What Child is This?

At this time of year, it is a good question to ask, “What child is this?”

  1. Some say He was just a good teacher, but good teachers don’t claim to be God.
  2. Some say He was merely a good example, but good examples don’t mingle with prostitutes and sinners.
  3. Some say He was a madman, but madmen don’t speak the way He spoke.
  4. Some say He was a crazed fanatic, but crazed fanatics don’t draw children to themselves or attract men of intellect like Paul or Luke to be their followers.
  5. Some say He was a religious phony, but phonies don’t rise from the dead.
  6. Some say He was only a phantom, but phantoms can’t give their flesh and blood to be crucified.
  7. Some say He was only a myth, but myths don’t set the calendar for history.

Jesus has been called the ideal man, an example of love, the highest model of religion, the foremost pattern of virtue, the greatest of all men, and the finest teacher who ever lived. All of those descriptions capture elements of His character, but they all fall short of the full truth. The apostle Thomas expressed it perfectly when he saw Jesus after the resurrection, and exclaimed, “My Lord and My God!” (John 20:28).

** Adapted from John MacArthur, in God With Us, the Miracle of Christmas, 1989.

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Did the Christmas Angels Sing?

One of the most popular Christmas carols of all time is “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” Did you know Scripture does not say the angels sang? When they appeared to the shepherds, they were speaking, not singing.

In fact, there are only two times in Scripture where the angels are found singing. One is in Job 38:7. Here the message is a bit cryptic: “The morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.” “Morning stars” refers to the angels; the archangel Lucifer, before he fell and became Satan, was called “star of the morning, son of the dawn” (Isaiah 14:12). Job 38:7 describes the angels’ singing at creation. That took place before Adam sinned—perhaps even before Lucifer fell.

Revelation 5:8-10 describes another incident when angels sing. Four living creatures—these are angels—join with twenty-four elders in singing a new song to Christ: “You are worthy to take the scroll and break its seals and open it. For you were slaughtered, and your blood has ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. And you have caused them to become a Kingdom of priests for our God. And they will reign on the earth.”

So angels sang before the Fall of man, and after the curse is removed, they will sing again. In the meantime, they apparently minister without singing. It is as if they cannot sing while the earth is under God’s curse.

** Adapted from John MacArthur, in God With Us, the Miracle of Christmas, 1989.

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The Turning Point in History

The birth of Jesus Christ, next to His crucifixion, was the most momentous event in the history of the world. It became the focal point of all history. Everything before Christ looked forward to His birth, and everything since then looks back at Him. It was such a crucial event that now all the world numbers years according to it. B.C. means “before Christ,” and A.D. means “anno domini,” “in the year of our Lord.” Today, in order to minimize Christianity, the phrase has changed to CE (Common Era) and BCE (Before Common Era)…but who are they kidding?

 

Jesus made an impact on the world that has never been, and never will be, equaled by any mere man. In all the annals of the human race, no one is like Him. He never wrote a book. He never held political power. He was not wealthy or particularly influential in His lifetime. Yet He altered the world completely; in fact, no other human being has affected history remotely like He has.

 

He has been opposed, hated, fought, censored, banned, and criticized in every generation since His birth. Yet His influence continues. After two thousand years, the impact of His life goes on so powerfully that it is safe to say not a day passes but that lives are revolutionized by His teaching.

 

** Adapted from John MacArthur, in God With Us, the Miracle of Christmas, 1989.

The Origin of Christmas Trees?

Christmas trees seem to have their origins in the ancient celebrations of Saturnalia. The Romans decorated their temples with greenery and candles. Roman soldiers conquering the British Isles found Druids who worshiped mistletoe and Saxons who used holly and ivy in religious ceremonies. All those things found their way into Christmas customs.

 

Interestingly, however, the first person to have lighted a Christmas tree may have been Martin Luther, father of the Reformation. He introduced the practice of putting candles on trees to celebrate Christmas, citing Isaiah 60:13 as biblical authority for the practice: “The glory of Lebanon will come to you, the juniper, the box tree, and the cypress together, to beautify the place of My sanctuary; and I shall make the place of My feet glorious.”

 

** Adapted from John MacArthur, in God With Us, the Miracle of Christmas, 1989.

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Christians Influencing Culture

Christians are supposed to influence culture for the better, despite what many non-Christians might want. Richard Dawkins, the famous atheist professor at Oxford recently put signs on London busses stating that “There’s probably no God, now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” Probably? Perhaps he is not too sure about his atheism or the bus company made him tone down his message. Either way, the message is pretty clear, he wants people to live their lives as if there is no God… I wonder what that kind of world would be like?

I wonder what professor Dawkins might think about a world were no Christians exist. Gone are the 90% of Christians who desire to serve mankind in a positive fashion, help others when they are in need, offer comfort to those who are suffering or in grief, those who are the first to rush in with disaster relief… Dawkins must long for a world with no hope at the end of life, with no purpose in this life other than to eat, drink, conquer, procreate and die. Without Christians or the Holy Spirit of the Bible in this world, all that is left is the base of human cruelty, the survival of the fittest where only the strong survive.

My question is, “What does it hurt for people to believe in God?”

I recently read the Southwest Virginia Christian Leadership Network newsletter that quotes Reggie McNeal, from his book Practicing Greatness. He outlines seven spiritual habits or disciplines that lead to the spiritual influence we need within our culture. Since leadership is the art and science of influence, this is what McNeal writes:

  1. Self-awareness – understanding who God created you to be
  2. Self-management – managing emotions, expectations, temptations, mental/physical well-being
  3. Self-development – lifelong commitment to building on your strengths, not your weaknesses
  4. Mission – living out of a sense of God’s purpose for your life and leadership
  5. Decision-making – knowing the elements of good decisions and learning from failure
  6. Belonging – nurturing relationships with family, followers, mentors, and friends
  7. Aloneness – the intentional practice of soul-making solitude and contemplation

Seek ways to influence our culture with intentionality; not just seeking people to believe the way we do, but to allow people to see Jesus for who he really is!