Sunday, December 18, 2016

From Christmas to Easter to Armageddon - from Baby of Bethlehem to the King of Kings

The Story of Christmas is a Really Long Story
Barbara Henderson

There He was a tiny baby in the feed trough of farm animals.  How He came to be there is a very long story, and the story of that baby is not yet finished.  His story began before the world was even created.  It began in the mind of God.  The written story begins like this, ‘In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.’  That is the first line in the Bible.  The end of that story is in the last few chapters of the Christian Bible.  You really need to read at least the last 2 chapters to see the full end, but here are 3 verses prophesying of the things God has promised to those that love him.
     ‘And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
     And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
     And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.’  Revelation 21:3-5

Doesn’t that sound wonderful?  God is faithful.  He will keep His promises, so we can look forward to that promised day. The promises of God gives us strength to face difficult and even terrifying times. 

There really aren’t words to describe it, but there is a place called ‘eternity’ where God lives.  In that place God has a throne and wonderful things happen all the time.  There is no sin there.  For some reason God, who is actually three persons in one, decided to create earth.  And in the earth He set up time as we know it.

In the earth God created a perfect world.  When God created this perfect world, God knew it would not remain a perfect world.  He knew Eve would eat the forbidden fruit. He knew her husband would follow her example.  He knew what was going to happen then.

God had faced imperfection before in His own angels.  The angels had direct access to the Throne of God.  And yet one angel named Lucifer led a rebellion in heaven, and as unbelievable as it sounds, one third of the angels joined in the rebellion and got themselves kicked out of heaven and forever separated from the love and blessings of God.  What a tragedy.


Adam and Eve did eat the forbidden fruit and became sinners.  Their sin separated them from God who is utterly and totally perfect. God quickly confronted Adam and Eve with their sin, made them clothing of animal skin, threw them out of the Garden east of Eden, and gave the first promise that a savior would one day come.  But first a lot of history was going to happen first.

People multiplied fast!  People sinned more than we can imagine.  A man called Noah built a giant boat called an ark.  It took over 100 years to build the boat.  As the years went by Noah provided a witness to the fact that Lord God was going to send a flood and drown all those who rejected Him as God.  In the end only Noah, his wife, his three sons, and their wives got on the ark.  The rest of the world drowned.  Does that sound cruel?  It isn’t cruel. You see God made an offer to everyone to escape the flood.  All they had to do was come into the ark.  What would you say if the coast guard went out to rescue the crew and passengers of a sinking ship, but everyone refused to get on the rescue vessel?  Noah cried out to the people of the world for years!  Then the people watched as animals walked into the ark.  Yet they refused to enter in.  Then God Himself shut the door to the ark and the flood began.  Forty days and forty nights the rains fell and the storm raged.  But, in the safety of the ark the 8 people and all the animals were safe.

Eventually the ark landed.  The eight people got off and began to build a world anew.  But you can guess what happened next.  Sin abounded.  But through all this God did not abandon His creation.  The path to that baby in Bethlehem was still very long.

As the earth became populated sin abounded also.  One day God called out a man named Abram. Abram became a follower of the God of creation, and God made a very serious promise to Abram.  Abram’s name was changed to Abraham.  God Himself made the change.  He gave Abraham a promise.  He said you and your wife Sarah are going to have a baby!  And through your baby boy’s children the savior will come. (See, we are getting closer to Bethlehem now.)  In spite of ‘distractions’ Sarah and Abraham had their promised baby boy.  There was a lot of drama going on while God’s promise was being fulfilled.

Then their son married, and had twin boys.  Eventually the younger boy was the one who grew into the man that God chose to carry on the line of Abraham’s children. His name was Jacob.  God later changed Jacob’s name to Israel.  Still, there was a lot more time that must pass before the promised redeemer would arrive.

Jacob’s children wound up living out their days in a land called Egypt.  From Jacob’s twelve sons was to come the line through which the Messiah would come.  The son chosen was Judah.  So, the line from which our Savior would come was narrowed down. The promised savior would be born from a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Judah.  Four hundred years after the children of Israel first went to Egypt the Lord sent a champion to lead them out of Egypt to the land promised to Abraham.  Their mortal champion was Moses, who not only led them out of their captivity in Egypt, but also wrote the first 5 books of the Bible.

Many generations passed.  A great grandson of Abraham named David became King of Israel.  There were quite a few wars under King David, and a lot of sorrow and tears in his life.  Time went on…..

Then….Finally…. the time was right for the prophecies regarding the birth of Jesus to happen.  Hundreds of years after Abraham and David the Israelites had a very clear knowledge of who descended from who.  The genealogy records were kept so accurately because of the land inheritances that went to each of the sons of Israel.  There was no question as to who the descendants of Judah were.

An amazing part of this long long story is how Jesus’ mother and earthly father wound up in Bethlehem.  There was a census, and everyone had to go to the city of their birth to be counted.  The census is always for more than just counting people.  In this case, it was for taxing the people.  So, at just the right time a very pregnant virgin Mary and her husband Joseph found themselves in Bethlehem.  There was no nice room for rent. They wound up sleeping in a barn where Mary had the most famous baby of all creation.  Poor Mary, she must have been so tired.  She was very pregnant.  She road on a donkey to get there, and then she had to have the baby in the same place where the animals lived. 

Now the world focuses on this baby every year on December 25th.  We honestly don’t know what exact day He was born.  What matters is that we know He was born.  We know that shepherds were told the good news by angles singing, and they went to see Christ the Lord.

All these historical events are just part of the story.  Of course it is significant that Jesus came at all.  Thank the Lord that He did come.  But that isn’t the end of the story.  People like to take the idea of Christmas and get all misty eyed and emotional.  The love the thought of seeing that sweet little boy in the humblest of circumstances. And people come right up to this point in the story of this Baby, and then they stop.  They stop dead in their tracks.  The idea of a tiny helpless baby gives them a chance to form an image of God as a tiny helpless baby.  They forget to go forward to the ministry of Christ, His suffering on the cross, and His death, burial, and resurrection. They don’t consider His power over death.  It is easier to leave their image of Christ as that helpless baby in the manger.  Otherwise they would have to consider that He has the power over death, and that Christ alone holds the keys to the kingdom of heaven.  After all, is there another who raised Himself from the dead by His own power?  So, far too many people spend months fussing over Christmas and ignore the Sunday on which Christ arose.  Some dress up for Easter and actually go to church.  After all, how could everyone see their new clothes if they didn’t go to church? 

AND……even with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ the story is still only half way finished!!   From there we go to the next 2,000 or more years spent  spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ.  So many people have lived a life totally dedicated to righteous behavior and preaching the Bible that we can’t count them.  The number of people who have given their lives for the gospel is unknowable.  We do know that currently thousands of people are being murdered by Islam around the world.

The world still has to go through that Great Tribulation.  Suffering such as the world has never known will abound during that seven year trial.  You can argue whether Christians will go through that time or be raptured out of this world and avoid it, but you can’t argue that it won’t happen.  The Bible teaches that the Christians will taken out of the world by Jesus Christ Himself before the tribulation begins.

THEN… after the tribulation, or more precisely, at the end of the tribulation there will be that horrible battle called Armageddon. 

Then God sets up a kingdom that will last 1,000 years.  The Lord will rule the world from the throne of David.  The devils will all be locked away in hell during that time.  This will be such a wonderful time in future history.  It will begin with all people being believers in Christ. People will live to remarkable old age.  BUT….evil doers will come, proving the fact that the sin nature of mankind will find a way to do evil even without the influence of the devil. 

When the Millennium Kingdom ends the devil and his angels will be set lose for a short time.  Evil will abound.  I suppose that will be earth’s final war.  Heaven and earth will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will melt with a fervent heat.  BUT……  God’s children will be taken to heaven for eternity, and unbelievers will face the judgment where they will be cast into hell forever.  Followers of Jesus Christ will live eternally in heaven with God.

All that is the story of creation from start to finish – with a lot of details left out.  If you want all the details then you need to read the entire Bible. 

The point of this article is really that Christmas, while a wonderful time to reflect on the birth of our Savior, is not the whole of history.  Obviously His birth was a point in time of major importance, especially when you consider all the prophecies leading up to His birth that were fulfilled by His birth.  It is easy to see that Jesus Christ is the promised Savior.  It is a point of wonder that this tiny baby was God.  Prior to His birth, Jesus was not marooned in one time and place.  As a human being He walked where ever He needed to Go, and where He could go was very limited.  So, to become a man Jesus shut Himself up in one time and place at a time.  That alone is mind boggling when you think about it. 

Even more mind boggling is that Jesus died.  There is no way to estimate the emotional and mental abuse He suffered, not to mention the physical torture during the crucifixion.  Really. The time from the date celebrated as Christ’s birthday until resurrection Sunday/Easter should be a time of deep thanksgiving and contemplation on the life of Christ.

Don’t let your thoughts become trapped in the idea of Christmas as a time of year when wonderful things happen to you and your family.  With Christ as your Savior every day is the most wonderful time of the year.  The most wonderful thing that could possibly happen already happened – Jesus Christ our Savior was born.  He was born knowing His full destiny, and yet He came anyway. 

So many people look at Christmas as a day that will change everything into a day of magic and wonder.  The truth is that Christmas is just another day with no more magic than any other day.  It can be a day that is as blessed as you make of it.  Don’t be one of those people who spends the day mourning over joys departed.  Don’t be one of those people who is looking for Christmas day to somehow transform into a perfect day where everyone is overwhelmed with their gifts, food, and company.  Don’t expect family and friends who can’t get along to suddenly become best friends for that one magical day.  None of those things are going to happen.  What can happen is a lovely day that is spent enjoying whoever you have for company that day.  You can be the one who refuses to gossip about someone who isn’t there.  You can be the one who sets a cheerful tone for the day.  You can be the one who sets realistic limits on gift giving.  If you are not careful you can also be the one who realizes the day is not turning out perfect in spite of your super efforts, that nothings has changed, and that tomorrow will be another imperfect, dull day just like the other 364 days of the year.  Believe me, no one wants to be around the ‘Christmas worshiper’ when they come off their Christmas high and emotionally crash about 4 in the afternoon.  (Honestly – I may be over exaggerating the ‘I love Christmas crash’ that happens around 4pm.  It could be something to do with hypoglycemia, pre-diabetes, and diabetes since sweets are usually available in over abundance during Christmas.  Or it could be a combination of both blood sugar problems and the Christmas crash.)

If there is a time in the history of the world that the mind of a Christian should think on, it is the resurrection.  Without the resurrection, there is nothing.  Why would there be a celebration of someone who made very grandiose claims, got himself crucified, and stayed dead once he was buried? 

The reason that people get stuck thinking about the baby of Bethlehem is that the baby was just that.  He was a helpless baby.  He needed someone to care for Him like any other baby.  It is easy to worship a baby.  You can mentally lock Him up in a box where He has everything he needs.  You can take Him out once a year to play with Him at Christmas time.  But you never have to acknowledge Him as your Lord and Savior.  As an eternal tiny baby, there is no need to be obedient to Him.  There is no need to set aside your personal desires to do the things that Christ requires of His children. 

Let this be the year that you allow Christ to grow up!  Don’t keep Him chained to the manger in Bethlehem.  Acknowledge Him as the Lord of creation.  Acknowledge that obedience to His teachings is the most important thing you can do.  Whatever happens, your life will never be the same once you acknowledge that Bethlehem’s baby is the Christ of Calvary.

Celebrate Resurrection Sunday.  Celebrate the joy God gives you today.  Celebrate the risen Savior and what He did for us at Calvary.  Acknowledge God as God everyday.  Look forward to the promises God has given us.  What a wonderful future Christians have.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Setting Up A Meeting Place Before You Need It

The Rendezvous
Barbara Henderson

The night was long and the storm was loud.  Lightening was flashing, and thunder was rolling.  If you have never been in a southern storm you may not understand that description of a storm.  Let me just say that the thunder rolls like a string of large unseen explosions.  That is bad enough.  Flashes of lightening turn the night into intermittent day.  Most of the time nobody gets hurt.  But sometimes there are deadly tornadoes that accompany the storm.  Other times there are lightning strikes that cause fires.  One night the Spunkmire family was facing such a storm.  Daddy Spunkmire was staying calm outwardly even though he was somewhat concerned.  For some reason this storm seemed different.  Mama Spunkmire was also trying to stay calm.  She was determined to avoid giving her children a fear of storms that would cause them to run for shelter at the first drop of rain. Her life revolved around doing what was best for  
Spunkmire Junior and Spunkmire Baby.

The Spunkmires lived in an older mobile home.  It was really a lovely home well anchored to the ground.  It was paid for.  It was on their own land.  They loved it. Their only concern was that mobile homes were not known for as the safest place to be during a storm.  They were also possibly more flammable in a fire.  They had heard stories of how quickly a mobile home would go up once a fire started, so they were saving money for a place with more land where they could build a brick home that would be safer during a storm.  But, in the meantime, they were content to live their lives in a way that was consistent with their goal of being debt free.  That meant living in a home that was older and cost less than the bank said they could afford.  They had goals for the future and those goals didn’t include spending half their income on a mortgage.

Mrs. Hignite, who lived a few doors down, was so terrified of storms that she would go outside in the blackest of nights to get into her storm shelter.  The shelter was a brick hole in the ground.  It was damp and dark and very unpleasant.  But that was where Mrs. Hignite felt safest when a storm was in the area.  And, being the kind Christian lady that she was, Mrs. Hignite felt it her duty to call her neighbors at any time of the day or night and remind them they were invited into the storm shelter with her.  It was a sad day in the neighborhood when Mrs. Hignite got a cell phone that had service in her storm shelter even when the door was shut.

Finally, the storm seemed to have passed by, and the family went to bed.  Mama and daddy Spunkmire were resting in their bed.  The Spunkmires were all allowed to sleep in their day  clothes during a storm.  Mama went to bed in full makeup.  Daddy Spunkmire slept with his holster on so he would only have to grab his pistol.  They were trying to put off sleeping just a little while longer to be sure their two boys were asleep.  Soon then the family drifted off to sleep……Then KABOOM!!  Lightning flashed one more time.  It hit the middle of the roof.  The house was suddenly in flames.  Mama and daddy Spunkmire wanted to run to their boys, but the lightning strike had hit the middle of the house.  Flames were between them and the children immediately. 

The Spunkmires had replaced the windows in their home several years before with larger double paned windows.  The parents quickly got out their window and ran around to the window where their boys were sleeping.  The found the window to the boys room open and the two boys gone.  Without missing a step they ran to the mailbox out by the street.  There they saw Spunkmire Junior with Spunkmire Baby on his back calmly waiting for their parents.  They had established a rendezvous point and even practiced disaster drills a few times.  They were thankful that the boys were safe but not shocked.  They had a plan, and the plan worked.  Baby Spunkmire was looking for firetrucks.  Neighbors were running out to see what was going on.  Over all it was a good ending to a disastrous night.  By the time the fire was out and daybreak came their home was gone.  There was a twisted metal frame and Papa Spunkmires gun safe still standing.  They had escaped with the clothes on their back and a few things that they slept with before the fire.  Mama Spunkmier had her extra large hobo bag over her shoulder when they escaped because she slept with it over her shoulder on potentially disastrous nights.  Papa had his wallet and keys in his pocket.  The boys had escaped with nothing but each other because Spunkmier Junior opted to take his baby brother out instead of a few of his possessions. 

Disasters like this one happen every day. Sometimes they have happy endings, and sometimes they don’t.  If the Spunkmires had not prepared for just such a disaster by practicing what to do if a fire occurred and establishing a rendezvous place the story might have ended tragically.  Insurance paid for the loss of their home and possessions. Because they were already living debt free the Spunkmiers decided to spend their insurance money on land instead of a new mobile home to go in the same spot.  Spunkmier Junior and Spunkmier Baby were soon quite happy with the move because they were able to have a dog and a cat, something they had not been able to do in their previous home. They decided to buy a camper trailer and live in that while they built their new home.  They came to look at the loss of their home as just a step in their journey to the big rendezvous in eternity.

The Spunkmiers not only had a rendezvous point in case of a home disaster, the had rendezvous points in shopping malls, camping trips, at flea markets, and any where else they went.  If it was a new place the first thing they did was establish a point of rendezvous in case of separation.  They also had back up rendezvous places.  They had rendezvous points in case the family was separated during some sort of disaster.  They had rendezvous points in case they wanted to escape a boring event. 

In today’s world, a family can’t have too many rendezvous points.  Families are separated by distance because of work and whatever duties or even pleasures the family may engage in.  In a disaster getting the family together and making sure everyone is all right is the first thing people think of.  It is best to figure out where to meet up if you can’t meet in your home.  The recent fires in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and the surrounding areas, made that very clear.  Families were separated.  Some lives were lost.  I don’t know what plans the families had for uniting with family during and after the fires.  I suspect there were quite a few people who had specific places to go and people to call.  Unnecessary worry is caused without a rendezvous point. 

In the world we live in today being able to meet up with family in case of a disaster is even more important.  Shootings are happening with increasing frequency.  Knife attacks are the new terrorist activity.  The economy is unstable.  Jobs are hard to come by, and blah, blah, blah.  You already know what is going on.  Truly, setting up a rendezvous place for all sorts of scenarios is important.  We know that ‘The Times They Are A-Changin’.  That is the title of a Bob Dylan song. I suppose the title of the song would be appropriate in almost era.  Something is always changing, and some of the changes are going to be bad.  These changes, whether good or bad, will have an effect on many people.  With Trump in as our president-elect I have hopes for a world that at least seems to lean toward sanity instead of insanity.  My biggest concern may not be the normal ‘big concern’ for most people.  I fear that people are looking at Trump as more than a man.  My personal opinion is that he is going into a very difficult situation.  He will only be able to accomplish any of his goals by the grace of God.  However, this isn’t really about Trump.  It is about the changing times and how families need to prepare. 

Continue to do the obvious things like live as frugally as possible, stock pile enough food for several weeks.  Make sure it is food that you actually eat. Consider self defense and how you would best be able to protect your family and yourself.  A simple level of prepping that is good for everyone is to plan a week in advance.  Plan your meals. Plan your trips.  Plan your clothes.  Plan your lunches.  A lot of that isn’t really difficult.  It just requires making plans in advance and then sticking to the plans.  It makes life a lot easier if you wake up knowing what you are going to wear and what you are going to eat that day. 

Planning for a little farther down the road is not that hard either.  Keeping some things in your car that would make life easier if you were stuck living in your car for a few days is not hard.  A few clothing items, some non-perishable food, and small bag of survival gear would be nice if you just get stranded due to some sort of traffic jam.  A few years ago Jerry got stuck in traffic.  His normal time to get home is around an hour and half.  It took him about seven hours that day.  We decided that the next time he hears of a bad wreck on I-5 he is just going to check into a motel and spend the night in the town where he works.  By the way – he works only 40 miles from home.  Traffic is bad every day.  A bad wreck causes massive traffic jams.  We are planning to get a little farther down our life’s road by moving to Idaho when our kids move there.  Traffic isn’t nearly as bad and the cost of housing is quite a bit better.  So, now we are saving as much money as possible.  We are on a no debt lifestyle.  I do use a credit card for quite a bit because I am addicted to those bonus points.  However, we are only charging what we can pay off that month.  If I find I am unable to do that then the card is going to be cut up and canceled.  Even with all my medical bills we are managing.  This is the Lord’s doing, and we are very thankful.

And, yes, part of our prepping is to establish rendezvous places in case of everything.  Ultimately that does give us some peace of mind in a society that is disintegrating.  It seems like no matter what happens we want to be together and know everyone is alright.  From there facing the future would be much easier.  Don’t assume that your family would automatically know where to go to meet you in an abnormal situation. 

Anyway you look at it, there will be times when getting the family back together doesn’t work out.  A family member may be killed as in the wildfires in Tennessee.  The families who lost loved ones are not thinking about the loss of their property.  They are thinking about the family member or members they lost.  There is no earthly rendezvous for them.  But, if they are Christians, there is a rendezvous coming.  From that rendezvous there will be no more ‘parting days’.  Families will not be ripped apart by death when they all reach heaven.  So, the most important rendezvous you can possibly establish is the rendezvous in heaven.

Be saved yourself.
Teach your children to love God and keep the commandments.  Never stop praying for them to be saved.  Once they are saved keep on praying for God’s hand on them for good.
Do you have unsaved friends and family members?  Pray for their salvation.  You don’t want them to miss the greatest rendezvous of all times.
Pray for the lost world.  That rendezvous is coming. 

As we face these changing times, the truth of Jesus Christ does not change.  His promise of eternal life does not change.  The times change.  The fads change.  What is culturally and socially acceptable changes.  People in power come and go.  Some do good and some do evil, but everyone great and small will one day face the judgment.  Some will face the rendezvous of the damned.  They will meet in hell and spend eternity there.  Some will rendezvous in heaven and spend eternity there.

While living life now it is important to stay in contact with family and friends.  A rendezvous can be a meeting place that puts families back together in disaster situations.  It can be just a big family reunion.  Whatever the reason for the rendezvous, it is important to have a place of meeting set in advance.

As my family and I have faced my stage four cancer we have prayed for healing.  We know God can heal.  We know sometimes He chooses not to.  We also know that regardless of what happens we have a rendezvous set.  We will meet by the throne of God in heaven. That planned rendezvous is no less real than the mailbox where the Spunkmiers planned to meet in case of a fire in their home.  My dad and my sister are already at the rendezvous.  They will meet us when we get there. 

Do you have your eternal rendezvous set?  Will you spend eternity at the rendezvous in heaven or in hell?  If you are reading this I am guessing you will be at the great rendezvous by the throne of God.  In the mean time, as a Christian, you have a duty.  You are to tell the world that Jesus saves. 

We are to do what we can to help reform this nation.  Christian values do make good laws of the land for everyone whether they are Christian or not.  God’s values are good.  We aren’t called to set up a theocracy, but enacting laws that are pleasing to God will be a blessing to the entire nation.  In order to do that we need Christians who are educated as to exactly what is right before God.  Keep in mind that our leaders are just human beings.  They have no power to change the hearts of the wicked into God fearing people.  Only God can do that.  But we do have a part in change.  Our job is to live like the Christians we claim to be.  Our job is to tell people how to be saved.  Our job is to tell them of the consequences of failure to accept the offer Jesus made to let them into heaven through Him.  The more Christians, the more the land will accept godly laws as just and right.  Currently we have half our population rejecting the teachings of God.  We can do better than that.

One thing that has been obvious to any intelligent person is that Christians and Christianity have been under attack by government, news media, and social pressure.  Everyone is being pressured to avoid hurting the feelings of infidels headed for hell – also known as Moslems – and avoid mentioning anything to do with Christianity and Jesus Christ at all costs.  This needs to stop.  There are laws that guarantee freedom of religion.  I know that becoming a Christian is a choice, and that morality and decency can’t be legislated.  Acting right has to come from the heart, and that means a heart where Jesus Christ is King.  However, Christians do not become door mats just because they are Christians.  Christians do not check their constitutional rights at the door when the choose Christ.  Christians are free to make use of the laws of the land just like anyone else.  If they are treated in a manner that is against the law then they should carefully consider taking the matter to court.  I do not believe the gospel has ever been spread effectively by violence, so I am not suggesting that.  But I do believe that Christians have been silent when speaking up would have been the better choice.  With our new President elect I believe Christians will have the support of government in freely exercising their freedom of speech and freedom of religion.  Let’s be sure to use those freedoms.

Remember – we want the Rondy in heaven to be bigger than the Rondy in hell.

Aside: I grew up in Anchorage where the Fur Rendezvous is held every year in February.  It includes the sled dog races and all sorts of neat things which I believe now includes ‘snowshoe baseball’.  A shortened version of its name is ‘The Rondy.  It was originally a rendezvous for fur trappers to meet to sell their furs. I am looking forward to meeting you all at the big Rondy in heaven.