The House of Many Mansions

Jesus_I will come again

Now don’t you be grieving cause I’m leaving,
Don’t cry when I say goodbye,
There’ll be no weeping where I’m going,
To my mansion in the sky.

The above lyrics to the classic Country Gospel song, “To My Mansion in the Sky” (lyrics by Jimmie Davis) illustrates what many believe they will receive when they reach the end of their mortal lives on earth. Many Christians envision a mansion—a large stately-looking dwelling with breath-taking beauty, abundantly-rich features, and enormous rooms— awaiting their immortal souls in heaven at death. Their hope is to go to a mansion prepared for them in heaven that will provide complete contentment, tranquility, and bliss.

The idea of such a mansion comes from the way some have interpreted Jesus’ words in John 14:2 according to the King James Version (KJV): “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” Interestingly, many other Bible translations do not use the word “mansions” which sheds a whole different light on what Jesus was really referring to.

Let’s examine the word according to the original New Testament Greek in which it was recorded. According to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, “mansion” is derived from the Greek word, moné (pronounced mo nay´), meaning, “dwelling-place, room, abode, mansion, lodging.” The only other place a form of this word (monen) is used (both times by Christ) is John 14:23, translated “abode”: “Jesus answered and said to him (Judas, not Iscariot), ‘If anyone loves me, he will keep my word; and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our abode with him.” Other words for “abode” here are “dwelling, abiding, staying.” Some of the modern translations such as the New Living Translation (NLT) use the word “home”: “…and we will come and make our home with him.”

Clearly, in both John 14:2 and 23, Jesus is not speaking of a literal “mansion” like some picture it. And why would he, anyway? Mansions are associated with material things that only the rich and famous can afford. Would Jesus guarantee such worldliness to the godly in a place that is thought of as righteous and holy?

In reality, Jesus is referring to “mansions” in a metaphorical sense. Jesus said that if we love him and keep his Word, he and his Father will love us and make our home in us via his Spirit or Power. Verse 26 says, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, which the Father will send in my name, shall teach you all things, and remind you of all things which I said to you,” (The Emphatic Diaglott, TED). When we accept Christ into our lives (Acts 2:38-29), God’s Power will be imparted to us, filling us with his peace through Christ (v. 27).

And yet, there’s something even greater to come… In verse 28, Jesus alludes to the fact that he will come again: “You heard that I said to you, ‘I am going away and I am coming to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice, that I am going to the Father; Because my Father I greater than I,” (TED). Jesus said he was going to ascend to heaven, which he did 40 days after he was resurrected to life. By the way, in Acts 1:3, Jesus not only spent those forty days presenting proof to many people that was indeed alive, but he also spoke of those “things concerning the kingdom of God.”

The “kingdom of God” is to be fulfilled when Jesus visibly and literally returns to earth. When Jesus was taken in a cloud and ascended into heaven before the very eyes of the disciples (Acts 1:9), two men in white clothing stood beside them (Acts 1:10) and declared, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched him go into heaven, (Acts 1:9-11, New American Standard Bible, NASB).

When Jesus was referring to “in my Father’s house are many mansions,” he went on to say, “I am going to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I am coming again, and will receive you to myself, so that where I am you also may be,” (John 14:2-3, TED). Jesus, therefore, ascended to heaven to prepare a place for us. Since Jesus is talking about coming again to receive his people (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18), the “place” he is referring to is a place in God’s coming Kingdom. And where will that Kingdom be? The Bible says it will be on the earth (Daniel 7:14; Micah 4:1-4; Luke 1:31-32; 2 Timothy 4:1).

At this time, Jesus is preparing a place for his people in his Kingdom. He is at the right hand of God’s throne in heaven (Romans 8:34) acting as our Mediator (1 Timothy 2:5). He is now interceding for those who’ve entered his house or family.

Jesus was referring to the Christian faithful when he said, “In my Father’s house…” The “house” (Greek, oikia) he is referring to is not a literal structure but those who belong to the “household” of God through faith (Galatians 6:10). In other words, Jesus is saying, “In my Father’s family there are many abiding places….”

Thanks to our Savior Jesus Christ, we can claim our place in the Family of God. Through Christ, our heavenly Father has graciously given his Church the gift of His Power to serve him. Through that Power, Christ makes his abode in us (Ephesians 3:14-19). In the meanwhile, as citizens of Christ in heaven, we eagerly await his glorious return to earth and the glorious transformation that will then take place (Philippians 3:20-21).

From what we can conclude, there are no “mansions in the sky” awaiting persons who’ve died. According to the Bible, when Jesus comes to establish God’s Kingdom over the earth, the dead in Christ will be resurrected, and those in Christ who are still living, will receive immortality (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18; 1 Corinthians 15:50-58). Until then, all are “asleep” in their graves, unconscious of anything like a mansion (Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10; John 11:11-15; 25-46).

Believers put their hope in the first resurrection (Revelation 20:4-6). We are expecting to receive positions as kings and priests, ruling and reigning with Christ in his Kingdom (Revelation 1:6; 5:10; 20:6; 2 Timothy 2:12). Who wants a mansion in the sky when God has promised something so much better: a glorious place where we will dwell with Christ and our Heavenly Father and the Kingdom is finally established (Acts 3:21; 2 Peter 3:10-13; Revelation 21:1-9).

Christ is preparing room for us in his Kingdom. Have you made your reservations yet? Do you count yourself as a member of his family? Are you ready for him to give you eternal life even if he comes now?

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. Here is the beautiful booming baritone voice of Wintley Phipps singing, “Jesus is Coming Again,” http://youtu.be/SyIxSC5QZ-E

 

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20/20 Vision for 2020

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I don’t doubt that you’ll see many people using the term “20/20 vision” since we’re now in the year 2020. Those who sell eyewear, for example, would refer to it literally—that is, 20/20 eyesight means having visual acuity to see shapes and details from 20 feet away. And when used metaphorically, it means to be able to clearly see what lies ahead particularly as we look into the new year.

I recently saw an article in the Jerusalem Post titled, “20/20 vision for avoiding additional elections in 2020,” (Gil Hoffman, 12/26/19). It was about Israel avoiding the amount of elections in the New Year that the nation had in 2019—namely, two national elections with a third one being initiated. This is unusual even for a parliamentary democracy form of government like Israel’s. Certainly, we can see with all the political turmoil that Israel has experienced this past year, with forming a new government and all, having better vision would be needed to keep from repeating such a dilemma this new year.

Having 20/20 foresight for seeing ahead more clearly is just as important as having 20/20 hindsight. And I’m not merely including politics. Lord knows, we’d all be better off if all of OUR politicians along with their supporters had 20/20 foresight as well as 20/20 hindsight. But, knowing the flaws of human insight, I’m sure that’s simply much too out of sight to expect for the most part.

Having 20/20 vision is important for all of us in any year but now that we’re actually going forward into year 2020 what better time to be reminded of it? For this new year of 2020 to be a happy year, it’s imperative that we don’t forget the spiritual aspect of having 20/20 vision. Proverbs 29:18-27 provides an excellent guideline to follow…

Where there is no vision from God, the people run wild,
but those who adhere to God’s instruction know genuine happiness.
Words are not enough
to correct a servant;

even if he understands, he will not respond.
Have you ever met someone who is overly eager to talk?
There is more hope for a fool than for him.
If you indulge your servant from early in life,
in the end it won’t go well for either of you.
A hot-head provokes quarrels,
and one mastered by anger commits all kinds of sins.

A person’s pride brings him down,
but one of humble spirit has a firm hold on honor and respect.
Anyone who teams up with a thief must despise his own life,
for he is bound by an oath to tell the truth and yet refuses.
If you fear other people, you are walking into a dangerous trap;
but if you trust in the Eternal, you will be safe.
Many people vie for special treatment from a ruler,
yet genuine justice proceeds from the Eternal.
The right-living are disgusted by the actions of the unjust;
likewise, the wicked are disgusted by the ways of the righteous.
(The Voice, VOICE)

Our vision for this new year would not only be incomplete but totally distorted if we didn’t fully depend upon the vision for living that comes from God. When the prophets of old presented God’s Word as well as his will to the people, they had two choices to make: Either they could obey his instructions or disobey them. Of course, obedience is what provided the blessings God promised, (for example, Deuteronomy 30).

God wants us to be blessed. Even the word “blessed” means “happy.” God’s desire for our happiness is found through service. When we serve God and one another, we are using 20/20 vision and this brings many blessings of happiness. Jesus demonstrated such vision when he washed the disciples’ feet. He said to them, “I tell you the truth: a servant is not greater than the master. Those who are sent are not greater than the one who sends them. If you know these things, and if you put them into practice, you will find happiness,” (John 13:16-17, Ibid.).

Take a look back at Proverbs 29:18-27 and, from the view of being one of God’s servants, check off the many ways your vision for 2020 will truly be 20/20. The words I’ve put into bold print will give you some hints that will help you envision some actions—some negative ones to avoid and some positive ones to apply—which you can take. And when you look back at the end of this year, you can see even more clearly the blessings the Lord will bring when the next year comes— unless of course, the Lord returns by then.

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. When we keep our eyes on Jesus we will have a vision that will not only take us through the year but throughout each day of our lives until he comes again to establish his Kingdom. Here’s Planetshakers Official Lyric Video, “Be My Vision,” http://youtu.be/q4wwmf6q-R4

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Some Good Christian Ways to Welcome the New Year

celebrate the new year_Peanuts cartoon

The world has many different ways to welcome the New Year—ways that might seem strange compared to our American traditions. For example…

  • In Scotland, New Year is called Hogmanay. Barrels of tar are set on fire. Then, they are rolled down village streets. This tradition is said to symbolize the old year burned up and the beginning of a New Year.
  • In Columbia, Cuba, and Puerto Rico families reportedly stuff a life-size male doll with objects that remind them of bad memories or sadness. Then, they dress up the doll in old clothes donated by the family members. At the stroke of midnight the doll named, Mr. Old Year, is set on fire. The burning of the objects and the doll helps the family to do away with past unhappiness and bring in happiness with the New Year.
  • In Spain, people eat 12 grapes when the clock chimes at midnight on New Year’s Eve with one grape being consumed at each chime. This ritual allegedly originated last century when strange weather conditions appeared to yield an unusually abundant harvest of grapes. There were so many grapes at Christmas time, the King of Spain and grape growers came up with the idea of eating the grapes on New Year’s Eve.
  • In Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia, and Mexico, people are said to carry a suitcase around a house, and some even around the block, when midnight comes in with the hope of travelling in the New Year.
  • In China, many people wear a pair of new slippers on New Year’s that were bought before the New Year. This tradition reportedly suggests stepping on the people who gossip about you. (Hmmm! I got new slippers last year but I never thought about using them this way!)
  • In Japan, the people allegedly eat a bowl of buckwheat noodles late on New Year’s Eve. The noodles are called “toshikoshisoba” meaning, “year-crossing noodles.” While eating the noodles, they listen for the sound of the Buddhist bells which are rung 108 times at midnight. The sounding of the bells are believed to purify the listeners of the 108 sins or evil passions that “plague every human being.”

(Selected from “The Top Twenty Funny, Fascinating, and Unusual World Wide Customs To Celebrate New Year,” funny-jokes.com)

I imagine the people from other cultures and traditions would think our customs strange for welcoming the New Year, as well—customs like lighting fireworks, making toasts, showering down balloons and confetti, blowing horns, singing Auld Lang Syne and don’t forget, giving one’s significant other a kiss.

Then, of course, there’s New Year’s Day with family gatherings, watching parades, feasting on food, shopping for deals by some, football games for others, and maybe taking a nap on one’s favorite recliner. Aaaahh! What a life!

Unfortunately, others among us have to work—a tradition not usually followed by choice, but done so that the rest of the people can leisurely enjoy the holiday. This takes in those who work in stores, at gas stations, restaurants, parades, media, and the like.

And don’t forget those who traditionally provide important public services whether it’s a holiday or not—first responders coming to the aid of others, charity groups helping the needy, hospital workers, care providers for the sick and elderly, plus veterans and troops at home and abroad. These are good ways to be involved during the holiday, by doing good work for others.

While there are many ways people welcome the New Year (including foolish ways, like driving drunk or over indulging in junk food or involvement in any kind of harmful revelry), what about those who profess to be Christians? Well, there are some spiritual traditions that are most rewarding as we begin a New Year. For example…

I remember when I was growing up, my church held a New Year’s Eve Watch Night. It began around 9 p.m. with families gathering for a time of table games, snacks and refreshments in the fellowship hall. Then, around 11:00, we’d all go to the sanctuary for a service that would include singing, scripture readings, testimonials, a brief devotional by the pastor. Then, just before midnight, we’d have a “season of prayer” where everyone would have an opportunity to offer a prayer. When the service was finished, the New Year had just begun. It was most inspirational to begin the service in worship as the Old Year ended and close the service in prayer just as the New Year began.

Sadly, there are not as many churches today who’ve kept up this tradition. However, there are still some who do. They may have a New Year’s Eve Service at midnight or it may be held earlier in the evening. But if there’s an opportunity to attend a service, I would highly encourage making this a family tradition.

Some churches may also have services on New Year’s day. This, too, is a good way to start out the New Year. It all fits into the Biblical directive, “…not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near,” (Hebrews 10:25, New American Standard Bible, NASB).

“The day” that is “drawing near” is “the day of the Lord,” when Jesus returns to judge the world and save his people as he establishes God’s Kingdom on the earth (Isaiah 13:6-16; Joel 2:1, 11; Malachi 4:5; Matthew 24:31, 42-44; 1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Peter 3:10).  In preparation for that Day, we need to gather together and encourage one another as often as we can while there’s time. And what better way to do this than to begin the New Year in worship with one another of like faith!

Another good way to welcome the New Year is personal prayer. Even though you don’t attend a service, you could begin the New Year right by offering your own silent prayer—giving thanks for God’s blessings in the past year and asking for his guidance and wisdom in the coming year. You might also remember to pray for persons or requests if your church has a prayer list. And don’t forget to pray for your community, your leaders, the nation, and even those you find difficult to get along with, as well as your own needs and concerns, as the New Year dawns (see Matthew 5:44; 1 Timothy 2:1; James 5:16).

While many go out for New Year’s, whether to a dinner or a party, there are still those who are alone. Some might like to have a quiet evening by themselves, turn in before the clock strikes 12, and that’s okay. But there are others who might enjoy having some company and would like a visit. Christians can take a meal to shut-ins or visit someone in a senior home, or other care facility for the sick and challenged. What an excellent way to encourage one another as the Bible says, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing,” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

Another way to welcome the New Year is to begin a daily Bible reading schedule. Some, like myself, follow a plan to read the entire Bible in one year. You might say, “Well, I started this activity before but when I missed some days and got behind, I never achieved what I set out to do.” It’s not difficult to get discouraged throughout the year and be tempted to skip to the parts in the Bible that are more entertaining. But I’ve found that every verse can be interesting, even the “begats” or the “drier” verses containing the Law, if they are read with curiosity and taken in context with how they fit in the scriptures as a whole. If you have a cross-reference Bible, you can see how one verse fits into other verses like pieces to a puzzle. And, also, don’t forget, ALL of God’s Word is God-inspired and profitable:

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work,” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

But even if you don’t have a plan to read the entire Bible in a year, you can still start out with reading a passage or two each day. There are many sources available for following a structured list. Or you might just want to pick out something at random. If you have a topical reference Bible, you can read scriptures according to a topic or theme. Or, if you attend a Sunday School class, your Bible lessons might have a daily Bible reading plan for each week. The New Year is an excellent way to start being refreshed reading God’s Word each day.

To add to your daily scripture reading, you can also find a plethora of devotional books, on-line devotionals, and the like, as you start out the New Year. There’s really no excuse for not being able to find some well-written inspirational articles and stories via internet, mobile phones, You Tube, print media, and so forth. And you can share what you find with others, too, on social media.

These are just some good examples of ways Christians can welcome in the New Year. Do you have any other good ways? If so, why not share them? We’d be glad to hear of a good Christian way you welcome in the New Year.

Good News to YOU!
And have a Blessed New Year 2020!
Pastor Michael

P.S. And by the way, there’s another good way to welcome the New Year, and that’s by listening to Christian music. Here’s a real good song to start out with, “The New Year Worship Song”: http://youtu.be/lfGvYoN2jKU

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Born to Be THE King

Born is the king

We are familiar with coined phrases which describe something about someone’s destiny and purpose. For example,

~”Born to become a star” — applied to a movie or TV actor rising to fame
~”Born to be rich” — a person who comes into great wealth in society
~”Born to be free” — someone who overcomes servitude of some kind
~”Born to lead” — seen in a store displaying a young girl’s shirt
~”Born to raise hell” — applies to a rebellious person with destructive behavior

Soon, Christians will celebrate the person who was born to be the King of kings and Lord of lords according to the scriptures:

“Which he will bring about at the proper time—He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords,” (1 Timothy 6:15, New American Standard Bible, NASB).

“And from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the first-born of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us, and released us from our sins by his blood,” (Revelation 1:5).

“These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with him are the called and chosen and faithful,” (Revelation 17:14).

“And on his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, ‘KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS,’” (Revelation 19:16).

The fact that Jesus was born to be THE King is proof that he is above all human “kings” in power and authority on earth. Sometimes we called someone a “king” for outstanding accomplishments and abilities whether in sports, entertainment, or social standing. But no human being has ever or will ever do anything more outstanding and marvelous as Jesus Christ. Only HE can rightfully and accurately be King for that has always been his purpose from the beginning of the world (Matthew 27:11; Mark 15:2; Luke 23:3; John 18:33-38).

Consider how Jesus is entitled to have the title of King according to his (1) Exalted Name; (2) Legal Claim; and (3) Appointed Office.

HIS EXALTED NAME

Do you know who originally named the Child the virgin Mary was going to give miraculous birth to? God, the Father sent his angel to convey to Mary, “…you shall name him Jesus,” (Luke 2:31). An angel of the LORD also appeared to Joseph to whom Mary was betrothed saying, “And she will bear a Son and you shall call his name Jesus…” (Matthew 1:21a). Indeed, God gave Jesus his name.

The significance of God naming his Son, Jesus, is found in the meaning of his name. The name, Jesus (Greek), is composed of YAH (or, JAH) and SHUA. YAH means “I shall be.” SHUA means, “powerful.” Hence, it means, “I shall be powerful.”

“Jesus” is related to the Hebrew name, Joshua or Hoshea (lit., yehoshua), (Numbers 13:16), which means “Jehovah [YHWH] is salvation.”

By definition, therefore, the name of Jesus denotes power and salvation. In fact, when God’s angel directed Joseph to name God’s Son, Jesus, the angel explained, “…for it is he who will save his people from their sins,” ((Matthew 1:21b). This goes in hand with another fact —that all of this was to come about because Jesus’ birth was a miracle through the Power of God (Matthew 1:18; Luke 1:35).

Benjamin Wilson, who transliterated the New Testament Greek into English quoted Christian historian, Eusebius, “The name of Jesus means the salvation of God,” (Emphatic Diaglott.) In short, his name accurately means, “mighty to save, and strong to deliver.” His saving name includes his authority as God’s only begotten Son and as the Son of David through his mother, Mary.

The Apostle Paul stated, “…concerning his Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh (Mary’s family blood line), who was declared the Son of God (God’s offspring via his Spirit) with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord…” (Romans 1:3-4).

His authority is specified by the fact that God, his Father, “…highly exalted him, and bestowed on him the name which is above every name,” (Philippians 2:9). It is on account of this, that there is no name (or authority) under heaven that has been given among men, other than the name of Jesus, by whom we must be saved, just as the Apostle Peter testified (Acts 4:12).

One important connection to the name and authority of Jesus is the title, Immanuel. Notice it is a title. Luke records that Mary was told, “…he shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest,” (Luke 1:32). Compare this description to Matthew’s account (1:23) of what the angel said to Joseph in reference to Isaiah 7:14, “…and they shall call his name ‘Immanuel’ which translated means, ‘God is with us.’”. IMMA with NU means “us” and EL, is “God” which literally means, “a God with us.”

Jesus’ name carries with it the fact that Jesus, as the Son of God and Savior of man, was “the exact representation” of God his Father (Hebrews 1:1-3). Jesus said to Philip, “He who has seen me has seen the Father,” (John 14:9). God was (and is) with his people through his perfect representative, Jesus Christ, his Son, and the Power provided to us in Jesus’ name.

HIS LEGAL CLAIM

Both Matthew and Luke set out to validify Jesus’ legal claim to his right as THE King of all kings. Matthew’s genealogical account proves this claim through Joseph, the official foster-father of Jesus (Matthew 1:1-17). Luke establishes Jesus as the direct descent from King David’s bloodline through his mother, Mary (Luke 3:23-38).

Jesus is called a “descendant of David” as Paul stated in Romans 1:3-4 and Second Timothy 2:8. This establishes the legal claim of Jesus’ rulership through the royal line that God, himself, established when he made his covenant with King David about a thousand years earlier (2 Samuel 7:12-16; 1 Chronicles 17:11-14).

Luke records, “And the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David,” (Luke 1:32). This shows that Jesus’s legal right to be King is, even more importantly, a God-given right. The prophet Ezekiel echoes this right as he records the LORD God to declare, “A ruin, a ruin, a ruin, I will make it [speaking of Israel]. This also will be no more, until he comes whose right it is; and I shall give it to him [King Jesus Messiah],” (Ezekiel 21:27).

The triple emphasis of “ruin” in Ezekiel indicates the complete and thorough fulfillment of Israel’s punishment as God’s judgment for their iniquities over time. God will humble his people in order to prepare them for the One “whose right it is” to deliver them (Isaiah 59:20; Romans 11:26). King Jesus the Messiah will come to rescue them in the end (Jeremiah 30:3-7) when the “fulness of time” takes place and the Kingdom Age convenes (Luke 21:20-24; Galatians 4:4-5; Ephesians 1:10-12; Hebrews 9:26-28).

At that time Jesus comes, God will give the Kingdom to him (Ezekiel 21:27). You may recall that the request of the penitent thief on the cross was, “Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom!” (Luke 23:42). The thief was looking forward to Jesus’ coming as King just as we all should for that is what he was born to do as surely as he was born to die for our sins and be raised to immortality for our hope.

Jesus Messiah is given the sole right to literally fulfill the royal role he’ll play as King over all the earth someday. Christ will have the sacred privilege of sitting on a throne fit only for one acting in the position of God, even his God: “But of the Son he says, ‘Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter of his kingdom. Thou hast love righteousness and hated lawlessness; therefore God, thy God, that anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy companions,’” (Hebrews 1:8-9; Psalm 45:6-7).

HIS APPOINTED OFFICE

The Anointed has been appointed the royal office as King. His Reign as King is part of his three-fold office as Mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5-6). The other two official positions he occupies are Prophet and Priest.

Dr. Alva G. Huffer wrote,

Jesus fulfilled the office of Prophet by teaching, predicting, and working miracles….As Priest, Jesus performs the work of atonement, intercession, and benediction. He offered himself as the sacrificial Lamb for sinners. He is the believer’s Intercessor and Advocate. As King, Jesus has the divine authority to be King of kings and to rule over the earth at His second coming,” (Systematic Theology, pp. 268-9).

His Kingly appointment to throne will commence when he literally returns from heaven and sits on the throne of his father David out of Jerusalem, the world capital (Luke 1:32-33). This will be his coronation sanctioned and performed by God who will “give him the throne.” He will be crowned with the grandest fanfare of all time:

The trumpet of God will sound (1 Corinthians 15:52; Revelation 11:15-18). Believers, who by that time will be immortal (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Corinthians 15:50-58; Revelation 5:9-10; 19:7-16), will be present to offer their praise and worship. And it will be accompanied by the heavenly angels numbering ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands (Revelation 5:11-14). The unprecedented event will be universal as envisioned by John who wrote,

“Every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, ‘To him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever,”   (Revelation 5:13).

The reign of Christ is anticipated by believers who are preparing for that Day. In addition to all the other events that will happen then, one of the greatest things we look forward to is being given positions of co-rulership with Christ our King.

“And from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the first-born of the dead, and ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us, and released us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests to his God and Father; to him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen,” (Revelation 1:5-6).

According to the Emphatic Diaglott, Revelation 5:10 says, “And thou didst make them [the church] to our God a Royalty and Priesthood and they shall reign on the earth.” Ruling and reigning with Christ in his Kingdom is the believer hope. That is why the church is called out by God through Christ and designated to be among God’s chosen people as his “royal priesthood,” according to the Apostle Peter writing to the scattered churches (1 Peter 1:1-2; 2:9-10).

All believers who’ve accepted God’s condition of salvation through faith, repentance and baptism (Romans 6:1-8, 23; Galatians 3:26-29) can claim to be “heirs” of this promise and “joint-heirs” or “fellow-rulers” with Christ in his Kingdom (Romans 8:17).

TO SUM IT UP…

As we celebrate the birth of Christ our King, we’re reminded of his next coming and his fulfillment of God’s Word. His exalted name identifies his royal purpose as the Savior. His legal right of Kingship validifies his entitlement to be the King. And his appointed office will begin when he is officially coronated at his second coming when he sits on the throne of David.

This is what was in the mind of God’s angel when he appeared to the shepherds long ago to announce the birth of Jesus the King. “…I bring good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people. For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord,” (Luke 2:10). And all the angels chimed in with praise to God for giving his wonderful bundle of life to us: “Glory to God, in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased,” (Luke 2:14).

Have a very blessed Christmas!
And Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. We praise our Holy God for sending his Son, the Messiah. Here is Christian artist, Paul Baloche, singing, “For Unto Us / Open the Eyes of My Heart,” http://youtu.be/9ue6FbiHf30

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A Journalist’s View of the First Christmas

manger scene_journalist view

Having earned a degree in journalism, I learned that the very basics of interviewing someone or doing any research for a news story consists of the five W’s: Who, What, Where, When, and Why. An H is added, as well: How.

If a journalist were to write an account of the first Christmas, this technique would help provide a complete record of the occasion. Not only that, we can also discover how the scene that took place at that time played a pivotal role in our own faith and salvation.

Let’s use the five W’s and one H to answer some very important and timely questions many have asked for hundreds of years since that blessed event.

WHO WAS BORN?

If you would have asked the young virgin, Mary, she would have said, The angel told me, ‘You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and be called the Son of the Most High…’” (Luke 1:31-32a, New American Standard Bible, NASB).

When we celebrate the birth of Christ, we celebrate him as both the Son of God (“the Son of the Most High”) and Son of Man (via Mary, “You will be with child and give birth to a son…”) Thus, Jesus is both divine (“of God”) and human (“of man”). (cp., Matthew 16:13-17).

Joseph, to whom Mary was engaged and the one who became Jesus’ foster father, would also agree that Jesus is the Son of God and the Son of man. If you were a journalist, and asked Joseph his account of what happened when he learned about Mary’s pregnancy, he would have testified, “An angel of the Lord came to me in the night and said that my fianceé would ‘give birth’ to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus….” (Matthew 1:18-25). He would have also disclosed that, according to the angel, the child Mary was carrying was conceived “of the Holy Spirit,” proving the divinity of Jesus. Joseph knew he wasn’t the biological father of Jesus but that Almighty God is Jesus’ true Father (Luke 2:49). And as Jesus’ foster father, Joseph saw to it that the child was raised in accordance with the Jewish law and the prophets.

Both Mary and Joseph were well aware that the Son to be born was destined as God’s Messiah or Christ, the Anointed One of God (Matthew 1:21; Luke 1:31-33). God declared Jesus to be “my beloved Son with whom I am well-peased” no less than two times: at Jesus’ baptism (Matthew 3:16-17) and his transfiguration (Matthew 17:5). Jesus affirmed his Sonship and Messiahship when he commended Simon Peter for making his confession, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,” as it was divinely revealed to him by Jesus’ Father, (Matthew 16:13-20).

WHAT HAPPENED AT THE TIME OF HIS BIRTH?

A journalist investigating the birth of Christ would have found the whole scene extraordinary—almost Hollywood-like: He was born in a cow-stall; surrounded by animals in an unsanitary environment; heralded by a chorus of heavenly angels; praised and adored by God-fearing simple folks nearby, the shepherds; and, while still only a babe under two years of age, honored by distinguished men from the East who worshipped him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And to add to the drama, a star which led these distinguished men (a.k.a. “wise men”) to the child, shined down upon the place where the child could be found.

You would think that such a grand and unprecedented event would be broadcast for all the world to see. But a journalist would have discovered the irony of it all is that only a few select persons were aware of what was happening at the time. There were no great crowds of people making a mad rush to the manger to get their first glimpse of that miracle baby boy. It didn’t even make the evening news! At the time Mary gave birth to Jesus, it was only revealed to some shepherds nearby. As was pointed out, the wise men didn’t arrive until months later when the family was living in a house (Matthew 2:11).

The subtlety and secrecy of his birth would have revealed that Jesus’ birth was sacred and special since only a few were privy to it. Had there been a fanfare in which masses of people would have known what happened at and after his birth, chances are history would have probably turned out much differently. Thankfully, God was in control of the whole scene. But try to imagine this scenario…

For example, imagine the blessed event in a modern context: Some investigative reporter hack working for Herod’s government seeking to win a Pulitzer Prize for himself tweets the news (accidentally leaked out by one of the shepherds) that the new-born king of the Jews was identified as Jesus, born to Mary and Joseph. Then, the reporter learns from the neighbors that Joseph and his family were seen suddenly leaving their house in the middle of the night, heading toward the direction of Egypt. No doubt Herod would have sent some assassins there to find out where he was and murder the child along with Joseph and Mary.

Of course, God DID intervene to prevent such a horrible thing from happening. But, no doubt, there would still be some reporters today who would vainly attempt to reveal the news of his birth as well as the escape to Egypt if they could get by with it and make it widely known—obviously, with disastrous results. Secrecy was of vital importance for Jesus to fulfill his prophetic and ministerial role (Matthew 2:15).

WHERE WAS HE BORN?

Even the place where Jesus was born wasn’t considered significant . It didn’t hold any prestige in the eyes of the world. Bethlehem, the place of Jesus’ birth, was an obscure village.

A journalist would have found the little town of Bethlehem a quiet place yet was held in high esteem according to prophetic writing. Had a reporter interviewed Matthew, for example, he or she would discover that Micah the prophet foretold that Bethlehem of Judea would be the birthplace of the “Ruler who will shepherd my people Israel,”  (Matthew 2:5-6; Micah 5:2) according to God, himself, and this was fulfilled at Christ’s birth.

The role that the seemingly insignificant town of Bethlehem would play concerning the birth of Jesus turned out to be “wisdom with God but foolishness to the world,” (1 Corinthians 1:20-25). As one writer comments,

The town of Bethlehem was located approximately five miles southwest of Jerusalem. It was a small town in the hill country of Judea, and was generally considered to be of little importance except for two matters of note. Bethlehem could lay claim to be “the town of David,” because it was the hometown of the shepherd boy who became king (1 Samuel 16:1). And it was, according to Old Testament prophecy, the future birthplace of the Messiah and thus destined one day for prominence.” (Johnny Pressley, NIV Standard Lesson Commentary 1999).

WHEN DID THE EVENT TAKE PLACE?

Just as God’s choice of Bethlehem was for a special purpose in terms of history and prophecy, his sense of timing as to when Jesus was born is impeccable. Here again, however, is a mystery that has perplexed many for centuries.

Not even the Gospels tell us for sure the exact date in which Jesus’ birthday actually took place. Most scholars agree it was on really on December 25th, or any other traditional dates cultures may celebrate it. Some try to figure out his birth date according to the star that appeared over Bethlehem. But, so far, scientific study is only filled with conjecture and nothing concrete to go on.

Others try to figure out the time of Jesus’ birth according to the time Herod ruled Judea. But no one can put a finger on the specific day or month. Perhaps someday archeology will turn something up. So far, however, we’re still in the dark on this matter.

This journalist submits that it probably doesn’t really matter if we know exactly when Jesus was born. We only need to know that God knows according to the way he planned it from the beginning of time (1 Peter 1:20). Since Jesus was born “when the time had fully come” as Paul stated, (Galatians 4:4), then this is what REALLY counts. His birth was in God’s time.

Back during the turbulent sixties when the news reports were about assassinations, race riots, peace rallies, and violent protests against the Vietnam as well as all-around discontent, a student friend of mine remarked to me with skepticism, “Jesus was born at the wrong time. He should’ve been born now so that he could have done something the problems we’ve having.”

My response to him was, “John, the Lord had a reason for Jesus to be born when he was. God says Jesus will come again and put an end to all the wrongs taking place today.” He looked at me as though I was making something up. If only his mind would have been opened to God’s sense of timing instead of his own, (cp., Acts 1:6-7).

WHY WAS HE BORN?

In a news report on the birth of Christ, you’d probably find that many do not seem to understand WHY Jesus was born in the first place. The Apostle Paul could accurately answer that question. He’d say that Jesus was born, “in order that he might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons,” (Galatians 4:5). He would go on to say that since believers are sons (and, daughters, Galatians 3:26-29), then they are entitled to be “an heir through the gracious act of God,” (Gal. 4:7).

As strange as it sounds, the whole point for Jesus being born was for him to die. But his death would not be for any sin he committed for he was without sin (Hebrews 4:15). Rather, he was born to die for our sins (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 John 3:5) so that we might be saved from eternal death, and live forever as an heir in his coming Kingdom (John 3:16; 18:33-40).

Think about it: When Christ the Redeemer comes into your heart and makes you a son or daughter of God, Christmas has come. No matter if we celebrate Christmas on December 25th or any other date, the main idea is that we know WHY we celebrate it since we’ve invited Jesus to be born in our hearts everyday of our lives. I believe that Christmas time is a wonderful occasion for reminding us of this truth since this is when most people have the best opportunity to think about his birth.

HOW DOES HIS BIRTH AFFECT US?

Any journalist who is serious about reporting the truth will see that the birth of Christ affects our feelings, our faith, and our fruitfulness. It affects our feelings because we experience joy (John 15:11) and peace (John 14:27). It affects our faith for by faith we are saved through God’s grace (Ephesians 2:8). It affects our fruitfulness for every product of our actions and thoughts stem from the fact that Jesus was, indeed, born to be Lord and Savior of our lives (Galatians 5:19-24).

His birth also affects the world. “Joy to the World” (words: Isaac Watts; music: George Frederick Handel) is not merely a traditional Christmas song. It’s a statement of truth. It reminds us of the fact that Jesus was born at his first advent (arrival) to bring joy to the world FOREVER at his second advent (arrival) when he returns.

And not only that…the world will finally have “peace on earth, good will” to all, just as in another song we sing at Christmas (“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” words: Henry W. Longfellow; music: J. Baptiste Calkin). You’ll note that “peace on earth” is the what the angel’s heralded at Jesus birth (Luke 2:13-15). Yes, even the angels were affected! Both angels and believers can sing of peace, for Jesus will bring lasting peace when he comes as Prince of Peace according to Isaiah the Prophet (Isaiah 9:6-7).

For at Jesus’ second coming the scriptures will be fulfilled and all the world will come to know him when he rules and reigns in his Kingdom, sitting on the throne of his father, David, just as the angel to Mary long ago (Luke 2:31-33; compare also, Psalm 2:7-9; 43:4; Isaiah 2:4; 35:10; Revelation 19:15-16). Truly, that will be the age when,

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of his love…

OUR RESPONSE TO THE GOOD NEWS

We could not claim that Christ’s birth affects us these ways if Jesus was not WHO he is. We could not make this claim if WHAT happened on his birthday was no different than any other day. We could not make this claim if WHERE and WHEN he was born had no historic and prophetic importance. We could not make this claim if the WHY of his birth had no connection with our hope and eternal salvation. But because we DO make the claim that Christ’s birth deeply and personally affects us, then we know HOW important it is to be loyal to his holy mission and purpose in our lives.

Imagine, as a Christian, you are a journalist looking into the birth of Christ. Don’t forget to publish this report to everyone willing to hear the truth. Don’t sit on this story or shelve it somewhere. Do your own research and don’t depend on the hearsay of others or any untrustworthy information. You want everybody to learn what really happened for you know that everyone needs to know it. I mean, if it’s good enough for the angels to proclaim, God forbid that WE be silent!

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. When you look at the lyrics of this song, just think of the joy that the world will truly know when Jesus comes again: https://youtu.be/kyciMYZq2-Y

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Wisdom We Can Learn From the Wise Men

three-wise-men

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet:

‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
Are by no means least among the leaders of Judah;
For out of you shall come forth a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel.’”

Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him.” After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way.

—Matthew 2:1-12, New American Standard Bible, (NASB)

There are a lot of wise cracks about the wise men in the Christmas story. A few of my favorites are…

~ In a Peanuts cartoon, Charlie Brown says to Snoopy who’s perched on top of his dog house, “And the wise men brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” Snoopy sits there thinking, “No puppy?”

~ Two ladies are chatting with coffee cups in hand and one says to the other, “A virgin birth I can believe, but finding three wise men?”

~ When the wise men arrived to find Baby Jesus, they told Joseph and Mary, “Just to be clear, these gifts are for BOTH his birthday and Christmas.”

~ The wise men would have been on time for that first Christmas but they got sidetracked when they heard rumors about a fat guy riding on a sleigh with lots of gifts and went looking for him.

All jokes aside…

In the Bible, Matthew is the only Gospel writer who mentions the wise men, otherwise known as “the magi,” (more likely, astrologers) who came to worship Jesus after his birth. This is in accord with the main theme of his Gospel—that is, to point out the entitlement of Jesus as King of the Jews in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. This is shown by his account that when the wise men arrived in Jerusalem in search of the Christ child, they were inquiring, “Where is he who has been born King of the Jews?”

By the way, unlike what we see in pictures and hear in stories, the wise men didn’t come to the manger upon the birth of Christ. Rather, according Matthew 2:11, it says, “After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary his mother…” And that’s when they presented the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, to the young child. At this time, Jesus is believed to be between 1 and 2 years old.

The gifts were expensive and customary for presenting to a person of royalty. Gold was a gift for a king (Psalm 72:15). Frankincense was a fragrant incense that Isaiah envisioned as an offering, that, along with gold, “…will bear good news of the praises of the LORD,” (Isaiah 60:6). Myrrh was a spice and perfume of great value that was used for embalming (Psalm 45:8) which, of course, plays into the death of Christ (Mark 15:23; John 19:39). Interestingly, a major reason for the contention that led to Christ’s death on the cross was because his opposition didn’t understand or accept his future kingly role as Messiah (Luke 23:1-38).

If only the unbelievers of our day would be as wise as the wise men were after Jesus was born. Then, they would turn their hearts toward the only One who can save them and give them the kind of joy felt by those like the wise men when they saw the star (or, perhaps a constellation or alignment of stars as some theorize) pointing them in the direction of Christ: “When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.”

What a contrast of their great joy with the evil intentions of King Herod who was only interested in finding out where Christ was born so he could have him killed. He lied, he schemed, he attempted to deceive all because of his fear that a newborn king was going to be a threat to his own power. He is a fitting representation of those who manipulate, ridicule, and destroy all that pertains to good just because of their own selfishness and pride.

When it was learned that Bethlehem was the place to find the Christ child according to prophetic writing (Micah 5:2), the wise men kept on their mission. Their minds were focused on the right place—or, more accurately—the right person, Christ Jesus. They wanted to find the King of the Jews. And so they were looking for the Christ with eyes wide—the way WE must also look for him in our journey of life.

Let me just say here…

While it’s often debated on whether there were three wise men or not, we don’t really know the exact amount. Just because three gifts were presented to Christ, there’s no actual proof there were three wise men. And even though traditional stories specifically give names to three wise men, the scriptures are silent on this, too. Evidently, if it was important to know how many wise men there were and what their names were, it would be included in the Biblical account.

The more important emphasis should be placed on the wisdom we can learn from them. If we want to be wise like the wise men, there are four things we can learn:

(1) We must look willingly with unfaltering determination. Just like it was with the wise men, our journey is often difficult. At times, the search can get rough, lonely, tiring, and even life-threatening. Aware that Herod could not be trusted, they were wise to listen to God’s warning not to return to Jerusalem. So, “they departed for their own country by another way.” 

(2) We must hope expectantly, even though we might face the unexpected. The wise men set out to find the Holy child with great expectations. They were following the star yet not knowing exactly where it would lead. We also have great expectations as we follow our Star, but we do not always know what lies ahead, or where the journey will take us from day to day. We only know that when the time comes for the King to return, all of our hope will be fulfilled when his Kingdom comes. That’s why it’s called “that blessed hope” (Titus 2:13) for it’s what keeps us on our mission.

(3) We must search wisely. We look for signs or indications to how we’re doing. We let the Word of God inspire and instruct us along the way. The wise men wisely followed the prophecy that spoke of the location of Christ’s birth. Whatever the star was, they didn’t just blindly follow it.  Rather, they listened to what God had to say and used his divine guidance and wisdom all along the way. This is wise for us to do, as well (2 Peter 1:19).

(4) We must have a heart to worship. Just think of it: The goal of the wise men was to go to a worship service. They came a long way for it—from as far as Iran or one of the Eastern countries. Would you travel a thousand miles on a camel, no less, to go to a worship service? Would you be willing to offer your precious gifts to the One who would save you and bring everlasting joy into your life? You would, of course, if you yearned to worship the Lord and behold his wonderful, inspiring, beauty and glory. A personal encounter with the Lord awaits every believer who seriously goes to worship the Lord in Spirit and Truth (John 4:23-26). And you are wise to worship him with this kind of attitude. For once you do, like the wise men, you’ll never be same the same again.

As they say, “Wise men (and women) still seek him.” We seek him for the wisdom he provides. It comes by living a lifestyle that brings him honor and praise. It comes by gladly presenting our gifts to him. It comes by applying humility and service out of obedience and love.

The wisdom of the wise speaks out and she cries, “I love those who love me; And those who diligently seek will find me,” (Proverbs 8:17; see also Matthew 7:7-8). This is how we learn wisdom like the wise men displayed.

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. Here’s “The Wise Men’s Song”… https://youtu.be/lwnXK55VeSU

 

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The Co$t of Christmas

cost of christmas

Christmas is just a few weeks away. As advertisers, retailers, and media have been reminding us for the past month or two, it’s time to buy those holiday gifts, get your orders in ahead before the rush, and get prepared for that Holly Jolly Holiday Season.

In the meantime, one of the concerns most of us have is how much is going to be spent on gifts. Some may be more concerned about it than others, depending on how much money one has to spend.

According to Investopedia (updated Nov. 8, 2019),

       Nearly every year since 2008, the amount of money that American consumers spend on holiday gifts has been increasing over the previous year.
       For 2019, industry experts expect the average American to spend $920 per person on holiday gifts, up from $885 in 2018 and reaching a total of more than $1 trillion in holiday spending.
       Over the past decade, e-commerce has captured an increasing swath of the holiday spending market share, with many buying their toys, electronics, and jewelry online.

When I go Christmas shopping, I’m astounded to see carts piled high with all the presents shoppers have purchased. Check out lines seem to stretch out endlessly while customers stack their selected goods along the counter. Cashiers are frantically trying to keep up with the customers anxious to get their items bagged and taken away. One by one, I see customers doling out their hard earned money which is usually in the form of credit or debit cards or, sometimes, out right cash. On rare occasions these days, you might see checks written out. But now, there’s a growing trend to order on line or over the internet (a.k.a., e-commerce) as was previously mentioned in the above report.

Indeed, Christmas is a wonderful time of the year to buy gifts for those we love, but it doesn’t come without a price. It takes money to celebrate it, and more and more each year, or so it appears. CHA-CHING!$!

Now, as we think about the very first Christmas—long before it was ever called by that name—one might ask if it was costly or not. Of course, the cost wouldn’t be in terms of money, per se. But, when you think about it, it DID cost something. For example, as one person wrote,

It cost Joseph and Mary the comforts of home during a long, arduous journey on foot and donkey to the town of Bethlehem, (Luke 2:1-5). Even after Jesus was born, it cost them to have to flee to Egypt in order to protect the Christ child from the evil intentions of King Herod who wanted him killed, (Matthew 2:13-15).

It cost many mothers and fathers in and around Bethlehem the lives of their babies two years old and younger by the wicked Herod who had them unmercifully massacred as he sought out the Christ child, (Matthew 2:16-18).

It cost the shepherds the neglect of their livelihood for a journey to Bethlehem to see the Babe lying in a manger, (Luke 2:8-20).

It cost the wise men a long journey (likely up to 2 years) searching for the Christ child while, carrying expensive gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to present to the Child, (Matthew 2:1-11). It also cost them changed lives to see and worship the Holy Child, (Matthew 2:11). Then, they had to escape for their lives by going another route home so as to avoid the threat of King Herod, (Matthew 2:12).

In time, it cost the early apostles and the church persecution and even sometimes martyrdom, (Matthew 10:16-23).

Over the years, it has cost missionaries untold suffering and privation just for reaching out to others with the Good News of Christ and his Kingdom.

And think of what Christmas cost our Heavenly Father. It cost him more than all for it cost the life of his only begotten Son, (John 3:16).

Finally, what did it cost Jesus? It cost him a life of service and sacrifice, a cruel death on the cross that is unmatched in history. (Pastor T.T. Crabtree, Pastor’s Annual, Zondervan Publishing)

Does Christmas cost for us? You bet. First, we DO think of what it costs in terms of money. Comedian Larry Wilde once opined, “Christmas is the season when people run out of money before they run out of friends.”

But it can cost in other ways, too…

Think about the cost of accumulating too many calories that come with the Holiday Season. It’s so hard to resist those delectable, irresistible, morsels of delight—cookies, candy canes, cheese balls, brownies, shaped with festive designs—making the season one glorious binge, not to mention the consumption of beverages from hot chocolate, eggnog, and punch to wine, rum, and liquor (Note: Consumption of alcoholic drinks are not my preference anytime.).

Overindulging is a great temptation that’s proven to come with cost to our digestive system as well as to our heart, blood pressure, weight, and that bulging tire around our waist. Perhaps our guilt of eating too much during this season is why so many resolve to go on diets and enter exercise programs when the new year has dawned. Just think of the costs that could be saved if a little more moderation or, better yet, abstinence were practiced. But then I could hear some bemoan that this would take the festive part out of the holidays. And, yet, is this REALLY what it’s all about?

Christmas could cost you some sadness: memories of loved ones who are no longer living, losing one’s job and source of income this time of year, suffering from an accident or ill-health, facing a split in one’s marriage, feeling loneliness and isolation, being bombarded by all the bad news in the world, and so forth. Sportswriter Jimmy Cannon remarked, “Christmas is a holiday that persecutes the lonely, the frayed, and the rejected.”

But even in the midst of having a “blue” Christmas, one can enjoy cashing in on a funny joke or two…

There was six-year-old Beth. Little Beth was asked what she was going to give her brother for Christmas. “

“I don’t know,” she answered.

“Well, what did you give him last year?”

“Oh,” she said, “I gave him the chicken pox.!”

It could cost you an embarrassing moment…

Young Stevie forgot his lines in the Sunday School’s Christmas pageant. His mother was in the front row to prompt him. She gestured and formed words silently with her lips. But that didn’t help. Her son’s memory went blank.

Finally, she leaned forward and whispered the cue, “I am the light of the world…I am the light of the world!”

Suddenly, the boy spoke out, “My mommy is the light of the world!”

His mother felt like hiding under the seat.

Considering how much Christmas may cost, you can’t emphasize enough how important it is to focus on the REAL reason why the season should be celebrated in the first place. If the bottom line is not centered on the birth of Jesus, then ChristMAS will be ChristLESS. And that will come with a huge cost. For if Christ and his teachings are not factored into the cost of Christmas, then truly the holiday has lost its true purpose and meaning.

Celebrating Jesus’ birth brings to mind why Jesus was born and what it all has to do with his place in our lives. It’s why we sing “Joy to the World” and all the other Christian songs that herald his birth with the hope it gives his followers. So, whatever cost that comes to you in preparation of the Festive Season, remember to keep Christ in the heart of it all.

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. To give you a smile in this stressful time of the year, here’s a funny parody of the Holiday Classic, “It’s Beginning to Cost a Lot Like Christmas (new holiday song!): http://youtu.be/9TnhQ3lqxoc

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