Saturday, November 14, 2015

Glad Tidings of Great Joy

I've been thinking a lot about the message of Christmas. Our celebrations are great times of family fun, memory-making, fantastic smells, and wonderful feasts of yummy foods. Traditions are grand and important. They put a foundation to our families and our cultures. 

But the celebrations aren't the message. The message of Christmas begins with this:

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8)

The world was beyond hope. God's own chosen people, the Jews, had not heard from God in 400 years. The oppressive Romans had no patience for any god but Caesar. It was then, when humankind was utterly helpless, that Christ came into the world. 

But by observing the western church, one might think that those verses read like this: "You see, when we were God-fearing and holy, Christ died for the worthy ones...He demonstrated His love for us by rewarding our righteous living by dying for us." But no, He had pity for us in our weakness, while we were STILL sinning. He knew that no attempts at righteous living could take away those sins. He knew that the sacrifices in the temple could not take away those sins. Yet in His love and mercy, he came as a helpless babe to a world that could not save itself and demonstrated his love by dying for the UNGODLY. 

In fact, His motivation for this act is spelled out by the apostle John: 

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:16, 17)

The angels brought "glad tidings of great joy" to the shepherds that night, because the promised One had been born and He would save His people from their sins. Surely the shepherds were not the godliest residents of Bethlehem that the angels could have visited that night. Yet the angelic tidings were not condemnation for sin, but a celebration of the much needed and oft prayed for Redeemer. In response to this great welcome, the Shepherds gladly ran off in search of the Christ child. 

As I reflect on the evangelical response to the War on Christmas and to the godlessness of our nation, I am greatly saddened. It was to the very same conditions of an oppressive government, a culture of hedonism, and a religious climate of many false gods that Jesus came. Yet He came not to condemn, but to invite. He came to seek and to save those who are lost. Are we like the heavenly host, who that night pointed to the remedy for sin rather than berating the sinful? Are we like the bright star that shone gladly over the manger, pointing the way to the only One that could make us righteous? Are we inviting the sinners to come taste and see this great wonder? 

Did you notice that the angels did not appear at the temple to make their announcement? No one from the temple was invited to witness that miracle. Wouldn't you think that would be their first stop? But there were very few in the temple even looking for the Messiah, and they would not have been happy to see him in a manger among the common things of the earth. 

Dear beloved brothers and sisters, will you be the heralds of good news this season? You see, the darker the night, the brighter the candle appears. In our darkened world, you can point to the remedy or you can call out the sin, but the message of Christmas is reconciliation - bought by the blood of Christ, not our own righteousness. 

When you call out "Merry Christmas!" will it be a blessing or a curse? Will it be an invitation or a condemnation? When you're done with your celebrations and waving the flags of your causes, will the people in your world know that Christ died so that they could have life? Consider what James, the half-brother of Jesus had to say about our greeting:

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness. (James 3:9-17)

This year, let us make "Merry Christmas" our good news that will cause great joy for all the people.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015


Waiting - easily the most annoying thing on the planet. It's hard to wait because we want to DO something, or we want it to be done NOW. But as I did a word study on  "wait" in the scriptures, I began to observe the placement of some recurring adverbs nearby the word, "wait." These adverbs tell us HOW to wait.

Consider these verses:

Psalm 5:3
Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly.
Psalm 27:14
Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.
Psalm 37:7
Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes.
Psalm 40:1
I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry.
Psalm 62:1
I wait quietly before God, for my victory comes from him.
Psalm 62:5
Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him.
Lamentations 3:26
So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the Lord.
Micah 7:7
As for me, I look to the Lord for help. I wait confidently for God to save me, and my God will certainly hear me.
Romans 8:25
But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.
Romans 15:4
Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled.
Hebrews 6:15
Then Abraham waited patiently, and he received what God had promised.
Hebrews 9:28
so also Christ was offered once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him.
James 5:7
Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return. Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen.

So how do we wait?

  • Expectantly
  • Patiently
  • Quietly 
  • Confidently
  • Eagerly

Hmm...there IS something we can DO while we wait. We can work out the HOW of waiting, and we leave the WHAT we are waiting for in the hands of the One on WHOM we are waiting.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Tyranny of "The Shoulds"


Sometimes it just seems like there is more I should be doing...not scheming, just actively participating in what God wants to accomplish in my life.  I get overwhelmed with all I should do, must do, and I finish each day feeling defeated because I didn't do all I should have done. Psalm 37 has given me something to think about regarding The Tyranny of The Shoulds:

  • Don't worry about the wicked (attitude)
  • Don't envy those who do wrong (attitude)
  • Trust in the LORD and do good (attitude)
  • Take delight in the LORD (attitude)
  • Commit everything you do to the LORD. Trust him (attitude)
  • Be still in the presence of the LORD, and wait patiently for him to act (attitude)
  • Don't worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes (attitude)
  • Stop your anger! Turn from your rage (attitude)
  • Do not envy others (attitude)
  • Turn from evil and do good (action)
  • The godly are generous givers (don't be stingy)  (attitude that manifests itself in an action)
  • Don't be impatient for the LORD to act! Travel steadily along his path (attitude followed by an action)
  • Look at those who are honest and good  (attitude)

Most of these commands are not about what I should be doing, but how I should be thinking and managing my feelings.  The only commands about what I should do are to turn from evil and do good, give generously, and walk the straight path of obedience.  Not very glorious a task, is it?  Sounds like "TRUST AND OBEY" to me!!

There are promised benefits for obeying these principles:

  • Then you will live safely in the land and prosper 
  • He will give you your heart's desires
  • He will help you
  • He will make your innocence as clear as the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun
  • Those who trust in the LORD will possess the land
  • Those who are gentle and lowly will possess the land; they will live in prosperous security
  • The LORD takes care of the godly. Day by day the LORD takes care of the innocent, and they will receive a reward that lasts forever
  • They will survive through hard times; even in famine they will have more than enough
  • The steps of the godly are directed by the LORD. He delights in every detail of their lives
  • Though they stumble, they will not fall, for the LORD holds them by the hand
  • I have never seen the godly forsaken, nor seen their children begging for bread
  • The godly always give generous loans to others, and their children are a blessing
  • For the LORD loves justice, and he will never abandon the godly. He will keep them safe forever
  • The godly will inherit the land and will live there forever
  • The LORD will not let the wicked succeed or let the godly be condemned when they are brought before the judge
  • He will honor you, giving you the land. You will see the wicked destroyed
  • A wonderful future lies before those who love peace
  • The LORD saves the godly; he is their fortress in times of trouble
  • The LORD helps them, rescuing them from the wicked. He saves them, and they find shelter in him.

John H. Sammis 

When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies,
But His smile quickly drives it away;
Not a doubt or a fear, not a sigh or a tear,
Can abide while we trust and obey.

Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share,
But our toil He doth richly repay;
Not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross,
But is blessed if we trust and obey.

But we never can prove the delights of His love
Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favor He shows, for the joy He bestows,
Are for them who will trust and obey.

Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet,
Or we’ll walk by His side in the way;
What He says we will do, where He sends we will go;
Never fear, only trust and obey.