Monthly Archives: December 2014

The Incarnation: The Difference of Christmas!

What is it about Christmas that sets it apart from other holidays such as Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, and Veterans Day? Perhaps the better question to ask in order to answer the first is what is it about Christianity that sets it apart from the other religions of the world? To many people around the world Christianity is simply thrown into the pile of “religion” and is viewed in the same light as Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, etc. However, the beauty of Christmas reveals to us an incredibly unique Truth that is central to Christianity. So……

What is it about Christianity that sets it apart from all other religions of the world?

The answer can be found in the first chapter of the Gospel of John. This chapter begins in John 1:1-3 ESV with the words, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” In reading those words alone a person would possibly reason that Christianity carries no distinction from other belief systems of the world. The fact is, pretty much any religion that you can find has an eternal “being” that has existed from the beginning of time and is responsible for the plight of humanity and its creation. However, one only needs to read the Word of God down to verse 14 to understand that Christianity reveals a very incredible and distinct Truth from all other religions of the world. To explain, John 1:14 ESV says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” What an incredible declaration! The fact is…..

It is the Truth of the statement, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” that the hope of all humanity hinges upon!

Take a minute and allow the implications of this Truth to penetrate your mind. The eternal Word that spoke the world into existence; the One that was before time began through which all life had its origin took on humanity and became flesh! In fact, John gives testimony that he and the other disciples had seen His glory! How? Because the Word that was from the beginning had now come to earth and in accordance with the declaration of the angel of the LORD to Joseph He would be called Jesus! It would be Jesus that would reveal Himself to the disciples as the Messiah. It would be Jesus that would perform miracles that only God Himself could perform. It would be Jesus that would humbly submit His life to be sacrificially given on a Roman cross for the sins of men. It would be Jesus that would not allow the grave to hold Him but would conquer death and rule as LORD today. How is all of this possible? Because God took on flesh. This statement is huge for a world that cant save itself! If not for God becoming flesh and living the life of sinless perfection we could never live we would all be hopelessly dependent upon ourselves for salvation. But God Himself provided the solution to the problem of sin by taking on humanity! Romans 8:3-4 ESV says, “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us.” God did the work that man could never do. This separates Christianity from all other religions. For example:

  • Buddhists believe that to reach Nirvana, a transcendental state of bliss, a person must follow the Noble Eightfold Path. This process of personal effort and discipline will end suffering for the individual.
  • Hindus believe that one reaches Moksha—freedom from this world and the cycle of death and reincarnation—by practicing self-sacrifice, meditation, and certain levels of self-realization.
  • Muslims believe that Allah grants Paradise to those who live a life of moral uprightness, using the Five Pillars as basic guidelines.

All of these beliefs point to a method of works salvation. However, the incarnation of Jesus reminds us that we are saved by the work of God alone. That is the difference of Christmas!


Prayer: It’s Ok to Be Bold!! Luke 11:5-10 ESV

How do you pray? Hopefully that question has you replaying your times alone with God in an honest, introspective way. The ability to pray is one of the most valuable gifts that God has given to His people. It is no coincidence that one of the first lessons that the disciples asked Jesus to teach them was, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1 ESV). The disciples had the Creator of the universe at their side and could have asked any question but they asked for Him to teach them to pray. Undoubtedly they had seen Jesus spending hours alone with the Father as they had seen Him separate Himself from the crowds in order to go pray. How did Jesus respond to their requests? He responded by giving them an example prayer. Now, while so much can be pulled out of the entire example, I want to zero in on one particular aspect of what He taught them that is found in Luke 11:5-10. As we look at this, ask yourself this question:

Does my prayer life resemble a weak, dead, dried up ritual that is fit into my life for convenience?

Honestly, so many Christians today are able to identify with this type of prayer life and they find themselves spiritually drained because of it. One of the biggest reasons that our prayer lives are ineffective is because we come before Him as the hypocrites and Gentiles did as described in Matthew 6:5-8 ESV.  The hypocrites were guilty of only praying in order to receive self-glorification. Their prayers were in public in order for them to be seen being “religious” by the people passing by. The Gentiles were guilty of offering up long, ritualistic, empty prayers that were believed to be formulas to unlock the power of God. The fact is, so many Christians today find themselves having seemingly powerful spiritual lives on Sunday but empty prayer closets through the week! Also, so many Christians find themselves offering up prayers that are empty and recited in order to check off the box for the day! If these things are evident in our prayer lives we cant hope to have flourishing spiritual lives. So, the question remains, how should we pray?

Prayer should be characterized by a dependence upon God that is made known by the boldness and urgency by which we come before His throne!

In Luke 11:5-10, Jesus teaches the disciples of a man that has a friend come to him at midnight. The man was unprepared for his arrival and has no bread to set before him. To not have bread for a visitor in ancient Jewish culture was unacceptable and was considered an offense! So, the man goes to another friends house and says, “Friend, lend me three loaves.” Understandably, the friend is irritated and tells the man to go away because his children are with him in bed. I can understand this man because with four children of my own the prospect of waking them up and hearing them cry in the middle of the night is not very appealing! What amazes me is what Jesus then says about the situation to the disciples. In vs. 8-10 He says, “I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” Why would Jesus respond this way?

Because the man in need of the bread never quit knocking!

Now, in no way is this to be interpreted as a health, wealth, and prosperity example given by Jesus. In no way do we have a ticket to get whatever we want from God whenever we want it. Instead, it should be interpreted as an exhortation to follow the example of the man and seek God with the same kind of boldness and persistence! Jesus said to ask, seek, and knock. These are not examples of different ways to seek God at different times but it is how we should seek God at all times! Our prayer lives should be so desperate for the will of God for our lives that we find ourselves refusing to stop at simply asking and seeking but we are actually boldly knocking on the doors of Heaven! This is exactly what is seen in the Psalms over and over! David cried out in Psalm 5, “Give ear to my words, O LORD; consider my groaning. Give attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you do I pray.” What boldness! David boldly asked God to listen to his cry and give ear to his words. Do we find ourselves seeking God in that way? Do we find ourselves praying for the revealing of the glory of God around us in that way?

Refuse to allow your prayer life to be another ritual. Refuse to allow your day and its busyness to take precedence over your time alone with God. Instead, treat prayer as the powerful source of spiritual life that it truly is!


Christmas: “Removal of Fear” Luke 2:10

Do you find yourself afraid? Be honest. Do you look at the world and life in general and find yourself trying to suppress the fear that you feel? One look at the day-to-day realities of terror plots, riots, wars, and viral epidemics and it would take a miracle to not experience fear. But isn’t that one of the beauties of Christmas? A miracle has arrived for mankind that is fully able to remove fear from the heart of man and replace it with a reverent fear!

Let me explain……

If you think about the history of mankind all the way back to the garden of Eden man has battled with fear. After Adam and Eve had committed sin and ate of the forbidden fruit it was fear that became their worst enemy. Genesis 3:8-10 ESV says, “And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” Think about these words:

“I heard the sound of you….and I was afraid”

Why was Adam found afraid? Because he knew that he had sinned. The problem is, instead of openly repenting Adam decided to hide his sin from God but God knew what had occurred. The same image can be painted in describing the situation of mankind. We all, regardless of intelligence, wealth, or skill, are found as sinners before a holy God. Romans 3:23 ESV says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. Along with that, Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death!” What a dilemma we find ourselves in! No wonder fear is the reaction to such a reality! However, this is the ultimate reality:

The coming of Christ is the antidote for fear now and forever.

How can this be so? We only need to go back to the night that Christ was born to understand. On that night an angel of the LORD appeared to humble shepherds. As a result, the shepherds found themselves afraid. But the response of the angel is magnificent! Looking at Luke 2:10-11 ESV, Scripture says, “And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” What beautiful words! FEAR NOT! Not only do we see these words here but we see the same exhortation in the appearance of the angel to Zechariah and also to Mary. The message is the same, “FEAR NOT!”. How does the arrival of Christ remove fear?

The answer is simple and is the promise of Christmas. The arrival of Christ was the door to salvation for a world that had to hide in fear because of sin. It was as if all of mankind, not just Adam and Eve, was hiding in the trees of the garden due to fear. But Christ came for that very reason. Romans 5:8 ESV tells us, “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person- though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die- but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” Christ came that we may stop hiding in fear and stand victorious over sin through the grace of God!

Take the words of the angel to heart this season and every day. Have you allowed Christ to remove fear in your life through salvation? We no longer stand in fear if the blood of Jesus Christ covers over our reason to be afraid.


Will the TRUE Church Please Stand Up?!

Is it just me or is the “modern day church” a scary sight to see? I understand that this will be controversial and prone to criticism but the mainstream American church is going so far off track in the name of “reaching the culture” that it is sickening! Now, let me get one thing straight.

I AM NOT SAYING THAT WE SHOULD NOT BE WILLING TO CHANGE TO REACH OUR CULTURE!

I believe that there are many churches today that are so unwilling to make necessary changes in the way that they attempt to reach the world that they find themselves ineffective and misunderstood. For example, so many churches refuse to be open to changes in style of music, order of worship, and style of preaching/teaching that are completely necessary for our world today and most importantly are Biblically sound!

However, what I believe that is not seen in the Church today is an unwavering compliance and submission to the authority of the Word of God!

So many “churches” today are going so far to apparently “reach” the culture that in many ways they are compromising Scripture. For example, pastors found in the “modern-day church” base their sermons upon what the congregation wants to hear instead of what God’s Word has to say to them! Ask any pastor why and they will tell you that it is because of fear of losing their jobs and their congregations! Not only do we find this being true but it is also clear that the “modern-day church” is so afraid to offend someone that they share of the love and forgiveness of God but they fail to tell the world why forgiveness is even necessary! The fact is that the “modern-day church” is creating a following by teaching people that Christ is the next great “Xanax” for the world instead of teaching them that He is the Savior necessary for their sins.

It seems to be the desire of the modern-day church to please the culture and be accepted by the culture instead of seeking to shape the culture. That is dangerous business! Why? Because this is exactly what Paul warned Timothy of in 2 Timothy 4:3-4 ESV which says, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” This is undoubtedly the overall mindset of church culture today.

The fact is, the TRUE Church is needed to stand up and unashamedly declare the Truth of the Word of God! Paul told Timothy earlier in the above passage, “Preach the word: be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” The Word and all of its Truth is to be expressed whether popular or unpopular because it is all necessary and beneficial to feed the sheep of the Church.


Christmas: “The Revealing of the Glory of God” Isaiah 40:3-5

The idea of “Christmas” typically conjures up thoughts of little feet running down the hall to the present-packed tree, laughter-filled dinners with family, and replays of Jimmy Stewart screaming, “Merry Christmas!” in “It’s A Wonderful Life”. The time-span from Black Friday to Christmas is a rat-race of gift-shopping and event-filled evenings that find us relieved when Christmas morning finally arrives. The question is, “Why do we limit the impact of the season on our lives in such a materialistic and powerless way?”

The answer: We have been taught and have allowed the busyness of the season to put a stranglehold on our hearts and minds.

How do we overcome this? By submitting our hearts and minds to the real and primary purpose of Christmas: The revealing of God’s glory in His Son Jesus Christ. I use the word “submit” because we must submit our hearts in order to find that we are then overwhelmed by the beauty of the birth of Christ. The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 12:2 ESV, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind”. As we submit to Scripture our hearts and minds are renewed apart from the culture’s influence.

With that being said, turn your mind to Isaiah 40:5 ESV. God’s Word says, “And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” This verse is the climax of the first 5 verses of this Messianic prophecy that begins with vs. 3-4 describing the future role of John the Baptist in preparing for and removing all obstacles in the way of the coming of Jesus. This verse is the reason for the hope, comfort, and joy that is to be found in remembering the birth of Jesus Christ. Why?

The answer: Because the radiance of the glory of God has been revealed to mankind in the coming of His Son.

From the time of Moses the revealing of the glory of God has been sought after by man. Moses requested to see the glory of God in Exodus 33 but God would only allow Him to see what was left after He passed by and He hid Moses in the cleft of a rock. To see the full manifestation of the glory of God would be to die! Hebrews 1 tells us that times of old only presented the revelation of God through His prophets in a limited way. However, the chapter goes on to say that He has now spoken to us by His Son who is the “radiance of the glory of God”. What does that mean? That means that before Christ came we could not look at the full light of the glory of God without being blinded and killed so His glory was limited. But now that Christ has come he is the fullness of God’s glory! How? Through the gift of salvation. And this gift has been revealed to all flesh! Whether Jew or Gentile, salvation has no barrier! Its as if God placed His glory into the world in a way that brings life instead of death!

What an incredible Truth to take into our hearts and minds this Christmas! When overwhelmed with the distractions of the season, take a moment to pause and be overwhelmed by the glory of God!