Mr. Christmas

Devotional writings, reflections on life, and miscellaneous other writings.

Mr. Christmas Mr. Christmas

3 Tools Every Father Should Know How to Use

Sermon starters, teaching ideas, and outlines.

3 Tools Every Father Should Know How to Use 3 Tools Every Father Should Know How to Use

5 Reasons Why You Need to Prepare For Grief

People skills, group leadership, and shepherding.

5 Reasons Why You Need to Prepare For Grief 5 Reasons Why You Need to Prepare For Grief

Because of Sons

Photo courtesy of iStockPhoto/aimintang

The following post was written on Christmas morning, 2010, in Killeen, Texas.

I awakened this Christmas morning in an inn. Never did I imagine that I would spend Christmas Eve and Christmas morning in an inn. Remembering fondly the births of my three children, I recall that I did not spend that time lodging in an inn. Yet in spite of the comfortable surroundings built into these modern homes away from home, there is still a sense of being unsettled.

I am here because of my son. The United States Army operates on a schedule that does not alter for anything except the worst of disaster. My son is scheduled for duty in such a way that it would be impossible for him to travel home to be with our family. Therefore, we have brought the family to him.

Irritation with the inflexible Roman government was likely the source of much grumbling and criticism as travelers compelled by the world wide taxation, made their way to ancestral hometowns. Feet moved one in front of the other on dusty roads. Children were alternately energetic, then hungry, then tired. Old men grumbled their criticism of the government, unnecessary hardships, and those infernal taxes. Families found themselves displaced in order to accomplish the whims of a tyrant. Schedules were interrupted, livelihoods were put on hold, and pregnant women were forced into nightmarish scenarios.

It is doubtful that Joseph and his bride traveled toward Bethlehem alone. Jacob, Joseph’s dad, was also of the house and lineage of David. One thing is for sure, there were enough travelers making their way back to the City of David that the local inns filled to capacity. There would be no maid service nor breakfast bar; not even a cup of coffee. A place where animals were kept seemed to be the most practical spot to take refuge. As Joseph contemplated his situation, I wonder if he didn’t shake his head and say, “Never did I imagine that I would experience the birth of this special child in such a place as this.”

What he could not have known at the time was this: he was here because of his son. God had established the when and the where of this birth and brought the family to this place, in this time. Emmanuel was scheduled for duty. The heavenly Father had a plan in response to the greatest disaster of all time. His son was born to die and in the process, save His people from their sins.

I’m spending Christmas in an inn. Joseph couldn’t find one for his pregnant wife. I slept in a bed. He slept wherever he could. We are here because of our sons.

A Wise Celebration: The Christ of Christmas

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That Jesus Christ was born in the manner described in scripture is an inescapable conclusion, but is it an event that we should commemorate? The assertion by some that we should refrain from celebrating His birth, especially a Christmas observance, is an opinion with little basis in God’s word. As a matter of fact, rejecting the idea is itself out of line with scripture.

Angels, shepherds, the Magi, and even the Creator himself marked the event with much fanfare. Shepherds were invited by angels to attend the birth celebration. An angelic praise fest and a new star cannot be considered minimal or inconsequential. In short, a celebration with attendees from heaven and earth most certainly did occur at God’s behest.

So, how does the absence of a Biblical command to celebrate the birth of the Savior equate the prohibition of the same?

To discourage or even prohibit a memorial celebration of this magnitude, based upon anything other than a “thus saith the LORD” violates the very guideline that I was taught in my childhood. “Speak where the Bible speaks, be silent where the Bible is silent”, was the mantra that I heard early and often. However, this was not the only reason cited. The Christmas observance was not a part of the first century tradition, on which grounds some would reject it. The argument that it should be avoided because we cannot know if it is the actual date, has no precedent in the pages of scripture but emanates from the rationale of man. So likewise does the argument that it may be “denominational” in nature.

To reject a memorial celebration of the birth of Christ as being “unscriptural” is in itself an unscriptural position. There is no “thus saith the Lord” on the issue. The resulting doctrinal position espoused by those who apply this approach is, from a practical perspective, likely to be applied as firmly as a “thus saith the Lord.” This in itself violates the principle of “be silent where the Bible is silent.” To reject upon the grounds of “denominationalism” is also the establishment of a doctrinal position void of specific scriptural support. Scripture either speaks or it does not. 

Students of the stars saw THE star which called their attention to the birth of the King of kings. They made their way to the child born in Bethlehem. The modern approach to Christmas is man-made to be sure, but it is the one season when men are openly reminded of the birth of a Savior. The star may have indicated where the child lay, but it also fired the starter’s pistol which moved pagan men to find Christ. Maybe if we spent more time using the celebration of Christmas as an opportunity to meet at the manger, we might just lead a few to the cross.

Criticize it if you want, but scripture is clear; “he that winneth souls is wise.” To reject a globally recognized opportunity to call all men to Jesus on the basis of arguments so intrinsically unscriptural, is anything BUT wise.

By the way, if you insist on rejecting the celebration of Christ’s birth, stop with the gifts and any observance of the holiday. It presents a bit of a hypocritical problem to indulge in the celebration of the season but completely reject the historical significance.

5 Reasons Why You Need to Prepare For Grief

One of the most helpless feelings you will ever experience occurs when someone you love is crushed beneath the weight of grief.  If you have not suffered with a family or a friend in this setting, hang on. You will.  How you personally prepare for grief can make the difference in your ability to minister.

Eventually, death comes to every household.  Being present during an expression of fresh and quivering grief is heart rending.  Few can be in that setting and remain unmoved.  If you are a pastor, teacher, or good friend, the moment may find you ministering to a grief stricken family AND grieving personally.

I walked through the final days with Leroy.  He was one of the Deacons with whom I served and we had become great friends.  Hospice care had been arranged and I had made it a point to stop by his home and visit for a few minutes each day.  In the late evening hours I was called to the house for what would be the final visit.  When the moment of his passing came, I stood ready to minister to a room full of grieving family but was completely unprepared for the tidal wave of my own grief.  Since then, I have shared moments of grief with many others but the lessons I learned in Leroy’s den stick with me to this day.

1.  Grief is unavoidable.
  • It is beneficial to grieve loss.
  • Grief is a gut level response.  No words are powerful enough to short circuit this life altering moment.
  • That death even exists is the result of sin; a tragedy of the highest order.
2.  Grieving acknowledges our separation.
  • Separation removes a physical presence from our day.  The touch of a husband or wife, the smile of a child, the advice of a friend are all irreplaceable.
  • Separation from someone who loves us is life-altering.
  • Separation heightens the anticipation of a heavenly reunion.
3.  Grieving reflects upon our connection.
  • We finally attribute full and honest value to the relationship.
  • We reflect upon the personal impact that was made by the deceased.
  • In some cases, your grief may be focused more for the loved ones left behind than for the deceased.  In that case, you tend to grieve because of the pain you see in them.
4.  Grieving reminds us of our own preparation.
  • In grieving the loss of a friend or loved one we flinch at the sting of death.
  • Few times in life will men and women reflect more upon their own life and death than in a time of grief.
  • Life is short.  The survival rate of any given generation is zero.  Prepare urgently!  Love lavishly!
5.  Grief is addressed best by love.
  • Your loving presence will say far more than your words.  Close your mouth.  Just share their air.
  • Prayerfully, ask for the comfort of the Holy Spirit.  Intercession is one of the highest expressions of love.
  • Walk the path of grief with them.  Directions are cheap.  A shared journey is priceless.
Do you have experience with grief that might benefit someone else?   Please share it.  We will grow together!

4 Things to Remember When Fishing Seems Useless

“When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”  But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at your word I will let down the net.”  And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking.”            Luke 5:4-6  NKJV

(The term “fishing” is to be understood in this outline as a metaphor for “intentional evangelism” as indicated in Luke 5:10)

I.      Jesus Still Intends for Us to Fish!

    • His plan has never changed. 
    • His purpose has never changed.
    • His passion has never change.

II.   Lack of Results is No Reason to Quit!

    • The fish are not all dead. (Its not too late)
    • The fish still have the same nature.  (Sin is still the problem)
    • The fish are still catchable.

III.  Fish Because He Said So!

    • Your attitude toward fishing largely determines whether you will fish, not the size of the catch.
    • His word is more important than our ability.
    • Our obedience is the key.

IV.   You Cannot Predict What May Happen!

    • Where yesterday there was nothing, today may be a net full.
    • Where yesterday a friend was hardened, today he may be broken.
    • Today you may be the only Believer in your circle of influence.  Tomorrow God may use you to take an unimaginable catch!

He Never Looked Back

He never looked back.  He hugged his mother and me, told us he loved us, and walked from the car into sacrificial service without so much as a hesitation.  I, on the other hand stood gazing after him, wishing that someone would spring from behind a bush and announce, “You’re on TV’s Bloopers and Practical Jokes!”  No such luck.  That little boy who bounced through childhood like Tigger is now a hulking young man with a cocky, powerful stride, yet still possessed of a tender, compassionate heart.  In nine weeks the Army would leave its imprint on him.

Just six months later, my wife and I endured the same scene again.  Like some recurring nightmare we watched the broad back and powerful shoulders of my eldest son walk down the same path.  Their destinations would be different; Iraq and Afghanistan.  Their experiences; as far apart as the headwaters of the Tigris and Arghandab Rivers, yet each marched forward without so much as a glance to the rear.

I know that I am not the first dad to endure this life changing event.  I walked down this well worn path with my friend Russ not long ago.  His son, at the time, was counting down the final days of an enlistment in the U.S. Marine Corps.  I knelt in prayer with him as Rusty left for Iraq. I rejoiced with him when Rusty came home safe and sound.  He assured me that he would in turn, walk that path with me.

The imprint on His son would be lasting.  Thirty years of woodworking would certainly leave a carpenter’s hands calloused and scarred.  Yet his touch was tender enough to comfort even the smallest child.  That young carpenter, whose birth caused angels to sing, now knelt in acute agony.  In that prayer of complete surrender, he made certain of the Father’s will.  He strode from the garden through the narrow corridors of a torturous night, arriving at Calvary bruised, bloody, and condemned.  He was scarred one last time; for me.

Oh what private pain must have pierced the Father’s heart as the hour of separation loomed near!  What indescribable anguish must have gripped Him who judges sin, upon seeing His son become the subject of judgment!  In that moment of selfless sacrifice, God’s own son embraced the cross.  He cried out at the stab of alienation from His Father.  He became my Savior.  From the manger in Bethlehem to the place of the skull, not once did he ever hesitate; he never looked back.