Matthew 2:10 | Joy and Merry Christmas

joy

At this time of year when I think of joy I think of the Christmas songs. Lyrics like joy to the world, be of good cheer, and tidings of comfort and joy. Christmas can be such an inspirational and joyous time because of the good news it represents.

Joy to the world the Lord has come

Let earth receive her King.

There is much in life to be joyous about, but there is also much pain and suffering. Some sad lives never seem to have any reason for joy and others are so short lived that one wonders how that life could have ever known joy. Earlier this year I lost my job in a layoff. I knew well in advance that I was going to be fired. Being in management I saw the financial stress and I knew based on the questions and information being collected by leadership they were deciding who would stay and who would go. I trust God for my daily bread yet it was still stressful and unpleasant. I found nothing joyful there. In the aftermath while searching for a new job I was frustrated with God because I was not hearing back from any of my applications. When I did hear back I would be ecstatic and joyful. In between one of these highs and lows the Holy Spirit asked me a question. In what is your joy found? Is your joy found in a job? Or the Holy Spirit asked me “might your joy be found in Christ your savior?” What a humbling moment. Jesus, my joy is found in Jesus. Christ only always. My life, my finances, and my well being are not a source of joy. My joy is found in the things of God. Like the best of Christmas music points out the wise men at the birth of Jesus were filled with joy because of the Birth of a savior.

10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. Matthew 2:10-11 ESV

Joy is a powerful emotion. Finding joy in the hardships of life is a gift. God is the source of joy. Hedonism and chasing after self will not bring lasting joy. I was chasing after a job and in wins and losses of that pursuit joy became elusive. It is not a surprise to me that as the culture runs from the source of joy to pursue the gods of Hollywood and government that depression seems to grow and the disorder tragically hits hard among children who then see no hope and no future. How we all need the truth of Christmas.

25 for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? 26 For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a striving after wind. Ecclesiastes 2:25-26 ESV

Christmas the most wonderful time of the year is upon the earth. An annual reminder of the joy that all peoples of all the earth might have if they put their faith and trust in the source of joy. To you the reader I wish you and your family a Merry Christmas.

23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ Matthew 25:23 ESV

 

You are Evil.

Racist alt-right Nazis marched. Media, political partisans, and evangelical churches condemn the evil of the marcher’s ideology. The fuel for the condemnation is the hateful and angry subjects in the photos from the march. The fuel for the condemnation is the outrageous murder of an anti-alt-right protester in Virginia. And the condemnation experienced even more combustion by the always inflammatory president when asked about the events by reporters looking to blame him because of their own partisan narrative. I am not going rehash any descriptions or pictures of that now infamous protest but I will say anyone who attended an event hosted by White Nationalist has no ground to claim they were only there to protect the history of memorials. Hate hides in their heart. Any attack on the worth or nature of fellow humans is against God. If you attack or demean the humanity of any person, then you are attacking the very image of God that rests on each person.

8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. James 3:8-9 ESV

Jesus pulls no punches about our evil. Mind the words that come out of our mouths. Mind the thoughts that dwell in our hearts.

34 You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. Matthew 12:34 ESV

The words spoken on social media and the words spoken to family and friends about what one hates is just the surface of what dwells deep inside one’s core. This hate is evil. Mankind is evil. Both Jesus and James call words evil because the words flow from the source, our hearts, concluding in men and women sinning against God himself.

What I want to focus on is the unity and the positive words of the President Obama in what is now the most liked tweet ever tweeted. “No one is born hating another person”. With the implication being that society, culture, families, and individuals, teach hate and evil.

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It is true. People where taught to enslave and belittle other people created in the image of God. The KKK is an organization that must teach its members how to act and how to live. The president’s words and truth are wonderful. I thank him for speaking them. But his words taken alone will resolve the issue. Taken alone his tweet will not be a sound formula to fix the problem. Hate is always discovered by the next generation because the world, the media, and both presidents will fail to recognize and deal with the root of the problem.

The hearts of men and women are evil. All men and women are sinners. Hear Jesus again if you think yourself righteous.

34 You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. Matthew 12:34 ESV

Examine your heart. Is your conscience clear to lead people to give up the hate in their hearts? Think yourself a good person? I can with certainty say no we are not. Look at the comparison that Jesus makes between ourselves and God.

9 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! Matthew 7:9-11 ESV

The prophets recognized our evil.

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. Isaiah 64:6 NIV

The apostles recognized our evil.

For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” 13 “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” 14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” 15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 in their paths are ruin and misery, 17 and the way of peace they have not known.” 18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Romans 3:9-18 ESV

The question I ask now. Answer the key question if one wants to see hate removed from the hearts of men and women. Do you recognize the source of our evil words? Do you see the anger, hate, and lashing out rooted in the heart, in our soul, of our rebellion against the Creator? If so then repent of the evil in your own heart.

The anti-white supremacy protesters that showed up to oppose the evil of racism should pray that the racist would repent and that the source of the evil, their hearts, would be made alive. Christians should pray for the nation and the people they know who harbor hate in their hearts. Christians should pray that they themselves would let go of hate and stop harboring evil desires. Repentance and Jesus are the solution. Teaching and laws serve only to control people and will not fix the heart that is evil and broken.

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus Romans 3:21-24

“the Way”

way

Early on in the life of the Church it was not yet called Christian, Protestant, Catholic, Baptist, Evangelical, Pentecostal, or Reformed. It was simply known as “the Way”. Saul, before becoming Paul, wanted to round up the members of the “the Way” and later after conversion Paul caused problems for entire regions as a member of “the Way”.

19 About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way. Acts 19:23 ESV

I like the name “the Way” for the early church because it is so perfectly descriptive of the purpose and point of life. In the Greek, the word used to describe the local church is properly understood to mean simply a road, journey, or a traveled way. It can be used in metaphor as course of conduct or method of thinking. Those outside and inside the early Church referred to this newly formed group as “the” way, road, and course of conduct. Not “a” way but “the” way. They were making a statement that the path ahead is definitive and final with no other options being true. The reason this is so perfectly descriptive is that Jesus himself spoke of salvation as a journey not a status. Jesus also used the exact same word to describe this choice in journey.

13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. Matthew 7:13-14 ESV

We are all journeying in this life on some road or way of thinking. Jesus made special care to note that His way is narrow and difficult. The way of the world however is wide open and easy, but it leads to destruction. Life is hard and people make bad situations worse with bad choices. Sometimes I am amazed at how fast those bad choices spiral out of control.

24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life. Genesis 3:24 ESV

When our founding parents were moved out of paradise “the way” to life and fellowship with God was cutoff. Our rebellion against our creator keeps us all headed for destruction and broken before a perfect and Holy God. Jesus has come to make a way for creation to return to our natural state of fellowship with our Creator.

3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” John 14:3-7 ESV

The beauty of this journey and way is that if one would stop running and listen there is a guide who knows the way and is ready to show the way. More He is the way. Through Him is truth and life. What was once blocked and guarded because of rebellion has been opened and made possible by the perfect obedience of Christ.