Christmas

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Shining

Friday, December 28th, 2018

Well…happy after Christmas.  I’m guessing for you several things are true:

  • The Christmas “glow” is over.
  • A new year faces us in a few short days.

There are those who have already taken down their lights or have stopped turning them on at night. Leaving them up because of frigid weather is not an excuse around here lately. I rode 17.6 miles in 40+ degree weather yesterday (Wednesday).  But for most the season is over so why prolong it?

Others hold onto Christmas as long as they can.  I once read of a family who kept Christmas lights burning all the way through March because their son was to return home from the war and they wanted him to be able to celebrate his favorite holiday as though he never missed it.

But whether lights stay up or stay off is not the point my sermon Sunday. One of the beautiful things about the Christmas story is that it doesn’t offer just my past forgiveness and future hope, but everything I need right here, right now. And I’m not talking about My Best Life Now g-a-r-b-a-g-e.  2 Peter 1:3 says, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to his own glory and excellence.” How is it that the people to whom Peter was writing to were immersed in suffering and yet it also says God has given them all they need? I will be trying to answer that question this Sunday.

Along with that I am going to briefly mention the 5 things God has given us the power to break free from:

  1. Fear
  2. Regret
  3. Discouragement
  4. Denial
  5. Desire for control

Peter finishes his thoughts with these words: “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.”  Prayers are appreciated as always. And thanks.

Afterglow

Wednesday, December 26th, 2018

I’m going to put your mind at ease to start with. This is not going to be a super spiritual post about reviewing 2018. I trust you will do that sometime this week. My past weekend was the “Christmas weekend” which defies description. It was such a hodge podge of stuff. I look forward to going back to the office to get some rest.  Taking naps in my chair never sounded so good.  🙂 🙂

Thursday morning I worked at our local theater popping popcorn for a children’s movie for a group of school children. Later that afternoon I went to Spencer Elementary School to do my Real Men Read with Mrs. Lee’s kindergarten class. I left them with a treat bag of a gingerbread cookies (I read “The Gingerbread Man” to them), a candy cane, and a “3 Feet Please” bear.  By the way: would you like to have one? I will be glad to send it to you if you will use it as a reminder to pray for me.

Friday I had to take my truck in for service in Terre Haute (an hour away), which ended up taking much longer than they thought.  That sort of threw us off our game a bit since we had to do some shopping for our Christmas breakfast, but we also knew Janna (our daughter), Jason and Braden were coming in to spend the weekend with us.

Saturday I studied early, went to the Y with Jason and Janna, studied some more then met some folks at Abram Farm to set up. We had so many show up to help we were pretty much ready within an hour.  We had our family Christmas Saturday night.

Sunday I was up at the normal time to make my way to the office to study and prepare and to be at Abram Farm at 8:00. I’m not OC by any stretch but I did want things ready to go. We had a wonderful service!  I think people were pleasantly surprised I was done earlier than I normally am.  (They may protest in weeks to come for a return to Christmas!). 🙂  But the real surprise was I had planned on folks being back at 2:00 to put things away. Lo and behold, my early dismissal meant some could not get to their planned family reunion for at least an hour so they asked if there was anything they could do. They started putting chairs away and those standing around talking decided to help. When I left for lunch, everything was done! All I had to do was sweep (someone else did), pick up and load some of our own equipment and was gone by 3:00. That was fantastic because that evening we were heading to our local theater for a sold out showing of The Polar Express.

Monday we had our traditional Christmas breakfast of Jo’s sausage gravy and biscuits, eggs, bacon and friendly banter. J, J & B left about noon and we headed up to the the church building to prepare for the church’s Christmas breakfast at the local Lion’s Club.  Lots of moving and lifting and getting set up. Monday evening saw both Jo & me sort of collapse and not do much moving except to go to bed.

Tuesday morning we were there at 4:30 so Jo could get started. (That’s not counting the 3:10 wake up of “Bill, I think I forgot to lock the LC. And I can’t find the key.” So I drove there (it was locked) and in the meantime she found the key on the kitchen table underneath stuff. WHEW!The breakfast went well. We had 25 deliveries to people; over 30 to service personnel (gas station workers, sheriff and police, etc). We had about 15-20 who came in to eat. Interestingly, I heard several say, “I came for the socialization.” Cool! We took all the leftover food to the local EMT folks.  After cleaning up we went home. I spent some time doing my NMM, reading and then with a sunny 44+ degree day shining through my window I broached the “Is it okay if I go for a ride?” question. She must have been expecting it. She said, “Yes!” After 45 years together she still  says, “Yes!” (I am blessed). So I was able to get in a 14.7 mile ride on a beautiful sunny day on Christmas Day. Who woulda thunk it?

All of the above did truly happen.  And all of it while fighting flu-like symptoms that stole my sleep. Except for the ride of course. You know THAT made me feel better.

Well, sorry. This has got to be the l-o-n-g-e-s-t post I have written in a long time, maybe ever. Nothing earth-shattering. Just a whimsical look at my weekend. So…in a much shorter version…how was your Christmas weekend?

Jekyll/Hyde

Friday, December 21st, 2018

I suspect most of us are familiar with the story of Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. If you saw League of Extraordinary Gentlemen you saw a depiction of the character.  The original story by Stevenson is a great tale about what followers of Christ face all the time. Old man/new man. Dark side/Light side.

Much like Stevenson’s story is the story of the battle of two sides to the Christmas story. The Light side took out the sting of the Dark side.

The Dark side is seen in the Savior of mankind giving up all that was His to come as a baby. To take on flesh. To take on the frailties of humanity. To face hunger, rejection, thirst, physical pain, injustice, and even death.

The Light side is the Why. Simply put: God invaded our world in the person of Jesus because there was simply no other way. You see…our biggest problem is not what is outside us; it is what is inside us.  We like to place blame. Use excuses. Or look for a scapegoat for our stupidity, i.e. sin. But only through God being made flesh in the person of Jesus and ultimately going to a cross could we ever have a hope of rescue. Trust me when I say we could not have rescued ourselves.  It is this “Good News of great joy” that we can be thankful for and celebrate.

Prayers are especially needed this weekend. Here’s why:

  1. We are meeting once again at Abram Farm Event Venue, which is actually right next to our building. Lots of logistics go into making this happen. Bill & Suzie Abram own it and are so gracious in offering us to use any time we want.
  2. Monday we will be meeting to pack a ton of groceries for Tuesday morning.
  3. Tuesday morning we will be having a Christmas breakfast for our community. We offer a hot breakfast from 7-9:00 as well as deliveries. So far I’ve been disappointed in the number of deliveries compared to the past. I’d like to believe it is because everyone is filled and well-fed but I know better.

So I’d appreciate your prayers. I’ll probably be pretty scarce the first part of next week on my or anyone else’s blog. I’ll be back to give you some more to think about as we prepare for 2019. Thanks for hanging out at my little corner of the world.  And for your listening pleasure, here is the one and only song we will be singing as a special. Hanna sang it last year and I specifically asked her to sing it this year. All other songs are congregational singing.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

Forgotten

Wednesday, December 19th, 2018

No one likes to be forgotten. Unless, of course, they have done something wrong.  Then they want to hide and never be found!

But consider the Christmas story. A manger. A baby. A stable. A star. A long ride. A full inn. Mary. Shepherds. An angel (Gabriel). Zechariah. Elizabeth. Wise men. Bethlehem.

There seems to be one forgotten player in this drama. I’m sure you figured it out by now…Joseph. The man made a monumental decision and commitment and we forget him! He loved Mary so much he was willing “not to embarrass her but to divorce her quietly.” Some may think he was ashamed but keep in mind the difference in culture. Besides, you see his real heart come out after he heard the news the child was to be Messiah. Immanuel. Jesus. So he went against all odds; against the culture of his day; against everything his insides told him to do, and took Mary to be his wife.

But that’s it! That’s all we know except for a few side references. He showed his love for Mary and the baby and his  willingness to listen to God by taking them and heading off to Egypt. We see him when Jesus turns 12 and he hunts for him in the Temple.  But after that…ZERO. NADA. COME UP EMPTY.

What a noble man! This morning (Wednesday) during my New Morning Mercies reading, I read Isaiah 48:1-11 as supplemental reading. I was struck by verse 11: “For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another. (emphasis mine) God refuses to share His glory with anyone else. Not me. Not you. Not the most well-known pastor/preacher/evangelist/author/TV personality, etc. NO ONE ELSE!

So my question is this: can there be anyone more deserving of being noticed for not taking glory than Joseph? But its a catch-22 really. He would not have wanted known. He would have deflected the glory away from himself and toward the one who deserves it. Maybe I ought to take a hint?

There is a Christmas song we sang this past weekend and I have requested again for this coming Sunday’s Christmas Sunday service. It is this one and I can’t hardly think of a song more suited for a topic like this. And I would love to hear your thoughts.

Reasons

Sunday, December 16th, 2018

I have said this before and I’m sure will say it again (as I will now): I am not always the sharpest knife in the drawer. That’s not a put down; it’s reality. I realized early on that I was not without the ability to learn, i.e. stupid or dense, but I also realized I was not one who could probe deeply into subjects. Math and science, for example, have always been challenges for me. Advanced Biology was a required course chore. Chemistry was a train wreck. When it comes to spiritual things I have often taken a rather simple approach to things: “God said it; that settles it; therefore, I believe it.”  I am not into the finer details of things. That does go along somewhat with my Sanguine personality, but in matters of faith, I’m content to trust. So when I come upon something which is so good I want to share it, then believe me when I say I was touched by it.

I recently read an article by a woman named Rebecca McLaughlin (whom I have never heard of) entitled 4 Reasons to Believe in the Christmas Miracle.  I’m going to list those four reasons but I will also include the link so you can read the whole article yourself. So here is the recap. The link will be at the end.

  1. Miracles aren’t hard for God.
  2. Miracles aren’t ruled out by science.
  3. The gospels aren’t mythologized.
  4. Forgiveness is the greater miracle.

This post was written because as Rebecca was reading the Christmas story to her daughter, she said she didn’t believe in the angel visitation. To read more about this here is the link. I’d encourage you to read it in its entirety. You’ll be glad you did.

I would like to hear your thoughts if you have any.

Birth

Friday, December 14th, 2018

If you want to strike “fear” into many peoples’ lives, two words will do it. In many circles it will bring up memories of disagreements and shortness of tempers. Those two words:

VIRGIN BIRTH

Books, articles, essays, speeches, sermons, and a whole lot of other means of communication have been used in the discussion of the Virgin Birth: Pro or Con. I can honestly say men a whole lot smarter than me have gone ’round and ’round about it. I’m not well-versed in the deep defense of the VB. I just know this: God’s Word said it was how Jesus would come into the world, therefore, I believe it.

Just a few months ago we were treated (again) to another round of gaudiness and pomp and ceremony. A royal wedding of Prince whatever-his name is and his new wife, Meghan. Despite what the media and paparazzi says, they are mere human beings. Can you tell I am not a fan of their weddings? It lies in direct contrast with the entrance of Jesus into the world.

The attacks on the VB are monumental.  And ongoing-past, present and future. I’m not going to go into detail about the attacks, but the big question is Why? Simple actually: the VB is the line in the sand.  It is the line of demarcation. If someone denies the VB of Christ, IMHO I have every right to call into question the reality of their faith. The truth is that Jesus’ life did not begin at His birth or His conception. He is eternal and has always existed.

This Sunday I’m going to tackle the issue of the VB. In keeping with the “Light” theme, I’m calling it This IS the Light! John 1:1-14 will be my Scripture. Thanks ahead of time for your prayers.

Word

Wednesday, December 12th, 2018

Not “word” as in current vernacular.

But Word…as in “The Word.”

Word as in John 1:1- “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word with with God, and the Word was God.” (emphasis mine)

For the past 3 months I have been reading from John Piper’s Christmas devotion book, The Dawning of Indestructible Joy during my morning Quiet Time. It has been part of my attempt (along with Paul David Tripp’s book Come Let Us Adore Him) to prepare my heart for the Christmas season. Piper’s devotion for December 12 struck a chord as I prepare to preach on the Virgin Birth this coming Sunday. His devotion was on “The Glory of the Word Made Flesh.”

Aside from the very obvious conflict I would have with the Jehovah Witness cult over their use of “the Word was a God,” (which totally destroys the whole idea of the Trinity…which they do not believe in), Piper’s devotion really focused on “the Word.” Piper’s point, which I thought was really good, is that it did not say:

  • “the Deed”: The whole idea of deeds being defining is ludicrous. If my words are questionable from time to time, deeds are even more wishy-washy. No one would ever know why I did what I did or do what I do unless, of course, I myself knew why.
  • “the Thought”: The difference between a word and a thought is that a word is expressed from me to you or you to me. Thoughts can be kept inside forever.  If Jesus was a thought then there would have been no communication.
  • “the Feeling”: WOW! Don’t get me started on this one! Can you imagine how fickle Jesus would be if he was nothing more than a feeling?

Jesus is the Word. Jesus is God expressing Himself to us. I’ll take that over a Deed, Thought, or Feeling any day.  Combine that with verse 14 of John 1: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen the glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

I thank God for expressing Himself in Jesus, the Word made flesh. Any thoughts?

Reason

Monday, December 10th, 2018

It is not uncommon this time of the year to hear or see or be given some type of reminder:

JESUS IS THE REASON FOR THE SEASON

To be honest? I’ve had trouble with that phrase for quite a long time. Yes, I know what the slogan is supposed to be saying. And yes, I know people are well-intentioned (at least most of them) when they say it or display it. But that still doesn’t stop me from having trouble with it. Why?

Simple. Jesus is not the reason for the season. Now…before you brand me as a heretic or a scrooge of some sort, please hear me out.

Jesus is not the reason for the season…we are. That’s right. You cannot read the Scripture without seeing that it wasn’t Jesus who needed Christmas. We did. Bear with me here please. Don’t shoot me because I said Jesus didn’t need Christmas. I’m not talking about the trappings of the season. It would be sort of like I said, “Jesus is behind Easter.” I obviously don’t mean Jesus is responsible for eggs, rabbits, etc.

So, I’m not saying Jesus is behind the trees, lights, decorations, or even gifts. We are told: “Who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Jesus came as God in the flesh because we needed it to happen. The ultimate act of love of dying on the cross was why Jesus came. He came for us. We were the reason.

So my thinking is this: I am the reason; He is the meaning.  Any thoughts?

Unfiltered

Friday, December 7th, 2018

Don’t you just love genealogies? Aaaaah no. “As a matter of fact I usually just skip over them and go to the end. Sort of like I do when I’m reading all about the clans and offspring in Numbers.”

But there is one genealogy you just don’t want to skip over. I’m sure you know I’m speaking of Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew 1. I used to. I was lost at the first “begat.” You know…the old KJV version of “father of.” And honestly, when people want to talk about Christmas they want to talk about the baby in the manger, the shepherds, the wise men, Bethlehem, no room in the manger, or some other well known part of the story. But the genealogy? Surely you have got to be kidding!

But there it is in black and white and as glorious as it can be! There is the requisite “father of” found in all genealogies. But, as you may know, there are some women included in His. The culture of that day excluded women from any place of prominence, especially in the genealogy. But not Jesus’. I’m sure you have heard it before but here is what we find with the woman:

Tamar– disguised herself as a prostitute and seduced Judah. Find her story in Genesis 38

Rahab– anyone who has read the story of Jericho knows her profession.  She was an idolatrous, an outcast Gentile woman, and a professional prostitute. She became the mother of Boaz who married our next woman.

Ruth– a Moabitess, a lineage that came as a result of incest. (Genesis 19). She married Boaz (Read the book of Ruth) and became David’s great grandmother.

Bathsheba– Is the anyone who does not know who she is? Just say “David.”

Mary- the mother of Jesus. A sinner like you and me. A virgin but still a sinner.  Definitely not perfect and definitely not deserving to be elevated to the heights with Jesus. She was in need of a Savior like all of us.

The genealogy of Jesus speaks of grace. It shows that God accepts outsiders. Like me. Like you.  The genealogy shows people with warts. It is unfiltered.

Grace is my main topic for this Sunday. The Unfiltered Light of Christmas. Your prayers would be appreciated.

Christmas’18#2

Wednesday, December 5th, 2018

In keeping with my stated intention in my last post, I’d like to pass along several thoughts/quotes I found in my reading.  I  hope these will give you some “thought” about this Christmas season.

Christmas is not simply about a birth but about a coming.  Tim Keller in Hidden Christmas

God had planned for the arrival of His Son. Like any good writer, he prepared His people with a great back story. We now call that back story the Old Testament. As you read the OT you can’t help but see how God was preparing the people of Israel for the coming Messiah.

Here is a good one for you that really hits on the lack of Biblical truth in the church and also hits at the seemingly endless “psychological/mind/feel good” so-called preachers in today’s culture.

THE GOSPEL IS GOOD NEWS, NOT GOOD ADVICE.

The story of Jesus, the Gospel story, does not begin with “Once upon a time in a far away place…” Fairy tales begin that way. Star Wars begins that way (so I’ve been told). But not the Gospel message. Matthew 1 contains the genealogy of Jesus. It starts out by saying, “This is the genealogy of Jesus Christ.” Not “Once upon a time in a very far away town called Bethlehem…”

People don’t need good advice. Good advice will not lead people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. People need Jesus and the salvation He offers.

There you have it. A couple thoughts for your Christmas thoughts. What do you think?