Jesus in the Days of Our Youth

 

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Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them” – Ecclesiastes 12:1

The older I get, the more the wisdom in this passage resonates. I continue to enjoy my years, but when trouble hits, I am glad I have known Jesus since I was young. In these moments, I can look back and see how faithful he has been, and I know He always will be trustworthy.

There is great joy looking back on the springtime of my life when everything was fresh and new, and I recall walking with Jesus. So often, the hymns and songs of my younger days fill my heart with joy. Not because the contemporary Christian music from the 80’s and 90’s was so wonderful (most people question my music choices when I turn it on), but because I can see my younger self, and remember who I am and, most importantly, I remember my Savior.

It is easy to lose yourself in this world, even as a believer, but in the words of Andrew Peterson, when you get lost, stick to the old roads, and they will lead you home. This is a blessing only those who have walked with Jesus for many years will understand. I know the Lord has other benefits for those called later in life, but those who experience the wisdom of this verse, rejoice.

Lord, Thank you for calling me early in the day. When the days are evil, I will look to you and remember the long road we have traveled, and I know you will always be faithful. If there is anyone still in their younger days reading this, may your Spirit move them to heed this passage, even if they do not yet fully comprehend its importance.

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A Sobering Reminder

 

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So Saul died for his breach of faith. – 1 Chronicles 10:13

These are sobering words. A man who was anointed as king by the Holy Spirit did not follow the ways of the Lord and died because of it. We must be careful, for our enemy is seeking whom he may devour.

Are we vigilant in the things of God, paying attention to the snares around us? Too often we are not as diligent as we should be. We expose ourselves to many dangers, and there are genuine and dire consequences that can come from it. Take heed lest you fall.

Lord, You are our only hope: our Strength, our Shield, our Rock, and most importantly our Righteousness. Keep us when we cannot keep ourselves. Protect us when we are blind to the dangers that surround us, and especially those that we see yet, in our sinfulness, are still drawn to them. 

Father, be glorified in us today in the work we have to do, in our family lives and relationships, and in our ministry to others. For you are worthy. We love you, Jesus.

Is He Worthy? – Andrew Peterson

Andrew Peterson released a new song off of his upcoming album today, and it is absolutely breathtaking. It made my Spirit soar. Do yourself a favor and take a listen. I have included the lyrics below.

 

Do you feel the world is broken?
We do.
Do you feel the shadows deepen?
We do.
But do you know that all the darkness
Won’t stop the light from getting through?
We do.
Do you wish you could see it all made new?
We do.

Is all creation groaning?
It is.
Is a new creation coming?
It is.
Is the glory of the of the Lord
To be the light within our misdst?
It is.
Is it good that we remind ourselves of this?
It is.

Is anyone worthy?
Is anyone whole?
Is anyone able to break the seal
And to open the scroll?
The Lion of Judah
Who conquered the grave
He was David’s root and the Lamb who died
To ransom the slave
Is He Worthy?
Is He Worthy?
Of all blessing and honor and glory?
Is He worthy of this?
He is.

Does the Father truly love us?
He does.
Does the Spirit move among us?
He does.
Does Jesus our Messiah
Hold forever those He loves?
He does.
Does our God intend to dwell again with us?
He does.

Is anyone worthy?
Is anyone whole?
Is anyone able to break the seal
And to open the scroll?
The Lion of Judah
Who conquered the grave
He was David’s root and the Lamb who died
To ransom the slave
From every people and tribe
Every nation and tongue
He has made us a kingdom
And priests to God
To reign with the Son.

Is He worthy?
Is He worthy?
Of all blessing and honor and glory?
Is He worthy?
Is He worthy?
Is He worthy of this?
He is?
Is He worthy?
Is He worthy?
He is.
He is.

Why Many Christians are Wrong About the War on Christmas

War on Christmas

I am of the opinion that the way many Christians are responding to the so-called war on Christmas is wrong. We live in a time when many people, organizations, and business will not publicly say “Merry Christmas” because it might offend someone. Likewise, many of the traditional decorations and songs will no longer see the light of day. Starbucks even has the audacity to fail to decorate their coffee cups to our liking. This has prompted many people to say that there is a war on Christmas.

What many Christians don’t realize is that the Prince of Preachers himself, Charles Spurgeon, also had a war on Christmas.

“We have no superstitious regard for times and seasons. Certainly we do not believe in the present ecclesiastical arrangement called Christmas: first, because we do not believe in the mass at all, but abhor it, whether it be said or sung in Latin or in English; and, secondly, because we find no Scriptural warrant whatever for observing any day as the birthday of the Savior; and, consequently, its observance is a superstition, because not of divine authority. (Charles Spurgeon, Sermon on Dec. 24, 1871).”

Since I refuse to be taken in by the in the genetic fallacy, I would strongly disagree with the conclusion some might derive from this that it is sinful to celebrate Christmas because of its origins, but we must agree that it is not a holiday mandated by Scripture. So my questions for those who believe that there is a war on Christmas would be, “Would you consider Spurgeon part of the war on Christmas if he were alive today because he certainly would not say, Merry Christmas?” Or is he a man with Christian liberty exercising his conscience?

The point of those questions is this, just because some people will not say Merry Christmas, or decorate their businesses the way we want, does not mean there is a war on Christmas that we must hold at bay.

I bring up the Spurgeon quote only to prime the pump and get us thinking. I believe there is a more direct problem with the way many Christians respond to the “war on Christmas.”

Building on the premise laid out by Spurgeon that there is no biblical mandate that we celebrate a holiday called Christmas in December, we, therefore, have no biblical foundation to require anyone to celebrate Christmas, not even other Christians. If it has no biblical basis, then it is a tradition of men. Some non-biblical traditions of men are good, and some are bad, but they all become evil if we make them a requirement to be a Christian in good standing.

“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” – Colossians 2:8

Now some may protest and say, but we are not saying they need to celebrate it to be good Christians, and you said some traditions are good. All we are saying is that it is a good tradition that should not be under attack, and stores should not be so worried about offending people. They should say “Merry Christmas” because that is what holiday it is. To that, I would say, I understand the sentiment. Political correctness has run amuck, but is the Christmas holiday the hill upon which we really want to take a stand?

The foundational problem with political correctness is that it trades truth for falsehood to avoid offense, but what exactly is the reality of the Christmas holiday that they are violating. What holiday truths need to be pressed upon those who refuse to celebrate it or are trying to avoid offense? Santa, elves, reindeer, decorated trees, the Christmas spirit?

There are wonderful truths of the birth of Christ that every Christian should broadcast to the world, even if it is illegal to do so and lands us in jail, but we do not need to convolute those truths with the traditions of the holiday. Doing so does more damage than good.

Until I hear better reasons why we should fight the “war on Christmas,” my conclusion is this, as much as I love and celebrate Christmas every year, it is not a holiday required by the word of God. Christians should not require other Christians, and certainly not non-Christians, to celebrate it.

Happy Holidays,

D. Eaton

Finding Hope in Weakness

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And he [Samson] was sore athirst, and called on the LORD, and said, Thou hast given this great deliverance into the hand of thy servant: and now shall I die for thirst, and fall into the hand of the uncircumcised? Judges 15:18

It seems that many times when we have been strengthened by God and have done something great for the Lord, we soon afterward find ourselves confounded by our weakness. That is why this passage about Samson is so encouraging. Here is a man that, by the strength of God, defeated many of the enemies of Israel, and then, moments later, finds himself about to die from the lack of something as simple as water. When God gives us some sort of victory in doing His work, it is easy to begin to see ourselves as stronger than we really are. So the Lord often allows situations to arise that keep us dependent upon Him. We often thank the Lord for His grace in times of triumph, but how often do we forget to thank Him for our times of defeat. If all things actually work for the good of those that love Him, then grace comes in many forms. It comes in strength, but it also comes in defeats by showing us our weaknesses.

When we are on top, it is easy to begin to think that this is where true life and happiness are to be found. We start to crave more of it. Success breeds the desire for more success. Until, if God does not show us our weaknesses, we begin to think that this is what we need to be happy. We start to believe that this is what life is about, and without it, contentment starts to disappear. In weakness, Christ calls out to us and says, don’t find your hope and peace in the good or the bad times, find it in Me, I am your salvation. Experiencing weakness has a way of shaking from our hands many of the earthly things we think we need because, through grace, it causes us to set our eyes on eternity, by realizing that we are not invincible.

I can remember one beautiful summer night we had a barbeque with the family. It was one of those times when you are usually at peace enjoying the cool summer evening. But this particular night I was miserable. I had been suffering from a chronic illness for some time. I didn’t know if I would ever have enjoyment again, but I remember at that moment, a thought came to me about finding my sufficiency in Christ. It didn’t matter if, through suffering, I would ever enjoy another moment of this life. I have Christ! What else do I need? Our real victory is not found in the conditions of this life, even if our victories are Godly. Our victory is found in Christ.

When the Lord opens up the hollow place, like he did to give Samson water, and the truths of Christ’s sufficiency begins to run toward us, we find ourselves revived even when the land is still parched.

D. Eaton

The Five Emotional Stages of a VBS Worker

It is that time of year again. Excited teams of Vacation Bible School volunteers are lining up to put on a meaningful week of ministry for kids. What many do not realize is that, like the five stages of grief, there are emotional stages to working VBS, and we do not want you to be caught off guard.

Below you find the emotional cycle upon which you are about to embark.

5 VBS Stages
The Five Emotional Stages of a VBS Worker

Here is what you need to know about each stage:

I can’t wait until VBS!
At this point, you are slightly delusional, but your excitement is honorable. You are about to embark on an important, and, for some kids in attendance, a life-changing ministry.

This week is going to be great!
Monday has finally arrived, and you have a picture in your mind of a week full of beautiful moments where you will be surrounded by children who were born without sinful natures.

What was I thinking?
It is here that you begin to realize that the image you had in your mind does not entirely line up with reality. From the kid who consistently confuses craft time with snack time, to one who thinks every Bible question should involve a discussion of his fidget spinner collection, things do not go as smoothly as planned.

Am I even human anymore?
By Thursday you are exhausted, and the spiritual vision becomes even more cloudy. You truly begin to wonder if this is making a difference in the life of these kids. After all, Perilous Pete, as you mentally refer to him, continues to be disruptive regardless of the fact that you continue to guide him lovingly.

Glad that is over!
This stage is often the shortest-lived. It is usually recognized right about the time the final assembly closes in prayer. You are spent and ready to go home and hide for a week. Then Pete, now known as Precious Pete, runs up to you, gives you a big hug and says “Thank you, I didn’t know Jesus loved me, but I do now.” At this point, you immediately jump back into the first stage of the cycle.

VBS is a ministry, and we should never expect it to be easy, but like all ministry, it will always be worth it.

A Shepherd’s Christmas

sheperds-christmasAnd all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. – Luke 2:18

Why did the angels appear to shepherds when their testimony did not count in a court of law, and what would it have been like to hear the shepherd’s witness after the angels appeared and they saw the child? Though we don’t exactly know what they said, it may have been something similar to this:

There we were out in the middle of a pasture, and all the sheep were sleeping. Then, all of the sudden, the sheep began to stir. At first, we didn’t know what was happening. Then we saw them, the angels who had come to tell us that born this day in the city of David, was a child who is Christ the Lord. The long awaited Messiah.

For thousands of years the prophets have been prophesying His coming, but what I find amazing is that, when it happened, the angels came to tell us: shepherds. Why would God announce it to us? We are not the priests or the holy ones of Israel. Most people despise us, and see us as unclean and not worth anything. The only thing I can think is that this Messiah is willing to save anyone, even those like myself, the dirty and despised. God Himself was born today and the angels came to tell us!

What is most humbling is what the prophet Isaiah said. He said, the Messiah will be “wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our sins: and it will be by His stripes that we will be healed.” I’m not sure what all this means, but to think that this little child whom I just saw, is the one who is going to redeem His people and that He has even come to redeem people like myself, only makes me love Him more. His name is Jesus, and He will save His people from their sins. Maybe that’s why when I saw Him, all I could do was bow down in joyful adoration.  Some people may only see a child, but I see my Savior and my King.

Make sure you tell everyone He’s here. The Messiah has come!

D. Eaton

In Preparation for Christmas

Image result for Christian ChristmasIt is that time again. Thanksgiving has come and gone, and many have already frantically begun to prepare for Christmas. The sales are plentiful, the shoppers are swarming, and the decorations and music add warmth everywhere you visit. The preparation has begun, but none of it can compare to the preparation that took place for that first Christmas. Take a moment to imagine what it would have been like to live during a time when they didn’t know the name of the coming Savior.

In preparing for Christmas, our hearts will be helped by meditating on what it must have been like for those of the household of Israel who had been waiting for the Messiah. It all started immediately after the fall when God told Eve that there would be a seed that would have His heel bruised by the serpent, but that same heel would ultimately crush the serpent’s head. Already, God had promised a remedy for the spiritual death they had brought upon themselves and all subsequent generations, and also for the physical death that was working in their bodies at that very moment.

As time went on, God’s people were taught many things about the future one who was going to redeem them from the wages of sin. To name a few, they were told that He was going to be born in Bethlehem (Mic. 5:2), He would be born of a virgin (Isa. 7:14), and He would speak in parables (Ps. 78:2-4). Along with that, He would be hated without reason (Ps. 35:19), He would be spat upon and stuck (Is. 50:6), and He would be pierced (Zech. 12:10). He would do it all to save His people by being a substitute for them in order to make atonement for their sins (Is. 53:5). Then in the darkest hour, He would walk victoriously out of the grave (Ps 16:10, Ps 49:15).

The prophecies progressively revealed details regarding the coming Messiah, and although His Children did not fully understand them, they gave them hope, but having the promise of a Messiah who was to redeem you from the grip of sin is not the same comfort as having that redemption finished and calling upon his name. Those among the Hebrews who truly believed must have continually wondered longed to know His name. Jacob wrestled with Him in His pre-incarnate form, yet when Jacob asked Him His name He said, “Why is it that you ask about My name? (Gen. 32:29),”and the mystery continued. Later, Samson’s father Manoah spoke with Him, and though he did not fully understand at the moment with whom he was speaking, he also asked Him His name, and the response was “Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful (Judges 13:18). All of these events were shrouded in mystery, for the name was not to be revealed until the fullness of time.

With such wonder, hope, and speculation, they lived for thousands of years, including an approximately 400-year period following the prophet Malachi where God seemed to be silent. That all ended, however, the day an angel of the Lord appeared to young Mary and said, “You will conceive and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus.” His name would be Jesus, and He would save His people from their sins! The wait was over. Sinful humanity was to be redeemed, and the one who was to do it was going to be named Jesus!

Oh, how we have sung His name for thousands of years. How long we have known the only name under heaven by which man can be saved. How long it has filled our hearts with joy. We have not only known His name and His teachings, which are an endless supply of light and life, but we have also known Him personally because He is still with us today and will be with us always, even unto the end of the world.

He bore our sorrows and carried our grief. He took upon Himself our sins, thus putting an end to the condemnation that the law demanded, and He imputes to us His righteousness, making us co-heirs in the inheritance that He so rightly deserves, and we most certainly do not. None of the rapturous joys that fill the believer’s heart would be the same, had it not been for His birth in that lowly stable when God himself took on flesh.

It is easy to be swept away by all the trappings of the season, but the believer must not lose the infinite worth found in Christ in all the paltry tin of secular add-ons. As you prepare your home this season, be sure preparation is made to spend time with your Savior through meditation on His word and prayer, for no heart is as full as the heart that is filled with Christ.

May the Lord bless you this Christmas season!

D. Eaton

Godly and Ungodly Fear of God

There is both an ungodly fear of God and a godly fear of God. This lesson asks the question, “What is the fear of God?” To answer it, we look at five characteristics of God-fearing people where we contrast that with an ungodly fear of God. We end, by laying out some definitions of the fear of God and explore the impact on our lives.

This lesson is from a series call Courage: Fighting Fear with Fear where we are going through a book of the same title by authors Wayne Mack and Joshua Mack. You can also download the mp3 of this lesson at the following link: What is the Fear of God?

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Why Do Good People Suffer?

I recently had the privilege of giving an apologetics talk on the problem of evil. I was asked to address the following question.

If your Jesus is so good, then why do good people suffer, and why does sin take control of the world, and why do the elderly get sick?

The mp3 can be found here: Why Do Good People Suffer?

The following slide may be helpful as you listen to the audio.

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More from the Fight of Faith:

7 Questions to get to the Heart of Any Worldview

The New Atheism’s Leap of Faith

Defending the Resurrection of Jesus: The Core Facts Approach