Joy to the World!

Many Christians would be surprised to learn that “Joy to the World”, one of our favorite Christmas carols, was written by Isaac Watts in 1719, is not actually about Christmas at all.

When we sing “Joy to the world the Lord is come, let Earth receive her King, let every heart prepare him room, let heaven and nature sing,” in the context of the Christmas season, it makes sense to think those lyrics are talking about the birth of Christ, and God coming to earth to dwell among us, but “Joy to the World” is really about the Second Coming of Christ, not about his birth in Bethlehem.

But sung in the Christmas season, this loved carol also reminds us that Christmas isn’t over; the promises of Christmas are not yet fulfilled. Earth will fully receive her King when Christ comes again, to reign and to rule. “Joy to the World” is based upon Psalm 98, which declares creation’s joy when the Lord comes to rule and to judge.

The final verse of the hymn reverberates with hope of His second coming: “He rules the world with truth and grace, and makes the nations prove, the glories of His righteousness, and wonders of His love, and wonders of His love, and wonders, wonders, of His love.”

The typical warm fuzzy Christmas story misses the point and misleads people and gives them a false sense of security. The typical Christmas story disguises Jesus as a baby as cute, sweet and helpless instead of the Prince of Peace who came to the Savior of the world, and the Redeemer of all mankind. The Baby didn’t stay a baby. He became the King of Kings, and He will return again.

God always has a plan. For hundreds of years people looked for the day when the Messiah would make his first appearance in earth. 700 years before Jesus’ birth, Isaiah prophesied about the Messiah being born of a virgin. 500 years before Jesus’ birth, the prophet Micah foretold that the Messiah will be born in Bethlehem. The people waited and hoped.

Having been persecuted and scattered through hundreds of years by the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans, the Jewish people never gave up their hopes for the first coming of the promised Messiah. Though things seemed dark at times God was using world powers to accomplish His plan.

The Persians under King Xerxes allowed people like Ezra and Nehemiah to go back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple, the walls, and the culture. Greece under Alexander the Great defeated the Persians and gave the known world a common language. Then the Roman Empire defeats Greece and built an expansive system of roads for their armies to travel on, but those same roads paved the way for the spread of the gospel as the early Christians used those same roads to take the good news about Christ across the known world.

When everything was in place, or as Scripture says, “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son” (Galatians 4:4). Today, we live with their “hope” in the first coming of Christ as a reality today.

We no longer are hoping for a first coming of Christ, but we are waiting and hoping for his second coming. God still has a plan, and when the fullness of time has come, when all the things are in place, Christ will return!

“Joy to the world. The lord has come.” He HAS come, He IS here, AND He WILL be coming again.

The Greatest Miracle of Christmas

The greatest miracle of Christmas is not the birth of a baby named Jesus to a virgin. The greatest miracle of Christmas is that God came to earth to live among us. Christmas is about God coming to us. The Word made flesh and dwelling among us because He loves us and wants a relationship with us. The Old Testament prophet, Isaiah, called Jesus, “Immanuel!” meaning “God with us!”

Then Jesus promised the Holy Spirit, to be with us and live in us after he ascended into heaven. Today, the Holy Spirit, is still here today. God with us! And for those who have placed their faith in Jesus as their Savior, God in us! Think about it! If you have placed your faith in Jesus as your Savior, the very One who impregnated Mary AND raised Jesus from the dead lives in you! Paul said it this way; “Christ in you, the hope of Glory!” The Holy Spirit is Christ in you!

Wherever you are, whatever you are walking though God is with you, He is with you today. God doesn’t lift us out of our problems, but He places Himself right in the middle of the chaos with us.

Even in the middle of the mess that has been 2020, as we find ourselves neck-deep in chaos and uncertainty, maybe, this is where the real meaning of Christmas comes alive in us and means more than it ever has.

Hope Has A Name

Jesus, quietly born in a filthy place. His first night on earth, he was among the cattle and sheep, among the hay bales, and barnyard smells, but in the middle of all of that, he was still the Christ, the Son of the Living God, the Messiah sent by God to be the Savior of the world. The same is true today, amidst the “barnyard smells” of our lives Jesus is still the Savior of the world, our redeemer, our forgiver, the Son the Living God.

Jesus wasn’t born into perfect circumstances. Perfect circumstances have never been a part of Christmas, and it still isn’t today. Your circumstances may not be perfect this Christmas season, but Christmas is about hope and redemption. It is about fresh beginnings and second chances. My prayer for us all is that we can slow down long enough to find the hope of Christmas in the midst of all the chaos of life and uncertainty in our lives.

In a world that has overly commercialized Christmas, even tried to write the main character out of the story, so many people are living in some level of darkness, without hope, frustrated, defeated, and even overwhelmed by the uncertainty, chaos, and hopelessness around them. Are you living some level of darkness, uncertainty, or hopelessness today?

But the good news, the Gospel, the best news ever, is God sent Jesus, His one and only Son into the world, born of a woman, born as a baby, to live a perfect life, to become our sin, my sin, so God could offer me (and you) hope, and eternal life. Born into imperfect, inconvenient circumstances, to a virgin, to be the Light of the World that brings hope to the world amidst all the chaos, and to reconcile broken people living in a broken world back to Himself in Jesus.

This Christmas,

You can find forgiveness.

You can find eternal life.

You can find hope.

You can find healing.

You can find peace of mind.

You can find purpose.

Hope has a name. His name is Jesus.

Three Principles to Remember this Christmas

Christmas, meant to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Messiah, our Savior and Redeemer, has been turned into the most hectic commercialized season of all. Of course, the circumstances surrounding the census and the birth of Christ were pretty busy and hectic too. I want to encourage you in this article to not over-complicate Christmas.

There are three principles we should all remember as we enter the Christmas season; First, keep it simple. Jesus was born into some pretty sparse circumstances. The son of two poor Galileans, he lived a life of humility and simplicity that became a key element of his ministry here on earth.

Reflect Christ-like attitudes by focusing on the small things, being intentional in our personal relationships, and focusing on quality over quantity. Instead all the distractions Christmas has become within our culture. How many times have we bought the expensive gift only to watch the child enjoy the box more than the toy?

Second, be present. We give love to people at Christmas when we show up in their lives, serving and celebrating. One way we tell our families and friends that we love them is by giving them our focused attention. Attention says, “I value you enough to give you my most precious asset – my time.” When you give someone your time, you’re giving them a portion of your life that you’ll never get back. You can always make more money, but you cannot make more time.

Third, give with delight. God uses giving as an antidote for materialism, and he loves it when we give with a delighted heart (2 Cor. 9:7). Jesus said there’s more happiness in giving than in receiving (Acts 20:35), but here’s an important point to remember at Christmas: Giving is a matter of willingness, not wealth. It’s attitude, not amount. Christmas is about heart, not possessions.

We’ve replaced true, heartfelt, delightful giving with a hollow materialism that keeps us all overspending during the holidays. Instead, we should give from our hearts. Expand your definition of giving beyond the financial. Imagine how much you could bless others if you simply shared your time and talents.

The essence of Christmas is that we simply and humbly give ourselves, just as God gave generously and sacrificially to us through his Son, Jesus Christ. This Christmas lets generously show up in the lives of others with our time, talents, money, possessions, and friendship.

Simple isn’t just beautiful; it’s powerful. You don’t have to cram your days full of activities, and you don’t have to make everything big, complicated, or expensive in order to enjoy Christmas. Keep your holidays simple, so you are free to serve those in need and celebrate with those you love.

The Difference Between Condemnation and Conviction

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…” (Romans 8:1). “When he (the Holy Spirit) comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin…” (John 16:8). “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” (Acts 3:19).

The topic of this article is the difference between conviction, condemnation, and repentance.

Conviction is the work of the Holy Spirit. Conviction always comes from God. Conviction is always specific (you lied, you made a wrong choice, your attitude is wrong, your motives are impure, etc). With conviction there is always a solution (repent, take responsibility, make restitution, etc). And conviction always produces hope and restoration (God is making a difference in you so He can make a difference through you).

God uses conviction to get our attention, to remind us of areas of our lives in need of His transformational touch, to lovingly discipline us, to restore us, to draw us closer to Himself, and ultimately to make us more like Jesus in our behaviors, attitudes, motives, and intentions. God wants to use conviction to give you life to the fullest (John 10:10) by setting you free to be all He has purposed you to be.

Condemnation, on the other hand, never comes from God. Condemnation is usually very general (you are a failure, you can’t be forgiven, you will never get out of this mess, etc). Condemnation never has a solution (you can never change, you deserve this pain, you will never be free, etc). And condemnation always intends to produce despair, depression, fear, anxiety, and hopelessness.

The enemy uses condemnation to kill, steal and destroy (John 10:10). Satan wants to destroy your hope because he knows that without hope you will not even make the effort. The enemy wants to use condemnation to keep you beat up, discouraged, afraid, and imprisoned by his lies and deceitful ways.

Repentance is the turning away from one’s sin. Repentance should be our response to the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Repentance is goes far beyond mere agreement with God that you have sinned. Repentance implies change. The best way I know to define repentance is as a change of mind, a change of direction, and a change of purpose. Repentance means to change one’s mind, disposition, and behavior toward God by acknowledging personal error and turning toward God’s universal, objective, constant, absolute truth as found in Scripture.

God uses repentance to help us maintain proper relationship with Him…to help us walk out the practical side of forgiveness and to follow-through with the spiritual development and life-change process….as well as to give us spiritual renewal, restoration, and refreshing.

Bottom line: If Jesus is your Savior, you no longer have to cope with condemnation. Jesus died on a cross to set you free from condemnation. Every week I remind people that ALL of their sin, shame, and guilt was nailed to the cross. When the Holy Spirit convicts you…reject condemnation….choose repentance…. and God will restore you and give you renew your hope!