15 and Romans 8:13 both leave us with the harsh reality that, left to ourselves, we will absolutely and completely self-destruct.

Jeremiah 17:9 records these words when talking about the nature of man: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is incurable; who can know it?” Another translation states that the heart of man is “desperately wicked”. We should never be surprised at the wicked actions that wicked men perform when lost in their wicked natures. However, there is something in us that wants to say that man is basically ... okay. We understand that there is “none righteous, no not one”. We understand that ALL men have sinned and are, therefore, sinners. We know that because of that sin all men are rightfully destined for hell. We know that even after salvation there is a battle raging within us between the old sin nature and the new nature – the righteousness of Christ. We know that the only thing that restrains us is the Spirit of God, but even without that restraint, there is something in us that wants to believe that all men are basically good. And then, something happens to snap us back into reality.

I remember in September of 2001 that what reminded us of the desperate, incurable, deep-seated wickedness of man was the terrorist attacks on the U.S. This year it was, once again, man’s attack on the sanctity of human life, namely, the life of Theresa Marie Schiavo.

The strange thing about the legal sparring is that nobody ever disputed the FACT that Terri Schiavo was alive. There were questions raised about the quality of her life, about her wishes, about many things, but NEVER about her classification as being a living human being. This fact should have fostered many discussions about euthanasia, but those conversations were strangely lacking.

Throughout the 1990’s there was one name that dominated conversations about euthanasia: Dr. Jack Kevorkian. He assisted in over 100 suicides of mostly terminally ill patients. Some called him an agent of death, and others called him an angel of mercy. Regardless, he was sentenced to prison in 1999 for second-degree murder, and he won’t be eligible for parole until 2007. Throughout the legal wrangling over the fate of Terri Shiavo, I kept going back in my mind to this man that people dubbed “Dr. Death”.

Here was a man that was acting “on behalf” of the terminally ill in an effort to end their lives – with their consent. He would provide the means, and the patients would ultimately end their own lives. Yet he is in prison.

The purpose of this article isn’t to call for the vindication of Jack Kevorkian. Rather, it is to ask a question or two. Why is Kevorkian – a man who was clearly acting under the direction of the patients – in prison today? Perhaps a better question is, “why aren’t the judges, lawers, and Micheal Schiavo – the people who are directly responsible for the death of Terri Shiavo - in prison today?” These people fought to kill a woman that couldn’t speak for herself. Ultimately they succeeded, and in doing so, they starved her to death. This was a much more heinous act than any that Kevorkian ever committed. These folks ended another human life by denying her sustenance. They weren’t merciful in the way they destroyed her. It wasn’t instantaneous – it took nearly two weeks. It wasn’t without pain – Terri was administered morphine to deal with the pain that she was feeling as her brain dried up and her body began to shut down.

It occurred to me that the differences between Terri Schiavo and the men that saw to it that she was put to death can be boiled down to one simple fact: she wasn’t able to feed herself, these other men are. Oh yes, there’s one other difference now….Terri’s dead. We can sugar-coat it any way we choose, but the fact of the matter is Terri was executed. Why? Well, she was no longer vital. Her life no longer qualified as being a life that had any worth to it. I read an article recently on MSNBC that referred to her as “no more than the vessel in which her spirit once lived, like a music box that no longer plays”. It troubles me how boldly some can simply dismiss a human life. In fact, it makes my blood boil a bit. Who are we to determine whether a human life has lost its value and usefulness?

These proponents of death are in for a surprise. This life that they have so callously dismissed as being of no importance is proving to be of utmost importance. Never in my lifetime has there been such a rallying around the nature and sanctity of human life as there has been around Terri. While the death brigade won a small victory in this case, the war continues. Terri is dead, but the fight is far from over.