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Florence was a center of art and culture. Here lived Michelangelo and other famous artists of the Renaissance. The powerful Medici family ruled this opulent city, and their palace was stunningly adorned with all that money could buy. Silks, jewels, paintings, art, theater, and literature made this one of the preeminent cities in all of Europe. Into this city Savonarola had arrived in the plain black robe of a Dominican friar.
Can we say with confidence that Christianity is true and that all other religions are false? Our society today professes that such a view is extremely bigoted and fanatically arrogant. The social elite assure us that there are “many ways to God” and that different religions across the world are all different cultural manifestations of the same inner quest of man for the divine—that all religions are merely different paths to the same goal.
Have you ever felt that you were the only one standing for truth? Has it ever seemed that the pull of error was stronger than the pull of truth? There was a time in early Christian history when the doctrine of the eternal divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ was under tremendous attack throughout the world. In that day of error and compromise, one man, a faithful pastor from Alexandria, stood boldly against heresy to defend the cause of truth. His name was Athanasius.
We live in a day of many uncertainties. In fact, our modern culture denies the reality of certainty altogether. In the thinking of many people, there are no absolutes. Uncertainty exists as to whether anything can be considered right or wrong. Truth is relative to these people, and they consider that what is true to you may or may not be true for someone else. Our modern society cannot even define male and female. This confusion is a symptom of a relativistic culture where the foundation of absolute truth is removed. In our generation, evil is called good, and good is called evil.
Our dating system in Western Civilization is undeniably linked to the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ. As much as modern scholars may try to deny or belittle the fact, B.C. stands for “before Christ” and certainly does not merely mean “before the common era.” A.D. is the abbreviation of the Latin phrase “anno Domini,” which is translated “in the year of our Lord.”
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When I come up against a difficult problem, I throw all my weight against it. I say, “I’m tough, I’m tough.” Sometimes, when I give it everything I have, I find that problems give way. But there are those times when every ounce of strength I can muster, every bit of creativity at my disposal, every talent I can apply leaves me helpless with my problem.
Even as a young boy, Kepler loved gazing at the heavens. In later life, he recalled distinctly the day that his mother took him to a high hilltop to observe a great comet in 1577. When he was nine years old, he also observed a lunar eclipse. Despite physical weakness and impaired vision, young Kepler showed signs of great intellectual power. He studied Latin as well as philosophy and theology. As a young man, he was a strong advocate for the Copernican system of interpreting the heavenly bodies. He saw no contradiction between a heliocentric universe and the Bible. He almost became a Lutheran pastor but became convinced that he could serve God faithfully as a mathematician and astronomer.
The Book of Revelation has variously intrigued, baffled, alarmed, and comforted millions of Christians over the centuries since it was written by John the Apostle on the Isle of Patmos. It has been interpreted in many different ways from many different perspectives. For some, the prophecy is disturbing, containing terrifying visions of armed horsemen, winged scorpions, a dragon, and beasts. For others, the words are comforting, for they assure us of Christ’s final victory, His presence with His people, and the day when God Himself will wipe the tears from every eye.
Robert Edward Lee suffered many disappointments in life. Near the end of his life, Lee wrote a letter to a close friend and former staff officer, Colonel Charles Marshall. The letter reveals how Lee’s hope was anchored in his understanding of the eternal nature of God. Lee wrote: “The truth is this: The march of Providence is so slow, and our desires so impatient; the work of progress is so immense and our means of aiding it so feeble; the life of humanity is so long, that of the individual so brief, that we often see only the ebb of the advancing wave and are thus discouraged. It is history that teaches us to hope.”
Rare are the men of history that are able to rise above their own time and generation and see their own battle in the context of the grand scheme of eternity. The Lion of the North was such a man. Although he himself was a king, his ultimate allegiance was to the King of kings and Lord of lords, and he dedicated himself to advancing the everlasting Kingdom of Jesus Christ.
Have you ever been discouraged by the fleeting stability of earthly governments and kingdoms? Kings come and go. Empires rise and fall. Nations rise from obscurity to power, enjoy prosperity for a time, but then sink into the mists of history. Of the vaunted glory of ancient civilizations, such as the Aztec and Inca in the Americas or the Egyptian and Sumerian in the Fertile Crescent, only a few scattered remnants remain of their existence.
Adam is the father of us all. No matter our language and nationality, we are all descendants of Adam and Eve. We inherit from Adam the curse of sin, the sting of death, and the certainty of the grave. But from Adam we also inherit the image of God, the hope of eternal life, and the promise of redemption.
George Washington Carver is most famous for discovering many remarkable uses of the sweet potato and the peanut. But Carver’s influence was far beyond these two commodities. His greatest legacy was his life of loving service to his fellow man.
The final days and hours of a year are a good time to honestly evaluate our own hearts and lives. Have you loved your brother as you ought? Is there a brother in Christ against whom you are holding a grudge? Have you offended anyone and failed to ask forgiveness and seek restoration? If so, take the step of humility and restore. Do this before a new year dawns!
We are all prone to think of our “neighbor” in the comfortable circle of those whom we already love. It is easy to define neighbor to include our close friends at church, the next-door neighbor who watches over our house when we are away, the coworker who shares our viewpoints, and the people with whom we enjoy socializing. But what about the family on the other side of the street with the barking dog? What about the coworker who is continually gossiping about other coworkers? What about the one person who always seems to ask the wrong question at the wrong time? What about people from a different cultural background than ours? Are these our “neighbors” too?
The Brewsters took a bold step when they left the established church to unite with a small, persecuted body of believers known as Separatists. William Brewster knew that he was risking his status, his livelihood, and perhaps his own life by uniting with these despised Christians, but he saw the justice of their cause and he loved the truth more than his own life.
Stephen, the first Christian martyr, was a man of God who consistently and faithfully loved his neighbor. His name is of Greek origin and means “crowned one.” When Stephen first became a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ is uncertain. He was probably a Hellenistic (Greek) Jew from Jerusalem who came to trust and follow the Lord Jesus during His public ministry.
We live in a day of rampant selfishness. Politicians are suspected of advancing their own interests for political power. Union labor strikes demonstrate distrust between employers and employees. Wars, crime, and acts of terrorism are daily reminders that we are living in a world where men and women do not love their neighbors. In contrast to the selfish culture in which we live, as God’s children we are commanded to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.
The hills of Scotland have afforded a lovely playground for many generations of young Scottish lads and lasses. In the midst of the heather growing on the wind-swept hills, the lowing of the Highland cattle, the bluebells dotting the land, and the craggy ruins of ancient castles inciting curiosity, all provide an enticement to exploration that is irresistible for a little boy.
Could it be that faithful believers who are serving the Lord, doing good works, boldly proclaiming the truth, and standing firmly against error and compromise are actually neglecting their chief priority? Is it possible that in loving our churches, our families, and our communities, we may be neglecting to cultivate a love for the Lord Himself?
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