Why Do We Do Christmas? (Part 2)

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (Hebrews 2:14-17 ESV). Between yesterday’s reading and today’s concluding verse is the declaration that Christ suffered because it was fitting, and Christ became like us because he was thus obliged to; it is the great description of why Christ became human. Hence this is part of the picture of how the incarnation was fitting. Each line of this passage is essential. We will see two very different reasons for Christmas. First, he became human because we are human. God’s great aim is to have a family of human children in which his eternal Son is one of them, yet supreme over them. The Apostle Paul explains it like this: “Those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Romans 8:29). In our reading the writer says, “He had to be made like his brothers in every respect.” (v. 17). Earlier he said, “That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers” (v. 11). This is fitting — seemly, congruent, beautiful — in God’s eyes. Remember, all of this is in spite of the truth that He is Creator. It is so incongruent with our common wisdom that is utterly God-like. Common wisdom would see this act as an incredibly devastating demotion. God saw it as fitting. This gives us a very important truth to ponder. Sometimes the journey God has ordained for us is one of seeming set-backs. We see examples of this throughout the Scripture. The entire book of Ecclesiastes speaks to the vanity of a life spent “climbing the ladder.” Our world is repulsed by that idea. If we’re not getting bigger, better, or faster then, surely that is failure. And, God’s answer to that is the Incarnation. Of course, I am not insinuating that growth of any kind is necessarily bad; however, growth for the sake of growth may not be constructive. There are those times when God’s path for us takes us in a direction that cannot be immediately seen as positive. It is at these times when we must rely on His promise to work all things for our good. Even the most devastating of set-backs are merely steps for God to take us closer to perfection and glory. As the Christmas Season begins in earnest, reflect on your journey. Thanks God for all of it. It is meant for your good and he watches over all of...

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Why Do We Do Christmas? (Part 1)

For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. (Hebrews 2:10 ESV). The day after Thanksgiving is always an incredible day for retail businesses in America. It has been designated “Black Friday.” This is not meant to be a negative designation; it is a reference to the fact that the enormous sales of this day and the kick-off of the Christmas buying season puts many businesses “in the black” for the year. Now, I’ve written about the Christian version of “black Friday’; and, you can find it at my web site for Grace Restoration Ministries (http://gracerestoration.org/?s=black+friday). So, today we’re going in a little different direction. The question for us to explore over the next few days is simply, “Why do we do Christmas?” Let’s begin at the beginning. Our reading today has a very important word embedded in the theology of it with the use of the phrase “it was fitting.” Jesus Christ existed before he was conceived in Mary’s womb. You and I did not exist before conception. So when we speak of our coming into the world we don’t mean that we existed before we were sent. We mean our being sent was our coming into being. Not so with Jesus (cf. John 16:28). The Son of God chose to be conceived in Mary’s womb. Neither you nor I chose to be born as a human. He did. As God, he considered what he would do. Upon consideration, he “counted” his equality with God something he would not grasp so tightly as to let it hinder his incarnation (cf. Philippians 2:6-7). All of this of this begs the question, “Why?” God could have created and run the universe differently. Why did it happen like this? One of the deepest biblical answers is that it was “fitting.” I say this is one of the deepest answers, because there is no reality above or outside God that he must “fit” into in order to do right. God himself is the measure of all that is right and good and true and beautiful. They are congruent, or consistent, or harmonious with all that he is. So, God acted fittingly. This is no small thing. For an all-wise, all-powerful God to see something as supremely fitting is to see it as a supreme obligation. We’ll look further in the context of our reading in subsequent days. The verse, “Therefore, Christ had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest” (cf. Hebrews 2:17). We could translate: “Hence he is obliged” (hothen ōpheilen). Not obliged to anything outside God. He is obliged by the divine wisdom in seeing what is “fitting.” God “has to” do what is fitting. Not as man reckons, but as God himself reckons. So, Christmas is in perfect character with who He is. He did Christmas because of that. Aren’t you...

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Six Things I’m Thankful About (Part 6)

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3 ESV). Happy thanksgiving! I pray this day will find you with those you love and your hearts will be encouraged in all things. Today I come to the last of the “Things I Am Thankful About.” Day 6: I am thankful being loved and the ability to love others. Today will be a day of family for us. That means the house will be filled with those who love me and whom I love as well. Love is so important. It shouldn’t surprise us that the Bible speaks about love often. So, today I pray these seven things about love will encourage you to love even more deeply than you ever have before. First, the majority of texts in any language, period of time, region, and combinations thereof have been written on love, and it never seems as if we have covered every aspect of this incredible feeling. It has been described as an emotion, a way of life, and even as the most important thing there is. While there are many facets and faces of love, let me merely mention a few things. We are designed to connect with another. This may seem trivial, but it has been the key to the functioning of society since the beginning. The ability to have an affectionate and intimate connection with another person, and to have that fondness returned is an anchor to base the rest of your development and future around. Loving another can be hurtful. It certainly puts us at a disadvantage. We are never so vulnerable as when we love another. Love is the channel through which we may discover who we really are. While it is risky to love; it is also the only means through which we see the depth of our character. Loving someone calls us to forgiveness and mercy like nothing else. And love serves as an incredible motivator. When you love another, you always tend to strive for better and not just in a vain sense either. That is to say, we seek to do better in life, to set new goals, and generally strive for the best. The upswing in positive thoughts is also noticeable and that itself makes a big difference. I’m thankful for being loved and being able to love. Spend a moment today and single out those who hold a special place in your heart. Love them visibly and...

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Six Things I’m Thankful About (Part 5)

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10 ESV). Day 5: I am thankful for my inadequacies. It does sound a bit strange to be thankful for inadequacies; however, as the Apostle Paul tells us in our reading today, these things make us strong. In fact, it is only when we are weak that God’s strength can really be seen. He knew a great deal more about weakness than I do, though I must confess I have plenty of it to go around. About a month ago I had an accident in the woodshop and injured my right thumb badly. I am right-handed which only served to complicate the adjustments necessary as a result of the injury. It has healed very well. I am back in the shop. However, it is not as strong as it was. Apart from the physical deformity of the thumb, there are still some things that have not returned to “normal.” There is still a bit of pain from the nerve damage when I try to put any pressure on it and that is the root of the “inadequacy” I have now developed. I have discovered there are many things I took for granted previously, being able to do them with really thinking about it. They are small things like buttoning my shirt, or zippering my jeans; however, they are important things to me. What was once a strength, now is a weakness. Wonderfully, I have a very understanding wife who has helped with most things, and didn’t even question me when I asked her to get me a pair of pliers to use in buttoning and zippering my jeans! There are other things much more important that are a weakness emotionally or spiritually. It is in these areas that the strength of the Lord has most become visible. Perhaps the greatest of these is in changing my attitude about “why” things happen. The shift from “why” to “who” has brought incredible assurance and hope through all of it. Certainly Solomon understood this as well. He wrote: Lord, there is much about life that I don’t understand. But You didn’t ask me to understand, did You? You asked me to trust You, and You are trustworthy. You promise that You are working all things out – right now. I do trust in You, O Lord. (Proverbs...

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Six Things I’m Thankful About (Part 4)

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. (Psalm 95:1-5 ESV). Day 4: I am thankful for the creation.  Our reading today is just one of many in the Scripture that extols the majesty of God’s work in creation. Some would approach this time of year, especially in places like Texas with the absence of color in the fall foliage, differently than I do. It is rather drab in various shades of brown in this part of the world, but, this is really my time of the year. So many memories of friends are tied to the sights, sounds, and smells of this time of the year for me. Recently one of my dear friends, Jamie McClain, contacted me and wondered when I was going to go to the deer lease with him. My hearty answer was, “Pick a day!” He still hunts at what we called “Windham State Park” near Abilene, Texas. You can see from the picture taken when I was on the same lease that it was not a “park.” It was our little bit of heaven though. Our campsite, while not surrounded by mountains or grand vistas, as full of life and fellowship as we gathered around our campfire and told our tall tales. I am thankful that God has created this kind of world and placed me in it. Of course, this place is not everyone’s place. However, God does have that place for you too. Perhaps it is the mountains that draw you to sit a bit by a quiet stream, gurgling its way down the mountain with cold, clear water. It could be that you love to sit a while in the warm sandy beaches of an ocean with the sounds of the cadence of the waves rolling in and the smell of salt water strong in the air. Maybe you merely enjoy sitting outdoors on a clear night and gazing to the innumerable stars that are hung in the night sky with quiet and solitude wrapping you like a favorite blanket. Whatever your place looks like, be sure that it is God who has created it. And, he created it all with us in mind. Yes, indeed, I am thankful for that forethought. It also prompts me to remember that, as wonderful as this world may be, it is nothing compared to what it will be when the final redemption of creation itself takes place. The make me think of how much I have yet to see. Our God is so vast and wonderful we cannot ever plumb the depths of that glory. Creation reminds me of that too. Our God is a great God! Celebrate that with me...

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