Posts Tagged ‘Sting’

Advent Podcast Day 19: “The Light Shines in Darkness”

December 21, 2017

From the first day of Advent until Christmas Day, I’m podcasting a daily devotional. You can listen by clicking on the playhead below.

Devotional Text: John 1:1-5

You can subscribe to my podcast in iTunes, Google Play, and Stitcher.

Hi, this is Brent White. It’s December 21, 2017, and this is Day 19 of my series of Advent podcasts. You’re listening to the band Jethro Tull, and a song they wrote and recorded about—well… this very day: December 21, the winter solstice. This song, “Ring Out, Solstice Bells,” comes from the band’s 1977 album Songs from the Wood.

My scripture today is John 1:1-5, which I’ll read now:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Do you remember that scene in Back to the Future when Doc Brown is introducing Marty McFly, Michael J. Fox’s character, to the wonders of his time-traveling DeLorean? Brown shows McFly an LED-based instrument built into the car’s dashboard and explains that you simply enter any date in the past that you want to travel back to and—voila!—that’s where you’ll end up. 

At one point he tells Marty, “We can go back and witness the birth of Jesus Christ.” And then you see Doc Brown punch in the date December 25 of the year “0000.”

And at this point, many people in the audience groaned. For two reasons. First, there wasn’t a year “0.” According to the calendar that the church created, which divides history between the time before Christ and the time after Christ was born, the calendar changed from 1 B.C. to A.D. 1.

And the second reason some people watching Back to the Future groaned is because Jesus wasn’t born on December 25—or I should say, there’s about a 1 in 365 chance that he was born on December 25! If you’ll recall a podcast I did last week, my amateur astronomer friend believed that Jesus was born some time in April.

But the Church chose the date of December 25 to celebrate Christ’s birth for an important reason: Under the old Julian calendar, it marked the winter solstice, the so-called “longest night of the year”—or, put the other way, the day with the least amount of sunlight. Just think: for the next six months, each day will be marked by progressively more daylight.

And in ancient times long before the birth of Christ, people attached religious significance to this day—thanking their god or gods that the solstice marked the “end of gloom and darkness and the victory of the sun and the light over the darkness.”[1] Because of this pagan association with the solstice, even some Christians today have misgivings about celebrating Christmas.

I certainly don’t share these misgivings. Even if under the old calendar December 25 was a pagan holiday, I would say that the day has been redeemed—like so many other things, including our very lives—by Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us. Read the rest of this entry »

“Glory to God in the Highest,” Day 18: Great Things for Me

December 18, 2016

I recently created a 31-day Advent/Christmas devotional booklet for my church called “Glory to God in the Highest.” I will be posting a devotional from it each day between now and the end of the year. Enjoy!

Scripture: Luke 1:49

glory_cover_finalNotice that in Mary’s song, the Magnificat, she expresses amazement that God is bringing to fruition his plan of salvation for the world through her. The gospel of Jesus Christ is good news for her, personally: “He who is mighty has done great things for me.”

What about you? Have you personally experienced the gospel of Jesus Christ as good news?

I have. And I’d like to share one way that the gospel has been good news for me:

I am someone who is a naturally fearful person. For example, growing up, I was afraid of dying in a nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union—Russia. In fact, I was fairly certain that I was going to die in a nuclear war.

The early eighties, after all, were a scary time for fearful kids like me. For example, when I was in eighth grade there was a made-for-TV movie called The Day After starring Jason Robards, which imagined the world after the Russians dropped the bomb on us. For weeks, news about the movie was all over newspapers, magazines, and TV news.

missile_commandSting had a hit song about nuclear war, in which he wondered “if the Russians love their children, too.” We played video games like “Missile Command.” Remember this game? You’re in command of a missile silo, and your job is to protect six cities from being hit by fast-approaching nuclear missiles. And these missiles just keep coming, wave after wave. You have to shoot them out of the sky. And no one wins in the long run: eventually all your cities get reduced to rubble!

Around the same time, President Reagan was talking about building a real-life “missile command” system that could destroy Russian nuclear missiles before they landed on U.S. soil!

We also watched movies like WarGames, in which a young Matthew Broderick is a computer prodigy who hacks into the Pentagon computers and nearly launches World War III—by accident.

And you may be wondering, “Brent, you’re a pastor now! Instead of being afraid, why didn’t you just place your faith in God, and trust that he would take care of you?” After all, Jesus said, “Do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Jesus also said, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.’” In other words, there is a healthy kind of fear that we’re supposed to have, and it’s the fear of the Lord, which comes from believing and trusting in him as our Savior and Lord. If we do that, we don’t need to worry about all these other things! God will take care of us!

And I believe these words are true from the bottom of my heart now. But back then… I didn’t know Jesus as my Savior and Lord. I wasn’t saved. So I was even afraid that when I died, I wouldn’t be prepared meet the Lord, because I hadn’t yet received the gift of forgiveness, salvation, eternal life that he freely offers us.

But that changed one weekend in February 1984, when I went on a winter youth retreat to Black Mountain, North Carolina, with my church youth group.

The gospel was preached in a way that finally made sense to me: I understood that I was a sinner whose sin had separated me from a holy God. As scripture says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” I understood that because of my sins, I deserved death and hell.

But just as importantly, I also understood that God loved me—that God loves all of us—way too much to let us die in our sins. He wants to save us. He wants to have a relationship with us—both now, in this life, and in eternity. I understood that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

I received this gift of eternal life that weekend, and I’ve never been the same. For one thing, I’m not nearly as fearful as I used to be. I have peace of mind and a sense of security and belonging. And it’s because of Jesus.

Along with Mary, I can say, “He who is mighty has done great things for me.”

Reflect on the “great things” that Christ has done for you. You might want to write them down. Could you, speaking from personal experience only, share this good news with others?

Yesterday’s message to a group of kids at youth camp

July 9, 2015

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of delivering a sermon to a group of enthusiastic teenagers at the “Summer Games Georgia 2015” youth camp in Covington, Georgia. Mostly this is a testimony about my coming to faith in Christ. It includes a straightforward presentation of the plan of salvation. During the actual address, I also spoke extemporaneously about the “zombies” from The Walking Dead that invaded our church last week.

Sermon Text: 2 Corinthians 5:17

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My son Townshend and I in the Dominican Republic, resting briefly from the hardest physical labor of our lives!

So last week, two of my three kids and myself traveled to the Dominican Republic for a very hard week of work. We helped to build a large, earthquake-proof building that will house a plastics-recycling center. This center will be used to help support a missionary’s efforts to provide clean water to local residents. Because more people in impoverished countries die every day from drinking dirty water than from anything else, including malaria.

Anyway, the four days that we worked on this building were the four hardest days I’ve ever worked in my life, physically speaking. This was not vacation! The work kicked our tails!

But it wasn’t all work. We did have one day in which we went to a local beach. And while we were there, there were a couple of guys who were selling rides in a “banana boat.” Do you know what a banana boat is? It’s literally an inflatable banana-shaped raft that is tethered to a speed boat. Six people straddle the raft and try desperately to maintain their balance while going very fast and making very sharp turns and bouncing around on waves. If anyone on the boat leans too far in one direction or another, the thing tips over. And you have to pull yourself back up on this thing. And you have to have three people on each side pulling up on the raft at the same time, otherwise the stupid thing flips over again!

Does that sound like fun? It was not fun; it was frightening. And, you know, this was not the U.S.A., which has very high safety standards. We received a safety lecture from the guy piloting the boat, which consisted of these words: “You’re going to want to hold on tight and don’t fall off.” Then I promise he said this: “You’re not going to die or get injured, right?” And I’m like, “I don’t know! You’re asking me? Read the rest of this entry »