The Gift of Christmas

“Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift!” (2 Cor 9:15).

“For to us a child is born, and to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:5-6, emphasis mine).

As I drove I-75 and then I-40 returning from visiting family recently in Kentucky, I reflected on two questions:

  1. What is the Gift of Christmas?
  2. What does the giving of this Gift say to us?

Christmas is a time of giving and receiving gifts.  Few in the Christian or non-Christian realms would disagree.  But perhaps it escapes some as to why we give gifts during this holiday.  More tragically, far too many fail to ponder the true Gift of Christmas. 

Humanly speaking, we often assume the nature of a gift says something of the value or worth of the gift recipient, at least in the eyes of the gift-giver.  In other words, if I give someone an extravagant (either financially or otherwise) gift, it means I think they are worthy of whatever the gift cost me.  I sacrificed because I valued the recipient.  And, it is expected that the recipient would respond to me with gratitude.

But what of God and Christmas?  First, what is the gift of Christmas?  Isaiah prophesied of the Gift of a Son 700 years prior to the birth of Jesus.  This son would not be ordinary by any stretch.  This Son would be none other than the “Mighty God, Everlasting Father.”  So, for 700 years, all who had been given spiritual eyes to see were looking for God to come as a son, a ruler, a king on earth!

But Isaiah was merely echoing Moses, and Moses was merely reporting on God’s promise made all the way back in the Garden of Eden (Gen 3:15).  God declared war on Satan and sin after Adam’s trangression.  God promised to fight and win this war, to crush Satan’s head, and He said He would do so through a child (offspring or seed) of Eve.  What?  A human baby would conquer Satan and sin?  Yes, He would, and He has (Gal 3:15-29).  This He could do because His humanity served to conceal, as it were, His majesty

As the story of redemption unfolds in the Bible, it becomes clear that the promised “seed” is Jesus, and Jesus is no ordinary baby boy.  He is the “Word made flesh” who made the worlds and had glory as God before the worlds existed (John 1).  He is Immanuel.  God with us.  Jesus came to “save His people from their sins” (Matt 1:21).  Jesus – God in the flesh – He is the Gift of Christmas.

And wow, what a Gift!  Jesus is the greatest gift the universe had to offer, and Father God gave Him up for wretched sinners like you and me.  We cannot even dream up a more extravagant Gift than the grace of God in the face of Jesus Christ.  This “inexpressible gift” comes to us by the hearing of the gospel – the mesage that Holy God has made a way for unholy sinners to be reconciled to Himself through the person and bloody cross-work of His Son, Jesus. 

Typically, a costly, extravagant gift speaks to the value of the recipient.  But we must approach with caution if we attempt to apply the same logic to the Gift of gifts – the Son of the living God.  So, what does the giving of Jesus say to us?  Let me offer a few thoughts that I pray spur you to deeper reflection this week.  God giving the Gift of gifts, Jesus, says . . .

  • God loves sinners.  While I do not think this is the primary lesson of Christmas, I cannot escape John 3:16, nor do I wish to!  When the Bible speaks of God’s holy hatred towards evildoers (Psalm 5:5), I can easily understand.  But friends, I shall never grasp why God also chooses to set His love on sinners.  God so loved . . . that He gave.  He gave the Gift of gifts.  Clearly, the Lord does value His human creatures, His image-bearers, and His love proves intensely personal and worship-inducing to those of us who have been wooed to faith in Christ by His amazing merciful Spirit.  Christmas is expressed succinctly in Romans 5:8, isn’t it?
  • We need a Savior.  We need a Substitute, a Redeemer, a Divinely-initiated atonement, a Mediator, a King.  You and I are fallen sinful people.  If this is not so, then the giving of Jesus was the most absurd and useless act in all of history.  God sending Jesus, the Treasure of treasures, makes no sense at all; that is unless we are truly “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph 2:1) and helpless to stand justified before Holy God on our own two feet (Psalm 130:3).  God gave Jesus because we need Him!
  • God takes sin seriously.  Jesus was not sent to live in the lap of luxury.  Oh no, Jesus was given as the One and Only perfect Law-Keeper, the Wrath-bearing Redeemer of sinners.  Jesus was crushed for our sins.  God gave His Son to drink from the cup of His wrath, instead of visiting our filth on our own heads.  Were God not absolutely, severely and inflexibly holy, Jesus would not have had to come and die on a tree between two hated criminals.  But, God is holy.  His holiness demands all sins be punished.  And all will be punished.  For those God saves, their sins were punished in the body of Christ on the cross, and God’s wrath was fully satisfied there (Rom 8:1; 1 Peter 2:24).  For those who do not repent and trust in the righteousness of Christ, God’s wrath will fall on them forever (2 Thess 1:5-11).  The Gift of Jesus says God is holy and serious about sin.
  • Jesus is risen from the dead and lives forever to save His people from their sins.  Isn’t it ironic how many people get enamored with the baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger?  Yet, these same people gag at the thought of the bloody, battered Jesus hanging on the cross because of how much God truly hates the sin in their hearts and lives.  Even more revealing is how many of these same people who put up manger scenes at Christmas really do not believe Jesus rose from the dead.  But friends, if Jesus did not rise, Christmas is not worthy of ever mentioning again (1 Cor 15).  But, because this Son that was given was indeed “Almighty God,” the grave was helpless to hold Him.  Thus, our final enemy as mortal sinners has been crushed by this “seed of Eve.”
  • God is forever determined to see His Son, the Gift of gifts, exalted and praised and adored and worshipped as the Sovereign Lord and King (Col 1:18).  This is why God planned in eternity past to give this Gift (Eph 1).  God has always purposed to see Jesus have “preeminence in all things” (Col 1:18).  God will not be denied!  He will get glory by saving sinners through the life, death and resurrection of His Son.  This is where the rubber meets the road for Christmas.  The Gift was given to ensure “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:10-11).

Here’s praying God grants you grace to receive the Gift of Christmas, the Life of Christmas, the Treasure of all treasures.  His name is Jesus.  God gave Him for wretches like me, not because I am worthy, but in order to reveal to me how vastly and immeasurably worthy He is and ever shall be.  “He who has the Son has life” (1 John 5:12). 

I love you Jesus, and only because You first loved me (1 John 4:10). 

Merry Christmas!

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No Need to Ask, They’re Bold To Tell

Top story on the evening news tonight (NBC) was the inevitable repeal of the so-called “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy for our military.  That policy states, in essence and to my understanding, two things:

  1. That the sexuality of military members should not be investigated without good reason.
  2. So long as military members do not openly flaunt their homosexuality, they will not be forced out of the service.  

I was in the Marine Corps when DADT became law.  To be honest, I thought it was an inherently flawed policy to begin with, and upon reflection now, I believe it was intentionally flawed by its framers.  DADT essentially made it legal to be participating in homosexual activity while in the military, so long as it all stayed “in the closet.”  The policy gave tacit approval to the gay and lesbian lifestyle.  After all, if the activity is harmful to the military, then it should not be permitted, period.  What does the activity’s openness or hiddenness matter? 

Either homosexuality is harmful or it’s not.  Either it’s immoral or it’s not.

So, hindsight being what it is, it now seems obvious that DADT was merely a precursor to its own repeal.  It “softened hearts and minds,” to use military jargon, to the idea of homosexuality not being such a big deal after all.  I mean, we all knew there were practicing homosexuals serving in our ranks “out there somewhere.”  It didn’t seem to bother many people, which is precisely what DADT was designed to do – make it all seem so harmless.  

A report from the Pentagon released recently supports the repeal of DADT.  The curtain of secrecy will now be removed when it comes to military members’ sexual lifestyles and choices.  I guess compared to DADT, the “open policy” is worse, but we’ve been on this slippery slope for decades now, haven’t we?

Even if we did not have a word from God in this matter, the utter lack of logic underlying the arguments for repealing DADT is perplexing.  The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), to my knowledge, still lists adultery as a punishable crime

So let me get this straight (pun intended), a Marine can receive stiff punishment, including forced removal from the service, for having sex with a woman who is not his wife; but if he has sex with a man, all is well. 

What if a Marine commits adultery against his wife with a man?  Is it still adultery?  Or is it now OK because it was a homosexual relation? 

Friends, moral relativism / insanity is not pretty.  It leads to even more insanity.  If we think gay/lesbian sex is not immoral now for military members, and is not at all detrimental to military order, discipline and morale, then why do we think adultery is immoral and harmful?  Why do we draw any lines at all?  Why not allow our military men and women to live in any way they so choose?  Why bother recruiting young men of character?  What is character anyway, except some cultural construction? 

The Nazis of WWII Germany said they were recruiting and training young men of character, too, you know!

When polled a majority of military members said they supported the repeal of DADT.  Our military is a micro-cosm of our relativistic culture, so no surprises there.  These young troops are products of the governmental educational machine, which continues to crank out secular humanists and ethical relativists as fast as it can go. 

Oddly enough, however, a majority of those Army and Marine troops currently in Afghanistan favored keeping DADT in place!  It seems when the bullets start flying, character and morality still matter.  Relativism simply does not work in the real world, and it can never be held consistently by anyone with a modicum of common sense. 

America – welcome to this new world.  Do you feel safer now that men who want to be women are defending you?  Do the spineless Pentagon Generals who lead our troops inspire you?  In the Bible, it is a sign of God’s judgment when women are fighting wars for Israel.  I wonder what it is a sign of when men who behave sexually as women are fighting our wars? 

Christian soliders, airmen, sailors, Marines and coastguardsmen, you had better rise up quickly against this groundswell of spitting in God’s face!  Remind yourselves that the Lord pronounces condemnation not only on those who choose to live a homosexual lifestyle, but also on “them who give approval to those who practice them” (Romans 1:32).  Rise up and make your voices heard to your cowardly leaders.  Your first loyalty is to King Jesus, the Captain of the Lord’s Army!  Rise up like Jesus and tell lost sinners of every ilk, that “unless you repent you will all likewise die” (Luke 13:3).

It is not my intent to pick on those who are living in the bondage of homosexual sin, or be mean-spirited.  It is because I love all people that I must proclaim God’s truth which can set them free.  But friends, I (and those who love and treasure Christ and His Word above all) did not pick this fight.  This fight has been brought to us by politicians, special interest groups, and PC leaders intent on ruining our nation.  If you think I am being overly-dramatic, read your Bibles.  Nations that systematically promote and flaunt sin do not escape God’s wrath.

No sin is truly hidden, for our God sees all (Heb 4:13).  And no sin is neutral or harmless.  Sin ruins the sinner, and will also take down entire nations. 

America, we stand on the precipice of becoming a full-fledged nation that “rages against God and His Christ” (Psalm 2:2).  That never ends well – “You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel” (Psalm 2:9).

Marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen who claim the Name of Christ, don’t say you were not warned.

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Amy Warren - Excellent insights. Looking forward to reading more.

tlbcassocpastor - Glad you’re enjoying it, Amy. I’ll crank back up after Christmas vacation!

Give Thanks

During this week that we Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, may I encourage parents to spend a few moments teaching your children of the history of the holiday.  This is easily accomplished via a Google search of the Plymouth Colony.  Quite frankly, the Charlie Brown special aired a few nights ago is pretty good, too!

Most importantly, however, is to direct your own hearts and minds, and that of your family, to the greatness of Almighty God.  As you sit around your tables Thursday and fare sumptuously, pose these questions to your children:

  1. What do you have that you did not receive?  1 Cor 4:7
  2. What can you do without Christ?  John 15:5
  3. Why have you been able to hear and understand the gospel?  Matthew 13:10-17
  4. Why do American prison inmates have more religious freedoms than “free” citizens of China?  Daniel 4:28-37 

These “discussion starters” will go a long way towards cultivating a heart of gratitude in your family. 

One final recommendation: Consider reading David’s Song of Thanks with your family this Thanksgiving, as it has been recorded in 1 Chronicles 16:7-36

You and I can never do better than to recite the very words of our God. 

Give thanks, O saints of God in Christ.  Give thanks, now and forever. 

“Save us, O God of our salvation, and gather and deliver us from among the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise.  Blessed be the God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting!” (1 Chron 16:35-36)

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Marriage Haters Club

“Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make a helper that corresponds to him’ “ (Gen 2:18).

The one and only thing said to be “not good” in the entire creation narrative of Genesis 1-2 is for Adam (man) to be without a helper (woman/wife).  God made men to be in a marriage relationship.  It’s central to the creation design.

To be sure, marriage is not the highest purpose of man.  No, man (humanity) was created to walk with God in a life-giving relationship, and to enjoy the Lord’s person and presence forever (to steal some of Westminster’s phraseology).  But the creation account makes it clear that the expectation, or the primary way man can glorify God and enjoy Him forever is by walking through life with a woman / wife.  Marriage is God’s ideaIt is glorious and when done with Christ at the center, brings the Lord the honor due Him as Creator and Redeemer. 

This is not to say the gift of singleness is dead today (Matt 19:12; 1 Cor 7:32-33).  But clearly, this is the biblical exception, not the rule.  If singleness were the rule, Genesis 2:18 is senseless.  God pronounced Adam’s lonliness “not good.”  Adam needed Eve (not Steve, and not any of the animals which God had him name immediately after saying his unwed state was not good). 

Young men, even those growing up in churches, simply do not believe God got it right in Genesis 2:18.  Why do college guys hang out with other guys, eating pizzas and playing video games into the wee hours of the morning?  Why do guys date girls forever, seemingly paralyzed to commit to a life of marriage and children and real responsibilities?  Why do guys joke around that once a friend has gotten engaged his life is all but over?  Poor, married wretch.  He bit the bullet.  Tied himself down.  Chained himself to misery and a probable future divorce and nasty custody battle, followed by alimony / child support.

Young men of Christ, be very careful.  Accusing God of being wrong is not something to be taken lightly.  Dads, raise your sons to know better.  Urge them to marry young and get down to the business of real world responsibility sooner rather than later.  Have we so quickly forgotten that marriage is also God’s good provision to prevent unwed motherhood and/or pre-marital sex?  Read 1 Cor 7:1-2.  Take God at His word, young men and dads!

What is surprising is how young women are also now treating marriage as if it’s something to be put off as long as possible.  I recently read an article on www.msn.com by Erin Meanley titled “36 Things Every Single Girl Must Do Before She Settles Down.”  The title says it all, doesn’t it?

Allow me to share some of Ms. Meanley’s list:

  • Live alone.
  • Go to a movie alone.
  • Fly to a foreign country by yourself.
  • Get drunk during the day, just because you can..
  • Do at least one Valentine’s Day alone.
  • Attend a wedding alone.
  • Sit at a bar by yourself and drink a martini.
  • Finish all your schooling if you can.

She goes on to list three things to do to help yourself appreciate being single.  They are: 1) Babysit someone’s baby for an hour.  2) Help a friend through her divorce.  3) Host a girls-only night.  “I think some coupled-up women forget how much we need each other,” she quips.

Notice any trends?  This is what feminism has led us to, folks.  A total reversal and denial of God’s good creation called marriage, not to mention the gift of children.  Adam and Eve were made for one another.  Their life-long companionship would reflect God’s glory in ways that no other human relationships can.  It’s OK for men to have friends who are men.  Ditto for women.  But when it comes to the foundation of human society, propagating the faith, and showing the love of Christ to the world, there is no substitute for marriage.

Call me old-fashioned, but scores of young women living alone has not and is not working well for our culture or churches.  Raising girls to shun or deny their God-given need and desire for protection and provision which they are meant to find from their husbands has not and is not working well for our culture.  Scores of men playing games with one another instead of finding their Eve and settling down with her to fulfill their high calling from God as husbands and dads – well, that’s not working so well, either, is it?

God help us stop calling His design “bad” or “something to be post-poned while you smother yourself in self-love.”  Solomon said, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing.” 

I found my good thing 20 years ago.  Short of my walk with Jesus Christ and his grace in my life, nothing else even comes close to the joy of sharing life with my “good thing.”  I highly commend it to you, boys.

God got it right.  He always does.  “It is not good for man to be alone.”

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The Makings of a Man

Most of the dating discussion thus far has focused on Daddy’s and Daughters.  There is both a practical and theological reason for this emphasis.

Practically, I am the father of two gorgeous daughters.  No need to deny it, God has used my two girls to drive me into the Word to hear from Him on the matters of being a man, being a Dad, and raising daughters.  So, if my posts seem slanted towards Dad’s critical duty to protect and defend their daughters, I make no apologies, and neither does the Bible!

Theologically, the reason is also pretty simple: If Dads protect daughters the way God has designed, most of the current “Christian dating woes” would disappear.  Young Christian men would quickly change their strategies in the face of an army of Dads linked arm-in-arm determined to honor God with the way they raise, protect and partner with their daughters in the courtship process. 

But of course, it is my sincere hope and prayer that many parents in the church of the living God would also begin to raise boys to be real men.  Our nation is awash in boys who look outwardly like grown men.  I have written on this pandemic of overgrown boys cleaverly disguished as bearded men in previous posts.  I invite you to read some of them or review them. 

Today, however, I want to end this series of posts on Dating by exhorting Dads, Moms, and young men to reclaim biblical manhood for the glory of our Savior and Lord, who was The Man of all Men.  Jesus is the perfect Man, the God-man, so if we Christians look anywhere other than to Him for our picture of manhood, shame on us.

And it really is a shame how Christians in our culture have all but lost any solid concept of genuine biblical manhood.  The femi-nazi’s have beaten us down, sissified us, and left us with girlie men.  Broken homes, single-parenthood, and absentee fathers have further contributed to multiple generations of confused, neutered men.  Far too many generations of young boys have grown up in the church with little to no model of manhood, nor anyone who cared enough to disciple and mentor them into a Christ-like man.  This must change!

I thank God for men like Drs. R. Albert Mohler, Jr. and Voddie Baucham who write and speak so powerfully, so biblically, so passionately about true manhood.  May God increase their tribe.  More importantly, may God increase the tribe of Dads who are committed to raising young warriors for Christ

And what, pray tell would such a warrior look like?  Here’s a short list:

  • A real man embraces his God-given role as a provider.  God made man and put him in a garden “to work and keep it.”  God made men to cultivate, improve, and grow things in order to provide for his wife / children, as well as to reflect the image of God as our Ultimate Provider.
  • A real man exercises dominion over the creation.  God told man to “have dominion” over the fish and fowl, creatures great and small, as well as the land and plants around him.  Adam was the first vice-regent of God, if you will, created to reflect and extend God’s dominion by using the creation in God-honoring ways, as well as beautifying the creation.  Real men do not go to PETA meetings, nor do they smooch with trees.  Nor do real men abuse the creation.  Rather, real men utilize the creation with gratitude to God for His provision, and work to beautify the creation to reflect God’s creative beauty.
  • Real men embrace God’s command to “be fruitful and multiply” and they embrace God’s good design for this propogation (one man married to one woman).  The Bible does admit a few God-ordained exceptions (those given the gift of singleness), but they are the exception, not the rule.  The rule is a “one woman man” who desires and loves children!  (Mal 2:14-16). 
  • Real men are Christ-like leaders (Eph 5:22-24).  Jesus leads with uncompromising truth.  He stands between His people and the demonic wolves.  He leads with compassion, but firmness.  He leads by washing sinners’ feet.  He leads by example.  He leads by mentoring.  He leads by teaching the Word.  He leads by preaching the Word. 
  • Real men love their wives like Christ (Eph 5:25-27).  Jesus willingly became accursed for His church, His bride.  Jesus was crushed in the stead of His bride.  Jesus defeated death and sin forever by rising again for His bride.  Jesus is a warrior who has never lost a battle for His bride!  Jesus always does only what honors God the Father, and what is best for His bride, the church.
  • Real men grasp and embrace the “one flesh union” of marriage (Eph 5:28-33).  Just as Christ is permanantly bonded to His beloved church, so a biblical man is glued to his wife for life.  A real man is determined by God’s grace that nothing short of death shall pull him away from his bride (Rom 8:31-39). 
  • Real men are the pastor-theologians of their families.  While every man will not be called or expected to fill pulpits, every married man is expected to be the primary Bible teacher in his home (1 Cor 14:34-35; 1 Tim 2:11-15).  We have been raising generations of young men in the church who can barely put together a few intelligible sentences about the gospel, much less faihfully teach a passage of scripture to their wife and children.  This must cease!  And Dad you are just the man God has called to see to it that it does cease in your own home.

The biblical standard of manhood is high.  But, God does not ask our opinion when He commands and demands and manifests His design for holy manhood.  We dare not lower God’s standard!  Rather, we look fully into the face of God in Christ to see our truest picture of what a man is.  All that Adam failed to be, Christ was and is forever.  All that we fail to be, Jesus is. 

We must pursue Jesus carried along by the Holy Spirit of grace.  We must raise sons to run hard after Christ on the track of God’s sovereign mercy. 

God give us grace to look to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of faith.  God give us grace to raise sons who will reclaim and reflect the image of Christ as the leader of their homes, the lovers of their wives, and the shepherd of their children.  God help us raise up young men who would not dare dishonor a young woman’s parents in the ways they relate to her. 

God give us real men, not for our sake, but for the sake of the Holy Savior, Jesus.  May our sons reflect His radiance, His dominion, His loveHis truth, and His holiness.  Remake our sons into the image of the Second Adam we pray.  Grant our daughters not perfect men, for Jesus alone is the Perfect Man.  But grant our daughters men of grace, who will raise our grandchildren to be children of the High King of Heaven, children of the Word, children of God’s adoption in Christ.  Amen.

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