Jesus Did Not Come to Make you Nice

“And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty
will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven.

(Matthew 19:23)

Do you need Jesus?

I mean that seriously.  Do you need Him for your salvation, or is having Jesus in your life a “Value Added Product”?  Many of us were already pretty nice by the world’s standards, how has Jesus changed you?

Today I wanted to share an excerpt from C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity:

If you have sound nerves and intelligence and health and popularity and a good upbringing, you are likely to be quite satisfied with your character as it is… Everyone says you are a nice chap and (between ourselves) you agree with them.  You are quite likely to believe that all this niceness is your own doing: and you may easily not feel the need for any better kind of goodness. Often people who have all these natural kinds of goodness cannot be brought to recognize their need for Christ at all until, one day, the natural goodness lets them down and the self-satisfaction is shattered. In other words, it is hard for those who are “rich” in this sense to enter the Kingdom…

If you are a nice person – if virtue comes easy to you – beware! Much is expected from those to whom much is given. If you mistake for your own merits what are really God’s gifts to you through nature, and if you are contented with simply being nice, you are still a rebel: and all those gifts will only make your fall more terrible, your corruption more complicated, your bad example more disastrous. The Devil was an archangel once; his natural gifts were as far above yours as yours are above those of a chimpanzee.

But if you are a poor creature – poisoned by a wretched upbringing in some house full of vulgar jealousies and senseless quarrels, nagged day in and day out by an inferiority complex that makes you snap at your best friends  – do not despair. He knows all about it. You are one of the poor whom He blessed. He knows what a wretched machine you are trying to drive. Keep on. Do what you can. One day He will fling it on the scrap-heap and give you a new one. And then you may astonish us all – not least yourself: for you have learned your driving in a hard school.

“Niceness” – wholesome, integrated personality – is an excellent thing. We must try by every medical, educational, economic and political mean in our power, to produce a world where as many people as possible grow up “nice”; just as we may try to produce a world where all have plenty to eat. But we must not suppose that even if we succeeded in making everyone nice we should have saved their souls. A world of nice people, content in their own niceness, looking no further, turned away from God, would be just as desperately in need of salvation as a miserable world – and might even be more difficult to save.

For mere improvement is not redemption, though redemption always improves people even here and now and will, in the end, improve them to a degree we cannot yet imagine. God became man to turn creatures into sons: not simply to produce better men of the old kind but to produce a new kind of man. It is not like teaching a horse to jump better and better but like turning a horse into a winged creature.

SDG

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Broken People Do Broken Things

“In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33

“Broken people do broken things.”

I first heard this nugget of wisdom form a funeral home director.  He and I were riding in the hearse to a graveside service after having left the funeral home and a family that was fighting with each other.  I don’t remember why they were fighting (probably something to do with inheritance), but I was visibly shaken and the director could tell.  I remember asking why they couldn’t get past their difference for at least an hour and be civil with one another during the service, and that’s when he said it, “Broken people do broken things.”

I don’t think he meant it to excuse their behavior, but perhaps to change my perspective on the world.  The world is full of broken people.  Some have managed to put a good spin on their brokenness, their sins are the acceptable kind that are given a wink by society.  For others, their brokenness is clear for everyone to see, and often that brokenness is worn as a “red badge of courage.”

Hasn’t the brokenness of the world reared its ugly head this week?  Over the weekend we heard of ISIS having beheaded 21 Egyptian Christians , and this just after the news of the death of Kayla Mueller, the burning of the Jordanian pilot, their names added to a very long list of victims of horrible terror . (I read just this morning of another report that ISIS had burned to death another 45  people in an Iraqi town.) There was the shooting rampage in Denmark, the foiled terror plans in Canada, the murder of three students at the University of Connecticut.  Add to that the horrible news coming from Lennox, SD, where I’ll soon be moving, of a gunman who shot two people and then killed himself – all because of an argument over a delivery.

It’s all the kind of thing that makes you not want to get out of bed in the morning.

I make no effort to make sense of senseless violence. You cannot explain or rationalize brutality like this. Sometimes, all it feels you can do is throw up your hands, keep your head down, and resign yourself to the fact that “lost people do lost things.”

But that is not the Christian message.

I don’t purport to have all the answers regarding evil and it’s place in the world.  I must leave that discussion to better minds than mine.  But I do believe that our faith has something important to say in the midst of such atrocities.

First, we must realize that evil is real, and we live in a fallen world.  Since Adam’s fall, all the world has been subjected to futility, and creation itself awaits the revealing of the sons of God in which it too will be released from its bondage to corruption (see Romans 8).  Suffering and violence, natural disasters and wars, these are symptoms of a greater sickness, namely, we live in world that subjected to corruption because of man’s sin and rebellion from God.

Second, I believe Scripture teaches that God has a purpose in everything, including the evil we face in this life.  Often it is hard to see and difficult to understand – and we may never find in this life the ultimate meaning that is hidden in the heart of sorrow, disappointment, and grief.  But we remember the words of Joseph to his brothers, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Gen 50:20).  Even more, we see God’s providence working even in the death of Jesus Christ, who was holy and without sin, the greatest tragedy ever committed on the face of the earth, and yet through His death and resurrection, we find the salvation of all who would call upon His name (Acts 3:13-16).

Finally, we must remember, evil does not have the last word.  Though their powers may flare and cause us to tremble, though

this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
we will not fear for, God hath willed his truth to triumph through us.
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
his rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure;
one little word shall fell him.

We abound in hope, even in the face of evil, tragedy, and loss. We abound in hope because we know that because Christ has been raised in victory over death, those whose lives are hidden in Him have received that victory as well.  We know that no matter what we face, even if we are handed over for tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger or the sword, “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us…” and nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:31-39).

In John 16:33 Jesus says, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Christ has overcome!  Therefore, in good times and in bad, let us look to Him that we may be “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord [our] labor is not in vain” (1 Cor 15:58).

SDG

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Bemoaning Inconsistency

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
(Colossians 3:2–3)

Sometimes it is really amazing – and desperately heartbreaking – how people will justify sin and ungodliness and see no contradiction with their Christian testimony.

I may have matured (or devolved, whichever your perspective) from being a “snarky Presbyterian pastor” to a full-fledged irascible and peevish grump – and that’s something that I guess I’ll have to deal with – but seriously folks there are just certain things that as Christians we should know better.

Here’s my list of grievances for the week:

  • Christians and 50 Shades – Folks, the book and the movie are straight-up porn, there’s no way around it. The book (and I’ll admit I haven’t read it, nor do I intend to) glamorizes an unhinged sexual lifestyle that includes bondage, domination, sadism, and masochism. I hear women claim that it can spice up the romance with their husbands – but I wonder, is that what they want from them? If that’s the case, do they let their husbands subscribe to Hustler?

Just today I read an argument for the moral  equivalency between 50 Shades and the Song of Solomon in Scripture. Are we seriously to compare the literary values of the Song of Solomon – the love song between a husband and a wife of exclusive passion, pleasure, and purity in one another – with the aggressive erotic exploits of unmarried and uncommitted individuals? It would be one thing to hear this kind of equivocation from someone hostile to the Christian faith, but this was coming from a professed believer.  Sigh!

By the way – that noise you are hearing is me banging my head on the desk.

  • Take Me to Church – I will readily admit that my iTunes music library could use a going over. There are some songs which, carrying over from my teenage years, are fun to listen to, but I don’t think I’d want my kids to come up to me and recite the lyrics.

That being said, there is a video circulating of a Presbyterian pastor doing a cover of Hozier’s song “Take Me to Church.”  Just looking at the title, you might ask, Well, what’s so wrong with that?  Then you read the lyrics:

My lover’s got humour
She’s the giggle at a funeral
Knows everybody’s disapproval
I should’ve worshipped her sooner

My Church offers no absolutes
She tells me, ‘Worship in the bedroom.’
The only heaven I’ll be sent to
Is when I’m alone with you—

Take me to church
I’ll worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies
I’ll tell you my sins and you can sharpen your knife
Offer me that deathless death
Good God, let me give you my life

I heard this song on the radio once and knew it was not something I needed to hear again.  For a Pastor to express his enthusiasm, and even do a cover of a song that supplants the worship of God with the worship of sex is just mind-boggling.  What’s next?  Shall we reopen the office of Temple Prostitutes?  I can grant someone might hum along with the tune – it’s got a good beat and you can dance to it.  But once you’ve read the words, wouldn’t you think, especially as a pastor, that at some point you might stop and say, Maybe this isn’t consistent with the gospel that I’m preaching…  Then again, maybe it is.

  • Facebook Assassinations – I don’t really know how else to describe it.  It is sad when Christians go to social media (Facebook, Twitter) and openly berate, slander, and ridicule others. We mock and deride our president, our congressmen, or teachers or school administrators, our brothers and sisters in Christ without any thought or regard to how our words kill and destroy. “Christians” have launched campaigns to impugn and destroy the reputation of others, never knowing or attempting to understand all the facts, or to work toward reconciliation and restoration. It is an assassination attempt, for Jesus said, “I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother is liable to judgment.”

To paraphrase Darth Vader, “I find your lack of consistency disturbing.”

VaderAs Christians, we have by definition died to sin, and are alive in Christ.  We are, therefore, called to set our minds on things above, to set our minds on Christ.  The movies we watch, the songs we listen to, the way we speak to and treat one another – these are to be influenced by the fact that our lives are hidden in Christ.  We live because he lives in us. That’s not to say that the only book we can read is the Bible, but we should ensure that what we read uplifts and encourages our walk with Christ.  We don’t have to listen only to hymns and spiritual songs, but we must discern whether the music that we’re listening to is glorifying to God and promoting holiness?  To live consistent with our faith does not mean that we cannot be critical of those in authority over us, but it does mean that we will be prayerful, respectful, and ultimately, that we will “seek to outdo one another showing honor.”

If you know that your life is hidden in Christ, then you will set your mind on the things of Christ, and not on the things of this world.  The truth of your life in Christ will radically transform everything else you do.

So I guess I’ll end with, of all things, a quote from the Presbyterian Book of Order, which states:

That truth is in order to goodness; and the great touchstone of truth, its tendency to promote holiness, according to our Savior’s rule, “By their fruits ye shall know them.” And that no opinion can be either more pernicious or more absurd than that which brings truth and falsehood upon a level, and represents it as of no consequence what a man’s opinions are. On the contrary, we are persuaded that there is an inseparable connection between faith and practice, truth and duty. Otherwise, it would be of no consequence either to discover truth or to embrace it.

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The Lord your God is With You

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed,
for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Joshua 1:9

I have served for the last 14 years as a Minister of the Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (USA), nine of those years as the pastor of the Memorial Presbyterian Church in Cherokee, IA.  Through these years of service I have faithfully proclaimed the Word of God, and have tried to work for Biblical Reformation and Renewal within the larger denomination.  Ever since my ordination, though, I have continued to feel a growing division between the clear teaching of Scripture and the decisions and actions of the denomination.  I have struggled to maintain faithfulness as one called to be a minister of Word and Sacrament while pledging to further the “peace, unity, and purity of the Church.”

Four years ago, when the denomination’s position on the standards for ordained ministry were changed to allow for the ordination of practicing homosexuals, I began prayerfully studying what my future in ministry would look like. The action regarding a “redefinition of marriage” at the most recent General Assembly further confirmed that it was time for me to look elsewhere.

And so it is with joy that I can share that I have  been offered the opportunity to serve as the pastor of Ebeneezer Presbyterian Church in Lennox, SD, a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America, which a distinctively Reformed and Presbyterian body with whom I am in agreement in matters of faith and practice.

I have nothing but the greatest respect appreciation for those churches that I have been fortunate to serve these past 14 years.  They have taught me what it means to be a pastor – to prayerfully teach and apply the word of God so that all might know Christ and be encouraged and strengthened in their walk with Him.

Over time, I have come to understand that my primary calling is to be faithful to God, and ultimately this move from one denomination to another is my attempt to be faithful.  It is a difficult decision because it does mean uprooting my family, taking some risks financially, and stepping out on faith in a new ministry.  And yet I know that I can go forward boldly, courageously, because the Lord is with me, and He is my shield and my strength.  I go forward knowing that “He who calls me is faithful” (1 Thess 5:24), even when my faith waivers and my doubts rise.  I go forward knowing that the One who has brought about such good work in the church so far, He is faithful to complete it.

I thank my congregation here in Cherokee for their support, their prayers, and their encouragement over the years.  I want to assure you, I will continue to give thanks to God for you in all my prayers.  In the coming months as I prepare to leave, I hope and pray that we can celebrate all that the Lord has done in our ministry together, as we also prepare a strong foundation for the next chapter in your ministry. Keep loving and caring for one another, and remain steadfast in your faithfulness to the Lord

Grace and Peace

 

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David’s Breaking Bad

“…but the thing David had done displeased the Lord.”
(2 Sam 11:27)

In my preparation for this Sunday’s sermon on David and Bathsheba (2 Sam 11), I am developing a thought on how in this infamous story David violated all of the Ten Commandments.  I probably won’t have the time in my sermon this week to give you the full details, so I thought I would lay it out for you here.

Here’s a summary of the story: In 2 Samuel 11, we read that in the springtime, when the kings would lead their armies out to war, David sent out the troops, but stayed at home, reclining on his couch in the cool of the day.  While there, he saw Bathsheba bathing on her roof (a rather suspicious place to put a bath tub), and David sent for her, slept with her, and Bathsheba was pregnant.  Immediately, David sent for Bathsheba’s husband to come home from battle, and tried to get him to spend some “quality time” with his wife.  When Uriah refused because of his loyalty to his fellow soldiers, David sent Uriah back to the front with orders that would get him killed in battle. It is a sordid tale, and extremely shocking coming from someone who, up to this point, has always been described as having a heart for God.

So how did David break all 10 Commandments in this one story?  Let’s look at them in reverse order:

Thou Shall Not Covet – This one is easy to see.  David saw Bathsheba bathing, and he wanted what he saw.  He was not satisfied with all that he already had, with all that God had given.  He saw, he desired, and his desire sprang into action.

Thou Shall Not Bear False Witness – Again, this one is clear.  In order to cover up his first sin with Bathsheba, he brings Uriah home under false pretenses.  David tries to get Uriah to break his own code of honor and sleep with his wife while his fellow men are at war.  When that didn’t work, he made Uriah carry the orders that would lead to his own death.  David didn’t even think twice about using deception and lies to cover his sin.

Thou Shall Not Steal – Hello!  He took his neighbor’s wife!

Thou Shall Not Commit Adultery – That is what took place here.  Today, we have a lot of euphemisms to help soften the blow: an “affair,” a “dalliance,” “living together,” a “fling.”  Let’s be clear. Scripture is quite clear that the gift of sexual expression is reserved for man and woman in marriage (Heb 13:4; 1 Cor 7:1-40), and anything outside of the bond of marriage is called sin, either adultery or fornication.  David committed adultery. There is no two ways around it.

Thou Shall Not Kill – Not only did Uriah die in David’s cover up, so did all the other soldiers who stormed the walls in battle. The blood of Uriah and all the soldiers lost that day was on David’s hands.

Honor thy Father and Mother – Now you may be thinking, this is a stretch, but keep in mind, the fifth commandment deals with our relationships with those in authority over us and those who serve under us.  The Westminster Larger Catechism is fantastic in its teaching here:

“It is required of superiors, according to the power they receive from God… to bless their inferiors… protecting and providing for them all things necessary for soul and body; and, by grace, wise, holy, and exemplary carriage, to procure glory to God.”

David pretty much botched that one too.

Remember the Sabbath Day and Keep it HolyNow the mother and father thing was a stretch, but this is way out there, we are not told it was a Sabbath day. Patience, I don’t think it’s that big of a leap. Remember, keeping the Sabbath means to set the Sabbath day aside as a day of rest, but that also requires that the rest of the week be spent in fruitful labor.  Where was David in this story? On the roof, resting on his couch.  Where was he supposed to be? Leading the nation of Israel in battle. This whole mess started because David neglected his responsibilities.

Thou Shall Not Take the Lord’s Name in Vain – To take God’s name in vain is to make it the name of God meaningless and empty. David was known as God’s anointed, and if this was how God’s anointed was going to act, what does that say of God?

Thou Shall Not Make Any Graven Image – Granted, David did not make a little golden idol to put on his mantle to worship. He didn’t need to. David twisted and contorted the revelation of a holy and just God, a powerful and present God, to be something much more manageable. David’s god that day was a god would couldn’t see, a god who wouldn’t act. Only by forgetting who God really is, only by creating a god of our own choosing, can we go forward boldly into such sin.

Thou Shall Have No Other Gods Before Me – That afternoon, on his roof, that beautiful woman became more to David than the very glory of God Himself. He gave up everything to have her. Is that not worship? Is not adultery, at its heart, an expression of idolatry?

James 2:10 teaches “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.” David sinned fantastically, and in one sin, he broke all of God’s commandments.  And he was called a man after God’s own heart.

If we are honest, we must acknowledge that every sin, even our own, is a fantastic and radical rebellion from God’s will. There are, of course, varying degrees of the severity of our sins, but each sin is an affront to the majesty and holiness of God, and the wages of sin is death.

The good news, and there is good news, is that Jesus came to save sinners. This depravity our hearts is not a shock to our Savior, this is why he came. He came to redeem us from captivity to sin, to destroy the power of sin and death in us, to bring the grace and forgiveness of God through His atoning sacrifice.  All those who trust and believe in Christ find forgiveness, and are given His Holy Spirit that we might grow in grace as we walk with the Lord. Remembering the severity of our sins should not drive us to despair. No.  It should drive us to the cross where we find our sins have been forgiven and we are at peace with God.

SDG

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A Knowledge that Puffs Up

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
(Eph 3:20–21)

Recently I’ve been doing some “brushing up” on my studies of Reformed Theology.  I came to the realization that it had been 14 years since Seminary;14 years since I had seriously sat down and written out my understanding of key theological doctrines, with Biblical and Confessional references.  Over that time in ministry, I have picked up various habits and views along the way, some Biblical, some simply pragmatic.

And so I started reading and writing.  I wanted to keep my studies limited to a particular branch of Reformed Theology, and so I committed to just reading the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms.  I’ve been exploring doctrines such as the Authority of the Word of God, Covenantal Theology, Election and Free Will, Justification and Saving Faith, the Sacraments, and the End Times (millennialism).  I’ve been pouring over several resources that, I’ll have to admit, have sat on my shelf gathering dust this past decade and a half: Charles Hodges’ Systematic Theology, G.I. Williamson’s Westminster Confession of Faith Study Guide, and some even found some great online resources at www.reformation21.org.

Through this course of study, I realized some pretty telling things.  First, going to a “prestigious” seminary doesn’t ensure a “prestigious” education.  I will readily admit that the quality of and educational experience is just as much the responsibility of the student, and I am thankful for the time I spent at Princeton Theological Seminary. It was a great experience that taught me to think theologically.  My only frustration is this: Has Princeton forgotten its past, or is it trying to deny it?  Just looking at the reading lists for my theology courses (yes, I still have them): great theologians from Princeton such as Hodge and Alexander are never once assigned.  The only reading from Jonathon Edwards, yes The Jonathon Edwards, was a chapter on “Natural Theology.”  The Puritans were completely ignored, Owens, Baxter, Flavel, Sibbes.  I am grateful for my experience there, but also grateful that I have had reading groups over the years that have helped point me in the right direction for my growth in Reformed Theology.

Ok – sorry – I hadn’t intended this to become a rant – on to other things.

The other thing I realized is that, for me anyway, the study of theology oftentimes awakens in me an idolatrous desire for approval.  Let me unpack that.  As a Pastor, I am called to defend the faith and preach the gospel.  I must be led by and lead others to the truth of God as revealed in Scripture. To teach something other than God’s revealed truth is to be “the blind leading the blind,” or worse, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and I know I will be held accountable for every word.

What I realized, in the midst of all my studies and writing, I was writing to please men, to please myself, rather than to bring glory to God. I find that there is in me a craving to be seen as “orthodox.” I long for the approval of others, to be sought out, for it to be said of me, He was a good teacher who really knew his stuff.” In these moments I am seeking a knowledge that puffs up (1 Cor 8:1).

This is not what the study of theology ought to do.  I shared a couple of months ago that all theology must be doxological – that is, it should lead to the praise and glory of God – or else it is of no use whatsoever. All knowledge of God, right knowledge of Him, will lead us to praise.  When we study God’s work of Creation we are led to praise Him for His power, wisdom, providence, and sovereign reign over all things seen and unseen.  When we study the Covenants, we are led to praise God that He would make a way for us to know Him. When we study God’s eternal decrees of salvation in Jesus Christ and our security in Him, we are led to give all praise and glory to God all that He has done for us.  When we study the Sacraments, we come to praise God for His promises signified and sealed and for His Spirit that makes those promises real in our lives.

From an earlier post -

All theology should produce a humble and gracious response of love.  If you study this Golden Chain, or the 5 Points of Calvinism, or any other theology for that matter, and come away with an air of superiority and self-righteousness, you have completely missed the point.  If your theology leads you to sit in judgment of others who are lost in sin rather than compelling you to demonstrate for all to see the very grace, mercy, and love of God that delivered you from sin and death, then your theology is of no use to you, to the world, and does not bring God glory. The theology of the church does not exist to puff up the pride of man, but to exalt and glorify God.

If ever your studies about God lead you to think how great you are, or diminish the glory of God, you’ve got it wrong and need to start over at the beginning.

So let me give you this encouragement.  Keep studying.  You may not be moved to pour into the depths of the Reformed Faith, but we are all called to be students of the word, to continue to know and love God more. Keep reading.  Keep learning.  Keep growing.  But do not study, read, learn and grow just so you can saw to everyone else, “Look how much I know!”  Let your studies, your reading, your learning, your growth lead you to a fuller and richer love of God and a greater understanding of His glory and a desire to worship and praise Him in all you do.

Sola Deo Gloria!

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Go home, January! No one likes you.

“The people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light…”
(Matthew 4:16)

You know, back in December, I really didn’t mind the cold and the snow all that much.  The Christmas lights at night made the snow look magical. The love and joy of the season warmed our hearts, and so the wind didn’t bother us as much.  While everyone was hectic, crazy busy, it’s all okay because everyone’s also trying to make sure their getting together with their family, friends, and all the one’s they love.  Just thinking about it now and suddenly I hear Karen Carpenter singing again, which makes me smile. Christmas made December not just tolerable, but something to love and long for.

What’s January got?  Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.

Face it, it’s just cold, wet, and windy.  There’s no romance or sentimentality to it – it’s just one big angry polar vortex after another, freezing your nose hairs the instant you step outside.  We’re still busy, but now it just an annoyance to have to go out for one more thing.  There’s still snow on the ground, but all that means is more shoveling, slipping and sliding, and pretty soon it will turn to a brownish muck as it slowly melts away.  There’s no soundtrack to make this month and all its brutal frigidness any better.  Don’t even try. Go home, January, I think we’ve overstayed your welcome.

Am I the only one who feels this way?  Does Christmas really make that much of a difference in the way we handle things?  Well, maybe it does.

Think about it: Christmas, with all of its tinsel and trappings, is the celebration of the incarnate Word of God, Jesus the Christ, Emmanuel, God with us.  At Christmas we are reminded that those who have dwelt in darkness, upon them a light has shined. At Christmas we take the time to focus on the joy that made the angels sing, the grace that came to seek and to save the lost, the love that moved even the stars in the heavens to announce his coming.

But what happened at Christmas doesn’t stay at Christmas. Christ’s coming changes everything.  We know now that sin has been defeated and by faith in Christ we are made new. We know now that there is grace and forgiveness – with God and for one another – so that we may be one body in Christ. We know now that there is good news to proclaim which will warm the hearts of all who hear.

Jesus changes everything.  He takes our burdens, our guilt, our sins, and gives us His yoke to carry and rest for our souls, for His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matt. 11:30). He takes our sorrows and our griefs, and in exchange gives us the joy of a new day (Psalm 30:5). He takes the obstacles and trials that cause us to tremble and says “Take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

I would not want to begin to imagine what life would be like without the knowledge of the love of God in our Lord Jesus Christ. It would be worse than a December without Christmas, even worse than January.

Stay warm. Stay faithful.

Sola Deo Gloria!

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