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The New Guideposts Christmas Treasury (3) tells a story of a little girl was wasnít easy to love. Her name was Phyllis, and her Sunday School Teacher tells this story about her: "Phyllis wasnít an easy child to love...sometimes I did wish she wasnít in the particular Sunday School class that I taught...She never sat still. She hated to be touched, and she always had to have the last word." Her teacher tried to give Phyllis a speaking part, but Phyllis refused ""Iím probably going to a party that night," she said grandly. "Lord," I prayed silently, "please help me love Phyllis". "Well I do have a few more parts if you change your mind." "I wonít" Phyllis said, and she didnít." At the rehearsal, the teacher heard ""Mary doesnít act like sheís going to have a baby" muttered a husky little voice behind me. Phyllis might not have any desire to be in the program, but she wouldnít miss the rehearsal. "Shhhh" I whispered, reaching back to pat Phyllisís hand. She jerked it away, saying "Okay Okay" In the last scene, only a spotlight shone on the holy family, and the children hummed "Silent Night". It was beautiful-- but who was that moving in front of the manger? Phyllis You never knew where that child was going to pop up next. Now she stuck her hand into the manger, squeezed the dollís arm, and disappeared back into the shadows. "Phyllis", I called, "what are you doing uup there?" "Iím just looking," she said, "Besides itís not a baby. Itís just a doll. I felt it." "Lord, please help me love Phyllis". ...By 6:45 the air was bristling with excitment backstae...There was no Phyllis to be seen and I began to relax... As the organ chimed the beginnning of the service, I took my prompters seat in the front pew. With the opening strains of "Watchman, Tell Us of the Night", the lights came up on the manger scene, and the narrator began... I felt something bump my knee and give a little shgove. "Move over," muttered an all too familiar voice. "I decided not to go to the party." ... The angels sang to the shepherds. The shepherds went to Bethlehem and took a lamb for the baby. The wisemen went to see herod and then to the stable. And Mary sat there, "pondering these things in her heart." It was lovely. Phyllis sat beside me so quietly that I forgot all about her, and when I realized she was gone it was too late". She stomped her way right up to the manger, just as she had done during rehearsal. But this time she stiffened, awe-struck, then turned, eyes wide with wonder, and came hurrying back to me. "Heís alive" she said to me in a penetrating whisper. Across the aisle, someone asked, "What did she say?" "She said, "Heís aliveí "Lile ripples in a pond, the word passed from pew to pew, all the way to the back of the sanctuary. "Heís alive...alive...alive." ... I put my arm around Phyllis... "You wre the best part of the program" I said into her ear... "It wasnít in the program" she said, but she didnít push me away. Christ was love (3) - The New Guideposts Christmas Treasury, "Christmas - As Mysterious as Ever", by Doris Swehla, pp. 78-81

 
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"People" by Apologetix, That Christian Parody Band (www.AplogetiX.com)

James was caught by Herod; Herod captured Peter.
They were sharing Herodís outbreak of attacks upon believers.
James would have to face the sword and Peter would escape it.
They were not afraid of dying; they both knew that they could take it.
Thomas preached in Babylon and India they claimed,
Then the local folks impaled him with a lance while he was praying.
They were all about to die, but they werenít thinking much about it,
And their story didnít have a chance but none of them were doubting.

Why oh why would someone die if it was just a hoax?
Why then take the awful risk to tell us Jesus rose?
Simple men from Galilee would not have spoken lies
To get enrolled in history books as martyrs for Jesus Christ.

Simon died along with Jude from arrows spears or crosses
Someone gave Bartholomew a skin-removal process
Some of them were stoned alive like James the son of Alphaeus
And their stories are the evidence that none of them were doubters.

Why oh why would someone die if it was just a hoax?
Why then take the awful risk to tell us Jesus rose?
Simple men like you and me would not have spoken lies
To get well known in all the books as martyrs for Jesus Christ.

A lot of guys were crucified for calling Him Messiah
Philip died and Andrew did and possibly Matthais
Peterís was a most unpleasant death for being Christian
They would turn him upside down and then go through with crucifixion
Paul, he was beheaded, probably Matthew did the same
Then they threw off of the temple top the other guy named James
They were all about to die but they werenít thinking much about it
Thatís a gory bunch of evidence that none of them were doubters.

Why oh why would someone die if it was just a hoax?
Why then take the awful risk to tell us Jesus rose?
Simple men like you and me would not have spoken lies
To get their names in history books as martyrs for Jesus Christ

Rev 6:9 Ė When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. (NIV)

 
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Letís look at what Dr. C. Truman Davis* wrote about the price Jesus paid for this indescribable gift
(2 Cor. 9:15):

After the arrest in the middle of the night, Jesus was brought before the Sanhedrin and Caiphus, the High Priest; it is here that the first physical trauma was inflicted. A soldier struck Jesus across the face for remaining silent when questioned by Caiphus. The palace guards then blind-folded Him and mockingly taunted Him to identify them as they each passed by. They spat upon Him, and struck Him in the face.
In the early morning, battered and bruised, dehydrated, and exhausted from a sleepless night, Jesus is taken across the Praetorium of the Fortress Antonia, the seat of government of the Procurator of Judea, Pontius Pilate.
You are, of course, familiar with Pilateís action in attempting to pass responsibility to Herod Antipas, the Tetrarch of Judea. Jesus apparently suffered no physical mistreatment at the hands of Herod and was returned to Pilate. It was then, in response to the cries of the mob, that Pilate ordered Bar-Abbas released, and condemned Jesus to scourging and crucifixion.
Preparations for the scourging were carried out when the Prisoner was stripped of His clothing and His hands tied to a post above His head. It is doubtful the Romans would have made any attempt to follow the Jewish law in this matter, but the Jews had an ancient law prohibiting more than forty lashes. The Roman legionnaire steps forward with the flagrum (or flagellum) in his hand. This is a short whip consisting of several heavy, leather thongs with two small balls of lead attached near the ends of each. The heavy whip is brought down with full force again and again across Jesusí shoulders, back, and legs. At first the thongs cut through the skin only.
Then, as the blows continue, they cut deeper into the subcutaneous tissues, producing first an oozing of blood from the capillaries and veins of the skin, and finally spurting arterial bleeding from vessels in the underlying muscles. The small balls of lead first produce large, deep bruises which are broken open by subsequent blows. Finally the skin of the back is hanging in long ribbons and the entire area is an unrecognizable mass of torn, bleeding tissue. When it is determined by the centurion in charge that the prisoner is near death, the beating is finally stopped. The half-fainting Jesus is then untied and allowed to slump to the stone pavement, wet with His own blood.
The Roman soldiers see a great joke in this provincial Jew claiming to be king. They throw a robe across His shoulders and place a stick in His hand for a scepter. They still need a crown to make their travesty complete. Flexible branches covered with long thorns (commonly used in bundles for firewood) are plaited into the shape of a crown and this is pressed into His scalp. Again there is copious bleeding, the scalp being one of the most vascular areas of the body. After mocking Him and striking Him across the face, the soldiers take the stick from His hand and strike Him across the head, driving the thorns deeper into His scalp.
Finally, they tire of their sadistic sport and the robe is torn from His back. Already having adhered to the clots of blood and serum in the wounds, its removal causes excruciating pain just as in the careless removal of a surgical bandage, and almost as though He were again being whipped, the wounds once more begin to bleed. In deference to Jewish custom, the Romans return His garments.
And all of this is just the beating before He is crucified.

(*) Dr. C. Truman Davis is a nationally respected ophthalmologist, vice-president of the American Association of Ophthalmology, and an active figure in the Christian schools movement. He is the founder and president of the excellent Trinity Christian School in Mesa, Arizona, and a trustee of Grove City College.

 
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INDESCRIBABLE CHRIST

Dr. S.M. Lockridge was the Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, San Diego CA from 1953 - 1993. He entered heaven in 2000. He is well-known for a passage out of his sermon titled ďHeís My KingĒ:


ďHeís enduringly strong, Heís entirely sincere, Heís eternally steadfast. Heís immortally graceful. Heís imperially powerful. Heís impartially merciful. Heís Godís Son. Heís a sinnerís savior. Heís the centerpiece of civilization. He stands alone in Himself. Heís unparalleled. Heís unprecedented. Heís supreme. Heís preeminent. Heís the loftiest idea in literature. Heís the highest idea in philosophy. Heís the fundamental truth in theology. Heís the miracle of the age. Heís the only one able to supply all of our needs simultaneously. He supplies strength for the weak. Heís available for the tempted and the tried. He sympathizes and He saves. He guards and He guides. He heals the sick, He cleans the lepers. He forgives sinners, He discharges debtors, He delivers captives, He defends the feeble, He blesses the young, He serves the unfortunate, He regards the aged, He rewards the diligent, He beautifies the meek. Do you know Him?

Well, my king is the king of knowledge, Heís the well-spring of wisdom, Heís the doorway of deliverance, Heís the pathway of peace, Heís the roadway of righteousness, Heís the highway of holiness Heís the gateway of glory, Heís the master of the mighty, Heís the captain of the conquerors, Heís the head of the heroes, Heís the leader of the legislators, Heís the overseer of the overcomers, Heís the governor of governors, Heís the prince of princes, Heís the king of Kings and the Lord of Lords.

His life is matchless. His goodness is limitless. His mercy is everlasting. His love never changes. His word is enough. His grace is sufficient. His reign is righteous. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Well. I wish I could describe Him to you. But Heís indescribable. Yes. Heís incomprehensible. Heís invincible, Heís irresistible. Iím trying to tell you, the Heavens cannot contain Him, let alone a man explain Him. You canít get Him out of your mind. You canít get Him off of your hands. You canít outlive Him, and you canít live without Him. Well. The Pharisees couldnít stand Him, but they found out they couldnít stop Him. Pilate coul...

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Howard Tyas
 
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Many years ago I went to see a theatrical production called Cotton Patch Gospel, a musical about the life of Jesus with an Appalachian, country-western twist. It was based on Clarence Jordanís paraphrase of the New Testament, by the same name. It tries to tell the story of Jesus as if he has been born in Georgia in the 1950ís. The lyrics and music were written and composed by the late Harry Chapin. I wish I could play one of the songs for you, for it is both gripping and haunting.

It begins with Herodís men singing:

All through the ages, the wise men and sages,
have said there are dirty deeds that simply must be done.

To keep society going, and the benefits flowing,
thereís the simple necessity of hurting someone.

It means strength and agility, taking responsibility,
itís the core of what leadershipís really about.

When the red blood starts coming, just think of it as plumbing, if youíve got a problem you must flush it out.

Then the narrator comes in and tells this story: Herod had seen to it that on Sunday morning a bomb got tossed into the nursery of a church where Jesus was supposed to be. Fortunately, Joe had taken Jesus to Mexico, so the plan failed to get him. But the explosion did kill 14 innocent infants and toddlers. It was a horrible sight that morning. The doctor couldnít even convince one mother that her child was dead. And then the mother sings her song:

Rock a by sweet baby, Mama is here
Hush a by sweet angel, thereís nothing to fear
Close your eyes sweet darling, all through the night
Mama will hold you safe Ďtil the morning light.

 
Contributed By:
Jeff Strite
 
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In my "Readerís Digest - Jesus and His Times" (copy write 1987 - from which much of this information is derived), there is a picture of a "Mikvah" that has been discovered in Masada (the ancient fortress built by Herod which held off the Romans for so long after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.). Mikvahís were used to immerse things and people to cleanse them of sinful influence.
The Essenes, for example washed daily in their pools to cleanse themselves from sin. Worshippers immersed themselves for ceremonial cleansing before entering upon the Temple Mount. There were mikvahís for the priests including two reserved for the High Priest.
Private homes had these "mikvahs" as well and they would use them for (among other things) cleansing the dirt from items purchased from Gentiles - items such as dishes and tables (Mark 7:4).
So, when John came baptizing for repentance, people had long since grown used to the idea of baptism being associated with cleansing.

 
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Terry Cavanaugh
 
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Can there be a crime more diabolical than the murder of a child.
We can not stomach abuse to children. Have you heard the story of Eric Sellers.
Eric shook his 4 pound baby so hard that he snapped the infants thigh bone. The judge told him "Your actions tell me youíre not the father of this child. Youíre just the sperm donor,"
The judge went on to say, "You did this to the littlest of all victims that I can imagine."
Earlier this month, the judge had found Sellers guilty of felonious assault and child endangering.
The obviously upset judge noting the court clinic evaluation of Sellers described him as "focusing only on himself and often engaging in aggressive behavior."
The courts description of Sellers could just as easily been used of King Herod, ďFocusing only on himself and often engaging in aggressive behavior.Ē

 
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Steve Malone
 
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In my studies this week I came across these words from a book in my office called, The Jesus I Never Knew, by Philip Yancey.

As my class in Chicago read the Gospels and watched movies about Jesusí life, we noticed a striking pattern: the more unsavory the characters, the more at ease they seemed to feel around Jesus.

PEOPLE Ė like these found Jesus appealing: a Samaritan social outcast, a militant officer of the tyrant Herod, a quisling tax collector, a recent hostess of 7 demons.

In contrast, Jesus got a chilly response from more respectable types. Pious Pharisees thought him uncouth and worldly, a rich young ruler walked away shaking his head, and even the open-minded Nicodemus sought a meeting under the cover of darkness.

I remarked to the class how strange this pattern seemed, since the Christian church now attracts respectable types who closely resemble the people most suspicious of Jesus on earth. What has happened to reverse the pattern of Jesus day? Why donít sinners like being around us?

I recounted a story told to me by a friend who works with the down and outs in Chicago. A prostitute came to him in wretched sraits, homeless, her health failing, unable to buy food for her 2 year old daughter. Her eyes awash with tears, she confessed that she had been renting out her daughter Ė 2 years old! Ė to men.. to support her drug habit. My friend could barely bear hearing the sordid details of her story. He sat in silence not knowing what to say.

At last he asked if she had ever thought of going to a church for help. ďI will never forget the look of pure astonishment that crossed her face,Ē he later told me. ďChurch!Ē she cried. ďWhy would I ever gatherer? The...

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Contributed By:
Pat Cook
 
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Let me tell you a story about a small island in the South Seas inhabited by a group of people who had very little contact with the outside world. Theirs was a beautiful island Ė lush vegetation, wonderfully sweet-tasting fruit, and many domesticated animals good for eating. It was a tropical paradise.

But many others took advantage of the beauty. Over the years, many ships would land on the shores, unload its decks of pirates and thieves, and would fill its holds with plunder, looted from the island. Many beautiful island ladies found themselves stolen for piratesí pleasures, many young children kidnapped to become piratesí servants. Many animals, much fruit found their way uninvited to piratesí galleys, leaving a terrorized people behind in the wake.

For many years this went on, until the islanders moved inland. Every set of sails on the horizon brought fear to the hearts of the natives, and they eventually moved their homes inland, away from thieving eyes.

Well, it turns out that the island was not an island Ė it was a dormant volcano, unknown to the natives. Seismologists from around the world picked up small tremors on their instruments, and discovered that the volcano would soon erupt. The volcano would send lava over the whole island, dooming everything there. Rumors had been heard years before of a hidden tribe of people on that island, and the scientists rushed to save the lives of the tribe.

Soon, a ship was sent to pick up the islanders and move them to a safe island. But when the ship arrived, they found no-one. The ship sailed away with no islanders on board.

Then a helicopter was sent. It flew over the island, but it too saw nothing, and flew off.

Each time a contact came from the outside world, it left empty-handed. Because, each time the islanders, very much alive and well, heard or saw something, they ran and hid in their well-concealed village. Years of visits from wicked outsiders brought such a terror into the hearts of the islanders, that they hid at even the peaceful outsiders.

And itís sad, that the messenger, meant to bring news that would save them, was still rejected due to fear. Such was the case with Zechariah [or Herod]. He was afraid of the messenger, the angel, bringing good news to him and to the rest of the world.

 
Contributed By:
Terry Kemp
 
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As the Herod of our text, this king was not above murdering three of his heirs Ö which prompted Caesar Augustus to say, ďIíd rather be Herodís sow than Herodís son." Itís a pun the Greek: hus being pig and huios meaning son.

 
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