Finding Success Through Failure

failure

John F. Kennedy said, “Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan; no one wants to claim it.”

Kennedy’s words hit home. Our nature is such that we hate to fail. And, if we DO fail, we don’t even want to talk about it. It’s embarrassing, demeaning, and discouraging.

Yet, as much as we’d like to avoid failure, it happens. We encounter it in a variety of ways—when losing a contest; falling short of reaching a goal; making a mistake; not keeping a promise; neglecting a warning, and so on.

Failures like these can have a negative affect on our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It can cast clouds of doubt over our self-confidence and keep us down. It is, therefore, difficult to imagine that as much as failure can put us in deep, dark funk, there’s a silver lining in it, too.

It all depends on how we view failure. If we fear it, then it will get the best of us. If we think of each failure as a stepping stone to success, then we’ll likely overcome it.

Charles F. Kettering (1876-1958)—American inventor, engineer, businessman, and the holder of 186 patents—said, “We have come to fear failure too much. Failure is the practice essential for success.” He’s also quoted, “The only time you must not fail is the last time you try.”

No doubt, other successful inventors and business persons would agree with Kettering. One of them, Thomas Edison, failed many times. And yet he made 1,100 inventions. It’s said that when he worked on the idea of making artificial light, he couldn’t find a filament that would give good light when electricity flowed through it. He spent two years experimenting with thousands of materials including everything from blades of grass to wire made from platinum. Finally, he used carbonized thread, which is cotton sewing thread burned to ash. On October 21, 1879, he succeeded. (selected)

It is written that failure is not the opposite of success, it is part of success. Though we’re inclined to try to avoid failure, we can learn from it whenever we experience it. Thus, we take each experience to move closer to success. We might have to go through much defeat in the process before achieving success.

Consider Abraham Lincoln:

Failed in business ...................................age 22;
Ran for legislature ..................................    23;
Again failed in business .............................    24;
Elected to Legislature ...............................    25;
Sweetheart died ......................................    26;
Had a nervous breakdown ..............................    27;
Defeated for Speaker .................................    29;
Defeated for Elector .................................    31;
Defeated for Congress ................................    34;
Elected to Congress ..................................    37;
Defeated for Congress ................................    39;
Defeated for Senate ..................................    46;
Defeated for Vice President ..........................    47;
Defeated for Senate ..................................    49;
Elected President of the United States ...............    51;

Great people fail but they also succeed when it’s all said and done. That’s what makes them great. And this includes persons of faith. (selected)

The Apostle Paul failed. He said,

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. (Romans 7:15-20, New American Standard Bible, NASB).

Paul admitted he wasn’t perfect due to his sinful nature. And so he failed to do what he knew he should do even though he desired to do good. But by coming to grips with his failings, years later he was able to declare his success:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing. (2 Timothy 4:7-8, NASB).

Paul wasn’t the only person who failed yet became successful. There were many other persons of faith who failed. Peter failed, yet he was a great leader of the early church. The same with all the other apostles.

In the Old Testament, David, Israel’s greatest king, “a man after God’s own heart,” (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22) failed (2 Sam. 11). Moses, giant among the Israelites, giver of the Law, deliverer of the people, failed (Numbers 20:12; Deuteronomy 3:23-29; Psalm 106:32-33). Jacob, father of the nation of Israel, failed; Isaac, son of promise, failed (Gen. 25:29-34). Isaac, son of promise, failed (Gen. 26:6-7). Abraham, progenitor of Israel, father of the faithful, prototype of those who are righteous through faith, failed (Gen. 20:1-3). And, as we’re well aware, even our first parents, in their human perfection, failed (Gen. 3). So, who hasn’t failed? (Rom. 3:23)

Thankfully, by God’s grace, we can find success through our failures. On account of God’s marvelous grace, we can gain more knowledge and wisdom with every failure because of the hope we have in Jesus Christ, his Son, (Ephesians 2:8-10). And if we trust God through Christ who gives us the power to overcome our circumstances, we shall move forward with success.

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose.” Included in the “all things” are the failures we go through in order for God to work them out for our own good, that we might grow in our faith and overcome our faults. Here’s “Your Love Never Fails,” featuring Chris Quilala and Jesus Culture: http://youtu.be/IoezWBPGRAc

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Criticizing Criticism

criticism_ppt

A Peanuts cartoon depicted Linus with his security blanket in place with his thumb resting safely in his mouth. But he was troubled. Turning to Lucy, who was sitting next to him, he asked, “Why are you always so anxious to criticize me?”
Her response was typical: “I just think I have a knack for seeing other people’s faults.”
Exasperated, Linus threw his hands up and asked, “What about your own faults?”
Without hesitation, Lucy explained, “I have a knack for overlooking them.” (selected)

Do you know of someone like Lucy? If push came to shove, I suppose all of us would have to confess we all have that knack to one degree or another.

It’s easy to criticize others. THEIR faults stand out like a sore thumb. But OUR faults? What faults? We can’t seem to find any.

Jesus was well aware of our nature to criticize others. In Matthew 7:3-5 Jesus said,

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (New International Version, NIV)

Jesus was rightfully criticizing the criticism of those who wrongfully criticize. We’re more than glad to pluck someone’s splinter from THEIR eyes and remove THEIR faults. But due to our short sightedness, like Lucy, we can’t see the big plank planted in OUR OWN eyes.

Jesus harshly criticized the critic: “You hypocrite….” The Greek word for “hypocrite” is hupokrites (pronounced, hoop-ok-ree-tace’) which literally means, “a stage actor,” or acting under a mask; pretending to say one thing, and doing another. In his criticism, Jesus was exposing a two-faced person who needed to clean up his own act, first, before trying to straighten out someone else.

Now, often we may feel justified trying to correct another person’s faults, calling it constructive criticism. Maybe that’s all Lucy was aiming to do whenever she criticized Linus. But Linus didn’t seem to take it that way when he questioned her. And her flippant remark wouldn’t have gone down well, either, saying she had a knack for overlooking HER faults. As someone said, “Constructive criticism is when I criticize you. Destructive criticism is when you criticize me.”

And that’s the dilemma of criticism. It may be sincerely intended to help someone. And, perhaps, when someone has criticized us, they were only trying to get us to change something that we didn’t even know needed to be changed.

How we perceive and receive criticism is important. One of the surest marks of good character is a person’s ability to accept personal criticism without feeling malice toward the one who gives it. If it’s going to be with good intentions, it needs to be in a spirit of love (1 Corinthians 13:4-7; Romans 12:9); humility (Romans 12:3; Ephesians 4:2; Colossians 3:12; James 4:6-12); and respect (Matt. 7:12; Rom. 12:17-18; 1 Peter 2:17).

If there’s to be any need for criticism, it should always leave a person with the feeling he has been helped. Anything short of that only causes provocation, resentment, and anger. Faultfinding without offering suggestions is counterproductive.

And examine your motives, too. Ask yourself: Am I criticizing someone because of my concern for the other person, or is it simply to make me feel better? One wise rule to follow: Before finding fault with another person, stop and count ten—of your own.

Criticizing criticism is a way of being objective whenever we’re tempted to find fault with someone, even a friend. If Lucy would have thought more seriously about why she was really criticizing Linus, he likely wouldn’t have needed to question her. Before finding fault, keep this thought in mind: “It’s smart to pick your friends—but not to pieces.”

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. Here’s a Bible song taken right from Matthew 7:3-5, https://youtu.be/B4JBo9adBVM

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Noses Up in the Air

slide1Someone with much pride is often described as having their nose up in the air. This is especially evident when they’re in the company of those they deem as inferior. What do we do when WE are in the presence of someone who looks down their nose at us like that?

There’s a joke about two well-bred female AKC (American Kennel Club)-approved dogs who were proudly strutting down the street with their noses held high in the air. Along came a big alley dog, a mutt. Embarrassed at being in the company of such a no-account, one of the dogs said, “We must go. My name is Miji, spelled M-I-J-I!” The other one said, “My name is Miki, spelled M-I-K-I!” The alley dog put his nose up in the air also, did his own little strut, and said, “My name is Fido, spelled P-H-Y-D-E-A-U-X!” (selected)

Fido wasn’t about to let these uppity canines outdo him. He could put his nose just as high as they could, strut around, and make HIS name just as classy as theirs. Fido had his pride, too, and he wasn’t about to let them outdo him. But was this really necessary? Did he have to raise himself to their egotistical level?

There’s a saying, “Always hold your head up, but be careful to keep your nose at a friendly level.” This would have been good advice for Fido. So what, he was only a mutt! He could still hold his head up as an alley dog without his nose up in the air like those other two snobbish dogs. He didn’t need to make an impression on Miji and Miki just to get their acceptance or to impress them or to show he is better than them. But isn’t this natural?

We want to fit in, be respected, and feel like we’re just as good as those who look down upon us. But when we let our own pride get the best of us, and try to outdo them, we end up only fooling ourselves and making ourselves look foolish in the process. Like Fido—a common, ordinary alley dog—we can’t change the fact that we are who we are, too. And, as such, we don’t need to pretend we’re something we are not.

God can and will use us just as we are—that is, as long as we are willing to give up our pride and humble ourselves before him. James wrote, “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you,” (James 4:10, New American Standard Bible, NASB). He’s not looking for persons with their noses in the air, but those who humbly submit to him out of love, honor, and devotion. Then, he will exalt us or lift us up, not we ourselves.

In essence, when we are humble, we have no need or desire to hold our noses in the air. And yet, when we humble ourselves and literally look up to heaven for strength, there’s no other choice but that our noses point up in the air, too. The big difference is, however, our noses are not pointing up out of haughtiness. We’re humbly turning to God. As the Psalmist declared, “I will lift up my eyes [and nose!] to the mountains; From whence shall my help come? My help comes from the LORD…,” (Psalm 121:1-2a, NASB).

Once there was a King called Nebuchadnezzar (pronounced, neh-byoo-kuhd-NEHZ-er), a great and powerful ruler of Babylon from 605 BC to 562 BC. Babylon was home of one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Hanging Gardens, which is credited to him.

The Bible says that one day, as Nebuchadnezzar was walking around on the roof of his royal palace, he gazed out over his grand city. And the self-righteous king “…reflected and said, ‘Is this not Babylon the great, which I MYSELF have built as royal residence by the might of MY power and the glory of MY majesty?'” (Daniel 4:30 NASB). Talk about someone with his nose up in the air! He was a typical elitist who let his power go to this head.

But God was about to teach him a valuable lesson. It says that even while these words were in his mouth, “…a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared: sovereignty [literally, “your kingdom”] will be removed from you,'” (Dan. 4:31). God went on to reveal his ominous punishment:

“And you will be driven away from mankind, and your dwelling place will be with the beasts of the field. You will be given grass to eat like cattle, and seven periods of time will pass over you, until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over you, the realm of mankind, and bestows it on whomever he wishes.'” (Dan. 4:32).

So it says that,

“Immediately the word concerning Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled, and he was driven away from mankind and began eating grass like cattle, and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven, until his hair had grown like eagles’ feathers and his nails like bird’s claws,” (Dan. 4:33).

There are different explanations on the kind of sickness God afflicted on Nebuchadnezzar. According to The Pharmaceutical Journal (posted by Prospector PJ, 10 July 2013), it is believed that the king suffered from boanthropy, a psychological disorder in which the sufferer believes he or she is an ox or cow. Another assertion is that he had porphyria—an enzyme disorder that produces “neurological symptoms such as hallucinations, depression, anxiety, paranoia, or general paresis or paralytic dementia caused by syphilis.”

The post adds,

“The porphyrias are a group of rare inherited or acquired disorders of certain enzymes that normally participate in the production of porphyrins and haem. They manifest with either neurological complications or skin problems, or occasionally both.” (https://www.pharmaceutical-journal.com/opinion/blogs/nebuchadnezzar-and-boanthropy/11123165.blog?firstPass=false)

Whatever his affliction was, it was enough to bring the king to his senses. After suffering for a period of seven years, Nebuchadnezzar again turned his nose up in the air. But this time, it was out of humility, not pride.

In his own words, Nebuchadnezzar recalls,

“But at the end of that period, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever; For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, And His kingdom endures from generation to generation,” (Dan. 4:24).

Once Nebuchadnezzar turned his face toward the true God of heaven, he was returned to his sanity and his sovereignty was restored (Dan. 4:36). And he concludes,

“Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride,” (Dan. 4:37).

Nebuchadnezzar’s experience serves as a good lesson for us. God desires that we do not put our noses in the air out of pride and arrogance. He wants us to look up to him and give him the praise that he so deserves since he gave his only begotten Son to give us the hope of receiving eternal life. Unlike Fido, all we need to do is give God the glory and praise, for as King Nebuchadnezzar declared,

“For His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
And His kingdom endures from generation to generation.
“All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
But He does according to His will in the host of heaven
And among the inhabitants of earth;
And no one can ward off His hand
Or say to Him, ‘What have You done?'” (Dan. 4:34b, 35).

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. Here’s a worship video that encourages us to look up to God for our help: http://youtu.be/KP1QKueGK-o

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Resolved to Be Distinctive

distinctive christian

Making New Year’s resolutions is both customary and natural. It’s customary in that it has become a time-honored practice for many whenever we enter a brand new year. It’s natural because we are humanly inclined to want to put past disappointments behind us and look ahead with hope to make things better.

Some make resolutions; others don’t. Ironically, those who don’t make resolutions are resolved to believe that they can’t be kept anyway. So, why bother? This is natural, too. For in their thinking, why get one’s hope up only to see a resolution broken not long after it was made? Someone quipped, “Most of the leaves we turned over in January have already started to fall.”

But the cynics against New Year’s resolutions are apparently in the minority. According to one source, a survey taken by YouGov just prior to 2018 revealed that most people were looking forward to turning over a new leaf. It was reported that only 32 percent were not planning to make New Year’s resolutions, therefore, leading to the conclusion that the majority were. Some of the top resolutions were to eat better, exercise more, spend less money, take better care of themselves like get more sleep. and to read more. (https://patch.com/us/across-america/here-are-most-popular-new-years-resolutions-2018)

Did all of them follow through with their goals? According to a YouGov survey taken midway through last year, only one out of five Americans or 20% mostly or completely stuck with their 2018 New Year’s resolutions. To break it down, the survey showed that only six percent kept their resolution 100 percent while 14 percent said they had “mostly stuck” with their resolution. As far as I can find right now, the stats on this issue for the remainder of the year are not in yet. But I venture to say that, according to the statistics gathered previously in the year, the numbers didn’t change much. (https://today.yougov.com/topics/lifestyle/articles-reports/2018/06/28/2018-new-years-resolutions-update)

So, with these figures, we ask: Are the cynics correct? Are many justified in not making any resolutions for the year? What does it mean to make a resolution, anyway?

Consider the meaning of the word. A resolution indicates that someone is resolved to find a solution to a problem and firmly decide on the action one will take. “Resolve” is a strong word with synonyms like courage, firmness, steadfastness. When someone of strong character is hell-bent on pursuing a resolution, that person is resolved to see it through.

As we find from the statistics, most people sincerely make resolutions but very few are totally resolved to complete them. The custom of making them is natural. But if there isn’t enough resolve, then the custom of breaking them is also natural without the strength of will.

For Christians, living the way of Christ is more significant than the custom of making New Year’s resolutions. For it’s far more than a natural desire to make things better for the next 12 months. It’s a serious resolve to let Christ provide transformation and growth for the rest of one’s life.

In my thinking, following Christ boils down to a genuine and sincere resolve to be distinctive as opposed to the ungodly ways of the world. For the Apostle Paul urged the Corinthian church, “Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,” says the Lord. “And do not touch what is unclean; And I will welcome you,” (2 Cor. 6:17.) Paul was concerned that the church was into idolatry and worldliness that went against the higher standards of God’s Word (verses 11-16). He was exhorting believers to be resolved in two things: (1) to set themselves apart from sin; and, (2) to set themselves apart for God and his service.

This is the kind of resolve we all need. Even though we wrestle against sin everyday as we strive to serve God, we do not give up giving 100 percent toward reaching this goal. Like Paul testified, “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet (resurrection to life, vss. 10-12) ; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus, (Philippians 4:13-14).

The apostle reminded the Corinthian church, just as we’re reminded today, that we are part of God’s family. Quoting Isaiah, the prophet who recorded God’s Word to Israel, “I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” Says the Lord Almighty,” (2 Cor. 6:18; Isa. 43:6). Now that Christ has grafted Gentile believes into “the commonwealth of Israel” (Romans 11:11-13; Ephesians 2:11-13), we also have the duty and privilege of pursuing our resolve to obey our Father in heaven. This gives us a unique distinction to which nonbelievers cannot identify or relate.

Our resolve to “come out from among them” and “be separate” is not taken lightly (2 Cor. 7:1; 1 Peter 2:9-12). When the unbelieving world sees us working to hold to our holy resolve, it will challenge us to remain true to it. Moreover, due to our nature, we will be tempted to give up under the pressure of our own personal temptation. And even though we give it our best shot everyday, we will often fail. That’s just the way it is. (Note Paul’s frustration: Romans 7:14-25.)

However—unlike making and breaking New Year’s resolutions—we are still determined to NEVER give up on our resolve as God’s people to trust and obey him through his wonderful grace. We continue to move forward, resolved to be distinctive in truth, through love, faith, and hope in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. The cause of our resolve is Jesus Christ and our desire to make him Number One in our lives. Here’s Kari Jobe singing, “The Cause of Christ”: http://youtu.be/v0ybgYajDHg

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Hope For a Better Future

hebrews 10v23

Jemima was taking an afternoon nap on New Year’s Eve before the festivities. After she woke up, she confided to Max, her husband, “I just dreamed that you gave me a diamond ring for a New Year’s present. What do you think it all means?”

“Aha, you’ll know tonight,” answered Max smiling broadly.

At midnight, as the New Year was chiming, Max approached Jemima and handed her a small package. Delighted and excited she opened it quickly. There in her hand rested a book entitled: “The meaning of dreams.”

Some people dream of having a better future. But that’s all it turns out to be—a dream. Dreams are not guaranteed to come true.

Hope, on the other hand, is different. It’s not some pipe dream or wishful thinking. It’s an expectation. And, from a Biblical standpoint, the believer’s hope for a better future is sure to come true.

And when I say better future, I’m thinking of the time that the prophets foretold—a time that will be happier than, for example, receiving a diamond ring. We know that such a time is coming because the prophets were moved by a higher Power than their own. 

The Apostle Peter declared, “…for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God,” (2 Peter 1:21, New American Standard Bible, NASB).

We can be assured there will be a better future—more wonderful than anyone can dream of—because it is promised through divine revelation Therefore, we are absolutely certain beyond the shadow of a doubt that our hope is valid and reliable. Without  the intervention of God’s Holy Spirit, all other sources for predicting the future are futile, false, and faulty.

In his book, Systematic Theology, Dr. Alva Huffer wrote,

Apart from divine revelation, man cannot know what the future holds. Man cannot acquire information about the future through fortune tellers, spiritualist mediums, or the oracles of Delphi. He cannot learn what the future holds by observing cloud formations, flights of birds, position of stars in the sky, lines in a person’s hand, bumps on one’s head, tea leaves, and similar superstitions. Divine revelation is man’s only source of knowledge concerning the future.

From God’s Word, we are promised that an age is coming when all things will be restored to the way God intended before there was sin in the world. It will commence when Jesus Christ returns to earth and establishes God’s kingdom. When we give our lives to Christ and repent of our sins, we have the hope that a better time will come.

The Apostle Peter said,

Repent, then, and turn back, so that your sins may be wiped away, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus, the Christ, who has been appointed for you. Heaven must take Him in until the time comes for the restoration of all things, which God announced long ago through His holy prophets. For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your brothers. You must listen to Him in everything He tells you.…(Acts 3:19-21, Berean Study Bible, BSB).

Christians are looking forward to a better future for they have the “blessed hope” of Jesus’ coming (Titus 2:11-14) and all that he will do when that time comes (2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1-4). As each year comes and each year goes, we anticipate that wonderful time. We do not know the day nor the hour of his coming (Matt. 24:36, 42-44), but we do know it is coming. And every day that goes by gets us that much closer to it. It’s not just a dream.

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

P.S. Here’s Kathy Troccoli singing, “My Life Is in Your Hands”: https://youtu.be/7nA8mMEBb9U

 

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Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Christmas

As I was doing some research on Christmas, I came across a book that cited some interesting historical facts behind the traditions of the holiday season. See how many of these facts you may or may not already know:

  • During the early days of Christianity, different parts of the world celebrated Christmas on different dates. If you traveled widely in the Roman world, you could conceivably enjoy six different Christmases in the span of a single year. It was Pope Julius I in the mid-fourth century who appointed a monk named Dionysius to set up a calendar standardizing a universal date, which came to be December 25.
  • Christmas was outlawed in England by the Puritans under Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658) who thought of it as a “heathen celebration.” It was illegal to celebrate the holiday until the British monarchy was restored in 1660.
  • Christmas was also outlawed by the Puritans of New England. The following law was passed in Massachusetts in 1659: “Whoever shall be found observing any such day as Christmas and the like, either by forbearing labor, feasting or any other way, shall pay for any such offense five shillings as a fine to the country.” The law remained on the books for 22 years, and Christmas was not made a legal holiday in Massachusetts until just before the Civil War.
  • In Spain, Christmas gifts are not exchanged until January 6…That is the date [known as Epiphany—ed.] commemorating the visit of the Magi, who were the first to offer Christmas gifts—gold, frankincense, and myrrh. On that night, children set their shoes outside on the doorstep, filling them with straw for the camels. They believe the wise men will fill the shoes with gifts and candy.
  • The custom of sending Christmas cards began in 1843 when a wealthy Englishman, Sir Henry Cole, ran out of time to write personal letters to his friends at Christmas. He commissioned an artist, John Calcott Horsley, to design a card instead. Horsley drew a picture of a group of merry-wishers raising their glasses in toast. Underneath were the words, “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You.” The card created much controversy, as critics complained it encouraged holiday drinking. But the custom of sending cards at Christmas caught on nonetheless.
  • The Poinsettia is a Christmas tradition harkening from Mexico. According to legend, a boy named Pablo was headed to his village church to see its nativity scene. Realizing he had no gift for the Christ child, he hurriedly gathered some branches and weeds from the roadside. When he laid them before the manger, the other children laughed at him. But suddenly there appeared on each branch the brilliant, star-shaped flower of the Poinsettia.
  • Candy canes were reportedly developed by a Christian candymaker in Indiana who built the story of Christmas into each piece. The hardness of the candy represents the solid rock of the Christian faith. The white represents the sinlessness of Christ, and the red stripes symbolize the bloody wounds caused by his flogging. The shape of the candy is that of a shepherd’s staff, representing Christ as our Good Shepherd. Turned upside down, it forms the letter “J”—for Jesus.
  • Our word Christmas comes from the English observance of the birth of Christ called Christes masse (Christ’s mass), because a special mass was celebrated on that day. In France, it’s known as Noel; in Spain, Navidad; and in  Italy, Natale—all those words meaning simply birthday. The Germans use the word Weihnachten, meaning holy nights.
  • The word Yule comes from the Teutonic tribes of northern Europe. Because their winters were so long and harsh and their days so short, they always celebrated the winter solstice on December 22, the shortest day of the year. It was a time of great joy for them. From that point each year the days began to lengthen. They called the month Yule, or Jol, from which we get our English word jolly.
  • The day after Christmas is commonly called “Boxing Day” in England [also, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand –ed.], because of the custom of giving Christmas boxes containing gifts and money to the servants.
    (As cited in Preacher’s Sourcebook of Creative Sermon Illustrations, Robert J. Morgan)

I find these traditions fascinating not only because of the way they got started but how many of them are still upheld today.

In the midst of these or any other traditions we might have, we don’t want to let them sidetrack us concerning the TRUE reason for celebrating the Christmas season. It’s important for believers to be reminded that the Biblical account of Christ’s birth not get lost in any of our traditional practices or beliefs.

Tradition or not, the bottom line for celebrating Christmas lies in the fact that Jesus Christ was born to save us from our sins and give us the hope of receiving eternal life (John 3:16-17). For the angel said to Joseph in the dream saying,

“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife: for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bear a Son; and you shall call his name, Jesus, for it is he who will save his people from their sins,” (Matthew 1:20-21, New American Standard Bible, NASB). (See also, Matt. 18:11; Luke 19:10; 1 Timothy 1:15.)

Good News to YOU!
& Merry Christmas!
Pastor Michael

P.S. Here is Dennis Jernigan singing, “He Was Born to Save Us” https://youtu.be/2PSmplUPubc

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Lights! Camera! ACTION!

 

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Think of what goes on when filming a movie scene and you automatically picture a director decked out with beret and baggy pants yelling through a megaphone, Lights! Camera! Action! These three words are said to be first uttered way back to 1910 by the famed director, D.W. Griffith. Fast forward a hundred years, and these words oversimplify what director’s say before cameras start rolling in our day.

The director cannot call for action until preparations have been made on the set. A lot of technical adjustments must take place in order to get the lighting ready (lights… board…bulbs…shadows). Hours and hours are spent making sure the cameras are in the right position at the right time, from early morning to late at night. And often the weather conditions can have a bearing on how soon a scene can be filmed , too.

On the day of filming, the director must make sure everything is good to go before the action takes place. Like an airplane pilot getting ready for a flight, the director checks with the cast and crew (Picture up…Everyone settle!…Cameras set!); the director of photography (Ready?…Ready!); the mixer (Sound ready?…Sound ready!); first assistant director (Ready?…Boom in…Slate in…); mixer (speed); 2nd assistant camera person (Voice slate scene…). And after a few more checks, you finally hear, Roll camera…Speed…Marker (clapper board is clapped)…ACTION!

The whole routine sort of puts me in the mind of Christmas. Christmas lights are set up. Modern day cameras–a.k.a. I-Phones and I-Pads–are set to roll to capture those happy holiday moments. Finally, the day that everyone is expecting arrives and now the ACTION can actually take place—unwrapping gifts, wishing “Merry Christmas” to loved ones, and sitting down to devour a delicious meal with family.

BUT WAIT!!! HOLD THAT CAMERA!!! Is something missing from this Norman Rockwell- kind-of-scene, perhaps??? Ah, yes! What about the one true Light that makes Christmas truly shine with love, peace, and joy? What about, “In him was Life, and the Life was the Light of men…There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man,” (John 1:4, 9)? Christmas lights may beautify the holiday but they are not as glorious and spectacular as “the star” that literally shined down from heaven over “the Bright Morning Star” (Rev. 22:160 who came to save the world (Matt. 2:9).

God, our Director, made the perfect preparations for the Light of Christmas to shine in the world. Holy men published the script, the scenery was set, the Light was announced, and now, like a camera ready to roll, ACTION! Christ our Savior was born. Act I began!

“And the Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; the grace of God was upon him…And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men,” (Luke 2:40, 52).

But the show has only begun. There are three more Acts in this drama. Act II is his Teaching Ministry. Act III is in three parts: Part 1, His Sacrificial Death; Part 2, His Resurrection to Immortality; and Part 3, His Post- Resurrection Appearances and Ascension to Heaven. Act IV is His Second Coming as King and the Establishment of God’s Eternal Kingdom.

Just think of it: We’ve been in Act III for about 2,000 years. We call this period, “The Church Age.” All this time, believers in Christ have been called out by our Director, to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. We’re among the cast of characters serving him by faith. Meanwhile, the cameras keep on rolling. The Director hasn’t called “cut” yet. We don’t know how long it will be until we enter Act IV. It may be sooner than most can imagine (Matt. 24:44).

Just as a director is pictured as calling out, Lights! Camera! ACTION! when the film is about to roll, our Director has been calling the world to follow his Son, the One born long ago. We are now preparing for the final Act. Are you as excited for this coming attraction as much as a child is excited about Christmas?

Good News to YOU!
Pastor Michael

P.S. Here’s Chris Tomlin presenting, “Joy to the World (Unspeakable Joy!)” https://youtu.be/tC3SwhJsLqU

 

 

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