Monday, December 26, 2016



[Photo of the score of the Hallelujah Chorus]

“Hallelujah! For the Lord God Omnipotent
reigneth. The kingdom of this world is
become the Kingdom of our Lord and of
His Christ, and He shall reign forever
and ever. King of kings and Lord of lords,
and He shall reign forever and ever.”
—Revelation 19:6; 11:15

Most people will recognize those words as the text of the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s Messiah. It has become a custom to stand during the singing of this chorus. King George II, attending the first performance of this work in 1741 was so moved by the glorious music that he stood. The audience followed his example and since that time, kings and commoners have stood in honor of the Lord God Omnipotent.

Whether we stand in honor of the King of Kings, or kneel before Him, God spoke these words through the Apostle Paul, echoing words of the Prophet Isaiah, found in Philippians 2:9-11:

Therefore God exalted him [Jesus] to the highest place and gave him the name that is above very name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Humans find bowing to anyone difficult. But, kings and world leaders seems especially troubling because of their exalted place among men and, more often than not, their lack the kind of humility God will some day require from all of His creation. For an amazing story of a king whom God turned around, study the story of King Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 2 - 4.

Nebuchadnezzar, the king of the very large kingdom of Babylon, thought so much of his own power that he had a 90-foot-tall statue of himself erected for all to worship. He boasted of his greatness and flew into a murderous rage at anyone refusing to bow before him. But, God took Nebuchadnezzar through some phenomenal experiences and brought him to a place of genuine humility. Read the testimony of this king from Daniel 4:37:

Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.

We should pray for world leaders that they, too, may recognize the true King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And, like King George II, honor Him by standing, or kneeling before Him.

hen you listen carefully to the famous “Hallelujah Chorus” this Christmas, get a sense of the greatness of Christ’s power, the awesomeness of His loving reign, and the honor truly due Him from us all!


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Monday, December 19, 2016

Naughty or Nice?


[Graphic of Santa holding a blank Naughty or Nice List]

For in the gospel the righteousness of God is
revealed—a righteousness that is by faith
from first to last, just as it is written:
“The righteous will live by faith.”
—Romans 1:17

I imagine you recognize these song lyrics:

You better watch out, you better not cry,
Better not pout, I’m telling you why:
Santa Claus is comin’ to town.

He’s making a list and checking it twice,
Gonna find out who’s naughty or nice,
Santa Claus is comin’ to town.

He sees you when you’re sleepin’,
He knows when you’re awake,
He knows if you’ve been bad or good,
So be good for goodness sake.1

With stories like the one in this song, and the use of the well-worn “Elf on the Shelf,” we try to persuade our children to “be good,” so that Santa will bring them the gifts they want for Christmas. While it all seems harmless enough, I wonder if our tales of Santa have somehow crept into our theology of God at Christmas and the rest of the year, as well.

The culture in which we live seems to hold that God, if He is even real, somehow acts toward us as a “Santa.” He knows everything and sees everything about us. He makes judgments as to our fitness for His Kingdom based on some kind of “naughty or nice” quotient.

Now, it should not surprise anyone who truly believes in God that He is omnipresent—always present in all places at all times—and omniscient—possessing a complete knowledge of all things. However, the theological concept of “grace dispensed according to merit” raises a completely different point.

Ephesians 2:8-9 makes it clear that we can do nothing to gain God’s favor:

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is a gift of God—not of works, so that no one can boast.

But what about punishment—the “lump of coal” so to speak? The Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 8:1-2:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

We see that neither our good deeds, nor our transgressions of God’s law, have any effect on our salvation or our place in God’s Kingdom. Jesus, and He alone, took care of that. If we acknowledge His gift of grace through faith, we do not stand condemned. Instead, we have all the gifts that He paid with His lifeblood to give us.

So, let’s rejoice in a perfectly just, all-seeing, Sovereign God, whose gifts come to us without anything we can give to Him. Rather, He freely and lovingly provides us with all things solely through the Gift of that Baby born so long ago. That kind of favor should cause great gratitude to well up within us and result in lives of grace and compassion to others.

Our expectation to see our Savior, bringing incorruptible gifts to us, should energize us to do good deeds far beyond the supposed eyesight of one “Jolly Old Elf”!


1 Coots, J. Fred, and Haven Gillespie, Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town. New York: Leo Feist, Inc., 1934.



Monday, December 12, 2016

Christmas Outfits


[Photo of three young children dressed in their Christmas clothing]

“To him who is able to keep you from falling
and to present you before his glorious
presence without fault and with great joy—
to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty,
power and authority, through Jesus Christ our
Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.”
—Jude 1:24

How many mothers and grandmothers take pride in dressing their children in matching, festive, adorable Christmas outfits? Most, I would say. They want to show the world, through their holiday greeting cards and long-kept family albums, the pride of their lives—their children.

Never have I seen such pictures of children showing their runny noses, dirty or torn shirts, or their sagging dirty diapers, or with them squirming and crying for the camera. Even though, from time to time, these same adorable children can look this very un-adorable way, moms always work to put their little ones in the right light for others to see.

Our God does this with us! He brags on us, dresses us in spiritual finery, and speaks of us in glowing terms, even while He knows, all to well, our defects and ugly secrets.

Even at creation, we find that God dressed us in the image of His very own spectacular splendor. Psalm 8:5 says of Jesus:

You made him a little lower than the angels and crowned him with glory and honor.

Now that outfit comes complete with a tiara! Since we follow in the footsteps of Jesus, we, too, become dressed in His glory by our loving Father.

Jesus wants us to look perfect, so He provided a way through His death. Colossians 1:22 tells us:

Now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.

He presents us to the Father as perfect in Him.

Not only did He wash and cleanse us, dress us in His glorious righteousness, but He has seated us for our portrait in the heavenly realms to show off His riches that we now wear! Ephesians 2:6-7 reveals:

And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in the kindness to us in Christ Jesus.

Our enemy, Satan, may accuse us day and night (Revelation 12:10), but our Savior and God, the Lord Jesus Christ, claims us as His own. Having put our faith in His work, He showcases us like a proud parent and presents us to all of heaven and earth as His beautiful children.

May the knowledge of this kind of marvelous grace cause us great joy as we dress for this Christmas season!



Monday, December 5, 2016

Gross Darkness


[Graphic of Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer]

“For, behold, the darkness shall cover the
earth, and gross darkness the people: but
the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his
glory shall be seen upon thee.”
—Isaiah 60:2 KJV

Back in 1939, Robert L. May wrote the story, Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer. This story was first published by the department store, Montgomery Ward. Little did Robert May know how popular and longstanding this Christmas classic would become.

Everyone knows Rudolph saved Christmas by guiding Santa and his sleigh through a “pea-soup” fog on Christmas Eve. Rudolf used his brilliant red nose to lead the way. Yet, among Christmas stories, this one pales in comparison to the story of the birth of the Light of the World, the Messiah, Jesus, the Son of God.

The term “gross darkness” or “thick darkness” describes the fact that the world—morally and spiritually—had sunk into a lost condition out of which it could not find its way. Some 700 years before Jesus came as a babe to Bethlehem, the Prophet Isaiah predicted the dawn of a new day of light. This radiance would shine truth and love, healing and righteousness, into our sinful world and into the hearts and minds of each one whom God would call to this Light.

Jesus would reveal Himself as the only antidote for the sin that takes over and darkens the understanding and direction of human beings. 1 Peter 2:9 explains it this way:

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

I, for one, am grateful that here, in North America, Christmas comes in the darkest and coldest part of the year. How much more intensely the lights show up. How much more we realize the degree to which we need light for vision and warmth.

From the dawn of creation’s light to the brilliance of a city who needs no other light than the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, in the Book of Revelation, the Bible tells the story of the Light of the World. When we sin, we can know the Light will shine on that disobedience to God’s perfect will for us. When we’re lost, we can know the Light will direct us. When we live in a culture nearly devoid of the true Light, we can know that the Light will reveal itself through us.

Jesus came to bring light, and to be the Light. This Christmas season, as you see the lights on the tree, or light a candle, or even see that popular figure, Rudolph, let those things remind you that we live in darkness and need the only Light that truly can take away the “gross darkness” of our sinful hearts and or our sinful world.