When you set up your nativity set for the Christmas season, one of the figures that is often not noticed, or is put off to one side, is Joseph.
Christmas can be a very hard time for people for many reasons. One reason is that Christmas doesn't always live up to the hype. In fact, it rarely does. You can be very disappointed. A lot of people turn to alcohol and drugs, and suicide attempts go up at this time of year.
Larry King once said that if he could choose one person to interview from the course of human history, he would choose to interview Jesus Christ. King said that he would like to ask Jesus "if He was indeed virgin-born." He added, "The answer to that question would define history for me." Larry King understands that the Virgin Birth is a big deal.
A real war has been raging over Christmas. Many retailers have instructed their employees to no longer say, "Merry Christmas," but to say, "Seasons Greetings" or "Happy Holidays" instead. We see this trend being carried through to the public schools and other places. Some school districts in Florida and New Jersey have prohibited the singing of Christmas carols altogether. And in Texas of all places, a school confiscated one child's gifts for classmates, which were pencils with the inscription, "Jesus is the reason for the season." A Wisconsin elementary school actually changed the lyrics for "Silent Night" to a secularized version, "Cold in the Night."
Maybe you are having a difficult time this Christmas. Maybe your marriage has fallen apart and you are alone. Let me tell you something: God is with you. Maybe your kids have forgotten about you this year. Jesus hasn't forgotten about you. His name is Immanuel, which means "God with us." Maybe your parents have forgotten about you. But God your Father has not forgotten about you.
For those who have lost a loved one, as my family has, Christmas can be really difficult, especially because it is so filled with memories. So many of those memories are triggered. And when you see other people having fun, it can actually bring a lot of sadness to you. It can even bring you to the point where you would just like to skip Christmas altogether. Have you ever wanted to cancel Christmas? I have.
Have you ever eaten something that turned your stomach? This is exactly how Jesus feels about lukewarm people.
I find it interesting that Jesus said, " 'And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' " This statement reveals that God is not simply looking for some emotional, gooey kind of love. He is looking for a complete, true love.
One of the most often-asked question regarding the Christian faith goes something like this: "What about the person who has never heard that Jesus is the only way to God? What about the person in the middle of the jungle who has never heard the gospel?" (They are always in a jungle for some unknown reason—or in the desert.)
A father was talking with his daughter and her 5-year-old friend, Kristin, about birthdays. Kristin's was March 30 and the father's was March 27. The father said, "You know what Kristin? Our birthdays are three days apart!" She looked up at him and then said, "Yeah, but you grew much faster than I did!"
A problem that Christians often have when they share the gospel is going into attack mode on a person's sin straightaway: "Oh yeah, I see that you are into this. Well, let tell me you something. . . ."
You may have heard the old adage that says there are no atheists in foxholes. Actually, I think there may be some. But when the chips are down, most people will pray.
On the cross, Jesus gave seven statements—each one significant and necessary. One of the most arresting is "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" No fiction writer would have his hero say words like those. They surprise us, disarm us, and cause us to wonder what He meant. In many ways, this is virtually impossible to fathom.
I am an "artist"— kind of. Actually, I am an artist with very limited skills. But sometimes when I'm spending time with friends, they will ask me to draw something. So I'll pull out a felt-tip pen and draw little cartoon
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? — Romans 8:31
In his final words to the elders of the church at Ephesus, Paul essentially laid down the principles that really mattered to him and said the desire of his heart was to finish his race with joy (see Acts 19:24). It was an emotional good-bye, and Paul left, sailing on to Caesarea. When he arrived there he stayed with the evangelist Philip, where he encountered the prophet Agabus. Agabus tied his own hands and feet with Paul's belt and warned him, "Thus says the Holy Spirit, 'So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles' " (Acts 21:11). In other words, "Don't go. Danger is waiting."
Awhile back I met a man named Michael Franzese, who was once involved with the Colombo crime family. In fact, in the mid-1980s he was dubbed one of the fifty most wealthy and powerful mafia bosses. At his peak he was making $6 to $8 million a week. Then he ended up in prison.
In her book, The Hiding Place, Nazi concentration camp survivor Corrie ten Boom recalls the story of how, as a young girl, she struggled with the prospect of having loved ones die.
The crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ—next to His arrival in Bethlehem, these are, without question, the most important events in history.
Everyone wanted a piece of Jesus. But a determined father named Jairus had a daughter who was on the brink of death, and he begged Jesus to come to his house. As they made their way to Jairus' home, the crowd pushed and pulled and screamed and yelled.
Do you know any generous people? They're easy to recognize. They're the ones who always pick up the check for your meal, and they never remind you of it. Maybe they don't have a lot of money, even, but they say, "I'll get it. Don't worry about it."
In the previous weeks, we have looked at a couple of reasons why the church exists: the exaltation of God and the edification of the saints. But let's look at a third reason: The church is called to evangelize the world.
When I speak I try to keep it interesting. I try to keep it real. I try to keep it understandable. But I am not there to entertain an audience or to make people feel good. My job, if you will, is to exposit the Word of God. Because it really doesn't matter what Greg Laurie thinks about anything. My opinion isn't any better than anyone else's opinion.
The apostle Paul would often describe himself as a bondservant of the Lord Jesus Christ. This isn't the same as the horrific slavery of days gone by where people were forced to work for someone else. Being a bondservant of Christ means serving God. It is something I want to do.
As I mentioned last week, the church exists for three main reasons: to exalt God (upward); to edify the saints (inward); and to evangelize the world (outward). Let's look at the second function—the edification of other believers.