“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3: 17)”
Usually, I write a prayer or poem for Christmas. This year, however, I felt compelled to do something different because it seems some media outlets mistakenly paint Christian evangelicals with a broad brush as self-serving, bullies, mean-spirited, unethical, fence-walkers, those who only condemn what or when it is in their interest to denounce.
Evangelicals are not a monolith. Instead, they are a diverse group of disciples of Christ trying to glorify God by following the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. They are present in every Christian denomination, and they represent every ethnicity and social and economic class. They work in every field and live in every neighborhood.
They are compassionate, caring people who, by the grace of God, try to behave justly, and they pray for the Holy Spirit to guide them into all truth. They demonstrate mercy toward others because God is merciful.
The following is a summary of what many evangelicals believe.
An Evangelical Declaration
- God is sovereign and is present all the time in every place
- The Bible, consisting of the Old Testament (Hebrew Scriptures) and the New Testament, is God’s inerrant word
- Salvation is by grace, not by works, and comes only through Christ Jesus
- God is no respecter of persons because redemption is available to all who repent and accept Jesus Christ as Lord
- The Lord, our God, is one Triune, -Creator (Father), Redeemer (Jesus, Savior), and Sustainer (Holy Spirit)
- God loves all people, including sinners – of which I am one who is saved by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ
- We believe in the bodily resurrection of the dead and in everlasting life
- We believe Jesus is the Messiah prophesied about by the Hebrew prophets
- We believe Scripture teaches God’s people are to behave justly and practice mercy
- We believe Jesus will come again to redeem the Church
- We believe the Church is three dimensional- the spotless Church of Christ, the church within each believer, and the church as an organized body of believers
- We believe in freewill – mortals have the God-given ability to choose between right and wrong
- We believe the Church is one body consisting of different parts
- Jesus is the head of the Church
For as far back as I remember, the days from Thanksgiving to Christmas morning were exciting and my favorite time of year. As a child, I looked forward to basking in the cheerfulness that seemed to permeate the air. I liked the thought of being surrounded by people who behaved more pleasant and generous than usual. I also looked forward with anxious anticipation to buying, giving, and receiving gifts.
The excitement started with me sitting in front of the television in our modestly furnished living room watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade; to overeating later in the day, watching holiday movies on TV at night, followed by decorating our house and a Christmas tree.
The colorful decorations, caroling, and holiday parties that started on Thanksgiving pointed with optimism toward Christmas as a day devoted to spending time with family and experiencing the thrill of exchanging and opening gifts.
The Holiday Season still excites me. However, I now think of Thanksgiving as the unofficial start to Advent – a time in the Christian calendar that looks forward to honoring the day set aside to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ, God’s greatest gift to the world, and a time for remembering Jesus will come again.
Likewise, as I have matured, my purpose for giving Christmas gifts has changed. I now give as a reminder that Christmas celebrates the loving, sacrificial offering the Creator made by gifting Jesus to the world to reconcile humanity to God.
I saw a photo of your gravestone today.
Praise God, I say.
The stone honors you
by announcing the loving way, you touched most of those whom you knew!
Finally, you are receiving a tiny portion of your just due!
Look at our God, working through the most unlikely people to laud you!
Continue to rest in peace, my brother,
along with David and our dearly loved mother!
In the words of God’s children in every generation and in every place:
GOD IS GOOD ALL THE TIME!!
Time, they say, heals all wounds
That is wrong!
Time may separate the memory from piercing pain
Time does not blot out the stain
Time keeps moving at its pace, unmoved by the human race
Mortals grapple with finding their place in time’s space
Time is enveloping and elusive, it can’t be touched or caught
Time can’t be stopped or bought
Time keeps rolling along
Like a looping melodic background song
Time goes on and on
Time is steady and strong
Time, they say, waits for no one
That is right!
Time keeps moving – morning, noon, and night
Time cannot be visualized or measured by sight
Time: birth-time, life-time, end-time
Little time, more time, no time
Time: anxious-time, happy-time, hopeful-time, sad-time
Then-time, now-time, future-time
Time is everywhere, all the time
What is time?
My time, your time, their time, our time
Time is time
This morning’s reflection is inspired by a recent reading of Isiah 58: 13 and 14.
I started reading to prepare a sermon about the importance of keeping the Sabbath sacred. But as is often the case, the longer I meditated on the passage especially in the context of all Scripture, my thoughts expanded to identifying other sacred things that are important to keep holy. From the musings, three categories emerged: Sacred Places/Spaces, Sacred Times, and Sacred Things (I’m still contemplating a more fitting title for the third category.).
My developing thoughts on the importance of recognizing sacred things and keeping them consecrated are noted on the attached chart. Double click the link below to view the chart.
Sunday Morning Thoughts, August 25, 2019