One thing that has become painfully clear in this election cycle is that those who describe themselves as evangelical may have those type of values, but they are not living them out. We can say we believe something, but if that belief does not translate into behavior, then we are only fooling ourselves. Our children and colleagues can clearly see the difference.
How does one not live out that which he or she says they value? They do so by not having a biblical worldview. A biblical worldview is only attained through devoted study of Scripture. Scripture is to be read, taught, and meditated upon so that it has the chance to take root in our hearts and thereby into our consciences. That is why the Apostle Paul reminded Timothy thusly:
If you’re like my family, one of the best Christmas traditions is watching “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” We especially like the part where Charlie Brown screams out during play rehearsal, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” Linus then asks for the lights to be dimmed and he quotes Luke 2:8-14. Most call this the Christmas story.
Some like to say remember the reason for the season and might even refer to the above passage in the Bible. Jesus is the reason for the season and the “good tidings of great joy” indeed put Christmas in the light which it belongs.
You’ve heard the saying that knowledge is power. Like anything powerful, knowledge can be used for evil; it being withheld is also evil. Having knowledge that a person needs to live life to its fullest and not sharing it is bad. Not sharing knowledge that could change someone’s eternity is sinful.
Christmas Eve is one week from today. I think I love Christmas Eve almost as much as I love Christmas morning. As a child, gifts from family and friends were opened on Christmas Eve. Christmas morning was for Santa Claus. Right or wrong, that was the tradition in my home. The point I’m trying to make, is that as a child the real excitement for me began on Christmas Eve.
“So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.’” (Luke 2:15)
“Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:4-7)
If you went back to your hometown where near or distant relatives lived, would you have to get a room at a hotel? Now some of us might choose to get a room, but would you have to? Or do you have family and friends in your hometown that would be delighted to put you up while you visited. In fact, most would insist you stayed with them.
I feel sorry for those Christians who believe, or worse yet are taught, that the Old Testament no longer applies to the modern church. One would have to ask if that was true, then why would God have written it? Nevertheless, an honest reading and seeking of God’s truth in the Old Testament results in the Holy Spirit speaking from it. It is a treasure of good news.
It was on a Tuesday, 238 years ago this date, that we as a nation declared our independence from Great Britain. Think I’m a couple of days too early? July 2, 1776 is the day the Second Continental Congress voted to adopt Richard Henry Lee’s resolution declaring independence from Great Britain. Twelve colonies voted unanimously, with New York abstaining. It was on July 4, 1776 that Thomas Jefferson made his final edit on the Declaration of Independence. John Hancock and Charles Thompson signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, with the 54 other delegates signing the document on August 2, 1776.
Why the history lesson in a devotional? I share this with you so that you know the complete and truthful history of our nation’s founding instead of what you learned in school. As John Adams declared while defending the British troops during the Boston Massacre trial, “Facts are stubborn things.” Facts are not only stubborn, but they are also very important.
So Christmas is over and the new year is just around the corner. Depending on your financial situation, you may not have had the kind of Christmas you had hoped for and the new year doesn’t look anymore promising. While it’s been a while since I’ve experienced that feeling, I do know that it can be debilitating and make you feel defeated. Circumstances in your life may in fact not be ideal, but perhaps your ideals about your life need refocusing. Let us look through the eyes of the Apostle Paul for a different perspective:
“But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:10-13)
Sometimes time seems to stand still. I know there are many children across the country thinking Christmas couldn’t get here soon enough, and in a flash for many a family it was over in a matter of minutes. Time can fly by after standing still for so long. In our wireless, fiber-optic high speed internet world, time does seem to fly by all while dragging on. Time has always seemed to drag on while we wait upon God. As James Dobson has written, “God’s timing is always perfect; it’s just three days late for us.”
But God is the author and maker of time. His timing is indeed perfect and nothing ever takes Him by surprise. As has been said over the years, “There’s no panics in heaven; just plans.” It was so with the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ:
During Christmas we dwell on the birth of Christ and we also add in an event that happen some two years after His birth. The visit from the Wise Men from the East, men known as Magi. The Apostle Matthew gives the account:
“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.’ When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. So they said to him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not the least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.”’ Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.’ When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.” (Matthew 2:1-12)
One of my all time favorite Christian groups is 4Him and one of their best songs ever is a Christmas song titled “A Strange Way To Save The World,” a song written through the eyes of Joseph, and the first verse and channel go like this:
I’m sure he must have been surprised
At where this road had taken him
Cause never in a million lives
Would he have dreamed of Bethlehem
So by all accounts the earth is still spinning on its axis and evil has not prevailed. You would think that evil had triumphed by looking at the headlines, but evil is just having its heyday. As I wrote earlier, Satan knows his time is short and he is emptying out hell. But his time is short, nevertheless. Solomon wrote of evil’s fullness and finality:
“For I considered all this in my heart, so that I could declare it all: that the righteous and the wise and their works are in the hand of God. People know neither love nor hatred by anything they see before them. All things come alike to all: One event happens to the righteous and the wicked; to the good, the clean, and the unclean; to him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As is the good, so is the sinner; he who takes an oath as he who fears an oath. This is an evil in all that is done under the sun: that one thing happens to all. Truly the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil; madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead.” (Ecclesiastes 9:1-3)
Jesus’ first sermon in the synagogue was a rejected one. As you read the words, one would think those in attendance would have embraced Jesus’ words and rejoiced in their hearing:
“So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.’ Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’ So all bore witness to Him, and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth. And they said, ‘Is this not Joseph’s son?’” (Luke 4:16-22)
How do we deal with the horrors wrought about the people of Newtown, Connecticut and our nation as a whole? Where do we turn to in such dark times? The ever-present punditry are spewing out their normal tripe, be it right or left-leaning, like an unstoppable sewer. Neither side has it right because each is looking to man.
It is my natural inclination to look to my own wisdom and opinion to determine the right course in such dark times but I am trying to learn to no longer rely solely upon myself. I am untrustworthy; at best I am a depraved man saved by grace and molded by the Holy Word of God. So that’s where I’ve turned these last few days; to prayer and my Bible.
To hope and trust in God means doing so in His power and providence; not in our might and motives. Again, this may seem as a simple truth, and it is, but always remember that simple rarely equates to easy. We are hard-wired to do things on our own. But when we are placing our hope and trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ, we can see with eternal eyes and know that God is in control.
We just finished preparing our annual church budget to present to the church. This is not a budget that looks at the economic uncertainty in our nation. It is not a budget that considers that perhaps people will be strapped for money and giving will inevitably be down.
It may seem strange writing about Christmas in the spring, but I want to look at the birth of Jesus. Some Hebrew scholars believe Jesus was born in the fall around the Feast of the Tabernacle. So why do we celebrate Jesus’ birth on December 25? That’s another study all in itself, but suffice it to say the church was competing with the world.
Nevertheless the date is no where near as important as the event itself. The significance of the Christ child was lost on those looking for the Messiah and revealed to those rejected by those very seekers. Notice the Apostle Matthew’s report:
Two weeks from today Iowa Republicans will caucus and choose their presidential candidate for November 2012. As Christians, we are to be good citizens and should vote for the candidate that best aligns with our Biblical worldview. With that being said, we Christians must remember that while we live in America and are citizens by birth, we are actually citizens of heaven by rebirth in Christ. If we will look to the future coming of our Lord Jesus Christ I believe our perspectives on all aspects of life would be radically transformed. This is what the Apostle Paul tried to teach the Philippian Church:
“Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.” (Philippians 3:17-21)