New Year’s Resolution

2016-2How many times have you made a steadfast New Year’s resolution, saying to yourself, this time it’s going to stick? Perhaps you even told your friends, made a pact with a family member, or in some other way determined to assure success. Were you trying to quit smoking, lose weight, stop drinking, or maybe shop less? Maybe you wanted to spend more time with your spouse, or avoid relationships altogether. Maybe you resolved to drive closer to the speed limit? How many times has your resolution failed mere days or even hours after you made it?

I will confess to you right now that when I set out to write my post-Christmas blog, I fully intended a lighthearted look at all the resolutions I have made over the years and how I had come up short every time. Unfortunately, I cannot write such a blog today. No, today my heart carries a heavy burden and I need to share this with you, our readers.

A horrible tragedy occurred in Minnesota over the Christmas weekend. A family of four, driving home from spending time with relatives, was involved in an automobile accident. Roads were icy and their vehicle slid sideways into the oncoming lane where it was hit head on by a large SUV that was carrying 5 passengers. A forty-five year old man, his 40 year old wife, and their two children, a 14 year old girl and a 12 year old boy (and their two dogs) were killed instantly. Three passengers in the other vehicle were seriously injured but, fortunately, their lives were not lost.

I did not know any of these people, but I can pretty confidently express that none of them thought their life would end that day. Few of us ever expect that. From the news articles I have read about this tragedy, those that died were a well-respected and loved family known for hosting barbecues with their neighbors. The husband and wife had been married for 15 years and both were employed as medical assistants and the entire family was very active in their church. I can only imagine the hopes and dreams they each had; the expectations the children had of returning to school after the Christmas break; the parents’ preparations for the coming tax season, and so on. With her parents having been married such a long time, I can imagine the girl, in her early teens, dreaming about the day she would meet Mr. Right and start a family of her own.

And then life was over. Unexpectedly. Just like that.

And it is in light of this tragedy that I wish to emphatically urge each of you reading this to consider the possibility that you will not see tomorrow. I have shared Psalm 39:4 with you before: “Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is.”  The Bible tells us it is appointed for all to die once, and then face judgment (Hebrews 9:27) but that Jesus Christ was sacrificed to take away our sins (Hebrews 9:28) that we might have eternal life with God in heaven (John 3:16). Whether you believe that or not is irrelevant because “It is written, ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.’” (Romans 14:11)

Every knee will bow, every tongue will confess. That is the reality facing each of us when we die – whether or not we choose to believe it now. The difference is this: those who believe in Jesus Christ and trust Him for their salvation will be saved. And then there is everyone else. As it is written: “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (1 John 5:12).

So with this tragic accident as a back drop, I feel the need to implore each of you to consider the brevity of your mortal life on this planet, to recognize that physical death is not the end, and to charge you with the task of accepting the free gift of salvation that is available through Jesus Christ, if you haven’t already. For the temptation, when it comes to our relationship with God, is to assume we have another day…or another hour. The fact is, we may not even have another minute. Please, please, reach out to God now, while there is still time.

And know that accepting Jesus Christ as your savior is a New Year’s resolution that will never fail!

Here are some resources that may help you:

NeedGod.com
Church Finder
Lee Strobel
Answers in Genesis

Take the time, do the research, learn for yourself the truth about God. But do it now, for tomorrow could be too late. Of course, we’re always happy to help answer your questions, too. Email us anytime at ReignDropsBlog@gmail.com

God bless.

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The Best Gift Ever!

RalphieIn 1983’s “A Christmas Story”, the affable and ever-scheming Ralphie conspires to assure he receives the “Holy Grail of all Christmas gifts,” the Red Ryder 200 shot range model air rifle BB gun with a compass in the stock, and “this thing which tells time.” Believing this to be the best gift a boy could ever receive, Ralphie, despite dire warnings of serious eyeball injury, will not be dissuaded, and goes to any length to achieve his quest. His father understands and ultimately makes Ralphie’s Christmas the best ever!

Just like A Christmas Story, I have my own tale of the best gift ever. It was the mid 1970’s, and we were the only family in the neighborhood who did not have their own snowmobile to ride. My oldest siblings had grown to maturity, somehow surviving adolescence without skipping across the white, winter landscape at high rates of speed, but for my younger brother and I, another snowmobile-less winter meant certain black-balling, consigning us to lonely days playing by ourselves indoors while all the other kids sped to and fro on their shiny snow-machines.

Our family tradition for Christmas at the time was to start the holiday festivities with a great family gathering and feast on Christmas Eve, after which we would attend midnight mass, before attempting to sleep despite our childish excitement for the glorious gift opening that would occur the next morning. Despite our later than normal bedtime, my brother and I were usually up at the crack of dawn, to the certain glee of my grandmother, and possibly the exasperation of my otherwise loving parents. This Christmas was no different, at least as far as my brother and I could tell.

For children, even teenagers, who are focused on the Christmas Day gift opening ceremonies, Christmas Eve family time can seem a bit lengthy, and dare I say, tedious. To add midnight mass to the evening seemed insufferable. I can only imagine we were not the most pleasant company for my parents as we sat among their friends and neighbors for the late night church service. I’m almost certain we were fidgety and prone to misbehavior, though I honestly don’t recall specifics. To us it seemed only the normal torture that must be endured prior to the delight of Christmas morning.

Christmas morning came that year, as it normally did, with gifts aplenty under the tree. I cannot recall with any specificity a single present that I opened, but the opening ceremonies took the usual form and, I think, the standard amount of time. And then it was over, all the gifts opened, all the wrapping paper properly placed in garbage bags ready for disposal. Life was pretty good…..and then my father uttered a sentence that remains more or less in my memory to this day, “There’s one more present I’m going to need your help with.” And we were instructed to follow him to the garage, which we did, with my mother and the rest of the family close behind.

And there it was. The greatest possible gift a kid in his teens could ever receive, a shiny Arctic Cat Panther snowmobile, with the 303 Wankel engine, perched upon a trailer, right there in our garage. It would be an understatement to say my brother and I were flabbergasted. I think the surprise and excitement my brother and I felt at that moment was beyond description. We had a snowmobile! But how? We had been in the garage during the festivities the night before. There was nothing in there then. How exactly did this snowmobile magically appear? Was Santa Claus real after all?

Arctic Cat Panther 2

It turns out Mom and Dad must’ve loved us more than we could imagine. So much so that they went to great lengths to purchase this perfect (and rather large) gift; and then enlist the aid of their close friends, Mr. and Mrs. Knight, who concealed the beautiful black sled at their house, and then delivered it to our garage while we squirmed and fidgeted during midnight mass. We came home and went to bed none-the-wiser. A flawless and extremely well-executed, and somewhat devious, plan. I never knew, before that morning, that my parents’ had such clandestine capabilities.

I have received many wonderful gifts in my many years on this planet, most of which I can no longer specifically remember, but none was as memorable as that Arctic Cat Panther snowmobile. But there is another gift I received that was even greater, and that is the gift of eternal life through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) And this gift is available to all, including any of you reading this now. Have you availed yourself of this gift? It’s absolutely free!

Merry Christmas to you all and may you experience the joy of our Savior during this holiday season. As always, feel free to drop us an email at ReignDropsBlog@gmail.com.

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The Strange Case of Quirinius

Christmas tree2Last week we looked at the factual basis for the virgin birth; this week let’s go a little further into the Christmas story and explore another facet of the evidence supporting the historicity of these events.

Luke 2:1-21 (NIV): In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.

QuiriniusThis part of the Christmas story starts with a census being taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. Publius Sulpicius Quirinius is known to have governed Syria during 6-9 A.D. Josephus records that a census taken in 6 A.D. sparked a violent Jewish revolt, this is also mentioned by Luke in Act 5:37. Quirinius oversaw this census and played a major role in putting down the rebellion. But this cannot be the census Luke is referring to here in the Christmas story because it occurred much too late to fit Luke’s chronology. Luke was far too meticulous in his recounting of events to be accused of such a chronological error.

And, indeed, archaeology has upheld Luke’s accuracy. A fragment of a stone tablet discovered near Rome in 1764 contains an inscription in honor of a Roman official who was twice governor of Syria during the reign of Augustus. The name of this official is not found, but details listed among his accomplishments could fit no one other than Quirinius. Thus, we conclude that Quirinius served as governor twice. And other ancient records mention a “first” census being ordered by Augustus in 8 B.C. Evidently, this earlier census was not carried out in the Palestinian region until 2-4 years later, perhaps due to political difficulties between Rome and Herod. But Luke does state in verse 2 that the events he recounts occurred at the time of the “first” census taken while Quirinius was governor (obviously indicating there were more than one). So Luke’s accurate rendering of these historic events is validated by the evidence and can be considered completely trustworthy.

So Luke’s telling of the Christmas story is reliable and I hope presenting this evidence helps you see that Christmas really is a celebration of true historical events. And, as such, should inspire us to pursue relationship with our Creator who loved us so much He sent His one and only Son to live among us, to die for us, and to be raised again that we might be reconciled to Him. Yes, Jesus truly is the reason for the season!

If you would like more information, we are happy to help. Please drop us an email at ReignDropsBlog@gmail.com. Have a Merry Christmas!

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Mary Did You Know

Mary In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” (Luke 1:26-45 NIV)

I am not in any way ashamed to say that I unequivocally believe every word of the above story to be true and historical in nature. It is not myth or fairytale. But how can this be? How can a virgin become pregnant?

The exact biomechanics behind how Mary became pregnant via the Holy Spirit is beyond my ability to explain in any scientific manner, but then that, in itself, is a characteristic of what we call a supernatural event. We can be certain that the conception of Jesus was a creative act of the Holy Spirit and not any sort of divine-human consummation as might be observed in pagan mythology. The Bible is clear about the virgin birth and the nature of Jesus’ birth testifies of both His deity and His sinlessness.

In another blog I spoke of eyewitnesses (to read it, click here). The story of Jesus’ birth is full of eyewitness testimony. We have Mary, who relates her encounter with the angel, Gabriel. Gabriel relates to Mary that Elizabeth is in the six month of her pregnancy, which prompts Mary to visit her relative, Elizabeth, who is, in fact, pregnant. We have John (the Baptist) who, still in Elizabeth’s womb, leaps for joy at the sound of Mary’s voice (because he knows she’s pregnant with the Savior). Elizabeth is then filled with the Holy Spirit and verbalizes a great expression of praise over God’s good works. And let us not forget that both Matthew, who personally spent a lot of time with Jesus and Mary; and Luke, a physician and historian (a very well-educated man) both recorded the virgin birth, creating corroborating accounts. And the Bible accounts we read today were written and circulated when many of those involved were still alive to substantiate the story.

So all of this is a relatively long way of saying that, as Christmas approaches, we have very valid reasons for believing the Bible account. These were real people involved in real events and we really are celebrating Jesus’ birthday. And that means we can have every confidence in the saving grace afforded to us by Jesus Christ. Have you availed yourself of God’s forgiveness?

We’re happy to help you to understand more about Jesus. Please drop us a note at: ReignDropsBlog@gmail.com. And may you have a very Merry Christmas!

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