Merry Christmas!

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Have a wonderful and blessed holiday!

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Sweet Baby Jesus

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so I am flipping through channels last night and come across Will Ferrell’s “The Ballad of Ricky Bobby”, his humorous foray into NASCAR culture. He affected a southern drawl and perfectly blended into the character. I loved Elf, and hoped this would be a similar experience. Well, it was different.

But the highlight for me was the scene where the family sits down to a lunch of domino’s pizza, Taco Bell and KFC. The wife insists that Ricky say grace. He proceeds to pray, seeking blessing and further racing wins from “sweet baby Jesus”, which when challenged, said that he preferred the baby Jesus. His wife and father-in-law both insisted that Jesus had grown up, even had a beard. Ricky would have none of it. He said that baby Jesus was his favorite version of Jesus.

Wow.

And that is Christmas in a nutshell, isn’t it? How many songs have been written, sung, even performed about the baby Jesus versus the risen Jesus? Do we decorate, celebrate, and dedicate so much time and effort to the risen Lord as we do the baby Jesus? Who is your favorite Jesus? Though I’ve seen it addressed here and there, here it is in a secular movie that the issue is brought out, the ridiculousness of it. Yes, come, let us adore Him, let us acknowledge that God’s plan included sending His own Son into the world as a helpless child, so that that child would grow up, live a sinless life, and be executed in the most cruel and humiliating fashion ever devised.

Come, let us adore the One who took the punishment for sin, who endured the wrath of a righteous God for the sins of the world. Let us adore One who loved so much that He died to save us. Let us adore One who loved us more than life.

The angels sang over Him. The shepherds and wise men came to adore Him. His mother marveled over Him. The teachers and scribes were astonished at Him. The Sadducees and Pharisees feared Him. His disciples followed Him. His Father was well-pleased with Him. The Greeks sought Him. Tax Collectors and Prostitutes welcomed Him. His apostles worshipped Him, for “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!” What will you do?

O come let us adore Him, Jesus Christ the Lord.

Reason this Season

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This picture spoke to me, just as much as the verse itself. The background is bleak, cold, and desolate. I would not want to be stranded in such a place. Yet, this is where reason alone would land us. If we decided that we should only apply reason and human understanding we would find ourselves very alone. But then there is the text of Matthew 1:21. The words of the angel to Joseph explain his betrothed’s situation to him. Mary, your promised one, will have a child. This surely put Jospeh into feeling of bewilderment. Yet, the child is not from another man, but from the Holy Spirit, and her child will literally be “God with us” and He will dwell among us. Human reason can not comprehend this because it is impossible. Human reason cannot understand how an infinite Creator God can dwell within a human body. Reason cannot see past the pregnant young woman and see a God who caused a virgin to be so. Human reason would content itself with the bleakness and despair. God offers hope, a light in the darkness, the suggestion that the world is a little big bigger than we reason it is.

Just a thought for this season. God bless and Merry Christmas.

Giving and Receiving of Gifts

When we open up gifts on Christmas morning, we receive things that will eventually wear out, dry up, break down, or get thrown away. But the gifts that God gives us improve with use. Whether preaching, teaching, singing, serving, helping, guiding or giving. God’s most precious gift, His Son, gives us life. His second most precious gift, if only because it is conditioned on the first, is His Spirit. And through His Spirit, we receive all manner of special and unique gifts, specific to us, to help us serve the larger body. Your combination of gifts is unique to you, and no one else can do what you have been gifted to do. Are you willing to use His gifts today?

Do you know that eagerness when you watch someone else open the gift you prepared for them? You know the feelings that run through you. Anticipation, eagerness, excitement, and joy! You look forward to seeing the smile on their face at something you gave to them. As you get older, this feeling becomes more precious. Especially to hear the squeals of delight of little ones shredding Christmas paper. You know the joy of seeing a satisfied recipient, and you probably also know the despair from someone who didn’t appreciate your gift, and cast it aside.

Consider for a moment God’s point of view. He has sent His Son into the world as His gift. Some accepted Him. Some rejected Him. He sent His Spirit into the world as a gift to all that would receive His Son. Some accepted Him, others rejected Him. The Holy Spirit gave gifts to all who confessed Jesus as their Lord. Some accepted those gifts and used them. Others turned their backs, saying the gifts were too hard, or not what they wanted. Knowing how we feel when others open our gifts, can you imagine God’s face and turning away from His?

All of us have been given gifts to use for the glory and growth of the church. This church depends on you. No one of us is expected to do it all, otherwise, only one person would have all the gifts. But each of us has a gift from the Lord. Each of has a responsibility to the whole, whether great or small. As a Christian, you need to discover that gift, and use it, for the church depends on you. Her growth and service depend on you to utilize your gift.

If you don’t have one those gifts yet, because you’ve never committed yourself to serving Jesus, then today is the day to start. Don’t let another day go by without putting your lot in with Christ. Believe in Him, Repent of your sins, Confess His name, and be Baptized for the forgiveness of your sins, and the free gift of the Holy Spirit. Today is your opportunity to be a part of the body of Christ. The Savior we serve was born in a manger, but died on a cross for you.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. (1Co 12:4-11)

Empty Words

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just a precaution today as you go about your daily worship routine, going about telling others “Merry Christmas” and “Have a blessed day!” The Lord despises having His own name taken in vain, where our actions and attitudes don’t line up with the God whose name we have taken, or we use His name in ways contrary to His revealed nature.

Christian you have an incredible responsibility to show others what God is like through your words and deeds. If there ever has been a worse charge laid at the feet of Christians than hypocrisy, I don’t know what it is, simply because we are the hands and feet of Jesus. And we are accountable to Him as such. You don’t get “time off” from being a Christian.

But good news, we don’t have to do this on our own. We have the Holy Spirit living within us, guiding and assisting our our souls. He helps us to live as we have been called. We serve and enjoy serving the One who calls us because we have been called by His name. So let us praise and worship the One who called us today. Let us sing and rejoice because we have been found worthy in His sight to speak His Name. Merry CHRISTmas everyone!

Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord!

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So comes the call ringing down through the ages. From the voice of Isaiah the prophet through to the raspy preaching of John the Baptist, so goes out the call. Are you prepared for the Savior?

Why is it that we are aware of NEED only around Christmas time? Because this is the one time of year when people feel like giving. So much good is done in the name of Christmas, from giving to the hungry, to buying presents for poor children, to dropping a few extra coins in the kettle. And many have appropriated Christmas as their prime giving season, with names like the Salvation Army, the Angel Tree, the Toys for Tots, and so on: so many people doing so many good things, and so much need to be filled. However, year after year, it seems like there is more need than the last. In working with the needy, I’ve learned that they fall into two camps, the truly needy and the greedy.

This problem of NEED reminds me of a verse in Proverbs: “The leech has two daughters: Give and Give. Three things are never satisfied; four never say, “Enough”:” (Pro 30:15) The leech is a loathsome creature, and far be it from me to compare the current problem of poverty, homelessness and need with the leech, but the Proverb makes a peculiar point, using the leech as an example. Do those that are needy ever say, “enough”? You can usually spot those that are needy from those that are greedy with this one question. The needy are grateful for what they receive, while the greedy always want a little more.

But the greedy aren’t found merely in the soup kitchens or the welfare offices. They can often be found behind a desk, or in a shopping mall, or anywhere goods can be bought and sold. Christmas tends to make the greedy a bit more obvious, with people fighting over dolls on black Friday, or taking back gifts they didn’t like the day after Christmas, just to get their money back.

So I have to ask, are we preparing for the Savior? Or for a cornucopia of Christmas bliss on December 25th? Christmas bliss is fine as far as it goes, but it doesn’t last. Christmas cheer is fleeting. But joy in Jesus is eternal. Would you rather enjoy 25 days of Christmas cheer, or an eternity of joy in Jesus Christ? For the Christian, Christmas isn’t just a holiday that comes once a year, but it is a forever joy that instills every day with peace, love, and cheer for the Christ who has come to give us these great gifts, whose Father sent Him “so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Eph 2:7)

Are you prepared for the Savior this Christmas?

The Promised Bride

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Though the wife and I married in April, our first plan was to marry in December. We made this decision at the end of the year. We had imagined another full year of preparation and planning, but then we came to our senses and realized 12 months was 8 months too long. As it is, I’ve always wondered about the connection between Christmas and weddings.

There is a sense of gift-giving in the marriage ceremony. The father of the bride gives her away to her groom. The bride and groom make promises to “have and to hold from this day forward.” The reception too involves a great many gifts and well-wishes for the bride and groom. In the marriage, the bride and groom, ideally, give of themselves completely for the mutual encouragement and companionship of the other. It isn’t so much a partnership but a sacrificial gift of each to the other. Each gives of himself or herself wholly to the other.

That’s why as we turn to the Christmas season, I remind you of the old adage, “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.” God promised centuries ago that One promised “from the foundation of the world” would one day come to shepherd his people Israel. “Something blue” reflects Joseph, who struggles with questions of love and justice for his bride to be. “Something borrowed” refers to Mary’s womb, which she willingly offered to the Lord as His servant. But all of this leads to “something new”, something no one had ever seen, the foundation of our faith.

God had divorced ancient Israel for all her abominations and idolatries. When we go through her kings, we discover a gradual slide to her exile and punishment. He had written a bill of divorcement so she would be no longer called “my people.” He extends his hand through His Son Jesus Christ to the bride of Christ. Why did Jesus come, to preach, heal others and die? That was just the beginning. All of this was so that His bride might be born (Ephesians 5:25-27) and made ready for the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9) and the consummation of the ages at the last time, and He receives us unto Himself. Will you be ready when He is revealed, and we see Him as He is, when our veil lifted?