Thursday, December 31, 2015

Will 2016 Bring Peace?

A few quotes from religious and political leaders during this holiday season:


From Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby: “Christianity is facing elimination in the Middle East at the hands of an Islamic State apocalypse.”
From Chief Rabbi Ephriam Mirvis: “It has been reported that persecution of Christians persists in over a hundred countries, more than for any other religion.”
From Pope Francis: “We are close to Christmas. There will be lights, there will be parties, bright  trees, even Nativity scenes – all decked out – while the world continues to wage war. It’s all a charade. The world has not understood the way of peace. The whole world is at war.”
From President Obama: Those of us fortunate enough to live in countries that honor the birthright of all people to practice their faith freely give thanks for that blessing. Michelle and I are also ever-mindful that many of our fellow Christians do not enjoy that right, and hold especially close to our hearts and minds those who have been driven from their ancient homelands by unspeakable violence and persecution.”
From Senator Ted Cruz: “Christians who are being targeted, for genocide, for persecution, Christians who are being beheaded or crucified, we should be providing safe haven to them. But President Obama refuses to do that.”
From Donald Trump: “I’m a good Christian. If I become president, we’re gonna be saying Merry Christmas at every store. You can leave happy holidays at the corner.” (Okay, I’ll let the other quotes stand on their own. But as a Christian, I have to say this is not high on the list of changes I’d like to see in my country. And FYI Mr. Trump: I don’t know many “good” Christians. Maybe not any. Our only goodness is Christ's goodness in us.)
From Queen Elizabeth: “It is true that the world has had to confront moments of darkness this year, but the gospel of John contains a verse of great hope, often read at Christmas carol services: ‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it’.”
The New Year will likely bring more war, less peace. It will give a new president to the United States. Who will secure that role and lead our nation? The next twelve months will bring throngs attempting to establish new homes in foreign lands. How many? Where will they go? What will they do? Who are they?

Will there be more mass shootings? Will we lose our grasp on what remains of freedom? Will we meet God’s judgement?
As we begin 2016, we face a year most certainly destined to bring great change, terror, dismay, disaster. Hope. Resolution. Promise. Redemption. The ways of God shine a light in the darkness. Peace? For the whole world? Maybe not this year. But one day. As for the redeemed…
From Jesus: “I have told you these things that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Letter to Adam and Eve




DEAR ADAM and EVE,

Do you have any idea what the piece fruit you ate has done to us, your descendants? Do you have any idea?
Did you have any idea how far reaching one act of disobedience was going to be? You did not think this through; your actions were selfish and poorly thought out!

The consequences of the mess you handed down to us are getting worse, everyday: Relationships are falling apart; there is hunger, diseases, and death. Little children and infants are living and dying in poverty. We have diseases with no known names or cure, and children are suffering with inoperable cancers. There are rampant senseless killings, early death, and all kinds of unimaginable distress.

It is too late for you to worry about all that; the damage has been done.
But God in His love and infinite wisdom, made a way to restore things to their original state, to restore the relationship between Him and us. Do you remember how He used to visit you in the Garden, in the cool of the day (see Genesis 3:8)? Of course you do, but you lost that privilege when you were thrown out of the garden.

But He has restored that privilege to us; now we are able to visit Him in His Throne Room. Do you want to know what He did? He sent His One and only Son Jesus Christ to pay the penalty for our sins (see John 3:16).  Jesus died a painful death on the cross on our behalf, so now we don’t have to die if we repent, believe in Him and ask for forgiveness. For the time being though, our struggles will continue until we see Him face to face. Through our pain and suffering, He is transforming us to be more like Him.

We will not hold any of our sufferings against you, because if anyone of us had been the First, we most likely would have done exactly what you did.

Now about the Throne Room, let me tell you, it is amazing! As sinful as we are (thanks to you), we get to go there any time of any day to just sit down, lie down, stand up, or kneel down before Him. Physical posture is really not that important; what is really important is the posture of our hearts.

He wants us to come in humility, penitence, and faith. He talks to us through the Word and the Spirit, and then He listens to us as we petition Him about various needs and issues. You know, He answers before we call, and while we are still speaking He hears (see Isaiah 65:24). Our relationship with Him through Christ is amazing. All these privileges are only for those who believe in Him, so we need to let everybody else know about His provision for salvation!


Guess what else, He is preparing a place for us in heaven (see John 14:2-3), so when we leave this life we will forever be with Him. Again, it is only those who believe in Him who will be with Him, and those who never believe in Him will be with the devil, who deceived you in the garden. Sad to say, their eternity will be in the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels (see Matthew 25:41). I hope you appreciate this update!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

God Will Give Us Peace



This Christmas season I’ve shared a bit of the history of two well-known carols. Now with Christmas upon us and soon to be swept away with memories of Christmas days past, I’d like to share the story of one more song. This one is not as old as the others. It’s an American carol written in the midst of a tumultuous period in our nation’s history. Inspiration came not only as a result of national despair, but also from personal grief.
The poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow penned the words. April of 1861 brought the start of the Civil War. Then in July, the writer’s wife died when her dress caught fire. Trying to save her, Longfellow suffered severe burns to his hands and face. Her death left him to raise their five children alone.
That Christmas he wrote in his journal: "How inexpressibly sad are all holidays." The following Christmas he wrote: "I can make no record of these days. Better leave them wrapped in silence. Perhaps someday God will give me peace."
During the next year, Longfellow’s eldest son was severely injured in battle. That Christmas, the poet was silent. His son lived, but the war continued to rip his country apart. The world had changed, and perhaps beautiful words were no longer needed. They weren’t enough to offer hope either to the poet or to the reader.
Then on Christmas day, 1864, Longfellow allowed hope to return as he wrote “Christmas Bells.” Did he visualize the end of the horrible war? Did his son’s recovery lift him from depression? Perhaps he simply recalled that God cannot be defeated. That war and death and loss must give way to peace and life and gain.
In 1872, John Baptiste Calkin added music to Longfellow’s poem and gave us the carol, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” The world has changed a few times since then. Even this past year, it has changed again. Turmoil is commonplace. The future is uncertain. For some, our nation feels a bit less like home. Peace on earth seems like a fleeting dream as mankind turns away from God’s good will.
But wars will end. The future is sealed. This world is not our home. Peace is eternal. And God cannot be defeated!
Here are the last two stanzas of Longfellow’s poem:
And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: 
"God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!"
Have a hope-filled, peaceful, blessed, Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christians Standing Defiant for Jesus

My pastor has asked me to preach the sermon this Sunday 27th December. My topic is Matthew 2:1-12, the visit of the Magi.

I have decided that I'm going to talk on the theme of trust - that the Magi trusted Jesus as a future saviour, even though He was just a baby and it would be 30 years before he even began His ministry.

Matthew tells us that Joseph, Mary and Jesus were forced to flee to Egypt, and in my sermon I shall point to the Egyptian Coptic Christian church as a church that has survived centuries of persecution - continuing to the present day - thanks to trust in Jesus.

Here is an excerpt from an article I wrote earlier this year:

Egypt holds a special place in the history of the church. Mary and Joseph fled there with the infant Jesus. Saint Mark founded the Egyptian church just a decade after the death of Christ, possibly wrote his gospel there and was martyred there.

In addition, few places better symbolized the third-century church father Tertullian’s famous statement, that the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the church.

In the words of the Tour Egypt website: “It was in Egypt that some of the greatest defiances of the Romans by Christians were done. While their Roman counterparts worshipped in catacombs and underground vaults, the Egyptian Christians built their churches openly and performed their ceremonies in full view of the Empire. And for every one that the Empire struck down, more would be converted by the example of the martyr.”

For several hundred years Egypt was a proudly Christian nation. Then the Muslim invasion of the seventh century saw the country slowly turn into an Islamic state. Today Christians number only around 10 per cent of the population.

But the martyrdoms continue. Recent years have seen some particularly grotesque attacks on Christians from Saudi-inspired Islamists. The Islamists even try to deny the Christian heritage of Egypt.

Yet Christians in the West generally know little about the Coptic Church. This is unfortunate, as it has much to teach us.

In the early centuries it taught that to become a Christian was possibly to enter a world of suffering.

Now, with persecution on the rise in many parts of the world, we see a praying church that, despite enduring many centuries of hardship and martyrdom, stands strong, proud and defiant. For nearly 2,000 years it has remained true to its calling - true to Christ, true to the Bible, true to its teachings and unafraid of death. This should be an inspiration to us all.


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

CELEBRATING CHRISTMAS




 “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son,"



Our God loves celebrations! Throughout the Old Testament, we see Him instituting special days and instructing the Israelites to celebrate yearly, as a reminder of His power among them and His provision for them. Also, through the celebrations, He wanted younger generations to know what He had done for their ancestors in the past. The Sabbath, for instance, was instituted to make sure they rested as God did, on the seventh day of the week (see Exodus 31:12-17). Similarly, the Passover was to remind them of the time the angel of death killed the firstborn of both man and beast in the land of Egypt, but spared the Israeli families (see Exodus 12:1-14). 

Over two thousand years ago, God put His salvation plan into motion, sending His One and only Son into the world to make His dwelling among us (see John 1:14) and to become our Savior. About three hundred years into Christianity, 336 to be exact, the Romans recorded the first celebration of the birth of Jesus. We have celebrated His birth ever since, with decorations, caroling, feasting, giving, and receiving. Even those who don’t believe in Jesus often celebrate it in some form.
Every year when we celebrate Christmas, the birth of our Savior, we should reflect on the truths behind the season:

We are sinners and need redemption –We know we are sinners because Scripture tells us that, through the disobedience of Adam and Eve, sin and death passed to all mankind. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 NIV). There is only one way to restore our fellowship with God; it is through faith in Jesus, because He came to seek and to save that which was lost.  Scripture tells us, “Truly, truly, I say unto you, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3 NIV).

God is love – It is His love for us that led to His formulating the plan for our redemption before the foundation of the world. “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” (John 3:16 NIV). We are also reminded of His humility! He was willing to leave His throne and majesty above, be born into a sinful world, not in a palace, but in a manger! He says to us, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart” (Matthew 11:29 NIV).

God is faithful – He promised Jesus’ coming decades before He was born. “The virgin will be with child, and give birth to a Son, and will call Him Emmanuel,” which is translated, 'God with us'” (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23 NIV). He promised, and then fulfilled it! That is a faithful God! Again, it was prophesied, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6 NIV). Through the angel Gabriel, He declared the Virgin Mary was going to have a Son, and to name Him Jesus. He would be great and be called the Son of the Most High (Luke 1:30-31 NIV). God fulfilled everything He promised concerning Jesus. How faithful! This reminder assures us that we can trust Him one hundred percent; He has never failed since the beginning of time, and never will! We can look forward to the promise of the rapture and His second coming with hope.

We should Express gratitude - We need to be thankful to God because we could never have saved ourselves nor done anything to qualify for salvation. He planned it, and carried it out; making us His sons and daughters, so now we can confidently say of God, “Abba, Father” (see Romans 8:15).  
Merry Christmas; let’s celebrate with assurance, gratitude, and anticipation of His return!


Thursday, December 17, 2015

Do You Hear What I Hear?

And are you getting a little tired of it?


Well, once again I've moved on over to those other radio stations,
 so I'd like to share this blog from last Christmas one more time:

“Do You Hear What I Hear?” is not one of my favorite carols. And hearing a hundred different versions of “The Little Drummer Boy” on the radio drives me to listen to the forbidden secular music. While everyone else is humming an appropriate tune for the merry season, I might be heard singing under my breath about ruling as queen bee, baby (if I’ve been on the pop station) or about that hotel in California (if I’ve turned to classic rock). It’s not that I’m a Grinch or anything. A little Trans-Siberian will get me in the Christmas spirit, and I could listen to “How Many Kings” from the group Downhere until the cattle are lowing. But while the local CCM station does keep all those “Drummer Boy” renditions on their loop, I’ve only heard my favorite modern carol once this year. 

Of course, it’s not about me. Or the little guy with the drum. Or the talented artists who sing every old carol with a different beat or come up new songs to add to the mix. I guess we need to keep the message in our hearts and on our lips so we remember why we’re shopping and decorating. As if the catch phrases weren’t enough—Keep Christ in Christmas, Jesus is the reason for season, and others we feel obligated to repeat. After all, it’s Christmas and we’re Christians—this is our celebration. When someone spouts “Happy Holidays”, we make a point of returning the greeting with a quick “Merry Christmas.” Sometimes an un-merry attitude comes across when we do that, so watch the tone.


Speaking of merry, I learned something new this holiday season about one of those old songs that causes me to switch on over to the music of the dark side. The story behind “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” brought me new respect for the gentlemen in question.

With no record of its origin, the song became popular among the English peasants more than 500 years ago. But what means one thing in the modern world meant something else to those who crooned the tune on a cold Christmas Eve so long ago. Not the kind of song that would have been sung in the local cathedral, it was a folk song for Christians wanting something a little different than the dry Latin lyrics and gloomy music they heard at services. (Seems the issue of “Church music” has been going on for a while.)

When families and neighbors gathered to offer their praise for the glorious gift of the newborn babe, they sang what we would assume meant God, grant some relief to these happy men. But that wasn’t the message of this upbeat song. A little study on the language of the time tells a different meaning in the opening line.

The word rest didn’t refer to a long winter’s nap. It meant to make or to keep. The word merry, to us means happy and joyful. But to the sad peasant who lacked the means for a better life, it meant strong or mighty. And according to experts, there is some missing punctuation. It was lost over the years when modern interpretation gave the line new meaning. A comma once stood before the gentlemen. So, in the minds and on the tongues of the original band members, the popular hit song went something like this: God keep you strong, gentlemen. Or: God make you mighty, gentlemen. Maybe the ladies were included as well, but these words were an encouragement to the downtrodden men of the day that God would increase their strength by the telling of the great plan of salvation. The line “to save us all from Satan’s power when we have gone astray” meant then exactly what it means now.

That’s what it’s all about. The reason for the season. The next time I hear one of the singers I really do like singing this particular old song I got tired of hearing, I won’t change the station. I will sing along.


“God make you strong, you guys and gals, let nothing bring you down.” Well, maybe I’ll just sing the old words, but I’ll remember their original meaning. As for meeting the inoffensive “Happy Holidays” with a quick retort, maybe next time I’ll cheerfully say, “And a Mighty Christmas to you!”
                    Drums and dancing don’t impede                     
Instruments woodwind and reed
Lift your bow to string
Lift your voice and sing
Come with me and blow your horn
A savior came that blessed morn
Great gain for life for death will fall 
A Mighty Christmas Day to all


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

eHarmony – Is It Christian? (And Does It Matter?)

Here's something I wrote about six years ago for my own website. I feel it might still be relevant.

Several years ago I received an unexpected email from an old friend – a devout Christian – with whom I had lost contact. He announced that he was married again, three years after the tragic death of his first wife.

He wrote: "I am remarried now to Jane, a lady I met through eHarmony. She is wonderful. We just celebrated our first anniversary. Have lost a lot of weight and am healthier than I have been in a long time."

Considerable debate continues within the Christian community as to whether or not eHarmony is a Christian company and/or whether Christians should use this service.

For example, the popular ChristianCafe.com online dating service writes:

While there are Christian singles on eHarmony, it is a secular dating site that serves Christians and non-Christians alike. When matches are sent on eHarmony one can select to have Christian matches only; however for most users it requires communication before determining how much faith plays a part in a persons life. Furthermore, eHarmony supports gay and lesbian matching (via a website they own).

The Christian Dating Watchdog website declares:

eHarmony is one of the most well-known dating websites, secular or Christian, because of their aggressive television advertising. I have found a lot of information that, when put together, makes me come to the conclusion that eHarmony.com is not a site for Christians.

An article on online dating in The Atlantic included an interview with eHarmony founder Dr Neil Clark Warren:

Warren…bristles at the widely held opinion that eHarmony is a Christian dating site. The company’s chief operating officer, he offered by way of rebuttal, is Jewish….And while Warren describes himself as “a passionate Christian” and proudly declares, “I love Jesus,” he worried about narrowing the site with too many questions about spiritual beliefs.

Well, if the Jesus-loving founder himself bristles at the notion that the company is Christian, who am I – or other Christians – to be less bristly?

It is not a Christian company.

But should Christians use it?

I personally try to do business with Christian-run businesses as much as possible. My doctor, dentist and financial planner are all Christian. But I am also aware of the advice sometimes (and probably wrongly) attributed to Martin Luther: “I would rather be operated on by a Turkish [non-Christian] surgeon than a Christian butcher.” So would I.

I am happily married. Yet if I were seeking a wife I should certainly want a Christian lady. I might find one at a secular dating service. But I would almost certainly find one at a Christian service. Plenty of these exist, some boasting up to 100,000 active members.

Ideally, people would be led by God on these matters. And certainly my Christian friend found happiness through eHarmony. But I feel that if I were seeking a partner I would probably head first for one of the Christian-owned services.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Is Anything More Valuable Than Your Soul?

The pleasures of sin are temporary and fleeting, and in the end, they sting!

We've been redeemed by the blood of Christ; nothing should be more valuable to us than our souls!  


As Jesus was nearing the end of His life, He made sure His disciples knew how things were going to unfold. He talked about the importance of His followers being willing to lose their lives for His sake. During one such occasion, He asked them, “What do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” (Matthew 16:26.).  It has been hundreds of years since this question was first posed, but it still needs to be asked, and needs to be answered honestly.

What does this question mean? No matter what you think it means, the manner in which it is posed suggests what the correct answer should be. Although everyone is at liberty to answer this question either way, “Yes” would be the wrong answer, because the question is suggesting that you shouldn’t put anything above your soul.

There are individuals who have claimed to be Christians, but with the passing of time, instead of growing in faith, they are living in sin, and don’t seem to care. They avoid the Church, maybe in an effort to avoid confrontation by caring Christians. They act like they either have no conscience at all, or don’t care; I find that very bothersome and scary. How can “Christians” who know what the Bible says about sin feel comfortable living in it? Whatever sin they are “enjoying” cannot be that much more important than their souls, can it?   

The book of Hebrews addresses this issue. I think we all need to pay attention, because God cannot be mocked. He always fulfills His promise, whether it is to bless or to punish. When He said He’d destroy the world for their increased sins, He did! See Genesis 6:9-22, 7:11-24. When He first called Abram, He promised to bless him, make him into a great nation, and make him famous and a blessing to others (see Genesis 12:2-3). Again, He did! These fulfilled promises assure us of God’s faithfulness. See also: Genesis 15:4-5; 15:13-16. 

The author of the book of Hebrews says, “If we deliberately continue sinning, after we have received knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice that will cover these sins. There is only the terrible expectation of God’s judgment and the raging fire that will consume his enemies” (Hebrews 10:26-27 NLT). And to prove his point, the author reminds us of the consequences that resulted from disobeying the laws of Moses in the Old Testament, and goes on to explain why it will be worse for people who trample on the Son of God, and disrespect the blood of the covenant (see verses 28-29). This message should wake up any Christian who is willfully living in sin-“Is anything worth more than your soul?” No! 

The pleasures of sin are temporary and fleeting, and in the end, they sting!
John addresses the issue of Christians caught up in sinful lifestyles this way: “Those who have been born into God’s family do not make a practice of sinning, because God’s life is in them. So they can’t keep sinning, because they are children of God” (1 John 3:9 NLT). His recommendation for prevention? “Anyone who continues to live in Him will not sin” (verse 6).  
And how do we live in Him? By reading, studying, and meditating on His Word, allowing it to transform our way of thinking and living. As part of a vibrant relationship, we need to maintain open communication through prayer. Nobody can be applying the Word of God and praying for deliverance from temptation while living in sin!

The difference between the children of the devil and the children of God, according to John, is this: “Anyone who does not live righteously and does not love other believers does not belong to God” (1 John 3:10 NLT). So if you claim to be a Christian but are enjoying living in sin, you need to ask yourself if you are really a child of God. It is very possible that you do not know Jesus in a personal way: that you are making a false claim. However, you can make a decision now to live for God by placing your faith in Jesus.

You decide where you are in your spiritual journey. Either you are not a Christian and need to be, or you made a decision for Christ at some point, but did not follow through. Either way you need to repent and allow the Word of God to guide you into godly living.


If you are a Christian, God has called you to be an ambassador for Christ. How are you going to accomplish that by living in sin? An ambassador represents his country of origin to another, by portraying his country in the best possible light. That is what God expects of His children; that we portray Him in the best possible light to the world. We don’t have to figure out how to do it; He has already given us the blueprint—godly living, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings” (John 8:31).  Let’s follow it! We've been redeemed by the blood of Christ; nothing should be more valuable to us than our souls!  

Monday, December 14, 2015

"But-less" Blessings


            Imagine being on a journey for 40 years. You’re leaving slavery and all the hardships which came with oppression. God’s given you a vision of a bountiful banqueting table, a land promised to all the generations of Israelites. Hope keeps you pressing forward through all the frustrations that come with constant travel. Then one day ta da, you arrive. Thank the Lord! Arriving at the promised land means things will be easy and your burden will be light. You can finally put your traveling shoes and armour away, right?
            God commanded Moses to send tribe leaders to scout the land to finally answer 40 years’ worth of questions. Imagine being in the crowd, waiting expectantly to hear all the good news about your new home. At first it sounds amazing. The scouts show off wonderful fruit, describing the land as “flowing with milk and honey!” (Numbers 13:27) And then they say it. That little three letter word which has the power to deflate all hope.

But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large.” Numbers 13:28

            These leaders had dreamed and traveled for years to get to the brink of God’s promise for their lives. I believe they’d set up inaccurate expectations of how God would bless them. We see several examples of how the Israelites expected God to provide for them in a convenient way. They grumbled about only eating manna, expected the Messiah to overthrow the Romans, etc. Our human expectations of how God blesses us can set us up for disappointment and discouragement. Fear sets in. How we respond shows our level of spiritual maturity.
            “But” is a powerful tool of the enemy. Most Christians struggle with connecting the head and heart; what they believe and what they feel. We know we “should” be grateful for all the blessings in our life BUT we feel disappointed at needs not being met in specific ways. Caleb went on the scouting mission and saw all the “buts” narrated by the other leaders, yet he had a very different response.

“Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, ‘We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” Numbers 13:30

            Caleb lived with passion, excitement, and hope. His expectations were focused on God’s vision of the future rather than the barriers between him and the blessings. He viewed the obstacles as opportunities for God to show his glory rather than looking at human weaknesses. There was no “but” in Caleb’s vocabulary.   
            Cultivate a “but-less” view of blessings. There may be enemies to defeat, mountains to cross, and the unknown to navigate. Yet God will always empower us to be strong and courageous, blessing us with his presence and heart.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Imminent Gospel


Most Christians are aware the beloved Christmas carol “Joy to the World” was not written in celebration of the birth of Christ. No shepherds watch their flocks. Nor do angels announce the news of the baby born in Bethlehem. It’s not about the newborn King at all, but rather the triumphant King of Kings who comes with truth and grace to right the earth, end the curse, and reign for all eternity. This is the song we sing at Christmastime to remind us the baby, the sacrificed Lamb of God, the risen Savior is coming again.

The good news to the lowly men in the pasture and the kings in faraway lands told of a child given, a Son born who would carry the government on His shoulders. The fulfillment of ancient prophesy, the promise of salvation was imminent. Yet some seven hundred years had passed before the blessed birth Isaiah wrote about. And a greater stretch of mankind’s time would unfold before the baby ruled the world.

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.   
Isaiah 9:6

Through the coming of the Divine to the lowliest place, the good news reached down to us. And the sacrifice was made. Now we come to the cross and accept the blood that saves our souls, for our death is imminent. So is this Gospel of grace and forgiveness and reconciliation to our Creator imminent. Always for now, for this moment. For this is the time of our redemption.

And the good news of Isaac Watt’s Un-Christmas carol is now most imminent. Some two thousand years after Christ spoke the promise of His second advent, He will indeed soon return to a world of forgetfulness, of rampant disregard for the blood of the Lamb. Of sadness. And terror. And darkness.

And then heaven and nature will sing.

Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
Joy to the world! the Saviour reigns;
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

CELEBRATING CHRISTMAS



“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son,"





Our God loves celebrations! Throughout the Old Testament, we see Him instituting special days and instructing the Israelites to celebrate yearly, as a reminder of His power among them and His provision for them. Also, through the celebrations, He wanted younger generations to know what He had done for their ancestors in the past. The Sabbath, for instance, was instituted to make sure they rested as God did, on the seventh day of the week (see Exodus 31:12-17). Similarly, the Passover was to remind them of the time the angel of death killed the firstborn of both man and beast in the land of Egypt, but spared the Israeli families (see Exodus 12:1-14). 

Over two thousand years ago, God put His salvation plan into motion, sending His One and only Son into the world to make His dwelling among us (see John 1:14) and to become our Savior. About three hundred years into Christianity, 336 to be exact, the Romans recorded the first celebration of the birth of Jesus. We have celebrated His birth ever since, with decorations, caroling, feasting, giving, and receiving. Even those who don’t believe in Jesus often celebrate it in some form.
Every year when we celebrate Christmas, the birth of our Savior, we should reflect on the truths behind the season:

We are sinners and need redemption –We know we are sinners because Scripture tells us that, through the disobedience of Adam and Eve, sin and death passed to all mankind. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 NIV). There is only one way to restore our fellowship with God; it is through faith in Jesus, because He came to seek and to save that which was lost.  Scripture tells us, “Truly, truly, I say unto you, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3 NIV).

God is love – It is His love for us that led to His formulating the plan for our redemption before the foundation of the world. “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” (John 3:16 NIV). We are also reminded of His humility! He was willing to leave His throne and majesty above, be born into a sinful world, not in a palace, but in a manger! He says to us, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart” (Matthew 11:29 NIV).

God is faithful – He promised Jesus’ coming decades before He was born. “The virgin will be with child, and give birth to a Son, and will call Him Emmanuel,” which is translated, 'God with us'” (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23 NIV). He promised, and then fulfilled it! That is a faithful God! Again, it was prophesied, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6 NIV). Through the angel Gabriel, He declared the Virgin Mary was going to have a Son, and to name Him Jesus. He would be great and be called the Son of the Most High (Luke 1:30-31 NIV). God fulfilled everything He promised concerning Jesus. How faithful! This reminder assures us that we can trust Him one hundred percent; He has never failed since the beginning of time, and never will! We can look forward to the promise of the rapture and His second coming with hope.

We should Express gratitude - We need to be thankful to God because we could never have saved ourselves nor done anything to qualify for salvation. He planned it, and carried it out; making us His sons and daughters, so now we can confidently say of God, “Abba, Father” (see Romans 8:15).  

Merry Christmas; let’s celebrate with assurance, gratitude, and anticipation of His return!

Objectionable Comments on Christian Chat Rooms

What do you do when a member of a Christian online dating service begins making objectionable comments to other members in the chat rooms?

The administrators of most services would immediately ban that person.

For example, here is the warning issued at ChristianDatingForFree.com:

Obscenity, Inappropriate Language or Insults WILL NOT BE TOLERATED HERE. If you are found to be in violation of these terms, your profile will be deleted and you will be banned from the site.

Real Christian Singles says:

We try very hard to keep this website free of spammers, scammers and ungodly people, but occasionally they creep in. As a concerned member, you can help us keep this a friendly, fun and encouraging place by reporting offending activity. If you receive a message that you think violates RCS standards, please send us the username of the account that sent the message along with the text of their message at our contact page.

But what do you do if the offender is a pastor?

Operators of the Swedish Christian online dating service 7EHimlen ("Seventh Heaven" - no longer online) were so upset over a local pastor’s comments to several women members that they reported him to his superiors.

Now they have been accused by the authorities of breaking Sweden’s data privacy laws.

According to a report (no longer online):

The pastor, who is retired, claimed he was drunk when he posted the lewd comments on the 7EHimlen…website, and has since apologized.

…”You look like a bearded lady,” the pastor said about one woman with whom he was chatting on the site, according to the Sm√•landsposten newspaper.

“You look really drab and dreary. You probably have to pay for sex,” the elderly pastor reportedly wrote to another woman.

Now the pastor faces the prospect of losing his position. At the same time, he plans to proceed with a damages claim against the website.

One of the owners of the website commented: “Maybe I’ve broken the law, but from a moral standpoint, it feels justified.”

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

You Are Invited To a Wedding Feast


Delaying your response could mean your name being taken off the guest list.

                                                                                                                            

Dear friend,

You’ve been invited to a wedding celebration, and you need to respond in a timely manner. You can’t hold on to your invitation indefinitely. Delaying your response could mean your name being taken off the guest list. I encourage you to put whatever you are doing on hold and give attention to this invitation. You’ll be glad you did! This is one feast you’d not want to miss.

 You probably want to know the host, the bride, and the groom, and why this invitation is so important. I’ll tell you; God is the host, the Church is the bride, and Jesus Christ is the groom. When you accept this invitation, right away you become part of the bride. I know you don’t quite understand it, but bear with me. That is the beauty of this invitation: being invited to your own wedding! Be patient; you’ll understand as we continue to discuss this invitation. Please note, this is a personal, not a group, invitation—it is not for families, couples, or any type of group.

Your invitation reads: “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standards” (Romans 3:23 NLT) and “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” (John 3:16 NIV). Your invitation is letting you know that you’re a sinner. In order to attend this celebration, you’ll need to admit to the Host that indeed you are a sinner and would like to be pardoned. He will pardon you and make sure your name remains on the guest list, which is also called the Lamb’s book of life. Those whose names are not found in this book of life are thrown into hell-the lake of fire (see Revelation 20:15). Please give this invitation your undivided attention!   

RSVP: You can accept this invitation only while you are alive, and you cannot designate someone else to do it on your behalf. No matter how many secretaries and assistants you might have, this is one responsibility you’ll have to handle yourself. Also, you need to remember that intending to respond, but not doing so for whatever reason, automatically takes your name off the list. So when should one respond to this invitation? The best time is now, because tomorrow could be too late. The Bible says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion” (Hebrews 3:7-8 NIV).

Your response needs to be: “Thank you, Lord, for the gift of your Son, Jesus! I believe He died to pay for my sins. I now accept your salvation through His name.” This will be your RSVP! Right away your name will be on the guest list until the date of the feast, and you will be ushered into the banquet hall to meet the host and the groom!

We’ve identified the groom at the wedding feast as Jesus Christ! Who is His bride? The bride of Christ is the Church. And who is the Church? The Church is the body of Christ, consisting of all believers. Are you beginning to understand how you could get invited to your own wedding? When you accept the invitation, you become part of the Church. As the groom enters the banquet hall, a voice from the throne of God will announce, “Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, both small and great! … Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready” (Revelation 19:5-7 NIV).

Do you understand what you’ve read so far? Have you responded? Are you hesitating because you don’t quite understand it? I’ll present it another way. In short, God, the creator of the universe, the One and only Holy God, loves you, a sinner, and wants to have a personal relationship with you. How amazing! How would you respond? This relationship cannot get established until you do your part; He’s already done His! In other words, you need to respond by accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior. If you accept this relationship, you’ll be overwhelmed by the benefits that follow. With your salvation comes ongoing representation by Christ should anything go wrong, guidance, provisions, and -- after this life -- eternal life in the presence of God Almighty! What could be better than this? If you choose to not accept this invitation, I’ve outlined the alternative already—hell. I urge you to decide cautiously; God is waiting to hear from you, but will not wait forever. You probably don’t have as much time as you think! 

Please note that, “Messages God delivered through angels has always stood firm, and every violation of the law and every act of disobedience was punished” (Hebrew 2:2 NLT). On that premise, please answer this question: “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?” (Hebrews 2:3 NLT). In other words, if you ignore this invitation, you cannot escape the consequences. God will not turn away anyone who calls on Him for salvation (see John 6:37). Call on Him today!


Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Lonely Santa's Accidental Promise


In July Frank stopped trimming his beard. By the time the giant tree went up at the mall, the proud white puff covered his chin and spread appropriately over the top of his velvety red coat. Despite his amazing morph into the jolly old elf, he worried kids from the neighborhood would know it was him. He couldn’t hide the rattle in his voice. Or the involuntary blink of his left eye. On day one of his part-time Santa job, a mom yanked her daughter off his lap and called him a creep.

“What’s wrong with you?” she yelled. “Stop winking at my little girl.”

The twenty-something photographer laughed. A couple of moms near the front of the line grabbed their tots and retreated from the Christmas village to the safety of the food court. Frank opened his eyes wide, but the blinking continued. So he shut the left eye for the rest of his shift. Three hours and he didn’t open that eye. His cheek made up for the need to blink by twitching every few seconds. But this seemed less disturbing to young moms. Or maybe they didn’t notice at all.

On day two a member of the neighborhood gang showed up. The short kid from across the street. He must have been about five. A Santa cap hung at an angle on his head. Frank had shooed the little petunia crusher from his yard more than once. Now here he was climbing onto Santa’s lap expecting to be forgiven for the Spring of Deflowering.

“What do you want for Christmas, little boy?”

“I want one of those tractors that really goes,” the kid said. “You know, with the big tires.”

Great. “What do you plan to do with a tractor?”

“You talk funny. Like that man with the pretty flowers in his yard.”

“Flowers, huh? I bet he works really hard to get those flowers to grow so pretty.”

“Nah, he just sticks them in the ground and waters them. But if I had a tractor I could help him.”

Old St. Nick’s left eye blinked. “Well, maybe you should just keep your tractor in your own yard.”

The boy’s eyes grew wide and a smile lit his face. “Thanks, Santa!”

“For what?”

“I’ll keep it in my own yard if that’s what you want. Thanks for getting me one.”

The kid jumped down and ran to his mother. Frank had seen her only a few times. Never saw a man across the street. Not once. The young woman smiled. Until the kid
started bouncing.

“Santa said I’m getting a tractor just like I wanted!”

Mom caught Santa’s stare, drew her brows tight, and shook her head.

Frank’s left eye blinked, and the young woman opened her eyes wide and hurried away, dragging the boy by the hand.

Santa spent the rest of his shift trying hard not to mislead children. Especially the ones who might figure it was him in the red suit. But no other familiar little runts climbed up on his knee that day.

Or for the rest of the week, for that matter. Except for the curly-haired princess who lived at the end of the block. She was too little to cause any problems. But give her a couple of years. Seemed her parents recognized Frank because the man gave him a knowing smile and the woman waved. They looked like nice folks.

After a couple of weeks of repetitious replies and worn knees, Frank got a paycheck. A little bonus to his fixed income. Money to get him through the winter. When his shift ended, he went to the company office at the end of the food court and changed his clothes. The next Santa on duty nodded a cheerful greeting as he strolled out to the Christmas village. And Frank headed home.

The kids hadn’t been too bad. In fact, he liked the conversation. It’d been a long time since he talked so much to so many people. And life, for now, didn’t seem so lonely. But the accidental promise he’d implied to the little boy across the street weighed on him. He’d watched out his window when the boy’s mother counted the change in her purse before climbing into her old car. No decorations had gone up on her house.

On the drive home, he passed the big toy store. The parking lot was packed. Frank hadn’t been in a toy store since he was a boy. And back then, a toy store didn’t fill eight thousand square feet. Must be a very different kind of place now. He turned at the light and found a space near the road. Before he reached the entrance, a kid pulled on his coat.

“Hey, aren’t you Santa? What are doing at the toy store? Don’t you have some elves making stuff for you?”

“Uh, no, I’m not Santa.” He blinked.

The little girl smiled. And winked back at him.

He hurried into the store, gave up on finding what he was looking for, and asked a uniformed, gum-smacking teen for help.

“In the back against the wall past the bikes and before the motorized cars,” the boy told him.

Frank headed left, passing trains and dolls and a lot of other stuff he didn’t recognize as being like any toy he’d ever known as a child. And there on the back wall he found them. The battery operated, fully detailed, big-wheeled tractors capable of flattening every plant in his yard. He checked the price. Two week’s pay in the pocket of a part-time Santa would cover it. With enough left over for wrapping paper and a bow. Santa smiled. And for the first time in many years, he whistled a Christmas tune.

 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

When a Christian Friend Goes Bankrupt

Here is a sad story that I first wrote about a few years ago. It concerns a Christian friend who went bankrupt.

In some ways it was his own fault. He had little income, and what he had he seemed to spend unwisely.

That is not to say that he indulged in luxuries or in buying extravagant items. However, rather than saving he seemed to spend everything. For example, when through circumstances he received a rather large sum, instead of saving it he took a holiday overseas to visit relatives he had not seen in many years.

So he never had much, and when problems struck – some health issues, a couple of car collisions, a sudden dip in his already-low income – he had nothing to fall back on. He started running up big debts on his credit card.

I knew that for years he had been struggling financially, and I had even given him some money, but I didn’t realize things were so bad. My advice to him was to try to find some kind of Christian debt management service, to help him sort out his finances.

But we live in Australia, and I don’t think that Christian debt management services exist here. So he received counseling from a financial adviser at the local town council, and then wrote to his bank to offer a token payment on his credit card. He had few assets, and I think the bank reluctantly accepted the offer.

But it got me thinking about Christian debt management services. Do they help?

I am sure that some of these businesses do a great job. Some people get so muddled with their finances – incurring debts from many sources – that they need an outsider to help sort them out.

But my friend had mainly his credit card debt, along with a low income and few assets. He was elderly and his chances of making much money in future were limited.

A Christian debt management service was of little relevance to him. I suspect that what he most needed were a loving church and supporting Christian friends.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

YOUR NEW ADDRESS






Dear God, I know I am a sinner

 

I got the idea for the title for this article from the title of a book, “Changing Zip Codes”-by Carol Stratton, a Christian author. Apparently she has relocated twenty-two times so far; that sounds painful. Knowing firsthand, all the apprehension and frustration movers go through; she has shared some good ideas for moving folks.      

I think the average person relocates to a new address at least once in their life time (not based on statistics). You are probably someone who hates to relocate, because you are a homebody, or afraid of change. No matter how many times you’ve relocated to date, you have at least one more in your future. This pending address is going to be permanent; your final one! There will never be another opportunity to relocate or make changes! So if this new address is going to be IT, how much thought do you think you should put into your preparation? The wisest thing to do will be to ascertain ahead of time that, your new address will have everything you will need to live there comfortably.     

Your permanent address is going to be one of two places, heaven or hell, and fortunately, God has given you the right to choose. Each individual has to choose where they want to be. No one is authorized to decide for another person, be it family or friend.  The new address will automatically be hell for anyone who does not make their intentions known by placing their faith in Jesus. 

Let’s compare the two available places. The Bible describes heaven as God’s dwelling place (see Isaiah 66:1)! It has pearly gates and golden streets (see Revelation 21:21). There is no hunger, thirst, or tears (see Revelation 7:16-17).   The Bible describes hell as the dwelling of the devil and his angels (see Matthew 25:41)! It is a place of ongoing torment with inextinguishable fire (see Revelation 20:10). Now think about it, compare the two - which location would you like for a permanent address? This of course is a no-brainer, but Whiles you are thinking about it, let me tell you how you can make the needed reservation at your address of choice.   

If you’ll like to relocate to heaven (highly recommended), you’ll need to agree with God that you are a sinner who deserves to go to hell. Then you’ll need to accept His forgiveness provided through the death of His only Son, Jesus (see Romans 3:23; John 3:16). You could pray like this: Dear God, I know I am a sinner.  Thank you for the gift of salvation through your Son, Jesus Christ. I accept Him as my Savior; please accept me as your child. Thank you. Now that you’ve made your reservation, you’ll need to start preparing for heaven by living according to His Word, the Bible. On the day of relocation, you will be ushered into your Savior’s presence, your permanent address, by the angels.

 On the other hand, if you prefer to relocate to hell, do absolutely nothing different; continue to live the way you are now, with no regard for God. When your time of transition comes, you will be sent there with no questions asked.  Remember that not making a decision is the equivalent of deciding to relocate to Hell. 

This is the most important decision you will ever make; so please don’t take it lightly, because God doesn’t. Place your faith in Jesus today, so you can escape the horrors of hell!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Truth vs. Comfort


If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort, you will not get either comfort or truth, only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair. C.S. Lewis

Looking for truth can be complicated and confusing. Most of us seek truth only when we need answers in the midst of difficult circumstances. Tragedy, catastrophic loss, and unforeseen events all lead human beings to look for an answer, an explanation—a truth. But most of the time what we’re seeking is comfort, a way to resolve emotional angst. Rather than sitting in grief, we start a crusade, demanding the world to agree with our “truth.”

Truth is not a belief, doctrine, or threat. It is not relative or absolute. God is both love and truth. He shares himself with us via the Holy Spirit to give us encouragement and wisdom. When we separate truth from the person of God, we use truth to harm and control others. Many folks take biblical principles and use them as weapons against others, insisting the only thing that matters is standing on the truth. 1 Cor. 13, however, tells us truth is nothing unless it comes out of a loving heart.

When you have been wounded, someone you love is harmed, difficult life circumstances arise, or your heart burns in resentment against wickedness, seek truth by seeking God’s heart for you and for humankind. Pour out your pain, then ask God to give you strength and courage to receive truth. John 8:32 tells us the truth will set us free. Free of confusion, doubt, resentment, bitterness and able to receive love and comfort.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Beginning of Thankfulness

What to keep at the top of the list.

 
I met a fellow believer the other day. He’d been down a hard road, much different than mine. I listened as he excitedly reviewed what God had done for him. The list grew, and I began to feel the need to tell him something. But I hesitated. It’s not that I don’t trust God’s calling—I just don’t always trust myself to pick the right words. You’d think words would come easily for a writer, but they don’t.

So I just kept listening as the stories of tangible blessings from the hand of God went on. The man’s gratitude showed. But the more he talked of jobs and money and health issues, the more I wanted to tell him what God did for me. Not that I could compete. Divine release from substance abuse was outside my experience. As was miraculous healing. God answers my prayers, and sometimes His work is so obvious I know the answer could only have come from Him. But this guy had me beat.

The conversation turned to other matters. Life and family history. Books. Writing. Well drilling. (My husband’s line of work.) Whatever God had wanted me to tell the man slipped away into one of those missed opportunities. I have too many of those.

But then it came back around. He had one more story to share. Another miracle—a money matter. And when he was done, I spoke what was on my heart.

“I’ll tell you the greatest thing God ever did for me,” I said. “I was a hell-bound sinner, but now I’m going to Heaven. And Jesus made it happen.”

He seemed to hesitate. As if he’d remembered something. “That’s it,” he said. And he nodded.

Our conversation wrapped up and I went on my way. Did I say the right thing? Did it matter? Whatever God wanted to get through to the man, I think He did. In spite of my fumbling tongue.

As I pondered what to write for this Thanksgiving blog, I remembered the man’s gratitude. We should all be ready to share our story of what God has done for us. But nothing compares to what He did long before we started counting our blessings. And that is what I choose to keep at the top of my list.

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. Colossians 2:6-7