Merry Christmas

As we celebrate our Savior’s birth today, remember in prayer those around the globe who cannot openly celebrate. As part of our celebration, we are giving away a free Kindle edition of our commentary on Jude for all our friends until Sunday. Hey, you need something to read on that Kindle you just unwrapped.


The Christmas Carol that isn’t a Christmas Carol

It is written about a pious duke and doesn’t mention the nativity at all. St. Stephen’s feast day, December 26th is spoken of but not December 25th, Christmas. Yet this carol, set to a springtime dance tune, continues to gain devotees each year. Why is Good King Wenceslas sung at Christmas? One reason is because of the feast of Stephen and the other is because King Wenceslas portrays Christianity at its finest – helping the poor and downtrodden. Jesus came to set the captives free, give sight to the blind, lift up those who were bruised and broken and give them hope. Hope of salvation, hope of a life eternal and hope of a better life here and now. When Christ transforms a soul, they no longer think selfishly but think of others, sacrificing so that they can minister in Christ’s name. Isn’t that what Wenceslas did, in both the carol and real life?

While it is not a Christmas carol in the traditional sense, it does speak of a life that Christ has transformed and isn’t that why Jesus came? He came to transform people from death to life, from selfish to spiritual, from lost to found. Those whose lives have been transformed will seek to do good works so that God is glorified and people are brought to His Son. So sing this sort-of, almost a Christmas carol. Sing it the day after Christmas on the feast of Stephen. Sing it and think of what acts of kindness you can do to reflect the love of God that has transformed your life. Sing it and thank God that He does transform people like you and I, and Wensceslas, into saints.

Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even
Brightly shone the moon that night
Though the frost was cruel
When a poor man came in sight
Gath’ring winter fuel

“Hither, page, and stand by me
If thou know’st it, telling
Yonder peasant, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?”
“Sire, he lives a good league hence
Underneath the mountain
Right against the forest fence
By Saint Agnes’ fountain.”

“Bring me flesh and bring me wine
Bring me pine logs hither
Thou and I will see him dine
When we bear him thither.”
Page and monarch forth they went
Forth they went together
Through the rude wind’s wild lament
And the bitter weather

“Sire, the night is darker now
And the wind blows stronger
Fails my heart, I know not how,
I can go no longer.”
“Mark my footsteps, my good page
Tread thou in them boldly
Thou shalt find the winter’s rage
Freeze thy blood less coldly.”

In his master’s steps he trod
Where the snow lay dinted
Heat was in the very sod
Which the Saint had printed
Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing 

Thoughts on the Little Drummer Boy

No, he isn’t in the Biblical story. Aaron did not travel with the Magi and was not present at the birth of Jesus. Yet, the way the song is written, he could have been. Originally titled “Carol of the Drum”, the song is about a young boy summoned by the Magi to go with them to present gifts to the newborn King. Upon arriving, the boy realizes he has no gift that is fit to give a king, much less the King of Kings. All he has is his ability to play the drum, so he asks if he can play it for him. As Mary nods permission, he plays his best for the baby Jesus ans is rewarded with a smile from the Lord.

While fiction, the song gives a powerful message. Jesus is the King and is worthy of being honored by us. All that we have to give Him we should surrender to Him. Even our crowns in heaven will be laid back at His feet for He alone is worthy. It isn’t just material things, like gold, frankincense or myrrh, that we can give but also our God-given abilities. All that we give Him should reflect our best effort, like the drummer boy’s song. And a smile from Him, a show of approval, well … that is definitely reward enough. “Well done, good and faithful servant, well done.”

Oh, and in the tv show where the lamb is healed, why not? So watch it with joy, sing along heartily, include it in a cantata. Let the message of giving God our best because He alone is worthy of being praised.

What the Virgin Birth Teaches Us About Salvation

The following is an excerpt from our resource, Dominoes, available from Amazon:

The Virgin Birth starts with God approaching humanity, not humankind approaching God. The same is true of salvation. Salvation is God reaching down to man, not man reaching up to God. The fact of Mary being a virgin obviously disqualifies her from any active part in the conception of Jesus. The Bible goes to great pains to tell us that Joseph did not know her sexually until after the birth of Jesus. Just as Mary was acted on by the Holy Spirit to bring forth new life, so in salvation, the Holy Spirit acts upon us and a new life is brought forth.

In the Virgin Birth, all human autonomy was set aside. Joseph was not consulted until Mary is already pregnant. Jesus is not born of a husband’s will or action but by God.  Joseph’s only role is to provide for Mary and the Child after His birth. Mary, through the angel Gabriel, is told that she has been elected by God to be the mother of the Messiah. She is told that God has chosen her. She is told that the Holy Spirit will overshadow her and she will conceive a son. Her permission is never asked. She receives the word and believes but this belief is not of her, but strength given to her by the Lord. She becomes the pattern for our faith.

It is not through our self-will or free-will that we are born from above. We are elected, chosen to salvation just as Mary was chosen, elected to be Jesus’ mother. As she was sanctified through her calling so are we. God sanctifies us. We receive Jesus by faith, belief, but God gives this faith to us, it isn’t produced by our own efforts.

The Virgin Birth is important because it shows the consistency of a Sovereign God who elects things to happen and by His might, what He ordains comes to pass. The sovereignty of God is not merely that He has the power and the right to rule all things, but that God actually does so, without any exceptions at all. God is not a beggar, wringing His hands and pleading helplessly, hoping sinners will decide to choose Him. He is a God who both can save and who does save whom He chooses.

While there are many other aspects of the Virgin Birth that are worth exploring, I trust that just this one part of the doctrine highlights how interrelated they all are. The same holds true about the doctrine of Jesus eternally existing, not coming into existence 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem.

Do you begin to see how interconnected doctrines are? To deny that Jesus was sinless from birth is to deny that He is God because God cannot sin. It is a belief that Jesus was not the Divine Son of God come down in human form but a mere man raised to great heights by the power of God. Such a view misses the whole point of the gospel message. Humanity could not save himself. It took God Himself to extricate us from our sinful state. He did this by sending His Son to be born of the Virgin Mary, to illustrate from day one how this salvation would come about.

Why Jonah Is Relevant To The Western Church

The book of Jonah has much to say to contemporary Christians. Those in the Western Church should particularly take the time to re-examine their own lives in light of the teachings found in this powerful story. Let me illustrate some of the lessons we can find in Jonah.

1) Jonah shows us our failure to share God’s concerns for the salvation of others.  Why else would the Western church spend so much time and money on itself and not on evangelizing those who have yet to hear the gospel? Why else would Christianity be shrinking in the Western world? We have failed to preach the good news of the kingdom – repentance of sin. Yes I believe that salvation is of the Lord (Jonah 2:9) and that He has elected those He will save. I also believe He has elected us, His servants, to be the means by which that salvation is offered. Otherwise He would simply take us to heaven the moment we were born again. We are called to preach the gospel to the ends of the earth. Why has it taken 2,000 years and we still have thousands of unreached, unengaged people groups on our planet? The church needs to call a worldwide fast and solemn assembly for repenting to God of our blatant disregard of a simple command. As Jonah was unconcerned for the spiritual needs of the Ninevites, we are unconcerned with the spiritual needs of much of the world.

2) Jonah shows us our failure to value souls more than gourds. A mere pittance is spent by the church on missions compared with the latest gadgets, gizmos and large sanctuaries here at home. Instead of using those blessings to penetrate the darkness we have become enamored with our toys and value them more than souls. If it took all we had, if we had to bankrupt every church to see one soul come to salvation, it would be a bargain. A soul is of unbelievable worth – in fact, a human soul is worth the price of God’s Son dying to redeem it.

3) Jonah shows us our failure to let the love of God cast out our hatred of men. Just as Jonah believed the Ninevites deserved punishment (which, in fact, they did) we believe certain people are deserving of punishment. What we fail to realize is that all of have been given grace, shown unmerited mercy and favor with God who expects us to show that same kind of love and mercy to all people. This includes those trapped in Islam, spiritualism, Buddhism and all the other religious and political belief systems that exist. We cannot pick and choose who is deserving and yet we do — just crunch the number of missionaries to Sub-Saharan Africa versus the Middle East or those to South America versus SE Asia. We cannot play it safe and only concentrate on “safe” countries. God is no respecter of persons and neither should we be. Instead of that great Caribbean 10 day trip to play religious tourist, what about Bhutan or Japan where it takes actual courage to evangelize? Like Jonah faced going to Assyria?

4) Jonah shows us that our personal responsibility is to be involved in the saving of souls. If one gets nothing else out of the book of Jonah, this should slam you between the eyes. We are called by God to proclaim the good news to everyone. A Savior has come to the world. Forgiveness of sins is possible. A new life is being offered by God to all who will respond. And we are guaranteed by Scripture to see people from every tribe, tongue and nation accept this message. This is what gives us hope to go to Assyria and beyond, in the knowledge that God’s Word will not return void when it is sent out

Does Life Get Easier When You Follow Christ?

A good synopsis

Do the Word

Post by Pastor Tim Dillmuth – Does life get easier when you follow Christ?  I like how John Piper (and Paul the Apostle) answered that question.  John Piper said,

The answer seems to be that the Christian life for Paul was not the so-called good life of prosperity and ease.   Instead it was a life of freely chosen suffering beyond anything we ordinarily experience.   Paul’s belief in God, and his confidence in resurrection, and his hope in eternal fellowship with Christ did not produce a life of comfort and ease that would have been satisfying even without resurrection.  No, what his hope produced was a life of chosen suffering.  Yes, he knew joy unspeakable.  But it was a “rejoicing in hope” (Romans 12:12).  And that hope freed him to embrace sufferings that he never would have chosen apart from the hope of his own resurrection and the resurrection of those…

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