This Christmas season is going to be different in some ways than the ones before. We should pray for churches that are not meeting, for tyrannical mayors and governors, for people who are ruled by fear, and for those who are elderly and immune-compromised.
Given that we are in
this situation where many things that we would love to do are not happening
this year, what should we do? We should take what has been called the most
egregious policy blunder in the history of American government and turn a
profit on it.
You will be home more
this Christmas than likely any other. So be diligent to make your home a place where
you and everyone in in your family wants to be. What’s far worse and more
tragic than not being able to go somewhere and do something is when people in
families don’t want to be together.
This starts with
confession of sin, each person taking responsibility for their sins to God.
This means keeping short accounts with Him. The only barrier to the joy of your
salvation is the length of time it takes you to repent and confess your sin. Do
this quickly and thoroughly. Don’t just say sorry to those you’ve sinned
against, but name your sin the way God does, and seek forgiveness. Husbands and
wives do this with each other and with your kids. Demonstrate this for your
children, and lead them to do the same. Fathers, take responsibility to make
sure this is happening. You may have to repent of your frustration at having to
sort out the squabbles occurring in your home, which at the center of your calling
to lead. So don’t neglect this work in your heart and life. Ask God to give you
wisdom, diligence, and grace to make your home the place where everyone in it
wants to be.
The results of doing this
are spectacular. We can lose the public performance of Handel’s Messiah and all
kinds of other wonderful things, but still have what really matters—the
abundant joy of Christ. Make sure you open this Christmas gift early and
often–every day—and make time to give it away this season. People are afraid,
confused, disappointed, and more afraid. In other words, there has never been a
better time to share the hope and peace of the gospel.
But we can only give
away what we have. We can only share what are enjoying ourselves. So make your
home a jolly one.
At communion God is saying to all of His children, “You are the body of Christ.” In1 Corinthians 10:17 Paul says, “For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.”
We are one loaf because we all commune and are connected to one Jesus. If I refer to the body of Christ, what am I talking about? Either Jesus in heaven, Jesus as presented in the one loaf, or the body of Jesus as the church. Continue reading
On February 21st, at the age of 99 years old, Billy Graham went to be with the Lord. He was the greatest preacher of his century, preaching to over 100 million people in person and millions more through TV and radio. He did all this without personal scandal because he remained humble before God. He wanted everyone to call him “Billy” because he really wanted to be friends and knew he was only a forgiven sinner.
This humility made him many friends, but it was his boldness that brought a multitude into the kingdom of God. Almost everyone knows someone who was converted through his ministry, and however we might differ with some his methods, Billy Graham preached a message that required a response from all who heard. As a result, hundreds of thousands of people believed on Lord Jesus Christ in true faith through the preaching of Billy Graham. Continue reading
Man was created an eating creature. God made the world full of food, and before the fall all the blessings of eating—energy, renewal, delight, and fellowship among others—were there in the Garden of Eden.
When Adam ate from the only prohibited tree, death came into this world. God cursed the ground, which would no longer easily yield food for mankind, and instead he would deal with thorns and thistles. Adam fell at a tree, but Jesus obeyed by dying on a tree with a crown of thorns on His brow. He rejected the devil’s food, refusing to live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Continue reading
We serve a God who has overcome fear. The second person of the Trinity took on flesh in order to destroy the devil, his works and effects, and the fear of death.
Hebrews 2:14-15: Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
For everyone who dies in Christ, death is victory, and we trust God to provide for those we would leave behind. He is sovereign and good. Jesus tells us plainly, “And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!” (Lk. 12:4-5). Continue reading
Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge,
But he who hates correction is stupid. –Proverbs 12:1
One of the central callings of every disciple of Christ is to learn. We’re not only to keep learning things, but to love and welcome instruction from others. The second half of this proverb points out the negative consequence of not doing so. The person who hates correction is not necessarily lacking in intelligence, but having rejected the input and wisdom of others, he is morally dumb. When Jesus says that to those who have more will be given, and from those who lack even what they have will be taken away, one way this is accomplished is by a person’s own desires. The humble are willing to be corrected because they love knowledge (and gather it in heaps), but the proud are clueless and proud of that, too.
In Luke 17, on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus passed through Samaria and Galilee. In one village ten lepers called out to Him, “Lord Jesus, have mercy on us!” (Lk. 17:13). He told them to the go show themselves to priests, and as they went they were cured of their leprosy (v14).
We note that in this instance Jesus didn’t heal them immediately. He didn’t reach out and touch them, but in the process of doing what He said to do, they were made whole. George MacDonald said “Obedience is the opener of eyes.” For these ten, obedience was also restored worship. Jesus sent them to the priests because then they would be ritually cleansed and able to worship God with His people.
But only one of those lepers, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, glorified God, fell down at His feet, and thanked Him. Jesus commented on this to the disciples: “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” (v18). He was a Samaritan, not someone expected to seek the Lord.
Ten lepers sought Jesus, ten obeyed Him, and ten were healed as they went. But only one came back, glorified God, and thanked Him.
The Lord’s Day is a feast day, not a fast day, and this is because God gave Himself to us in the Lord’s Supper to be eaten on His day.
No matter what sort of trial we are facing, what sort of fast the Lord has us in, it’s broken up by this meal. This is because feasting, fellowship, joy, consolation, victory and rest are normative in the Christian life. Conflict, affliction, doubt, trial and sorrow are temporary. God blesses us in and through them, but they are overcome.
This is God’s immovable feast, kicking off every week, given to fill you up, God’s people, with love, assurance and strength. Receive that here from Him, and fill this day full of rest, food, and fellowship. This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Moralism and Christianity are mortal enemies. Moralism and Christianity serve different masters.
It’s been said that the great between the salad and garbage is timing. Salad is salad for a time, but eventually it wilts. The difference between moralism and Christianity is much greater. Moralism, doing right for whatever reason, is never Christianity. Moralism is always garbage. Continue reading
The Art of Forgiving by Lewis B. Smedes
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
There’s a lot of wisdom about forgiveness and how the gospel drives it. There are also a few flies in the ointment. For example, Smedes worries about “fast forgivers” who forgive quickly in order to avoid their pain (p137ff). This makes a lot of sense, not to fake forgiveness or say we forgive when we really don’t, but he never deals with what Jesus says in this regard: “forgive us our trespasses as those who trespass against us”, which is to say, right away because God doesn’t hold our sins against us. He talks about waiting for the right time and quotes Nelson Mandela, “Ah, yes, forgiving, it will have to come to that sometime, but not yet, not while the boot is still on our neck” (p139). It’s hard not to think of Jesus forgiving His mockers from the cross while worse than the boot is on his neck, praying to the Father to forgive them, extending His own forgiveness. In other parts of the book Smedes addresses the problem with thinking we can control others or protect ourselves by not forgiving, but misses it here. Continue reading