CHRISTMAS IS ABOUT LOVE

Often in the high stress days that surround Christmas, we tend to forget the most fundamental focus of this event.  It is that God loved the world so very much that He sent His Son into this world to deliver people from sin, shame and meaningless lives to a life of peace, purpose and joy.

God took on human flesh, in the womb of a virgin, so that He could be born into the world of mankind.  He did this expressly to restore what had been lost back in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve chose disobedience and so broke their fellowship with Him.  At that moment in Eden, God could have just washed His hands of the whole thing, and started over again with two more responsible and obedient people.  But instead, we witness His amazing love for us in that He chose to restore and reconcile what was lost back then.

And the wonderful truth is that He still, in this Christmas season of 2017, loves people so very much.  Many people see themselves as pretty unlovable because of the things they have done or the failures in their lives; failed personal relationships, addictions, really unpleasant attitudes and some very bad deeds done in the past.

We all, to one degree or another, have experienced some or all of the above items.  But to restore us back into a life-giving relationship with our wonderful Creator God is why the baby Jesus was born in Bethlehem ages ago. That innocent little One would, some 35 years later, die a terrible death on a Roman cross to pay for the sins of all people in all ages.  Now that is love.

Since Jesus paid it all that day on the cross, all that remains is that those who need a savior (which happens to include us all) need accept God’s gracious offer of salvation and to place their trust in Him, and when they do that, they will be set free from failure (sin) and given eternal life.  Probably the greatest Christmas verse ever is John 3:16.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

MERRY CHRISTMAS or HAPPY HOLIDAYS

Well it is that time of year again: Deck the halls with advertising, ‘tis the season for merchandising!  “Black Friday” is now history but fear not, the fantastic, unbelievable, once-in-a-lifetime, time sensitive, three days only sales are just beginning.  Now, I have no real quarrel with buying stuff at this time of year, nor with people getting presents for others.  I do not rage inside when someone greets me with “happy holidays” instead of “merry Christmas”.  I do not feel faint when a sign reads “Holiday Trees” instead of “Christmas Trees.”  In our diverse, and fairly materialistic culture, all this is to be expected.

But we who by faith know the baby of Bethlehem, the Lord Jesus Christ, need to consider how we might best remind those in our sphere of influence of the eternal significance of this event.  It was that moment when in the “fullness of time, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman…” to deal with the core issue that mankind faces: the need to be restored back to a relationship with God.  The Bible tells us very little about that event in Bethlehem (many of the “Christmas traditions” have nothing to do with what is found in the Bible). But it does tell us a great deal about why that event is a critical one: it is that the destiny of each and every individual is at stake.  Jesus was born, as God’s great gift to mankind, in order to die on the Cross so that the sin problem would be taken care of once and for all.  Eternal life is granted to every person who places their faith in Jesus, the one and only Savior.  Now that really is a big deal.

So, maybe we could be a little more proactive this Christmas season (even though it is unlikely Jesus was born on December 25th), reminding folks that the Savior entered the world.  If we decorate our house, let’s make sure Jesus is somewhere in those decorations. As we come in contact with others in our neighborhood, our workplace or school, or just with random encounters, let’s be looking for openings to share the significance of this season.  At this time of year, many folks get frustrated, angry and/or depressed, so let’s reflect the joy, grace and peace that a real follower of Christ possesses…one who knows the real importance of the Christmas season.

SEX in DC, LA and ETC

During these past weeks, it is hard not to notice the flurry of intense activity in the news, on the internet and other places dealing with the matter of sexual misconduct among the rich and powerful. Daily, it seems, more and more revelations come out about the sexual misdeeds of many powerful individuals.  Men and women, apparently against their wills, were subjected to some pretty debasing behaviors from others with money, power and influence. People were abused, violated and humiliated by those who were predators, whose only purpose was to satisfy their raging lusts. And then, there are those who seek many sexual experiences trying to bring some sort of excitement and satisfaction to their lives. In various places and ways, there are those who advertise their sexual prowess. I saw recently where one woman claims to have had over 1,000 men with whom she had sex; apparently, we are to be impressed with this. But, while our response might be that of interest, disgust or something else, the real issue is not being talked about.

The real issue has to do with sex, as designed by the good Creator God. Sex is a good thing given to mankind by God Himself.  It was to be an uplifting and enjoyable part of human experience.  God designed it, approved it and encouraged it…among those who are married.  Only in the marriage relationship does sex have its good and proper place.  Sex was designed to be the capstone of a love relationship.  Undergirding it was to be the friendship and commitment of a man and woman, and further it was to be supported by two people doing what is best for the other person. This is the opposite of the “playboy” philosophy where sex is the foundation for the relationship and where “my needs” reign supreme over everything else. But the “playboy” approach is 180 degrees from its designed purpose, and constitutes the basic reason why “affairs” just don’t last. Affairs are self-centered to the core.

Sex was designed to be enjoyable.  If sexual activity was not pleasurable, it is doubtful we humans would be particularly interested.  But it is.  What is terribly sad is that so many engage in sexual relations apart from God’s grand design for it, with the result that (while they certainly have some temporary times of excitement) they never really experience the fullness of what God created for them.  And they eventually discover that sex outside of a healthy marriage relationship is subject to the law of diminishing results. More and more sexual partners does not bring greater pleasure. One more sexual conquest will not do it. And this lack of fulfillment is what often leads many to more perverted sexual activities.  These folks long for more but will never experience that apart from God’s design.  Scriptural portions like Genesis 1:27-28, the Song of Solomon and Proverbs 5:15-23 elevate our human sexuality to the place that God Himself gave it. Kinsey, Hefner, Freud, Hollywood and the late night talk show hosts have turned from God’s revelation on this matter, and once again fall into the condition of “professing themselves to be wise they became fools.”

Are Natural Disasters the Wrath of God?

Epic wildfires in California, multiple hurricanes with catastrophic flooding on several coasts, and a slaughter in Las Vegas, have recently taken a toll on the people and resources of our country. Some, having a sense that there may be a god or force “out there”, do wonder WHY such a cluster of events have been taking place (and wonder are there more to come?).  Others, seeing themselves as less superstitious and more scientific, just see these things as the uncontrollable forces of “mother nature” (or in the case of Las Vegas, another evidence of the madness that people are capable of). Still others see this as the judgments of God who doesn’t like the arrogant disregard of people for Himself and His ways.

From a biblical perspective, the Creator God has used (and will use in the future) the natural world to discipline wayward people.  As evidence, we can see the flood of Noah’s day (Gen. 6), the plagues on Egypt (Exo. 7-9), the seven years of famine on Egypt (Gen. 41) and literally dozens of other examples in the Bible.  So, is that is what is happening in America?  Some say “yes”, claiming that they have gotten a special word from God Himself on the subject. I can make no such claim.  But I am convinced that Jesus has an important point on the matter.  In Luke 13:4, Jesus talked about a recent tragedy in His day:

“DO YOU SUPPOSE THAT THOSE 18 ON WHOM THE TOWER IN SILOAM FELL AND KILLED THEM, WERE WORSE CULPRITS THAN ALL THE MEN WHO LIVE IN JERUSALEM? I TELL YOU, “NO”, BUT UNLESS YOU REPENT, YOU WILL ALL LIKEWISE PERISH.”

Jesus does not answer our “why” question nor does He dismiss such events as random and uncontrollable.  What He does say, is that we are to seriously consider these events and recognize that we could be the ones entering eternity. With that in mind, according to Jesus, repenting of our sin would be the prudent thing to do. To face eternity without a clear knowledge of where that eternity will be spent is the most reckless thing that a person can do.  Fortunately, John 3:16 is still in play.

Beware the False Prophets

On September 23, 2017 the rapture did not occur, millions did not die, Revelation 12 was not fulfilled, and the world as we know it did not come to an end.  And yet, prior to that date the internet was buzzing with multiple people prophesying of wonderful or terrible events that would take place on that date. Aside from me missing lunch that day and new neighbors moving in, nothing remarkable happened.

These self-styled prophets deservedly are seen as religious hucksters who lack any real credibility.  But the real problem in all of this is that the Bible itself takes a hit.  The Bible is filled with yet unfulfilled prophecies and these are designed to alert us to ultimate realities, such as the sovereign workings of God and the need for people to get into a right relation with God through Jesus Christ. The Bible lets us know that there is an eternity lying ahead for everyone and it tells us just what God is going to do to bring His purposes to fulfillment. But these self-styled receivers of revelation fabricate predictions to call attention to themselves, make money or see how many “likes” they can accumulate. But the damage they do is immense because many people come to view all prophetic teaching as nonsense or irrelevant.

The Apostles of the New Testament and the prophets of the Old Testament warn us time and again about the presence of those who claim they speak for God, but whose prophecies are the products of their own imaginations.  Does not Jeremiah 23 and Ezekiel 13 accurately portray the prophets of September 23, 2017?

The absence of bad news

It is not new news to believers that the folks around us need to hear the good news about Jesus.  There is, however, some bad news that is attached to the good news, but is hardly ever talked about.

Simply put, the bad news is that if a person does not embrace the good news and trust in the God-man, Jesus Christ who died and rose again, these will end up in the “lake of fire” forever.  There is a terrible consequence for a person who does not receive God’s free gift of salvation through Christ.  The Book of Revelation refers to it as the “second death”, which means that an individual is forever separated from God.  Jesus spoke often of darkness, deep grief and extreme anguish for those who do not possess eternal life.  The Apostle Paul described this second death as eternal, meaning existence where Christ rejecters will experience total ruination of what human life was supposed to be; a kind of constant depression. So the bad news really is bad.

When was the last time you heard a sermon devoted to the consequences of rejecting or neglecting the good news?  Or a Bible study which was focused on eternal damnation that awaits an unbelieving person.  Have we really given the complete good news if we fail to include the consequences—the bad news? Our culture of tolerance and broadmindedness has muffled our voices on this important matter; and we are fearful that we will be branded as narrow, unloving or other negatives.

It appears that killing newborns may be in the future of our American society

Up until now, the heated debate has been over the matter of abortion; the termination of pregnancy before birth takes place. Abortion is seen by so many as part of a woman’s “right”; that is, she ought not be saddled with an unwanted baby. Now it seems that another step could be taken soon.
Professor Jerry Coyne of the University of Chicago argues that it is just as morally right to euthanize a newborn baby with birth defects as it is to abort the fetus (read “child”) before birth. He insists that this would be the morally superior thing to do, rather than have parents deal with a lifetime of defects in a child. He makes the point that a newborn, like a fetus, lacks any awareness of death, and has no ability to make decisions. He then predicts that such termination of life will one day be common.

The Professor has a point, of course. If you allow the arguments for abortion, then those same arguments can be extended to the “defective” new born. (We can only imagine what the term “defective” might grow to include). But if God’s standards and principles are adhered to, then neither the ending of life before birth nor the ending of life immediately after birth are acceptable. So we need to be aware that if we, as followers of Christ, give ground on the matter of abortion then we have opened the door to infanticide. It is just a matter of time before killing “defective” newborns will be taking place. And maybe, the removing of “non-defective” babies might be included, especially if the newborn child is unwanted. Such became the case in ancient Rome where unwanted newborns were taken out and “exposed” to the elements; many dying by such exposure and others by wild animals, and many more taken to be raised as slaves and temple prostitutes.

God, the giver of life, has set His principles in place and we reject or neglect those truths to our own harm. And in light of Professor Coyne’s idea, the abortion battle may have a broader scope to it than many have thought.

The Republican Party (and random Democrats) Cannot and Will Not Solve America’s Problems

I for one am thankful for the men and women in Washington DC who are faithful followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.  I do believe that they make a difference in slowing down the spiritual and moral decay that now characterizes our culture.  These are the ones who speak out for the sanctity of marriage as God defines marriage (the union of one man and one woman); these work against groups like Planned Parenthood who are responsible for the death of countless babies; these are those who know that debt destroys just as the Bible teaches.  They have aligned themselves on many issues with God’s standards as found in the Bible.

But it is not Washington DC that holds the key to solving the huge problems facing America.  It is the church which is tasked with the proclamation of God’s truth; that truth which addresses these great issues.  But each Sunday, hundreds of thousands of people enter churches only to hear sermons that are devoid of solid biblical content.  Churches have largely become market-driven religious entertainment centers, and not places where believers are taught to think (and behave) as authentic followers of the Savior.  If we are going to recoup our national situation, it will begin with the pulpit.  Romans 1 is clear that when a person (or culture or nation) rejects/neglects God Truth then two things will always happen: (1) a decline into idolatry, and (2) the invasion of immorality of all kinds.  These two realities characterize America today. Washington DC cannot bring a change of heart which then brings a change in both belief and practice.  But the Word of God does this very well, powerfully and effectively. But it starts with America’s pulpits which must declare God’s truth and not tolerant, political correct narratives.