Dec 27

It’s December 27 and I’m thinking about what it must have been like two days after Jesus was born. While we know that He wasn’t born in December, think about what happened next. Not so much the events, but the response to those events.

Our Pastor, Denny Livingston, took three Sundays this month to focus on Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. I strongly recommend going to www.pointofmercy.net or pointofmercy.tv and listening to them, or checking out the podcasts on iTunes.

I’m not going to add to them here, but it inspired me to wonder, “What went through their minds two days later?” Now that He was here, there was work to be done. The question is, did they temporarily get so caught up in the work that it lessened the wonder? I don’t think so, but often, isn’t that what we do?

In the business of taking down the tree, packing up the lights, and tossing the wrapping paper, do we forget? This is not a new question, but it is one that should be asked each year. In 2013, we face new battles, adventures, and challenges, but we don’t face them alone.

The God birthed in the Manger was with Mary and Joseph through every step of the way. He didn’t come into their lives to leave them, He came to lead them. Yes, He would die on Calvary, but that wasn’t the end. As the first fruits of the Resurrection, He was clearing the path they, and we will follow.

So let us encourage ourselves in this, Christ is with us daily, even when decorations are a memory. I’m so glad that in both the cold of winter and the heat of July, He stands with me. So Merry Christmas today, tomorrow, and always, for He abides with me!

Leah

Leah, a woman not desired, has been honored by more sermons than she could have ever imagined. I would love to meet this woman with tear stained faith. Her very name can be translated weary. What makes a Mother look at her newborn child and name them weary?

Hard labor is meant to produce wonder, not weariness. This little bundle of joy, this gift of God, was labeled as exhaustion. The blessings of God are designed to produce effort as well as effect. Don’t let the effort lessen the effects that God intends His blessing to have on you.

Leah was not the favored one, but neither was Jacob. Jacob wasn’t favored by his father. Isaac loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob. Isn’t it ironic that the very person who should have understood and appreciated Leah rejected her? If we’re not careful, the pain that has been inflicted on us, we will inflict on others. How different would the story have been if Jacob had valued Leah more?

The Bible records Leah having many children, but it does not record her favoring one child over the other.The only argument against this, is that she makes no statement when her daughter Dinah is born. I have a different take on this than in the past. Dinah means justice. Could it be that after having son after son, trying to gain her husband’s love, that she had a child which justified her struggle?

Dinah wouldn’t gain Jacob’s favor, but she would be filled with Leah’s love. Is it possible that the mother who named her child weary, didn’t value her daughter? Is it possible that the first disdain of Leah came from her mother? Leah had the opportunity to give her daughter what she was denied.

She could have named her child resentment. After all, she cost her hours of labor, and was not a boy? Her husband wouldn’t value a girl the same way. No, Leah, the rejected pillar, looked at this beautiful baby girl, and named her justice. She was the last child Leah had. The Bible does not record any further attempts by Leah to win her husband’s affections.

Jacob and Leah, the two were more well matched than Jacob realized. They were undervalued, yet they produced more together than there fathers thought they could. Don’t judge yourself by the sticker price this world has pawned off on you.

God didn’t stroll into some random world to kill time. He purposely came to save us. He embraced Leah’s model, the Bible says that there was no beauty in Him that we should desire Him. This descendant of a woman named weary, was called The Man Of Sorrows.

Tear stained faith. Leah wept through being unloved, through hours of labor. No doubt she cried each time she realized it. Every time, all over again, knowing that the baby she gave him didn’t increase her value in his heart.

The Lord Jesus knew what that was like. The Exodus didn’t do it. Giving them Manna didn’t accomplish it. A land flowing with milk and honey didn’t cause it to happen! Rejection after rejection, no matter how many blessings He gave Israel. Then, near the close of His earthly ministry, we see The Lord Jesus looking over Jerusalem with tear stained eyes.

Israel wasn’t the only one that rejected Him. Like Leah, He walked to Gethsemane knowing millions would reject Him. Countless souls have said no to Heaven as they sped towards Hell! God wrapped in flesh, was not in denial.

He knew the whipping post wouldn’t change some people’s minds. Six hours of labor on a cross wouldn’t affect a large number of those He came for. Yet, like Leah, Jesus labored. Like Leah, He saw it through. When it was over, He said, it was worth it.

Hebrews 12:2-4
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.
4 Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.

He looked at the children that were produced and said they were worth all the suffering. That we are worth all the tears, all the pain. Leah cherished her children in the midst of her situation. The Lord Jesus cherishes those that serve Him, regardless of the many that turn away.

Maybe you’re in the middle of rejection, or despair. Don’t be discouraged! More importantly, don’t let your circumstances taint your ministry. Don’t judge your Judah by your Jacob! Value your Simeon, knowing that you will be vindicated, because Dinah is just a few blessings away.

Whether on this Earth or Heaven’s shore, your commitment will be justified. So fight while you’re crying. Wield your sword as you wipe your tears! Even though it took years, God saw to it that Leah was both honored and valued. He will do the same for you!

Special Offer

Starting today, Dec 7 through Dec 11, Amazon.com is offering our story “Scarfed” FREE!

We hope you enjoy this heartwarming story about the trouble that occurs when you’re loving grandparents combine Valentine’s day with Christmas, and you’re the target! If so, check out our other Christmas fare.
Captain Christmas” tells the story of how a pilot from Chicago. Tim Hill has to learn to soar above his fears if he wants to be the next Santa Claus. That is if his cousin doesn’t knock him off the wing of the plane first!
You’ll also find two versions of, “L.O.C. And Key“, the original and illustrated editions. Who is Alexander Kildaire, and how does he hold the key to his granddaughter’s happiness. The answer is of course, under “L.O.C. And Key.”

The Preacher And The Professor

The following is an allegory, a lesson in believing, a lesson in witnessing, and a lesson in friendship. I hope it warms your hearts this Christmas season.

Friendship is a cloth, woven into our lives at very crucial times. Some are made up of new threads, and some of old. Much like a child clings to a worn out blanket, we hold on to friendships others would say we’ve outgrown.

Children are often wiser than we, for they know to be very cautious in discarding old things. After all, wasn’t the pirate’s treasure merely old pieces of yellow rock someone once prized? Such is the case in our story.

Greg Harper and Arthur Lang were now polar opposites. One a Pastor of a small Church, the other a Professor at the university. That doesn’t sound like a huge difference, until you take into consideration this fact. Arthur was an atheist, a tolerant one, but an atheist nonetheless.

He had been this way since he was a child, after his Parent’s bitter divorce had convinced him that God must not exist. “For,” he reasoned, “if He did exist, the two people he loved so dearly would not have hurt each other so deeply.”

As boys, this was not a factor. As teens, they ignored their differences. As young men, the two fought harshly. Somewhere in their thirties, they found that each other’s friendship meant more than their argument.

That was until a very special December. Arthur attended a party at the college, all of his intellectual friends were there. After finding out that he was hanging around this “Preacher”, they pounced. “You are so intellectually superior to this man, and yet you hang around this, this Preacher?”

The Dean had said the word so contemptuously, you’d thought he was choking. Arthur struggled with the conversation all night long. By the next morning, he had determined his course of action. He was an educator, wasn’t he? An instructor to those who desire higher learning, so he would educate his friend.

The next morning, Arthur visited the Church office where Greg was working. Arthur knew that if he attacked the issue head on, there would be trouble. He remembered that Greg loved games, especially dares. So he put forth a challenge.

“You’ve been trying to get me to attend Church since we were 18. What if this year, I agreed, but with conditions?” Greg thought a moment, “What’s the catch?” “You and I exchange one Christmas gift a piece, on Christmas day. We then we’ll each use the other’s gift to address the congregation. You can use mine to attempt to prove that God exists, and I’ll use yours to prove otherwise. What do you say?”

Greg was not about to expose his Church to a catastrophe, so he turned it down. He hated to miss an opportunity, but he felt that he had made the right decision. That is, until he mentioned it to an older minister he was having lunch with.

“Why can’t you accept his challenge?” Tom asked. “Because, who knows what he will say. It could be very damaging to the Church, members who are not well versed in the Scriptures.” “You’re a good Pastor, they know fact from fiction. He won’t shake them, but lay some ground rules first. Plus, advertise it as a debate between two world views. That way they’ll be prepared for what they hear.”

Greg slept on it that night, or at least tried too. By morning, he was convinced that this was not just something to do, but that had to be done. He called Arthur before daybreak. “First, the ground rules. The gift cannot be any evil symbol, and you can present an intelligent, intellectual argument, minus animosity, or hateful words.”

Arthur agreed, with a caveat of his own. “If I can’t use anything you call evil, you can’t use anything I call religious. You also, must use some facts to back up your claims.” Each agreed, and the meeting was set.

News spread all over town, the Preacher and the Professor were going to have a battle of wits. Arthur selected his ‘gift’ quickly. It took Greg much longer, in fact, he didn’t select it until two days before the meeting.

Sunday was Christmas Eve. It was a cold, but beautiful day. The service was scheduled for 11:00 that morning. The Professor joined the Preacher on stage and presented his gift. It was a cardboard box, filled with grass, ashes, and pebbles. The Preacher knelt his head, said a silent praer, and smiled a cautious smile.

Arthur had made it easy for him, and that was what concerned him. It should have, for the Professor knew how eloquent his friend could be. Greg would have used the word anointed, and rightfully so, for he was definitely anointed that morning.

“Folks, my friend has given me a simple cardboard box, filled with grass, ashes, and a pebbles. It is my responsibility to share the Gospel with you using these items. I am reminded of another box many years ago. It was called a manger, whose primary use, was to feed animals. Can’t you imagine them loading the dry grass we call hay into it?”

“You know how one special night, instead of animals, people surrounded it. In place of food, it was filled with a baby. That small child, The Rock of our Salvation, grew to enlighten the world. Until His light brightened us, our lives were like these ashes. All of our dreams had died. There were no embers left, only the smoke of the ashes of longing for what we thought could never be.”

“Maybe, much like my friend here, the person who built the manger, had given up believing in a God that could touch our lives. Still, He came, and scientists will tell you, it is a fact that Jesus existed. Even that is something, people used to dispute. My question is this. If they were wrong about Him not existing physically, couldn’t they be equally as wrong about His spiritual significance?”

With that, the Preacher sat down, but not before handing the Professor his gift. It was an envelope. Arthur hated to do it, but he felt very strongly that this Christmas, he would ‘enlighten’ his friend. The trouble was, in so doing, he knew he would also destroy him. Still, his mind was made up, truly, only a miracle could stop him now.

Before he began, he stopped to read the contents of the envelope. After the first two words, the smile was gone, by the second paragraph, it had been replaced by sobs. Tears smeared the last few lines. Arthur looked kindly at his friend, placed the letter in his coat, and began to speak.

“Much like the apostle of old, I came here today on a mission, contrary to the founder of this Church. Like Paul, I believe that instead, I’ll find myself today, at the founder’s feet.” With that, he left the pulpit for the altar. That day, two friends were woven together into a stronger friendship, and a new soul was crafted into God’s Kingdom.

The letter? It was from Arthur’s estranged father, the man that he had so vehemently declared he never wanted to see again. Arthur had spent so many years convincing everyone that he hated him. He knew that even his best friend Greg had been fooled by the deception.

Oh he had spent years despising his father for hurting his mother. Arthur had also spent a number of years longing to be reunited with him. In those weak moments during the night, he had often told God that if He reunited the two of them, he would believe. Arthur felt this was impossible, considering his last conversation with his father resulted in a fight. There last words had been mutual hatred for one another.

Around the time that Greg had accepted the challenge, God caught up with the older Lang. Years of regret and selfishness had become to much to bear, and He had unloaded his burdens on the One his son hadn’t believed in. After finding Him very real, and very much alive, Arthur Lang Sr. had found the words to apologize to his ex wife and son for years of mistreatment.

Afraid to send it directly to them, he remembered Greg Harper. He had decided to send it to him, in hopes he could persuade Arthur and his mother to read them. Now remarried to a loving man, with God’s help, Angela Wilkes had long ago forgiven Arthur’s father. It would take time for the wounds between father and son to completely heal, but they had accepted the journey. They were confident that The One who had brought them back into each other’s lives, could heal the past.

This Christmas, give the gift of friendship, give the gift of love. The Lord Jesus gave this gift freely to all He met. His kingdom is filled with ardent believers that were once former skeptics, Merry Christmas.