Saturday, December 24, 2022

Make Me a Child Again - Christmas Eve

I'm alone this Christmas Eve beside the tree,
Yet a presence I can feel
Calls for me to honestly and humbly come,
And in His presence kneel;
To forsake the human pride that so controls me;
To come out from where I hide behind my fears;
To lay down the sophistry that prevents simplicity;
And with openhearted, childlike faith,
Draw near . . . perhaps with tears.


Make me a child again, a child again;
Hear this Christmas prayer, dear God:
Give me a tender heart, a childlike trust;
Let my spirit be reborn.
I want a faith that knows your Father-heart,
To believe Your words to me.
I want to understand, to take your hand,
To have children's eyes to see.


To be a child again, to touch a friend
With the love that You have shown.
To lay aside my fears, forget the years
I have tried life on my own.
I ask, O God above, just now remove
All my hardness, my masks, and sin;
And at this Christmastime, make me a child again.
And at this Christmastime, make me a child again.

- Jack Hayford

Monday, December 12, 2022

"It's a Wonderful Life" and You and Me


Powerful, provoking article. I've watched the movie since 1988 and haven't ever pondered all of these insights . . .

"But for the powerful prayer of others … and divine intervention, George would never have learned his value. Remember, George did not know his wife and friends were running around town collecting money to save him.

Capra’s genius was not the plot device of George seeing what life without him would have been like for his beloved Mary and the town of Bedford Falls. It was spending the first three-quarters of the film hurling George Bailey toward destruction. Even amid the countless delightful moments, Capra is tightening the screws. Watch the film beginning to end without commercials and feel the tension build.

What makes the movie powerful is not the angel Clarence guiding George around town. It’s the devil whispering in George’s good ear until Clarence’s arrival. The same whisper so many of us hear."

Read the entire article here by Al Perrotta at The Stream.

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Why the Virgin Birth Matters


“The virgin birth is a necessary foundation to Christmas and the believer’s life,” says renowned pastor and seminary president, Jack Hayford.

Tragically, disbelieving foundational truths has become a normative part of modernity.

Agnostic Oxford professor Sir William Ramsey, one of the greatest archaeologists of all time, decided to scientifically disprove the fourth gospel. He skeptically thought it could not be trusted. Dr. Luke collected his information from a primary source, likely Mary. Luke references thirty-two countries, fifty-four cities, and nine islands.

After several years – and many miles – of diligent labor, Ramsey completely changed his mind, discovering Luke was accurate in every case where the critics disagreed. Ramsey wrote, “Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy, he is possessed of the true historic sense; in short, this author should be placed along with the greatest of historians.” Much to the dismay of contemporary skeptics of his day, Ramsey spent the next twenty years proving and publishing the accuracy of the smallest details of Luke’s accounts.

Another skeptic turned believer was Thomas Oden, noted Methodist theologian. In his memoir, “A Change of Heart” (2015), he shared his pilgrimage from theological liberalism to orthodox affirmation of biblical Christianity. Explaining his early embracing of biblical skepticism, he admitted, “I loved the fantasies and I loved the revolutionary illusions. I loved heresy.” After spending years disbelieving the basics of the Bible, he says the Holy Spirit found him and set him on a completely different trajectory the rest of his life.

Attacks on foundational theological truths “emerged in the aftermath of the Enlightenment, with some theologians attempting to harmonize the anti-supernaturalism of the modern mind with the church's teaching about Christ. The great quest of liberal theology has been to invent a Jesus who is stripped of all supernatural power, deity, and authority” (Albert Mohler, “Can a Christian Deny the Virgin Birth?”).

The fountainhead of this movement was the skeptical, German higher criticism of the 19th century, with thinkers like Rudolf Bultmann, who argued the New Testament presents a fantasy worldview that we cannot accept as authentic. He pushed a program of thought called “demythologization” to strip Christianity from any hint of the miraculous or supernatural – including the denial of key components like the virgin birth and the literal, bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ.

American Protestant liberalism emerged in the early 1900’s with influencers like Harry Emerson Fosdick courting the same type of deconstructionism. By the mid 1900’s, two movements emerged countering theological liberalism. Fundamentalism, as with Bob Jones, Sr., and evangelicalism, led by figures like Billy Graham, Bill Bright, and Carl Henry saw the dangers and foolishness of rejecting Christianity’s foundations.

The Bible pictures truth as a plumbline. The next time you buy a house, build a storage shed, or drive across a bridge, ask yourself, “Do I care if this structure was built true to plumb (meaning exactly vertical or true)?”

Modern movements, such as the “Jesus Seminar,” however, fully embraced the serpent’s first tactic in the Garden of Eden: “Did God really say?” (Genesis 3:1). The abandonment of the full trustworthiness and authority of the Scriptures has led to fully embracing moral revolutionaries, the sexual revolution, and the questioning of virtually every standard of behavior.

Among most mainline denominations, Thomas Oden, said, “the world sets the agenda – it’s always trying to catch up with whatever is the latest and seemingly, apparently, the best and most productive form of psychotherapy. I was taught to be attentive to culture without having a sufficient grounding in the classical Christian confession.” 

Dr. Mohler warns, “Christians must face the fact that a denial of the virgin birth is a denial of Jesus as the Christ. The Savior who died for our sins was none other than the baby who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, and born of a virgin. The virgin birth does not stand alone as a biblical doctrine, it is an irreducible part of the biblical revelation about the person and work of Jesus Christ. With it, the Gospel stands or falls.

The authority of the Bible is almost completely gone where liberal theology holds its sway. The authority of the Bible is replaced with the secular worldview of the modern age and the postmodern denial of truth itself. The true church stands without apology upon the authority of the Bible and declares that Jesus was indeed ‘born of a virgin.’ Though the denial of this doctrine is now tragically common, the historical truth of Christ's birth remains inviolate.”

This Christmas, I’m thankful for Jesus Christ, the embodiment of Truth, and the Bible, the written revelation of Truth. He is the incarnate and now glorified Word of God, and it is the written and preserved Word of God.

It was necessary for Him to come through a virgin so the bondage of sin
would not be passed to Him. He became the sinless sacrifice – for my sins and yours. He met God’s demands perfectly. 

Pastor Jack recaps, “obedience to God’s Word allows one to be available for the fulfillment of God’s life-giving promises and that through the power of the cross, one can be released from the power of sin and be made righteous and pure before the Lord.”

Images provided with permission by Pexels.

Friday, December 9, 2022

Simple Ways to Remember Christ this Season

Everybody is rushing this time of year.  Last Friday, we had an outpatient surgery, a basketball game, a piano recital, and a choir rehearsal all in one day.  Whew! 

We all need simple ways to help us reflect on Jesus during the December days.  As we go about the weeks before Christmas, let's take time to worship Christ in our spirits - and take opportunities to share Him with others.

Some simple things that help me experience Jesus in the midst of a busy December . . .

1.  Make sure and start every day with the Lord - with some prayer and Bible meditation.  I often remember Johnny Hunt's words, "If you give your time to the Redeemer, He will redeem your time."

2.  I love Christmas music, as does my family.  However, in the midst of the "fun" holiday music, I keep a CD or two in my car or computer of Christmas music that says a lot about the Lord.  For my personal tastes and wiring, no Christmas music helps me worship Jesus any more than the classical kind.  I keep CD's handy of The Robert Shaw Chorale and the St. Olaf Choir.  They bless me greatly  as they sing classic Christmas carols about the Lord - His redemption, incarnation, birth, holiness, etc.  My tastes may not be yours - but find something that helps your spirit worship Jesus - even in the midst of holiday rush.  Today I was listening to BEAUTIFUL STAR by The Centurymen.

3.  I keep some easy reading handy - on my desk, in my bathroom, in my backpack, in our den.  By easy reading I mean Christian writing that is not too elaborate.  I have a few simple books by Max Lucado, Jack Hayford, and others that contain simple meditations that can be read in 2-5 minutes.  I read one this morning over breakfast on Jesus being the Bread of Life, and my mind and spirit have meditated on it all morning as I have been doing other things.  One of my favorites is Come . . . and Behold Him! by Pastor Jack Hayford.

4.  It always helps me in December, after everyone has gone to bed, to sit down by the lit tree for just a few minutes and "be still and know that [He] is God."  A few quiet moments to reflect, give Him thanks, and perhaps read a few Scriptures.

Perhaps these simple things may help you, in the midst of the holiday rush, to connect with Christ.  It is as we connect with Him that we have something to share with others.

Thursday, December 8, 2022

The Conversion of Ebenezer Scrooge


After Christmas last year, I decided that during December this year I would read Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol to my family.  Somehow at my age I’ve never actually read the story, though I've enjoyed numerous television and movie takes at the classic Christmas tale.  My favorite is still the 1980s George C. Scott Ebenezer Scrooge.

Dickens’ written tale is, perhaps surprisingly, a blatantly Christian story.  It is a story of a conversion to a Christian worldview (though not as blatant as a modern evangelical gospel tract).  Of course, our Hollywood and Disney takes on the conversion of Ebenezer leave out the Christian details, but it is obvious nonetheless in the book!  Hear Jacob Marley’s lamentation of having a selfish heart when he lived as a human . . .

Why did I walk through crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them to that blessed Star which led the Wise Men to a poor abode?

The story challenges us all, will we live self-absorbed lives or will we live our lives loving and serving others?

Ebenezer was a man very rich according to the world’s standards of money, business, and commerce.  A self-absorbed man.  A man with a shriveled, cold heart.  A miserable, pitiful wretch of a man.  A man who did not seem to enjoy the world, its people, and its pleasures around him.  But also a man who changed in the latter years of his life and became a totally different person.

Ebenezer Scrooge experienced the transformation of a lifetime, becoming a beacon of goodwill and cheer after his visits from the spirits of Christmas past, present, and future.  Most everyone has heard of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.  We enjoy at least one of the television renditions yearly.

Many people do not realize, though, that Dicken’s original story is one of Christian conversion.  A miserly, self-ruled man who submits himself to the Christ of Christmas.  Replete with biblical-Christian language and references (which are ignored in our modern and secular retellings of the story), Ebenezer comes to know His Creator in a real way, and the One born in a manger changes his life.  Scrooge spends the rest of his life making amends to those he has wronged, spreading goodwill and compassion, and keeping Christmas every day in his heart.

Charles Dickens wrote from a Christian worldview, much like the fiction of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien.  Author Stephen Skelton writes, “Today, too many of us view A Christmas Carol as a secular seasonal story, in the same category as the stories of Rudolph or Frosty. But that’s not where it belongs at all. In the first place, with Charles Dickens, you’re dealing with a self-proclaimed Christian author.  And in the second place, he has infused his story with Christian meaning.  After all, this is the writer who said, ‘I have always striven in my writings to express the veneration for the life and lessons of our Savior…’ ’”

The biblical name Ebenezer means “thus far the Lord has helped us.” Samuel used the name to commemorate a victory God gave His people. The prophet set up a stone – an Ebenezer stone – to remind them of God’s faithfulness. A modern rendering of the hymn Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing includes the line, “Here I raise mine Ebenezer, here by thy great help I’ve come.”

The last use of the name Ebenezer in A Christmas Carol occurs when Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Future stand at the neglected stone in a dark graveyard. The gloomy specter points a finger to the lonely marker bearing the name Ebenezer Scrooge. Likely the use of the name Ebenezer was quite intentional by Dickens. Our lives, unredeemed, can be wasted, as was Jacob Marley and Scrooge’s up to that point. If so, they serve as warnings to humanity. But a monument can also be erected through our repentance, belief, love, and service to others that show the power of a transformed life.

Ebenezer, though late in life, allowed God to forgive him, change him, and use him.  A man who became a source of goodwill, selflessness, and generosity to many others.  And his eternity secured by the Babe of Bethlehem, enjoying His Presence, goodness, and blessings.

Pictures courtesy of Pixaby

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

"Ring Those Bells" - Christmas album by Rhett and Tracey Wilson


Rhett and Tracey Wilson just released a new Christmas album called “Ring Those Bells.” Recorded at the Daywind Studios in Hendersonville, Tennessee, the album features old Christmas favorites such as White Christmas, O Holy Night, and Sweet, Little Jesus Boy as well as some new ones, like Circle of Love and Joseph

This is the third album recorded by the Wilsons. In 2007, they released “Lead Me On,” a collection of popular Christian music hits, and “Offered Praises,” a compilation of all-original songs written by Rhett, in 2008. All three albums are available for purchase in person or at their site:

Rhett, a freelance writer and editor, works as Senior Writer for the Billy Leighton Ford Ministries in Charlotte, North Carolina, and as a transitional pastor at Spring Hill Baptist Church in Lancaster, South Carolina. Tracey serves as the Director of Music Ministries at Covenant Baptist Church in Lancaster. The Wilsons will perform a Christmas Concert at Spring Hill Baptist Church on Sunday evening, December 11, at 6:00pm.

You can purchase a bundle of all three albums here.

Impacting Our Children through the Holidays


The holidays provide ample opportunities to impact our families spiritually. Here's my article, 7 Ways for Dads to Teach Spiritual Lessons During the Holidays, at The Old Schoolhouse Magazine.

Impacting Our Children During the Holidays

Click here to see my article, 7 Ways for Dads to Teach Spiritual Lessons During the Holidays in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Christmas Moments - Inspiring and Encouraging Stories

Looking for a good, easy Christmas read for you or someone you love?  I've enjoyed contributing to three Christmas books in the Moments series by Grace Publishing.

Christmas!  For many people the holiday season is steeped in traditions such as decorating, family gatherings, food, Christmas programs, parties, and carols.  

The books Christmas Moments,  More Christmas Moments, and Merry Christmas Moments are great coffee-table books filled with encouraging and inspiring stories of the Christmas season.  Authors share personal stories about the joy, excitement, change, sorrow, loss, and beauty of Christmases.

In Christmas Moments, I share a story of God's provision for me one Christmas.

In More Christmas Moments, I share about one of the favorite gifts I ever gave my wife the year we agreed to not spend any money on presents.

In Merry Christmas Moments, I share 5 ways that parents can impact their children spiritually during December.

All proceeds from the books support Samaritan's Purse ministry.  Books are available from Grace Publishing, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon.