Celebrating Christ at Christmas

Mary’s Boy Child Jesus

I’m sitting here in my small home-office on this “Night Before Christmas” and thinking about the wonderful service we attended this morning at our church.

The beautiful carols and moving worship-songs all blended into a sweet setting for our pastor to rehearse the facts and truths of “The Christmas Story,” in both traditional and contemporary ways and scriptures.

It was only a one hour service, but it all centered on Jesus Christ and we all left the sanctuary with happy hearts and joyous thoughts of this special season. More importantly, many had expressed their faith in Christ for the first time and joined His “forever family!”

That’s why Christ came, to seek and to save the lost!

Tonight, I’m also reviewing Christmas cards and greetings from many ministries which we try to support throughout the year. One letter comes from Renee Williams, a missionary sent out several years ago by our church to Japan.  She always shares some of the most interesting things about the Japanese lifestyle and culture.

In this recent letter, she was relating how many of the older Japanese know very little about Jesus or why he is called the “Christ.” They are surprised when she explains to them that Christmas is not the birthday of “Santa Claus.” They may have heard of Jesus, but often have no idea that the reason the Western (Gregorian) calendar is divided between B.C. and A.D. is that of Jesus’ birth.

The 80-year-old father of one of Renee’s Japanese friends once took a trip with her to Europe and saw some architectural remains that said “4th century B.C.” and asked the daughter what that meant.  He seemed shocked when she explained that all of the dates before Christ was born were written in this manner and the transition to A.D.  meant that Jesus was born approximately 2017 years ago.

As a grade school student during WWII in Japan, he was taught that the Japanese race was a superior race because of its long history. Whereas, the Western countries had only existed for 1940 years! He had heard of Jesus but had no idea that he was the Son of God, the promised Messiah of Israel, Who came to live and die, as the savior of all the Nations!

John 1:11-12 explains it this way: “He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” (NKJV)

In the morning, my wife and I will join with our nearby daughter’s family to see their tree of sparkling lights, reminding us of Jesus, Who is the Light of the world. We will again read “The Christmas Story” from Luke 2 and sing songs, celebrating the incarnation of God in human flesh. This Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, Who came to earth to save us from our sins! Hallelujah!

Truly, putting Christ in “Christ”mas is what this holy holiday is really all about! Merry Christmas!

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May Your Kingdom Come—this Christmas!

I received an email yesterday from a friend, asking that my wife and I join her in prayer for a needed miracle.

We have known her since college days and were surprised to hear from her last summer that she had been diagnosed with cancer. She was about to begin chemotherapy treatments at that time and asked for our prayers.

But the message yesterday was a cry for help. She has one more chemo treatment next week and then a pet scan after Christmas, for the doctors to decide on her next option. She said, “I am needing a miracle…”

Have you been there? Your natural options are used up and the only solution has to be a supernatural action, from God Himself.

For Christ-followers, the reality is something like the Apostle Paul’s when he said, “…For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain…I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you.” (Philippians 1:19-24)

In the face of those realities, I continue to be encouraged when I read that “Jesus went about all the cities and villages …preaching the gospel of the kingdom and healing every sickness and every disease…“(Matt. 9:35).

There is something powerful in the “good news” of the “kingdom” which precedes the healing of sicknesses and diseases. I suggest this powerful reality is wrapped up in our better understanding that word, “kingdom.”

You see, the kingdom of God exists everywhere the “king” is. For now, Christ’s kingdom is “not of this world.” Rather, the Gospels reveal that: Continue reading

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The Visit

Today was observed, by most Christians, as the first Sunday of this Advent Season.

Advent means “coming” or “visit”.  During the Christmas-time season of Advent, we prepare to again observe God’s “coming” or “visit” to earth and to our lives and circumstances as the Christ of  Christmas.

Each Advent Sunday can become a teachable moment for believers to review the history and meaning of Christ’s first visit and give renewed understanding to the promises and hope of Christ’s second visit.

Purposeful preparation in homes and churches often includes four candles, plus a fifth one, known as the “Christ Candle,” which is lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.  Each candle has a different meaning, based on the Bible’s teachings, and each can help us remember some key facets of faith and prepare our hearts to appreciate the truths surrounding the “advent”  or “coming visit” of the Babe of Bethlehem.

By lighting one candle each Sunday of Advent, we help ourselves to get ready to meaningfully observe the birth of Jesus.  The first week’s candle is often called the candle of Hope. Its light pierces the darkness with the hope-filled truth of God’s transcendent presence among His creation.

The prophet Isaiah projected the advent’s truth when he said:

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness — on them light has shined.” — Isaiah 9:2

Our advent preparations help us Continue reading

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Moore Trouble

Judge Roy Moore
CBS News Photo

Judge Roy Moore, the Republican candidate for the Senate to replace former Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, has been accused by four women of improper physical contact with them nearly 40 years ago, when they were underage teenagers and he was a young assistant district attorney or judge.

Of the four women, who were sought out by the press, the youngest at the time was Lisa Corfman, who was only 14 when she willingly joined him for their two dates. She is the only one who says the physical contact with Moore went beyond kissing but it did not include intercourse.

Judge Moore, who is now 70, denied the charges in a written statement: “These allegations are completely false and are a desperate political attack by the National Democrat Party and the Washington Post on this campaign.”

Later, his campaign said that if the allegations were true they would have surfaced during his previous campaigns. They summed up the decades-old charges of impropriety as “fake news” and “intentional defamation.”

Republicans leaders are scrambling to consider their other options for the December 12 special elections in Alabama. It appears that the date has passed when Moore’s name could be removed from the ballot, although some are suggesting they urge supporters to write in the name of Luther Strange, the currently appointed Senator who lost to Moore in the Republican primary.

In our currently changing culture, “sexual liberties” are suddenly not being celebrated, though Hugh Hefner still is and Hollywood scandals still unfold for celebrity predators. Can you spell “Hypocrisy”?

The Bible says God will judge Continue reading

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How soon is “soon”?

…see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven…

Three times in the closing chapter of the prophetic book of Revelation, the Apostle John wrote the words of Jesus Christ, “I am coming soon” (Rev. 22:7, 12, 20). Some denominational and para-church ministry statements of faith refer to this future fact in declaring their belief that Jesus is our “soon coming King.”

If we are waiting for the Second Coming of Christ, how long must we wait? If he is our “Soon Coming King,” how soon is “soon”?

As the skeptics and non-believers in this world point out, our Lord seems to have delayed His promised “soon” return for nearly 2,000 years. How are we to understand or explain this? Are we missing something?

We should remember that the Apostle Peter told us the “why” of this delay: God wants to give this sinful world opportunity to repent and be saved (2 Peter 3:1ff). As modern-day believers, we are to hold on to His promised return and keep ourselves pure, so that we may not be ashamed at His coming (1 John 2:28-3:3).

Again, we must ask “How soon is ‘soon’?” Is there a prophetic sequence or significant signs which can help us clarify God’s timetable?

Paul told the persecuted Thessalonian believers that they could be comforted and edified in knowing that whether we are dead or living at the time of Christ’s promised return, “God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5:9-11).

Wrath is the keyword. It describes Continue reading

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Presidential Profanity

President Trump was in Huntsville, Alabama last Friday to speak at a rally for Luther Strange. He is the GOP establishment-backed choice for the Alabama special election to fill the seat vacated by Jeff Sessions when he became the U.S. Attorney General. Oddly, Strange was not the front-runner and was defeated on Tuesday in the GOP runoff election by fellow Republican, Judge Roy Moore.

During his sometimes-randomized-remarks, the president spoke about NFL athletes who use their “freedom of speech” to protest during the National Anthem. He suggested that the player’s actions were disgraceful and disrespected veterans. Team owners, he said, should fire players who disrespect the American flag. Unfortunately, he got quite explicit about it.

While the President’s profane comments seemed to thrill his supporters, many veterans, and those who criticize National Anthem protesters, others were embarrassed or angered by his speech.

The thoughtless profanity literally disrespected the players’ mothers, calling them “bXXXhes.” That animal terminology has always inflamed anger and frequently incited violent responses. It is not surprising, then, that the number of NFL players linking arms and “taking a knee” during the playing of the National Anthem rose from six the previous week to over 200 this week, capturing the news cycle for weeks to come. And the NFL season has just begun.

It was no longer about former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s continued protest of alleged “police brutality” or the charge by others of the “disrespecting our nation’s values and flag” by “overpaid, pampered, players.”

Rather, the non-violent protests on the field by players, coaches, and some owners were a defiant “show of unity” in support of some of their fellow players, who felt disrespected by the profanity of our president.

Sadly, there is no escaping that our president sometimes uses coarse and crude language. Some would even say he is coarse and crude. Either way, his outbursts of profanity have raised undesirable, divisive dialog and lowered the needed level of civil discourse in this country.

Clearly, our president has Continue reading

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Are You Ready for the “Rapture” on Saturday?

Yesterday, I was in the lobby of a public building, which had a large-screen TV on the wall,  providing general interest and serving as background noise. All of a sudden I caught a “talking head” say that some Christians are expecting the “Rapture” to take place this Saturday, September 23. More information was promised, “…when we come back.”

The follow-up information revealed a self-described “Christian numerologist” and self-published author named David Meade is among internet prognosticators saying that on September 23, 2017, the sun, moon, and stars will mirror “signs” from chapter 12 of the Revelation, the last book of the New Testament. This phenomenon will supposedly signal the beginning of events associated in Scriptures with the end of the world, culminating with the judgments and wrath of God and, finally, the second coming of Christ to Earth.

Meade also predicts a mythological planetary system known as Planet X or Nibiru will appear in the sky or crash into the Earth on or near September 23. He claims if it just passes the Earth, its gravitational force will knock the planet off its polar axis and cause huge volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.

I know of no biblical prophecy experts who buy into the Planet X hypothesis and its linkage to the astrological “sign” of the woman of Revelation 12. Instead, they warn Christians to be careful about being drawn into such sensational claims. Others outright mock the theory and its adherents. One said:

I think he missed it.

The great “sign” of the end is not Planet X it is the iPhone X and that does not happen until after September 23rd.

Solar Phenomena and Biblical Prophecy

Since ancient times, people have perceived total eclipses (as Americans uniquely experienced on August 21) as omens or perhaps the beginnings of the judgment of God and the end of the world, as we know it.  The Bible refers to such a time of divine wrath as the “last times” (1 Peter 1:20Hebrews 1:1-2) or “the Day of the Lord.” This time will also include “signs in the heavens,” astrological alignments and phenomena announcing dramatic, cataclysmic events.

Jesus said that at “the end of the age,” after the “tribulation of those days” and just before His “coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory” then “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light: the stars will fall from heaven and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” (Matthew 24:29-30)

It seems clear, from the mouth of Jesus in this Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24 and Luke 21), that we should expect to see the “beginning of sorrows” or “Jacob’s Troubles” for the Jewish people first. Then “great tribulation” will be released by Satan and his Anti-Christ on all of God’s elect. During this time, deceivers and conspirators will try to divert our loyalty and devotion from the God of Heaven and Earth.

These realities will be followed by cosmic disturbances and signs, including the “sign of the Son of Man” appearing in heaven, against the backdrop of a darkened sun and moon. Other cosmic disturbances will occur, including “stars” (Planet X? asteroids?) falling from heaven, causing great earthquakes and tsunamis on Earth.

After all of these astronomical events,  Jesus will “send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet” to “gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”

So how should believers relate to these terrible times and cosmic calamities, as they live in these “last days”?

The Apostle Paul spoke of these practical issues when he wrote to the believers in Thessalonica. He commended them for turning from their former beliefs, superstitions, and practices “…to serve the living and true God and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10)

Later, in his second epistle to the believers in Thessalonica, Paul warned them (2 Thess. 2:1-12) that before the “Day of the Lord” will come, to demonstrate God’s glory over all opposition, two key things must happen. First, Continue reading

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