Ask Me About My Grandchildren

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Bumper stickers bearing these words were popular several years ago. It may surprise you to know that, “Ask me about my grandchildren,” could pass for a loose paraphrase of Proverbs 17:6, which reads, “Grandchildren are the crown of old men.” This is both a biblical and natural truth.

If this bumper sticker had been around in the days of the Old Testament prophet, Samuel, I think he would have one stuck on the tail of his mule.

Why would I say that? Let me explain.

Samuel was God’s man of the hour at a dark time in Israel’s history. His ministry began at the end of the period of the Judges. The tragic theme for that era, and for the book of Judges itself, is found in Judges 17:6, which is repeated in the last verse of the book—“In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).

The nation of Israel was decayed to the core. In the area of government—there was pure anarchy; In the realm of religion—there was empty formalism or downright heathenism; As to the condition of morality—there was total laxity. It was a sex-saturated society.

However, in the midst of this moral poverty, a barren wife vowed to give her child completely to the service of God, if He would act on her behalf. God said “Yes” and Samuel was born.

Samuel was the first Prophet-Priest, and his ministry was empowered by God. He was a leader of kings, anointing both King Saul and King David. He led Israel after the judges and before the kings. For decades, Samuel was God’s man.

When Samuel began to grow old, he made his two sons judges over Israel, hoping they would follow his steps. But Samuel’s sons lacked the integrity and godliness of their father—“His sons, however, did not walk in his ways, but turned aside after dishonest gain and took bribes and perverted justice” (1 Samuel 8:3). It seems the great prophet was not a great father. The people, not wanting dishonest men, demanded a king, and Samuel gave them what they desired. From this time forward, not much is revealed about Samuel’s sons.

As we look at this story, our hearts ache for Samuel. Seemingly, family godliness ended with him. We may picture his death, as a broken old man, with disobedient children, and no hope.

However, that would not be an accurate picture. Hidden away, in the obscurity of a long list of unpronounceable names in 1 Chronicles, you will find the genealogy of a godly man named, Heman, whose name means “faithful.” Heman was a Levite personally appointed by King David, to preside over the singing of praise to God. Who is this worship minister? “Heman, a singer, the son of Joel, the son of Samuel, the son of Elkanah” (1 Chronicles 6:33-34). This spiritual leader of praise to God is none other than Samuel’s grandson!

God, who had employed Samuel in such a mighty way, now used his grandson, to sing, lead, and play music as the Ark of the Covenant of God was brought into Jerusalem (1 Chron. 15:13-24). Heman was appointed by name to serve, continually give thanks to God for His mercy, and to play “with trumpets and cymbals for those who should sound aloud, and with instruments for the songs of God” (1 Chronicles 16:41-42).

Heman and his sons proved to be faithful servants of God for years, as they, under King Solomon, led worship during the dedication of the Temple (2 Chron. 5:11-14). On that special day, as Heman’s choir and orchestra sang and played with cymbals, psalteries and harps, the very Glory of the Lord came down and filled God’s house to such an extent that they had to stop!

But the story doesn’t end there. These sons of Heman, great-grandsons of Samuel, were instrumental in one of the greatest revivals of the Old Testament. The Bible reveals that the sons of Heman, under King Hezekiah, were the principle leaders in the rededication of the Levites following a period of gross sin. They dedicated themselves to cleanse the House of God, the first step in a revival that shook the whole kingdom of Judah (2 Chron. 29:14-19). Following this revival, Scripture reads, “So there was great joy in Jerusalem, because there was nothing like this in Jerusalem since the days of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel” (2 Chronicles 30:26).

So, here is the point: Samuel’s sons proved to be unfaithful to the Lord. They were not pleasing to God, but Samuel may have had a godly influence on his grandson, Heman, and hence, on the whole future of the nation of Israel. Decades after Samuel’s death, his descendants were still active worshiping the true God.

If your children do not grow up and continue to serve the Lord, don’t give up! If God gives you grandchildren, challenge them with all your heart to live for God. Be, as a grandparent, a living example of Christ before them. We know that the son of an unfaithful son may one day be named “faithful!” That little one may be a future Heman in the eternal work of God.

If Samuel were alive today, without a doubt he would say, “Ask me about my grandchildren!” May it please God to give us generations of humble leaders and great servants to His glory!

The God of All Comfort

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Just three weeks after I turned 21 years old, my dad, who was 44, died following a simple elective surgery and a month of hospitalization. Pat and I had only been married 9 months. My mom was just 42, and my sisters were 19 and 14. His sickness and sudden death was a numbing, emotional roller-coaster experience. During that month, his doctor kept saying he was young and strong. But he died. His unexpected death was the first in our immediate family. Though we all seemed strong and resolute outwardly, we went through months of sadness and difficult adjustments. For several years afterward, just the antiseptic smell inside a hospital would launch an incredible wave of sorrow flowing over me. Later, as a pastor making sick-visits and hospital calls, I fought the nauseating, depressing feeling of loss, every time I entered a church member’s room.

You who have experienced this kind of loss know there are many sounds, songs, smells and people that trigger emotional switches inside us. My dad, mom, and family, were believers in Christ. We faithfully attended church, even the Sunday after my dad passed away on Thursday, before his funeral on Tuesday. We knew he was with Jesus in Heaven, but sometimes it takes more than knowledge to comfort hurting hearts.

Today, I want you to think with me about what God is like. Though God is ultimately unlike any picture, statue, or object we may see, He is ultimately a God of comfort. In “Knowing God,” J. I. Packer wrote that anything you picture as God, whatever it is, is very unlike the true God. It is for this reason God commanded His people not to make “any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth” (Exodus 20:4). You could make no likeness that would do God justice, while at the same time, anything you crafted or imagined, that you likened to God, would dishonor Him and could mislead you.

So, if God is not like anything we could imagine on our own, invent or construct, what is He like? How can we know Him and worship Him? Fortunately, God did not leave us at a loss as to His true character, qualities, purpose and attributes. The Bible, His written Word, reveals what He is like to us, and what He expects from us. His divine revelation enables us creatures—to know Him—the Creator. When we ask what God is like, we want to know about His person, personality, values and demands.

In answer to the question of what God is like, the Bible teaches that He is a God of comfort. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

In these verses, God reveals three details about His Comfort.

FIRST, God is the Source of our Comfort. He is called the, “Father of mercies and God of all comfort.” He is merciful to His creation in general and to His people in particular. When hurting, you can call on Him and He will grant mercy. We are encouraged to, “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). When we face our greatest need, God is our greatest help. During times of grief and loss, God calls us to prayer. You don’t have to be shy or hesitant, but you can “come boldly” to God’s throne from whence He administers grace. He is the source of comfort. Go to Him first and often.

Notice that God comforts us “in all our affliction” (2 Cor. 1:3). The word for “affliction” means crushing pressure, distress, trouble and hardship. Anytime you are afflicted and distressed, you can go to God and appeal for his mercy, grace and comfort.

SECOND, God’s Comfort is to be Shared. God comforts us when we are afflicted, so that “we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble” (verse 4). When you are hurting and God comforts you, He expects you then to reach out and comfort others who are struggling and distressed. Receiving God’s amazing comfort during affliction equips you to share that experience. John Henry Jowett said, “God does not comfort us to make us comfortable but to make us comforters.”

THIRD, God’s Comfort is Significant. Our pain and His comfort produce something within us that would not happen otherwise. Paul shared that their affliction had been so great that they, “despaired even of life…so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead” (verses 8-9). The affliction they experienced, allowed God to teach them that they should trust Him, not themselves. When things are out of your control, you learn to trust the only One who can truly control.

We learn through trials and tribulations, that God can be trusted to comfort us. We would never know His power to bring contentment after a great loss, unless we suffered great loss. After his wife of many years passed away, the old Southern Baptist evangelist, Vance Havner said, “I didn’t understand that Jesus was all I needed, until Jesus was all I had.”

God’s comfort ministers to us, so that we can strengthen other sufferers, and ultimately understand that, through this unwanted and maybe unwarranted experience, we learn to trust God more than ourselves. When your loss is so massive it can’t be measured, seek the God who mends with His comfort.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is God Like?

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What is God like? Your answer to this question may be the most important one you will ever give.

The reason your answer is important is that you become like what you worship. The object of your worship shapes your conscience, establishes your values and kindles your affections. This is the reason idolatry and false worship on any level is so morally destructive. If God can be invented or created, carved or fashioned, imagined or even understood, it would be no greater than its worshipper—and man would become superior to this kind of god. It would be a god of man’s wishes, whims and desires—by any measure it would be a paltry god of his own creation.

In Psalm 115 there is a short treatise on the true person of God and the false impersonations of God. The psalmist wrote that God deserves glory, “because of Your lovingkindess, because of Your truth” (verse 1). Then he asked, “Why should the nations say, ‘Where now, is their God?’ But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases” (verses 2-3).

Then the psalmist catalogues the shortcomings of man-made gods: “Their idols are silver and gold, the work of man’s hands. They have mouths, but they cannot speak; They have eyes, but they cannot see; They have ears, but they cannot hear; They have noses, but they cannot smell; They have hands, but they cannot feel; They have feet, but they cannot walk; They cannot make a sound with their throat” (Psalm 115:5-7).

Besides perverting the glory due to the true God, idols affect the heart and impact the life of those who worship them. Verse 8 says, “Those who make them will become like them, Everyone who trusts in them.” People resemble what they worship. All their actions and activities revolve around whatever, or whomever, sits on the throne of their lives. You will become like what you highly value, pursue and worship.

It is for this reason the object of your affection—the aim of your worship—is so significant. If you become like the god you worship—what is your god like? Thankfully, the true God is who He is, without human invention. The true God is not created, but revealed–not fashioned, but disclosed. Without the Bible’s description of God’s character, we would know very little about Him.

Some attributes of God can readily be known. We can understand His greatness by looking upward, as the psalmist David wrote, “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands” (Psalm 19:1). But we could not understand His love for us by stargazing. Perhaps we could grasp His justice by looking at cause and effect relationships in the earthly system, but we could not comprehend His grace. We might recognize His power by watching a strong storm or mighty waves of the sea. But we could not know His gentleness and concern for the weak and downtrodden.

The Bible reveals the person, character, attributes, desires and purposes of God, in clearly understandable terms. Though God is perfect, almighty, holy and just; He is also gracious, loving, merciful, forgiving, long-suffering and a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. If we become like what we worship…and we do…that’s the kind of person we need to become!

For most of us, God, in His perfections and holiness, seems untouchable and far removed from anything we experience in life. Because of our sin, human failings, and inadequacies, God sent His only Son, to become a man, be born of a woman, to live sinlessly among us and to sacrifice His life for ours on the cross. Jesus can sympathize with our weakness, because He was “tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Since Christ gave Himself for us, we can “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (verse 16).

The lyrics of “Creed,” a song written by Rich Mullins and recorded by Third Day, sum it up well:

I believe in God the Father, Almighty Maker of Heaven and Maker of Earth

And in Jesus Christ His only begotten Son, our Lord

He was conceived by the Holy Spirit; Born of the Virgin Mary

He suffered under Pontius Pilate; He was crucified, dead and buried.

He descended into hell and on the third day, He rose again

He ascended into Heaven where He sits at God’s mighty right hand

I believe He’s returning to judge the quick and the dead and the sons of men

And I believe what I believe, yeah, it makes me what I am

Oh, I did not make it, no it is making me; the very truth of God and not the

Invention of any man.

It is what we believe that make us who we are. It is what we worship that molds our lives. And as the lyrics say, we did not make it—but it is making us—and it is the very truth of God and not the invention of any man. Seek to learn more about the God of the Bible and worship Him, “in spirit and in truth” because “the Father seeks such to worship Him” (John 4:23).

Imagine this: The God of the universe—the maker of heaven and earth—longs for you to worship Him in the right spirit, according to truth. And when you do, it will re-make you in His image!

 

 

 

New Year…New Beginning

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Ready or not, the Year of our Lord (Anno Domini—A.D.) 2019 begins next week!

I know it is just another day on the calendar—but for most of us—it is a day to begin the new year with a clean slate, and a mountain of resolutions. While it is true that most resolutions do not live to see February, it is still good to begin the new year doing new things.

Spending a majority of my youth in Southern California, I always looked forward to New Year’s celebrations. Many times I would stay up with my family, playing dominoes, board games or gin rummy, while we feasted on all kinds of junk food, and watched fireworks at midnight. At other times my dad would drive us to Pasadena late New Year’s Eve where we would sack out on the sidewalk of Colorado Boulevard to view the Tournament of Roses Parade the next morning. By the time we had played, talked and eaten all night, we mostly slept through the parade, but it was still a blast.

Special New Year’s celebrations were first observed in Babylon 4,000 years ago. The New Year’s day festivities on January 1st began in 46 BC, and was instituted by Julius Caesar, when he introduced the Julian calendar. The month of January was named for the Roman god of beginnings, Janus, who, appropriately, had two faces that allowed him to look back into the past year, and forward into the new year.

Around the world, traditions associated with the beginning of the new year vary widely. Among Chinese people, many believed evil spirits did not like loud noises, so they would light firecrackers and bottle rockets to frighten the spirits away at the beginning of the New Year. In Burma people would spray each other with water, believing the water cleanses and serves as a soul purifier. In Japan a rope of straw was hung across the front of the residence to keep out evil spirits and bring good luck. In Denmark old dishes were thrown at the houses of friends on New Year’s Eve, as a sign of affection and everlasting friendship. It makes you wonder what they would throw if they didn’t like you!

Bible-believing Christians do not believe in “good luck.” But as a youngster growing up, my Texas-native mom would make sure we ate special food on New Year’s day, like black-eyed peas with ham hock and cornbread. In the African American community, many would be sure to eat hoppin’ John (ham hock, black-eyed peas and rice) with greens. In the Pennsylvania Dutch community everyone had to eat sauerkraut and pork to guarantee a successful New Year. Personally, I think watching college bowl games are a great tradition for January first!

Though these traditions are meant mostly for fun, the New Year does offer a good opportunity for self-evaluation and goal setting. For Christians, it is a good time to renew our spiritual commitments. If you haven’t finished your list of resolutions, let me share five spiritual disciplines you may want to pursue in 2019

  1. Begin each day by Giving Yourself to God. Everybody belongs to God because of His creation. Believers especially belong to God because of His redemption. Either way—you need to recognize that your life is not your own. At the beginning of your day, yield yourself to God, and His direction. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths” (Prov. 3:5-6).
  2. Spend a few minutes reading the Bible. God’s Word is inspired and all the direction any person needs to equip them for spiritual service (2 Timothy 3:16, 17). The Bible is a Spirit-given book that has the ability to reach inside our thoughts, hearts and actions to reprove, cleanse, correct and train us in living for Christ. As you regularly peruse portions of Scripture it will affect your thoughts, and hence, your life.
  3. Talk to God in prayer. This direct communication with God is one of the greatest privileges we have. God invites us to come confidently to Him, “Let us, therefore, come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). He is never too busy to listen, if you will come to Him.
  4. Faithfully fellowship with God’s people. We need the mutual encouragement, accountability, admonition and spiritual sharpening that a church family uniquely offers. We can grow spiritually (Acts 2:41), so we need to be faithful (Heb. 10:24, 25).
  5. Be ready to share your faith in Christ with others. We are here to be His witnesses (Acts 1:8). As we follow Jesus we are to become fishers of men (Matt. 4:19) and share the gospel. The gospel is God’s power to save: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Rom. 1:16).

As you begin 2019—whether it is with a plate of hoppin’ John or black eyed peas and cornbread—it will be a success if you give the Lord Jesus His rightful place in your life. It takes grace and grit, but you will be glad you did!

 

The Great Blender Blunder

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Christmas 1968 is burned into my memory. I made one of the worst Christmas gift mistakes ever. Pat and I had been married a little over 7 months, were getting to know each other, but were also struggling to make ends meet. So, we decided not to buy each other Christmas gifts. The only thing was, Pat gave me a little gift, inexpensive, but from her heart, and I had nothing to give her! I mean, I had nothing…nada…not one thing to give!

Fortunately for me, or unfortunately, as the case proved to be, I found a department store open, rushed in, shopped in a panic, and purchased a fantastic gift—a food blender. In hindsight, receiving a blender for Christmas is probably the closest thing there is, to receiving nothing. I think of it as my great blender blunder.

Sometimes, when you have a meager gift, a person will say, “Well, it’s the thought that counts.” But in my case, even the thought didn’t count! Nevertheless, Pat was gracious, and I learned a good lesson.

So, why do we practice giving gifts at Christmas?

Our gift giving is patterned after the actions of the Wise Men who brought presents to the baby Jesus. Matthew records that “Magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him’” (Matthew 2:1, 2).

Five hundred years before Christ, after the fall of Jerusalem, the prophet Daniel was taken captive to Babylon. God gave him the ability to interpret King Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams (Dan. 2:30), and he was promoted to “chief of the magicians” (Dan. 4:9). Since Daniel had authority over all the Wise Men of the Babylonian Empire, and later, the Persian Empire, he must have clearly taught them what God revealed to him.

One thing God revealed to Daniel was the time frame of the first coming of Jesus, the Messiah (Dan. 9:20-27). By calculating the years from the command of King Cyrus to rebuild Jerusalem, the approximate time of the coming of the Messiah could be determined. After Jesus was born in Bethlehem, it was these Wise Men, perhaps descendants of Daniel, who came to Jerusalem seeking to locate and worship the newborn King of the Jews.

What kind of gift would you offer a king? Matthew records, “After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (Matthew 2:11). Gold is always valuable and expensive as well as the exotic spices of frankincense and myrrh. The Wise Men brought their best, as gifts to the baby Jesus, and since then people have given gifts in celebration of His birth.

We may give gifts at Christmas because the Wise Men did, but also because at Christmas, God gave us Jesus, His perfect gift. For Him, Christmas is all about giving—giving to humanity the perfect, eternal gift, Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world!

He Was the Perfect Gift

When Jesus came into the world, a newborn baby in the village of Bethlehem, God made the perfect gift available for all people for all time. “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all” (1 Timothy 1:15).

He Came at the Perfect Time

The timing of Christ’s birth was perfect, according to Galatians 4:4, 5, “But when the fulness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” All the components necessary for God’s perfect gift culminated when His Son died for our sins and was raised in victory three days later. Through death Jesus defeated death and offers life, “For the wages of sin is death; but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Everlasting life is a gift of God, the only eternal gift.

He Paid the Perfect Price

Gifts are expensive. They cost a price. So, this glorious salvation by grace, is God’s most luxuriant gift, according to Ephesians 2:8, 9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

He Offers the Perfect Opportunity

Christmas is the perfect opportunity to accept God’s gift! Why not receive the greatest gift ever given? Trust Jesus to save you, then share Him with others.

In our human experience, there is no such thing as a perfect gift. I can tell you, it’s sure not a blender! That new watch will one day stop. The new outfit will eventually fade. The jewelry will corrode. The new smart phone will soon become dumb. The newest gadget will break or end up in a thrift store.

But, the gift of God—the Perfect Gift—is forever! Though “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23), you can be “justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (verse 24). His eternal salvation is His gift. Why not receive God’s perfect gift today?

Christmas Chaos

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Can something as beautiful, meaningful and inspiring as Christmas, be Chaotic? The answer from a majority of people recently surveyed, was, “Absolutely—Yes!”

Most professional counselors believe the Christmas season is the most stressful time of the year. In addition to the regular frantic pace of their schedule, people must host and attend parties, fight the crowds to shop for the perfect gifts for their favorite folks, and deal with nosy and noisy relatives they haven’t seen in months. And additionally–most  people feel the need to do all that with pretend patience and plastic smiles.

A young couple in our church told me the first serious argument of their marriage was over where they would spend Christmas. He yelled, she cried and no one was happy with how they divided their time. For some families, this fight is an annual event. It seems that nobody is as hard to please as parents of young couples at Christmas. For these families, Christmas is anything but a “Silent night, holy night” where “all is calm and all is bright.”

Several years ago, we had Christmas chaos that almost became a Christmas catastrophe. Everything reached critical mass during the final church service before Christmas. At the close of evening worship, a jolly man with a fake white beard, dressed in a red Santa’s suit shouted, “Ho, Ho, Ho! Merry Christmas Everybody,” as he strode right down the aisle of the church. As the pastor, his familiar Christmas greeting caused chills to run down my spine. While he laughed and threw candy, some people in the pews were in a panic, outrage covered a few faces, and pure delight adorned the faces of the children. I was squarely in the middle of a pickle. This was not the way it was supposed to happen. My dilemma that pre-Christmas night illustrates the difficulty many Christians face during this celebrated season of the year.

How did I get in the middle of this Christmas chaos? It began a few months before. I had the privilege of leading a young couple, Rick and Helen, to trust the Lord Jesus as their Savior. Rick was a lineman for the electric company and Helen was a stay-at-home mom. They were young married parents in their mid-twenties from a totally non-Christian culture. Before coming to faith in Christ, neither Rick nor Helen had ever attended a church in their lives. But after trusting the Lord to save them, they began to grow as baby Christians. They could not get enough Bible and fellowship, and were on a fast track of spiritual growth. Our church welcomed them into the body with open arms and they never missed a service.

As the Christmas season approached, Rick wanted to do something special for the children in our church. He was unaware of the strong opinions some members held about Santa, Jesus and Christmas traditions. All he knew was that Christmas was Jesus’ birthday and he loved Jesus and wanted to honor Him. However, there were some long-standing members in that same church, who had researched the origins of some ancient Christmas traditions and chose not to celebrate it at all.

Rick, the new believer, had no idea what some fellow members believed. So, he decided to give gifts to the children following that evening service. And, he thought, since it was Christmas, why shouldn’t he dress as Santa and surprise the children? As he strode down the aisle shouting “Ho, Ho, Ho!” the kids were not the only ones surprised!

So, it is true that some Christmas traditions have pagan origins. But does that mean Christians should focus on exposing early origins of Christmas traditions? Or, should we take advantage of the attention Christmas brings and proclaim Christ as Savior? While most people today, like Rick, are unaware of the background of Christmas traditions, the lost world associates Christmas with the birth of Jesus, and that is a great thing! Though Jesus is not the center of most Christmas celebrations, as the bumper sticker says: “He is the Reason for the Season.” Let us capitalize on that fact and use Christmas to proclaim God’s love in sending His Son to be our Savior.

The birth of Christ, the origin of what we celebrate as Christmas—came at just the right time—under just the right circumstances—for just the right reason. In Galatians 4:4-7, Paul wrote, “In the fulness of time, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.” Imagine that! Through faith in Jesus you can be adopted into God’s family, become a son, and an heir of God!

Oh, and what happened to Rick and Helen? After the initial shock of Santa Claus walking the church aisle had worn off, some of the most critical members just laughed at his spiritually youthful exuberance. But . . . in all honesty, wouldn’t it be great if you and I showed that kind of love, enthusiasm and dedication to Jesus this Christmas season? Let’s avoid the Christmas chaos and exalt the Christmas Savior!

Christ in Christmas

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Have you seen the bumper sticker, “Keep Christ in Christmas?” This slogan originated around 1920 among a group of Christians in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, who wanted to openly display their faith. They encouraged local businesses not to sell out to the secularization of Christmas, but to display signs that reminded people of Christ and His birth. In 1937 a Christmas card company used the slogan, along with Bible verses, in place of the bland, “Season’s Greetings” or “Happy Holidays.”

This movement also encouraged people not to use “Xmas” in place of Christmas. The abbreviation “Xmas” originated in the Fourth century, when Roman Emperor Constantine began to use it. In the Greek language of the New Testament, the word “Christos” (Christ) begins with the letter “X” (chi). During the eleventh century, a scribe saved space by writing “Xmas” in place of “Christmas.”

In our day, using “Xmas,” symbolizes a much larger issue than merely saving writing space. The secularization of our American culture is so pervasive that Christ is actually being left out of Christmas. Recently, pressure has been placed on businesses to use “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings” in place of “Merry Christmas” as a salutation. This is not accidental or incidental.

Franklin Graham, originator of Operation Christmas Child, in a 2005 interview with CNN said: “For us as Christians, Christmas is one of the most holy of the holidays, the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. And for people to take Christ out of Christmas is wrong. They are happy to say ‘Merry Xmas,’ as long as Jesus is left out. I think this is actually a war against the name of Jesus Christ.” Then he said, “Secularists…don’t want to get rid of the holidays; they just don’t want Jesus in the holidays.”

In our world today, Christmas means different things to different people. Some celebrate it by exchanging extravagant gifts and throwing elaborate parties. Others use it as an excuse to overeat and indulge their baser desires. Sometimes well-meaning families use Christmas as a reason to go deep into debt. The true meaning of Christmas is often lost in the midst of the food, frolic, tensions and tinsel.

Over sixteen hundred years ago, December 25, A.D. 380, in Constantinople, Gregory Nazianzus preached a sermon about the meaning of Christmas. Among other things he encouraged the people by saying: “Therefore let us keep the Feast (Christmas), not after the manner of a heathen festival, but after a godly sort; not after the way of the world, but in a fashion above the world; not as our own, but as belonging to Him Who is ours….”

Christians should observe Christmas in ways that avoid heathenism, exhibitionism, materialism and the ways of the world. Instead, it should be celebrated in a way that is responsible, family-centered, and godly. Christmas is about honoring our Lord Jesus Christ, Savior, Master and Lord of all.

Fortunately, the Bible reveals the true meaning of Christmas.

Christmas means that…

  1. JESUS “emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:7, 8). Christmas means the incredibly rich Son of God became indescribably poor so that we, helpless and poor, could become unbelievably rich. Paul wrote: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9). GRACE is God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. For Jesus, Christmas meant the ultimate sacrifice of becoming human, suffering rejection, and dying on a cross.

 

  1. WE sinners now have a perfect Savior who offers a complete salvation to everyone who believes in Him. “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). The old prophet Simeon put it best as he beheld the newborn baby Jesus in the Jerusalem Temple. “Then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said, Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, according to Your word; For my eyes have seen Your salvation” (Luke 2:28-30).

 

  1. GOD provided the perfect Mediator between Himself (the perfectly holy God) and us (the perfectly unholy creature) in His Son (the perfectly acceptable sacrifice). Paul put it this way in his letter to the young preacher Timothy, “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all” (1 Tim. 2:5). Jesus died to pay our sin debt, and all we need to do is to accept Him by faith.

This Christmas, let us who know Him, honor him by sincerely worshipping Him; by genuinely showing our thanks to Him; and by sharing the good news of Christ, the Savior, with the lost. The true meaning of Christmas is that God provided a Savior, who died for us, so that we may live forever with Him in Heaven. That is keeping Christ in Christmas!