For week of 12/14/08

Issue 235

[Jesus said,] “‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’” John 11:24

If we see a speck in a brother’s eye, we must first see if there is a log in our own eye; perhaps that speck in our brother’s eye is only a reflection of the beam in our own.” David Watson

Kenneth Bailey is a New Testament scholar who spent 40 years living and teaching in the Middle East, and his book Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes (InterVarsity) helps us better understand the context in which Jesus lived and taught — and was born in Bethlehem.

He reminds us Luke 2:6 tells us that *while* Joseph and Mary were in Bethlehem, Jesus was born; at no point does it say the birth occurred as soon as they arrived, so there is no reason to think the couple hadn’t been in town for a day or longer before the birth. (Bailey says some of the traditional images we now hold came from a third-century fictionalized account called The Protoevangelium of James, written by someone who apparently did not know Jewish tradition or Palestinian geography.)

In fact, Bailey says, the Lukan account fits neatly with the more likely location of Jesus’ birth: the simple home of one of Joseph’s relatives. Unlike the wealthy who had separate stables for their animals, common people had homes with one or two rooms (with one reserved for guests), and the main room was one where the “entire family cooked, ate, slept, and lived.” At one end of the room was an area “either a few feet lower than the rest of the floor or blocked off with heavy timbers. Each night into that designated area, the family cow, donkey, and a few sheep would be driven.” The next morning the animals would be put back in an outer courtyard and the area cleaned. (The same kind of arrangements are implied in other biblical references: 1 Samuel 28:24; Judges 11:29-40; Luke 13:15.)

The “mangers” were dug out of the floor, though mangers for sheep were sometimes made of wood and placed nearby. Such feeding areas for animals were still common in Middle Eastern villages into the modern era. If that is the case, what does Luke 2:7 mean when it says there was “no room in the inn”?

The Greek word usually translated “inn” is katalyma, which was not the term for a commercial inn. A katalyma was simply a “place to stay,” and likely was used here to refer to the guest room of the house. It’s the same word Jesus uses in Luke 22:10-12, when He sent the disciples to find the “upper/guest room,” where He was to share the Passover with them. So in Luke 2:7, we are told Jesus was laid in the manger because the “guest room” already was occupied.

When the shepherds heard the announcement that the baby would be found “in a manger,” they would have understood this was a normal peasant home like their own. “This was their sign, a sign for lowly shepherds.”

Bailey says, “Looking at the story in this light strips away layers of interpretive mythology that have built up around it. Jesus was born in a simple two-room village home such as the Middle East has known for at least three thousand years. Yes, we must rewrite our Christmas plays, but in rewriting them the story is enriched, not cheapened.”

Astronomers have calculated that Christmas should be in June, by charting the appearance of the ‘Christmas star,’ which the Bible says led the wise men to Jesus. “They found that a bright star which appeared over Bethlehem 2,000 years ago pinpointed the date of Christ’s birth as June 17 rather than December 25. The researchers claim the ‘Christmas star’ was most likely a magnificent conjunction of the planets Venus and Jupiter, which were so close together they would have shone unusually brightly as a single ‘beacon of light,’ which appeared suddenly…. Read this in full at

Wealth, which leads men the wrong way so often, [should be] seen less for its own qualities than for the human misery it stands for. The large rooms of which you are so proud are in fact your shame. They are big enough to hold crowds — and also big enough to shut out the voice of the poor! … The poor man cries before your house, and you pay no attention. There is your brother, naked, crying, and you stand there, confused over the choice of an attractive floor covering.” St. Ambrose of Milan (339-397)

Then [Jesus] said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Luke 12:15 (NIV)

Richard Cizik has resigned as Vice President of Governmental Affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE). His resignation concludes 28 years of service and leadership in the Washington, DC office of NAE.

Leith Anderson, President of NAE, explained in a letter to the members of the board of directors of NAE that “in a December 2, 2008 broadcast interview on National Public Radio, Richard responded to questions and made statements that did not appropriately represent the values and convictions of NAE and our constituents. Although he has subsequently expressed regret, apologized and affirmed our values there is a loss of trust in his credibility as a spokesperson among leaders and constituents.” Read this in full at

Read an interview with Leith Anderson at

Politicians come and go, fashions evolve and the culture shifts with alarming frequency. One thing remains constant, though. Americans pray. A lot…. Read this in full at

One of the greatest spiritual self-deceptions is the idea that we are living close to God even though we care little about the people around us. This simply does not square with 1 John 4:8: ‘Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.’ We can study the Bible as diligently as the Pharisees did; we can boast in our doctrinal statements; we can raise lots of money and build impressive church campuses. But if we are not loving others, including those who are unlike ourselves, we are ignoring the truth of 1 John 4:20, which says, ‘If we do not love a fellow believer, whom we have seen, we cannot love God, whom we have not seen.’ It’s as simple as that.” Jim Cymbala, You Were Made for More: The Life You Have, the Life God Wants You to Have

From a groundbreaking American President to a historic economic collapse — with everything from the Olympics to Puppycam in between — here’s TIME’s comprehensive look at the year that was…

With a brutal economic slowdown, 2008 may feel as if it will never end. Now the world’s timekeepers are making it even longer by adding a leap second to the last day of the year. Along with the economy, the Earth itself is slowing down, requiring timekeepers to add an extra second to their atomic clocks to keep in sync with Earth’s slightly slowing rotation. So an extra second will be tacked on to Dec. 31 just before 0000GMT. That extra second will make 2008 — already long with an extra day on Feb. 29 — the longest year since 1992…. Read this in full at

Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” John 14:6

Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces up, snow is exhilarating; there is no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.” John Ruskin

by Al Mohler
Newsweek magazine has decided to come out for same-sex marriage in a big way, and to do so by means of a biblical and theological argument. In a cover story, “The Religious Case for Gay Marriage,” Newsweek religion editor Lisa Miller offers a revisionist argument for the acceptance of same-sex marriage. It is fair to say that Newsweek has gone for broke on this question. Miller begins with a lengthy dismissal of the Bible’s relevance to the question of marriage in the first place. “Let’s try for a minute to take the religious conservatives at their word and define marriage as the Bible does,” Miller suggests. If so, she argues that readers will find a confusion of polygamy, strange marital practices, and worse…. Read this in full at

by Glenn T. Stanton
John Corvino and I are highly unlikely though dear friends who travel long distances for one purpose: to fight passionately with each other in front of large crowds. At the invitation of law schools and student activities groups, we have met at colleges a few times each semester for the last six years to debate the issue of same-sex marriage and parenting. We are compelled by the conviction that it’s a topic too important to be left to the cheap exchange of sound bites. And we want to show young people how democracy not only allows but actually demands debate that is thoughtful, passionately disagreeable, yet civil. We have no interest in maintaining a lowest-common-denominator, kumbaya civility.

John and I constantly hear disbelief at how we can be so opposed on such a life-shaping issue yet remain friends. “I drink,” John jokingly replies. Myself? I try to imbibe grace. John has hosted me at his own campus and had me to his beautiful home. I have met his partner, Mark, who struck me, ironically, as the kind of man many fathers would want their daughters to meet. I have also had John visit Focus on the Family, but the sudden death of my father required that I leave him with my colleagues. They reportedly had a fabulous time discussing the politics of sexuality and how we can forgo stereotypes and understand what really divides us…. Read this in full at

by Amy Carmichael
If I belittle those whom I am called to serve, talk of their weak points in contrast perhaps with what I think of as my strong points; if I adopt a superior attitude, forgetting “Who made thee to differ? And what hast thou that thou hast not received?” then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I find myself taking lapses for granted, “Oh, that’s what they always do,” “Oh, of course she talks like that, he acts like that,” then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I can enjoy a joke at the expense of another; if I can in any way slight another in conversation, or even in thought, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I can write an unkind letter, speak an unkind word, think an unkind thought without grief and shame, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I do not feel far more for the grieved Savior than for my worried self when troublesome things occur, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I can rebuke without a pang, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If my attitude be one of fear, not faith, about one who has disappointed me; if I say, “Just what I expected” if a fall occurs, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I am afraid to speak the truth, lest I lose affection, or lest the one concerned should say, “You do not understand,” or because I fear to lose my reputation for kindness; if I put my own good name before the other’s highest good, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I am content to heal a hurt slightly, saying “Peace, peace,” where there is no peace; if I forget the poignant word “Let love be without dissimulation” and blunt the edge of truth, speaking not right things but smooth things, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I hold on to choices of any kind, just because they are my choice, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I am soft to myself and slide comfortably into self-pity and self-sympathy; If I do not by the grace of God practice fortitude, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I myself dominate myself, if my thoughts revolve round myself, if I am so occupied with myself I rarely have “a heart at leisure from itself,” then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If, the moment I am conscious of the shadow of self crossing my threshold, I do not shut the door, and keep that door shut, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I cannot in honest happiness take the second place (or the twentieth); if I cannot take the first without making a fuss about my unworthiness, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I take offense easily, if I am content to continue in a cool unfriendliness, though friendship be possible, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I feel injured when another lays to my charge things that I know not, forgetting that my sinless Savior trod this path to the end, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I feel bitter toward those who condemn me, as it seems to me, unjustly, forgetting that if they knew me as I know myself they would condemn me much more, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If souls can suffer alongside, and I hardly know it, because the spirit of discernment is not in me, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If the praise of others elates me and their blame depresses me; if I cannot rest under misunderstanding without defending myself; if I love to be loved more than to love, to be served more than to serve, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I crave hungrily to be used to show the way of liberty to a soul in bondage, instead of caring only that it be delivered; if I nurse my disappointment when I fail, instead of asking that to another the word of release may be given, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I do not forget about such a trifle as personal success, so that it never crosses my mind, or if it does, is never given room there; if the cup of flattery tastes sweet to me, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If in the fellowship of service I seek to attach a friend to myself, so that others are caused to feel unwanted; if my friendships do not draw others deeper in, but are ungenerous (to myself, for myself), then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I refuse to allow one who is dear to me to suffer for the sake of Christ, if I do not see such suffering as the greatest honor that can be offered to any follower of the Crucified, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I slip into the place that can be filled by Christ alone, making myself the first necessity to a soul instead of leading it to fasten upon Him, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If my interest in the work of others is cool; if I think in terms of my own special work; if the burdens of others are not my burdens too, and their joys mine, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I wonder why something trying is allowed, and press for prayer that it may be removed; if I cannot be trusted with any disappointment, and cannot go on in peace under any mystery, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If the ultimate, the hardest, cannot be asked of me; if my fellows hesitate to ask it and turn to someone else, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I covet any place on earth but the dust at the foot of the Cross, then I know nothing of Calvary love.
Also see

Authentic Christianity demands our head, heart, and hands. Our labor for Christ flows from our love for him, which can arise only when we know and think rightly about him. Genuine Christians never stop serving, because they never stop loving, and they never stop loving, because they never stop believing.”
Michael E. Wittmer, Don’t Stop Believing

Common Sense Media has published a study performed by researchers from the Yale University School of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, and California Pacific Medical Center about the impact of media on children’s health. The report, Media and Child and Adolescent Health: A Systematic Review, looked at the best studies on media and health from the last 30 years and found that 80% of them showed that greater media exposure led to negative health effects in children and adolescents, including childhood obesity, smoking, and sexual activity

“This review is the first ever comprehensive evaluation of the many ways that media impacts children’s physical health,” said Ezekiel J. Emanuel, M.D., Ph.D., National Institutes of Health and lead researcher on the study. “The results clearly show that there is a strong correlation between media exposure and long-term negative health effects to children. This study provides an important jumping-off point for future research that should explore both the effects of traditional media content and that of digital media –– such as video games, the Internet, and cell phones –– which kids are using today with more frequency.” Read this in full at

American teenagers lie, steal and cheat more at “alarming rates,” a study of nearly 30,000 high school students has concluded. The attitudes and conduct of some 29,760 high school students across the United States “doesn’t bode well for the future when these youngsters become the next generation’s politicians and parents, cops and corporate executives, and journalists and generals,” the non-profit Josephson Institute said.

In its 2008 Report Card on the Ethics of American Youth, the Los Angeles-based organization said the teenagers’ responses to questions about lying, stealing and cheating “reveals entrenched habits of dishonesty for the workforce of the future.” Boys were found to lie and steal more than girls…. Read this in full at

Just as Joseph stored food ahead of a drought, banks should build capital for lean times. Read this story in full at

Your happiness increases your friend’s happiness, as well as that of her friend, and even her friend’s friend, a study finds…. Read this in full at,8599,1864519,00.html

The following words are alternate titles for several well-known Christmas carols:

Quadruped with crimson proboscis:

5 p.m. to 6 a.m. without noise:

Miniscule hamlet in the far east:

Ancient benevolent despot:

Adorn the vestibule:

Exuberance directed to the planet:

Listen, aerial spirits harmonizing:

Monarchial trio:

Yonder in the haystack:

Assemble, everyone who believes:

Hallowed post meridian:

Fantasies of a colorless December 25th:

Tin tintinnabulums:

A dozen 24-hour yule periods:

Befell during the transparent bewitching hour:

Homo sapien of crystallized vapor:

I merely desire a pair of incisors:

I spied my maternal parent osculating a fat man in red:

Perambulating through a December solstice fantasy:

Aloft on the acme of the abode:


Quadruped with crimson proboscis: Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer

5 p.m. to 6 a.m. without noise: Silent Night

Miniscule hamlet in the far east: O Little Town of Bethlehem

Ancient benevolent despot: Good King Wenceslas (or some believe in Jolly Old St. Nicholas)

Adorn the vestibule: Deck the Halls

Exuberance directed to the planet: Joy to the World

Listen, aerial spirits harmonizing: Hark the Herald Angels Sing

Yonder in the haystack: Away in a Manger

Assemble, everyone who believes: Come All Ye Faithful

Hallowed post meridian: O Holy Night

Fantasies of a colorless December 25th: I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas

Tin tintinnabulums: Silver Bells

A dozen 24-hour Yule periods: The Twelve Days of Christmas

Befell during the transparent bewitching hour: It Came Upon a Midnight Clear

Homo sapien of crystallized vapor: Frosty the Snowman

I merely desire a pair of incisors: All I want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth

I spied my maternal parent osculating a fat man in red: I Saw Mama Kissing Santa Claus

Perambulating through a December solstice fantasy: Walking Through a Winter Wonderland

Aloft on the acme of the abode: Up on the Rooftop

New research by a British psychologist shows that women actually have more to complain about when it comes to mothers-in-law. And they’re not laughing…. Read this in full at,8599,1863282,00.html

As the end of his presidency nears, President George W. Bush sat down with “Nightline” co-anchor Cynthia McFadden for a wide-ranging interview in which he discussed in depth his personal faith and how it has informed his presidency. He said that his relationship with God has grown over time, and began when he decided to stop drinking. “It is hard for me to justify or prove the mystery of the Almighty in my life,” he said. “All I can just tell you is that I got back into religion and I quit drinking shortly thereafter and I asked for help — I was a one-step program guy.”

When asked if he thought he would have become president had it not been for his faith, Bush said, “I don’t know; it’s hard to tell. I do know that I would have been — I’m pretty confident I would have been a pretty selfish person”…. Read about and see this interview at

Also see a clip of it at

Scientists have discovered a more efficient way of building a synthetic genome that could one day enable them to create artificial life, according to a study. The method is already being used to help develop next generation biofuels and biochemicals in the labs of controversial celebrity US scientist Craig Venter…. Read this in full at

Like the other residents, Herman Carrington could have gone from prison to a traditional halfway house for parolees, but instead chose Taste-N-See, a faith-based residential program. Taste-N-See, which is named from Psalms 34:8, “Taste and see that the Lord is good, Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him” — is one of about 20 faith-based agencies receiving federal funds through the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

Connecticut has embraced faith-based services, one of the initiatives to come out of the Bush administration after it created the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives in 2001. Eleven federal agencies took up the charge, making federal money and support more accessible to faith-based and community organizations.

Although Connecticut officials champion the idea, saying it has improved access to treatment for thousands of people who might not have succeeded in traditional substance abuse programs, the practice of giving taxpayer money to religious organizations is hardly without critics…. Read this in full at,0,5679953.story

No indulgence of passion destroys the spiritual nature so much as respectable selfishness.” George MacDonald (1824-1905)

[Jesus said,] “‘I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me – just as the Father knows me and I know the Father – and I lay down my life for the sheep.’”
John 10:14-15

Words: A. Katherine Hankey (1834-1911)
Music: Johann Scheffler, 1657

Advent tells us, Christ is near:
Christmas tells us Christ is here!
In Epiphany we trace
All the glory of His grace.

Those three Sundays before Lent
Will prepare us to repent;
That in Lent we may begin
Earnestly to mourn for sin.

Holy Week and Easter, then,
Tell who died and rose again;
O that happy Easter day!
“Christ is risen indeed,” we say.

Yes, and Christ ascended, too,
To prepare a place for you;
So we give Him special praise,
After those great forty days.

Then, He sent the Holy Ghost,
On the day of Pentecost,
With us ever to abide:
Well may we keep Whitsuntide!

Last of all, we humbly sing
Glory to our God and King,
Glory to the One in three,
On the Feast of Trinity.

>from CyberHymnal at

It is not necessary to maintain a conversation when we are in the presence of God. We can come into His presence and rest our weary souls in quiet contemplation of Him. Our groanings, which cannot be uttered, rise to Him and tell Him better than words how dependent we are upon Him.”
O. Hallesby (1879-1961), Prayer [1943]


Use the following list as your daily prayer guide. Think of a brother or situation that applies and lift them up in prayer.

I am agreeing in prayer with you for God’s blessings to overtake you!

Marital harmony
Family unity
Children saved
Faithful pastor
Spirit-filled church
Real friendships
Relatives redeemed
Educational benefits
Recreational time
Fulfilling career
Favor with God and man
Be in God’s will

Better Jobs
Raises or bonuses
Sales & commissions
Business Growth
Estates & inheritances
Investment increase
Rebates & returns
Checks in the mail
Gifts & surprises
Money to be found
Bills decrease while blessings increase

“And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God” (Deut. 28:2).

[As you travel on business or vacation, let me know if you’d like the church guys to pray for your safety and spiritual effectiveness. I’ll add your name to the list for the time you’ll be away.]

Are you looking for something or do you have something to sell? Let me know and I’ll put it in this newsletter.

Book your next vacation with us!

Books, Music & More!

Get your domain name here!

Let me show you how to earn money as you travel!
It’s as easy as 1-2-3!

Tell us what sites you find enjoyable and why.

ReadPrint (online library)


All links to websites are provided as a service, and do not imply endorsement by our church.

(BTW: whenever the URLs in this newsletter are too long to turn into links on your e-mail program, just copy the entire URL (two lines or more) and paste it into a temporary email message. Then delete the return in the middle of it and copy it again. Then paste it into your web browser and hit enter.)

Why do “slow down” and “slow up” mean the same thing?
Merry Christmas!
Min. Frank Coleman, Editor

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