Tuesday, November 26, 2019

The Celebration of Christmas

Luke 2:9-10 - "And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people;"

December has arrived and the Christmas Season is upon us. The celebration of the birth of Christ is all around us, even in the midst of our secular observance of the holiday. The question is, what is the proper response to the birth of Christ? Some choose to ignore His birth. They have no place for Him in the world they have fashioned around themselves. For others, there is much greater hostility. They cannot tolerate Him because He is too threatening. There were many of these during the brief life of Jesus upon the earth. There was king Herod who saw Jesus as a threat to his reign. He sought to destroy King Jesus in order to maintain his own position. The Pharisees also wanted to destroy Him because they too were threatened by His authority. Then there was the mixed multitude who could only shout, “Away with Him! Crucify Him!”

But what is the proper response to the birth of Christ? Jesus was born in a manger, in a most meager condition. His birth was first announced to the shepherds, who were in the field watching over their flock. When the angels appeared to them they were terrified, frightened to the core.

The angel comforted them and encouraged them not to be afraid. Immediately the shepherds made haste and came to Bethlehem to see the Christ child. What did they see? Was it merely a baby laying in a feed trough? What they saw was the eternal Son of God. They believed the words of the angel. They saw far more than a human baby. “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). They saw the Savior of God’s people.

What we read next is the proper response to the birth of Christ— "The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen” (Luke 2:20). They knew they had witnessed the extraordinary. They had seen the Savior. Their response was the only proper response. They returned believing, and rejoicing, praising, and glorifying God for the wonder of His excellent gift. And then they went sharing the good news with others.

May God fill our hearts with wonder and awe as we celebrate this wondrous season. God has shed His love upon us in sending forth His Son that we might be reconciled and adopted as His own children

Tuesday, October 29, 2019


The fourth Thursday of November is set aside as a day of Thanksgiving, a time marked by family gatherings, good food, and a time of reflection upon the rich bounty of our great God. 

The first Thanksgiving was celebrated in1621, the year after the arrival of the Mayflower. It was attended by 53 pilgrims, the only colonists to survive the long journey across the ocean and the first winter in the New World. This was just over half of the original 102 who set sail for the new world in 1620. They were helped through the winter with supplies of food from the local Indians, but the ultimate supply came from the unseen hand of God's Providence. As they gathered together to celebrate the first harvest, they had much for which to be thankful. The first celebration wasn't called Thanksgiving. It was simply a harvest celebration, but it was full of gratitude to God for His provision. 

There are many different opinions surrounding this first Thanksgiving. There is one point that cannot be disputed. These early pilgrim colonists were Christians. They looked to God for their provision, even in the midst of their terrible ordeal. The Christian heart is full of gratitude. While the first Thanksgiving was most likely not called by this name, two years later they held a "Thanksgiving" that was primarily a religious day of prayer and fasting. In time these two events became intertwined. They regularly gathered for a season of Thanksgiving to God.

It is God's will for His people to live in a continual spirit of thanksgiving, gratitude that is directed to Him for all of His great blessings. The Psalmist writes, Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name" (Psalm 103:1 KJV). We praise and worship God with our whole heart, all that is within us. We praise God in all things and in every circumstance. Paul instructs us, "in everything give thanks, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thes. 5:18). This is all-inclusive--"in everything."

As you prepare your heart for the 2019 season of Thanksgiving ponder deeply the countless blessings God has poured out in your life. Even the things we consider trials are actually God's wondrous work in us preparing us for glory. And as Thanksgiving begins the Christmas season, begin to ponder anew the greatest blessing of God's gift of His Son.


Friday, October 4, 2019

Despising God's Word

“The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, ‘There is one man by whom we may inquire of the LORD, but I hate him, for he never prophesies anything good concerning me but always evil’” (2 Chronicles 18:7 NASB).       

            After the death of Asa Jehoshaphat his son became king over Judah. He reigned for 25 years and the Bible describes his reign favorably, doing right in the sight of God. His one flaw was in aligning himself with the kings of Israel who were consistently wicked. “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers” (Psalm 1). He became united with Ahab, king of Israel, by marriage and went to visit him at Samaria. Ahab convinced Jehoshaphat to join him in going to war with the Arameans. Jehoshaphat being a righteous man agreed, but first wanted to hear from God. Ahab gathered together his prophets, 400 in all—not a one being a true prophet of God. Each of them assured Ahab of success. Jehoshaphat was not impressed by their credentials nor their words. He turned to Ahab and asked, “Is there not yet a prophet of the LORD here that we may inquire of him?” It turns out that in all Israel there was a single prophet of God, but Ahab wasted no time in expressing his opinion of this man of God, “I hate him.” Ahab hated Micaiah because he spoke the clear Word of God. The wicked man cannot endure sound preaching, while a righteous man cannot endure the false.

            Ahab’s words express plainly the heart of most men regarding the preaching of the Word of God. They despise it. Paul described them, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teacher in accordance to their own desires” (2Tim. 4:3). Ahab despised Micaiah, not because of his actions, but because of his words—“he never prophesies anything good.” Many people share the heart of Ahab. They despise preaching. They cannot imagine themselves sitting for an hour listing to some man rant about a portion of the Bible. And if they do attend, they will often take offense over what they hear.

            Sadly, some Christians are not far different from Ahab in their approach to the proclamation of God’s Word. They fail to comprehend the weightiness of the words. Some dismiss the words because they don’t care for the preacher—”I hate him.” In our generation many dismiss the words because they have been conditioned by their endless exposure to media. They watch TV or movies for entertainment, but don’t really expect any life-changing impact upon their lives. There is no authority contained in a movie. They are exposed to the many news sources but dismiss much of what they hear as “fake news.” They enter the worship service as a spectator and see the preaching as yet one more form of expression to be received or rejected at will. They are just words and ideas spoken by a man. If they don’t like the words they like they reject them, or perhaps even despise the one who spoke them. Few see preaching of the Word of God as a matter of life or death. This puts a weighty responsibility upon the preacher. Like Micaiah, he must be careful to preach only the Word of God.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Drew Brees Controversy

      I read in the Advocate this morning about the controversy surrounding a recent video by Saints quarterback Drew Brees, encouraging children to bring their Bibles to school on October 3 for Bring Your Bible to School Day. The event is sponsored by Focus on the Family. And herein lies the controversy. Focus on the Family is openly pro-family and pro-marriage. They teach and promote the Biblical teaching on marriage—that marriage is between one man and one woman.

      The controversy is over the backlash from the LGBTQ community because of Focus on the Family’s support of traditional marriage. Because they oppose the position of the gay community they are labeled a hate group, and thus Drew Brees by association.

      The position of Focus on the Family is stated clearly on their website: “Focus on the Family believes that sex is given by God as an expression of love to be shared and enjoyed exclusively between a husband and wife. Further, we are convinced that the Bible leaves no room whatsoever for confusion or ambiguity where homosexual behavior is concerned.”

      In response, Drew Brees is distancing himself from any association with Focus on the Family. In response to the criticism against him Brees responds: "Unfortunately, (there are) Christian organizations out there that are involved in that kind of thing and to me that is totally against what being a Christian is all about, Being a Christian is love, it's forgiveness, it’s respecting all, it’s accepting all." He goes on to describe what it means to love your neighbor: “It means love all, respect all and accept all. So that is actually how I live my life. That is what I try to do with my family, with my teammates, with people in my community, with my friends, all people. No matter your race, your color, your religious preference, your sexual orientation, your political beliefs, it doesn’t matter.”

     It is certainly true that love demands looking upon all people with mercy and forbearance. It demands living in humility, knowing that all of humanity shares in the curse of sin and all of us are equally in need of God’s grace. To demonize one sin over another is to ignore the reality of our own sin and the greatness of salvation through Jesus Christ. All of us can claim Paul’s words, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all” (1 Timothy 1:15).

     But there is an idea today that “acceptance” demands receiving every belief and orientation as being equally valid. To accept another person’s religious preference in terms of toleration is not the same thing as accepting it as a valid option. I can be tolerant of a Muslim, but at the same time express clearly that Christ is the only way to be reconciled with God. There is salvation in no other way. I can look upon the homosexual with love and compassion while at the same time condemning the sinfulness of his lifestyle. A declaration of another person’s sin is not a statement of hate. It is actually a statement that I love him and care about him.

     It seems a bit nonsensical to encourage children to bring their Bible to School but deny what the Bible has to say. The Bible is not a merely an object of adoration or a symbol to be carried with us to identify ourselves with other Bible carriers. That makes it no different than wearing a Saints t-shirt to declare our allegiance to a particular football team. The Bible is the Word of God. It is absolute truth. It makes demands upon our lives. God sets forth His Law and demands obedience. All men will stand before Him to give account.

     I applaud Brees encouraging children to bring their Bible to school but am disappointed to see him closing his eyes to what it teaches, and for condemning those who would dare follow what it says.