The great god Entertainment

Entertainment

Entertainment surrounds us. It has become the lifeblood of our communities, our homes, and our churches. Sometime in the not too distant past, life became more about being entertained than it did about living a good, moral life. Life became more about playing and less about working. And the ramifications of this in the church are quite sobering.

I subscribe to a newsletter from Grace Gems. They send me all kinds of really good quotes and excerpts written by godly Christians already in glory. When I share any of these with my readers, it is generally on my Facebook page. However, this particular passage–written in 1955 by Tozer–is so perfect, so applicable, and so accurate that I wanted to share it with all my readers.

We need to see entertainment for what it is–an idol that has stolen the hearts of many and threatens to steal even our own hearts. It is a bit uncanny just how right Tozer is here and what he could see happening to the church even in the middle of last century. He was a very wise man.

(A.W. Tozer, 1955)

The great god Entertainment is ardently worshiped by many. There are millions who cannot live without amusement–life without some form of entertainment for them is simply intolerable. They look forward to the blessed relief afforded by professional entertainers and other forms of psychological narcotics–as a dope addict looks to his daily fix of heroin. Without them, they could not summon courage to face existence.

No one with common human feeling will object to the simple pleasures of life, nor to such harmless forms of entertainment as may help to relax the nerves and refresh the mind exhausted by toil. Such things, if used with discretion, may be a blessing along the way. That is one thing. But the all-out devotion to entertainment as a major activity for which men live, is definitely something else. The abuse of a harmless thing is sin.

The growth of the amusement phase of human life to such fantastic proportions is a portent, a threat to the souls of modern men. It has been built into a multimillion dollar racket with greater power over human minds and human character, than any other educational influence on earth. And the ominous thing is, that its power is almost exclusively evil, rotting the inner life, and crowding out the eternal thoughts which should fill the souls of men. The whole thing has grown into a veritable religion which holds its devotees with a strange fascination–and a religion, incidentally, against which it is now dangerous to speak.

For centuries the Church stood solidly against every form of worldly entertainment, recognizing it for what it was–a device for wasting time, a refuge from the disturbing voice of conscience, a scheme to divert attention from accountability to God. For this, she got herself roundly abused by the sons of this world. But of late she has become tired of the abuse, and has given up the struggle. She appears to have decided that if she cannot conquer the great god Entertainment–she may as well join forces with him and make what use she can of his powers.

So today we have the astonishing spectacle of millions of dollars being poured into the unholy job of providing earthly entertainment for the so-called Christians. Religious entertainment is in many places rapidly crowding out the serious things of God. Many churches these days have become little more than poor theaters where fifth-rate “producers” peddle their shoddy wares with the full approval of evangelical leaders, who can even quote a holy text in defense of their delinquency. And hardly a man dares raise his voice against it!

The great god Entertainment amuses his devotees mainly by telling them stories. The love of stories, which is a characteristic of childhood, has taken fast hold of the minds of the retarded saints of our day–so much so that many manage to make a comfortable living by spinning yarns and serving them up in various disguises to church people. What is natural and beautiful in a child, may be shocking when it persists into adulthood, and more so when it appears in the sanctuary and seeks to pass for true religion!

Is it not astonishing that, with the shadow of atomic destruction hanging over the world and with the coming of Christ drawing near–the professed followers of the Lord should be giving themselves up to religious amusements? That in an hour when mature saints are so desperately needed–vast numbers of believers should revert to spiritual childhood, and clamor for religious toys?

 

Rescued

rescued

Imagine you are on the ocean a thousand miles from land. You are literally dying from thirst. Your lips are parched and your skin blistered from the scorching sun. The only thing keeping you from drowning in the unfathomable depths of the endless ocean is a flimsy yellow raft. The days are ticking by and death seems close at hand.

Or imagine you are in the belly of the earth, deep inside a cave. You have lost your source of light and you have lost your way. You don’t know where to turn and the darkness is so thick you can touch it. You can’t even see your hand in front of your face for there is not a hint of light anywhere. You recognize that you are never going to be able to find your way out and you start facing the fact that you are going die a slow, torturous death in this place, leaving behind a pile of bones that someone may stumble onto some day in the distant future.

In both scenarios, all hope is gone. Your life on earth is over and you know it. You have faced the facts and are simply waiting to die.

Now, suppose that–against all odds– someone rescues you. Not only does he rescue you, but he gives his life to save you. He knew that your rescue depended upon the sacrifice of his life but he chose to save you, anyway.

How would you feel about this person?

What kind of passion would you express when you tell the story of your dramatic rescue? What kind of words would you use when describing the person who gave his life to save you?

Most people would tell the story of their rescue in great detail, infusing their words with zeal and fervor. They would try to convey –as much as words would allow– the deep, abiding love and tremendous awe and respect they have for the stranger who saved them.

And this passion is given for a temporary escape from something that’s still going to happen eventually. Our rescue hasn’t cheated death permanently–it’s just given us a bit more time here on earth.

Why do we feel such great passion about a temporary physical rescue and yet feel little or no passion regarding our spiritual rescue?

We were sinners completely without righteousness (Romans 3:23). We were headed for eternal separation from God. Eternal separation (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9). Our final destination was going to be hell–a place of torture and fire (Luke 16:24).

Unending punishment was certain.

We were without hope.

And then came the day long ago that God put His plan of salvation into motion. He sent His only Son to the earth as a baby. That baby would grow into a man who would die on a cross for the sins of man. He took our sins on Himself and covered us with His blood and righteousness so that we could be reconciled to the One, True God!

And then He rose again, victorious over death!

O, Death where is thy sting? O, grave, where is thy victory? (I Corinthians 15:55)

We haven’t been given temporary respite from death–we have had an eternal rescue!

And yet, most of us Christians talk about our rescue like we talk about what we are having for dinner. There is no passion, no fervor. We don’t tell our neighbors and we don’t tell our friends. In fact, some of us do all we can to avoid bringing up the subject, nervous and afraid to speak the name of Jesus.

But how can we keep from praising His name? How can we keep from singing?

Salvation is far more than an intellectual acknowledgement. Even the demons acknowledged Jesus as the Son of God (Matthew 8:29). Salvation is a change of heart.

If our hearts have been changed, then praise should spill forth without effort because we have been rescued! We have left the roiling sea of sin and have found the solid anchor that holds! We have left the inky, black darkness that has blinded us and have walked into marvelous light!

How can we keep from praising Him? How can we keep from singing?

I know this type of  passion and fervor in “Christianity” isn’t always acceptable. We don’t want to get too excited because we don’t want to look strange. But have you been to a sports event lately? Or a concert? Passion and zeal abide there for literally no reason. And we can’t bring some excitement to our dramatic, eternal rescue from sin and hell?

As we focus this week on the death and resurrection of Christ, let us consider what Jesus did for us and the passion we have towards what happened. Let’s ponder our wretched sinfulness and reflect on how He reconciled us to God, gave us eternal life, and saved us from eternal damnation. If we are truly saved, we will find that we can’t keep from praising His name and singing out!

 

Therefore will I give thanks unto thee, O Lord, among the heathen, and sing praises unto thy name. (Psalm 18:49)

The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him. (Psalm 28:7)

Sing unto the Lord a new song, and his praise from the end of the earth, ye that go down to the sea, and all that is therein; the isles, and the inhabitants thereof. (Isaiah 42:10)

By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. (Hebrews 13:15)

Mainstream Mayhem

Preacher

I was floored to come across a blog post with a video clip of a pastor who stood before his congregation assuring them that there is no original sin. All men are born good and desire to do good things he told his congregation. While he spoke, his congregation could be heard murmuring emphatic “yeses” and shouting hearty “amens”. This pastor leads a mainstream megachurch in California. He is not part of some fringe group or weird cult.

Here are two of his exact quotes–

“You’re not born evil. It’s amazing how many teachings and theologies start with that thought. Anytime you start with that you will create a controlling, manipulative environment.”

“Every system fundamentally and theologically must start with the concept and the idea that people are fundamentally good and they mean to do good. Even if they are not saved. We have to start from that premise.”

This pastor says: We have to start from that premise.

(See Psalm 51:5; Genesis 8:21; Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 5:12; Romans 6:23)

Says who?? Him? Why does he have the right to decide the premise of Christianity? And what is the source of his information?

I am always so amazed at how many Christians listen and follow men who claim to be God’s representatives and then proceed to speak against Him and His Word on issues that are absolutely clear in scripture. The mainstream evangelical church has fallen prey to many lies and false doctrines in the area of not only original sin, but also in the areas of homosexuality, separation from the world, the role of women, the false prosperity gospel, and the doctrine of hell.

So why in the world isn’t the church standing up and kicking these pastors out of their pulpits?

I think there are two important reasons why the church has allowed this: A) we are a biblically illiterate people and B) we are a self-centered people.

Many modern pastors have conditioned their people to simply sit back and be entertained. They use only a verse here and there, often pulled out of context, to make their points. And so when a pastor gets up and says something we would really like to be true–like there is no hell–we want to believe him. And we don’t really know better because we haven’t done our own digging in God’s Word to know if it is or isn’t true.

And, if we are honest, life is much less demanding when we don’t study the Bible seriously. Hebrews 4:12 says For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

When we read and study God’s Word, we will be–and should be–convicted.  It is there to teach us about God and to show us the best way to live. It is there to convict and to discern and to change us. It does not promise to make us more happy, but it does make us more holy.

Most of us do not want that. Not really. Not if it means sacrificing the sin we hold dear. And so it is just more pleasant to live our lives without the bothersome conviction that results from Bible study. It is just more pleasant to go to church and only listen to the positive–like God loves us and has a wonderful purpose for our lives and wants us to be happy and, eventually, we all end up in heaven together forever.

Of course, this is what we want to believe. But if it isn’t true, I guess it doesn’t really matter what we believe. Preachers that focus on man and his happiness as the center of Christianity are false teachers.  (And, let’s not forget that, while a life lived for self may be more pleasant for awhile, in the long run, selfishness only leads to heartache and trouble.)

Is it possible for the American church to be cleansed and brought back to God’s Word as its source for Truth? All things are possible with God. Will it happen? I doubt it. I very much expect that the true church will be forced underground in the coming years. You can see it coming and we’d better be ready.

In the meantime, we have a responsibility to hold our pastors to the high standard of expounding God’s Word. If they say something that is clearly unbiblical we need to first realize it (because we know God’s Word) and then we need to do something about it. The souls of those sitting beside you in church may be forever changed because of your action.

 

Wednesday Wisdom: The Church’s Power Over the World

1195995_44850378revI haven’t used one of my favorite authors on here for awhile. As I find in almost everything he writes, the following excerpt by A.W. Tozer seems like it could have been written yesterday rather than over fifty years ago.  While some of the terms have changed over the years, I can’t help but wonder if this is even more relevant today than when it was written, if that is possible. 

The world seems to possess a real genius for being wrong, even the educated world. We might just let that pass and go fishing except that we Christians happen to be living in the world and we have an obligation to be right—in everything, all of the time. We cannot afford to be wrong.

I can see how a right man might live in a wrong world and not be much affected by it except that the world will not let him alone. It wants to educate him. It is forever coming up with some new idea which, by the way, is usually an old idea dusted off and shined up for the occasion, and demanding that everyone, including the said right man, conform on pain of deep-seated frustration or a horrible complex of some kind.

Society, being fluid, usually moves like the wind, going all out in one direction until the novelty wears off or there is a war or a depression. Then the breeze sets another way and everyone is supposed to go along with it without asking too many question, though this constant change of direction should certainly cause the thoughtful soul to wonder whether anyone really knows what all the excitement is about after all.

Right now the zephyrs are blowing in the direction of social integration, sometimes also called social adjustment. According to this notion society is possessed of a norm, a sort of best-of-all-possible model after which we must all pattern ourselves if we want to escape sundry psychosomatic disorders and emotional upsets. The only safety for any of us is in becoming so well adjusted to the other members of society as to reduce the nervous and mental friction to a minimum. Education therefore should first of all teach adjustment to society. Whatever people happen to be interested in at the moment must be accepted as normal, and any nonconformity on the part of anyone is bad for the individual and harmful to everybody. Our highest ambition should be to become integrated to the mass, to lose our moral individuality in the whole.

However absurd this may appear when thus stated baldly it is nevertheless a fair description of the most popular brand of philosophy now engaging the attention of society. So many and so efficient are the media of mass communication that when the Brahmans of the educational world decide that it is time for the wind to change, the commonality quickly get the drift and swing obediently into the breeze. Anyone who resists is a kill-joy and a spoilsport, to say nothing of being old-fashioned and dogmatic.

Well, if to escape the charge of being dogmatic I must accept the changing dogmas of the masses, then I am willing to be known as a dogmatist and no holds barred. We who call ourselves Christians are supposed to be a people apart. We claim to have repudiated the wisdom of this world and adopted the wisdom of the cross as the guide of our lives. We have thrown in our lot with that One who while He lived on earth was the most unadjusted of the sons of men. He would not be integrated into society. He stood above it and condemned it by withdrawing from it even while dying for it. Die for it He would, but surrender to it He would not.

The wisdom of the cross is repudiation of the world’s “norm.” Christ, not society, becomes the pattern of the Christian life. The believer seeks adjustment, not to the world, but to the will of God, and just to the degree that he is integrated into the heart of Christ is he out of adjustment with fallen human society. The Christian sees the world as a sinking ship from which he escapes not by integration but by abandonment.

A new moral power will flow back into the Church when we stop preaching social adjustment and begin to preach social repudiation and cross carrying. Modern Christians hope to save the world by being like it, but it will never work. The Church’s power over the world springs out of her unlikeness to it, never from her integration into it. (emphasis mine)

—The Price of Neglect, A.W. Tozer

The Real Deal

365_40_10911_friendlyssundae

We were sitting in Friendly’s waiting for our ice cream.  Normally we don’t get dessert with dinner, but who can skip dessert at Friendly’s?  As we waited, a waitress brought out some luscious-looking sundaes to a booth across the restaurant, one of them being a mint chip sundae with hot fudge. And suddenly, the air was filled with the aroma of mint chocolate! “Wow! Can I smell that from here?” said my husband in disbelief.

Unbeknownst to him, I had pulled out my mint chocolate hand sanitizer to remove the stickiness from my hands at just the same moment the waitress had brought out the yummy looking sundaes. We all started laughing because the timing was so impeccable. Of course, we couldn’t smell the ice cream from across the store. But my hand sanitizer gave us the illusion that we could.

Many churches are becoming a little like this. They smell like the church. They look like the church. But when you walk in the doors, they aren’t really functioning like a biblical church.

While church is a great place to feel loved and to fellowship and perhaps sometimes to even win the lost, there are some other really important functions that get totally ignored or are done rather as an afterthought.

The first and most important job of a church is to teach doctrine. Paul mentions this word in several of his letters. I Timothy 1:3 and Titus 2:1 are two of them. Doctrine has become a bit of a “bad” word in most churches. That is because people aren’t interested in learning biblical doctrine.  The word makes many cringe. But doctrine simply means “something that is taught; teachings collectively” according to dictionary.com. Paul urges ministers to teach their flocks about what the Bible says. That is the most important priority.

I Timothy 4 shows us another important duty of a church:  Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.  For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving;  for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.  If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed.

Church leaders have a responsibility to help their flocks discern.  There are a lot of false teachings floating around out there.  But because the world’s philosophy of  “if you believe it, it’s true for you” has crept into the church, church leaders have become afraid of confrontations. And I can see why, as most times accusations start flying immediately and the leaders are branded narrow-minded and old-fashioned and stuck in tradition and too uptight. But Paul expressly commands ministers to teach discernment. Churches need to be willing to do this.

And, finally, one other important job of a church is to discipline.  One of the passages that talks about this is I Timothy 5:20 where Paul urges elders to rebuke those who are sinning in the presence of all, that the rest may fear. Most churches ignore any passage on church discipline. And, honestly, I can understand why. In this day and age, you are considered judgmental and narrow-minded if you stand against any sin.  But does this excuse the church from doing it?

These are three  important jobs of a biblical church: teach doctrine, protect from false doctrine, and discipline wayward believers.

We have been sold the lie that churches only exist to save the lost but that isn’t biblical. While many have been drawn to a church service and been saved there, that is not its main purpose.  We have been sold the lie that church is about experiencing love and community. While many of us have made wonderful friends and enjoy being part of a community, that is not its main purpose.

I have no idea what type of church you attend.  And finding a good, solid, biblical church is getting harder every day.  But there are still some good ones around. I hope you are in one of them.

 

 

 

Wednesday Wisdom: 8 Symptoms of False Doctrine

JC_Ryle_QuotesIt is almost unreal that what I am going to share today was written over 100 years ago. It sounds like it was written yesterday. 

Todd Friel shared this list on Wretched Radio the other day. It is so incredibly applicable, that it almost feels prophetic. It was written by J.C. Ryle (who is an excellent author, by the way!)–

Many things combine to make the present inroad of false doctrine peculiarly dangerous.

1. There is an undeniable zeal in some of the teachers of error: their “earnestness” makes many think they must be right.

2. There is a great appearance of learning and theological knowledge: many fancy that such clever and intellectual men must surely be safe guides.

3. There is a general tendency to free thought and free inquiry in these latter days: many like to prove their independence of judgment, by believing novelties.

4. There is a wide-spread desire to appear charitable and liberal-minded: many seem half ashamed of saying that anybody can be in the wrong.

5. There is a quantity of half-truth taught by the modern false teachers: they are incessantly using Scriptural terms and phrases in an unscriptural sense.

6. There is a morbid craving in the public mind for a more sensuous, ceremonial, sensational, showy worship: men are impatient of inward, invisible heart-work.

7. There is a silly readiness in every direction to believe everybody who talks cleverly, lovingly and earnestly, and a determination to forget that Satan often masquerades himself “as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14).

8. There is a wide-spread “gullibility” among professing Christians: every heretic who tells his story plausibly is sure to be believed, and everybody who doubts him is called a persecutor and a narrow-minded man.

All these things are peculiar symptoms of our times. I defy any observing person to deny them. They tend to make the assaults of false doctrine in our day peculiarly dangerous. They make it more than ever needful to cry aloud, “Do not be carried away!”

~ J.C. Ryle

Are We Addicted to the Latest and Greatest?

 

The raging competition of who can build the biggest and best roller coasters is focusing its attention on Hersheypark this year. This past winter they built SkyRush, their tallest, fastest, and longest roller coaster with one-of-a-kind winged outer seats (per their website description).   A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to give SkyRush a try.  I do like a good roller coaster and SkyRush was a thrill, although, personally, The Great Bear is still my favorite coaster in the park.

Right near the SkyRush sits the Super Dooper Looper.  This was the latest and greatest coaster when I was a kid.  It was introduced in 1977 with the promise to actually take you upside down!  35 years later, the Super Dooper Looper feels like almost a kiddie ride.  It is truly amazing how far along America has come in building roller coasters.

There is something in our human nature that demands something newer.  Something better.  Something greater.  We get bored with the same old thing.  This human tendency seems to have especially dug its roots deep into American soil, where we insatiably search for bigger and better.  Whether we are referring to roller coasters, the latest technology, or cars, contentment is hard to find these days.  Even if we are happy with what we have, we believe there must be something better if we can only find it…or afford it.

And I would venture to say that this same mindset has subtly crept its way into many of our churches, as well.  Pushing the edge isn’t just something for amusement parks, anymore.  Many modern churches have joined the Bigger and Better movement and are trying things like adding heavy metal or rock music, dances, and sermons based on secular (ungodly) movies to their worship services.  And why?  To be the church that is doing something new, something great, something awesome, so that they can attract a world that is looking for something newer, greater, and awesomer (yeah, I know it’s not a word).

But should this be where our attention is focused as believers?  Does God need us to be like the world in order to win the world?  If we take a step back in history we will see that the answer to that is NO.  Whether we go the whole way back to Rome or we step back just a few hundred years into American History, we will see that great revivals and growth of the true church took place because Christians chose to be different than the world…not like them.  Preachers preached a message that wasn’t comfortable, appealing, or fun and yet God worked!  He drew thousands to himself using men and women who were willing to stand up, turn their backs on the world, and be different.

It seems we may have forgotten that it is the Holy Spirit Who does the work of saving…not secular rock songs, gimmicky pastors, or worldly methods.  It is God who draws people to himself (John 6:44).   The trend of adding pop culture  to worship is certainly leading to church buildings filled with people.  But are they people who truly understand what being a Christian really means?   Are they people who will turn away from the world and their own selfish desires to follow Jesus?   I can’t answer for individuals, of course.  But I know what I see in the church as a whole and I can’t help but wonder if  the addiction to the latest and greatest isn’t hindering the Kingdom of God instead of helping it?

Starting with the Right Account

I glared at my computer.  Why wasn’t this balancing?  I glanced down over the screen, trying to spot something that may have been entered wrong.  I was in the midst of trying to balance one of my business accounts and it just wasn’t working.  Have you ever had that problem?  You work and work to figure out why you are a few dollars off?  Only this time it was about $65 and I was determined to figure out the discrepancy.  There were only a few transactions for the whole month, so this should have been a piece of cake.  And then it hit me!  I was balancing the wrong account.  We have two accounts that happen to have very similar balances and I had accidentally brought up the wrong account.  I could have worked all day but it would never have balanced.

After I had scolded myself about making such a stupid mistake and wasting some valuable minutes, I couldn’t help but apply this to life.  You see, so many of us start at the wrong point with our Christianity.  We want to start with ourselves instead of with God. We come to God so He will meet our needs. We want to find our purpose.  We want to experience God’s blessings.  We desire for all to go well with us.  We believe that God wants us to be “happy” and so we pursue happiness instead of godliness. We praise God for finding us beautiful (which I still just can’t seem to find a verse to support) and we sing songs of worship that are ME-centered instead of God-centered.

We start with the wrong account of “me” and because of it, we can never seem to balance our Christianity.  I know this isn’t a popular thing to say but here it is:  True Christianity is about repentance of sin, self-denial, holiness, and glorifying God alone.  We need to repent of the sin that makes us unacceptable to God and come to Him with humility and a grateful heart for the gift of salvation He has graciously provided through His Son’s death and resurrection.  Upon salvation, we should start  living for Jesus, instead of ourselves.

John 3:30 says:  He must increase, but I must decrease.  Matthew 16:24 says:  Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.  

Did you catch that?  We are to decrease.  We are to think less and less of ourselves the more mature we grow in Christ, so that people are seeing more and more of Christ.  We are to deny ourselves our own personal desires for the sake of God’s Kingdom. For some, it may mean going to prison or dying for Christ.  Others endure ruined reputations, ugly rumors, and broken relationships because of their dedication to Christ.  But we are to glory in this persecution, because Christ’s purposes are supreme! (Matthew 5:11-12)

Because Christianity has become so ME-centered, it has rendered many of us useless for the sake of God’s Kingdom.  We dedicate so much time to finding our personal purposes and “helping” God to bless us materially, that we aren’t even concerned about the souls of the lost.  We become so wrapped up in declaring our “rights” and “personal freedoms” that we step all over weaker brothers and sisters, not caring for their fledgling walks with Christ.  We rationalize our behaviors and choices, all the while hurting the Kingdom of God.   We seek personal pleasure and justify it under the banner of the “freedom we have in Christ”.  It is absolutely tragic.

We need to start with the right account!  We need to start with God, instead of ourselves.  Ironically, it is only when this happens, that we will find the joy, blessing, and peace that our souls long for.

So what really happened the night before Christmas?

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the stable
The real Christmas, mind you…this isn’t a fable
The young couple had traveled from far, far away
They had spent hours traveling all the long day

The innkeeper smiled and then shook his head
“No, I don’t have a room, I’m sorry,” he said
“But, listen, I do have a stable out back–
Please make yourself comfortable among the haystacks.”

The young man heart’s sunk; this wasn’t ideal
He thought of his wife–how would she feel?
The baby was coming, she was already in labor
Would she mind terribly to have beasts as her neighbors?

But then she spoke softly to him on that night
“It’s a soft place to lay down, far out of sight.”
He sighed and then turned to the man at the door
“We’ll take it,” he said and then turned to implore-

“Can you show us the way? Is it just right out back?
My wife needs to lay down, that is a fact.”
The innkeeper directed a young servant boy
To show them the way, amidst all the noise

For people had come from far and from near
To register for taxes on this night so clear
And Bethlehem rang with the noise of the crowd
As young Joseph and Mary followed the boy down

Down to the stable, so small and so dim
The animals moved restlessly, causing a din
Inside they found a stall filled with hay
A comfortable place for Mary to lay

And right there it was, a manger so small
They carefully placed it right by the wall
Joseph wiped it all down with a rag that he found
And carefully lay a soft covering all ’round

And then came the most difficult night
Either had experienced in all of their life
For a baby boy was born on that night
And it wasn’t painless or without fright

For whenever a baby in this world is born
There is pain and discomfort before the morn
This has been part of the process since time began
When sin came into the world through the choice of a man

But as Mary lay there in the dim light
In fields near the town, an angel interrupted the night!
The shepherds looked up and what did they see?
A sight so incredible, they wanted to flee

This angel told them where to go
To see the Savior born in a manner so low
And then, much to their surprise
A Heavenly Host filled all the sky!

“Glory to God in the Highest” they sang
Their beautiful voices, through the whole sky, they rang
And when it was over, the shepherds looked all around
And knew they just had to start into town

And when they arrived at that stable so small
They heard a small cry, there–in that stall
And as they walked over towards that place in the barn
They saw smiling Mary, a small babe in her arms

And so it was on that first Christmas night
That Jesus was born to make all things right
For this was not just any old birth
For Jesus brought hope and joy to the earth!

And many years later he would die on a cross
To save you and me, when all was thought lost
And, so that is truly the Christmas story
Let’s celebrate Jesus, in all of His glory!

Strength Will Rise When I Wait?

Are you sure, Lord?  Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord, wait upon the Lord, we will wait upon the Lord.  As we sang this song in church yesterday, I thought about that phrase.  Wait a second…my strength doesn’t “rise” when I am waiting on the Lord.  It usually decreases.  I wonder if that phrase is even biblical?  So right there in church (sorry, Pastor Dan!) I started looking to find the scripture that  backed that phrase up.  As I read a few of the verses that contained the word “wait” I came across several rich passages but most had to do with being comforted by the Lord.  I didn’t read anything about my strength rising.  And then I remembered that verse in Isaiah.  Where was that again?  Chapter 40 or was it 41?  I flipped the pages through Isaiah looking for it.   There it was.  Chapter 40, verse 31:

 But those who wait on the LORD
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.

While we wait our strength will be renewed.  Our strength will rise…grow stronger…as we wait.  And I thought about some of the situations in my life where waiting is my only option.   And I knew that waiting usually depleted my strength.  It didn’t make it grow stronger.  And then I had to ask myself this question:  if scripture tells me that waiting will make me grow stronger, why was I growing weaker?

As I pondered this question, I realized the answer: I grow weaker when I am waiting if I am relying on my own strength.  I am small and finite and things look impossible to me.  But God is big and infinite and all-knowing. All things are possible with God.  He is our hope…our strong deliverer, just like the song goes on to say.  In fact, as I took the time to read through the lyrics (see below) after I got home, I realized that the entire song was based on that verse in Isaiah.

But there wasn’t anything in that verse to indicate that waiting would be easy…or fun.  In my world, I am “happier” if I can do something to solve a problem and many of my conversations with the Lord have gone something like this: “Lord, please just show me the path to take, and then I’ll do it, Lord. Please show me how I can solve the problem and I promise I will work hard to do that.”    But guess what?  If we solve the problem, then we get the glory.  It is only when I acknowledge that I can’t possibly solve this problem and, in prayer and with faith and patience, submit the impossible to my Heavenly Father that I can get a glimpse of His glory.

Some of us wait and wait and wait.  We have wayward children…or broken relationships…or a situation at work…or an illness…and they are seemingly unending.  And we grow discouraged.  And we grow weaker.  Waiting is not for the faint of heart.  Waiting is hard.   But after we have done all we can do…after we have given 110% to solve a problem…or read every good book there is to read about God’s will…and there is still a question mark hanging over our heads…then, instead of throwing our hands up in the air, we need to turn it over to the Lord.  And as we wait, trusting in a God who is so much bigger than us, our strength will be renewed, not because of anything we will do…but because He will give us strength.

Everlasting God

Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord
We will wait upon the Lord
We will wait upon the Lord

Our God, You reign forever
Our hope, our Strong Deliverer
You are the everlasting God
The everlasting God
You do not faint
You won’t grow weary

You’re the defender of the weak
You comfort those in need
You lift us up on wings like eagles
You won’t grow weary