Jesus Is the Reason…

Frozen CherriesSo I keep hearing songs and statements around town and on the radio insisting “Jesus is the reason for the season.”

Yeppers.

Sometimes it seems to me it’s almost insulting to the Lord to even make such a statement. Jesus is the reason for spring, summer, fall, and winter. Undeniably, without Jesus this world would have never begun to exist and without His continued grace it would disintegrate. How do I know this?

For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. (Colossians 1.16-18)

Christmas CoffeeIf we must remind someone to “keep Christ in Christmas,” the battle was lost long ago. I’m not saying all Christians must celebrate the birth of Christ during this season, for there are many who know the Scripture never commands such a celebration, and neither do we actually know on what day Jesus was born. Nevertheless, I worry about Christians who celebrate the holiday in such a way as to keep thoughts of the Lord at arm’s distance–as if being spiritually-minded or devotional on Christmas is wrong!

Whatever your stand on Christmas, whether you celebrate it as Christ’s birth or simply as a national holiday or whether you avoid any special celebration at all, I hope you still continue to celebrate Jesus Christ as you have all year in 2015 and will in 2016. Jesus is the reason for life!

May God’s richest blessings be with you who trust in Him. Peace be with you.

Jesus Is Exclusive!

InterFaith-256pxI shared with our church gathering last night an NPR story from December 13, 2015 which covered a “Tri-Faith Initiative” in Omaha, NE. Gathered in the room were a professing Christian, Muslim, and Jewish Rabbi. Among the inane statements I heard, one in particular from the “Christian,” a minister for a United Church of Christ, caught my ear:

Well, you’d think in light of today’s climate that the range of opinion – the opposition came from people who were afraid to associate with Muslims. But actually, most of the people who were opposed were simply opposed because we have a beautiful building, been there for 65 years, and people didn’t want to pick up stakes and moves. There’s really no good reason at all for Countryside to do this other than the beauty of the vision of the Tri-Faith Initiative, which really matched our values and our ethos as a church – that Christian love of Jesus – or of God rather – includes walking fully in the path of Jesus without denying the legitimacy of other paths that God may create for humanity.

Um…what?

This man leads a large congregation of profession Christians, and he’s not even a Christian himself! He does not even minutely know Christ or His teachings. I’m sure he holds a caricature of the Lord in his mind, but whatever or whoever he worships does not resemble the crucified Son of God of the Bible.

As anti-PC as this world may deem Him, Jesus gave no wiggle room to come to God apart from Him. Jesus said to Thomas on one occasion, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn. 14.6). The apostles responded to their persecutors in Acts 4.12: “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

exclusive_640Can a Muslim really know the Father, God? A Muslim claims Allah to be the One True God, and Jesus Christ, at best, to be a great prophet–certainly not the Son of God. They claim you must find God by following the teachings of the True Prophet Muhammad. Can a follower of the Hebrew religion know the Father, God? A follower of the Law of Moses rejects Christ as the Messiah and Savior of the world. Yet Jesus stated in Matt. 11.27, “no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” Who shall we believe? “Whoever is not with me is against me,” said Jesus in Matt. 12.30.

Those who profess to know and follow Christ and yet attempt to welcome the Muslim faith and Hebrew faith as “legitimate paths” God created for humanity throw out most of the Bible. They create their own religion and rewrite Scripture to suit themselves! They are idolaters bowing at the feet of some fabricated fiction of their own minds. May God judge those who corrupt scripture and spread such nonsense.

They believe their agenda is admirable because they are bringing everyone together, but true unity cannot be found on human terms. We will only find peace, harmony, and unity when we all bow before Jesus Christ, Lord of all. That’s not PC. But that’s Bible truth.

With love for our enemies, we simply preach the truth and let the word of God have its way among men. Hold fast to Jesus Christ, brothers and sisters!

Christians Only

White_sign_racial_hatredMy grandpa lived through the fall of Apartheid in South Africa. He tells powerful stories about the segregation of those days, how blacks, whites, and colourds were not to be in each others areas after sundown. Racial animosity saturated the country, and these forms of segregation are not dead in the world! Far from it, folks split, mark, name, keep distance, and even kill because of racial, religious, social, and economic differences.

Because of the sins of mankind, God divided men at the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11). He caused different families to speak in different tongues so that they could not communicate effectively and so that they would divide from one another! That’s right–God intended men to divide, and it was a punishment for sin. They were not obeying His mandate to spread out and fill the earth.

Much later in history, God drew men of all races back together in His Son, and He began this process by overcoming the language barrier on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2). Jesus broke down the greatest dividing wall in existence, a religious wall, the Law of Moses, which separated the Jews from the Gentiles (Ephesians 2). Now He calls all men to repent by submitting to His Son Jesus Christ. There is no place for segregation in Jesus Christ!

In Christ there is no Jew or Gentile, no slave or free, no male or female, because all souls belong to God in the same way. All souls have the same value to God. There is nothing within you or me to make us greater or less than our neighbors or our spouses or the folks across the ocean.

When Jesus arrived on earth and began His ministry, He came into a split and divided Jewish community. Even within Israel itself existed a myriad of factions: Pharisee, Sadducee, Essene, Zealot, Herodian, etc. And Jesus pulled men from all of these factions to be part of His most trusted team of twelve, the apostles! Matthew, the tax collector, lived in truce and allegiance to the authorities who were currently oppressing the Jews. Simon, the Zealot, hated those traitors with a passion. Paul, on the fact-track to becoming a great leader of the Pharisees, would never have accepted half of the other twelve because of various traditions and Scripture interpretations.

But Jesus Himself did not accept any of the factions. Graciously, He ministered to all of the factions, but He continued to challenge every one of them. No Jewish sect was correct. Only God is correct; only Jesus walked the pure walk; and His challenge to us is to walk as He walked!

Denominations in USA

Can we walk outside the gross religious sectarianism of our day? Can we lovingly minister to men and women of every denomination without accepting the corruptions existing among those denominations? I believe God’s challenge to us is exactly this: to walk with Him without allowing any earthly, man-created system to dictate our path. King Hezekiah, King Josiah, Nehemiah and Ezra, and the reformation leaders in the late 1400s and 1500s had this same heart: return to Scripture Alone! Those men sought to escape the power and systems of men in order to walk simply with God.

I’m afraid those same fighters and martyrs would view our current fractured landscape of so-called “Christianity” with heavy hearts. I know I do. First, I seek to align myself first with the Lord through the word of His Holy Spirit. Second, I seek to align myself with brothers and sisters who have a heart for that same word of God: Scripture Alone! Though this is the only way to unity in Christ, because of our messy human situations and imperfect understandings and sin, we’ll never achieve perfect unity on earth. But can we strive for the ideal? Can we give ourselves to tearing down the walls separating the sects, as Jesus gave His life-blood to tear down the wall separating Jew and Gentile?

We surely cannot do this by creating another sect! We must be Christians only.

Jeremy and Judy: A Parable

Kitchen RemodelJeremy has a strong desire to please Judy, his young wife. From time to time Judy lets Jeremy know there is something he can do for her which would make her happy. Or, more often than not, she let’s him know what is making her unhappy, and he then feels an obligation to fix it for her. Jeremy believes his job as husband is to make his wife happy, and when she’s upset he feels failure.

When Judy complained about her kitchen (“it looks drab…this refrigerator is such a beast…don’t you wish we had more updated cabinets?”), Jeremy drew up a plan to fix it for her. He went out on a financial limb to purchase a sweet new refrigerator on a new Lowe’s credit card. He bought the materials to reface the cabinets with sanding, painting, and new hardware. For over a month now he’s been working nights and weekends to make her kitchen something she can be proud of.

This evening Judy comes home, a downcast expression on her face.

“What’s wrong?” Jeremy inquires. Clearly his wife is not happy; what can he do for her?

sadwoman-164299_640“I don’t know,” she replies. “I was just over at our neighbor’s house, and you should have seen her kitchen! Why can we never afford anything like that? They have this refrigerator that looks like it came out of a science fiction movie, stone countertops, dutch oven, shiny chrome everywhere. Everything is so…big and perfect. I just wish sometimes we could have something that nice.”

Jeremy stands before her, his hands still raw from hours of sanding cabinets. Something inside him deflates; a light dims in his eyes; a fire smolders. In silence he thinks of the toil, sweat, blood, and money he has been pouring into this kitchen. For Judy. Perhaps he has been naive, thinking his hard work could make her happy. Five minutes ago he was anticipating Judy’s delight and praise at the progress he’s been making. Now he doesn’t feel like even looking at his handiwork, let alone continuing his labor. He feels failure because he doesn’t make enough money to give Judy what she wants.

As I think about Jeremy and Judy, I wonder how God hears our complaining. We sometimes sulk, “Lord, Bob has such a great life, a new car every couple of years, a gorgeous house. How come You haven’t blessed me like him?” We even compare our husbands, wives, kids, and parents to other families!

ComplainingWhat does complaining do? It destroys! It crushes spirits. It spreads discontent and reveals a complete lack of appreciation for what God has given. Never does complaining accomplish anything positive. This is, I expect, why God inspired Paul to write the following:

Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…” (Philippians 2.14-15)

Israel complained about their lack of water, their lack of food, their lack of nice food as they followed God’s leading in the wilderness. God eventually killed many of them because of their complaining (1 Cor. 10.6-11). In essence, they were telling God, “We don’t like the way you provide for us. We don’t appreciate Your leadership.”

There is power in complaining–power to destroy. What has God given you? Is it not enough? Do you deserve any of it, anyway? Why should we expect God to give us exactly the same things as another has? “It’s not fair!” we challenge. Does that not call God’s integrity into question? In fact, He has been more than fair with every one of us. Relish what you have, and don’t sweat what you don’t. If you don’t have it, you don’t need it. What you need is Jesus Christ beside you–and that is all.