Thursday, November 29, 2018

Does Scripture Say to Celebrate Christmas?

Allow me to begin by saying that I love the Christmas season and that I strive to celebrate it for the right reason~~the birth of our Savior.  However, there are those who have argued that we are told nowhere in Scripture to celebrate Christmas.  They are correct in that there’s no direct biblical commandment to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

Historically, on the twenty-fifth of December in the Roman Empire there was a pagan holiday that was linked to various mysterious religions; the pagans celebrated this festival on December 25. The Christians at that time refused to take part in this holiday.  In fact, they decided that while everybody else is celebrating this pagan holiday that they were going to have their own celebration.  They chose to celebrate the thing that was most important in their lives, the incarnation of God, the birth of Jesus Christ.  They decided that this was going to be a time of celebration and worship of God their King.

Those who would argue that there is no evidence of Christ's birth happening on December 25th would be correct.  In fact, there is much in the New Testament narratives that would indicate that it didn’t occur during this time of year; it was probably more in our spring season.  There is no doubt that some traditions of candle burning, ringing of bells, and even stringing of trees can be tied to some type of pagan custom over the centuries.  However, it is not the origin of the Christmas holiday for Christians.  The ringing of bells today is to speak of the glorious arrival of Jesus Christ and not a driving away of evil spirits.  The lighting of candles is not to shun away the cold and darkness of the world around us; rather, it is to celebrate Jesus Christ as the light of the world (John 1:4-9).

Many traditions are obscure and there is disagreement over their origins. Some of our most popular and beloved Christmas symbols are entirely Christian, and were never part of any pagan religion anywhere.  What is important is not the origins of traditions, but their significance to us today as believers in the Son of God. I can’t think of anything more pleasing to Christ than the church celebrating His birthday every year.  I understand that the world celebrates a Christ-less Christmas but yet Christians have a wonderful opportunity to express the reason for the season very clearly.  

I would recommend to those who struggle celebrating Christmas to give grace towards others and allow their actions to be held accountable to God (Romans 14:12).  For those who lack the confidence on whether or not it is right to celebrate Christmas then I would say to abstain from celebrating.  Paul encourages all Christians to live with the confidence that their actions fully glorify God and if they lack that confidence then they should refrain from those actions (Romans 14:5).  For Christians, Christmas traditions can be an important part of the celebration of the birth of our Savior, and they remind us of that momentous event that changed the world forever. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Are We a Mission-Minded Church?

As a church we commit over $200,000 each year from our budget to be sent to various missionaries, both national and international.  This is the single largest budget line item for our church.  We believe that God has called us to reach all people, which includes people who live in places where the Gospel has not been fully proclaimed.  God’s idea of missions is to draw all men into a saving relationship with Him.  It includes helping God’s people grow in their faith and train them to reach others with the Gospel of Christ. 
As a church it is easy to send funds to others in hopes that they will share Christ.  Although God may not call everyone to be a missionary in the sense of moving over seas to share Christ, He has called EVERY Christian to live on a Christ-directed mission each day of sharing the Gospel.  We as a church are called to live on a Gospel mission EVERY day.
A mission-minded church is always talking about the Gospel and how others must be reached with the Gospel.  Most churches today have lost sight of what God has called them to do and as a result they are either declining or proclaiming a false Gospel that does not lead the lost to salvation.  Mission-minded churches move their people into action, they develop programs to reach the lost, they pray for the lost, and their calendar and budget reflects this commitment.
The question for us all is, “Are we involved and committed in fulfilling the mission of God?”
Romans 10:13-15, “For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ 14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’”

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Lessons From a Leper About Thanksgiving

The leper's story of a miraculous healing in Luke 17 is remarkable—to see such a disease immediately eradicated in someone's life is nothing short of awe-inspiring.  Yet when we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, we are healed even more completely!  Once we were eternally separated from God by our sins, but Jesus has made forgiveness possible through His obedient sacrifice on the cross.  Through His blood we have been healed.  When we consider this year and what we have to be thankful about we ought to consider the depth of our greatest blessing—cleansing of a spiritual leprosy (our sin). 

A second lesson that we can learn from a leper is that we need to make thanksgiving a priority of life. The leper didn't wait to return to Jesus when it was convenient or after he had visited the priests.  He went immediately to Jesus.  The priests did not heal the leper, and the leper knew it.  He returned to the only One worthy of his worship and thanksgiving.  Have we been visiting the throne room of grace to thank the One from whom our blessings come?

A third lesson that can be learned is that thanksgiving should be offered from the outpouring of grateful hearts. There was an intensity in the leper's worship because he was aware of his helplessness to secure for himself the healing that he needed. How much more wonderful is the eternal healing for those who have been forgiven and now are able to follow Jesus Christ? May our thanksgiving be an enthusiastic celebration of Christ for healing that only He can bring about!

Lastly, we must learn to be consistent in our thanksgiving beyond the Thanksgiving season. The more intentional we are about offering thanks to God, the easier it becomes to see His goodness in our lives. That is why we are repeatedly commanded in the Bible to be thankful in all things (1 Thess. 5:18).  No one could ever begin to bless us like our heavenly Father.

I hope that our families see in us the natural response of always going back to our heavenly Father for His ceaseless blessings. Let us be diligent in thanking Him for His grace and goodness.  Let’s let others know the things that we are most thankful for in our lives!