Christmas Boys

admin —  December 5, 2013 — Leave a comment

As we recently decorated our house for Christmas my grandson declared that he and I were “the Christmas boys.”  I readily agreed which set off a lively conversation with his sister and grandmother about who in our family really liked Christmas the best.  Although we had to concede that the girls actually liked Christmas as much as we did we held firm to the belief that their love for Christmas was different.  What this means of course is that we concede nothing and remain in our minds the “Christmas boys” who like Christmas the most.

This is a fun discussion in our home and family which is great drama for a preschool boy and his seven year old sister revealing that Christmas is special for us and our family.  But in reality I am a Christmas Boy and I want my grandchildren to be what their parents and grandparents have become over the years.  I am always the first to want the decorations put up but but it is only an outward statement of an inward joy.  Christ is my real motivation.  I enjoy the opportunity to make the name of Christ large, welcome, important and enjoyable each year in a world of strife, confusion and longing.  I am without reservation a Christmas Boy because Christ is my Savior and Lord.

As mysterious as the Christian faith can seem to people inside and outside of its reach, it remains the best and truest alternative to everything else offered. People everywhere still ask four questions that must be answered in order to live confident, purposeful, and important lives namely,

  • Where did I come from?
  • How did I (and my world) get messed up?
  • How do I correct what’s wrong?
  • What happens to me when I die?

Jesus Christ answers all those questions and puts to rest any fears we might have about them.  No other religion, philosophy or moral construct can even come close.  He created all things, has redeemed us from our sins and failures and gives us eternal and abundant life  through his death for our sins, burial with those sins and resurrection to new life.  Every other alternative simply cannot satisfy us with confident answers to our fundamental questions.

My hope for you is to be a “Christmas Boy” or “Christmas Girl” this season.  Its the only way to live, die and live again.


A New Congregation

admin —  November 19, 2013 — Leave a comment

It was recently reported in our local newspaper that an atheist church was opening in town.  I have recently been in some interesting conversations with some individuals who claim to be atheists and this new development adds a new dimension to the discussions.  I have always been amazed that atheists have an obsession about God even though they profess not to believe in Him.  They write about believers, scorn faith in God, ridicule church rituals and attendance but their main focus always deals with the God they claim doesn’t exist.  Trying to talk to them about it is nearly impossible because of their passion to dissuade anyone in believing in God.

This is what make this announcement so interesting.  They are calling out the “uncalled” to worship the “non-existent” in order to serve as stewards of the One “not really there.”  Wow!  Of all the options for a non-believer this one must take the cake. The reporter seemed delighted to reveal this new development but did not press for many details.

The article did say that the group of atheists who are starting these “churches” have a goal for thirty-five worldwide.  Traditionally churches worship, pray, give, make disciples, evangelize and do various ministries all in the name of Christ and/or God.  It will be interesting to see in these churches who or what is worshiped and what is done for what reason in the name of who.

Stay tuned, this could get interesting.

Your Christian Metaphor.

admin —  October 2, 2013 — Leave a comment

Metaphors are effective to compare something obscure with something more easily understood.  In Philippians 1:27-30 Paul expresses his hope that whether he is released from prison to visit the Philippian believers or remains jailed he wants to hear that they are “standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.”

The word he uses for striving is the word from which we get our word agony.  In Paul’s day it was ordinarily applied to athletes in their efforts to win.  Paul urges the believers in Philippi to strive for the faith of the gospel.  It dawns on me that most believers I know could not be described as “striving” in the sense of an athlete for their faith or for the gospel.

What word or term do would you use to describe your life as a believer?  What term(s) do you imagine others might use to describe what they see in you daily.  Are you passive or passionate as a believer.  Are you fixed in your faith or frightened for others to know your beliefs?  Are you aggressive, angry, hungry, helpless or simply happy?

Every generation of believers must defend, confirm, stand for, and live out its faith.  We can be salt and light with amazing influence and effect or we can be silent, afraid, passive, and ineffective.  Jesus means something to every believer.  Every believer responds in some manner, witnesses with some effect, and lives in some way under His authority.  But to what effect?

I do not want to be a believer that has no passion, little influence, and no power in my life.  But I honestly do not always feel that I am in the “agony” of a great calling, a great faith and a great life.  I want to be more of Paul wanted to see in the Philippians.  How about you?

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, peace, joy…”

The Holy Spirit is the gift of the Father to His Children.  He was given at the request of His Son who sent Him to aid us in our lives and mission on earth until Jesus returns.  Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would be in us forever which means that we will never be away from the presence of Christ (Jn. 14:6) The Holy Spirit does many things for us daily.  He comforts, leads, guides, empowers us for ministry, and discloses the Father’s will.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing the Holy Spirit does, however, is to bear spiritual fruit so that we are transformed into the nature of Christ.  (Gal. 5:22-23)  Paul teaches us in 2 Corinthians 3:18 that the Spirit is the person who transforms us “from glory to glory.” We are saved in a moment and transformed over a lifetime into the very image of the God we love.  The Holy Spirit bears fruit within us to make this happen.

The Holy Spirit works in our lives to produce the things that mirror the nature of the Christ.  As we yield to the Holy Spirit and allow Him to work within us we gain more of Christ’s nature which allows us to live as He lived on earth and do what He did.  Righteousness is the end result of the Spirit’s work and it has many dimensions.  One of the greatest is joy.  The joy of the Spirit is the joy of Jesus.  It is so great that at times it is unspeakable.  It is so powerful that we can rejoice in the many trials that come to us.  It so sustaining that it returns time and again whenever our tears flow in grievous circumstances.  It allows us to rejoice in the confidence we have that through Christ we can do anything.  It is our strength.

Light the candle of Joy tonight and thank the Holy Spirit for the gift of joy He has given you.

The Joy of Jesus-John 15:11

admin —  December 21, 2012 — Leave a comment

“These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.”

The joys we experience in life are many and wonderful.  They joy of marriage, births of children, getting a new job or going on a faraway trip make our lives great.  There is one kind of joy, however, that surpasses all others and it is the joy of Jesus.  The Son of God knows a joy that no one else knows.  He knows the joy of creation, the joy of sacrifice, they joy of redemption and the joy of heaven.  Jesus possesses a joy that is unaffected by circumstances, sin, and rejection.  His joy is the confident assurance that the will of God is good and will be done.

In John 15 Jesus describes the joy we can have by living in Him.  As a vine He gives life to us as branches that we might flourish and produce.  Productive lives!  Think of it.  We are scarred and defeated by our sins and failures and Jesus comes to redeem us, restore us and give us new lives.  We surrender our old lives to Him to take from Him His very life.  As a vine gives life and health to its branches we too take His life as our own to live and bear fruit for His kingdom.

But that is not all.  With that life comes the benefit of His joy. All that Jesus is and all that He has is now ours.  His peace, power, love and joy.  The joy of the Lord is our strength (Neh. 8:10) that allows us to face tests and trials in confidence.  In fact it is this joy we are given that allows us to actually count those trials in “all joy” when they come. (Jas. 1:2)  Jesus had this joy when He endured the cross knowing that through it He would accomplish the Father’s will and our salvation. (Heb. 12:2)  No one can possess this kind of joy but the Messiah and no one can give it to others except Him.  From His life comes His joy that endures when everything else around us is crumbling.

As you light the candle of Joy tonight, rejoice in the Lord constantly for this incredible gift that endures and overcomes everything you face.

The Maji’s Joy-Matthew 2:10

admin —  December 20, 2012 — Leave a comment

“And when they saw the star, the rejoiced with great joy.”

In the entire Christmas story there are no characters or events except the incarnation stranger that the coming of the Maji (Wise Men) to Bethlehem.  Their presence in the Christmas story is indeed strange but important.   Their journey took them from somewhere near modern day Iran or Iraq to the narrow streets of Jerusalem.  Led by a star that arose to guide them, they made their slowly until the discovered that it led them to the child they sought.

We are not told exactly where they are from, what they did, or why they came except for the star they followed.  We do not know how they concluded that the Child they looked for was born “King of the Jews.” (2:2)  Mystery surrounds them and their mission is sketchy until they come into the house in Bethlehem, see the mother and Child, rejoice at their discovery and begin to worship Him. (v.10-11)  They offer their gifts and abruptly leave never to be heard from again.  The Maji are truly men on the move.

The Christmas story is filled with people on the move.  Mary and Joseph travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem, the angels appear in heaven, Jesus comes from heaven, and the wise men come from the far east to find Him.  Finding Christ always involves a journey.  Serving Christ is a journey of faith that really never ends.  We, like the Maji, must make our way to Him even though Immanuel has come to us.  We have to come away from our sins, our spiritual poverty, our selfish agendas and our misguided lifestyles to find Him.  But when we do joy erupts.  For some it is the joy of forgiveness, for others the joy of being clean, and for many it is the joy of knowing God through Christ.

The journey doesn’t end, thankfully, when we first find Him; it is just the beginning.  We find Christ then we join Him a journey as He leads, guides, protects and comforts us.  We grow in His grace, we move in His will and we work to build His kingdom until our time on earth ends.  Then we journey to our home in heaven to be with Him for ever.  What a life!  We live in full confidence that life is a journey filled with meaning and excitement.  And it all started with the birth of a Child in Bethlehem.

Rejoice tonight in your journey with Christ.  Find Him is you haven’t already.  Join Him, follow Him and rejoice with Him.  If you have lost your way seek Him and you will find the Father will once again lead you to where He is.

The People’s Joy-Luke 2:10

admin —  December 19, 2012 — Leave a comment

“For behold, I bring you good news of great joy which shall be for all the people….”

The angel who delivered the good news to the shepherd the night Jesus was born announced something that went far beyond the starlit fields near Bethlehem. The birth of this Child began a string of joyful worship that will never cease.  The shepherds rejoiced, the Maji rejoiced, Simeon rejoiced, Anna the prophetess rejoiced.  lepers rejoiced, sinful men and women rejoiced, Centurions and disciples rejoiced.  Jesus brings the joy of salvation to thirsty souls and forgiveness to sinful persons.  His presence releases the power of the Father to seek and save those who would trust Him and obey His word.

The birth of Christ was not just for His family, His race or His friends.  His birth was the beginning of good news for all persons everywhere.  In most instances what may be good for all is never available to all.  We live in a world of poverty with enough wealth to eliminate it.  But those with the most have never completely shared with those with the least.  We have enough information, technology, and knowledge to change the lives of every person on the planet but all those things have become the things that build wealth so not everyone has access to them.  Education is a key factor in acquiring knowledge which helps persons to be successful but education is still denied to many persons in the world.

Jesus came into the world to bring the Father’s good news to everyone.  From the smartest to the most ignorant, from the wealthiest to the poorest, for men and women and for Jew and Gentile alike.  This is the Father’s world, we are His creations, and Jesus is His Son who came for everyone.  The pleasure of God is to save us from our sins, restore our humanity, bring us into an eternal relationship with Him, connect us to others in our world and to bless us with truth and wisdom.

As you light the Joy Candle tonight thank the Lord that He came for you, us and everyone else.

The Virgin’s Joy-Luke 1:47

admin —  December 18, 2012 — Leave a comment

“My spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” (Lk. 1:47)

The news Mary received from the Angel Gabriel that she would conceive and bear a son was not only a surprise it was a miracle about to happen.  She was engaged to Joseph but had not lived with him or been with any other man.  The conception of a child would be a one-of-a-kind event which had not nor would ever happen again.  It was a shock to her as she asked, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” (v.34)  Her question is not over Gabriel’s message but the method by which it would take place.

Gabriel explains that the Holy Spirit would come upon her, overshadow her in His power and she would conceive in her womb.  Her child would be a son to her and the “Son of the Most High” whose name would be Jesus.  In spite of the mystery surrounding this announcement she accepts the news with faith responds by saying “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; be it done to me according to your word.” (v. 38)

It is during her visit to her relative Elizabeth that Mary seems to understand what is happening.  She is the chosen servant of God to bear the Messiah into the world.  The great expectation of the coming Deliverer is now realized and He was her child.  She would be blessed and the world would be redeemed.  The mighty on earth would be humbled, great kingdoms would fall, the humble exalted and the hungry fed.  She “gets it” as she realized that her Son would change the world by redeeming it.  He would be the fulfillment of the promise given to Abraham that the nation of Israel would be great.

Mary rejoiced at her part in the great Redemption Story.  She rejoiced to know that her Son was God’s answer to a world filled with suffering and injustice.  She rejoiced knowing that God keeps His promises.

We live in a sin-stricken world given to violence, injustice and corruption.  When innocent people suffer, children are murdered, and individuals go hungry we often ask where God is or how can He allow this to happen.  We love our freedom and independence until it turns out evil.  We love to pursue our pleasures until we are addicted and out of control.  Then we want to question God’s love, justice and mercy.

But God has done something.  He sent Jesus Christ His Son to transform us and our world so that nothing evil ever happens again.  Mary understood this as she surrendered her life to God’s will no matter how mysterious or costly it was.  Light the Joy Candle tonight and rejoice in the Lord.

The Joy of Christmas-Luke 2:10

admin —  December 17, 2012 — Leave a comment

Yesterday we lit the candle of Joy representing the joy of the Lord which He sent to the world in His Son Jesus.  The events which surround the birth of Christ and the people mentioned in the birth narratives are filled with joy.  There is joy at the birth of John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Messiah.  There is the joy of Mary as she rejoices in her soul at the mystery of God over her life.  There is the joy of the Maji who traveled hundreds of miles to worship the child in Bethlehem.

Joy is something that is more than a feeling; it a condition which comes from outside our lives.  Joy is produced by good news, good fortune, or good relationships with others.  In Scripture Jesus claimed that His joy was not like the joy found in the world but was of a different quality.  Paul noted that joy is something produced within our lives by the Holy Spirit.  Scripture declares that the joy which comes from the Lord is actually our strength. (Neh. 8:10)  Our joy then comes from God and and rests in Him. (Ps. 43:4)

Joy then is a normal and important part of a believer’s life.  It is a constant no matter our circumstances and it is a gift from God reminding us that He is working in this world to accomplish His plans and purposes.  We have the joy of the Lord in our salvation from sin and death.  We have the joy of the Lord when our hearts are broken and our lives seems to be going nowhere.  We have joy that cannot be expressed in knowing Christ even though we have yet to see Him face to face.

In Isaiah 55:1-13, God offers us His mercy if we “seek Him while He may be found and call upon Him while He is near.” (v.6)  Finding God’s mercy assures us that we will “go out with joy, and be led forth with peace.”  Nothing is more important to us than joy and peace.  Joy that is beyond expression and peace that passes understanding are gifts from the God of grace, truth and mercy.

As you light the candle of Joy tonight rejoice in the Lord for His mercy and grace.

The Good Shepherd-John 10:1-18

admin —  December 15, 2012 — Leave a comment

At birth we are given names, usually because our parents (specifically our mothers) like how they sound.  Later on, however, many people choose what they prefer to be called.  Those with nicknames may drop them for their more mature sounding given names.  Individuals may find using their first name easier than their middle one.  We often introduce ourselves by saying something like, “Hello, I’m Gene.”

Jesus had significant names like Lord, Christ, and Teacher but often referred to Himself as the Son of Man.  In the gospel of John, however, He referred to Himself seven times with different names.  Each time He said, “I am….”

  • The Bread of Life (6:35)
  • The Light of the World (8:12)
  • The Door (10:9
  • The Good Shepherd (10:14)
  • The Resurrection and the Life (11:25)
  • The Way, Truth, and the Life (14:6)
  • The True Vine (15:1)

Each saying is a revelation of who He is and what He is for each of us.  The title of “Good Shepherd” speaks of His true mission and centers on His care, protection and relationship with us.  He says that as a good shepherd, “I know My own, and My own know Me.”  He declares that He saves His own and gives us eternal and abundant life.  He pledges to lay down His life for us as a good shepherd does..

There is nothing that Christ would not do for you and me as we follow Him in trust and obedience.  He loves us, saves us, and keeps us from harm.  Paul says that we live our lives, “as sheep to be slaughtered.”  (Romans :8:36)  Life is a challenge and is filled with many occasions that might overwhelm us.  But Jesus says that we are His sheep and nothing ever happens to us that takes Him by surprise.  He will never leave us, abandon us or allow is to be lost.

As we light the Advent candle tonight and prepare to worship tomorrow remember the many times the Lord has given you His presence and care in special ways.  Read each name of Christ in the list above and the scripture with it.  Thank Him and put you complete trust and confidence in Him for whatever you may face in the future.