Thursday, December 28, 2017

Is Setting a New Year Resolution Biblical?

It would appear the setting goals would be wise and would lead to better results.  In fact, Solomon tells us that, “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance.”  (Proverbs 21:5)  Some people love to plan out every detail in life but it does not ensure that all of our planning or goals will be met. 

I worked for a pastor as a summer intern who detested laziness so he had all of the young men working on the summer program at the church to memorize Bible verses that focused on planning and working hard.  I recall memorizing Proverbs 6:6-11 which reads:

“Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.  Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest. How long will you lie there, O sluggard?  When will you arise from your sleep?  A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.” 

Biblically, according to this verse, there is much to be said about the one who will not work but Scripture also challenges those who do not plan for the future.  Christ even said in Luke 14:28, “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” 

I believe that planning and setting goals are an excellent way to complete work.  However, I do believe it is possible to set goals for one’s own glory and never consult or include God.  Solomon says in Proverbs 16:9, ““In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.”  In other words, do we consult our sovereign God before we make our plans or are we guilty of asking Him to bless what we have already established in our minds.

Even James says that Christians can plan arrogantly by failing to remember that God is the One who gives us each day to live.  Listen to James 4:13-15, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.  Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’”

I believe that all goals (even a New Year resolution) should be made in tandem with God’s will.  Christians should plan and live with an eternal mindset that demonstrates that there is more than just today that they are living for. Christ told His followers, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Let’s plan and work with God to accomplish great things this year for His glory!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Does the Bible Say to Celebrate Christmas?

You may have never thought to ask this question; however, there are many sincere Christians who choose not to celebrate Christmas for good reasons.  Sadly enough, even though Christmas is considered to be a Christian holiday Christ is being more and more removed from it--even among Christians.  How should a Christian approach this holiday or redeem the holiday in order that Jesus Christ is seen and glorified?

Let's be honest, nowhere in the Bible are Christians told to celebrate Christmas, purchase gifts for one another, cut down trees and decorate them, play Santa clause, or spend excessively because Jesus Christ was born.  Where did all of this come from?  Around the 4th century A.D. and in response to many pagan holidays already existing, some churches (particularly in Germany) chose to celebrate their faith found in Jesus Christ.  It is difficult to pinpoint the origin of every tradition but they were not chosen for pagan purposes.  Some Christians wanted to celebrate the incarnation of Christ and the redemption story.  The challenge for many today is that Christ is being removed from Christmas and the story of redemption is seldom talked about.  There is a story line in all of Scripture and every book of the Bible supports that story line which is the redemption of God's people through the person of Jesus Christ.  This indeed gives believers much to celebrate because salvation has come!

There are some who would argue that the traditions around Christmas are pagan in nature.  Searching traditions from thousands of years ago is very difficult and it becomes very obscure.  In fact, as I've sought to study this out for myself I find sources that even contradict one another.  There are definitely pagan roots to some traditions; however, there are many traditions that have been made to be very Christian in nature and to shine the light on Jesus Christ.  Each year, the secular world crowds Jesus Christ out more and more and alternative rituals and traditions are chosen in order to misrepresent the Christian's Christmas.  Some would argue that Christ was not born on December 25th and offer various reasons concerning the time of a Roman census, the time that the shepherds were in the field, and what the climate would have been at that time in Israel.  I don't believe we know the exact date and I also don't believe that is necessarily important.

Should these concerns nullify Christmas for Christ's people?  I would suggest that Christians are provided a phenomenal platform through this special day to proclaim Jesus' love, His incarnation, and the salvation that He alone brings.  In my opinion, to celebrate Christmas without proclaiming the work of Jesus Christ, is of no value and is even purposeless.  Christmas can be a form of idolatry if Christ is not the center and the One to be glorified.  There appears to be no legitimate scriptural reason not to celebrate Christmas.  At the same time, there is no biblical mandate to celebrate it, either.  I believe that in the end whether or not to celebrate Christmas is a personal decision.  Paul says in Romans 14:5 that when it comes to questionable things that glorify His name that, "One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike.  Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind."  The idea being conveyed is to make sure above anything else that you believe in your heart that God is being glorified with your decisions!

It is so important that we honor our brothers and sisters who choose to celebrate or choose not to celebrate Christmas. This should NOT be a point of contention or division amongst believers.  This is certainly a gray area and God's Spirit can convict each person accordingly.  My challenge for Christians who do celebrate Christmas is to make Christ known through every aspect of your Christmas~~share the redemption story!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

What Does It Mean "The Word Became Flesh"?

The term incarnation is a word that Christians use to speak of the fact that Jesus, the Son of God, took on human flesh.  John 1:14 reads, "The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us."  The words "became flesh" literally mean, "the act of being made flesh." 

The purpose of the incarnation was that Jesus Christ would come and serve as the sinless sacrifice for our sins since Christ was the prophesied Savior for mankind.  According to Hebrews 9:22, a blood sacrifice was necessary for the forgiveness of sin, and that permanent cleansing would only come through the perfect Son of God. It was necessary for Him to come, take on physical form, in order that he might die. So in essence it could be said that Christ was born to die.  Through this sacrifice the imputation of His righteousness would be placed upon believers as they placed their faith in Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:21). 

John 1:1 says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."Jesus Christ is called the Word, but why?  Scripture also says that Jesus Christ was with God in the beginning--before time began as we know it and before the foundations of the world were ever created.  Jesus Christ was never created by God as He was always God since the beginning.  In this verse we can see the unity of the Father and Son as one.  Christ is called God--He is not another god.  What this verse helps us to understand is that Jesus Christ is the very spoken word of God the Father to us.  Jesus Christ was the full expression of God's love and God's message to mankind.  In fact, Jesus is the total message that God wanted to communicate to the world.

The term "Word" (which means Jesus) is the full embodiment of who God is (Col. 1:19).  Jesus would be that physical message sent by God to the Jews and gentiles.  The message of the promised Messiah that the prophets spoke about went unheeded for years.  Then, at the proper time, the Word became flesh, took on human form, and dwelt among us (Matthew 1:23; Romans 8:3).  Because the Word became flesh, we now have a high priest who is able to empathize with our weaknesses, one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—but yet He never sinned (Hebrews 4:15).

God did an amazing and loving work when He sent His only begotten Son into the world to provide us with a salvation that we did not deserve.  Praise the Lord for that moment in which “the Word became flesh.”  We are now redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect" (1 Peter 1:19).

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Busy Doing Christmas

In the spirit of Christmas it would be appropriate to ask the question, "How much are we emphasizing the coming of the promised Messiah~~the Savior of the world?" to our families, even more particularly to our children?

I believe that most of the time Christ gets lost in the holly, the mistletoe, the eggnog, the gifts, the lights, the tree, the music, and even within the lives of Christians at Christmas.  The depth of the fulfilled promises of Scripture, the fulfilled prophecy of the prophets, and the witness of thousands of people all testify of the One who came, lived, died, and rose again just as predicted thousands of years prior.  The coming of Christ and the redemption of mankind remains the center-piece of Scripture~~this is the true gift.   Christians have every reason to share this Good News especially at Christmas time!  To merely tell someone "Merry Christmas" is far from the Christmas message of Christmas--yet I suppose it beats "Happy Holidays".

Beyond purchasing gifts for the less fortunate and giving to those who are homeless, are we sharing the best news, which is the Good News of Christmas that our Savior came to die to set men free from the bondage of sin that bans them from Heaven and sends them to Hell?  You see, we must talk about more than just the arrival of Jesus at Christmas time, because there was much more to the prophecy and the story.   Take a few moments to read Isaiah 53 to see what the gift of Christmas really entailed because in that prophecy we find the "gift of salvation"~~a beautiful representation of the love of God through the giving of His Son.

Isaiah gives a description of that special gift from God in Isaiah 9:6, "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."  The apostle Paul, in Ephesians 2:14, helps us to understand that only this gift of Jesus Christ could remove the bondage of sin from our lives and bring us peace with God the Father and genuine peace with one another.  Truly, "the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23).  

You see, only telling about the birth of Jesus Christ is really only telling the introduction of the Christmas story.  Let's be careful getting lost in all the tinsel and the holly during this Christmas season and feel the freedom to boldly share with those who truly don't know that Christ came to rescue mankind from their condemned state.  We have much to celebrate with boldness and confidence!