December 2008


As Christmas approaches, I have a ritual of reading over and thinking about the nativity story (Matthew 1:18-2:23; Luke Luke 1:1-2:40). I do it every year and love it! It is such an incredible story, a real story. Here the plan of God from the foundations of world to save mankind from sin and destruction was unstoppably coming to pass. There was nothing that any king or circumstance could do to stop this baby from being born.  You have to marvel at the humility of Jesus Christ in coming as a baby and how even in his birth it is the humble and poor to whom he reaches out. God became flesh, was born by a humble virgin, Mary, his birth was announced to poor shepherds out in the fields, and there was no place for this Savior to be born, except into the poorest of conditions.  Thank God this humble child grew up, is alive, and still reaches out to the poor and destitute of this earth!

This morning after meditating on Matthew’s take on the virgin birth, I wanted to read what some throughout church history have said about this event. One author I read was Thomas Watson in his A Body of Divinity. He was a Puritan pastor from 1620-1686. He had this to say about Christ’s birth:

Why was Jesus Christ made flesh?

(I.) The causa prima, and impulsive cause, was free grace. It was love in God the Father to send Christ, and love in Christ that he came to be incarnate. Love was the intrinsic motive. Christ is God-man, because he is a lover of man. Christ came out of pity and indulgence to us: non merita nostra, sed misera nostra. Augustine. ‘Not our deserts, but our misery, made Christ take flesh. Christ’s taking flesh was a plot of free grace, and a pure design of love. God himself, though Almighty, was overcome with love. Christ incarnate is nothing but love covered with flesh. As Christ’s assuming our human nature was a master-piece of wisdom, so it was a monument of free grace.

(2.) Christ took our flesh upon him, that he might take our sins upon him. He was, says Luther, maximus peccator, the greatest sinner, having the weight of the sins of the whole world lying upon him. He took our flesh that he might take our sins, and so appease God’s wrath.

(3.) Christ took our flesh that he might make the human nature appear lovely to God, and the divine nature appear lovely to man.

(1:) That he might make the human nature lovely to God. Upon our fall from God, our nature became odious to him; no vermin is so odious to us as the human nature was to God. When once our virgin nature was become sinful, it was like flesh imposthumated, or running into sores, loathsome to behold. It was so odious to God that he could not endure to look upon us. Christ taking our flesh, makes this human nature appear lovely to God. As when the sun shines on the glass it casts a bright lustre, so Christ being clad with our flesh makes the human nature shine, and appear amiable in God’s eyes.

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You might not be able to go or might think that it would further the cause of missions and the kingdom of Christ for you to stay at home here in the US. However, there are already 5, 318 Southern Baptist missionaries who are on the field hoping and praying that you and I are doing our part to make sure they can stay. I hope to be one of them soon! 

You might not be able to go, but you can give. You can give to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, which goes directly to the mission field. I did, not to boast, but to encourage you to. You can do it online, after you read this, here.

Thanks 🙂

Well, just freakin stop it! 

 

That’ll be five dollars 🙂

Spirit fingers anyone? You may know him as a fearless defender of the truth of the gospel. You may honor him as a great pastor and voice for world missions. You may have read all his books or even quote him in every sermon. You may get angry when people speak an ill word against him. You might even burn incense to him and offer sacrifices in his honor in the darkness of your bedroom (JK!), but would you do all this if you knew he played with dolls? Yes, it’s true all you lovers of John Piper, he plays with dolls!

I play dolls with her, I build houses with her!

This may be shocking news to many of you, as it was me, but I must be fair and give you the rest of the quote:

We have kings that get blown up…there’s a lot of blowing up as I play house…this little table because a helicopter (helicopter noise).” 

Now, here is a picture of redemption or at least of what happens when men play house, stuff gets blown up. This response was given during a Q&A after a message John Piper gave on “You Will be Eaten by Cannibals! Lessons from the Life of John G. Paton.” Piper might play with dolls, but he is fearless in proclaiming the radical urgency of world missions. I would encourage you to listen to this message and consider what the Lord world have you to do for the cause of world missions.

How has the economic crisis effected the missionary effort? Have you ever considered the lack of giving in many local SoutherIN THE FAVELLASn Baptists Churches means funds being cut off for many missionaries? It could mean just that!

 

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–Somewhere in a Texas storage shed sits a reminder of the reason Mark Moses left home and headed overseas. It’s a paper that the then 11-year-old Moses wrote for a school assignment. The first line reads: “I want too be a misiunary wen I gro up.”

“I tell folks my spelling has changed but my calling has not,” jokes the Fort Worth, Texas, native, who has spent the past 22 years as a Southern Baptist missionary in the Philippines.

It hasn’t been easy. Between the joys of new believers and churches starting, Moses also has endured bitter disappointments and devastating personal tragedy — including the loss of his wife, Jan, to cancer last year.

It’s this deep sense of calling that helps drive and sustain Moses and the more than 5,500 other missionaries who serve with the International Mission Board.

CALLING TO PERSEVERE

Today these missionaries must hold fast to their calling as they experience the fallout of a burgeoning economic crisis. That’s because missionaries’ ability to live out the Great Commission on the mission field depends on the generosity of Southern Baptists’ gifts through the Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.

“It’s the umbilical cord that keeps our heart pumping, our feet moving and our hands serving,” Moses says. “I used to wonder what I would do if, for some reason, my support from Southern Baptists dried up. I’ve watched other missionaries who don’t have the support structure we’re privileged to receive. They spend so much of their time focused on raising support that it limits their effectiveness overseas.”

Earlier this year, the U.S. dollar lost an average of 12 percent of its value in the world marketplace — a daunting drop given that 85 percent of the IMB’s $300 million budget is spent overseas. Though the dollar is rebounding, it has not yet achieved parity with its buying power prior to the decline.

“This means that the $150.4 million given to the 2007 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering spends more like $132 million — a loss of more than $18 million in purchasing power,” explains IMB financial chief David Steverson. “To make matters worse, Lottie Moon giving isn’t keeping pace with inflation (3 percent to 4 percent annually). … In accounting terms it’s what we would call a ‘double whammy.’”

Missionaries serving in Western Europe are among the hardest hit. Each time they exchange a dollar for a euro — the currency of the European Union — they’re losing 20 percent of that dollar’s value.

Christopher Watts and his wife, Colleen, are Southern Baptist missionaries from Georgia who’ve served in Rome since 2004. Less than 0.1 percent of the city’s population of 4.1 million is evangelical Christian. Watts calls this a “tragic reality” given that the Apostle Paul himself helped lay the foundation of the church in Rome.

“The last two years have been pretty tough for us,” he says. “The exchange rate is killing us, and while the IMB has done a fantastic job trying to keep up with it, it’s made life harder. … I just hope people are able to recognize the priority that missions should take in the life of every Christian and find a way to continue to give. We can’t accomplish the task without them.”

HEART FOR THE LOST

Southern Baptists’ goal for the 2008 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering is $170 million. Though the figure may sound intimidating in light of America’s struggling economy, IMB President Jerry Rankin encourages churches to rest in God’s providence and continue their 120-year tradition of faithful Lottie Moon support.

“I know that a rough economy hasn’t changed Southern Baptists’ heart for the lost any more than it has changed missionaries’ call to reach them,” Rankin says. “Difficult circumstances don’t excuse us from fulfilling our Great Commission mandate. Hardship and sacrifice, even danger, are all part of the task that Christ has called us to. We are asked only to obey and entrust the rest to our heavenly Father.”

Whatever the outcome of this year’s Lottie Moon offering, Watts offers his heartfelt thanks for Southern Baptists’ support.

“There are no words that can express how much my family appreciates how well our Baptist brothers and sisters take care of us,” he says. “Their prayers sustain our ministries, our spirits and our health, and their financial gifts put a roof over our heads and food on our tables, not to mention Bibles in the hands of the lost and medicine in the hands of the sick and suffering.

“Without their prayers and their gifts, the whole thing falls apart. Our churches in the States are truly the solid ground upon which God builds our ministries.”

Don Graham is a writer with the International Mission Board. 

(HT: IMB