Monthly Archives: December 2009

The Spirit of Christmas

I have been asked on occasions if I “celebrate” Christmas. I must admit that this time of the year has a special warmth about it. There is something special about the lights, busy shoppers, and the “holiday music.” Before you brand me as a heretic let me assure you that I do not believe the Jesus was born on Christmas Day, and even if He was born in the depth of winter (which He was not), there is nothing in the Scriptures that even hints that we should “celebrate” His birthday.

It has been more than ten years since I first came across the following article. I thought it worth sharing with our readers. Unfortunately I do not have the name of the author.

WHAT IS THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS?

The spirit of Christmas is kindness, tolerance for an unpleasant relative, allowing someone else to turn first at a busy intersection. It is smiling and saying something nice to a hurried clerk who has just been chewed out by an irate customer.

The spirit of Christmas is compassion, fod for hungry people, secret gifts for needy children, and spending part of your holiday time with a lonely person in a nursing home.

The spirit of Christmas is understanding, feeling the emptiness of someone who is spending her first Christmas without a husband who died recently. It is listening to the mixed-up musings of a teen-ager who has gotten into trouble or reaching out to someone whose personal anguish over a lost job or divorce has him on the brink of suicide.

The spirit of Christmas is sacrifice. It is children breaking piggy banks to buy gifts for their parents. It is someone missing a party to be with the rest of the family on Christmas Eve, or someone refusing to pass an unkind judgment or choosing to forgive an insult.

The spirit of Christmas is love, paying special attention to children, and still being thoughtful during the most hectic days of the year. It is doing something for someone who cannot repay you. It is kindness and compassion, understanding and sacrifice, and love. Not one of these is a “secular” virtue which arises naturally from humankind. They are primary spiritual qualities which have been exhibited best in this world by Jesus of Nazareth.

With all due respect to Santa Claus, he is not the one who brought us these gifts. Santa is reindeer and elves, snow and red cheeks, pretty packages and stockings from the mantle. Jesus is much, much more. Jesus was kind enough to befriend the people everyone else avoided. His compassion made him weep with Mary and Martha when the sisters’ brother had died. He understood fickle Peter and questioning Thomas. He sacrificed all personal ambition and eventually his life for the sake of others. His very name is synonymous with love.

The “spirit of Christmas” did not originate with Charles Dickens or Jimmy Stewart. They merely wrote and performed the Christmas spirit in artistic settings. This special sentiment is rooted in a religious tradition which changed the world. It is produced by our imitation of the Son of God. Whatever it is you like most about this season of the year cannot be perpetuated by carrying the wallet you get under the tree or wearing the cologne someone gives you. It will endure only for those who remember the Babe of Bethlehem year round and allow him to live in their hearts.

I hope you enjoyed the article as much as I did. Let me close this week’s “Tom’s Pen” with a sincere wish for a Happy Holiday Season and best wishes for a Wonderful New Year.

Tom & Johnnie Ann Wacaster

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The power of the cross

A WELL-KNOWN preacher once gave the following advice to a group of churches concerning their approach to evangelism:

“Don’t tell people about the cross, it doesn’t work. Too many evangelistic efforts fail because they focus too much on the cross. Just tell them God loves them and has a plan for them.” He continued, “The message of a crucified Jew is ridiculous to the modern mind. So move onto something better. A crucified Messiah is stupid, but promise them prosperity, give them emotional experiences, provide them with self-esteem and then you’ll fill the pews.”

THOUGHTS: Avoiding the cross and catering to people’s external needs might “fill the pews,” but they will be pews filled with people still dying in their sins. Without the cross, the Bible is just another neat story book. Without the cross, Christianity is no more than a self-help seminar. It was the cross that God displayed His wisdom and power. (Mitchell Skelton)

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18).

–Mike Benson

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Survey on the cross

Take this “Christian survey” on the “Cross of Christ”:

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Jesus' next return – will it be soon?

WHEN WILL THE Lord come again…?

Through the years many attempts have been made to determine the date.

. William Miller set the day May 21, 1843. When that date failed, he refigured it for October 22, 1844.

. Joseph Smith announced the coming of the Lord was nigh in 1835.

. Charles Taze Russell of the Jehovah’s Witnesses said that the Lord came invisibly in 1874. He later changed it to 1914.

. Joseph Franklin Rutherford published a tract in 1920 announcing that Jesus/ coming would be in 1925.

. Hal Lindsey, in his book The Late Great Planet Earth, said that Jesus would return within 48 years of 1948.

We could give more examples, but, “What’s the lesson we’re to learn?” (Don Blackwell)

“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only” (Matt. 24:36).

–Mike Benson

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Do Americans have too much stuff

Do you think people have “too much stuff?” Take this new survey question.

What do you do with excess stuff?

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Faith In The Far-Fetched While Skeptical Of The Sure

“Shall the voters for the City and County of Denver adopt an initiated
Ordinance to require the creation of an extraterrestrial affairs commission
to help ensure the health, safety, and cultural awareness of Denver
residents and visitors in relation to potential encounters or interactions
with extraterrestrial intelligent beings or their vehicles, and fund such
commissions from grants, gifts, and donations?” Yes___ No ___

Jeff Peckman, a Denver resident, was able to secure ten thousand signatures and get this ballot title drawn for next year’s elections. Peckman created the Extra Terrestrial Commission to be a “welcome wagon” when the aliens show up in the Mile High city.

This is not a joke. At least, I am not joking with you.

This raises a question that is intriguing. How many people in this nation believe there are extraterrestrial beings out there and/or down here? What is the basis for their faith? We have seen TV specials or magazines or photos of alleged space ships or aliens. People claim to have been abducted or to have had close encounters with them. Some even suggest that aliens are responsible for the creation and design of this planet and its inhabitants (dodging, though not artfully, the tough question of how the aliens came into being). Some, though I dearly hope a scant minority, earnestly believe there are “extraterrestrial intelligent beings” out there.

A growing number seem strident in their denial of what the Bible proposes. The Word of God gives a simple, logical explanation for our origins. It explains the purpose of mankind on this earth. It speaks of a God in heaven and an eternal future either with Him or separated from Him. People scoff away such a possibility, ridiculing the intelligence and sanity of those who trust this to be true. They can be the butt of jokes.

The proposed alternative to special creation by an uncaused, eternal, and intelligent being is uncaused, eternal matter giving rise to design, intelligence, morality, procreative abilities, and much more. How did that dust get here? How did it grow more complicated? How did some of it gradually become a fern or a hippopotamus or a barnacle or a rock or a human being? How did an octillion more things happen to get us from that power-packed, uncaused mass of stuff to the boundless, ordered universe in which we now live, breathe, and comprehend?

The most reasonable explanation involves a loving God who created man in His own image, who created for mankind a world fit to be inhabited–complete with food and water and the other essentials to make life perpetuated from generation to generation. Not only does it best explain design, the cosmos, morality, intelligence, and the like, it makes reasonable the idea that such a Being, God, could communicate His thoughts, intentions, and will through scripture and superintend the process of revelation that gives us, even today, precisely what He wanted us to know.

Mindless chance, aliens, or a loving, limitless God. What seems most reasonable?

–Neal Pollard

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LOOKING IN THE WRONG PLACE FOR JESUS

There has been a rash of “sightings” lately with which unbelievers have been having a field day. I refer to “Jesus sightings” people are claiming in such things as clouds, Cheetos, dental X-rays, cooking utensils, windows, walls, and trees. Wikipedia even has an entry for it (“Perceptions of religious imagery in natural phenomena”). People vehemently defend the idea that these are intentional, divinely sent images. Meanwhile, secular and agnostic witnesses to such claims gather up baby and bathwater together, using such superstitiousness to show how deluded those in Christendom really are. Yet, while responding to superstition in religion would be a fitting use of time, another thing comes to mind when hearing these sad stories. It is a reminder that people are looking for Jesus in all the wrong places.

They want some heavenly sign, some overwhelming feeling, some sensory sensation, and some sort of religious fireworks to create or validate their faith. While God has embedded plenty of these in the marvels of nature and creation, through the product of answered prayer that defies logic or explanation, and by the amazing process of transformation that occurs when people follow Christ, He calls on us to seek for Him in a much less electrifying and cataclysmic place.

When we pick up God’s Word and regularly, intently read, meditate, and study (cf. Psalm 1) it, we see Jesus come alive in powerful, sustaining ways! When we walk with the Lord each day, the resulting relationship built on His character and our trust in Him is powerful! When we actively serve Him and others and put into practice what He teaches us through the Bible, we see Jesus in a vivid way. Daily Christian living, the longer we practice it, brings Jesus into unmistakable, clear focus. Maybe that is what these “seers” truly desire, and what they need is our help to truly find Him. Let us take that as a challenge and help people really “see Jesus” (cf. John 12:21; Heb. 2:9).

–Neal Pollar

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