There was a news report out a few days ago that told about a bank that was being forced by the government to remove all of its Christmas decorations. Generic holiday decorations could stay, but anything having to do with Christmas, Jesus, or the Christian message of the season had to go.
Many would see this kind of action as another example of what’s been called “the war against Christmas.” But actually, attempts to rid the season of any vestiges of the Christ child is just one battle in a much larger war – the war against Jesus Himself.
The war against Jesus has been going on for a very long time. In fact, it precedes His incarnation.
After the fall of mankind, God promised that a seed would be born who would overcome evil and redeem fallen humanity (Gen.3:15). Once that promise was issued, Satan did his best to keep it from being fulfilled.
Cain’s murder of Abel, the corruption of the human race before Noah, Pharaoh’s efforts to kill the male offspring of the Hebrews, and Saul’s attacks on David are just a few examples of Satan-inspired attempts to keep God’s promised seed from coming forth.
But the seed did come forth. In the fullness of time, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman. This is what we celebrate at Christmas.
Yet, even after Christ was born, the war continued as attempts were made to keep Him from reigning and ruling as the royal seed.
When the prophet Isaiah wrote of Him, he described Him as the “Prince of Peace” (Is.9:6). After the announcement of Christ’s birth was made, the heavenly host praised God saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men. . .” (Lk.2:14). Also, the hope of Christ’s kingdom is that the day will come when, “Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they learn war” (Is.2:4).
With the coming of Christ, peace should be a foremost desire for us, and what we strive for in the midst of conflict. The Bible tells us as much as it depends upon us, we are to “be at peace with all men” (Rom.12:18). It also says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God” (Mt.5:9).
In light of the emphasis that the Bible puts on peace, it’s remarkable how many professing Christians are so quick to advocate war. Too often the knee-jerk reaction to some country that goes against our nation’s established policy is to want to “nuke ‘em.” We’d rather send the military than missionaries to bring about change.
Of course, a nation has a right to defend itself. But let’s consider a few facts.
As a nation – at least publicly – we have abandoned God. His Word tells that if we forsake Him, He will forsake us (2 Chr.15:2). A nation forsaken by God is sure to find itself in more trouble, including war.
Good words from one of the finest preachers of the last century. . .
“Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? You must take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, you have to preach to yourself, question yourself. . . then you must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, and what God is and what God has done and what God has pledged Himself to do.”
~ Martyn Lloyd-Jones
What is the biblical basis for talking to yourself? Psalm 42:5. . .
Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence.
We have entered the time of year that Christians call Advent – a time of preparation for the coming of Jesus, the King of kings. More popularly, we have entered what’s known as the Christmas shopping season.
As we come into this season, we are accustomed to hearing about the dangers of materialism. And these admonitions are fitting. For countless souls, there is hardly a thought about the reason for the season, all while consumed with the buying and getting of stuff. So, a warning about materialism is definitely in order.
But along with the warning, we should recognize that there is nothing wrong with material things, per se. Christ’s incarnation during His first Advent makes this obvious.
When Christ came into the world, He did so by taking on a human, fleshly body. As He grew in wisdom and stature, He interacted with the material world. He wore clothes, ate food, rode in boats, and did many other things that we can identify with. Since all these things were from His Father, we can confidently say that He enjoyed them.
At age of 30, Jesus began His three year ministry which ended with His death and resurrection. The purpose of this ministry was to bring redemption to the world. A redemption that applies not just to the spirits of men, but to the whole creation. He came, in other words, that the whole earth would be restored and all the stuff in it would be set apart for the Lord.
All this has a bearing on how we think about the things we get and give for Christmas.
“Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage: we humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favour and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honourable industry,sound learning, and pure manners.
“Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues.
“Endure with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth. In times of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness … and compassion for all infirmities.”
~ Book of Common Prayer
There’s a paradox about being thankful. On the one hand we know we should be grateful, but on the other hand ingratitude seems to be where we so naturally find ourselves.
The Bible expresses this paradox throughout its pages.
“O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good” the Bible tells us (Ps.107:1). “In everything give thanks,” it says (1 Thess.5:18). Yet, despite these exhortations we find plenty of grumbling (Ex.16:7), forgetfulness of God’s mercy (Dt.8:12), and refusals to honor Him or give thanks (Rom.1:21).
God calls us to thankfulness, but gratitude is rare.
This is something we can identify with all too well when our own busyness, self-sufficiency, and preoccupation with our own plans keeps us from giving thanks when it’s due.
So, how does one get and keep a grateful heart? The answer is to look beyond ourselves and our circumstances to the supremacy of Jesus Christ.
If our state of gratitude is only linked to our immediate circumstances, we’ll constantly be vulnerable to ingratitude because we’ll always be tempted to focus on what’s wrong with our present situation. This is true whether you find yourself in good times or bad.
Yet, when our focus is on Jesus as the supreme ruler over all, a thankful heart can be the norm for us as we recognize that what we might experience at any given time is all incidental to knowing and walking with Him.
The Apostle Paul has more to say about being thankful than anyone in the Bible. This is remarkable because he spent so much of His life facing persecution and hardship. So, how was it that thankfulness became such a big theme in his life and ministry? Because the supremacy of Christ was preeminent in his thinking. Read more…
We live in a secular age. One of the beliefs that distinguishes our age is that we don’t need God to remedy our problems. We believe that we can set things aright without Him.
The Bible teaches us the exact opposite. It tells us that in order for humanity to thrive it must look to the Lord, because it is His Spirit who not only creates all that exists, but also maintains the bonds necessary for civilization to be secure and prosper.
When men depend on anything besides the Lord, their efforts ultimately prove to be in vain. But when men depend on God, His Spirit gives the ability to overcome obstacles and fulfill the callings that He gives.
“Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit says the LORD of hosts” (Zech.4:6).
The first man, Adam, learned this the hard way when he failed to trust the Lord and and decided to depend on His own understanding. And every man since him must decide how he will live – will he depend on is own carnal reasoning or trust the word of the Lord.
Joseph engaged the world and all its temptations with a heart turned to the Lord. As a consequence, he was regarded as one who possessed “the Spirit of God” and was empowered to lead all of Egypt. Saul, on the other hand, hardened his heart, and because of it the Spirit of the Lord departed from him and an evil spirit tormented him instead.
All of this has relevance to our own time.