Personal Peace

Isaiah 26:3(NKJV)
3    You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.

As we proceed into the heart of the Christmas season we have been looking at 3 elements of the Christian interpretation of the holiday that even those who want a secular celebration try to include.  Those 3 elements are joy, peace and love.  We know that these three things can never be fully realized unless we know Jesus. This puts us in a position of advantage during this season.  We have what the world is thinking of at this time of year.  We need to use that advantage and share the Gospel.

This week we are studying bible peace.  In Luke 2 we read about the wonderful announcement made to the shepherds on the night of Jesus’ Birth. 

Luke 2:14(NKJV)
14    “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

Once again this is not an announcement of peace among men as the world would like us to believe.  This is much more important than that.  It is an announcement of peace between God and man.  The angels proclaim “goodwill toward men.”  The birth of Jesus was the beginning of the end of a conflict between God and man that began with Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden.  Jesus was born in fulfillment of Genesis 3:15.  In this verse God told Satan that one would come who would be born in a supernatural way.  This person would defeat Satan and take away all that he had gained in the fall of man. 

Jesus was born of a virgin.  His father was God himself.  He was the fulfillment of this prophecy and the one who could and would bring peace between God and man.  That is what we celebrate. The focus on peace between nations or groups is wonderful and to be desired.  It is not the peace celebrated at Christmas. 

The nature of this peace is not corporate but individual.  What Jesus won for us is the right to come to God freely and accept His terms of peace.  Each person can do that now.  Each person must do that for himself.  It does not happen automatically.  Once we accept God’s conditions, we not only have peace with God but the door is opened for us to experience this peace on a personal level.  We need to have this functioning within us if we are going to communicate peace to those around us at Christmas.

What is this perfect peace noted in Isaiah 26?  Let’s look at some definitions.  Webster defines peace as freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions.  Thayer’s bible dictionary defines it as , the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ.  Both definitions are opposite of one of the characteristic conditions of this season.  Stress. Our society in general is one in which stress seems to be a part of everyday life.  At Christmas this is often intensified because of the obligations of the season.  Peace is God’s answer to stress.

Stress can produce sickness, high blood pressure and all kinds of emotional issues.  Peace produces a sense of wellbeing and a quietness of mind.  Stress causes everything to feel out of control while peace puts us in control of any and every situation.  Stress will make it difficult to stand in the face of the smallest problem while, if we have peace, we can stand through and gain victory over the hardest trials.  Peace is ours to walk in because of what God set into motion in the birth of Christ. 

Let’s look a little closer at the peace God offers us.  Thayer’s goes on to describe peace as, “fearing nothing from God and therefore being content with our earthly lot, of whatsoever sort that is.”  When we know that we are right with God we can be content.  Contentment should not be confused with complacency.  On the contrary when we are content in our relationship with God it frees us to believe for major change in our circumstances.  This is because we have what matters most so if things don’t work out as we think they should it does not put us into a position of stress.  We have peace, so we simply continue to trust God and follow His direction until we see the victory. 

It is disconcerting to our enemy, the devil, when he seems to win but we still have peace in our hearts.  I often think of the trial of Jesus in this light.  The world around him was in complete turmoil.  Even Pontius Pilot, who was the Roman governor feared the crowd.  In the midst of the insanity stood Jesus.  He had the most to lose.  He was facing what looked like the ultimate defeat of God’s plan and yet He was an island of calm in the midst of a storm.  In the end He won the greatest victory ever won.  Peace is the key to ultimate victory in your life as well.

A popular thing to say as we part company today is, “Take care!”  We mean this in a positive way, and I don’t want to get legalistic about not saying this phrase, but if we think of it, it is reflective of the stress we live under.  Care in this context means exactly the opposite of peace.  Where peace is freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions, care in this context refers to those very thoughts and emotions.  We think we must take those thoughts upon ourselves if we are going to be responsible and safe.  In bygone days the parting words were “peace to you” or “go in peace.”  Maybe we should make a change to the old way.

Peace was made available to you by the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus.  We celebrate this peace at Christmas.  As you go about your day, think about the peace that Jesus provided for us.  Let His peace come into you heart and let that peace be communicated to someone else.  It might be carried in a kind word, a hug or some other gesture.  Look for someone who is full of stress and share the peace of God with them.  The Lord will show you how.  You are a carrier of God’s peace.  Let’s make this Christmas be a season of peace for you all around you.

 

The Great Announcement

was Luke 2:13-14(NKJV)
13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:  “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

This month we are building our faith for the Christmas celebration.  Over the past years the devil has tried to take back the 25th of December for his own use.  I don’t believe the church has to allow that.  This is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, not a secular holiday season.  We need to stay strong on our projection of that truth by openly using this season as an opportunity to share the truth of the Gospel which the event we now celebrate put into motion.

Although the secular world does not want the Christ of Christmas they do seem to want certain elements of the Christian celebration.  In particular there is much talk about joy, peace and love.  As Christians we have access to these things in a way that those who are not saved cannot have.  We have what the world is buying and we are the only ones who do.  This week let’s look at peace.

Luke 2:13-14 is one of the more well known Christmas verses.  It is often quoted during this season.  It is also generally misrepresented.  The world is fond of pointing to this verse and using it to imply that we should use this season as a time to promote peace among all men.  Although this is certainly a worthy goal, it is not what this verse is talking about.  The announcement the angels made to the shepherds that night had nothing to do with “world peace.”  The proclamation was “on earth peace, goodwill toward men.” Not peace among men. 

This was an announcement of the end of hostilities, but not between nations, tribes or clans.  It was an announcement that the hostility that existed between man and God, which began in the Garden of Eden, was finally at an end.  There were a number of battles that would yet be fought, but with the birth of Christ the plan of God to set man free from the bondage of sin was already assured.  Peace between God and man was now possible.

This is the most important message of Christmas.  Sin had created a separation between God and man.  The bible says in Eph. 2:3 that we were all by nature children of wrath.  In other words children of the devil.  In Romans 8:7-8 we read; 7Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. 8So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.  These verses clearly show the condition of man’s heart in relation to God.

Before the ministry of Jesus, God had provided a temporary place of refuge from the war in the form of the nation of Israel and their covenant.  Eph. 2:12 tells us that all who were outside of that covenant we without God in the world.  They had no relational rights to Him whatsoever.  God could, if He so chose, bless any man, but man had no right of approach to God outside of the law.  He had no relationship with God.  This was not what God desired.  Before the fall even occurred God had a plan to redeem man.  That plan was stated in Genesis 3:15.  God told the devil that a person called the seed of woman would come who would take away the victory he had won over man.  God told the devil that he was going to lose the war he started and God told him how.

Woman has no seed.  God, in effect, told the devil that a person was going to be born in a supernatural way who would defeat him.  This victory would bring peace between God and man.  What could the term “seed of woman mean?”  In retrospect it is obvious.  Isaiah tells us that “the virgin” will conceive a child and he will be called Emmanuel which means God among us.  The devil did not understand what God had said.  He did not understand the prophetic seeds that God had spoken throughout the centuries, but as we stand with the shepherds to hear this wonderful announcement it is clear to us!

You see the announcement given to those simple men on that hillside was the fulfillment of Genesis 3:15.  The one who would defeat the devil had been born.  He was conceived by a virgin.  He had no earthly father.  His father was God himself.  God had taken on the form of human flesh, He had become Emmanuel.  In just over 30 years, he would defeat the devil, take back the keys to the hearts of men and peace would reign between God and man. 

It is important to understand the nature of the peace the angels announced to the shepherds.  It is not a corporate peace.  It is not an end of hostilities between the kingdom of darkness and the Kingdom of light.  That conflict rages on today.  As a matter of fact I think that the greatest battles of that war are about to be fought.  This is an avenue of peace that each individual must take advantage of for himself. If he does, the bible teaches that God will take him out of the kingdom of darkness and bring him into the Kingdom of His dear Son, Jesus.  In this Kingdom there is peace.

This Christmas we need to rightly understand the message of peace the angels proclaimed.  Many will speak of it with no real knowledge of what it means.  If you are a Christian you have experienced it’s true meaning.  It is up to you to explain and introduce this wonderful peace with God to those still caught up on the wrong side of this awful conflict.  In fact 2 Cor. 5:18-19 tell us that is our real ministry.

2 Corinthians 5:18-19(NKJV)
18Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.

It is our ministry to tell the world that they can be reconciled to God.  They can be at peace with Him, and once they are they can access an inner peace that will infect their whole life.  Take the opportunity to exercise this wonderful ministry.  Make the announcement to someone that the angels made to the shepherds.  “On earth peace and God’s good will is there for you!”  Then tell them how to get it.  That is a gift truly worth giving!

The Joy of the Lord is My Strength

Nehemiah 8:10(NLT)
10And Nehemiah continued, “Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the LORD is your strength!” 

This week we have studied the Joy of the Lord in relation to the Christmas season.  While they do not want the Christ of Christmas, they seem to want some of the elements that surround the Christian celebration of Christmas.  Those element are joy, peace and love.  Since those things are impossible to fully experience without a relationship with Jesus, we have an advantage during things season.  We have what the world is looking to buy.  We need to use that as an open door to share the Lord with them.

In our study of joy in this context, we must understand and be functioning in joy in order to communicate it to others.  The first step is to understand that joy is an inward force of our spirit if we have been born again.  Happiness and pleasure are outward.  They are dependent upon the circumstances of life.  Joy is not.  We have joy within us because we have Jesus within us.  It is His joy that we can tap into.  We have joy available to us at all times.

Second we must understand that in order to release the joy that is ours we must learn to rejoice.  Rejoicing is the faith action we take even when we don’t feel joy, in response to the truth that joy is within us.  To rejoice means to act joyful.  It might include shouting, dancing or just being of good cheer around others.  When we do these things by faith in the truth of our salvation, we will release an inner joy that will affect our outward feelings.  This is a powerful truth, but it is sometimes difficult to walk in because it requires that we go against what we initially feel.  If we learn this truth, however, we can walk above outward circumstances and be consistently free from depression and sadness.  Everyone is sad at times.  That is just part of our condition.  However, learning to apply joy will keep sadness from abiding in us and becoming depression.

As we close the week I want to draw attention to the scripture above.  I was struck by how similar the New Living Translation’s description of this time in Israel’s history was to what we are doing in this season.  In the case of Israel they were also in a difficult time.  They had come back to rebuild the Israelite society.  They had just taken a close look at the Law of the Lord and found themselves lacking in keeping it.  They were greatly distressed. 

We live in a difficult day.  We might think that we need to do better in terms of keeping God’s way and having faith to see things change in our world.  God said to Israel, “Go ahead and celebrate.  This is a holy day and it is the joy of the Lord that will strengthen you to have victory in this situation.”  I understand that’s a paraphrase of a paraphrase, but you get the idea.  Sometimes we feel that if we are not sad we are not truly repentant.  It’s a little like worry.  Jesus told us not to do it.  To worry is the opposite of trusting God, but we feel we are not being responsible if we don’t worry. 

The same is true of rejoicing in the midst of trial.  We feel if we are not “concerned” we are somehow irresponsible.  If we rejoice in the midst of a grave situation we are not showing enough respect to the situation.  We must be grave and serious to show we understand the problem.  I am not in favor of being silly or irresponsible.  I am not in favor of an “escapist” mentality that just ignores the problem and hopes it will go away.  I am in favor of tapping into the joy of the Lord in the midst of the circumstance because we learn here that the Joy of the Lord gives us strength.

Joy and faith are related forces in the spirit.  You cannot defeat a joyful person.  Even when the pressure is on, Joy will keep you strong.  If you learn to look inside and find the joy of the Lord, circumstances will not look so difficult.  You will have the strength and focus to trust God in the middle of the problem.  Rejoicing in the Lord releases the Joy of the Lord which strengthens the truth of the Word in our lives.  When we do that, the faith that comes from the word rises in us and we cannot be defeated.

As we approach the pressures of this season let’s remember where our strength comes from.  It does not come from worry about paying the bills.  It does not come from the stress of getting everything done.  It comes from being joyful with the Joy of the Lord.  It comes from rejoicing over what the Lord has done in our lives.  It comes from allowing the Joy that is within us come to the surface and spill over on those around us.  As we do this we will find that others are drawn to this strength and we will have the opportunity to share the joy of knowing the one for whom this season is still named.

Tap In to the Joy of the Lord

Philippians 4:4(NKJV)
4Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!

As we have prepared our heart for the Christmas season this week, we have been looking at the elements of Christmas that the world tries to incorporate the holidays.  The problem, of course, is that they can only be understood in light of the true meaning of Christmas.  This season is full of talk about joy, peace and love, while the source of these things, Jesus himself, is being systematically removed.  This puts those of us who know Him in a very good position.  We have what the world is trying to buy.  We have them because we have Jesus.

As Christians we need to stir up these things during the holidays.  The holiday season can be a time of great stress if we let it.  However if we remind ourselves that the spiritual forces of joy, peace and love reside in us and if we stir them up, it can be a time of victory and of sharing these wonderful gifts with those who do not know Him.

This week we are looking at joy.  Christmas has become a time to focus on happiness.  The giving of gifts and the gathering of families are centered on as the basis for this happiness.  These are wonderful things, but happiness by nature is dependent upon outward stimuli.  When the outward changes the happiness changes.  Pleasure is a god in our society and Christmas has become the celebration of this god.  Joy produces happy feelings.  Joy is a source of pleasure.  But joy is not, from a scriptural standpoint an outward thing.  It is a product of the spirit of man.  When we have been born again we have joy within us.  It is part of the package of salvation.

Knowing that joy is in there is half of the battle.  Understanding how to release it is the other half.  When we are being bombarded with sad feelings, how do we tap into the joy that remains within us?  When we are attacked with depression, how can we drive out the depression by accessing the joy of the Lord.  The answer is so simple it is profound.  It is also a difficult process to begin.  Once begun, however, you will find that it will produce the promised result.

Our world has many solutions for sadness or depression.  These conditions have almost become a national obsession.  We look to pleasure to distract us from the sadness.  We buy things we don’t need or we give ourselves to everything from sports and other activities to various types of media.  We use anything that will distract us from the sadness, depression and boredom we feel.  In extreme cases we end up  addicted because we need increasing amounts of distraction to keep away the sadness. 

The other thing we will lean to is phycology and psychiatry.  Counseling and prescription drugs are used to try and “deal with” depression.  I believe there are cases where depression is chemical in nature and a doctor’s help can be required.  I also believe that this has become an excuse for many people to justify their behavior.  It is also a trap that the devil uses to keep people bound to these things.  The Word of God has a better solution.

Philippians tells us how to unlock the joy that is in us.  This joy, once released into our life can and will drive out sadness and depression.  Remember, it is not just our joyful feelings we are tapping into.  It is the Joy of the Lord and as such contains His power.  If it were just a natural change in attitude we were talking about it might or might not help us.  It is not.  I

\t is the joy that flows from God himself that was placed in your spirit at salvation.  It is a supernatural flow of power that will not just change your attitude but change you.

What is the this key?  Rejoice.  This word appears over 200 times in the new testament.  What does it mean?  From a scriptural point of view it means to act in faith on the joy that Jesus says is in you.  It is there.  Any faith operation involves an action that will release what you are believing for into the natural world.  In the case of defeating depression or sadness that action is rejoicing. 

What is rejoicing.  It can be different things to different people but I believe there are some principles that we can apply in general.  Rejoicing is acting like you have something to be happy about.  If your sports team wins the championship, you might shout, dance or even sing.  If someone gives you a tremendous gift you would react in some way.  Jesus gave you a wonderful gift.  He paid for it with his life.  At Christmas we celebrate the event that set that gift into motion.  We need to act like this gift is real.

One of the problems with proactive rejoicing is that we usually don’t feel like it.  We feel just the opposite.  The devil tells us we are being hypocritical if we rejoice when we feel no joy.  That would be true if this was a natural thing.  It is not.  We are not acting on what we feel, we are acting on a spiritual reality.  Jesus really did give us this gift.  We really are saved and going to heaven.  He really has taken up residence in our lives and he really is there to strengthen us and meet every need.  We don’t respond because we feel these things we respond because we believe them. 

The power in this is that if we will get pass the feelings that wants to keep us from releasing the joy and begin to act joyfully in what we believe, the feelings do follow.  These feelings are not dependent on outward things because they were not produced by outward things.  They were produced by acting on what we believe.  That does not change.  If I rejoice in the Lord I will release the joy of the Lord and depression and sadness will be driven away.  That is a promise.

Use the Christmas season as a time to practice rejoicing.  Meditate on the wonderful gift God has given us during this season.  Begin to rejoice for that gift even in the midst of the stress and pressure of the holidays.  Rejoice for that gift even if you are not able to do all you would like or if you are separated from those you love.  Maybe you have no loved ones to share the holidays with.  Rejoice in the Lord for He will never leave nor forsake you.  Let this rejoicing seep into your daily life.  Rejoice in the Lord right in front of the world.  It ‘s the one time of year they won’t think your strange.  Well at least they’ll think your are less strange. 

As you do you will tap into the Joy of the Lord.  That joy will change your outlook on the season and it will spill over to those around you.  Strike up a carol.  Not a winter song or a secular song.  A carol about Jesus.  People might even sing along.  Rejoice and let your rejoicing spread joy to those around you.  You may be surprised at the results for you, your family and even the world you live in.

A Closer Look at Joy

John 17:13(NKJV)
13But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves.

This week we have been taking time to reflect on the Christmas season.  We have discussed the fact that, although the 25th of December was originally a pagan holiday, Christians coopted it and possessed it for Jesus.  Today the devil has been trying to take his holiday back and I don’t think we should let him.  We should be aggressive, though not obnoxious about sharing the true meaning of Christmas and using it for the gospel.  We have also seen that, although the world wants to eliminate Jesus from the season, they do want certain elements of the Christian celebration to remain.  Namely they try to promote joy, peace and love. 

The problem for the world is that those things are not really available outside of a relationship with the Lord.  This is a good thing for us, because what the world is looking for right now, we have.  We have all three because we have Jesus.   This gives us the open door to offer this gift to those around us since we have what they need.

Yesterday we began looking at Joy.  This season is all about pleasure and happiness.  Both these things are fine in themselves but they are subject to natural stimuli.  When the outward changes the good feelings go away.  Joy is not based on outward things.  It is a product of the spirit of man not the soul.  The soul consists of the mind, emotions and will.  The spirit of man is that part which becomes a new creation at salvation.  It is the part that is vitally joined to God himself.  When we are born again, it is our spirit that is made a new creature.  (2 Cor. 5:17-21)  Our soul is affected, but it does not become completely new.

Happiness and pleasure are seated in the soul.  They can be affected by the outward conditions of life  They can be affected by relationships, things or even chemicals.  During Christmas we focus on this kind of outward stimuli.  It may be gifts or family or just the nostalgic memories, but they are all external in nature.  However our emotional state of happiness can also be affected from the inside out.  Joy is in our spirit if we are born again.  If we learn to tap into it we can have a sense of happiness when nothing external is there to produce it.  As a matter of fact, if we understand and walk in joy, it will be the times when we are least likely to be externally happy that joy will take hold and cause us to rise above the external. 

It is when this happens that the world looks on and says, “How can you be cheerful at a time like this?”  We can then respond, “I have something deeper than the external things that causes me to smile in the midst of trial.  His name is Jesus!”

What is joy.  Let’s look at some definitions.  Webster says joy is; the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.  That is OK as far as it goes.  It is the natural interpretation of joy.  Joy is indeed manifested by an emotional sense of wellbeing.  However, from a scriptural point of view, it is much more.  Strong’s concordance defines it as cheerfulness or being full of good spirits, that is, calm delight, or extreme satisfaction.  So we might say biblical Joy is extreme satisfaction, filled with good spirits and a sense of calm or control.   That’s quite a picture.

Holman’s bible dictionary puts it this way, “Joy is the fruit of a right relation with God. It is not something people can create by their own efforts. The Bible distinguishes joy from pleasure. The Greek word for pleasure is the word from which we get our word hedonism, the philosophy of self-centered pleasure-seeking. Paul referred to false teachers as “lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God” ( 2 Tim 3:4 ).”  Here is the real source of Joy.  A right relationship with God causes Joy to be available in every situation of life.

That brings me to the point for today.  In the verse above Jesus says that His joy can be fulfilled in us.  Once again we see that the joy we are speaking of is not centered in the world at all.  It is not even natural human Joy.  It is the Joy of the Lord.  It is ours because of salvation. 

Most of us own computers, but we really have no idea what they are capable of.  NASA went to the moon with computers that have a fraction of the capability many of our cell phones have today.  Imagine the power of our desktop and laptop computers.  However we get very little out of that power.

It is the same with our salvation.  There is so much more in it than we ever access.  One of those things is joy.  We often think that we have to get to church to have joy.  If we sing the right songs we have joy.  If we have good fellowship we have joy.  All those things can help us release joy, but the joy is already there.  We have it because we are saved.  That’s what I want us to concentrate on today.

Are there things in life that are bringing a sense of sadness or even depression.  Christmas can do that.  If you are a Christian you have joy inside you.  Tomorrow we will talk more about releasing it, but today meditate on John 17:15 and John 15:11.  You have joy.  It is the joy of the Lord and it is yours to walk in today.  Thank God for it and display it with a hearty “Merry Christmas!”

Celebrating Christmas: Joy

John 15:11(NKJV)
11“These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.

Yesterday we talked about taking back December 25th as the celebration of the birth of Jesus the Christ.  It is important to remember that we are not celebrating the date of Jesus’ birth.  Instead we are celebrating the fact of His birth.  In the early days of the church, Christians coopted a secular holiday and reassigned it to the celebration we call Christmas.  Today it seems that Satan has been working to take back this celebration.  It has become increasingly secular.  It has become the holiday season as opposed to the Christmas season.  I find this unacceptable.  I believe we should not just abandon the 25th of December giving it back to the world and the devil.  It is our holiday.  Time is divided by the birth of Christ.  We need to take it back for Jesus.

This also involves using it to spread the message of the wonderful gift given to us at this time of year.  As the season has become more secular any mention of Jesus has been deemed insensitive and unacceptable.  This is still a free country and we don’t have to abide by that rule.  People are still more open to the message of Jesus during this season.  I believe the controversy over the secularization of Christmas has itself opened up the door even more.  Let Merry Christmas on our lips be an open door to share the Gospel

There are three ideas that the secularists have tired to incorporate into the “holiday” celebration that are part and parcel with Christmas.  They want to emphasize  these things without involving the birth of the messiah.  This is, of course, not possible.  Once again, however, I think this can be to our advantage.  These three things are joy, peace and love.  These three virtues are extolled as part of this “holiday” season.  They have not been cast aside because the world needs them.  They want them, but we have them.  They don’t understand them, but they are, or should be, a part of our everyday lifestyle.  Since the world is looking for them during this season, we have the opportunity to show the world where they reside: In the church of Jesus Christ and it’s people.

If we are going to be able to follow through with this opportunity we need to understand these three spiritual forces and have them functioning in our lives.  The world is doing our advertising.  We just need to make sure we have the product in stock and on display.  The first one I want to talk about is joy.

The world speaks of joy during this season, but they have it completely confused with pleasure.  Unfortunately our whole society, including most of the church, is geared to pleasure rather than joy.  Pleasure is dependent on outward things.  A good movie brings us pleasure.  Sex and relationships can bring us pleasure.  Drugs and alcohol can bring us pleasure.  During this season getting and even giving the right gift can bring us pleasure.  Unfortunately, just as the new Christmas toy soon becomes just another cast off in the toy box, pleasure is fleeting.  It is only as strong as the moment and constantly needs to be renewed by finding another source.  There is nothing wrong with pleasure as long as we understand it’s traps and limitations.

Another word related to pleasure is happiness.  Happiness carries a broader connotation.   Where pleasure is only in the moment, happiness can be a longer term condition.  Happiness, however, has the same limitation in that it is dependent upon outward circumstances.  When the outward circumstances change, the level of happiness changes.  In our world this is a problem.  There are not many outward things that will make us happy and there is much in the world to erode our level of happiness.  The only solution is to seek pleasure which masks our unhappiness.  In the end, if all we have is a happiness based on passing pleasure we are in a weak position that will eventually find us in some form of depression.

In today’s scripture Jesus tells his disciples that there is another emotional condition that can remain with us.  This condition is not based on outward things.  It is not even ours per se.  It is His joy.  Joy can result in happiness.  Joy can be a source of great pleasure.  However joy is not exactly the same as either of these temporary things.  At least not in the context of the Christmas message.  Joy comes from God.  Joy is a byproduct of knowing Jesus. 

Joy is one of the most precious gifts of Christmas.  It is desired by the world but it is not possible to understand or access it without knowing Jesus.  Therefore the world is looking for something, advertising something and, in a way, preaching something it cannot attain.  At least not without help.  We have Jesus, therefore we have Joy.  We will look at this truth and build faith for it from the Word through this week, but let’s start by realizing it’s potential right now.

Once again, the world wants it and we have it.  Let’s show it.  You may not feel it so much, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have it.  You do, because it’s part of salvation.  Put a smile on your face and a “merry Christmas” on your lips and let the world know that there is a place to find something more lasting then a present.  Something more enduring than holiday happiness shared with friends and family.  Those things are good, but there is something much better.  There is the Joy that Christmas promises.  Joy that comes from knowing and being know by the savior born to us as celebrated during this season.  Let them see in you what they long for and be ready to help them open this precious gift of the Father.

 

Celebrating Christmas: We Don’t Need to Give Christmas Back

Isaiah 9:6(NKJV)
6    For unto us a Child is born,  Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder.  And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

There are some Christians who argue against the celebration of Christmas because it was originally a pagan holiday.  They reason that Jesus was not born in December.  Of course they are right on both counts.  I choose to see it from another angle.  First of all the Christmas celebration is not really about Jesus’ birthday.  We are not celebrating the day of His birth but the fact of his birth.  Since this is the case, the day is not really that important.  Unto us a child was born and a son was given.  When is not really the issue.

It is true that the December 25th date coincides with a pagan holiday called the Saturnalia.  I don’t have a problem with that.  In my view that just means we have taken something that the devil owned and coopted it for Jesus.  Any ground we take from the devil is a good thing to me. 

What confirms to me that this was a victory for the Lord is what the devil is doing today.  It seems to me that he is trying to do the very same think in reverse.  Over the last 50 years the Christmas celebration has become more and more the “holiday” celebration.  It is acceptable to have a Hanukah menorah or a “holiday” tree or a Kwanza symbol, but a manger scene is unacceptable.  We can sing winter songs and secular Christmas songs, but any mention of Jesus is out of the question.  It seems to me Satan wants his holiday back and I don’t intend to give it to him.  We took it to celebrate the coming of the Messiah to the world and we are not giving it back.

I don’t pretend to be a big “Christmas guy.”  I have six kids and 12 grandchildren.  With spouses that’s a lot of gifts and I like to give good gifts.  Over the years I have gotten increasingly “Scroogish.”  (I don’t think that’s a word, but you get the idea.)  As I have thought about this idea of Satan trying to reclaim December 25th, however I got a little angry.  As Christians we can go with the secular holiday flow, we can ignore it all together or we can make a stand for Christmas to be what it was taken from the Devil for in the first place.

Christmas is the celebration of the fact that God came to earth to rescue man from the penalty of sin.  Jesus did not stay a baby, but if he had not come as a baby he couldn’t become a man.  If he didn’t become a man he could not die for our sins.  If he didn’t die for our sins there would be not Easter celebration of the resurrection.  It all began with God taking the form of man and invading our world with His love.  That is the celebration we call Christmas.

As we go through the next few weeks, let’s take back our Holiday.  We don’t want to make anyone else feel uncomfortable, but the truth is this is our time.  Jesus is the center of this celebration.  I appreciate the Jewish tradition of Hanukah, but the 25th is Christmas not Hanukah.  It is the Christmas holiday that the world celebrates.  I know nothing of Kwanza except that my friends who are from Africa, and I have many since I’ve spent a good bit of time on that continent, seem to know no more about it than I do.  If it is not just a fabrication then those who choose to celebrate it should do so proudly.  We should do the same for the celebration of Christmas. 

I refuse to say “happy holidays” to be politically correct.  Let’s declare a Merry Christmas to the world.  A Child was born for us.  A Son was given for our salvation.  Time is still marked from that wondrous event even if the world wishes it weren’t.  They may say that the new designation of time is BCE, meaning “ Before the common era” and ACE meaning “After the common era” or some such thing, but in reality time is still divided by the birth of Jesus the Christ.

This is our celebration.  Let’s embrace it for what it is and use it as a time to extend an invitation to receive the true gift of the season to the world around us.  Jesus came that we might have abundant life (John 10:10) and that’s what we have to offer the world as a Christmas gift.  Many, despite the efforts of the media and the politically correct culture, still believe that Christmas is about Jesus.  They may not know Him as we do, but they recognize the attack on our culture and because of it are more open than usual to the idea that He is an important part of life.  We can use that to show them just how important He really is.

I encourage you not to give our celebration back to the devil.  Let’s take Christmas back.  The Holy Spirit within us will enable us to do so.  Let “Merry Christmas” become our battle cry against the forces that want to reclaim the 25th of December for their own agenda. 

Isaiah 9:6(NKJV)
6    For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder.  And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,  Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.