Tuesday, December 22, 2009

It's Time to Enjoy Christmas

Aha! I Figured Out What Christmas is Really About
By Barbara Henderson

Time is running out. No I am not talking about the second coming of Jesus Christ. I am talking about time to get everything ready for Christmas. There is just a small amount of time left to get all the presents bought. You don’t have to get them paid for. You just have to get them bought, wrapped, and laid out under the right tree. That’s it. When purchasing your Christmas gifts, it is a good time to ‘take no thought for tomorrow’. Tomorrow will take care of itself. Don’t worry about how you are going to pay for any of that stuff you buy. Just buy it. Be generous. After all, Bethlehem’s Child was generous with us. What better way to show our appreciation for Him than to be generous to others in return.

Time is also running out for getting all those groceries for that wonderful meal you are planning. It is running out to get the ingredients for that special dish you make and take to various parties to which you are invited.

And, time is really running out to find a few special outfits that make you look ten years younger, and like you really did lose that ten pounds you planned to lose after Christmas last year.

Time is also running out to set up some sort of peace treaty between difficult family members who won’t ‘forgive and forget’ in the spirit of the season. That silly woman who won’t forgive her husband for cheating with her sister is causing the family to be separated at Christmas. Why can’t she put aside her own petty feelings and let the family get together in the spirit of Christmas? And then there is that alcoholic relative who becomes abusive when she drinks. No one can reasonably expect her to be sober at Christmas. Why won’t everyone just ignore her alcohol problem at Christmas, and let her sneak her booze in the bathroom out of sight? Sheesh! Why can’t people just get together for that one special day of the year, and set everything else aside for just a little while.

Hopefully you will find a little time to do relax and enjoy Christmas yourself. If you can pull off getting everything done on your ‘to do‘ list, then you deserve some time spent just relaxing and enjoying Christmas. Ahhh… Put your feet up, sip that hot beverage, indulge in a few snacks that are only around at Christmas, and give yourself a pat on the back. You did it. You saved Christmas…..

While you are sitting there relaxing and giving yourself a pat on the back, take a moment to think about that little fellow who was born so humbly in Bethlehem that night so long ago. What is His real significance to you and to the world? After all, you have just spent weeks preparing Him a birthday party. As you sit in your chair with you feet resting on a soft pillow, your exhausted body relaxes a little more than you had planned, and you find yourself drifting off to sleep. Oh well, you tell yourself. A little power nap won’t hurt anything. Perhaps you can have a pleasant dream. Perhaps there will be visions of sugar plums dancing in your head. Zzzzzzz………….

Then, in your dream, you hear a faint small voice saying, ‘Hello! You forgot something. What about Jesus Christ? For what purpose did He come? Was it so you could celebrate one day out of the year? Or was it for something more? Like for instance……

To seek and save the lost. (Jesus – the Savior)
To be with you. (Emmanuel – God with us)
To rule the world. (King – ruler of the hearts and lives of Christians – and physical King of the world one day)
To give life. (Christ - the giver of life. Bethlehem’s Child saves us from sin and gives us everlasting life, a more abundant life, an eternal life.)
To lay down His life to make a way for individuals to be reconciled with God.

Then the voice says, ‘Are you doing something to feed Christ’s lambs, or are you spending His alleged birthday entertaining or even conforming to the goats (unsaved)? Is anyone going to be led to Calvary’s Lamb by your Christmas celebration, or are both saved and lost being led into a materialistic feeding frenzy from which they may never fully recover?’

Then, you do that icky ‘snort/snore’ noise that jerks you awake. You look all around you to see who heard you wake yourself up snoring. Then you look around to see who was talking to you. Then it occurs to you. That was your conscience talking. It was reminding you of the sermons about Christian living you have heard over the years. Your conscience was reminding of you of all the things you learned through Bible study and reading Bible commentaries like Matthew Henry over the years. And then it hits you. Something just ain’t right about your Christmas celebration.

You are awake now, and your mind begins to put two and two together. You remember that wedding last year where the bride and groom spent a full two years planning the wedding. Every single detail was micromanaged right down to napkins that matched flowers on specific tables. From the idea of creating constant photo opportunities, and dazzling guests with the wonder of it all, the wedding was a total success.

But, the photographs themselves seemed to tell a different story. The faces of the entire wedding party were filled with big toothy grins, but the eyes in the photographs seemed to tell a different story. They appeared pained. Some were pained at the stress of coordinating and putting it all together. Others were pained at having their photographs taken in the ridiculous get-up that was required to be worn by those unfortunate enough to actually be in the wedding. Some faces were pained at the thought of all the money that had been spent on this extravagant affair. Bridesmaids had spent far above the first estimate of the costs of being in the wedding. Groomsmen were appalled at what they had spent on renting the upgraded tuxedo. The parents of the bride were pained at the remembrance of the money spent, and that their retirement will have to be postponed at least three years in order to pay for this one day. The parents of the groom also have pained faces. Everyone knew they were paying for the honeymoon, so they sent the bride and groom on the vacation they had always dreamed of but could never afford to take themselves.

Then you remember that the wedding was only really memorable because of its utter extravagance from people you knew could not afford it. You promptly forgot about it the next day. You only remember it when you see those uncomfortable shoes you had bought to make you look two inches taller. Then you remember the badly sprained ankle you got the next time you tried to wear the shoes. But, today, you are remembering how forgettable the entire affair really was.

Then, your mind wanders somewhere else. It wanders to some memorable events in your life that were not extravagant at all. Some were even times of poverty. Ok, maybe they were just semi-poverty. Never the less, you remember having some wonderful times without putting yourself through all the hassle of doing everything that society considers necessary for certain social events.

Then, your mind does a ‘WHAT?’ ‘Did I just call Christmas a social event?!’ You begin to ask yourself if Christ Himself would feel welcome at your Christmas celebration. You begin to think about His poor mother and adoptive father who could do no better than to have their child born among the animals in a village far from home. You consider and then believe that they still experienced joy, even great joy, at the birth of their child, the King of kings.

Then you think of the Shepherds who went to see Him. They just seized the moment. They had no time for even simple preparations like even washing their hands, much less taking a bath and putting on their best clothes. They listened when the angels proclaimed good tidings of great joy to all people. They dropped everything they were doing and went to see the new born King, the Savior, which is Christ the Lord.

Then, you sort of start to wonder what you are doing about Christmas yourself. Are you doing like the shepherds, dropping everything and going to see the Savior. Or are you acting like you are planning a world changing event that will be remembered for generations to come?

You sit back in your chair, just thinking. You remember a sermon you read by Charles Haden Spurgeon. The sermon was titled ‘No Room for Christ at the Inn’. In the sermon Spurgeon’s 4th point was, ‘Have you any room for Christ?’ And you wonder if you have any room for Him at all, or if you have pushed Him out of Christmas with all the things that you have to get done at Christmas.

Then, you remember Spurgeon’s 5th point as well. Spurgeon said, ‘I conclude with the remark, that if you have room for Christ, then from this day forth remember THE WORLD HAS NO ROOM FOR YOU.’

Finally, you realize that no matter what a perfect Christmas you manage to choreograph and present to family and friends, it will not make you feel at home in this world. You will still feel like you did everything possible, but that it was still not enough.

The only thing that will make any Christmas a marvelous experience is to follow the example of the shepherds. Drop everything you are doing and go to worship the King. In Him there is peace, help, joy, love, salvation, fellowship, friendship, sound advice, and everything that is good. In Christ you can be at home, in a place that has plenty of room for you.

So, you turn your priorities away from the imitation of Christmas that the world pushes on people. You just go to worship Jesus Christ. You set your heart on a place that always has room for you!


Or not.

Perhaps you just go along with the same pattern of keeping Christmas that you have been following for years. After all, you enjoy saving Christmas every year. It is nice to be considered invaluable by family and friends. After all, this world may not be your home, but you do actually have to live in it. Why not just get along?

Barbara Henderson
http://chirpyscats.com (mom has three Siberian kittens left for Christmas. If you are interested in one, then contact me. These are show quality kittens, and mom will make you a better deal than the listed price.)


Monday, December 21, 2009

Most Preachers Today are Off Course

John the Baptist versus Preachers of Today
By Barbara Henderson

What was so special about John the Baptist?

He was without jealousy – his ministry shrunk in order that the ministry of Jesus might grow.

He was humble – knowing that Jesus was the greatest

He was without compromise – he could have increased his own ministry, but he was not like the reeds of the Jordan River, bent which ever way the wind blew. He had one message – and he stuck to it. His message was repent from your sin – or do a one-eighty. Turn from your sin and go in the opposite direction of your sin.

He was able to deny himself such things as personal comforts and fancy food in order to achieve his goal which was pointing the way to Jesus. John had self control.

John was driven by truth, not outcome. He did not measure his success by numbers. We don’t know that he measured his success at all. He just told the truth without compromise.

What is so special about the preachers of today?

Do you see jealousy in them?
Do you see humility in them?
Are they willing to compromise their message according to the whims of the world?
Are they able to deny themselves anything?
Do they preach the truth or bend scripture to a message that will increase their own prestige?

Can it be that the many many (not all) of the preachers of today are only special in their ability to lie with a straight face?

Is there a solution to such charlatans in pulpits and on television today? Honestly, we can never get rid of them entirely. But there are few things that every believer can do.

First, don’t be fooled by them yourselves. That comes by knowing what the Bible actually says. When a false teacher speaks lies, you will be able to recognize them if you have applied yourself to diligent Bible study. You do have to be willing to hear what the Bible says, whether it fits into what you would like it to say at the moment.

The Bible is the standard by which a church lives. Methods to encourage church growth cannot be deemed acceptable through worldly means. For instance a full offering plate and a growing Sunday school do not necessarily mean the church is preaching the Gospel. It just means the church is growing. The question is, ‘Is the church adding true sheep that follow our Good Shepherd; OR, is the church filling itself with goats that have not chosen Jesus Christ as their leader? In repentance of sin and turning from sin, a new pattern of living will be set.

Second, be willing to open your mouth to speak out against error and outright lies coming from church leadership. Don’t go looking for a fight. Just be willing to defend the truth with scripture when error is preached.

Third, be willing to leave a worldly church and look for a church that stands entirely on the Bible. If you look for a church based on church size, location, growth, or social programs, you are asking for trouble. You must seek a church that stands entirely on the truth of the Bible, and that will not compromise regardless of how they are perceived by the world.

This leaves out a number of churches, if not most churches. It seems that every believer is called to make a decision. We must decide whether to live a life pattered after John the Baptist or the popular so called preachers of the world today.

Christians need to purpose in their hearts to:

Live without jealousy to others. If God chooses to lift up someone above us for His glory, then we must be content. If a family member, church, or business prospers above is, then jealousy is still not permissible.

Make humility a way of life. Not one of us has anything we didn’t get from God. Neither does anyone else. I think in his humility John the Baptist was also meek. In his meekness he understood that while he couldn’t really accomplish anything on his own, that he could do all things through Christ. We can understand the same things.

Don’t compromise the truth. Whether we prosper or suffer, the truth is still the truth. Our job is to speak the truth.

Be content with what you have. It doesn’t mean you won’t have more or different things on another day. But, don’t miss today’s blessings through fretting about what you don’t have today.

There is one other thing to consider. It would have been unthinkable here in the United States not that long ago, but I suppose we better consider what happened to John the Baptist. He got his head chopped off and served up on a plate. Telling the truth without compromise didn’t get him an earthly reward. It may not get us an earthly reward either.

Barbara Henderson