Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Christmas Without Christ

The following is a guest post on my blog by my good friend Det Bowers.

There has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.[1]


Cultural Christians celebrate Christmas without Christ.  They have read the story of Christ’s birth and they understand the season. They appreciate the holiday from work or school and they welcome the good cheer.  Nevertheless, they have no personal relationship with Jesus. 

The season of Christ’s birth has become more of a “man-mas” than a “Christ-mas.”  Gold, frankincense, myrrh, busyness and stress have replaced the simplicity of a peasant’s womb, an unadorned manger, and God’s holy Son cloaked in humble humanity so that you might be draped in His gown of righteousness.  The God who resided in a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day determined to tabernacle in the flesh of His people.

Jesus’ incarnation fulfilled Scripture and humanized godliness.  He is the Seed of the woman (Eve).  Jesus is the One descended from a particular nation (Jews), a particular tribe (Judah), a particular family (David), a particular mother (Virgin), and in a particular place (Bethlehem Ephrathah). 

While the world slumbers in its sleep, you approach Bethlehem deliberately, expectantly and humbly.  Bare cupboards and empty pockets cannot keep you from your Lord Christ.

WHEREAS, there was a night like no other, and a child like no other; and
WHEREAS, God did bespeak His desire to have you good gentlefolk attend to the tidings of His Son; and
NOW, THEREFORE, GOD SPEED you in your pursuit of the Holy of Holies. 

O come, let us adore Him … We’ll praise His name forever…

We’ll give Him all the glory … For He alone is worthy … Christ the Lord.[2]

Though Christians think of Christmas as a peaceful time, it was birthed in conflict.  Christmas began in Eden with God’s promise to Satan that One coming from Eve would be the devil’s demise.[3]  The record provided by the sacred chroniclers of Christmas’ foretelling and happening is an immense understatement. 

The God of all creation, moved by holy mercy that births unconditional compassion, sent Himself (Immanuel) to a people who refused to receive Him.[4]  Abraham rejoiced to see His day and he saw it and was glad – Moses esteemed Christ’s reproach as greater riches than the treasures of Egypt – Job knew that his Redeemer did live and at the last He would take His stand on the earth.[5]  Immanuel, whose former condition was glorious, came amidst the censure of your world.[6]   

The decree of the pagan King Augustus moved Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem in Judea where the prophecy of the ages would be fulfilled.  The world that was taxed with death would now be blessed with the only One able to remove the death-tax.  God did what man could not do and He accomplished His desires in ways designed to confound man’s imaginings.

No birth has ever been more humble yet glorious.  Consider a new star, myriads of angels declaring their hosannas, and wise men attending Jesus’ early childhood.  Simeon’s gnarled and spotted hands held eternity’s rest and peace.  Anna offered thanksgivings to her God and spoke of Immanuel to all who were interested in being redeemed. 

The Church was not ready for Christ’s first advent.  Humanity will not be ready for His final advent.

What is Christmas for you?  Family parties, clusters of ceiling-hung mistletoe tempting you, caroling, gifts, hearths with blazing fires and feasting on the finest meats, the freshest breads and the plumiest puddings.  Perhaps remembrances of your first bicycle, your prettiest doll or your favorite baseball glove capture your mind, or laughing about weddings and crying about funerals. 

Christmas affects people in varied ways.  O. Henry’s wife sold her beautiful hair to buy her husband a watch fob, while he sold his watch to buy her an expensive comb.  Christmas is the season when giving affects the giver more than the receiver because he realizes that God gave what cannot be wrapped in green and red paper – God’s gift, Immanuel, was wrapped in swaddling clothes. 

Christ’s teaching has influenced more people than all the potentates, parliaments and presidents the world has known.  For you, Christmas is a day of hope when Christ reclaims the center of life, the schedules of men and hearts of the godly.  Mary declared, “My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.”[7]  Your soul also magnifies your Lord.  Though you cannot improve God’s awesomeness, you do recognize, appreciate and practice His glory. 

WHAT  IF a long time ago in a land far, far away, a promise was made to the people who walk in darkness that they would see a great light, and to those who live in a dark land that light would shine on them?

WHAT  IF a long time ago in a land far, far away, a promise was made to a burdened people that the yoke of their burden, the staff on their shoulders and the rod of their oppressors would be broken?

WHAT  IF a long time ago in a land far, far away, a Child was born?

WHAT  IF a long time ago in a land far, far away, a Son was given?

WHAT  IF a long time ago in a land far, far away, the government of your life rested on the shoulders of this Son who was given?

WHAT  IF a long time ago in a land far, far away, the name of this Child who was born was called Wonderful Counselor?

WHAT  IF a long time ago in a land far, far away, the name of this Son who was given was called Mighty God?

WHAT  IF a long time ago in a land far, far away, the name of this Child who was born was called Eternal Father?

WHAT  IF a long time ago in a land far, far away, the name of this Son who was given was called Prince of Peace?

WHAT  IF a long time ago in a land far, far away, you were promised there would be no end to the increase of His government or of His peace?

WHAT  IF a long time ago in a land far, far away, these promises and these occurrences were all accomplished for you?

When the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman,
born under the Law, in order that He might redeem those who were under the Law,
that we might receive the adoption as sons.[8]


During your life, you receive few glimpses into heaven.  God leaves much to your study of Scripture.  Nonetheless, earth was allowed to pierce the heavenly veil when “suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.’”[9]

Your Lord’s company of angels praised God and their praises have been shouted down to humanity throughout the ages.  This angelic doxology was paralleled nearly three decades later when Jerusalem’s multitudes praised this same Jesus singing, “Hosanna to the son of David; blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest!”[10]

The praises to God offered in the earth’s hearing bear a unique blessing.  The multitude of the heavenly host announced that peace would be the commonwealth of those “with whom He is pleased.”  The question of the ages is: “Who pleases God?”

Most people search for a better job, a better spouse, better children, better friends, and the list continues.  Nevertheless, you will not.  Your desire is to please God so you daily pray for a God-shaped conformity to the image of Christ.  You desire a resemblance to Simeon, Anna, and Joseph of Arimathea.[11]  Christmas is your season for recapturing the Christlikeness you have forfeited amidst the press of life.

During this season of your life, may your Lord Christ bless you and keep you; make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace.[12]


God, You are the Holy One of Israel.  You alone have made glorious Zebulun, Naphtali and Galilee of the Gentiles.  In Your Light I see light.

I confess I am a person who walks in darkness and I live in a dark land.  I have rejected the increase of Your government and of Your peace in my life.  I have mocked the throne of David with my feeble practice of Christianity and confess that the zeal of the Lord of hosts has not become my own. 

I live in a land knowing no scarceness except the scarceness of holiness.  Strangers to the commonwealth of heaven, those ungraced with Christ, have yoked their lives with ruin.  Cause Your goodness to pass before me in order for me to witness Your holy glory.  Make me an uncommon vessel – uncommon because Christ perfumes my walk.

Will You increase my gladness by bringing me into Your presence?  Break the yoke of my burdens – remove the staff from my shoulders – spare the rod that scourges my back – free me from my love for this present darkness.  Fragrance me now with trusting eyes that I may more fully harness and practice the Lordship of my Immanuel Savior, Jesus Christ.

Amen and Amen. 

[1] Lk. 2:11
[2] Traditional; Wade’s Cantus Diversi, 1751.
[3] Gen. 3:15
[4] Jn. 1:11
[5] Jn. 8:56; Heb. 11:26; Job 19:25, respectively.
[6] II Cor. 8:9
[7] Lk. 1:46f.
[8] Gal. 4:4f.
[9] Lk. 2:13f.
[10] Mt. 21:9
[11] Lk. 2:25, 38; Mk. 15:43
[12] Nu. 6:24-26

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Connecting the Dots for The American Church

I've been pondering the receding / retreating global missionary footprint of the American Church. Have we considered the impact of our out of control, burgeoning federal leviathan outside its Constitutional fence upon the mission efforts of the American Church? Bear with me for a minute...for those that will be honest with history, it is indisputable that your America was founded with the purpose of advancing the gospel of Jesus Christ worldwide. She grew into the largest, most powerful, and most prosperous nation on the face of the earth primarily due to Christian influence and Biblical principles of government and economics. That prosperity was used to launch the largest organized missionary works known to man in modern times. Bar none, America in the 19th and 20th century was the launch pad for more foreign missionaries than any other nation in the world. Unfortunately this history and truth has had little voice in America's pulpits.

That said, today, the foreign missionary works of major denominations that have led the way for decades are receding and in retreat due to lack of funding. Giving to foreign missions is on the downgrade. This is not an excuse for those that might have dropped off on their giving to missions, but it stands to reason that the growth of the federal leviathan has had a direct impact on giving. It would behoove the American Church to wake up from its slumbering funk and begin to connect the dots between the inaction and lack of engagement of the Church of Jesus Christ in America and the receding American foreign missionary footprint globally. Make no mistake about it...that lack of engagement by God's people in your country's government affairs has had a direct impact on policy's that have an indirect as well as a direct effect upon the blessings that we have taken for granted, in this instance the work of taking the gospel of Christ worldwide.

In this humble servants opinion, it is high time that Christian leaders begin to connect the dots between lack of engagement and direct loss of impact in the culture and indeed the world. It is not enough to begrudgingly prompt believers to go "vote". The time for encouraging folks to simply cast a vote is long gone. It is time for God's people to become like the men of Issachar in 1 Chronicles 12:32 and gain an understanding of the times in which they live. It is time for believers to understand who is making policy, what policy is being made, and begin to impact the making of that policy to the Glory of Almighty God!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

How do we rein in Washington D.C.?

There are seven Articles that make up the content of the United States Constitution. Article V is very short and is solely there for the purpose of outlining how our government manual can be amended (changed). We don't have to wonder about the intent of the framers (those who debated and drafted the document) as to how we interpret the text. The text has one meaning...the meaning intended when it was written. This is just like the things you might write today, you mean what you write...and you desire and expect others to interpret them as you wrote them...not as they wish to interpret them. Only when dealing with the manual for our government...the need for interpreting according to original intent is obviously much more crucial. The alternative to interpreting the Constitution according to original intent...is to have it interpreted according to whatever you want it to mean....therefore negating the need for the document all together. That said, the framers were not idiots, they understood that over time, there would be a need to be able to make changes...in order to adapt the document to either it's own shortcomings or changes due to technological advances. One of the things that also becomes crystal clear when studying those framers is also the need to be able to change the document to correct those portions that might be abused due to misinterpretation over time (see Madison's letter to Edward Everett dated Aug 1830).

This brings us back to Article V....Article V of the Constitution as I stated previously, contains the mechanism for amending the content of the Constitution. When Article V was being debated and drafted during the Philadelphia Convention of 1787 (referred to by modern historians as the Constitutional Convention), initially in the draft there was only a single process for amendments that involved only the new "National Legislature", what you and I refer to today as the United States Congress. In other words, only the federal government would be able to propose amendments to the Constitution which would then have to be sent out to the states where it would require 3/4th of the states to ratify (agree) to them before any amendment would be binding on all the states. Again, just to be sure....that first draft only contained a way for Washington D.C. to propose changes to the document....and to be plainer...only the fox guarding the hen house could make changes that might affect the fox.

One of those framers, a Virginian by the name of George Mason vehemently opposed the idea of only giving the fox the power to propose amendments. He stated the following on June 11th, 1787 during the Convention: “Amendments therefore will be necessary, and it will be better to provide for them, in an easy, regular and Constitutional way than to trust to chance and violence.  It would be improper to require the consent of the Natl. Legislature, because they may abuse their power, and refuse their consent on that very account.” Mason was describing EXACTLY what we see today....an abusive federal government that refuses to do the things necessary to correct itself and roll back it's amassed usurped powers.

On September 15th, 1787, just two days before the Philadelphia Convention adjourned (that's why we celebrate Constitution day on September 17th) Mason and others that were leary of investing too much power into a central government convinced the other convention delegates to adopt a 2nd mechanism into Article V that would provide an alternate means to amending the Constitution....the alternate method would permit the states to propose amendments to the Constitution just like Washington D.C. This provision that Madison referred to as the 2nd "mode" would require 2/3rds of the states to "apply" in their own legislatures for an amending convention that would involve only the states, thereby end running the National Legislature (Washington D.C.) altogether. Those amendment proposals would then in turn have to be sent back to all the states for ratification just like the first mode in Article V. This was a brilliant addition to our Constitution that again points us to the hand of Almighty God....for without it....today...the states would have no recourse for what is going on in our country due to the ever growing, out of control, staggering power drunken cartel that has been created in all three branches of our federal government.

So....that brings us to where we are today. Did you realize...that our founders....those fallen, fallible, but brilliant men that framed our Constitution had the God given wisdom to insert a process so that today....in the early 21st century....we....you and I....the people in the states....we have a recourse through our state legislatures....the elected representatives that are closest to us....we have a recourse. It ought to be clear to ANY living, breathing, thinking American citizen today....that the party of Washington D.C. is NEVER going to do the necessary things to rein itself in....it also should be clear by now that elections ALONE....cannot reverse the amassed power structure that has accumulated in the federal government through decades of twisting, contorting, and perverting of the original meaning in the text of our Constitution that was designed to LIMIT the size, scope, and powers of the federal government.

It is time...it is time to use this provision that God providentially gave us in late September of 1787...it is time to get our state legislators to understand the expedient need to pass the Convention of States resolution so that we can get to the requisite 2/3rds (34) states required to get to an amending Convention for the specific and limited purpose of proposing amendments that impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, amendments that will limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and amendments that will impose term limits on Congress and the federal courts. It is time! Let's move beyond ALL the misinformation, diversions, fear of using this God given provision that can actually try to rein in our out of control federal government.