Christmas is coming

When I blew out the candle on the muffin at Bible study a couple of week’s ago, I said I was turning 69. Jonathan corrected my calculation by noting that I was actually finishing my 69th year, and beginning my 70th. Hadn’t thought of it that way, and not sure how I feel about it. But it has made me realize that I will be celebrating my 70th Christmas this year. I guess that’s why it got here so quickly.

When you are young, your lifespan is divided by very few Christmases, so they seem to be few and far between. By the time you’re pushing three score and ten, next Christmas gets here while the fruitcake is still in the fridge.

Christmas decorations usually go up after Thanksgiving, but Mark and I put up the new lighted nativity that leads into the Chatham “Light Up the Park” holiday display before I left for Tennessee and Matt’s traditional trash-can turkey. I do hope you will drive through the display which will be lighted Fridays and Saturdays from 6:00-9:00 until Christmas. Several churches in Chatham contributed for the purchase of the nativity so those driving through the holiday display will be reminded of the reason for the season.

Obviously, we need not be reminded of the reason for the season. Even if we use the shorthand “Xmas” when jotting notes about Christmas plans and presents, we see Christ in Christmas. In fact, the X that is used is actually the Greek letter C that’s been used as a symbol for Christ for nearly two thousand years.

By the time you read this, December will be here, and the Christmas season will be fully upon us. We have numerous Christmas celebrations and activities planned, but the one I’m most concerned about at the moment is Christmas Eve. I need to hear from anyone who is willing to present a musical special, be part of an ensemble, do a reading, or share anything that will help us celebrate the coming of Christ before we light our candles and partake of the Lord’s Supper. Please let me know what you can do ASAP. My 43rd Christmas Eve with you will be here before we know it.

God Bless, Rick

Cyrus the Great

Several months ago, when it became obvious that my first and second choices for president wouldn’t make it to the final ballot, Matt said that if Trump made it to the presidency he just hoped he would prove to be a Cyrus. That thought has played in the back of my mind since then.

In case you don’t know who I’m talking about, Cyrus the Great was the man who conquered the Babylonians, and founded the Persian Empire. His accomplishments are epic, but what’s most interesting is that Isaiah prophesied his actions as they would relate to God’s people some 150 years before the fact.

During a very dark period of Israel’s history, the prophet declared in Isaiah 41, “Let the peoples gain new strength; let them come forward, then let them speak; let us come together for judgment. Who has aroused one from the east whom He calls in righteousness to His feet?” And then in chapters 44 & 45 the prophecy gets much more specific. “It is I who says of Cyrus, He is My shepherd! And he will perform all My desire.” “I have also called you by your name; I have given you a title of honor though you have not known Me.”

The Book of Ezra then opens with these words: “Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he sent a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying, ‘Thus says Cyrus the king of Persia, “The Lord, God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jerusalem which is in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all His people, may the Lord his God be with him, and let him go up!”’”

Josephus tells us that it was when Cyrus was informed about the prophecies that he was stirred to allow the Jews to return to Judah. It’s even possible that is was Daniel who told him of the prophecies.

I find it encouraging that even though Cyrus’s religious beliefs weren’t the same as Israel’s, the counsel he received from godly men helped him understand how he could be used by God to accomplish His purposes. I hope the same will be true of our next president.

God Bless, Rick

Our citizenship is in heaven

By the time you read this we should know who our next president will be, but I’m writing before the returns are in. What I want to say is not dependent on who wins.

The lead article on my USA Today app reads, “As millions vote, thousands monitor polls for problems.” We generally call them “poll watchers.” In the book of Daniel we find there are also some angelic “watchers” who keep an eye on the political affairs of man.

In Nebuchadnezzar’s dream they declare: “This sentence is by the decree of the angelic watchers, and the decision is a command of the holy ones, in order that the living may know that the Most High is ruler over the realms of mankind, and bestows it on whom He wishes, and sets over it the lowliest of men.”

In Romans 4, Paul confirms that “there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.” That assures us that the establishment of civil authority has been ordained by God, and I believe we are safe to say that God is ultimately in control of our political processes. I do not believe, however, that it necessarily assures us that whoever wins is His choice.

We learn in Romans 1 that “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth”, and that God’s wrath is often revealed by simply allowing us to have our own way. The things Paul points to that result from God giving us over to what we want can be readily seen in our society today, so I don’t believe we can blame God for the mess we are in.

Still, when writing to Timothy, Paul urged that prayers be made for “all who are in authority, in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” So we pray for our president, whoever he or she might be, but we also realize that according to Philippians 3:20, “Our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

“Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.” God Bless, Rick

“If Chicago wins it all, do Cubs fans lose something?”

It’s Monday, and the Cubs are still alive. Does it surprise you that I’m even aware of that? If you know me at all, you know the only sports I care about are the ones my grandkids are playing. But here I am writing about the Cubs and the World Series. Why? Because something on the sports page of Sunday’s Journal-Register caught my attention as I was turning to a section I actually read. The heading was “What happens to ‘lovable losers?’”, and the subheading read “If Chicago wins it all, do Cub’s fans lose something?’

The writer expanded on the opening question by writing, “If the Chicago Cubs win the World Series for the first time since 1908 what happens to fans who have waited for next year their entire lives, the ones sporting T-shirts that read, ‘Just win before I die’? What happens when someday arrives?” The question that popped into my mind was, “What happens to hope when what you hoped for comes?”

In Romans 8:24-25 we read, “For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one also hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.”

We generally think of losing hope as something bad, something that happens when we give up thinking that which we long for will ever happen. And some might lose hope while waiting. But I’m longing for the day when I’ll lose hope because hope will no longer be needed.

In the love chapter Paul writes, “But now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” Why is love greater that faith and hope? I think the answer is that someday there will be no need for faith or hope. Our faith will be confirmed, and our hope will be fulfilled.

To keep Cubs’ fans from losing hope I guess it would be good thing if they lose the series. They can then go on hoping. And if Christ doesn’t come back tomorrow, we can just keep on hoping. But if He does, all hope will be gone. And that will be a good thing, because all that we hope for will have arrived!

God Bless, Rick