The Christmas Storm

THE CHRISTMAS STORM: A Modern Parable by Paul Harvey

“This is about a modern man, one of us, he was not a Scrooge, he was a kind, decent, mostly good man, generous to his family, upright in his dealings with others. But he did not believe in all that incarnation stuff that the Churches proclaim at Christmas time. It just didn’t make sense to him and he was too honest to pretend otherwise. He just could not swallow the Jesus story of God coming to earth as a man. I’m truly sorry to distress you, he told his wife, but I’m not going with you to church this Christmas Eve. He said he’d feel like a hypocrite. That he would much rather stay home, but that he would wait up for them. He stayed, they went. Shortly after the family drove away in the car, snow began to fall. He went to the window to watch the flurries getting heavier and heavier, then went back to his fireside chair and began to read his newspaper. Minutes later he was startled by a thudding sound. Then another and another. At first, he thought someone must be throwing snowballs against his living room window. Well, when he went to the front door, he found a flock of birds huddled miserably in the snow. They had been caught in the storm and in a desperate search for shelter they had tried to fly through his large landscape window. Well, he couldn’t let the poor creatures lie there and freeze. He remembered the barn where his children stabled their pony. That would provide a warm shelter — if he could direct the birds to it. He quickly put on his coat and galoshes, trampled through the deepening snow to the barn, opened the door wide, and turned on a light. But the birds did not come in. He figured food would entice them in and he hurried back to the house, fetched bread crumbs, sprinkled them on the snow making a trail to the yellow-lighted wide open doorway of the stable, but to his dismay, the birds ignored the bread crumbs, and continued to flap around helplessly in the snow. He tried catching them, he tried shooing them into the barn by walking around them waving his arms — instead, they scattered in every direction except into the warm lighted barn. Then he realized they were afraid of him. To them, he reasoned, I am a strange and terrifying creature if only I could think of some way to let them know they can trust me. That I’m not trying to hurt them but to help them. How? Any move he made tended to frighten them, confuse them. They just would not follow. They would not be led or shooed because they feared him. If only be a bird myself he thought. If only I could be a bird and mingle with them and speak their language, and tell them not to be afraid, and show them the way to the safe, warm barn. But I’d have to be one of them so they could see and hear and understand.

BirdsInWinterAt that moment the church bells began to ring. The sound reached his ears above the sound of the wind. He stood there listening to the bells. Adeste Fideles. Listening to the bells pealing the glad tidings of Christmas. And he sank to his knees in the snow.

The man in the story realized just why God came to Earth as Jesus, born into this world as a baby and lived here as a man. The birds wouldn’t follow him because he wasn’t a bird, in the same way, we wouldn’t follow God unless He became a man like us to know the feelings and the sorrows of being human.

So, after that story, I want to ask you about all of the shepherds that God has used in many wonderful ways. How many people in the Bible were shepherds that God used for His purposes?

In Genesis, Abel was a shepherd before Cain killed him. He gave the first of his flock to the Lord as a sacrifice. It may be worth noting that many biblical figures were shepherds, among them the patriarchs Abraham and Jacob, most of the twelve tribes were shepherds, the prophet Moses, King David, and the Old Testament prophet Amos, who was a shepherd in the rugged area around Tekoa.

All of these men were used by God as leaders and kings of Israel, just as Jesus came to be the Good Shepherd not only for Israel but for the whole world or at least those who will believe in Him for their salvation.

The angels visited the shepherds who were keeping the lambs for the Passover in order to tell them about the Savior being born in Bethlehem, lying in a manger. Why did God do that? Was it because Jesus was to be a leader, a King, the Savior of the world? Yes, it was because of all of these things and more!

God used His Son as our Savior and as the Lamb of the Passover, given as the one and only sacrifice for all of the world’s sins. He has also used other shepherds in the past, as well as other kings and armies to punish and do His will and purposes. Just as He does today. God can do anything He wishes, through anyone He pleases, whether they are saved or not, and He will make sure that whatever His purpose is, it will be done.

God raised up Pharaoh in order to show the world, at the time, that the gods in Egypt weren’t gods at all. He used Goliath to bring David into view of the whole army of Israel and show that if you fight with God on your side, you can’t be defeated!

God used shepherds because in society and regarding worship in the Temple, they were considered unclean. Yet, it was the shepherds who took care of the lambs which were sacrificed for the sins of the people. God can use anyone, in any situation or occupation, to accomplish His purposes. Since we are about to go into a new year in a few days, please be in prayer asking Him to show you what you can do for Him and His Kingdom this year. Some of us have an important job already as parents because we are teaching the next generation about their Savior. Seek Him out in prayer and in reading His Word this year to find your place, your part in His Kingdom because He does have a place for you.

Holidays hurt sometimes…

I have had loved ones in my family who passed away on different holidays in the past, one even passed from this life on my birthday 33 years ago. Today, there are many who suffer from feelings of loneliness and depression during the holidays, even when families are together. It is hard to understand how you can feel lonely with family around you, but you can.

Sometimes the world thinks that Christians aren’t supposed to get sick or feel lonely because they belong to God. But, in this life…right now, we are human and we get sick, we feel depression and loneliness and every other illness which is out there as well. The only time which we will be able to claim no sickness or bad feelings like depression will be when we are in Heaven or we have crossed over into eternity.

Could God give us this great show of His power today? Yes, He could if He wanted to but that isn’t part of His plan. Every person who is a Christian could live forever and never be sick if God planned it that way but He didn’t. It isn’t because He doesn’t love us because He does, but we aren’t given this privilege above others. Humanity is God’s image in this world because we are made in His image, but we don’t act like it very much.

As humans, we act as we were raised and sometimes we just haven’t been raised in a good environment. Some of us come from broken homes, some live in poverty and want in some of the worst areas of the world. Conditions which most of us in America can’t imagine. Even in America, there is hunger and homelessness and poverty and many people think that we should be sharing the wealth so that this doesn’t happen.

If we tried communism, who would decide how much is given to who? Because that is the system which tries to “spread the wealth around”. But in most communist countries, those in power get more than anyone else, so those in power tend to bring their friends and family into that group and they have more than everyone else.

The Pilgrims tried this when they started out in the first few years of their colony but it didn’t work out well. People were fighting over who got what and how much, and that is what would happen today if we tried it again.

Holidays do hurt because it shows just how materialistic we have become. Some get really nice toys and stuff and some don’t. So what determines the amount of spread when you decide how much and to whom? Communism is that way, but those who are corrupt in a Democratic Republic like ours will be just as corrupt, if not more, in a communistic society.

Yes, holidays cause hurt and pain and sometimes cause a lot of resentment among those who have a little more than the next person. Usually, this is due to credit and not real wealth which is another reason why our country is so divided.

Holidays cause division, sometimes more than we realize. It happens in families and in communities and in cities, so what should we do? Outlaw celebrations of significance such as Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Years? What real good would that do? Not very much I would think. Taking holidays away won’t stop the division between people and it won’t take away the depression or other problems which we see. Just as gun control won’t get rid of crime or shootings, getting rid of religion and holidays will have no effect on our social divisions.

God loves us and He has given each of us gifts which allow us to serve Him in some ways but also to serve each other too. The only way to find your gift from Him is to ask Him to show it to you and the only way to do that is to know Him and be known by Him. Be as much like Jesus the Christ, our Savior and Messiah, as you can and if you haven’t asked Him into your life please do so soon. God’s timetable is running down and sometime soon, He will call the church home. Don’t be one of those still here afterward.

Truth in the Word

How much truth do you see in God’s Word? In the gospel? If it isn’t true and there is no Truth in it, then why believe?

The Trinity has existed as three in One…as God for a very long time, long before we or anything else in Creation existed. How can we so arrogantly believe that God sent His Son to die and then abandoned Him there? The Holy Spirit was there, God was there and Jesus was on the cross, so He wasn’t abandoned at the cross exactly…He just felt that He was. His humanity felt that way!

The same way that His human heart and His brain told Him to be afraid and anxious before the scourging and the crucifixion. It was His humanity which made Him feel alone, scared and helpless on the cross, but He wasn’t. Our truth is relative today because as psychologists put it, “your truth is not my truth”. This is a very clever lie from Satan. God loves each of us far more than we could ever know or comprehend, until we are in His Presence of course.

You have the freedom to believe in Him and His Word or not, because it is necessary. Love doesn’t come to anyone unless it is free to be given in return as well as received from the other person. Yes, we are free to refuse His love for us if we choose and to live our lives in complete self-righteousness, thinking that we are good enough without Jesus. That we deserve to be allowed into Heaven on our own merits.

The problem with that kind of thinking is that it is totally WRONG!! Until you give your heart to Jesus and allow Him to come in and fix the problems which you caused and to show you what real love actually is, you will always feel empty and without hope. This is what God wanted to save us from in the first place…ourselves. Because ever since the Fall, we have all been born with a seed of sin in our hearts. Toddlers will lie to you without even knowing what they are doing, so that proves that sin is there.

God loves us anyway!! He created all of us and He knows the desires and needs of our heart even when we weren’t born yet. From the moment you were conceived until your death, God knows what you will do, when you will do it and why. He doesn’t force the decisions on you, but He knows what those decisions are or will be, and until you give your life to Him, He will watch you and be with you regardless until you figure out that you really need Him.

Seek Him out before it gets too far or before your life gets out of control! He is there and always has been, so make sure that you know Him before your life is over and your chance to know Him as Savior is gone for good.

What Child is this?

To many in the church, regardless of the denomination, this Child is Jesus the Savior and our Messiah! But who is He to everyone else? Yes, Jesus has a name in many languages and in every book of the Bible but Who is He to you? See if I count His name in this list and if not, comment it for me…OK?

He is a Priest of the order of Melchizedek and before him. He is the Seed of the Woman and the Righteous Branch of Jesse. He is our Creator and the I AM. He is the Son of the Most High and the Son of Man. He is the Lamb that was slain from the foundation of the world. He is the Captain of the Lord’s Army. He is the fourth Man in the furnace. He is the Rock which gives water in the desert. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

He is the Babe wrapped in cloths lying in a manger Who was born to die on a cross. He is the One Who vanquished Satan’s temptations in the wilderness. He is the One that is greater than all, yet He was humble enough to wash His disciple’s feet. He was the Suffering Servant and the Lord’s Christ! He was wounded for our transgressions and it is by His stripes that we are healed! He is God with us, Emmanuel and our Advocate with the Father.

I have tried to remember most of the names which are given to Him in God’s Word but the one name that we should remember Him by is our Savior. Yours and mine and anyone else’s who will believe that He came here to take the sins of the WHOLE world on His shoulders…and paid the price for them by dying on the cross and then rising to life eternal on the third day! We can have hope in Him because He said that He would be coming again and being God, then He cannot lie! He will return and set the world back to the way it was supposed to be.

God loved us so much until a part of Himself came down to take our sins and the punishment for them on Himself in order to be able to forgive each and every person who would receive His grace and mercy by faith. It can’t be done any other way and there is nothing that you can add to it in order to make it better or more complete. He accomplished it all in those few hours on the cross and what we should do is accept it by faith in Him and then tell others about Him!

Magi, who came to see the King

threemagiIn the days of King Herod, there were three magi (not kings) who came from the East. When we think of the East with respect to Jerusalem, many people in the past have portrayed these magi as the rulers of their countries. Many times they were also portrayed as Oriental and possibly from India, the truth is much different from fiction.

These three magi are also portrayed as astrologers, but they were not in the sense that we know it today. They watched the stars for signs of a King. Most, if not all, of the magi came from the area around Babylon. The school of magi which Daniel began when Israel was in captivity for 70 years is where they were from. They studied the scriptures which foretold of a coming King, One Who would be born of a virgin in Bethlehem.

Specifically, they were studying Isaiah and that is when they saw the “star” and decided it was time to go and see this King born in Bethlehem. These magi did not do magic nor were they into the occult, they were simply educated men who had been studying the prophets of Israel. It was those prophecies which brought them to Israel and then to Jerusalem and Bethlehem, looking for the One Who would be King of Kings!

The announcement went out to the shepherds that night when God put on flesh and came to be near His Creation, so that He could pay the penalty for our sins and make right what had gone wrong at the first. He was the only One Who could pay the penalty for ALL of mankind, past, present and future. All that we need to do is believe in His sacrifice and accept the grace given to us.

A little at time

This is exactly how I recommend for people to learn about and read God’s Word…a little at a time. Why? Because our Creator’s Word and His Wisdom is better suited to learning and understanding a little at a time. That being said, we should all try to read the entire Bible in a year’s time, but it only takes a chapter or two every day!

Like the old commercial said, “A little dab’ll do ya!”. I am showing my age. 🙂

In any way that you want to look at it, God’s Word is worth more than any education, any college course you could take today! It covers finance, life situations, business, religion and relationships so there is no need for any self-help course or book! God loves us and has loved each of us since before the world was formed, He doesn’t give you bad advice and He wouldn’t harm you in any way.

Satan, the serpent from the garden, God’s adversary and ours, will seek to destroy you and he will send all kinds of problems your way in order to steer you away from God and His blessings for your life! Make sure that you know which one is hurting you or trying to steer you in a direction which is counter to what you know God would do. If it isn’t good for you and it is causing problems in your life, then it is from Satan and his demons, so get rid of whatever it is and seek God’s strength and His provision to do so!

He never leaves our side, but He will only come to your aide if you ask Him to. God doesn’t jump into your life and take over, He is only waiting to make His blessings available to you when you ask Him to, although some of our blessings are given to us as life itself. Breathing, walking, talking, thinking, going about your everyday work and play, all of these are blessings which most of us take for granted. We don’t look at any of them as blessings, yet that is what they are.

God gives us those blessings a little at a time just as we should learn more about Him a little at a time. He is the Creator in the first part of Genesis, He is a friend in later chapters of it. As the Word evolves and we learn more about Him, His attributes become clearer and sharper to us, eventually making sense to a point. Why do I say it that way? Because, we will never understand God on this side of life and we may not fully understand Him even in eternity, although we will know Him better.

God loves you and me with a love which we can’t comprehend because there is no human analogue for it. We can’t know a love as deeply because He is God! So, we can’t truly understand His love for us in the light of His being our Creator! He knows us fully and knew us this way, even before our world was made or anything in our world was even formed. The atonement which was given to us through the sacrifice of Jesus is given to everyone, freely, all each of us needs to do is ask for His forgiveness (which we have already), because we can’t receive it unless we ask for it.

Please, seek out His Truth in the Bible. There is no other book on Earth which is like it because the words in it came from Spiritual inspiration by God!

Holidays and loss

Many times we think of the holidays as the happiest time of the year but for some that is not the case. Twenty-one years ago my mother died on Christmas day which has impacted my holidays for a while. Some of my friends on Facebook have lost beloved pets just this week. Why do I compare the two? Because pets are part of your family and when their lives come to an end, it is just as heartbreaking as a child’s death or someone else that is close to you.

During the holidays many people are more depressed than during the rest of the year. Sometimes it is because of deaths in the family, sometimes it is because of loneliness or other problems, but the effects come down hard during the holidays. It happens to all of us at one point or another and it is natural to be emotionally drained and depressed when the holidays come around. Why? Because we expect or we are taught to expect this time of year to be happy with family and friends visiting and sometimes those visits just don’t happen.

God loves you dearly and He is always near to each of us. His Word gives us comfort and strength to get through this time. When depression comes to my house and involves me, I get into God’s Word, specifically in Psalms. Sometimes I read a number of them and I have spent three weeks in the Psalms to find my way out of depression or in the attempt to keep it at bay. God will give you strength and the ability to do this along with His Wisdom that you can share with others.

The loss of a family member, whether they happen to have fur or not, is a hard loss but with the wisdom and the comfort that is available from God, you can get through these hard times. Seek Him out for your comfort and for your salvation because both can be found in Jesus! Amen.

How much more?

We are thankful and we were thankful yesterday, so how much more thankful will we be today? I have seen shoppers at stores who are waiting all night to get in when the door opens and some of them are pushing and shoving so they can be first in getting what they want and getting out of the store.

What happened between being thankful for God’s blessings and bounty and getting more stuff? How much more will we choose to get so we can be fashionable or in step with our neighbors? Do we really HAVE to have that new doodad that came out a few weeks ago? What about paying off your credit cards as a gift to yourself or your spouse? What about giving to your church or to the homeless shelter in town instead of spending over five hundred dollars on something that will be gathering dust in a couple of months? Does 4K resolution really matter that much when you are watching the Super Bowl in February? Does the price you pay for that resolution really bring you more satisfaction while watching any TV show?

All of these questions are the kinds of questions we should be asking ourselves long before we wake up at three am in order to be close to the front of the line this morning! What really is more important to you and your family? That is an even better question. Have you considered your relationship to Jesus in all of this too? I am a pastor and these questions do go through my mind about myself and about those who attend my church. I pray for all of the people out there who are traveling today and for those who are working today because they need God’s protection and His blessing, whether they realize it or not.

During the holiday season, which seems to have gotten off to a running start yesterday afternoon. Yes, many stores opened early, around four or five yesterday, just to get people out of the house and into the stores shopping. I don’t think I will ever get out there and into the thick of the lines and the crowds. It’s just too much!

God needs your energy and your presence in His family too and if more people would spend even ten percent of their time and money for His work, out world would be so much better than it is now! How is that possible? Because ten percent of the billions spent on gifts during this weekend could go a LONG way toward helping the homeless, both Veterans and non-veterans alike! It would also go a long way toward helping the hungry in the world too.

God can use your blessings in any number of different ways, but if you spend all of your cash on “stuff” and not on helping others, then what are you really doing? You are showing others that “stuff” is more important to you than serving God. During the holidays it seems that many people do just that and it makes me wonder what is keeping them from helping the church? What is keeping them from coming to church when they can get up before sunrise to get to a store and be one of the first through the doors?

Something to ponder during this Christmas season when we are supposed to celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus! He didn’t tell us to go and spend, Jesus said go and TELL others about Him!

The day of His birth…

Most of us celebrate our birthdays, although many seem to worry about them as the numbers get bigger. Why worry about a number? It just means that God has given you another year, another day to live and enjoy your life here with friends and family! Yes, there are some who feel as if their life would be better if they didn’t have so many birthdays piled one on top of another, but let me ask this question: Without killing yourself, what can you do about the march of time and another birthday?

Blunt answer: nothing

God gives us the air that we breathe and the food that we eat throughout our lives, so what will you do with another day, another week or month or even another year? Will you glorify Him in your days, telling others about His grace and His mercy?

This is one of the jobs that we are all supposed to be engaged in, particularly if you are a follower of Christ. Why do we walk as though we don’t know Jesus? Are there some who do this? Yes, there are some who only come to church on holidays or weddings or funerals, what good does it do for you to come at these times? Do you truly listen to the message or did you come to be seen and be in the community?

If you are doing this for your personal gain, it is no good at all for your spiritual well-being. Like the Pharisee and the Tax Collector in the Temple:

Luke 18:9-14 King James Version 

And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:

10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.

11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.

12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.

13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.

14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

Jesus’ day of birth is celebrated in December not because that is when He was born but because it was easy to get pagans to celebrate a day that they already celebrated. Jesus was likely born sometime between the middle of September and October, in any case we do celebrate Him by giving gifts to each other, just as He was the ultimate gift to us. He came not to bring a kingdom down or to begin His reign as Lord and King, but to shed His blood as a perfect sacrifice for ALL of our sins! He died for the whole WORLD, not just for the Jewish nation but for all of the people on Earth and His sacrifice was necessary for us to be able to atone for our sins.

God loves us because that is what His Word says! He is not a liar nor a cheat, yet some people seem to feel cheated by Him because He doesn’t magically provide all of their needs or their desires. He provides for exactly what you need, WHEN you need it. Not more than you need or less, yet that is why many people don’t like Christianity. They seem to expect God to provide for them because He owes them something. God doesn’t owe you anything at all! If you are blessed by Him with riches and wisdom be thankful for it and help those who don’t have what you have been blessed with, as much as you can without offending them.

Why do I say this? Because many people don’t like charity. They don’t want you to give them something and to some it is insulting that you would even think of helping them. But, if they truly needed it I don’t believe the offer would be turned away. It is the same with salvation. It doesn’t cost us anything and we don’t have to do anything to get it. Sometimes it is because of this that people don’t see the value of coming to church and accepting Jesus as their Savior.

Celebrations and tears

We all have them at one time or another. We mourn the loss of someone who we love or we celebrate an anniversary or other accomplishment in our lives. Sometimes the tears come during the celebrations, but it is all part of life. How do you live with it or live without the people in your life which have gone on before you? Do you rely on your own strength and that alone or do you lean on friends and family? Many people do exactly that, they lean on others who have gone through the same troubles and heartaches. Is that really how we are supposed to get through our tough times?

The celebrations are easy because they usually involve someone’s accomplishment in some way or another. Maybe you have been married longer than some in your family or friends. Maybe you just graduated from college or even got married recently. Maybe you just had a baby, boy or girl doesn’t matter, it is still a celebratory moment in your life that you won’t forget…EVER!

Time can dim the memories and the pain to an extent, but it never goes away entirely. The loss of a loved one, whether it was your child or your mother or father or one of your grandparents, is a loss to you emotionally, physically and even spiritually. Why spiritually? Because between Christians there is a bond of fellowship, it isn’t one that you can feel emotionally but it is there. When you are absent from this fellowship, your spirit feels it and whether you feel it emotionally or not, God knows how it is affecting you.

The other effects from the loss are more immediate and real because of the pain that is felt and caused by such a loss. Why am I going over this? Because many of you, even though I don’t personally know you, have a loss in your life of some kind. Some are more painful than others, some are like my mother who suffered with pain for years before she died but that did not lessen the pain that I felt at her passing. Even though after so many so-called “mini strokes”, she was still with me for a time she couldn’t enjoy life anymore so her quality of life was far diminished from what it had been. For years I blamed myself because I had asked God to take her and get her out of her pain and suffering, but it wasn’t because of my actions or my prayer that God granted it. It was because He saw that it was time and within a day of my prayer, she was in His arms.

Yes, my pain began at that point and continued for many years especially at Christmas because she died on Christmas day. My point?

First…don’t ever pray that kind of prayer unless you are ready spiritually for the consequences of it.

Second…there will be consequences, good or bad, because of a death in your family whether you prayed that prayer or not.

God loves each of us, no matter what we have done or will do in the future, He just doesn’t like the sinful lives that we lead. Especially when we don’t even recognize that we are sinners or that what we are doing is sinful. Some Christians live this way, thinking that their life is fine with Christ and with God because they claim to be Christians and they go to church once in a while. Many of them think that because they read the Bible a few times a year, not all the way through, that they have their way to Heaven in the bag and they don’t need to worry about it.

Analogy: You go to a college and audit some courses, sitting in class and listening and reading the material maybe even taking notes. You might even audit enough courses to actually have enough credits under your belt to get a degree…will you get one? No, because an audited course doesn’t give you credit for a degree, you are just present listening for your own enjoyment so to speak. What good did that do?

The same amount of good that going to church, reading the Bible, praying and singing will do for you…none!!!

You can go through the motions of this and you might even be “led” to get baptized one day because you think that it is the right thing to do but has your heart changed? Did you give your life to Jesus and allow Him to change you from the inside? If you didn’t do that and your life outside of church doesn’t change so that others can tell that something happened, then it was your decision, your feeling and not the call of the Spirit that you answered. When you die, you will be shown that you did all of these things but if you never actually gave your heart to Jesus, the knowledge that you heard but did not hear spiritually will only convict you.

Think about it.