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Christmas Sunday Worship—To go to church or not to go?

This year, Christmas Day falls on a Sunday. Are you planning on taking your family to church this Christmas Day?

Some questions for us to consider in light of Christmas Sunday

  1. The reason for the season: When we cancel church services on Christmas Sunday or choose to stay home on this day are we as Christians showing that JESUS is truly the REASON for the SEASON?

In the gospel of Matthew we read, “And she [Mary] shall bring forth a Son, and thou shalt call His name JESUS: for He shall save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). This is the reason for this season.

  1. The value we are placing: What are we showing that we value? How do we show that we value our Savior when we cancel Christmas Sunday service or choose to stay home on the day we claim to celebrate His birth? What value are we placing on Christ?

The value of Christ is spiritual life to those who place their faith in His perfect sacrifice on our behalf.

  1. The message we are sending: What message are we sending to our children and unsaved family members when we choose to stay home instead of going to church just because Christmas falls on a Sunday?

When the message of Christmas is, Christ putting of flesh, dwelling among us in order to one day be our PERFECT SACRIFICE, shouldn’t we take this opportunity to celebrate this message with our church family and also to invite others who normally don’t attend church to hear this life-changing message?

  1. The love we are showing: The message of Christmas is the message of God’s amazing love for us.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son [Jesus], that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation [the atoning sacrifice] for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

Making a sacrifice to go to church to celebrate the birth of our Savior shows the importance that we place upon the first advent of Christ and the purpose for which He came to this earth. It is a way of displaying our love for Christ. After all, our gift of eternal life is the precious gift of the Son. Shouldn’t we show Him how much we love Him?

I want to urge you to consider attending a Bible believing church this Christmas Sunday and celebrate the birth of the greatest Gift ever given—God’s greatest Gift of His Son. O come, let us adore Him!

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How Long, O LORD?

“How long wilt Thou forget me, O LORD? forever?” Have you ever asked this question? Most of us have said these words in one form or another given the various challenges we may find ourselves in.

So, where do you find yourself today? In what challenging situation of life are you confronted with as you set down to read these words? Do you feel as though you have been dealt an unfair hand with the struggles of life continuing to go on and on and on and on…? Is hopelessness and despair knocking at your door so frequently that you are on the verge of giving up in defeat? Maybe you have already quit—maybe you have resigned yourself to the thought that this is your lot in life that will never change. I know…I’m often there as well. As of late, my health has been a trial for me that is challenging me in areas that I didn’t think I needed help in. It has been weighing upon me in a way that I didn’t realize or maybe didn’t care to admit. But here I am—coming to grips with my weaknesses and frailties. I’m coming to grip with the reality that I am a man often in need of hope and encouragement.

If you are like me, something is happening where you feel beaten down with the cares of your life? It could be your health or mounting bills due to lack of finances. It could be family struggles—marital difficulties and challenges with your children. Or maybe other relationships are suffering and adding another set of stressors to your already stress-filled life.

Whatever it is, the answer is near. Wherever you find yourself today, know that there is comfort. Although I am in the midst of this battle I have found comfort in the words of my Savior when He says, “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29).

The word “labour” speaks of one who is beaten down, fatigued and worn out. One who is “heavy laden” speaks of one who is overburdened with the cares and struggles of this life being “stressed out.” These are the ones to whom Christ is speaking. Notice the promise that He gives, …and I will give you rest. …and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” So let’s go to Him and see His remedy for our struggles—the “rest” for our weary souls. Let’s approach God’s Word with an openness to see the stabilizing truths of His Word and see where they speak to the pain of life—where they speak to life’s difficulties that beat us up, burden us down and bring us to a place where we question everything we thought was true.

Keep in mind that there is ALWAYS help from God’s Word!

It is always fascinating to me, as I approach God’s Word, where I find myself in a passage that is timely and filled with the healing balm of God’s stabilizing truths. I am blessed to know a God who loves me with an unending love; a love that is never distant or faint; a love that is satisfying and real; a love that is genuine and always what I need. I may not always feel these truths about His love, but as I step back and think—as I move from feeling to thinking—I can always find God’s love to be more than enough…ALWAYS!!

Psalm 13 is medicine for the despairing soul—the soul that is on the verge of giving up; the soul that is facing defeat—at the point of hopelessness, wondering, “Is it really worth trying; is it really worth the effort to take the next step?”

In this psalm, David says what I have been thinking, feeling, battling. He articulates the emotional struggle of a trial that seem like it will never end; a trial that often in my eyes has gone on long enough; a trial that at times can seem to be without purpose. BUT has it gone on long enough? It still continues! Is it without purpose? Although it may feel like it, I realize that there is always purpose especially as I look back and see that God is growing me through this. The challenge that I am confronted with is my need to think based upon what God says instead of how I feel.

David’s Plea—Consider David’s questions in the form of a plea to God.

“How long wilt Thou forget me, O LORD? forever? how long wilt Thou hide Thy face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? how long shall mine enemy be exalted over me?” (v. 1-2)

He is struggling with feeling alone as if God is distant, having forgotten about him. He starts out by pleading to the Lord as he pours out his heart.  His feelings seem to be the driving force as he cries out to the Lord, “Where are you?” and “When will this end?”

In verse 2 David speaks of taking counsel in [his] soul, having sorrow in [his] heart daily. Literally he is speaking about his thoughts that are a source of constant oppression. It is a daily struggle with no intermission—no reprieve as this trial continues without any hope of conclusion. This is a state of hopelessness which stems from both internal and external oppression. The internal oppression is rooted in how he thinks based upon how he feels. The external oppression comes in the form of persecution from his enemies.  For us the external oppression can be persecution, but more often it is something physical, financial or even social.

Often the saint comes to the point of despair as he begins to lose hope. His feelings betray him as he feels that the Lord has left him.  As the trial continues with no end in sight his soul wearies and his faith can seemingly begin to wane.

David’s Prayer—Next, in verses 3 and 4 we see David’s prayer to God.

“Consider and hear me, O LORD my God: lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death; lest mine enemy say, I have prevailed against him; and those that trouble me rejoice when I am moved.” (v. 3-4)

In the first two verses we see David’s thoughts are being driven by emotion and feeling. Now in this prayer we can see David’s perspective changing. As a humble man, he is acknowledging his own need—his weakness. In these words, he cries out to the Lord, praying, “consider and hear me!”  He is saying, “Pay attention to me and respond to my prayer.” But notice what he asks next. He says, Lord, lighten my eyes.” With this request he seems to be saying, “Lord, shed light upon this next step upon this path that You have set before me.”  He is asking for the Lord to help him see with spiritual eyes what God is purposing through this trial. Notice that He doesn’t ask God to take away the pain and suffering but instead he prays for spiritual sight in the suffering. His prayer is for help to look at his own situation from God’s perspective.

In verse 4 his prayer continues with purpose. He speaks to God about what he fears will happen if God does not help him. He says, Lest mine enemy say, ‘I have prevailed against him;’ and those that trouble me rejoice when I am moved. His concern is his testimony. If he succumbs to defeat—if he gives up in hopeless despair—his Godly testimony will be marred. His Godly influence will cease. I believe that his concern is that God will not be glorified through him.

In the first two verses we see David’s thoughts driven by his feelings. Starting in verse 3 we see a change in perspective. His thoughts begin to be guided by truth. With each additional verse his mind becomes more and more engaged in God’s stabilizing truths.

David’s Praise—In the final two verses we see David’s praise.

“But I have trusted in Thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in Thy salvation. I will sing unto the LORD, because He hath dealt bountifully with me.” (v. 5-6)

In these last two verses we see three key points of David’s praise. David turns his mindset to truth.  He fixes his mind upon God through the truth of His Word and the peace of God begins to transcend his circumstances, just as God’s Word says.

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed [fixed] on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee. Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength [the rock of ages]:” (Isaiah 26:3-4)

He goes from feeling to faith—from how his heart feels to what his heart knows.  He looks back to a point of trustI have trusted in Thy mercy. David knew his God. He knew that He was a God of mercy and that He was the source of his salvation. In the beginning of this Psalm David is feeling as if God is not there; as if God has left. Now his mind rests upon the truth of God instead of his feelings being dictated by his circumstances. He begins to think upon the stabilizing truths of God which dictate his praise to God in his time of suffering.

He then looks forward to a promise of truthMy heart shall rejoice in Thy salvation.” He looks forward with the eye of faith—with anticipation that God will rescue him. His mindset has changed from a perspective of hopelessness to one of patient hope and confidence. In another psalm David writes, “I will love Thee, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower” (Psalm 18:1-2). Notice in these words of triumph how David describes his great God. With each description he makes it personal; He is my strength, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer, my God, my buckler, my salvation, and my high tower.” These are stabilizing truths to David as he focuses on each one as God’s benevolence toward him. This is who God was to David.

As a result of his meditating upon the sufficiency of his great God, notice his commitment to praise. “I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies” (Psalm 18:3).

Finally he looks beyond to his praise of triumphI will sing unto the LORD.” As David relies upon what he knows to be true about God, the result is worship.  Through the trial, that David had gone through, he felt as if God was distant, but his knowledge of God brings him to see the reality that God cannot be any closer for HE is intimately close to David and through this trial David sees that HE is ever closer.

In closing, consider David’s words in Psalm 40. He says, “I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And He hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD. Blessed is that man that maketh the LORD his trust, and respecteth not the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies” (Psalm 40:1-4).

Throughout Psalm 13 we have seen David move from the pit of “miry clay” to the “Rock” of truth. His mind finds rest in the stabilizing truths of God. In tragedy he triumphs, not because his circumstances have changed but because his mindset has changed. His feelings have been replaced with facts and his trembling has been replaced with truth. Herein lies the victory.

Although the storm still rages all around him, the storm has ceased within him. Through a right perspective he has found the peace of God that surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). Though his storm still rages his heart is resting—resting upon the stabilizing truths of God—resting in His precious promises.

Whatever storm you find yourself in, always know that God is there with you. When you take your eyes off the storm you will see your loving Savior walking with you and often carrying you. Trust Him for He is the Master of the storm. He is the God [who] is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). Let us learn to be still, and know that [He is] God” (Psalm 46:10)—the Almighty God.

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The Cradle and The Cross

“The Cradle and The Cross” — What do these mean to you? The CRADLE is a picture of new life and the CROSS is a picture of death. As we consider the cradle and the cross we see the true reason for this Christmas season—it is all about CHRIST.

The angel, speaking to Joseph says,  And she [Mary] shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call His name JESUS: for He shall save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)

One of my favorite Christmas hymns was written by Ron Hamilton called “Born to Die[1].” Consider the words of the chorus:

Born to die upon Calvary, Jesus suffered my sin to forgive; 
Born to die upon Calvary, He was wounded that I might live.”

In these words we see the cradle and the cross.  As Jesus was born the cross cast its shadow over the cradle. This was the purpose for which Christ was born—He was born to die.

This sounds quite depressing if the story ended here. The great reality is that Christ’s death was not the stories’ end but a pivotal moment within the narrative of Christ’s provision for our salvation. The cross is EMPTY and so is the tomb as it could not hold Him. Christ has conquered death and has risen from the grave, just as He said He would (Matthew 16:21; 26:31-32).

The purpose for which Christ came to this earth was to die, to pay the penalty for our sin—which He did. BUT then He rose again the third day, victorious over death leaving the tomb EMPTY as evidence of a risen, living Savior.

Don’t overlook the journey from the cradle to the cross. Stop and look upon the EMPTY cross and see all the suffering Christ bore on your behalf. Then keep going from that tree to the tomb. Again, stop and look inside and see Him there no more and rejoice for He lives! But there is more…continue on from the grave to the glorious mount as He ascended, returning to the Father.

From the cradle to the cross we see how Christ lived as a perfect Example and He died as a perfect Sacrifice. In that He triumphs over the tomb we see that He lives as a conquering King and He saves as a sufficient SAVIOR.

Remember that there is a CHRIST in CHRISTmas for a reason. HE is the REASON for this season. Celebrate HIM as the greatest gift ever given. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son [Jesus], that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

Because of Christ’s death on the CROSS we can enjoy the CRADLE of a new life in Christ—a life with Christ that never ends—a life with Him here on this earth and in heaven for eternity.

Do you have a relationship with Christ? Have you received this greatest gift that is eternal life? Consider Christ’s words to a religious man searching for answers about life. Jesus answered and said unto him, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again [from above], he cannot see the kingdom of God. (John 3:3) The Bible says elsewhere, For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Have you responded to Christ when He says, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest [peace]” (Matthew 11:28). Christ’s call requires a response. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13) But as many as received Him [JESUS], to them gave He power to become the sons of Godeven to them that believe on His name: (John 1:12)

If you haven’t placed your faith and trust in CHRIST alone for salvation won’t you consider doing that today? This Christmas enjoy the greatest gift ever given—His name is JESUS. He will never fail you for in Him alone is contentment, peace, joy, and love that truly transcends all understanding—in Him alone is true life that never ends. Consider reading “How Do I Get to Heaven” for additional insight.

Join with me this Christmas season and make JESUS the center—allow CHRIST to be at the center of your CHRISTmas.

[1] Copyright 1980 by Majesty Music, Inc.