Christmas Thought – 2015

Today is the day to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. Christmas really is a weird time. It was chosen by the Roman Catholic Church to bring in all the pagans who were already practicing a festival on that day. So as we all know Jesus wasn’t really born on Christmas day. It really is as good a day to celebrate as any other, arbitrary, day.

But putting aside all this for a second I look at Christmas for Christmas’ sake. What is the purpose of Christmas? In all honesty I grew up in a household that, although Christian, did not celebrate Christmas. (No, we were not JWs.) So as something that I do celebrate now with my wife and daughter, I have to ask that question. In today’s Christianity what purpose does Christmas have?

Sadly, for a lot of people, it means they go to church (for the first time since Easter) hear all about the virgin birth and (maybe) a gospel message, then they go home. Later on Christmas day they open presents they’ve been worked all year to buy. In this hypothetical person’s life consumerism has obviously taken the lead in Christmas. Is this what Christmas is about? Blatant and unabated consumerism? For others it is all about balancing out their imaginary scales of right and wrong, the scales of karma, if you will. Volunteering, baking, helping others, giving gifts (consumerism again), and spending time (read putting up with) family top the list of things that add positive karma.

Is any of that Christmas? Pastors over the years have come up with many great sermons as to the “Biblical Christmas” or the “Message of Christmas” but I ask you to find in the Bible where it actually talks about Christmas. Yes the “Christmas Story” is there at or near the beginning of three of the four Gospels, but that is missing the point. The Bible is silent on all of our holidays.

Christmas’ purpose? We can read in Matthew of His birth and the visit of the wise men (which was not on the day of His birth). We can read another account of His birth and the visit of the shepherds (which disproves a winter date) in Luke. But these do not readily point out the purpose of Christmas. I think the Gospel that has a “Christmas Story” that points out its purpose the best is John’s Gospel. In the prologue to John’s Gospel (John 1:1–18) John gives a summary of the whole Gospel.

John shows us how God came to earth to take away the sin of the world and allow believers to become children of God. Some have said that the Gospel of John does not have a Christmas story, much like the Gospel of Mark. I, however, think it has one of the most complete Christmas stories, without having to read the whole Gospel through to figure it out. It even mentions His birth (“And the Word became flesh” verse 14).

We briefly touched on its purpose, but really Christmas has no meaning without the cross and resurrection. Jesus could have come all the same way He did and without the cross and resurrection it would mean nothing. That is what I am remembering this Christmas season and I hope you will too. As you spend time with family and give and receive gifts I pray you will remember Christmas’ purpose. That all the sin of the whole world was taken away once and for all and whoever believes in Jesus as their savior will have eternal life.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Thoughts on a Father’s Love

I have been contemplating a father’s love recently because my wife and I just recently welcomed our daughter into the world. It is truly amazing how much I love this little person that has done nothing for me but cried, kept me up at night, made it hard for me to get out of my door, and made a larger financial burden on me. I love her more than words can ever express, and yet this points out to me how much more the Lord loves us.

Verses like John 3:16 point it out in my mind. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 BOGV) God loved us so much he gave up His one and only Son. We didn’t deserve for God to do this. We didn’t deserve it at all. This is the situation my little girl was in when she was born. She didn’t deserve anything from me. She hadn’t earned anything yet, but I loved her still. The emotions that went through me and struck me to the core couldn’t be changed.

It makes me think of the song How Deep the Father’s Love for Us. The words resonate in my spirit. “How deep the Father’s love for us, How vast beyond all measure, That He should give His only Son, To make a wretch His treasure” That is what the Lord thought of us. He loved us so much that He gave His only Son to redeem us. He didn’t do it because we deserved it, or had earned it but because He simply loved us that much. Our Triune God loved us so much that He fully gave His own life on the cross for our eternal destinies. That is what the Lord has been showing me in this brand new experience of becoming a father.

Psalms by RB 5

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A Psalm of Thankfulness

Once I walked away from glory
Walked to my blessed Savior
Whence I came I know not

When shalt I find my Lord?
I know not
I walk on to the world end

There is no goal for me here
Only a goal with my Lord

I walk and walk toward
The worlds ending
Toward my Lord

There I shall find peace
I walk for Christ
Carrying His banner

I walk for him who saved all
Saved all; but there is a catch
You must believe Him and except Him as your Savior

And I walk with Jesus
And Jesus walks with me

John: John the Baptist’s Final Testimony (3:22-36)

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Part 8: John the Baptist’s Final Testimony (3:22-36)

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Jesus now leaves Jerusalem and heads out into the “Judean countryside”. Here in this little prelude we see Jesus and John the Baptist being compared to each other. This isn’t the negative comparison that world does, but rather it is a comparison of just the facts. Then we come to verse twenty-four and we get a preview of things to come. It tells us that John wasn’t in jail yet.

From this we shift the scene just to John and his disciples. An argument arises between one of his disciples and the Jews about purification, or the purpose of baptism. It is right here in verse twenty-six where the comparison really starts. This comparison is started or stated in a negative way. “Everyone is going to Him instead of us.” This is almost a complaint on the part of John’s disciple. Can’t you feel the thought going through the man’s head and hear his winy tone of voice? He’s thinking to himself: “If you’re really from God as you say you are then why is everyone going to Jesus rather than coming to us?”

John jumps at this question without even flinching. He starts off telling them that anything that anyone has is directly from God. This really is a call for them to wake up and start thinking. From here John again points out that he is not the Messiah and jumps into a beautiful metaphor for his and Jesus’ ministries and how they complement each other. His metaphor of a groom and best man eloquently articulates this point.

The idea here is that a man will pick his best friend to be his best man at his wedding. This best friend is full of joy for his friend’s wedding. How could he not be? The next statement is because Jesus “has come to His wedding” the best man has to step out of the spotlight and allow the groom to take the spotlight. This is natural in its flow. Of course the best man must step out of the spotlight to allow the wedding to proceed. If the best man stole the spotlight would he really be the best man or rather an opponent?

John the Baptist moves her from his metaphor of marriage, or a wedding, onto telling what he means. John makes a statement about Jesus twice, here, but only makes the statement about himself once. “The one who come from above is above all,” he says about Jesus, but the one from the earth (John, himself) can only speak of earthly things. Then John goes on to restate what he had said about Jesus, but this time pointing toward heaven rather than just “above”. John deals with Jesus’ testimony next.

Here John echoes Jesus’ words from earlier in the chapter (verse 11). He starts moving into a grand statement about not only Jesus’ ministry, but who Jesus is, exactly. “The one who does accept His words,” this person will put all of themselves “on the line for this one thing: that God is truth, completely and totally.” This statement points out what we have to do to really say we believe in Jesus. We have to believe “that God is true.” (ESV) If you stop and truly think about this statement you see: How can it be any other way? How can you believe in something that you think is a lie?

John moves onto material that Jesus, Himself, covers later (Chapter 5). John succinctly gives his explanation of who Jesus is. This is how Chapter 3 closes. It started with grand, eloquent statements made by the Son of God and it is ended with statements of the authority of the Son. “The Father loves the son so much that He put everything under the Son’s control.” The WEB translates this verse “The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand.”

The final remarks of John the Baptist in this chapter reflect Jesus’ own in verse 18. This allows us to see the unity across teaching. So it comes down to one question at the end of this chapter: Do you believe in the Son of God, Jesus, or not?

Psalms by RB 3

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A Psalm of Thankfulness and Praise

Fear not the LORD with trembling and woe
For He is merciful unto us
Praise Him for the wonders He shows
And the expectations He has surpassed

Exclusively do we praise one God
Whom is in three parts
Father, Spirit, Son all are one
This is the God we praise

He formed and made us, each
Special are we in His sight
But we do not know how He can see
One of many in such a big world

Thank the LORD for his grace
For He does not give it on our terms
But on the terms that He set in place
Thank Him for His grace we cannot earn

Am I saved?

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Can I really answer this question with certainty? I feel no one can tell you if you are or aren’t saved. The only person who knows whether you are saved is you. It has been important for me to remember that being saved means that I have a close personal relationship with a being far greater than myself. Just as I said in my last paper: God is love. I want to point out that God is love and He loves us. That is what being saved means.

What does it take to be saved? and am I saved? These are important questions to my faith. If you think about it how can I have faith if I can’t answer these questions? It shakes the foundations of my belief, it shakes the foundations of every belief. Why believe if you are not saved, or made better by that belief? If you cannot answer this question about your beliefs maybe you should be the one writing this article. I know there are different beliefs than mine that have vastly different views on a surety after death. Mine, however, are the ones that I know and the ones that have touched my heart, so mine are the ones that I will be figuring out.

To answer our question I need to find out what the Bible says on the matter of Salvation. This take us back to my last article I wrote, and a major verse that I brought out in that article:

“For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved.”

John 3:17 KJV

I still hold onto my view that this is a better verse for our times than 3:16, but what does it say? God sent Jesus to save the world, and later Jesus tells us what the work of God is:

“Jesus answered and said unto them, ‘This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent.’”

John 6:29 KJV

God sent His Son to save the world, and His work is that we would believe in the one He sent. In his letter to the Romans the Apostle Paul sums up the point that Jesus said.

“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”

Romans 10:9 KJV

If I believe my God to be the only one, and if I believe the Bible is His unchanging Word, then I can make the conclusion that I am saved. Not everyone can make this conclusion (for their own reasons); not everyone can make the primary leap of faith (that there is one god who is triune – a trinity; three in one). Not everyone can make the second leap of faith either (that the Bible is the true Word of God).

It is not for me to decide what is right for others. All I can do is follow my own heart. This is also key to my salvation. For I have made the conclusion that I am saved, but what does it mean to be saved? If you are, were or know a Christian person you probably know or have hear the term “Walk with God” or “Christian Walk.” This is used all over the New Testament to refer to the way that someone lives (i.e. their walk). Some Christians today call it the “Christian Life” rather than walk.

But, once you have truly made the leap of faith (to become saved) then you must walk the walk. What is the walk? To love, it is that simple. You must love. I quoted 1 John 4:7-8 in my last article which says that Christians must “love one another.” Also the Christian is charged to love his neighbor. It does not say “If your neighbor is a Christian then love him as yourself,” but rather:

“Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.”

Mark 12:31b KJV

And if our walk is to love than it is also to have a relationship with God. And a second time I make my end with this verse; but if we love then 1 John 4:7 tells us we will know God:

“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God.”

1 John 4:7 KJV (emphasis added)