Christmas In Light of the Cross, Day 20 ( Jesus’ Childhood Beyond the Manger )

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.  Luke 2:40 

We talk about the birth of Jesus a lot but what about His childhood? Have you ever thought about the fact that God was a kid at one time? When Jesus came to live among men He had to grow up just like everyone else. Obeying was not necessarily any easier for Jesus than it was for any other kid. Paul shares with us that,

Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;  Hebrews 5:8

In Hebrews, Paul spends a lot of time writing about the humanity of Jesus, and in this passage shows us that as Jesus constantly overcame His human flesh through the Spirit, that His humanity suffered when it did not get its own way. Jesus knows what it is like to deny the desires of the flesh and to have continual victory through the Spirit. He can help us do the same.

Below is a passage from the classic book on the life of Jesus called Desire of Ages.  It comes from pages 70-72 on Jesus’ life as a child. You will find as you read, Six keys that helped Jesus maintain a righteous character, and these six keys will help us too. Let’s take a look. They keys are highlighted in red.

Every child may gain knowledge as Jesus did. As we try to become acquainted with our heavenly Father through His word, angels will draw near, our minds will be strengthened, our characters will be elevated and refined. We shall become more like our Saviour. And as we behold the beautiful and grand in nature, our affections go out after God. While the spirit is awed, the soul is invigorated by coming in contact with the Infinite through His works. Communion with God through prayer develops the mental and moral faculties, and the spiritual powers strengthen as we cultivate thoughts upon spiritual things  The life of Jesus was a life in harmony with God. While He was a child, He thought and spoke as a child; but no trace of sin marred the image of God within Him. Yet He was not exempt from temptation. The inhabitants of Nazareth were proverbial for their wickedness. The low estimate in which they were generally held is shown by Nathanael’s question, “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?” John 1:46. Jesus was placed where His character would be tested. It was necessary for Him to be constantly on guard in order to preserve His purity. He was subject to all the conflicts which we have to meet, that He might be an example to us in childhood, youth, and manhood

Satan was unwearied in his efforts to overcome the Child of Nazareth. From His earliest years Jesus was guarded by heavenly angels, yet His life was one long struggle against the powers of darkness. That there should be upon the earth one life free from the defilement of evil was an offense and a perplexity to the prince of darkness. He left no means untried to ensnare Jesus. No child of humanity will ever be called to live a holy life amid so fierce a conflict with temptation as was our Saviour

The parents of Jesus were poor, and dependent upon their daily toil. He was familiar with poverty, self-denial, and privation. This experience was a safeguard to Him. In His industrious life there were no idle moments to invite temptation. No aimless hours opened the way for corrupting associations. So far as possible, He closed the door to the tempter. Neither gain nor pleasure, applause nor censure, could induce Him to consent to a wrong act. He was wise to discern evil, and strong to resist it.” -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, pages 70-72

Christmas in Light of the Cross, Day 19 (Christmas Trees at Church)

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

When I was 17, I was attending Oklahoma Adventist Academy, a very conservative, self supporting school. While there, during my own Bible study time I ran across Jeremiah 10, which seemed to me, it was talking about how pagan Christmas trees are.  I asked my English teacher, Mrs. Stienkrause about it. Even though she and the school were very conservative, and even strict, she explained to me that Jeremiah 10 was not talking about Christmas trees, and that Jeremiah was talking about something much more sinister than simply placing a tree inside a house for decoration. After all, it would stand to reason that if we should not have a tree in our house or church for decoration, then we should have no plants at all! This simply is not the case.

You can click here and read and listen to Doug Bachelor, a very conservative Adventist evangelist with Amazing Facts explain the truth about Jeremiah 10 and what it is really talking about.

Below is a quote from Ellen White, on how we can use the Christmas tree to promote the spirit of giving, which is the Spirit of Jesus.

We are now nearing the close of another year, and shall we not make these festal days opportunities in which to bring to God our offerings? I cannot say sacrifices, for we shall only be rendering to God that which is his already, and which he has only intrusted to us till he shall call for it. God would be well pleased if on Christmas, each church would have a Christmas tree on which shall be hung offerings, great and small, for these houses of worship. Letters of inquiry have come to us asking, Shall we have a Christmas tree? will it not be like the world? We answer, You can make it like the world if you have a disposition to do so, or you can make it as unlike the world as possible. There is no particular sin in selecting a fragrant evergreen, and placing it in our churches; but the sin lies in the motive which prompts to action, and the use which is made of the gifts placed upon the tree.  -Ellen White, Review and Herald,  December 11, 1879 par. 15

“Christmas” or “The Advent”? In Light of the Cross

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Christmas   The Advent in Light of the Cross, Day 18.

During this time of year the world turns their attention to the Bible account of the first Advent of Christ. You can read about it in Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2.  As Jesus’ disciples, fulfilling the gospel commission in Matthew 28:19-20, We must take advantage of every opportunity just as Jesus did.

Jesus saw in every soul one to whom must be given the call to His kingdom. He reached the hearts of the people by going among them as one who desired their good. He sought them in the public streets, in private houses, on the boats, in the synagogue, by the shores of the lake, and at the marriage feast. He met them at their daily vocations, and manifested an interest in their secular affairs. He carried His instruction into the household, bringing families in their own homes under the influence of His divine presence. His strong personal sympathy helped to win hearts.–Ellen White, The Desire of Ages, p. 151.

I have been confused by some of the feedback I have received from professed Christians, saying we should not celebrate the birth of Jesus since He was not born on December 25. They turn around and say we should celebrate Jesus everyday. My question is, “Isn’t December 25 a day. Why stop sharing Jesus on December 25 just because He was not born on that day? ” I share Jesus everyday including December 25.

I understand now, why many Christian Protestant writers are now referring to the “Advent” instead of “Christmas.” Christmas has pagan connotations, while “Advent” sounds more Biblical. That is all well and good. I am not promoting anything pagan. I am only trying to share Jesus with my friends around the world. Still I get feedback from vigil ante Christians telling me Christmas is pagan and not Biblical. I do not publish these comments on my blog posts, because, while I am trying to share Jesus with those who may not know Him, they would find these comments very confusing. While I understand what these commenters are talking about, those who don’t know Jesus yet would not. They would only take the comments to mean that Jesus is pagan, since they do not have the same viewpoint as we do.

Jesus used terms and parables that the people could associate with and understand. The un-churched understand the word “Christmas” and can relate to it. As far as pagan or Biblical they have no opinion or notions. The word “Christmas” is nothing more than an open door for me to share Jesus. I can use the word “Advent” instead and that may be more appealing to people who are already Biblical, but that word is not going to mean anything to a world dying in sin, desperate for the good news of a Savior. “Advent” is a foreign term to them, and Jesus uses terms people can relate to in their daily lives.

The parables, by means of which He loved to teach lessons of truth, show how open His spirit was to the influences of nature, and how He delighted to gather the spiritual teaching from the surroundings of daily life.

 He drew illustrations also from the events of life, facts of experience familiar to the hearers–the leaven, the hid treasure, the pearl, the fishing net, the lost coin, the prodigal son, the houses on the rock and the sand. In His lessons there was something to interest every mind, to appeal to every heart.  –Ellen White, Child Guidance, Pages 51-52 

In order to reach the world we must overcome our narrow-minded thinking, and tunnel vision. Jesus was always right. He was always theologically correct, but He was also open minded, and was often grieved by the narrow-minded and bigoted self-righteous pharisees. December 25 is not the mark of the beast. December 25 does not oppose the seal of God in any way. December 25 is a day like any other day that the psalmist said we should rejoice in.

My posts do not promote anything pagan. They do not promote Christmas parties with drinking. They do not promote Santa Clause or any kind of mythology.

My  posts only promote Jesus and the Biblical accounts of His life, sacrifice and resurrection. Comments concerning what my posts are actually about are most welcome! Comments that would lead those seeking a Savior, even closer to God are most welcome. Thank you!

Christmas in Light of the Cross, Day 17 (Born of the Spirit)

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. Matthew 1:20 NKJV

While Jesus was born with a human nature, many point out that Jesus had an advantage over us, in living a victorious life, because, while being human, He was also born of the Spirit. This is true. After all, Jesus did not come to demonstrate what an unconverted man may do. He came to demonstrate what a Spirit filled man can do. While Jesus had an advantage in being Spirit filled, He also offered that same advantage to Nicodemus and all of us.

Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.  Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:3-8 NKJV

According to John 3 we all may have the same advantage Jesus had. We all are invited to be born of God.

to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:19 NKJV

Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart,  having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever…. 1 Peter 1:22-23 NKJV

Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. 1 John 3:9 NKJV 

Therefore Jesus was “in all points tempted like as we are.” Hebrews 4:15. He endured every trial to which we are subject. And He exercised in His own behalf no power that is not freely offered to us. As man, He met temptation, and overcame in the strength given Him from God. –Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 24.

Christmas in Light of the Cross, Day 16 (Acceptance)

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area, where many are accepting God's love and life changing power. Will you accept God's love into your heart today?

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area, where many are accepting God’s love and life changing power. Will you accept God’s love into your heart today?

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:  “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” Luke 2:13-14 NKJV

What a wonderful message from heaven to fallen man! The angels did not come and say, “God is over in Bethlehem, and you better get over there, and see if you can get things straightened out between you!” No! God is at peace with man if man will just,

“…take hold of My strength, That he may make peace with Me;
And he shall make peace with Me.” Isaiah 27:5 NKJV

God is not at war with mankind. Mankind is at war with God!

Because the carnal mind is enmity against God. Romans 8:7 NKJV

It is not God who is at enmity with man, it is man who is at enmity with God. In the Garden of Eden it was not God who ran from Adam after they sinned, but Adam who ran away from God.  In the story of the prodigal son, it was not the father but the son who ran away. It was not Jesus who told the demon possessed that He could not stand being near them, but it was the demon possessed, who could not stand being near Jesus.

So today our Intercessor does not intercede trying to convince God to accept us. No! He is interceding for us, trying to get us to accept the God who has never run away from us! He is interceding, pleading for us to come back to God! The Father provided the Intercessor, because He wanted to make peace with us, after the carnal mind made war with Him!

But this great sacrifice was not made in order to create in the Father’s heart a love for man, not to make Him willing to save. No, no! “God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son.” John 3:16. The Father loves us, not because of the great propitiation, but He provided the propitiation because He loves us. Christ was the medium through which He could pour out His infinite love upon a fallen world. “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself.” 2 Corinthians 5:19. God suffered with His Son. In the agony of Gethsemane, the death of  Calvary, the heart of Infinite Love paid the price of our redemption.
Jesus said, “Therefore doth My Father love Me, because I lay down My life, that I might take it again.” John 10:17. That is, “My Father has so loved you that He even loves Me more for giving My life to redeem you. In becoming your Substitute and Surety, by surrendering My life, by taking your liabilities, your transgressions, I am endeared to My Father; for by My sacrifice, God can be just, and yet the Justifier of him who believeth in Jesus.” –Ellen White, Steps to Christ, Pages 13-14

While pagan religions make human sacrifices to get the gods to accept them, in Christianity the God makes the sacrifice to get the humans to accept Him!

Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,  having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,  to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:4-6 NKJV 

God is offering peace and good will towards man. Will you accept Christ’s forgiveness with all His life changing power today?

Christmas in Light of the Cross, Day 15, (As far as the Curse is Found)

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area. This is my home church. Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area. This is my home church. Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church.

But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more. Romans 5:20 NKJV

On Thanksgiving Day, this year my Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church Family lost a dear patriarch, when 95 year old Woody Hill passed away. Strangers would stop Woody and his wife in public and tell them they had a special beauty and glow. His children say it was Jesus in Him. Woody was always busy helping his family, his church and his neighbors. At age 85, when he heard a prowler was near a neighbor’s home, he grabbed his pistol and went out into the night to scare the prowler away, which he did!

Last night as I was visiting the family, I was awed by the time they told me he spent in prayer. Entire nights. That sounds like only One other Person I know. The only Person who gets a capital letter when only calling Them a Person. His family told me the week that he died, he was praying in his chair until 6 in the morning, and the way he prayed you would think Jesus was sitting right next to him. They told me how Woody prayed for the church and neighbors and everyone he knew including me! How humbling!

Having labored from Connecticut to Chiclayo Peru, I have met many people, who when I see them or hear their name, I quickly remember them and associate them with church. But Woody will always remind me  of Jesus!

After Woody’s passing on Thanksgiving Day, another dear elderly friend, Julian passed away just yesterday morning. Julian was my golf buddy as well going with me on my group Bible studies with his wife, and also traveling with me when I would preach out of town.

Instead of ruining my Christmas this has made it even more meaningful to me.  A song keeps echoing in my heart and mind.“Joy to the World!” One verse especially keeps repeating itself over and over. The third verse, which proclaims the complete power of the gospel. Because of sin we have so many sorrows climaxing with death. But a little baby, lying in a manger about 2,000 years ago came to make His blessings flow as far as the curse is found! Because of Him we will live again! Joy to the world!

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found. –Joy to the World, Issac Watts, 1719.