The Wonderful Message Of Christmas — And Why People Work So Hard To Obscure It

2015 ChristmasI personally know many non-Christians who just love Christmas. They’ll decorate their homes to the hilt, send out beautifully illustrated year-end newsletters wishing people peace and joy, and maybe even put up a cute nativity scene as an homage to the story of the first Christmas.

For them, Christmas is primarily about brightly wrapped presents, feasting on scrumptious food, and parties. Songs mentioning benign infants lying in mangers must be supplemented with other songs about jingling bells and an obese elf from the North Pole who sees us when we’re sleeping. And then there are the infamous office parties and their accompanying innuendos about who was nice and naughty.

Most of all, they’ll declare that Christmas is about children. Not so much about a specific Child, although some might give Him an obligatory nod, but children and their sense Continue reading

Prayer: A Seldom Realized Privilege

king-jesusEach morning, John and I listen to John MacArthur’s Grace To You broadcast. Currently, Grace To You is featuring MacArthur’s most popular Christmas messages that he’s preached over the course of his fifty years of pastoring Grace Community Church. Today’s message focusing on the deity of Christ captured my attention, but not in the way you might expect.

As MacArthur preached on Jesus being the Son of the Most High, and therefore being God Incarnate, I thought about God as the Most High Being. I don’t meditate on the fact that He is the Most High often enough, which usually leads me to regard Him a little more casually than I should.

That casual attitude particularly shows up in my prayer life, I’m sorry to say. Yes, I know the stereotype of Continue reading

Singing Christmas Theology

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing has been my favorite Christmas hymn for most of my Christian life. It’s packed full of solid Biblical doctrine ranging from the Incarnation to regeneration, always bringing us back to His glory.

Singing this beloved hymn grows more meaningful each year as I notice new depths of theology in its familiar verses. As a result, I love it even more now than I loved it as a new Christian. I pray that you’ll discover truths about our wonderful Savior every time you sing it too.

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Unforgiveness Hurts Others More Than It Hurts You

Forgiveness ButterfiesSomewhere in the 1960s, when evangelicals became enamored with psychology, teachings on forgiveness started emphasizing the benefits of forgiveness on the person doing the forgiving. If they had left the discussion at Matthew 6:14-15, that would have been fine.

To their shame, they didn’t leave it there. No, they elaborated that when someone refuses to forgive those who hurt her, she imprisons herself in bitterness. Therefore, they reason, she Continue reading

All Three Of The One We Praise

Can you think about the Triune God without trying to figure out how He can be one and yet three? You should, you know.

Of course the Trinity should fill you with wonder every time you think of God as three Persons in one Being. But rather than trying to reduce the Trinity to neat metaphors that make you feel able to understand the hows and whys of  it all, have you ever simply responded with worship?

This Lord’s Day, why not praise Father, Son and Spirit without analyzing Their unity? Remember that all three of the One we praise deserve honor and glory — each for His unique work.

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Flashback Friday: Displaying The Pearl

Originally posted November 24, 2015:

All humans love the idea that we have something inherent in ourselves that pleases God. We firmly believe we bring something to the salvation table. In dealing with the presumption that we can contribute to our salvation, I’d like you to think of Jesus as a perfect Pearl. (I love pearls.) That image, of course, should remain limited to the analogy I present here–I don’t mean to start a new teaching about Jesus being a Pearl! But consider, for this moment, how your life would best show off His beauty. What about you best displays Him?

Perhaps you might immediately think of your good deeds. You’ve given to charitable causes, worked in Christian ministry, raised relatively well-behaved kids, driven elderly neighbors to doctor appointments, sent Christmas cards every year, all while maintaining good health habits to show everyone that you know your body is the temple of the Lord. Your organization and efficiency dazzles everybody. How much you do for Him.

Against such a backdrop, the Pearl can be seen, but you compete with Him for attention.

Or maybe He’s given you talents, such as a good singing voice or the ability to paint beautiful landscapes. Your blog has over 500 followers, most of whom gush endlessly over your knack for “turning a phrase.” Your signature cherry pie is always requested at church potlucks, or people flock to the women’s Bible Study you lead because your sense of humor is legendary. How creative you are for Him!

Against such a backdrop, the Pearl can be seen, but you compete with Him for attention.

Ah, but it’s possible that your piety impresses Him. You were a virgin until your wedding night, and would never flirt with anyone but your husband. You have filters on your computer, you refuse to be alone (even in an elevator) with a member of the opposite sex, and you don’t buy underwear at Victoria’s Secret. Furthermore, you avoid products that exploit workers in Third World sweat-shops, you never drink so much as a glass of wine, and you would  never dream of jay-walking…even in downtown Boston. How moral you are for Him!

Against such a backdrop, the Pearl can be seen, but He barely shows up against your image of purity. Consequently, His glory becomes almost indistinguishable from your own. Once again, you compete with Him for attention.

Actually, I see my own attention-grabbing attitudes in all three of these pictures. Hopefully, you see yourself as well. If we choose these backdrops of self-righteousness, we may convince ourselves that we best display the Pearl, but the reality demonstrates otherwise. As long as we claim anything good about ourselves, we minimize the Lord’s role as Savior.

Jesus is a Pearl, not because our “goodness” displays Him, but because He turns our wickedness into a backdrop for His mercy, grace and love.

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Thy Name Be Ever Praised

It’s inconvenient, I suppose, to remember that most of the people who settled in Massachusetts in the early 1600s were Puritans. Dare I say, Calvinists? Their first Thanksgiving included food, family and fun, to be sure, but they primarily called the feast to thank the Lord for bringing them through that first harsh New England winter.

In other words, they focused on the Lord.

Thanksgiving Day now offers little attention to God, apparently forgetting the true purpose of the holiday. So I love this traditional Thanksgiving hymn that reminds me of the Puritans and their desire to praise God.

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