The Joy of Christ(mas)

As many of you may know from experience, God’s Word is a splendid place to begin when searching for answers to the question, “What is God like?” We can observe much concerning His characteristics and attributes by simply looking around at the world He has created. Psalm 19:1 tells us “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork.” The glory of God is all around us. We see it in a beautiful sunrise. We see it in the vast array of stars in the sky on a clear night. We hear it in the crash of the waves on a peaceful, sandy beach. God is good and He is glorious.

It is at this time of year, however, that we are reminded much more of God’s grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness. We can see these things as we think about the incarnation of the Son of God. We remember these things as we ponder the biblical truth of Jesus Christ taking human form in order to live a sinless life and die a sinner’s death on our behalf. The story of Christmas is woven throughout the whole fabric of the Scriptures. The Psalmist writes, “If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared. I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His Word I hope…O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with Him is plentiful redemption” (Psalm 130:3–5, 7).

As we approach this Christmas season, my prayer for myself and for each one of you is that we might spend more time pondering the goodness and the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. I pray we will take time often to consider the true meaning of this wonderful celebration. I would encourage you to find a Bible-believing, Bible-teaching church in your area and attend their worship gatherings throughout this month of December so that you might take full advantage of every opportunity to draw closer to the Messiah. I would like to invite you personally to Berlin Baptist Church on December 22nd and December 29th at 11:00am and 6:00pm as we conclude our Advent series and look forward to God’s vision for His church during this next year and decade. You are always welcome at Berlin Baptist, but the important thing is for you to choose a biblical church and attend faithfully.

I pray you will be filled with great awe and wonder as you try “to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses all knowledge” (Eph 3:18–19). Having known the love of God, I pray we all will turn to Him both at Christmas and always. A.W. Tozer, in his book, “The Knowledge of the Holy,” concludes, “How completely satisfying to turn from our limitations to a God who has none.” This time of year is certainly as good a time as any to turn to experience salvation and forgiveness by surrendering your life to Jesus.

From my family to yours, we wish you a Christ-filled, merry Christmas and a glorious new year!

Seasonal Worship

I love the summer. More specifically, my children love the summer. They seem to count down the days leading up to the final school day of the year. They look so forward to sleeping later and being free from homework. There are no tests or exams for which they must study. They are carefree and all is right with the world. Unfortunately, summer vacation is not eternal. Summer may have begun with a bang, but it will end with the loud cries and lamentations of students everywhere. There may be weeping and gnashing of teeth. They may count down the days, but it will not be a pleasant event, I assure you.

Speaking of summer vacation, there is an interesting parallel that occurs in the many churches. It seems many church members assume the average student’s mindset when the summer season approaches. Attendance for Bible Study and worship gatherings tend to take a moderate dip during the summer months. Financial gifts also seem to experience an interruption as the outside temperature begins to rise above 88 degrees. I have often wondered why this happens, as if there is something inherently special about the months of June, July, and August that would cause many professing followers of Christ to suddenly be missing in action. I realize I may hold a minority position, but I simply fail to understand what causes spiritual priorities to shift with the seasons.

Several years ago I was teaching a Bible study class which met every Sunday morning at 9:15. We had begun a survey of the Minor Prophets, the final twelve books in the Old Testament. We began with the book of Jonah because it is both short and familiar. I felt like this would give us a good entry point before getting into some of the heavier prophecies. One of the other Minor Prophets is named Amos. He was a contemporary of another well-known prophet by the name of Isaiah. Well, Amos had a message from God for those who would pay lip service to the Lord while failing to live lives that reflected their professed beliefs. God told His people, “I hate, I despise your feasts! I can’t stand the stench of your solemn assemblies. Even if you offer Me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; I will have no regard for your fellowship offerings of fattened cattle. Take away from Me the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice flow like water, and righteousness, like an unfailing stream” (Amos 5:21-24, HCSB).

God’s message then was much the same as it is now. God desires fully devoted followers who not only talk the talk, but also walk the walk. He wants our lives to demonstrate how much we love Him and desire to serve Him. He is not interested in “artificial” worship. He does not delight in “lip service.” God takes no pleasure in a people who can talk a good game, but who are unwilling to back it up with actions. Unfortunately, I’m afraid there are more and more church-goers who are drifting toward this latter category. I pray we will recover from the harmful habit of taking a vacation from worship. In the attitudes of our hearts as well as the confessions of our mouths, may we pray, sing, give, and study always to the glory of God…regardless of the season.

Mike.  Out.