James Mcdonald

Tullian and Coral Ridge

2008tullian Many who  read this are probably aware of D. James Kennedy and the legacy he left behind Coral Ridge Ministries upon his death in September of 2007.  However, many I presume are not that familiar with Tullian Tchividjian, Pastor of New City Church.  This past year and half I have been listening to  Tchividjian’s Sermons and have read his book, Do I Know God?.  Tchividjian, 36, is a reformed Presbyterian pastor who draws out great application from God’s word and has been bridging many generational gaps in the church through his ministry. 

 Well, to my pleasant surprise, Tchividjian has been chosen by the elders of Coral Ridge to be only the second pastor their church has known, albeit with a few stipulations from Tchividjian.  Not only him, but his entire congregation at New City Church  come along as well.  Through weeks of planning and meeting between both sides the elders of both bodies unanimously approved of the merger. 

 Tchividjian will be preaching at Coral Ridge this Sunday, March 15, and will be awaiting a vote of the members of Coral Ridge for the approval of the merger.  If the merger is approved through the next and final step, the merger could take place as early as Easter Sunday.  Please remember Tullian and the congregations of both churches in your prayers through this momentous event in their ministry.

To read more from Tullian’s blog click here.

To read the Merger Team’s Announcement from Coral Ridge click here.  

Mr. Dynamite!

img_4626Households across the world are familiar the life story of Napoleon Dynamite, the fictional character from the movie by the same name. This film has become a pop-culture icon since its debut in 2004. Napoleon, the misfit teen from his school is “out to prove that he has nothing to prove.” His life is a satirical look in the lives of misfit teens and their influence, or lack-there-of, in their communities.
Little is known of a teenager with a similar name; Peter Dynamite. A few years back, just shortly after the debut of Napoleon Dynamite, I received a book from the Slavic Gospel Association as a free gift at the annual Shepherds Conference at Grace Community Church. Peter also was a misfit teen but in a different way. Peter was out to prove that there is much to prove, especially about the saving grace in Christ Jesus. Peter Deyneka, a Russian teen, reached his homeland with the message of Christ through some amazing events and journeys. Pick up a copy of Peter Dynamite’s biography. You will not be disappointed.

Fools and Wise Men

Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

Matthew 2:2(ESV)

Hostility, indifference, and worship are the reactions Christ receives from humanity. Christ alone is whom the Magi came to worship. This reality horrified Herod. The fact that anyone other than himself would be worshiped alarmed Herod, in fact enraged him. The Magi and Herod represent a distinctively paradoxical shift in thinking concerning the birth of Christ.

A great deal can be learned through history regarding Herod. Yet, information is limited about the Magi. However, the lack of information of the Magi does in no way diminish the great testimony of these wise men. There are plenty of unanswered questions pertaining to these men that have left a great deal for debate over time. The only fact that Matthew gives us is that these men came to worship Christ. The only thing that we can be sure of about these men is their reaction to the new born king; they came to crown Him Lord of all!

Herod’s reaction towards the birth of Christ was more than indifferent. It was hostile! Herod’s insecurity caused him to take extreme actions. Extreme actions that his reign would forever be emblazoned with, announcing forever, his folly.

Wise men worship Christ the King; fools seek to dethrone Christ the King. What are we worshiping? Do we crown him Lord of all? The Magi came with the purpose of worshiping Christ, and so should we. We were created for such an act!

O worship the King, all glorious above,

And gratefully sing His power and His love;

Our shield and defender, the ancient of days,

Pavilioned in splendor and girded with praise.

CONTENTMENT

I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:10-19 (ESV)

This past Sunday we had the privilege to sit under the teaching of Bob Isakson in the absence of our pastor. Bob brought us the word of God from Philippians 4:10-19. In his message, Brother Bob, addressed the issue of Biblical Contentment. He addressed how so many of us lack contentment in our lives. Bob shared with us how the Lord had been dealing with him in this area in his own life. He shared the reluctance in bringing this message to us due to the fact that this “is not him. ‘ ‘Not him’ being that he himself lacks contentment in areas of his life.

John Macarthur challenges us on the manner of contentment; “Contentment…a wonderful blessing and a glory to the Lord Jesus Christ. If we say we belong to Him we ought to be content with whatever it is that He has called us to endure and with whatever provisions He has made for us. And for those of us to whom He has given much, the challenge is even greater to be content and to be willing to divest ourselves of that for the benefit of others, for the sheer joy of seeing God pour blessing on them. What a tremendous privilege.”

The apostle Paul In chapter 4 is speaking to the Philippian church about how God had dealt with him as well, in the area of contentment. Paul gives testimony of how God supplied all of his needs. Paul continues to give all glory to the lord for the provision in his life. Paul’s life was full of peaks and lulls, yet Paul praised God during both seasons in his life. At times he lacked many of the common luxuries the rest of his countrymen possessed due to his ministerial lifestyle, imprisonments, and trials. Other times He had an abundance provided for him. Paul found his sufficiency in Christ. Paul closes by encouraging the Philippian believers that the Lord will supply all of their needs.

Bob closed his message encouraging the believers that God will supply all our needs. Through all circumstances in our lives, God’s provisional hand is always upon us. Bob closed his sermon with the story of Horatio Spafford(click here for more on this story), and how through many unforeseen events in his life he found his sufficiency in Christ. It is my prayer that we can find contentment through Christ’s great provisional hand in our lives:

“Heavenly Father, if I should suffer need, and go unclothed, and be in poverty, make my heart prize Thy love, know it, be constrained by it, though I be denied all blessings. It is Thy mercy to afflict and try me with wants, for by these trials I see my sins, and desire severance from them. Let me willingly accept misery, sorrows, temptations, if I can thereby feel sin as the greatest evil, and be delivered from it with gratitude to Thee, acknowledging this as the highest testimony of Thy love. When thy Son, Jesus, came into my soul instead of sin He became more dear to me than sin had formerly been; His kindly rule replaced sin’s tyranny. Teach me to believe that if ever I would have any sin subdued I must not only labour to overcome it, but must invite Christ to abide in the place of it, and He must become to me more than vile lust had been; that His sweetness, power, life may be there. Thus I must seek a grace from Him contrary to sin, but must not claim it apart from Himself.When I am afraid of evils to come, comfort me by showing me that in myself I am a dying, condemned wretch, but in Christ I am reconciled and live; that in myself I find insufficiency and no rest, but in Christ there is satisfaction and peace; that in myself I am feeble and unable to do good, but in Christ I have ability to do all things. Though now I have His graces in part, I shall shortly have them perfectly in that state where Thou wilt show Thyself fully reconciled, and alone sufficient, efficient, loving me completely, with sin abolished. O Lord, hasten that day.” (Valley of Vision)

WHO WERE THESE WISE MEN?

“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 saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him…”

Matthew 2:1-3 ESV

Who were the wise men? How many were there? Where did they come from? Why did they travel to see Jesus? Misconceptions regarding the wisemen have been formed by different influences; from Christmas cards, nativity scenes, ‘Charlie Brown Christmas’ episodes, and pageants. Vincent wrote, “Many absurd traditions and guesses respecting these visitors to our Lord’s cradle have found their way into popular belief and into Christian art.” The only verifiable information we have regarding these men comes from scripture.

Wisemen, or Magi, were a priestly line of people. Over time the term Magi has been corrupted. As a result, the term “magician” is derived. Sorcery and Astrology have been associated with the Magi. This group rose to prominence within the Jewish community due to their intuition, wisdom, and knowledge. Stanley Toussaint, in his book, ‘Behold the King’, says this regarding the Magi in Matthews account:

These wise men could be either fraudulent sorcerers or a more honorable class of astrologers. Here they are the latter. “From the east not only specifies their origin but also confirms this view of their calling.” In the east they were looked upon as professionals. It may be that these men became acquainted with the Jewish Scriptures by means of the deportations of Israel to Babylon and to Medo-Persia. The prophecy concerning the star contained in Numbers 24:17 would associate the astrological occurrence with the birth of the Messiah. In addition, the prophecy of Daniel’s seventy weeks in Daniel 9 would cause great anticipation for the coming of the King at this time. It is not without significance David was well known as a “wise man” in the royal courts of Babylon. Since the Magi were astrologers, the sign of the star was highly significant. This with their evident knowledge of some Old Testament prophecies brought them to Jerusalem.

During the time of Matthew 2, tensions ran high among the world’s empires; specifically between the Roman and Parthian Empires. These two empires were violent enemies and Rome had great respect for their enemy’s power. Many magi took advantage of their authority to serve their own greed and pride. It was said they bewitched the people. Philo called these men, “vipers, scorpions, and venomous creatures”, these were the Magi Rome despised. However, the Magi Matthew was referring to in chapter two were men genuinely honorable . The Magi were kingmakers. They were the ruling body for the Parthian Empire.

The Magi were looking for a new king due to problems they had experienced with King Phraades IV, who was their king at the time of Christ’s birth. The Magi were looking for a new king to rise up against Rome. Herod was troubled by the Magi’s arrival into Jerusalem as they rode into town with a large entourage, riding on their steeds, displaying great force asking, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?” They were looking for the arrival of a king. The king who has finally come; the one Daniel prophesied (Dan 5:11)

Israel’s spiritual blindness kept them from perceiving the truth of the Magi’s quest for the Christ. “He came into His own but His own received him not.” (John 1:11) The rejection of Jesus Christ dates from His birth. The most Jews were indifferent to the birth of Christ; therefore, the Gentiles were among the first to bow their knees to the Messiah. This is true today, some receive Christ as Savior while most continue to reject him.

The Magi had not come to worship the new King as a result of their own resolve and direction. By God’s sovereignty and providence these wise men were lead to the King through divine revelation in His celestial creation. We serve a God who is “the same yesterday, today, and forevermore.” (Hebrews 13:8) God, through His divine intervention, directs his people to himself just as he did in the with the Magi.

THE VIRGIN BIRTH OF THE KING

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit…” Matthew 1:18 ESV

“What do you say about the Christ? Whose son is he?” Jesus asked the Pharisees this very question. It needs to be asked today. Still people deny His deity as did the Pharisees. At best they believed he was of the royal lineage of David. Today the responses remain the same. Liberal theology has denied the deity and virgin birth of Christ.

Matthew answers this question in essence saying Christ is the Son of God. Matthew sets the record straight on Christ’s origin. He answers the critic’s statements, allowing no room for question that Christ was conceived of a virgin by the power of the Holy Spirit. To deny the account told by Matthew does two things; it accuses Matthew of being a liar, and it says that the Word of God is not the Word of God.

After Matthew establishes Christ’s human lineage, he then establishes His divine lineage. Not much is known about the Virgin Mary, but what we do know from scripture is that she was a righteous woman that submitted to God without question while praising Him at the same time. Less is known of Joseph, again from scripture we see that he was obedient to God, due to the fact that he remained with Mary during unpopular time. Joseph had great faith that Mary conceived through the Holy Spirit. It was because of the virgin birth and the conception by the Holy Spirit that Christ is deity, therefore he did not inherit Adam’s sin and remained sinless.

Joseph was faced with quit a dilemma. Joseph knew the regulations regarding a pregnancy out of wedlock. A godly man would say, “I can’t marry this woman in this condition.” Joseph had every right to make a public example out of Mary. He could have brought a charge of adultery before her. Joseph could have brought her before two or three witnesses and have the betrothal divorced, to be put away. Joseph had options. Joseph was faced with a colossal decision.

Fortunately for Joseph, an angelic visitation cleared all speculation for him. Not only did Joseph receive clarification of the conception of Jesus, but he received assurance of the Messiah who has come. Joseph received assurance of his salvation through the child whom his wife conceived.

The Promise of God is fulfilled through Christ’s birth. Jesus came as fulfillment of Isaiah prophecy in the Old Testament. Jesus is Immanuel, God with us. “Men beheld His glory as of the only begotten of the father, full of grace and truth.”

After Joseph awoke from his sleep he had all confidence in marrying Mary. He knew he had a divine appointment. What an honor do have been chosen to be the earthly father of the savior of the world. What a responsibility! Joseph had the privilege in naming Jesus, which means Yahweh is salvation.

“He (Jesus) assumed our human nature. Entered our sin polluted atmosphere. Took our guilt. Bore our grief. Carried our sorrows. Wounded for our transgressions. Bruised for our iniquities. He went to heaven to prepare a place for us. Sent His Spirit to dwell in our hearts. Makes intercession for us and one day will return to take us to be with Him. It all began with that marvelous miraculous birth!”