Tag Archives: Christmas

An Unimaginable Trade

An Unimaginable Trade

Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.  Romans 5:14

Before Martin Luther penned his 95 Thesis, John Hus, had already been burned at the stake because of His faith in Jesus.  He was a “pre-reformation” reformer who loved the Scriptures. Speaking of Christmas, John Hus said, “Rejoice, that the immortal God is born, so that mortal men may live in eternity. Rejoice, because the rich Lord of the Universe became poor, that He may enrich us needy ones.”

Jesus came to right the wrong that the first Adam had started… Rebellion, pride, sin. Because of our personal sin and our sin nature – both a result of Adam’s sin – we needed Jesus. The “one to come” in the above verse was Jesus.  He came for us and that is why we celebrate Christmas!

  • Jesus left the throne of Heaven and traded it for a lowly feeding trough.
  • Jesus left the bright light of Heaven and traded for the dark lighting of a stable/cave.
  • Jesus left the splendor of Glory and traded what many would consider the “slums” of earth.
  • God took on human flesh. He became man and walked among men for 33 years!

This is a trade that Jesus made because of love.  Jesus was sent by God the Father and He willingly embarked on a mission of mercy to seek and to save the lost.  We are lost in our sins and Jesus made the way for salvation.  He was born to die.  He came to earth to be the only sacrifice the Father would accept for the forgiveness and atonement for our sin.  Jesus traded riches for rags that we might be eternally rich!

Be thankful for Jesus.  Whatever this day is bringing your way – trouble, pain, difficulties, busyness – stop everything and thank the Lord Jesus for making this trade – for coming to this earth for us.

By the way – there is one more trade we cannot forget.  Jesus traded our sin for His righteousness.  He took our sins upon Himself and paid for them on the Cross.  He washes away the sin of the believer and when the Father sees a Christian – He sees the righteousness of Jesus.  What a great deal for us!  It really is an unimaginable trade!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Blurriness of Christmas

The Blurriness of Christmas

And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.  Matthew 2:11

Consider the last few days in this month of December.  Lots of people are talking about “holidays” and Christmas. Many people appear to worship Christmas instead of worshiping Christ.  It is an easy thing to do.  There are holiday parties, travel to grandparents, gift exchanges and more.  I enjoy the holiday decorations, lights and nativity scenes we see all over the place.  The movie industry, commercial sales industry, and society as a whole are celebrating.  But, it is clear they are celebrating something other than the events in the Bible. The busyness of Christmas can give us blurry vision.

When the wise men saw baby Jesus they kneeled down to worship Him.  They did not loose sight as to why He was here and what Jesus was doing on the earth.  Just like when the cold temperatures outside and the warm temperatures on the inside causes the windows to fog up sometimes, we can have a hard time seeing Christmas for what it really is.  There is such a disparity in the perceived “reasons for the season” in the world today.

Pray and ask the Lord to help you not loose sight or have blurry vision during this holiday season.  With all the busyness and possible distractions of this season, take some time to kneel in prayer, thanking and praising God for His Son and our Savoir Jesus, the Christ.

 

 

 

The Gift of Himself

The Gift of Himself

I read about one boy named Alfred who “wrote a letter to Santa which read, “Dear Santa, you did not bring me anything good last year. You did not bring me anything good the year before that. This is your last chance. Signed, Alfred.””

Of course, us humans receiving material gifts is not the purpose of Christmas. Modern thinking tends to focus on gifts to the neglect of the reason for Christmas to begin with.

As the Christmas day approaches news reports always come in about record sales or low sales at the stores.  As soon as Black Friday hit, we heard of the large number of retail sales.  Online sales soared again on Cyber Monday.  Business owners perhaps are thinking “this is the best Christmas ever!”

When everything is said and done – the first Christmas is the best Christmas.  It was on that day, that Jesus inserted Himself into this human experience, took on flesh, and began His mission to seek and save the lost.   He gave Himself to us as a gift.

With all the busyness of the season, please do not forget the reason for this season.  God’s love.  His Gift. God’s Son. His Sacrifice. Our Sins. His Forgiveness.  Thank the Lord Jesus came to earth for us.   Thank God for the gift of His Son and the Salvation He purchased at the cross.

Philippians  2:5-8 is a good Christmas reminder: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Developing Character at Christmas

Developing Character at Christmas

“And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.” Matthew 2:11

In a day of extreme excess and people forgetting the true meaning of Christmas, Christian people must purpose in their mind and be deliberate in their actions to accurately portray Christmas to the family and to others.

The American Research Group reports: “Shoppers around the country say they are planning to spend an average of $929 for gifts this holiday season, up from $882 last year according to the 32d annual survey on holiday spending from the American Research Group, Inc. Planned gift spending for 2016 is $47 above spending in 2015 and it is the first time planned gift spending exceeds $900 since 2006.”

Black Friday, and Cyber Monday were again record breaking days in the number of sales and dollars transacted.

I like the choir song: “Much to do no time to do it, I can’t get it all done at Christmastime…”

With our schedules and minds being pulled in so many different directions, sometimes we forget the real purpose and meaning of Christmas!

Here are some ideas to help build character in yourself and your family members.

Emphasize Giving, Not Getting.  In Acts 20:35 Jesus said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

  • Encourage kids to give outgrown cloths.
  • Encourage the family to give unused toys (Even the tools and toys the men may have).
  • Exemplify giving to others in more need. Find someone to give food or essential items. Give things that you enjoy that others may enjoy them too.
  • Enjoy sharing a meal with others.
  • No matter our age, occupation, or financial status, each of us are in a position where we can give something to someone else.

Encourage Moderation, Not Excess.  Philippians 4:5 declares: “Let your moderation be known unto all men.”

Moderation means appropriate and mild.  When the wise men celebrated Jesus, they did so with three meaningful gifts:  “gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.”

The gold was worthy of a King, the frankincense demonstrating His purity, and the myrrh represented His purpose for coming, to die on the cross.  Most of the time a few quality gifts mean more.

Joseph was able to take baby Jesus to Egypt and escape the murderous plot of King Herod to kill all the baby boys age 2 and under.  Joseph left his job and had the ability to move because of these meaningful gifts.

With our children we have purpose behind each gift.  We give…

  • An item they were hoping for. An item that would be on a “Wish list.”
  • An item they share with others in watching or listening to. An old TV show or movie that does not take away but contributes to godly character.
  • An item they can play with others. A board game, basketball, or even a video game would work here.

Cloths are a necessity so we do not include them as an item.  Three gifts are all we plan for.  Be purposeful with your gifts.  You may have some priorities that are like the above suggestions.  Whatever you do – have a purpose of some kind behind each one.  Be generous – with purpose and meaning.

Enable Simplicity, Not Busyness.

The church at Ephesus in Revelation chapter 2 “left their first love.”  How can that happen?  Because of the excess, commercials, and lustful society we live in – it is easy to get caught up with material things and business too.

Proverbs 4:23 instructs: “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.”  In order to keep safe our heart – we must have a greater purpose and plan.

Sometimes we are so busy we do get anything done.  Many of us do not accomplish anything that is worthwhile even though they have stress, work, and all the other symptoms of being productive.

SELAH – Stop and Think – is a needed practice at Christmas time.  Here are some suggestions to help you not be so busy that you forget what Christmas is really all about.

  • Read the Christmas Story in Matthew 2 and Luke 2.
  • Go to and participate in special church programs, but lesson your overall commitments of time and energy to things that have less than spiritual purposes.
  • Turn off the tv during the days off school. Our kids should not sit in front of a tv from 8 am to 3 pm.
  • Tune up beautiful Christmas Music. There are many wonderful Christian radio websites that will encourage you.  Please see the other postings for their addresses.
  • Go Christmas Caroling.
  • If you do watch a Christmas Movie, do so together as a family.

Be Purposeful – to Develop Character at Christmas.  Since Jesus Himself is the gift of Christmas, the things we do and give should reflect Him.  After all – It is His birthday we are supposed to be celebrating.

 

 

 

 

The Trees of Christmas

The Trees of Christmas

Do you enjoy decorating the Christmas tree?  Many people love them.  I like seeing the big ones in parks.  Our children have fun decorating our tree each year in our home.

We have a “Thanksgiving Tree” in our house as soon as November rolls around.  Then we re-decorate to make it our Christmas tree in December.  Use the same tree for nearly 2 months of the year.

Having family customs and traditions will make your home a place of special memories.  Your kids will love it and remember it.  Even if it is inconvenient for you, the memories will be worth it later.

The Christmas Story begins and ends with a tree. 

There are Several Trees in the Bible as we think about the Christmas Tree.

Our First Tree is in the Garden of Eden.

The Garden of Eden was full of Trees: Fur, Cedars, Chesnut, etc… :  Ezekiel message to Pharaoh included trees.  The King of Assyria was compared to these trees and Pharaoh was told he would become greater than these trees:  Ezekiel 31:8-9 says, The cedars in the garden of God could not hide him: the fir trees were not like his boughs, and the chesnut trees were not like his branches; nor any tree in the garden of God was like unto him in his beauty. 9 I have made him fair by the multitude of his branches: so that all the trees of Eden, that were in the garden of God, envied him.  Pharaoh would also fall in his pride:  Ezekiel 31:18 To whom art thou thus like in glory and in greatness among the trees of Eden? yet shalt thou be brought down with the trees of Eden unto the nether parts of the earth: thou shalt lie in the midst of the uncircumcised with them that be slain by the sword. This is Pharaoh and all his multitude, saith the Lord GOD.

The “Tree of Life” is mentioned in Genesis 2:9, And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

“The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil” is also spoken of in Genesis 2:16-17.  God told Adam and Adam told Eve to not eat the fruit of this tree.  They could eat all the other tree fruit, except this one.

Eve was tempted by the Serpent and Adam chose to disobey the Lord.  They fell to the Temptation of the Tree:  Genesis 3:17 says,  And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;

This resulted in SEPARATION from God: Genesis 3:2 And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:

Much SORROW came about including being kicked out of the Garden of Eden: Genesis 3:24, So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.

Apparently, before sin, Adam could eat the fruit of the “Tree of Life.”  After sin – God removed Adam and Eve from the Garden so they could no longer eat the tree of life.

The Next Tree is in The Garden of Gethsemane.  

While not mentioned specifically, the Lord Jesus was praying to God the Father in the midst of a grove of Olive trees.  This location is the Mount of Olives.  There are many of the same trees alive today that were there when Jesus met with God the Father in prayer. The photo above is of one of those trees.

Matthew 26:36-39 tells us, Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. 37 And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. 38 Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. 39 And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.

From Olive Oil to Olive Branches, much is symbolized in the Olive Tree.

  • A Symbol of Preservation. Genesis 8:11 declares, And the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf pluckt off: so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth.  The Lord preserved the human race and the olive branch was a sign of hope that they survived the global flood and a new life was emerging following the flood.
  • A Symbol of Prosperity. Olive Oil;  we cook with it.  It is used in Old Testament ceremonies.  Even Candles (or lamps) were lit with it in the Old and New Testaments.
  • A Symbol of Peace. Olive Branch. Think United Nations logo.  There is an Olive Branch.

In the middle of the Olive Grove Jesus was making Preservation Possible, giving us the Prosperity of Heaven, and Praying for believers to have Peace with God.  Peace is possible only because of His blood that was shed on the third tree we will look at – the Golgotha Tree.  Because of the sin surrounding the first tree – an our own sin, Jesus came to earth to die on a tree.

Because of sin – we are at enmity against God.  In other words we are enemies towards God.  That is not a good place to be!  Observe the following:

  • John 3:18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
  • John 3:36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.
  • 1 John 5:12 He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.

 

The Third Tree is The Golgotha Tree; Otherwise known as “The Old Rugged Cross.”

  • Galatians 3:13 Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:
  • 1 Peter 2:24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.
  • John 12:32-33 And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. 33 This he said, signifying what death he should die.

WE GO FULL CIRCLE.  We Begin with a Tree in the Garden of Eden,  We walked up the Mount of Olives to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed on His way to the Cross, and then– it was on that Old Rugged Tree – Jesus died for your sin.

  • The First tree was fashioned by God and sinfully visited by man.
  • The Last Tree was Fashioned by Man and selflessly visited by God.
  • The First Tree was Perfect and wonderful to see.
  • The Last Tree was splintered, ugly, and bloody – hard to look at.
  • The First tree opened mankind’s eyes to sin.
  • The Last Tree covers God’s eyes to our sin.
  • The first Tree was Adams Downfall.
  • The Last Tree was Jesus’s Death.
  • It was because of the First Tree That Jesus had to come to earth.
  • It is because of the Last Tree that we can go to Heaven.

After spending 3 entire days dead – Jesus rose again.  After dying on the cross, and paying the price for our sin – Jesus came out of the tomb.  Just as Jesus came the first time – He is coming again, a second time.

Believe in the First Coming of Jesus.  He came to die on the cross taking your sin.  Christmas time is a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus who came to earth to make a way for you to be united with God.  Without Jesus we have no relationship or fellowship with God the Father.  While the first tree became the ruin of man, the last tree became the place of our salvation.

Why not accept Jesus by faith today?  Receive the free gift of eternal life.  It is free to us; yet paid for with the high price of the life of Jesus.

Don’t look at the Christmas Tree in your home the same way today.  Let it remind you of the first and last tree.  The Christmas Story begins and ends with a tree. 

 

 

 

They Did Not Live Together

They Did Not Live Together

And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house.  Luke 1:56

When in her home in Nazareth, Mary is visited by the angel Gabriel.  He tells her that she will have a son named Jesus and that He is the Son of God.  She is amazed at what the angel is saying, especially since she had not been married yet, and had never “known” a man in a sexual way.  She was a young woman probably around 16 years of age at the time.  In the past, girls would marry at younger ages than are recommended for today.  She had never lived with anyone other than her parents with whom she was still living.

I have been to Mary’s childhood home in Nazareth (as pictured in photo above).  Around Christmas, news casters may show a film of “The Church of the Annunciation.”  If you see that, you are looking at the general location of where her home was located.

Before Gabriel tells her this amazing announcement, she was already excited because a young man, a distant relative named Joseph, had just been chosen to be her espoused husband.  When couples were espoused to one another, the commitment was just as binding as marriage; the only way out of it was for a divorce.  The difference is that they would not live together or be alone with each other for about a year until they “consummate” the marriage.

Evidently this gave time for the couple to be apart from one another and to ensure that the couple was being virtuous and moral in their relationship.  It would also give time to the young man to get a good job, hold that job, get some land, build or buy a house, and simply be prepared for life.  It would be a time for the young woman to more fully prepare for marriage.  Some women would learn from other successful wives for long periods of time.  That is what happens when Mary goes to see her cousin, the daughter of a priest and husband of a priest.  Elizabeth was a good role-model.

Gabriel continues to amaze Mary with more news about Elizabeth who was already 6 months pregnant.  Mary knew Elizabeth and her priest husband Zacharias had been trying to have a child for years and were past childbearing age.  This was big news.  Upon hearing the news of older cousin Elizabeth, that she was going to have a baby, Mary traveled a 3-4 day walk to the “hill country” outside of Jerusalem from her home in Nazareth.

While visiting, both Mary and Elizabeth are “filled with the Holy Spirit.”  You can read what happens in Luke 1.  After staying with Elizabeth and Zachariah for 3 months, Mary goes to her own home.  Six months later baby Jesus is born.  Joseph and Mary were about a 3-4 days walk away from each other when Mary was impregnated by the Holy Ghost.

Mary was a virgin when she delivered baby Jesus into the world, having never known a man before the birth of Jesus.  This is a miracle in that God the Father gave us His Son.  This Baby, Jesus, is “God in the flesh.” He was born into the world to be the perfect sacrifice so we humans can be forgiven of our sin when we trust in Jesus and His sacrifice on the Cross.

Mary and Joseph did not live together when she became pregnant.  When Mary walks back to Nazareth, Joseph has not seen her for 3 whole months.  That is why he was considering “putting her away” (Matthew 1) because she was pregnant, this was embarrassing, and he knew that he was not the father.

When Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem for the census and ultimately for God’s will that Jesus be born there, they did travel together and apparently alone.  She was already great with child at that point, and yet, she and Joseph did not “know” each other in a sexual way until after the birth of Jesus.  God blesses Mary and Joseph with a few other sons and daughters in the following years.

Today, many couples of any age want to “live together” before being married.  Some do not want to be married at all.  They want to enjoy the benefits that marriage brings but not to commit to the responsibility marriage demands.  If you are in a relationship with someone right now and you are living together “as if you were husband and wife” but have not made the commitment formally, you can do better.  Hebrews 13:4 says:  “Marriage is honourable in all and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.

The man should step up and take the responsibility, not just take the benefits.  The woman should be cherished more by the man and he should make the marriage commitment to her.  Don’t let your partner “take” away from you.  “Give” yourself to your partner in marriage.

To make the point, look at the contrast between Charlie Sheen and Tim Tebow.  According to reports, Charlie now is HIV positive and has had immoral contact with as many as 1,400 women in the last 4 years.  The girlfriend he promised to marry stayed with him for a long time, but after realizing that he was never going to marry him left.  Or he kicked her out, depending on which one you talk to.  Tim Tebow on the other hand has remained a virgin.  Even though he is still seeking the one who he will marry one day, he can give to whoever she is, a trustworthy, non-selfish, pure-hearted, and non-disease infected man.  Living together after the public vows and taking the commitment of marriage is God’s intention.

If you have already been having sexual relationships, but are not ready to be married yet, stop living that way and determine to remain abstinent until your wedding day.  If you believe God has given you the one to marry, then find a local church pastor to help you get this marriage commitment settled.  You can be more like Mary and Joseph who honored God’s plan for the home.

This Christmas, thank the Lord for the miracle of the birth of Jesus.  This couple, Mary and Joseph, are a good example to us today.  Because they did the right thing, they were in a position to be blessed.

Gift Giving

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Gift Giving

And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.  Matthew 2:11

Gift giving has gone on at Christmastime for a long time.  In our passage, the wise men bring worthy and timely gifts to Christ and His family. The gold was worthy of a King, the frankincense demonstrated His purity, and the myrrh represented His purpose for coming, to die on the cross.  With these gifts, Joseph was able to leave his employment and even leave the country as tyrannical King Herod was killing off all the male babies two years of age and under.  The Christ child lived in Egypt for a while before being brought back to Israel as the Old Testament prophesied in Hosea 11:1.  With hearts of love, expecting nothing in return, these men gave. The gifts the Wise Men brought were symbolic, meaningful, and beneficial to the Christ child and to His family. 

When we give gifts at Christmas time, be sure that you and those in your home are reminded about the significance of gift giving.  Every gift that is given is an opportunity to remember the greatest gift – when God sent Christ into this world to bring us the gift of eternal life.  As Romans 6:23 instructs:  “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”   With thankful hearts, let’s give to each other all the while remembering the greatest gift .