Author Archive

Responses to Christmas: God’s Parents

It is time for a special series … THIS WEEK ONLY!

Yeah, I kind of gave into some of the materialistic hype. This special is only available the week leading up to this Christmas.

I have a seen a few similar series going around, but mine is better because … uhhh … I am doing it this week? This series is about how people responded to the birth of Jesus.

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 be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name 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 the house of Jacob 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 upon 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 barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.”

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.
Luke 1:26-38

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This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,because he will save his people from their sins.”

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.”

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
Matthew 1:18-25

God clearly chose these two to raise the boy Jesus for a reason. Other than being descendents of David, they also were kinda righteous, as humans go.

Take Mary:

  1. She was presented with something impossible: pregnancy without … the fun part. Her reaction to hearing this: “Help me understand how this is possible!”
  2. With a response that would make most humans say “Yeah, okay. Whatever that means!” she replies “I do not really get it, but I will follow You and see what amazing things you can do!”

Now Joseph:

  1. His first response to the unknown was to protect the girl he loved yet bow out gracefully. He wanted to protect himself (not bad) and the girl who apparently had been unfaithful, someone who apparently had sinned rather egregiously. He was a pretty cool dude, man!
  2. He has a dream telling him that the baby will be God and save people from their sins, therefore he should still marry Mary. Based on that dream, he complies. This is really all we know about Joseph (other than he and Mary forgot Jesus at the age of 12, and he also looked for Him). Personally, I see there is more than enough information here to understand his character: awesome!

What can we learn from these two?

  1. It is okay to have doubts, provided you are willing to listen to God (or His messengers).
  2. It is okay to question God, provided you are honestly seeking answers and not trying to justify yourself or simply asking rhetorically from disbelief.
  3. Sometimes, perhaps many or most times, we will not fully understand (if at all) what God is doing, but that is okay provided we continue to follow His leading.
  4. Enduring something inconvenient can lead to amazing blessings!

What about you? When you have doubts do you listen for God’s leading? Do you ask God any of the who, what, when, where, why, or how questions expecting a reply and being open to the answer? Are you willing to move forward in your confusion and lack of understanding? Do you trust God? If you do, amazing blessings await. To be fair, the blessings may not appear until eternity, but a lifetime of worries and pain is worth an eternity of peace and joy. (Think of a road trip someplace, like Disneyland or to family you have not seen in a while. It may be uncomfortable getting there, but the joy and experience of getting there almost help you forget it or even make it worth it.)

Weekend Words & Sunday Stanzas – 12/18/2011

“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. ” James 1:5

That is all for now. Happy Advent, and Merry Christmas!

wisdom
daniel m  klem

wisdom is what we want

some people want it to
get ahead in life and
make money to buy things

others want wisdom to
get ahead in the life and
be with God in heaven

if God is pleased with you
the He will bless you and
you may not need things

your wisdom can take you
up to where God is and
to be with Him in heaven

just ask for the wisdom

Taken from simple words for God from a simple man of God by daniel m  klem, page 51.

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Liberation

I thought for fun I would post one of my papers from school. It is a little longer than what I usually do (about twice as long!), but maybe you can learn something … or help me in my education! I hope you enjoy!

Liberation

            “The creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God” (LASB, 2005, Romans 8:21). History is rife with subjugation, abuses, and oppression. In this post-Enlightenment world, Western society is beginning to overcome the evils of the past. The past 50 years has seen the rise of Liberation Theology. The black community in the United States produced Black Liberation Theology. The Latin American masses have produced their own form of Liberation Theology. Women are coming out of the shadow of men with Feminist Theology. Each theology has its strengths and weaknesses, and they all start with the focus of overcoming through Christ.

Black Theology

           Probably the biggest reason so many Africans came to the United States of America was the slave trade. Many were brought simply to be bought and sold as slaves. The American Civil War played a pivotal role in freeing the blacks, as they have been called due to the darkness of their skin, from slavery. However, they were not given full rights in most instances as compared to the predominant white people. Blacks were still considered second-class citizens, at best.

This came to a head in the decades after the Second World War. The 1960’s were a turbulent time of war and protests, and the greatest protest of all was the Civil Rights movement in the United States. Headed by the likes of Martin Luther King, Jr. – who fought from a Christian standpoint of equality of all men – and Malcolm X – who took a form of Islam and called it Black Power, the embracement of the black identity – the movement quickly shattered all of the segregation and inequality.

During this time, there were some theologians who took the stances of King and Malcolm X and merged them. Black Liberation Theology sought equality for blacks with whites. This called for finding blacks’ unique identity and a view of the gospel tailored to this self-awareness. It was a call to take hold of one’s blackness and find freedom from the segregation and oppression of the dominant white society. God is found in these moments of liberation and is always fighting towards liberation for all people (Grenz & Olson, 1992).

The upside to Black Theology is that it strives to take the Christian message of freedom from bondage and make it applicable and understandable to a certain group of people. The entire Christian message is about freedom from sin and evil and all the ways in which it manifests itself. Sadly, many took this message and used it as justification for violence and a reverse-racism against whites and sometimes also other ethnicities. Joseph R. Washington, Jr. attempted to warn about separation as opposed to integration – the original intent of the Civil Rights Movement. He foresaw the growth in violence and lack of forgiveness that could grow. James H. Cone, the first recognized representative of Black Theology, also spoke of accepting one’s blackness but forgiving yourself and others. Blacks were seeking their freedom. Some chose violence and others peace (Grenz & Olson, 1992).

Latin American Liberation Theology

            Blacks had contemporaries who found violence and the gospel working together. In Latin American nations, poverty ran rampant. Most Latin American theologians saw the evil capitalist nations of the Northern Atlantic to blame for the condition of the masses. Because of the greed of these nations, leadership at home worked people ragged with minimal pay why taking most of the profits for themselves and using violence against anyone who dissented in any way. This led to a small wealthy class always getting richer and a large impoverished class always getting poorer (Grenz & Olson, 1992).

Theologians, like the blacks, turned to the liberating message of the Gospel. They argued that Christ is found only with the weak and impoverished. Therefore, the rich did not have Christ, and if violence was used by them to oppress the poor then violence is an acceptable response to find freedom. The only way to achieve true freedom, for both the poor and the rich, would be to do away with evil capitalism and turn to Christian Marxism. Only when people do not allow their possessions to own them but instead see all things as belonging to all people will they be liberated. Humanity will then be able to works toward a proper Christian society and wipe out poverty. This then leads to the teaching that good theology is dependent on right actions (orthopraxy) which help interpret theology, for God is only found with the poor. Helping the poor to be liberated reveals good theology (Grenz & Olson, 1992).

Liberation theology is great in that it reminds the Christian to have a heart for the poor and for transformation of society. The idea, however, that theology is dependent upon orthopraxy is flawed since only an understanding of what is right can lead to right action. The use of Marxism is dangerous since it has a tendency to deny sinful nature. History has shown that Marxism always leads to the exact outcome Liberation theologians seek to avoid. The acceptance of violence is also dangerous. It can help breed hatred for other people instead of the Christian call for loving our enemies.

Feminist Theology

            Women have felt this lack of love for millennia. Like the blacks and the poor, many women have felt subjugated and oppressed. Christianity should be the one place this is not true, but this has sadly not been the case. In the United States, blacks got the right to vote before women, and they could teach and preach in a church before women were allowed. All of this frustration built up to the point that Feminist Theology was born.

Feminist Theology arose at the same time as the others. Like the others there is the focus on freedom from oppression and right action. The differences arise in approach. Feminist theologians wish to redeem or remove the parts of the Bible that demonstrate (or seemingly demonstrate) oppression or abuse of women. They seek to remove the barrier between the sexes through interpreting the Bible through the feminist worldview. Feminists see Jesus as a feminist preacher, but His message has been twisted by the male-dominated worldview. Likewise, God is not a He but either genderless or a God/ess (Grenz & Olson, 1992).

Feminist Theology raises the awareness that women have not been given their proper place in Christianity or the world. However, in their attempt to fight sexism, feminists have made it too easy to reverse the sexism. In many ways, feminism has gone from seeking equality with men to superiority over men. Finally, it is always dangerous to remove or skip over parts of the Bible with which one is not comfortable. Doing so is almost like declaring oneself equal to God.

The biggest problem with each of these theologies is that of ethno- or gender-centrism. The focus shifts too much from Christ to humans. To say God is the God of only the poor or a certain ethnicity or a certain gender denies so many other attributes of God. Theology becomes pushing personal assertions and ideals onto God and declaring it truth instead of seeking truth and allowing God to properly shape one’s worldview and understanding of Him. When the focus moves to humanity, pride and sin and all that accompanies them – hatred, violence, selfishness, etcetera – easily takes hold. The gospel is about liberation, but liberation must never take control of the gospel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

Grenz, Stanley J., & Olson, Roger E. (1992). 20th century theology: God and the world in a transitional age. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. & Zondervan. (2005). Life Application Study Bible – NIV. Carol Stream, IL: Author.

Weekend Words and Sunday Stanzas – 12/11/2011

This week’s topic of being half-empty, feeling depleted and lost, reminded me of a poem I wrote years ago. I think this applies, especially for many in this season who struggle to find the joy and reason to celebrate that is so often sold.

 

frustrations
daniel m  klem

when You do not seem to answer
i get frustrated
when You do not do what i ask
i get frustrated
when no one listens about You
i get frustrated
when i can not seem to find You
i get frustrated
when i can not seem to love You
i get frustrated
when i can not feel Your love
i want to cry

Taken from simple words for God from a simple man of God by daniel m  klem, page 40.

Here is a little reminder for you:

No matter what is going on in your life, no matter how frustrating and lonely you feel in any situation, God loves you so much that He came and sacrificed Himself for you. Life might seem horrible now, but imagine being one with complete love and joy and then being cut off and separated from that complete love and joy. That is what Jesus Christ did for you. He gave up His life, suffered the most horrible shame, frustration, abuse, and loneliness that any person can feel, all because of His love for you. Most amazing of all, He came back to life to give you hope that He has overcome all of that, and He wants you to overcome it all in and through Him.

Do not give in to your frustrations. Give in to the restoring and renewing power of the grace of God the Father through Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, which we have access to through the Holy Spirit! It can be tough, but He wants to help you. Trust in Him. I cannot promise that your frustrations will go away, but I can promise that you find your outlook change and your hope grow.

Merry Christmas!

When half-empty is a good thing

The Christmas season is called the most wonderful time of the year, the season of joy, and a time of love and giving.

Many people look at the figurative glass as half-full during this time of the year (unless, of course, they are standing in a line that stretches half-way around the Super Wal-Mart in which they have been shopping for that last gift).

As my pastor said this past Sunday (in the beginning of his message about Joseph, second only to Pharoah in Egypt, forgave and loved his brothers who sold him into slavery), for many people the Christmas season is not wonderful or joyful. The Christmas season for these people (I am sure some are reading this message) instead reminds them of broken marriages, lost spouses and/or children, being alone, or being close to death.

For these people, their glass looks half-empty.

Is half-empty always a bad thing, though?

When we have to take medicine that tastes disgusting, we would rather the cup be half-empty than half-full.

When someone puts food in front of us that we think tastes horrible (but we are being polite and eating it), we would prefer the plate be half-empty than half-full.

When riding on a city bus while feeling nauseous, other people are happy when the bus is half-empty rather than completely full!

In terms of our times of pain and longing, grief and loss, feeling like we are half-empty can be a good thing (though I know it does not feel like it).

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Matthew 5:3-5

We have a promise from our Lord that we will be with Him and comforted. The question remains, what do we have for now? It may seem selfish, but knowing we can receive comfort later does not always help in the meantime.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.
2 Corinthians 1:3-7

God does comfort us in our times of need. He does not always do it immediately, and sometimes He waits until after our trials … sometimes for years.

However, we also have the promise that God will indeed comfort us so that we may comfort others in His name.

God can save us from troubles, but God often blesses us with the opportunity to help others by sharing His comfort and strength with them.

We could also say that God empties us through our troubles that we might be filled with Him to the point of overflowing.

Half-empty becomes good when we are re-filled with God.

I am not saying we need to get to a point of enjoying our pain and loss; that is masochism. Instead, we rejoice in our suffering, because we know that we are being used for God.

Christmas is a reminder that our God did not leave us alone to suffer. In his grace, He came to us, suffered with us, and suffered for us. He understands our pain and our loss and has overcome them. He alone can give us comfort and peace, but He also allows us to suffer that He may work through us to bring comfort and peace to others.

Weekend Words & Sunday Stanzas – 12/04/2011

As we are now in December, it is a perfect time to share the gospel message (any time is good, but being the month we celebrate the birth of Christ makes seem a little extra special, you know?). If you are not friends with me on Facebook, you may not have seen this one as of yet. Last year on Thanksgiving, I awoke, got into the shower, and then this poem sprang into my mind. I wrote it down, and typed it up. Today you can enjoy it!

How much does He love us?

How much does He love us?
Living in eternity;
Living in perfect unity;
Demonstrating community
In the Holy Trinity.

But He said it is not enough
And so He created stuff
All for His ultimate creation: us;
But we just had to mess it up.

How much does He love us?
Adam and Eve lost the Garden
And now we are born with original sin.
God knew our relationship with Him
To restore we could not even begin.

God looked on us down on Earth,
Seeing us in our moral dearth.
For some reason He saw some worth,
So He came to us through childbirth!

How much does He love us?
Jesus Christ gave up royalty
To live amongst our depravity.
Jesus in all of His divinity
Entered the world as a tiny baby!

He grew up living a sinless life
Until by John He was baptized.
Religious leaders He did chastise
While helping people to realize.

How much does He love us?
After a few years of ministry,
He went to God’s holy city.
In our backward objectivity
We nailed His sinless body to a tree.

He was aware of His Path,
That it included a painful death.
“It is finished” He said of forgiveness
As He took his final breath.

How much does He love us?
Through our Lord’s sacrifice
We can receive new spiritual life.
Our redemption came at a great price,
But we are washed in the blood of Jesus Christ!

Choose to believe in His grace
So that we may see Him face to face;
So that we may join Him in the eternal place
As His holy and redeemed chosen race.

Misplaced Thankfulness

This is a period of the year when happy stories gain prominence in the public sphere. This past week was Thanksgiving, that time when we express our thankfulness for what we have.

Unfortunately, there are still stories abounding that are less than happy (downright sad most of the time). On Wednesday night (11/23), I read a news story that was less than happy. If you do not have time to read through the article, here is a brief synopsis:

A South Korean couple wanted a baby, and they gave birth to a girl a few months ago. She was born prematurely, and they did not have jobs. This led them to feel inadequate for the job of raising a child, therefore they would spend many hours a day at internet cafes playing a game called “Prius Online” (a lot like The Sims and Second Life, if you know what that is). In this game, they began to raise a virtual baby named Anima. They would go home every so often to feed their real baby powdered milk (I am assuming they added water so that it was not just powder). This past September they came home from a 12-hour session of their game to find their daughter had died from malnourishment. The father said, “I am sorry for what I did and hope that my daughter does not suffer any more in heaven.”

Here is my take on this situation: the parents had a misplaced thankfulness.

We see this kind of thing all the time. People have something great or even perfect for them in their possession, yet all they think about are the things they can get. They are not focused on what they do not have, just what they can get. We know this is the case with these people, because they do not complain about not having something. In fact, this kind of people brag about what they do have and want to have (and plan on getting).

In the case of this child’s death, we can see that the parents wanted a child. We can see that they wanted to care for a child. Their problem was that they were not able to cope with their situation. While they wanted a child, to care for a child, they felt they were inadequate given their circumstances. Therefore, they shifted their thinking from being focused on their real child to being focused on their virtual baby. They misplaced their thankfulness.

  • It is just like the man who works 80 hours per week to provide for his family.
  • It is just like the child at school who bullies others because he does not know how to show affection.
  • It is just like the woman who gives gifts she can not afford to find acceptance.
  • It is just like the church who focuses on programs instead of people while trying to be hip and inviting.
  • It is just like the Christian who avoids “sinners” because of the desire for purity.

In all of these scenarios, people substitute something in place of real relationships. They want people around and to have things “perfect,” but they do not connect with others (at least not in a way that is good).

There is really only one answer for all people: Jesus Christ.

As I posted last week, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:15-16)

Also, read Hebrews 12 and 13 … and the rest of the Bible!