Christmas Blessings from the Packards

Merry Christmas from the PackardsMerry Christmas and a Happy New Year! May God bless you richly and may the Holy Spirit dwell with you in 2012 and always.

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O Holy Night, Our Redeemer is Born

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,

It is the night of the dear Saviour’s birth.

Long lay the world in sin and error pining

‘Til He returned and the soul felt its worth.

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.

For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

This is possibly one of the most well-loved Christmas carols, sung by just about every artist that puts out a Christmas album and by almost every church choir or soloist. But do we ever ask ourselves what it means? This carol we know as O Holy Night was originally a poem called Cantique de Noel, the first six lines of which are translated (according to Wikipedia) as following:

Midnight, Christians, it is the solemn hour,

When God-man descended to us

To erase the stain of original sin

And to end the wrath of His Father.

The entire world thrills with hope

On this night that gives it a Saviour.

This is what Christmas is all about – the “God-man descend[ing] to us.” God Himself has taken the form of Man for the purpose of erasing “the stain of original sin,” therefore ending, once and for all, “the wrath of His Father” – the wrath that we as sinners justly deserve. Jesus, was born over 2,000 years ago so that we may come to know the Father, rather than being separated from Him because of our sins. He is the only way to God, and in this Christmas season, we not only celebrate His birth, but the promise that when we believe in Him and His saving work on the cross, we get to spend eternity with our Father. As the original translation says:

People kneel down, wait for your deliverance.

Christmas, Christmas, here is the Redeemer,

Christmas, Christmas, here is the Redeemer!

1 & 2 Timothy & James

For 2 Timothy, part of our assignment for the book was to do a 25-30 minute teaching. I (Helen) am fairly nervous when it comes to public speaking, but I discovered something – I like teaching! My teaching was about how Ephesus (the place where Timothy is living and ministering) was full of ungodliness and how this was already a fulfillment of Paul’s claim that “the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4). This continues to be true today. We seek teachers who tell us our sinful behavior is “okay” because we don’t want to turn from our immorality and pursue Truth. We don’t want to change. When Paul refers to “the time” that is coming, he is speaking about the time after Jesus’ death on the cross – about what is thought of as the “age of tension” when the Holy Spirit is at work in the lives of believers, but evil is still at work in the world. When Christ returns this evil will be removed forever, but in the meantime, we are called to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season, reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (4:2) so that as many people as possible will hear about Jesus and come to a saving faith in Him. Who is God calling you to preach the Word to today?

If you’re reading the Bible along with me, the next four books are 1 Peter, 2 Peter, Jude and 1 John. These are small books, so it should take you less than 50 minutes to get through all of them.


1 Timothy

Main Idea: Paul encourages Timothy to be a Godly leader and to establish other Godly leaders in the church.

Reason Written: False teaching is a major problem in the church in Ephesus; this teaching (possibly Gnostic in nature) is leading believers astray.

TT: The church is called to uphold the truth in the midst of immorality, persecution and false teaching (1 Timothy 3:15-16).


2 Timothy

Main Idea: Paul instructs Timothy to continue to contend for the faith by living a godly life and by preaching the Truth.

Reason Written: Paul seems to be at the end of his life. Because it seems Paul is about to be executed, Timothy may be questioning as to whether he should continue to preach the Gospel.

TT: Believers are called to preach the Gospel in order to combat the false teaching and beliefs at work in the world (4:2-4).


James

Main Idea: True faith is walked out through the practical application of works done in one’s life.

Reason Written: Believers’ lives were not bearing the fruit of faith in Jesus.

TT: Believers are called to be doers of the word (1:22).

Michael’s Reflections on Colossians

I’ve been meditating on the Epistle to the Colossians for the last four months, and thought I would share some of my thoughts with you.

I’ll keep it simple and not go into all the background I looked at. I feel like Paul is writing to this young church because there are false teachers that are challenging the church to believe in a type of mystic Judaism. They are working out of a spiritual pride that causes them to stand in judgement of those who are not participating in their religious practices (Col. 2:16-23). Those in the church who are listening to this false teaching are susceptible to such heresy because of their fear. Many would be coming from a background of idol worship and a fear that if you are not “doing” the right things, you will not be “qualified” as a true worshiper.

Paul’s answer to their pride and fear is a clear view of who Jesus is and what Jesus has done for them. Paul uses what many have seen as an early Christian hymn (1:15-20) to show that Jesus is preeminent over creation and the new creation of the church. With the use of poetic structure, Paul shows that faith in Jesus is the only route to salvation – no one and nothing can save but Christ. To make Jesus’ identity clear, Paul also describes what Jesus has done for the church and how His work on the cross is completely sufficient. In Jesus death, burial and resurrection, the very course of history has been changed. The amazing part is that by faith the church has participated in Jesus reconciling work. They have died to sin, being buried in their baptism and have (by faith in the power of God) been raised to new life in Christ.

Out of this knowledge of having been raised with Christ, the Colossian church now can live not as part of the old dying system of the world, but as a new creation in Christ. In chapter 3 and following, Paul paints them a picture of what this looks like: using the imagery of taking off old clothes and putting on new, Paul shows that the old way of selfish worldly living has been removed. They HAVE put on the new, which has it’s ultimate expression in love for God and for one another.

That is my view of Colossians from 10,000 feet, but I hope it challenges you to go back to the book and look at it with these thoughts in mind. I’ll be spending the next few weeks meditating on 1 Peter, and look forward to sharing my thoughts about that book with you. Thanks for reading!

1 & 2 Corinthians & Hebrews

Corinth…a city of immorality and religious idolatry; a city that loved “wisdom” and devoted themselves to learning new philosophies. There were temples to Apollo, Hermes, Heracles, Athena, Poseidon and Asclepius, the “god of healing,” among others. The pagan cult of Aphrodite flourished in Corinth, and as the goddess of love and fertility, I’m sure you can guess what worship of this goddess included. More than 1000 “priestesses” worked the streets at night encouraging the Corinthians to participate in their acts of “worship.”  This is the setting that Paul writes his letter to. Paul’s main encouragement? Live a life of love! Not the “love” that the priestesses of Aphrodite aspired to, but the love that valued Christ above the cultural immorality and idolatry of Corinth – the life of love that puts others before self. Though we may think we have “evolved” beyond the lifestyle of the typical Corinthian, have we? Our culture, like Corinth, champions immorality through advertising, the film industry, and television. We may not worship Greek gods, but we worship money, popularity, and the idea that we can be “spiritual” without glorifying God. Paul’s letters were addressed to the Corinthians, but there are plenty of similarities between Corinth and the Western world; the message of loving God and others was applicable for the Corinthians, is applicable for us, and is always true and necessary!

The last time I posted about reading the Bible along with me, I forgot to mention you should read Hebrews…so now you can read Hebrews, Colossians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy & James. I know it sounds like a lot, but you have four weeks to do it (our Christmas break is fast approaching!), and it should take less than two hours all together!


1 Corinthians

Main Idea: Paul urges the Corinthians to live lives of love in Christ, lay down their rights for one another and for the sake of the Gospel, to worship in unity, building up one another and the church.

Reason Written: Corinth was an idolatrous and immoral city; Paul urges the believers to live in a way that is different from their culture – in the way of love – and to stand in unity despite the temptations surrounding them.

TT: Believers are called to lay down their rights for the sake of loving others and for sharing the Gospel (1 Corinthians 8:13, 9:15).


2 Corinthians

Main Idea: God’s power is made perfect in weakness.

Reason Written: It seems that the Corinthians had received false teaching from false apostles, and were questioning as to whether Paul’s Gospel was truth. Paul defends his ministry amongst them, showing them that he has preached the true Gospel to them, and has suffered greatly for it.

TT: Godly grief produces repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10).


Hebrews

Main Idea: Jesus is greater than all!

Reason Written: Written in response to persecution – people were thinking of returning to Judaism; author writes to encourage them to persevere in their faith. Written to encourage faith in Christ as the Great High Priest.

TT: Jesus is better than anyone and anything (Hebrews 1:2-3)!