Category Archives: bible study

I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas (by Enrico Lange)

[Take time to read this wonderful sermonette written by an IBCBer — Enrico Lange — this past week.  You can experience a “white Christmas” — just read this guest blog with eyes, ears, and a heart of faith.]

“I’m dreaming of a white Christmas, just like the ones I used to know.  Where the tree tops glisten and children listen to hear sleigh bells in the snow. I’m dreaming of a white Christmas; with every Christmas card I write. May your days be merry and bright, and may all your Christmases be white.”

Or so the song goes. Why has this seemingly trite and perhaps somewhat silly song by Irving Berlin become one of the most widely recorded songs in history? The version sung by Bing Crosby even earned the status of “best-selling single of all times, with estimated sales in excess of 50 million copies worldwide” (source Wikipedia).

Are we just so shallow and naive to hope all our Christmases could be white? Only those living in the Northern Hemisphere, in the very northern parts, can experience a white Christmas. Why would we even want to aspire to snow at Christmas? After all, whenever it snows it causes hassles, traffic delays, school closures, accidents tend to happen more often. What is to crave about this?

Well, perhaps there are things that are fun to do in the snow. Skiing or snowboarding for example. Yes sleigh riding  is fun. Walking through an outdoor Christmas market, drinking hot cider and seeing the snow fall has its romantic touches I confess.

But why, why is this image of a snowy Christmas so alluring? Perhaps it is the very property of snow and the fact that it is white. For a moment in time, a few hours, perhaps even days after fresh snow has fallen and,provided the temperatures are low enough so the snow does not immediately melt when it hits the ground, a remarkable transformation takes place. The land and with it everything that inhabits it takes on a different look and feel. The air feels different. Everything is drenched in white. A blanket has been placed over the ugliness of the world, the stain of decay covered with a new promise, of a return to what once was beautiful and whole.

Spring will come and with it new life and the meadows shall be full again with green, lush grass and an abundance of vibrant colors that the flowers bestow. The trees will blossom and they will grow their leaves and provide shade for those seeking respite from the warm rays of the sun.  Butterflies, bees, birds, insects and a host of animals will once again teem the land. Lovers will find their way to this wonderful sight and its bosom they will lie,conceiving new life.

But it is not only the hope of spring returning that so touches our hearts on a cold, snowy winter’s day. No, it is in fact a hope that reaches much much farther than just to the next season. It is a yearning that reaches all the way to Heaven and to the very depths of our beings.

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace”  (Isaiah 9:6)

Deep down in our hearts, perhaps even at the very bottom, we have an awareness of our former connection with our Heavenly Father and although much has come in between Him and us since we fell and were hence evicted from the garden, we cannot rest until we find our rest in Him once more.

It is this longing for real wholeness, for real fulfillment which nothing in this world can give us that we sense most acutely at Christmas time and for many of us Christmas means a lot of pain because it is most often then that we are reminded, sometimes brutally, of how much has gone wrong in our lives and how much the things we thought would give us what we need and want disappoint us or turned out to be shallow, empty boxes, appealing from the outside but completely and utterly empty inside. Perhaps your Christmases are not that and you enjoy the blessings of fellowship with your spouse, children and other family members and friends but somehow inside you still ache for something more but cannot really pinpoint what it is exactly that you are still missing.

But then you see it, just like a picture that was out of focus but now it sharpens and you can make out the contours and the details that before were just dim, unidentifiable shapes to you. Now, you see clearly. You see yourself as a child. You are in someone’s arms and this someone holds you tight to his chest and looks at you with a love you have never known and you can almost discern from his lips that he is saying “I love you”… and then it is as if you can hear him go on saying “I love you with an everlasting love. I have called you by name, you are mine and I will never leave you alone. I promise you that. You are the apple of my eyes, my darling, my most beloved.” Your heart jumps and you are full of joy. Yes, that’s it. You want to be held like that and you want him to say these things to you. You don’t know him yet but at the same time it feels like you have always known him. “How can I be his child,” you might ask?

“Seek me and you will find me, if you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13

“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” John 1:12

“Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” “ Matthew 19:14

We can be made whole again. We can be restored because the very one who made us came to earth and died for us so we would have a way back. Its the real, the ultimate Christmas gift.

 “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

 

 “Nun schliesst er wieder auf die Tür zum schönen Paradeis, der Cherub steht nicht mehr dafür, Gott sei Lob, Ehr und Preis” (German Christmas Hymn) – English: “Now he opens the gate to beautiful paradise again, the cherub no longer stands in front, to God be all glory and praise” Jesus has swung the gates wide open and we can enter when we trust Him and invite Him into our hearts and believe Him to be our Savior and Lord.

By accepting Jesus as our Savior, we can be what we were always meant to be and that is what our heart prompts us to when we start feeling sentimental and wish we could go back to being a child, back at our mother’s table, savoring our favorite Christmas treats and being full of joyous expectation and wonder at this most festive of all seasons, because in actuality it goes much further back than our mother’s or grandmother’s table, it reaches all the way back to Eden and our Father’s house, there where it all began.

Merry Christmas.

Enrico Lange

Contribute! Serve in Ministry

At my home, when we get together as family and good friends everybody gets into the action!  Someone sets the table, another person serves drinks, others help in the kitchen, most everyone clears the table, and some clean up — no one is left out when we have the opportunity of sharing a meal together.

Each Sunday the IBCB family gathers for a weekly meal — if you will.  If you belong to our “crowd”…that is…if IBCB is where you regularly come for the spiritual nourishment of worship then you have a responsibility to help out around our house.  Where are you making a contribution of your time and talents to our Sunday service of worship?  Here are some ideas:

Now if you’re a guest or if you’re going through a tough time and need some special care, then you should take some time to recover and regroup.  But as soon as you get through this short spell then you should get back into the habit of making a contribution to our life together when we come together for worship on Sundays.

Now if you’re not a guest and you’ve not yet selected a place to serve others on Sundays then it’s time for you to get into the business of being family.  Are you more technically or task oriented?  If so, then consider — fellowship, counting, beamer, sound, or set up team.  Are you more people oriented?  If so, then consider — usher, teacher (kids), creche (nursery), prayer, or praise team.

There is a place of service for everyone!  Not even Jesus came to be served…but to serve!  Grow to be more like Jesus by finding your place and serve in ministry.

  • Identify a place of service that fits your giftedness and personality.  (Need help?  Attend the next “Serve in Ministry” class or contact the pastor)
  • Notify the church office of your desire to serve by emailing admin(at)ibcberlin.org.  We’ll put you in touch with a ministry team that will be happy to welcome you, train you, and put you into service.

Am I A Consumer Christian?

 “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45 (NIV)

We live in a consumer culture, one that is focused on delivering what people want in order to get them to consume a given product.  Consumerism makes a religion out of consumption by offering “salvation” through what we can get!

A couple of weeks ago we looked at how consumerism demands that we focus our affection on the things we can acquire.  We become so obsessed with buying things — e.g. latest phone, most recent fashions, trendiest car, etc. — that we become possessed by our possessions.  The Bible antidote to consumerism is giving.  That’s why our “tithes” and “offerings” are important — our giving frees us from the worship of things and makes us more Christlike.

Unfortunately, many Christians impose this consumer worldview onto their faith and it results in a twisted reversal of the truth.  Consumer Christians are deluded by their self-centeredness and believe “God exists to meet my needs!”  While it is true that God can and does meet our needs, consumer Christians believe that God’s end goal is their own personal comfort and pleasure.

Closely connected to this lie is the equally false corollary:  “The church exists to meet my needs!”  For consumer Christians church becomes another place to pick and choose the religious goods and services that satisfy their wants.  People show up at church as long as things are being done for them and they get something out of it.

Here are some questions that will help you answer the question “Am I A Consumer Christian”?

  • ——Do I see the church as providing a product or a service: good religious feelings, self-help programs, children’s activities, practical advice for living successfully, etc.?
  • Do I operate under the notion that I will leave when I don’t feel like I am getting my money’s worth or proper service?
  • Is my loyalty to the local church like loyalty to a particular business:  I’m happy as long as I get what I want?
  • —Do I come to church to worship God, but avoid intimate relationships with others in the body of believers?
  • —Do I see myself as primarily an individual who comes to worship God – maybe even give my tithe, but should not be expected to serve God through the church?
What’s the antidote to consumer Christianity?  Serving others!  The Bible antidote to consumer Christianity is serving. When you begin to give away yourself in service to others it completes the God-intended cycle of being blessed to be a blessing to others.  God meets our needs!  The church is one way that God meets our needs.  But God meets our needs so that we might meet the needs of others through service.
Are you a consumer Christian?  If so, find a place of service and become a contributor.

“Why did Jesus have to die?”

33 “We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, 34 who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.” Mark 10:33-34 (NIV) 

In a recent conversation with a young man who is interested in spiritual matters, he asked a simple yet profound question:  “Why did Jesus have to die?”

Fortunately, my enthusiasm for sharing answers to questions like this didn’t lead to a quick answer.  His question was much deeper than I anticipated.  Our follow up conversation led to a much more thorough response to his specific needs.  In short, here’s what we concluded:

“Why” — Jesus died in order to make us right with God.  That was the purpose of Jesus’ death.  Our fundamental problem is sin which shattered God’s intended purpose of a love relationship with each of us.  It created a gulf separating us from God.  So, Jesus died to bridge the gap between us and God…to reconcile us to a right relationship with God.

Why “Jesus” — Jesus is God as a human being, and he came himself to make right what we had messed up.  Jesus… fully human…lived in perfect relationship with the Father untainted by sin.    As such, Jesus is the one-and-only individual who can rescue us from our sin and put us right with God.  He’s the perfect bridge between us and God–the perfect expression of God’s love and the perfect expression of sinless humanity.

Why Jesus “died” — Jesus took on himself the consequences of sin.  What we deserved — death — he received in our place.  Our rebellious life separated from God required the just punishment of death.  But God in his mercy and grace, placed on Jesus our sin and death so that we do not have to suffer them anymore.

Why Jesus “resurrected” — Jesus removed our sin and its consequence of death through his crucifixion.  With that he cleared the way for us to enter into a new life free from sin.  That new life is available to us through his resurrection.  Jesus came back to life in the resurrection.  In the same way that Jesus’ death is available to us — to take care of our sin problem, his resurrection is available to us so that we might have a new life with God — the Christ life within!

In summary, Jesus death and resurrection becomes our death and resurrection.  Through Jesus we die to our old life of sin and are resurrected to a new life in Christ.  And that’s what baptism is all about…death and resurrection…Jesus’ and ours.

When God does his work of justification — his initial work of salvation in our lives — we are immersed (“baptized”) into Christ and Christ in us.  As an expression of that Spirit baptism, we are immersed (“baptized”) into water — a picture of our death, burial, and resurrection in Christ.

Have you been baptized?  In God’s Spirit?  In water?  Want to find out more?  Want to follow the Lord in under-water baptism?  If so, let me know!

(To see an online explanation of “The Bridge to Life” along with other tools to assist your disciple “being” and “making” click on this link to The Navigators” illustrations/items page)