Advent: The Time Is Now

RZIM’s Amy Orr-Ewing did a great series of videos last year for the Advent season. The main motif is the kairos, which is the Greek word for time. It’s different from chronos, which refers to the time on your watch. Kairos is qualitative, and refers to important points in time that are pregnant with meaning and significance. They are appointed times when God intervenes in our world and accomplishes a purpose. The best example is when He sent His son, Jesus, into our world to become Savior and King.

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The Story Behind “Away In A Manger”

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“Away In A Manger” is one of the most popular Christmas carols and its history has been obscured behind false information for a long time. Our story begins in the post-Civil War era:

In 1887, American hymn writer James R. Murray entitled the tune to “Away in a Manger” as “Luther’s Cradle Hymn.” Murray further stated in his popular songbook, Dainty Songs for Little Lads and Lasses, that Martin Luther had not only written “Away in a Manger,” but had sung it to his children each night before bed. As the song spread across a growing America and people began to sing it at home, in churches, and at schools, they often envisioned legions of German mothers rocking their babies to sleep each night with the strains of “Away in a Manger.” As the song became more popular, some news reports even trumpeted the song’s Teutonic heritage and the powerful inspiration that obviously could come from only the great Luther himself.

Ironically, not only did German mothers of this era not sing “Away in a Manger,” they had never heard it until the song arrived in Europe from its country of origin, the United States. Where Murray got his misinformation on Luther remains a mystery, yet because of his outstanding reputation as a writer and publisher, the story stuck.

Collins goes on to write that the song was probably written in the mid-1800s by an anonymous American. The tune was composed by a J. E. Clark. A man named Charles Hutchinson Gabriel, music director for Grace Methodist Episcopal Church, published a new version of the hymn that included the third verse. The legend of the song being written by Luther continued to grow as passing decades brought in the new century.

In 1945, as Americans again battled Germany in a world war, American writer Richard S. Hill sorted through the now seventy-year-old mystery concerning the carol’s origin. He determined that James R. Murray himself probably wrote the music long coupled with “Away in a Manger.” Yet as Murray always took credit when he composed a song, it is doubtful that he would have deflected the credit to Martin Luther. It’s more likely that Murray was given the song and simply adapted the existing German-influenced melody into four-part harmony for his book. It also seems likely that Murray received the story of Martin Luther writing the piece from the person who originally gave him the song.

Although we may never know who wrote the song we can still find inspiration in the story of the song itself. It tells us of the incredible humble birth of the greatest man who ever lived and the more I think of it the deeper in awe I fall. This song for children also reminds me of Jesus’ words teaching us that to such belong the kingdom of heaven. We must learn to become like children in order to commune with God.

What Is A Disciple Of Christ?

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If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.

Luke 14:26, 27

Jesus demands total commitment when He calls us to be His disciples. That means everything we do must please Him. It also means that everything we do has to be in obedience to His teachings. Our highest loyalty has to be to Him.

I need to point out that when Jesus says we must hate our families He is not talking about extreme animosity. The Greek word translated hate actually means to love less. We are to love our families, friends, and our very lives less than we love Jesus.

I never appreciated the significance of this commandment before I had begun to put my trust in The Lord in a practical way. I realized that my family was as much of an obstacle to serving The Lord as any temptation. It was eye-opening to realize that those who are believers in Christ, though they be well-intentioned, will lead you astray.

We see an example of this from Jesus’ own life in the gospel according to John:

Now the Jews’ feast of tabernacles was at hand. His brethren therefore said unto him, Depart hence, and go into Judæa, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest. For there is no man that doeth any thing in secret, and he himself seeketh to be known openly. If thou do these things, shew thyself to the world. For neither did his brethren believe in him. Then Jesus said unto them, My time is not yet come: but your time is alway ready. The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil. Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up yet unto this feast; for my time is not yet full come.

John 7:2-8

Another example comes from Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding in Cana, where He turned water into wine:

And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.

John 2:3,4

Our loved ones often offer solutions derived from their own clever minds rather than encouraging us to be faithful. They assume, like the world, that there is a formula for solving problems or achieving goals and we need to simply follow it. Sometimes we have to give God a little help.

Jesus, however, calls us to wait on the Lord. We are supposed to follow His example of going places, doing works, and saying things only when God commands us. Jesus knew that the Father would provide everything He needed at the right time and entrusted everything to His care. He concerned Himself with being obedient to how God commands us to live through His word.

You probably have family and friends who are telling you what you need to do to get a job, to marry the right person, or to be happy. Unless it is their responsibility to provide you with it you need to take what worries you to God in prayer. If you need something then you should be harassing God about it every day.

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Under the Mosaic covenant the Jews had to bring animals sacrifices to offer God but as disciples of Christ we are the sacrifice, a living sacrifice offered up daily. I think that when Jesus said He testifies that the works of the world are evil He was doing so by the way He lived, completely surrendered to the will of God at every moment. The way of the world is to do what you think is right when you want to do it but Christ’s is to do what the Father wants when He wants us to do it. That’s what it takes to be His disciple.

Can We Trust The Bible?

For those of you who don’t have 8 minutes to watch this video the short answer is: yes.

For the rest of you, this interview will probably whet your appetite for Dr. Kruger’s book about how we can know that the Bible is reliable and authoritative. He says that the book is written for the Christian in order to answer the question: How do we know what we believe is true? They tackle a couple of common, popular objections to the Bible’s credibility as well.

What It Means To Wait Upon The Lord

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But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength.

Isaiah 40:31

The calling of the Christian life is to go and follow Jesus. He set an example for us and did only that which the Father commanded when He commanded it. He walked in complete trust and obedience and that is what He commands of us. As He says in Matthew 6:33,34:

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

I want to highlight what Jesus says in verse 34 about taking it one day at a time. This is such an unnatural and challenging way to live. To worry is to be human. And yet God’s will for us is to devote ourselves to obeying His commandments, today. He commands us to love the brethren, walk in the light, confess our sins, seek forgiveness and forgive others, and give cheerfully, among other things. If it is not going to happen today then it is beyond my control and should not concern me. It takes everything in us to be faithful for just today, to say nothing of tomorrow. It is a relief to only concern myself with today’s evil but it can also be a challenge to my patience, hence the verse in Isaiah 40.

What Christ calls us to do requires us to be servants of God. We are yielding and making ourselves available to God to do with us as He pleases. We are saying that we will go, do, and say whatever God commands us. The one whom you obey is your lord and you are his servant. We read in Psalm 123:2:

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Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the Lord our God, until that he have mercy upon us.

The heart of what it means to wait upon the Lord is to attend to His desires as a servant attends to his master. This sense of the word lies is what defines the purpose of a waiter, or waitress, in a restaurant. It is his job to wait on the customers, that is, to attend to their needs and desires. In medieval times noble households were filled with men and women who attended to the various needs of the lord, or king. These jobs were filled by men of noble blood, not just peasants. Indeed, to be a royal cupbearer was considered a high honor in England even though his job was to stand there during dinner and give people refills.

Thus waiting on the Lord means that we are attentive to His desires and anticipating His next command. It means going to Him in prayer without an agenda and expectations for Him to fulfill. I came across Albert Barnes’ notes on this verse which does a good job of elaborating on the meaning of this phrase:

The phrase, ‘to wait on Yahweh,’ means to wait for his help; that is, to trust in him, to put our hope or confidence in him. It is applicable to those who are in circumstances of danger or want, and who look to him for his merciful interposition. Here it properly refers to those who were suffering a long and grievous captivity in Babylon, and who had no prospect of deliverance but in him. The phrase is applicable also to all who feel that they are weak, feeble, guilty, and helpless, and who, in view of this, put their trust in Yahweh. The promise or assurance here is general in its nature, and is as applicable to his people now as it was in the times of the captivity in Babylon.

Before you do anything, and apart from it all, make sure that you are at least waiting upon the Lord. If you are not even concerned with seeking the kingdom and His righteousness then do not expect your prayers to be answered. Even those goals that seem very Godly and biblical must be laid at His feet. He is our Lord and He has a purpose for each of us to fulfill. His desires must dictate our course. When we seek our own ambitions and dreams we make ourselves useless servants. Such servants that did nothing for the king ended up being fired and punished, sometimes with death even. Jesus is the Lord of lords and so it is all the more important that we do a good job of serving Him. The task may seem mundane but it is truly a great honor to serve Him, even if it is to hold His cup.