Christmas in Light of the Cross, Day 25 (The Father’s Sacrifice)

I am writing today from  cold and freezing, beautiful Tulsa.

I am writing today from cold and freezing, beautiful Tulsa.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16 NKJV

For years I always pictured Jesus as the one making all the sacrifices when He came to earth, and lived and died for us, while the Father just stayed up in heaven and watched. I never realized that it was the Father who was making the greatest sacrifice. That is until one night many years ago, when I got a call from my mother. A young man in his 30’s who was very dear to our family, had just died from a heart disease. He was waiting on a heart transplant, which did not arrive in time. As my mother was telling me all this, she started crying and telling me how she wished she could have just given him her own heart. She said as she sobbed, “I have already lived me life, and he had a young family, why couldn’t I have just given him my heart!” I sat stunned on the other end of the line, thinking, “because you are my mother! That’s why! No way would we let you do that!” 

When I hung up the phone, that is when I realized for the first time, that our heavenly Father was not just simply watching His Son make all the sacrifices. It was actually the Father who was making the greatest sacrifice in allowing all this to happen to His Son. Many of us would rather suffer than to see our family suffer. While the angels longed to rescue Jesus from this cruel world, I imagine the Father would rather have traded place with Him, but that was not the plan.

I see adds where a family is having to move to another city and can’t take their dog for whatever reason.  They have to leave the dog behind.The adds read that they want to make sure their dog goes to a good home. They want it to be well taken care of. If people want their dogs to be well taken care of, then don’t you imagine the Father wanted His Son to be well taken care of? Yet there are dogs who have been treated better than the way Jesus was treated. How this must have hurt the Father, yet He did it because of His love for you! He gave His precious Son to ransom you from the power of sin and the grave. How much He must love us!

 

The heart of God yearns over His earthly children with a love stronger than death. In giving up His Son, He has poured out to us all heaven in one gift.
Through that gift there comes to us day by day the unfailing flow of Jehovah’s goodness. Every flower, with its delicate tints and sweet fragrance, is given for our enjoyment through that one Gift. The sun and moon were made by Him; there is not a star that beautifies the heavens which He did not make. There is not an article of food upon our tables that He has not provided for our sustenance. The superscription of Christ is upon it all. Everything is supplied to man through the one unspeakable Gift, the only-begotten Son of God. He was nailed to the cross that all these bounties might flow to God’s workmanship.
In taking our nature, the Saviour has bound Himself to humanity by a tie that is never to be broken. Through the eternal ages He is linked with us. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son.” He gave Him not only to bear our sins, and to die as our sacrifice; He gave Him to the fallen race. To assure us of His immutable counsel of peace, God gave His only-begotten Son to become one of the human family, forever to retain His human nature. This is the pledge that God will fulfill His word. “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder.” Isaiah 9:6. God has adopted human nature in the person of His Son, and has carried the same into the highest heaven. . . . Heaven is enshrined in humanity, and humanity is enfolded in the bosom of Infinite Love.
Christ bowed down in unparalleled humility, that in His exaltation to the throne of God, He might also exalt those who believe in Him, to a seat with Him upon His throne. –Ellen White, The Faith I Live by, Page 45.

Christmas in Light of the Cross, Day 23 (Beyond the Manger,Loneliness)

I am writing today from my parent's beautiful icy home near Tulsa, Oklahoma.

I am writing today from my parent’s beautiful icy home near Tulsa, Oklahoma.

 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. 2 Corinthians 1:5 NKJV

I love being with my family and friends. I love people. But you know what? I also enjoy being a lone. When I moved to Texas, 20 years ago, there was no texting or -email (that I knew of at least) and it took time to make friends. So, I would go to restaurants by myself, and bring a notepad and write hand written letters home, the kind that you mail with a stamp, to family and friends while I enjoyed my meal. However, soon I started making lots of friends in Texas, and so I had people to go dine with, and so the letter writing stopped.

Fast forward to just a few years ago, living in Tampa Florida now.  I was sitting at a stop light, looking at a nice restaurant on the corner, which for some reason reminded my of my letter writing days long ago. I decided, even though I have lots of friends I enjoy dining with here in Florida, that I kind of miss the days when I would go into a restaurant alone and write old fashioned hand written letters, so I did so!

I don’t feel lonely when I am eating by myself. I don’t feel lonely when I take a solo bike ride down the Upper Tampa Bay Trail. I don’t feel lonely when I enjoy a good book on a park bench near the beach. I know I have friends even if they are not right with me at the moment. I know they are just a call or text away. So what does make me feel lonely? When people misunderstand me. When people misjudge my motives and intentions. When that happens it does not matter how many people are around. If they don’t understand me, that makes me feel alone. Thankfully I have good friends who are very understanding. Still, I think there are moments in our lives when we at least “feel” like no one understands. That can be a very lonely feeling.

Jesus knows how that feels.

 Yet through childhood, youth, and manhood, Jesus walked alone. In His purity and His faithfulness, He trod the wine press alone, and of the people there was none with Him. He carried the awful weight of responsibility for the salvation of men. He knew that unless there was a decided change in the principles and purposes of the human race, all would be lost. This was the burden of His soul, and none could appreciate the weight that rested upon Him. Filled with intense purpose, He carried out the design of His life that He Himself should be the light of men.  -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 92 

We can ease that loneliness by joining Jesus in His cause. When we lay aside our own ambitions and join Jesus in His ambitions,  we have fellowship with Him.  In Gethsemane, Jesus longed for someone to pray with Him. Everyone was too sleepy and tired to appreciate what was going on at the moment. Jesus freely excused their weakness and human flesh, while in His humanity He longed for fellowship and someone to pray with. Some one to understand and join in His sufferings. It is not too late. We can have fellowship with Jesus today, by appreciating His sacrifice and praying with Him for the salvation of others, so that His sacrifice will not be in vain.

Just a few days before Jesus’ death, a woman anointed him with perfume. This was not just any perfume. This perfume was very expensive and potent. Back in those days, people did not shower every day, and so the perfume was made to last for days to make up for that. This perfume was especially rich and potent. Just a few days later, Jesus was hanging on the cross. When the people jeered and mocked Him, and Jesus in His humanity was tempted to think that He was alone, He pushed his feet into the cruel spikes, the heave Himself up, so He could take a breath. As He inhaled He took in the aroma of the perfume poured all over Him just a few days earlier. The aroma reminded Him, there is someone who cares and understands! It eased His  human loneliness.

So today, our prayers and gifts for the cause of Jesus are an aroma that Jesus loves to breathe, knowing His sacrifice was not in vain. He is not alone. We have fellowship in His sufferings and in His glory, and He has fellowship with us!

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” 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 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.

Christmas in Light of the Cross, Day 14 (Sanctification in Christmas Carols)

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

God rest ye merry, gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
Remember, Christ, our Saviour
Was born on Christmas day
To save us all from Satan’s power
When we were gone astray
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy-Published by William B. Sandys in 1833. Author unknown.

There is some good theology in these older Christmas carols as well as some of the new.

The writer of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” knew the power of the gospel when he (or she) wrote, “To save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray.”  By coming to live and die for us, Jesus did way more than just save us from the penalty of sin. He saves us from the power of sin.

The author of “Away in a Manger” (Author unknown) Speaks of sanctification as well as justification.

Bless all the dear children in thy tender care, And fit us for heaven, to live with thee there.

That’s what sanctification is, fitting us for heaven and saving us from Satan’s power. (Some newer versions of this song say “take us to heaven” instead of “fit us for heaven.” Why the change? Conspiracy? LOL!) Today as Seventh-day Adventists study and share the sanctuary message, many scoff at us when it comes to the holy place and most holy place, where sanctification takes place. They want the sanctuary to end in the courtyard where justification takes place, and not go any farther. Yet years before the Adventists ever discovered the “cleansing of the sanctuary” message, these and many other Christmas hymns had an understanding of the complete gospel, and a comprehension of all that Jesus accomplished by His life and death on the cross, and what He can accomplish in our hearts today!

“And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from [From not in!] their sins.” Matthew 1:21 NKJV

This Christmas Season let’s take some time to enjoy and appreciate the wonderful Christmas hymns, celebrating everything Jesus accomplished for us from the manger to the cross!

Christmas in Light of the Cross, Day 13 (God With Us)

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” Matthew 1:23 

By His life and His death, Christ has achieved even more than recovery from the ruin wrought through sin. It was Satan’s purpose to bring about an eternal separation between God and man; but in Christ we become more closely united to God than if we had never fallen. In taking our nature, the Saviour has bound Himself to humanity by a tie that is never to be broken. Through the eternal ages He is linked with us. “God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son.” John 3:16. He gave Him not only to bear our sins, and to die as our sacrifice; He gave Him to the fallen race. To assure us of His immutable counsel of peace, God gave His only-begotten Son to become one of the human family, forever to retain His human nature. This is the pledge that God will fulfill His word. “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder.” God has adopted human nature in the person of His Son, and has carried the same into the highest heaven. It is the “Son of man” who shares the throne of the universe. It is the “Son of man” whose name shall be called, “Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6. The I AM is the Daysman between God and humanity, laying His hand upon both. He who is “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners,” is not ashamed to call us brethren. Hebrews 7:26; 2:11. In Christ the family of earth and the family of heaven are
bound together. Christ glorified is our brother. Heaven is enshrined in humanity, and humanity is enfolded in the bosom of Infinite Love. –Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Pages 25-26

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. –Ellen White, Steps to Christ, Pages 13-14