Merry Christmas!!!

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Merry Christmas from Taiwan!

How is it that Christmas is on the same day every year and every time it comes around I still get surprised. One day it’s turkey dinner and black Friday shopping, and all of a sudden it’s Christmas lights, caroling, and nativity scenes (although seems like there are less of those around these days). It’s such a great time: the air is festive, people are nicer, and we look forward to vacation and presents.

As I read through the account of the birth and early life of Jesus this morning, I was struck by how Matthew paints such a different picture than what we see all around us. Or rather, a more complete picture. I’m sure there were cute animals around and Jesus must have been an adorable cherub of a baby, but missing from the peaceful and happy scenes we see on Christmas cards and church displays is the every real and immediate evil that sought to kill the Savior of the world.

Matthew tells us that the ruler of the region, King Herod, “was disturbed” (Matthew 2:3) when he heard that the Magi were looking for a king. Herod sends them on their way and asks that they report to him when they find Jesus, pretending to want to worship as well. But, in reality Herod  intended to eliminate anyone who would be a threat to his reign.

In 2:13, an angel appears to Joseph with this warning: “Take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” And sure enough, when Herod realizes that the Magi tricked hm, he orders the execution of all the boys in and near Bethlehem two years and younger (v16). This reminds me of those old Chinese movies where assassins are sent to kill the baby emperor, and he has to be protected until he is old enough to rule.

The Bible is unapologetic in its description of human evil, even that seen in the heroes of the faith. And of course, that is why Jesus entered into this world, to overcome evil and open the way to salvation. Why God didn’t just surround Jesus with a host of angels at all times, or just do away with all evil in one instance, I don’t think we will ever understand fully in this life. But we do have the hope that our God entered into the sufferings of this world, not as one immune and untouched, but as a helpless and utterly dependent baby who was fully affected by the darkness of this world.

Yes, Christmas is a time of joy. But not (simply) because of presents, days off, and potlucks. It is a time of joy because we have hope in what God has done for us, which was foretold long ago. Genesis 3:15 says, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” The birth of Jesus happened as God had said. We can trust that His return and ultimate victory over evil will unfold according to the Scriptures as well.

“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.” Matthew 1:20-21

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Are Multivitamins a Waste of Money?

Yes they are, according to an editorial in the recent publication of the “Annals of Internal Medicine.” You can read a summary of that article here, but basically, there have been three studies done that have not shown any beneficial effects of multivitamins on preventing heart disease or cancer, nor did those taking long-term multivitamins show any preservation of brain function in the elderly.

Of course supplements are necessary in patients with diseases that cause deficiencies, but for the general public, looks like your money can be better used elsewhere (perhaps in buying more fruits and vegetables?). Next time your relatives from overseas ask you to take home a luggage-load of some American-grade multivitamins, tell them they can put that money in a red pocket to give to you instead.

Free Book Giveaway!

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Enter for a chance to win an autographed copy of Worth the Cost?

If you or someone you know would benefit from the book, go to the Facebook page and “like” the latest status to enter the giveaway. The drawing will be done 12/15/13, and I will mail a book to the winner or the address of the winner’s choosing (within the US). If you don’t have Facebook you can email me at jacktsai@unfailingspring.com to enter.

https://www.facebook.com/worththecost?ref=tn_tnmn

Happy Holidays!

Thankstaking!

I saw over the weekend someone jokingly called Thanksgiving “Thankstaking” on their Facebook status. I laughed, but then realized that I had spent most of the break looking for deals on stuff for myself. And with Cyber Monday in full swing, that hasn’t gotten any better.

It’s a bit disturbing how just “browsing around” can tempt me so hugely to buy something. Even if I don’t really want it, seeing it on sale, looking at the pictures, and reading the reviews make me think, “Ooo, I need that.” I almost bought a box of ramen this morning online.

And what’s worse is seeing it in person because someone else has it. A friend just got a new tablet, and even though my Ipad is perfectly fine, I totally coveted his. (Not too long ago, I thought about selling mine to upgrade only to remember that it was a wedding gift and it has our names engraved on the back…)

We just had a sermon yesterday about how envy hinders true relationships from building because it causes us to judge or be judged by others. And it doesn’t apply to just material things, but we so often covet things or look down on one another because of status, ability, looks, and so many more.

The way out of this is understanding that our identity is not found in our possessions, accomplishments, or physical appearance. As Christians, our identity and our significance are found in our relationship with God. In Christ, we are God’s children, completely loved and fully accepted.

It is more than ironic that the season to give thanks and to celebrate the birth of our Savior has become instead an endless pursuit of finding significance apart from God. It is the work of Satan to tempt us into finding our identities in what we can accomplish and buy.

The following is a prayer exercise that I have found helpful to remind myself of who I am and where my identity lies. Even though we are back in school or work, I encourage you to find sometime this week to re-center ourselves onto Christ.

Prayer of Recollection

1. Present yourself to God and open your heart to the Lord and intend to learn from Him. (~1-2min)

2. Consider as loss all things that you are tempted to find gain in outside of Christ. Consider all these things as loss compared to Jesus Christ. Ask God to help you identify potential idols in your heart, whether they be good or bad things that you are tempted to find your identity in. This is an opportunity to confess and detach from those things (Phil 3:7-8) (~10-min)

3. Affirm to your soul and the Lord your true identity in Christ, that through faith and union in Christ, you are no no longer condemned but accepted completely by God. (Phil 3:9-11), (~10min)

4. Resolve to keep your heart and mind attentive to the Lord. Be receptive, silent, and still. (1-2min)

Adapted from Dr. John Coe, Intro to Spiritual Formations