Archive for December, 2015

christmas without christOn Christmas, most of us will gather with family or friends, exchange presents, watch kids tear through wrapped boxes in record time, and eat way too much food. Others will be faced with loneliness, health or financial issues, a broken family, and some will consider suicide.

But it’s “the most wonderful time of the year,” right?

The truth is even Christians don’t always feel joy and peace in this world or with other people. In fact, conflict often seems to be the norm. This temporary world is not our home as our citizenship is in Heaven (Phil. 3:20) and we truly are just passing through. But why does lasting peace seem so elusive, even during Christmastime?

Isn’t there supposed to be “peace on earth”? What did the angels mean when they appeared to the shepherds praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” Luke 2:14

The only true peace we can have – on this earth – is by doing God’s will and pleasing Him. This requires faith (Hebrews 11:6) because only through the shed blood of Christ on the cross can we find forgiveness, reconciliation, and peace with God. This however, doesn’t mean we will have peace with people.

Jesus said,

Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division; (Luke 12:51)… “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven. Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. (Matthew 10:32-34)

The world is divided over Jesus. A baby in a feeding trough called a “manger” is not confrontational or threatening. But that baby born in Bethlehem of Judea grew up and declared that He is the Truth and no one comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6).

Lots of folks would have preferred that Jesus remain an infant because at Christmas, the world can look at the baby Jesus on a bale of hay and think, ‘how cute,’ and then go on living however they want with no thought of the future. Millions of people say they’re happy and at peace without God, but Jesus also said “whoever is not for Me is against Me,” and He confronts that which is not based on a personal relationship with Him.

But how do we reconcile the angel’s proclamation of peace with what Jesus said?

Pastor John Mac Arthur writes about the Paradox of Christmas, that on that holy night 2,000 years ago:

“One star lit the Heavens and marked the spot where the Christ was born, where God was made flesh. Today a million neon signs mark the spot where the sale begins, or where you can throw away your money buying what isn’t needed…

The babe of Bethlehem was born a Savior to give to men all that they need. He has been replaced by a huckster named Santa Claus…”

If you find yourself getting too busy, rushing around buying things, overwhelmed with preparations or piling up credit card debt, stop! Cancel your Christmas traditions and worship Jesus. Sadly, Christmas is the only time many people forget to invite the guest of honor to His own birthday celebration!

Christians see the birth of Christ as the most glorious event of the world next to His resurrection through which He defeated death. To others, Christmas is a reminder of what could be, but the lures of this world, pride, and the desire to live what they think is their best life now trumps the truth of the gospel and eternal destinations.

Jesus Christ is the Cornerstone of our faith; Isaiah refers to Him as “a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation (Isaiah 28:16).”

You can only celebrate Christmas with real joy and peace if your trust is in the Good Shepherd because if you don’t believe, then Christ is a “rock of offense” or a stumbling stone. He is precious to us who are saved, but offensive to the world; so much so they avoid any reminders of God, their sin, judgment, and accountability.

The hostility toward Christians escalates almost daily it seems, and this time of year, ongoing efforts to remove nativity scenes from public places continue. Due to people claiming to be offended, many Christmas carols are now prohibited in public schools and other places, and atheists keep placing billboards attacking our faith. Even many department stores and websites avoid using the word “Christmas.”

fighting over presents

Lots of people who do not believe in God or Jesus still buy and exchange presents, go to parties, and maybe even attend church on Christmas Day. It is what most Americans have always done.

It’s not a war against Christmas, but against the person, truth, and deity of Jesus Christ.

Pastor Greg Laurie wrote about the conflict of Christmas reminding us of the spiritual warfare going on all around us…

One of the unexpected passages in the Bible that deals with the subject of Christmas is found in Revelation 12, where we have the picture of a woman being pursued by a powerful dragon who seeks her death. As she is preparing to give birth to a child, the dragon hovers over her, wanting to destroy the baby. The woman is a picture of Israel, the child is Jesus Christ, and the dragon is Satan.

In verse five, the male child is described “who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron.” There may not necessarily be a culture war, but there sure is a spiritual war going on. For those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus, the devil (dragon) is at war with us (Revelation 12:17).

The angel Gabriel announced the holy Child shall be called the son of God (Luke 1:35). To Mary, he also said:

And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” Luke 1:31-33 (NASB)

No wonder Satan was furious! No wonder people are offended. Old Testament prophecies and the picture of the Messiah were and are coming together. This baby would be surrounded by controversy and upheaval.

Even when Mary and Joseph took baby Jesus to the temple to be dedicated, a righteous and devout man named Simeon was there “looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him.” When he saw Jesus, he praised God saying, “My eyes have seen your salvation… (Luke 2:30).” They were encouraged and warned at the same time.

And His father and mother were amazed at the things which were being said about Him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed— and a sword will pierce even your own soul—to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” Luke 2:33-35

In order for us to be adopted into the family of God, Jesus, “born of a woman, born under the law” was sent here on a rescue mission to redeem us at the perfect time (Galatians 4:4-5).

A strange way to save the world? Perhaps; but it was God’s plan all along!

Preaching on the day of Pentecost, the Apostle Peter declared to the people regarding Jesus, “delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up again (Acts 2:23-24)…”

In this truth – in Him – we hope.

Let’s pray for those who feel hopeless, depressed, confused, lonely, or lost. Christians should not only understand what’s at stake, but as messengers of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18) we should share the glad tidings of great joy. This never gets old:

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Someone once said that the hinge of history is on the door of Bethlehem’s stable. Opposition is guaranteed; salvation is not; but in Christ, God has provided the way. Let’s do our part to point people in the right direction and get them on the road leading from the manger through the cross to His throne. God has done the rest.

Merry Christmas!

from manger to cross

For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; 2 Thessalonians 5:2-4

children praying in 1962

If the foundations are destroyed what can the righteous do? Psalm 11:3

Looking back at history and comparing early America to today, few would deny the fact the transformation has been drastic and the moral decay great. Were there warning signs and if so, why were they not heeded? Consequences of Christians backing out of culture include open promotion of sin, a nation in which God has practically been blotted out, bigger government and less freedom, a virtually ineffective church, and the fact we have nearly lost the battle for righteousness.

Prior to the acceleration of our decline however, Christians in the 1800s were gaining converts, momentum, and influence. Some consider that century the greatest missionary century in history. Our culture, institutions, laws, and businesses were influenced by Christians who, for the most part, were not ashamed to live their faith publicly and discuss spiritual things.

As the 1900s rolled around, things began changing as America experienced economic success and cultural advances. Several factors including busier lives, increased population, and worldly temptations led many believers to back out of public involvement in political and social issues.

By 1918, all states required mandatory school attendance for children, and the public education movement in America rapidly expanded in the decades to follow, soon to be infiltrated by progressives. By more or less withdrawing from culture, Christian leaders gave humanists and secularists control of major institutions, including higher education, government, the judiciary, media, and the entertainment industry.

The results have been devastating. This spiritual war had been going on from the beginning, but suddenly it seemed as if the primary battleground and prize possession was the United States. Major conflicts were brewing within America. As you read this, you may be saying to yourself “but where were the religious leaders and why weren’t more Christians taking a stand?” Can we not ask the same questions today?

We must realize evil is at work all around us, and there is nothing new under the sun. When depravity and immorality appear more prevalent in society, one of the main causes can be traced to silent or inactive Christians. This environment sets the stage for emboldened agendas against God, His Word, and His people…

Discrimination toward Christians in America is increasing and we tolerate a faulty understanding of the First Amendment. As society becomes more corrupt and godless, those who hate God no longer feel the need to be subtle about it. Where they used to simply disagree with us, today they want to remove the “conservative opposition” by silencing us.

Opponents of the biblical Christian worldview are not satisfied with just denying God exists as they fight to stop our moral influence on culture. Our choice to trust in Jesus Christ rubs them the wrong way, and they now feel emboldened to go so far as to take away that option for anyone else. We are at this pivotal point in our history because Christians not only allowed the secularization of America, some have welcomed it…

Most of our Founding Fathers would have testified to the fact that this country was based on the morals and values in the Holy Bible. Standing for truth demanded a firm foundation without abandonment of principles and standards. It is so much easier to compromise than to reverse the devastating consequences of compromise.

Citizens of Germany know all about compromise. Perhaps one of the more known and respected Christian martyrs of the 20th century is Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German theologian and conservative Lutheran pastor famous for his stand against Adolf Hitler and the Nazi socialist party. He refused to compromise, and his beliefs and convictions ultimately cost him his life days before the Allies invaded Germany in 1945. Bonhoeffer once said:

If the heart is devoted to the mirage of the world, to the creature instead of the Creator, the disciple is lost … However urgently Jesus may call us, His call fails to find access to our hearts … for they have already been given to another.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s words should keep true believers inspired and motivated: “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil;”

As Chancellor of Germany in 1933, Hitler promised, “The rights of the churches will not be curtailed.” He flat out lied.

Looking back in regret for not opposing Hitler years earlier, Niemoller admitted he was betrayed. Laws were passed preventing churches from interfering in politics, and the Nazis systematically limited church influence in society…

In Germany, the churches were kept quiet by force; in America, the churches have been silent due to self-inflicted apathy (for now).

How long will true Christians and freedom-loving Americans allow a power-hungry, corrupt government to bully and intimidate us? How about when activist judges overrule the people – should we be silent? Governing authorities in Germany had the same agenda in 1935 as radicals and the left in America have today: Eliminate all Christian influence over public life…

Many have asked how such a thing as Hitler’s Nazism rose to dominance in a once Christian nation on the very cutting edge of civilization. Author Scott Alan Buss concluded that whenever God is removed, something or someone else must take His place. Buss writes:

I now know that a nation that is Christian in name only is no farther from hellish barbarism than that which openly professes allegiance to a pagan god or no god at all. I now know that the paths of historic Germany and contemporary America are founded on a solid, clear, and powerful line of logic. It all begins with one simple, all-encompassing and worldview defining principle: There is no God.

America has not been far behind Europe in many aspects of society. If there was ever a time for Christians to shout from the rooftops and warn others, that time is now…

Keep in mind this is but a set-up for the Antichrist. What is happening in America and around the world is paving the way for the ultimate government that will be god to the people. The “man of lawlessness” is waiting in the wings, but Jesus Christ will ultimately bring godly government to the world during the millennium.

America and the world are heading toward exactly what the Bible predicted…

Proverbs 14:34 states,” Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” America will either advance toward a God-sent revival or an irreversible decline; it depends on the course Christians choose. Who will stand for righteousness in culture?

Perhaps the better question is – who will stand for righteousness in America?

*From the 2015 book, The Cost of Our Silence, this is a portion of an extensive book excerpt from chapter 2, “Failing to Learn From History –  click here to read more: