Thursday, November 29, 2012

Do you know what a "Creche" is?

Do you know what a "Creche" is? I've only learned that word in the last 15 years or so. I always called it a Nativity scene! But a creche is not a painting but a 3 dimensional representation of the birth scene of Jesus Christ.
"Creche" is a French word and I'll tell you it's original meaning in a moment. But first, Creche also has a couple meanings besides the nativity. It can refer to a day care center or a "foundling hospital" where children are taken care of by someone other than their parents. 
In Zoology it refers to the practice of some animals to care for the young ones of another in the colony. For instance, lions often do this for defensive purposes. one or two lionesses will care for several young that aren't theirs so other lionesses can be involved in hunting or protection of the pride of lions. (A "Pride" is a lion colony.)
There are also some birds, including penguins, who do this, and a breed of crocodile called the Spectacled Caiman. (I don't think it actually wears spectacles.) So its like a "day care" for animals. The operative idea is one of certain beings taking care of the children of another. Interesting how that fits in with Joseph and Father God.
But back to the word "Creche." It is french for manger, or feeding trough. It has nothing to do with the care of babies or children, except of course that Mary laid the Son of God, the Messiah, in a manger.
Some say it was St. Francis of Assisi who first put together a Creche. It was a living representation of the manger scene formed to promote the worship of Christ and celebrate his humble birth.
Unfortunately there is that little often overlooked command of God that says in Ex 20:4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing in heaven above, or beneath the earth , or in the water... And to shed light on that: Lev 26:1 Ye shall make you no idols nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image, neither shall ye set up any image of stone in your land, to bow down unto it: for I am the LORD your God. 
So what do we do about pictures of Jesus? Or carvings of Jesus on the cross, or in a manger? After all "Graven" would include a carving, or and image stamped in metal, and by extension, even a painting. (I was going to include photo, but alas, there are no photos of Jesus.)
First, we need to be careful with them. I wouldn't have them in a room intended for Christian worship. Now the carving of a baby in a manger maybe so small as to be unseeable at a distance, and if that's the case I'm not going to be legalistic about this. But one reason I prefer an empty cross to one with a body attached is I don't want us to ever confuse who we are worshiping. There are other reasons for the empty cross to be sure, but the words, "No graven image" tend to resound in my brain.
I have seen a number of paintings depicting Jesus as a shepherd, healer, teacher, or hanging on a cross, that were very moving, beautiful! But I wouldn't have one at the front of the room - as a point of focus- dedicated to worship of God, because its not God, it's just a picture. And God wants us to be very careful about this.
So, we'll have a "Creche" in our church during this season. And hopefully it will stir up gratefulness in our hearts for the one who left the splendor of heaven and came to a dirty fallen wicked world, to die on a cross for us. And as much as I appreciate a nativity scene, I also appreciate the simplicity of a Cradle, a Cross, and a Crown.
Merry Christmas y'all! Clark

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Vote and the Christ-Follower: 2012

The Vote and the Christ-Follower: 2012

November 6th, a very important day in the life of our country. The whole country is thinking and talking politics during this election season. What does God have to say about politics? Does God’s Word give us instructions on how we should vote or respond to the outcome of the vote? The answer to both of those questions is a resounding “YES”!  There is something the Cross has to say about Washington. That doesn't mean we mix politics and religion. When that happens usually all that’s left is politics. But we are to be Salt and Light in our nation.
1) Vote. It’s estimated that between 17 and 30 million evangelicals did not vote in 2008. While it’s true that you will not find a verse that says “Thou shalt vote,” biblical principles clearly lead us to the conclusion that Christians bear a unique responsibility to “speak the truth” in the public square. Voting is an important means of doing just that!
2) Vote the Bible. Politics is like a football game. The two teams are the parties, and usually, they’re trying to tackle each other to the ground!  The church is much like the third group of individuals on the field; we’re the ones wearing stripes, the referees.  As Christians we’re not beholden to a political party, no matter what our voting card may say. Like football refs, we are bound to the Rule-book and our role is to consistently remind the two teams of the rules. As Christ-followers, we are called to stand on the authority of God’s Word and vote in accordance with what God has already said! This means we vote for candidates whose views are most in keeping with the Bible. When clear biblical issues are on the ballot we vote for what God has said even if it’s unpopular in our society.
What kind of issues? I can name a few: There’s concern for the poor and concern for justice; the life of the unborn and the sanctity of marriage between men and women; there is our stewardship of creation and involvement in war; not to mention economic, religious, and civil freedoms for all citizens.
3) Remember, voting is only one way we bring the truth of scripture to bear on society. We talk to our neighbors. We act in volunteer opportunities, give money to those working in areas we support, and even the old fashioned way of writing letters to our representatives in government.
4) Trust that God is on His Throne! Ultimately we can’t control the outcome of elections. We control our vote. We can pray and ask God for His mercy and grace on our nation, to give us leaders after His heart. We can’t control elections but, we serve a God who is in complete control!
When we wake up on November 7th, whether the candidates we like have won or lost, God is still on His throne! Vote, but don’t fix your hope on Romney or Obama— fix your hope on Jesus Christ!

No Matter Who is Elected,
It won’t change what Christ did on the cross.
It won’t change who wins in the end.
It should not change who we are as God’s people,
speaking out for truth, righteousness and
the Good News of Jesus Christ!

We don’t know how end times will unfold or what America’s role will be, but we know God will do it His way. At the end of all things, there will be Christ, and a blood-covered people gathered around His throne from every nation.

That’s where history is headed, so let’s be at peace in the church! Mar 9:50 Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another."
Be encouraged by Scriptures like Dan 4:35, Isa 40:17, and Rom 13:1. God’s Kingdom is marching on!

Adapted and edited from an article by Scott Wilson (which I liked and used but tweaked, edited, and rewrote) @ By Clark Dunlap.