The Gift

Sometimes a gift welcome, accepted,

By others is disdained, rejected.

Herod was troubled by the newborn king,

While shepherds heard the angels sing.

 

When they arrived there was no bed,

So they took shelter where beasts were fed.

The couple weary, travel-worn,

Were soon to witness their Baby born.

 

Herod closer did not espy,

What eastern Magi saw in the sky.

I think that maybe it might be,

That we only see what we want to see.

 

So as you look over your many lists,

Have you considered the Gift of gifts?

That first Gift for us all was born,

On that very first Christmas morn!

 

So what will your decision be,

To let Him in or bid Him leave?

Sometimes the Gift welcome, accepted,

By others is disdained, rejected.

The Disciples Were Called Christians

The Republican front-runner Donald Trump recently said in a stump speech in Des Moines, Iowa, “I am an evangelical. I am a Christian. I am a Presbyterian.” I do not mean to single out Trump here. It could have been anyone most anywhere. His statement just happens to be the most recent from someone in the news.

What do those words mean, “I am a Christian.” It seems that being or claiming to be a Christian means something different to whoever is using the title. So what does it mean to be a Christian?

The most obvious answer is a Christian is a person who has decided to follow Christ, to be like Him. Followers of Christ are often called disciples. The word disciple comes from the same root meaning as the word discipline. It follows, a disciple is one who disciplines oneself after the teachings of his master.

Jesus came saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the Gospel,” Mark 1:15. By believing the Gospel we enter into a relationship with Father God in His kingdom. A kingdom is not a democracy. In the kingdom of God we do not get to vote on what it means to be a Christian. We are to follow Christ’s example “who is the image of God,” 2 Corinthians 4:4. Being a Christian is a superlative that needs no qualification.

In the book of Acts, the historical account of the early church, we read, “the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch,” Acts 11:26. Scholars tells us this was probably a term of derision, the local towns people were mocking the disciples. That may be true, but the fact remains the local towns people knew who Christ was and recognized those who followed Him.

For this reason I believe the title Christian is not something I have a right to claim. It is a title another confers on someone recognizing the way he lives his life. If I have to tell someone I am a Christian there must be something wrong in my testimony.

But let me be clear. If someone asks me if I am a Christian and it is clearly a question of my allegiance, I would readily avow I am a Christian. But if the question is about my lifestyle, I have no right to claim something I am not living, and if I am living my faith the question is unnecessary.

During this time of year it is common for people to question what is the true meaning of Christmas. And pastors and churches will be sharing that message in the pulpit and in our community in different ways. But I think it is an appropriate time to consider what it truly means to be a Christian, because Christmas should not be celebrated during this season alone. It should be celebrated every day of the year in the way we live our lives.

Have We Forgotten Anyone

Another holiday season is upon us and many are absorbed with Christmas shopping and looking for that gift that is just right for each one on our list. As one grows older the list seems to grow longer.

Each year I am reminded of how the hustle and bustle of shopping can cause our attention to focus more on things than on people. It is very easy to allow our focus to shift from what the real meaning of Christmas is to things that are far less important.

Most of you probably do not know who Hugh Haynie is, or should I say was; he died in 1999. Hugh was a political cartoonist. His cartoons could be seen in the Louisville Courier-Journal on the editorial page. But his work was often published in the newspapers of America because Hugh had a way of making his point very clearly in the cartoons he drew.

I grew up in Jacksonville, FL reading the Florida Times-Union. Every year at Christmas time one of Hugh’s cartoons ran in the Florida Times-Union that even as a boy touched my heart with its simple truth. I think it was published in the Christmas Eve edition, but I began to look for it every year.

The cartoon pictures a man going over what must be his Christmas list sitting at the bottom of a small hill of wrapped presents. In the top left portion of the cartoon is an artistic rendering of the face of Christ superimposed on the scene. The caption reads, “Now let’s see. Have I forgotten anyone?”

It is a poignant reminder that during this time of the year that we celebrate the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ, our busy shopping schedule and hectic preparations for the big day can cause us to lose sight of the “Reason for the season.”

That first Christmas was not celebrated then as it is now, nor attended with the same attention it receives today. In the grand scheme of things the birth of Christ went relatively unnoticed. The nature of Christ has not changed in over two millennia, He did not force His way into the inn then and He does not force His way into our thoughts and hearts today.

If we are not careful His birth and its significance will go, even amid the lights and festivities, as unnoticed today as it did then. “The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great Light, and those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, upon them a Light dawned,” Matthew 3:16.

Now let’s see. Have we forgotten anyone?

Patience Not Permission

I am not enamored with those who our culture deems as celebrities. Most live surreal lifestyles, and say and do the most outlandish things as if intoxicated with their own notoriety and wealth. In my estimation they no longer represent success, but are examples of excess.

Yet, there is a least one notable exception in my opinion, and that is Tim Tebow. While like everyone else I can be fooled by the perception and not see the reality, Tim Tebow time and again gives every evidence of being a genuine Christian unfazed by fame and fortune, and maintains the calm assurance of his faith amid the ridicule of his detractors. He is a champion in many ways, in my opinion.

While it is difficult to sort out fact from fiction in the gossip reported by the rumor rags, it was recently disclosed that Olivia Culpo, the 2012 Miss U.S.A. and Miss Universe, broke up with Tim Tebow because he refused to compromise his vow to abstain from sex until he marries. Some sources say they met at church, and went out together a few times, others say they never really dated. Who knows?

I would not take the time to write about this except Tim is once again being belittled in the media for his convictions, and all the talk has served to bring the issue of pre-marital sex into the public discourse. Our culture has adopted a casual perspective of sex because of a callous disregard for what the Scriptures say about the subject.

God’s purpose for sex is twofold. Sex ensures the procreation and flourishing of the human race, and the pleasures of sexual relations are reserved to a husband and wife exclusively in the covenant of marriage to further the bond of intimacy. Any sexual act outside of the marital commitment between a man and woman is a perversion of God’s plan for humanity.

In all the jockeying for attention we do not know which account can be trust, and none of us know what transpired between Tim and Olivia. What I do know is if Tim maintains his conviction of abstinence, he will not be paying child support for illegitimate children or a doctor’s bill for a sexually transmitted disease.

I think because we do not witness God’s judgment on society we think He is unconcerned about our sexual practices. But Peter tells us, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance,” 2 Peter 3:9. The promise of Jesus’ return and the judgment of sin at his coming cannot be dismissed but God is being patient giving us time to turn from our sins. It is a mistake to confuse God’s patience for His permission.