Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Day After Christmas

Christmas night often finds folks in a bit of a melancholy mood. After weeks of anticipation, the celebrations have flashed by and are suddenly gone, fading into the night.

This is natural, understandable and probably the best teaching moment of the whole season. As long as the beautifully wrapped gifts remain unopened and the celebrations still future, they appear to be the hope we are waiting for. But when all are opened and the merriment past, we sense we are still longing for something more, something lasting.

I had one of those teachable moments with my granddaughter, Hanna, yesterday. After opening gifts and eating a good meal, she was sitting on the stair in a rather pensive mood. I sat next to her to talk about what she was feeling. I’ve learned that children don’t know what is happening to their emotions or why, so I generally don’t ask the “Why?” question but rather explain the “What” to them.

I pointed out to Hanna that she was learning a lessons many grown-ups haven’t yet grasp:

1. Gifts and events can’t fill you soul. They are expressions of generosity but are not designed to satisfy. They’re designed to point us to the Giver.

2. Putting our hopes in gifts will leave us empty inside. We will ask, “Is that all?” because we know deep down that’s not all there is. We are designed to treasure a Person, not His things.

3. It is more blessed to give than receive. What makes you feel richer, getting the presents you wanted or making someone else happy with something you gave to them? A greedy heart lives in a small, lonely world. A generous heart lives in a wide world of love.

I hope she remembers some of grandpa’s sagged advice! I learned it from someone; I pass it along in hopes it helps others as much as it helps me.

It is just the way of God’s grace to let the glitter and flash of celebrations (even in His honor) pass and then even in the melancholic void they leave teach us once again, “It’s not I, but Christ.”


Thursday, December 24, 2009

On Saying, "Merry Christmas!"

I think I've changed my mind. Through most of my adult life I have resisted the “Merry Christmas” club. Not because I have anything against gift giving or having great family times, but the whole thing is born of pagan folly. This year, however, I’ve begun to look at it a bit differently.

“Christmas” is simply “Christ” (our Savior) plus “mas” (a coming together, as in the Catholic “mass”), and originated in the Roman Catholic attempt to assimilate pagans and their culture under the control of their Church. Hence my problem with the term/event.

As an aside, it is important to remember that the real miracle of the coming of Christ was not His birth/nativity (although there were certain miraculous things involved in that too!), but the real miracle took place at His conception. Being born of a virgin makes Him unique, indeed! Luke 1 gives the historical details necessary to locate the time of the conception of Jesus Christ as being in late December. Hence the pagans attempt to commandeer that season for their own corrupted ends.

But now it has become “politically incorrect” to use the “Merry Christmas” greeting. Employees, for example, are told not to mention “Christmas,” but instead to say, “Happy Holidays.” But herein lies a bit of humor: The word “holiday” comes from “holy” (as in, holy is the Lord) plus “day.”

I find it ironically amazing that our language is so rooted in Biblical tradition that even the attempts to root out every reference to the Savior falls so flat on its face. Oh, the worldly wise don’t get it, but I’m sure the God of Heaven finds such things amusing (as should we)!

So I’ve put “merry Christmas” back into my vocabulary—just for the fun of it. Cynthia has been saying it to store employees just to see their reaction! When they respond, “happy holidays,” we just ask if they are believers too! Its made the shopping lots of fun.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Truth about Oral and Ebeneezer

Famous Pentecostal “faith healer” Oral Roberts died of pneumonia on December 15 at age 91. This act demonstrated with great finality that he was a false teacher. He often said that it is God’s will to heal every sickness, declaring, “Sickness is not part of God’s plan and not devised by God’s will.” When he breathed his last he gave conclusive proof that his teaching was false. No one dies of healthiness!

On another front, I ran across a fascinating article written in defense of the much maligned Ebeneezer Scrooge. Often we forget that great “classic” novels were written with political and social messages in mind. Dickens was such a writer. In The Case for Ebeneezer, Butler Shaffer takes up the defense of Dickens' villain in a most interesting fashion—demonstrating how the classic tail has modern overtones. In part he writes:

“Pay close attention to Mr. Dickens' allegations. His case [against Ebeneezer] down to just two points:

1. my client has managed to become very rich, and,

2. he insists on keeping his money for himself.

That's it! That is the essence of his alleged wrongdoing.”

“Taking my client as the miserable fellow Dickens has presented him, let me be the first to admit that if Ebeneezer's obsession with materialistic pursuits rendered him an unhappy person….But it is not my client's happiness that the prosecution endeavors to obtain, but his money.

“The case against Ebeneezer Scrooge is nothing more than a well-orchestrated, vicious conspiracy to extort from my client as much of his money as can be acquired through terror, threats of his death, and other appeals to fear….

“[P]ay particular attention to the utter contradiction underlying Dickens's case: my client is charged with being a greedy, money-hungry scoundrel, and yet it is the conspirators against him who want nothing more than his money! Scrooge — unlike his antagonists — earned his money in the marketplace by satisfying the demands of customers and clients who continue to do business with him, and did not, as far as we are told, resort to terror or threats of death to get it.

“Charles Dickens — writing at the peak of the Industrial Revolution — missed this essential feature of the period. To those who view wealth in such a limited way, the only question becomes "how is this fixed body of wealth to be most 'fairly' redistributed?" The question of "how can more wealth be created?" — and what conditions would be necessary for accomplishing such ends — never enters their minds, for the pursuit of such conditions would utterly destroy all socialist systems. The beneficiaries of such redistribution are looked upon as passive and dependent recipients of other people's decision making. In this connection, Bob Cratchit is the prototypical "proletarian."

“Like other opportunistic parasites who tell us that they "feel our pain" even as they are causing us more pain, let us have no more of the self-serving guilt-peddling that keeps men and women subservient to those who threaten to cut off their dependencies.”

Hope ya have a great holiday—and just so I don’t sound like a WalMart employee, “Merry Christmas!”


Monday, December 7, 2009

Great Meetings

I've driven almost four thousand miles over the past three weeks. Hard to believe; hard on the "getting older" body (tomorrow marks another birthday)! But warming to the heart.

Last week I was in Ohio. Wednesday and Thursday we had very interesting meetings in Massillon. Our good friend Edward Yarber is the bishop of Canton Grace Fellowship. He has been teaching right division at the Adult Sunday School Class of Grace Community Church for the past three months. Edward goes there for the class and then hurries to CGF (about 10 minutes away) for their morning service. When he asked about using GCC's church building for meetings, they volunteered to co-sponsor them.

I spoke both evenings on Mid-Acts dispensationalism and the distinctive ministry/message of Paul. Their responsiveness was overwhelming. They actually "cleaned out" most of the material on the Literature Tables I had with me! It is wonderful to see such hunger for spiritual light!

We had a "radio rally" type meeting in Columbus. David Reid heads up the Columbus Bible Church, which sponsors Daily Bible Time on a local radio station. We get good response to the broadcast and wanted to see if some folks would come to a "live" meeting. And they did! One lady, for example, who has been listening for almost two years gave testimony to having her life transformed by the message of grace she has learned. Numerous others were of the same mind. Two ladies actually drove from Indiana to attend, having heard about the meeting via FaceBook! Two other ladies drove about half way across the state to attend. Interest in and hunger for the light on God's Word that right division offers is a great motivator! It was a privilege to help introduce some of our listeners to the local ministry where they can fellowship and grow in grace.

Then we were in Beavercreek at Mid-Acts Grace Fellowship on Saturday and Sunday. The saints there were went overboard in their hospitality and interest. Their response to the six messages on The Gospel Driven Life was refreshing. Matt Hawley is doing a tremendous job leading this assembly. They have weathered numerous storms over the past few years and are a strong, grounded group of determined grace believers who value the work of the ministry they are engaged in. Folks came from as far away as Cincinnati--as well as Indiana and Columbus (as well as wonderful friends from Chillicothe). The happy spirit of these folks was a touching benediction to my weary spirit.

One great privilege for me in trips like this is to get to spend some time in the homes of some really wonderful saints. Ed and Sharrie are by nature a barrel of fun, but more importantly, always active in the ministry. While there I not only spoke both evenings but had a live radio interview and preached in chapel at Heritage Christian School. I also had the opportunity to spend some time with longtime and special friends, Ted and Sue Fellows of nearby Berean Bible Church, Minerva.

The Reid boys were great entertainment for me, demonstrating their Lego and Wii talents. Mom and Dad are ok too, but being the dad of three boys myself I always have a soft spot for others in that category!

It was my first time to spend time with the Hawley family and I quickly discovered that they could make me feel quite at home. It is important for a man in the ministry to be backed up by a godly wife and Matt is blessed in this area. Their three young children (well, one has four legs so they might claim only two as their actual prodigy) were great company.

The icing on the cake, sort of speaking, for the weekend was calling home Saturday evening and having Cynthia tell me how Alabama won their football game with Florida. My precious wife is an enthusiastic Bama fan; well, that's too mild of a description. Hard as it is to picture, I must admit she is a fanatical fan. And a happy one too! So I drove home Sunday afternoon knowing I'd find her in good spirits!

The Women's Fellowship of Shorewood had an evangelistic luncheon Sunday. They had a good number of visitors to hear some outstanding testimonies and a good gospel message. When I arrived at the church building Sunday evening they had already finished resetting the fellowship area for the upcoming children's program scheduled for next Saturday. So, they'd been busy while I was gone--and with Alex to preach, don't really miss me anyway! There lots for me to be thankful for these days.

I'll turn another year on the calendar tomorrow. Today (December 7) is Pearl Harbor Day. We must never forget. I fly to Detroit in the morning to do five more TV programs. I can't think of anything I'd rather do on my birthday than "preach the Word."