Jesus and Santa

(First published 12-19-2015)

“I can’t wait for Christmas!!!” My six-year-old granddaughter blurted out to the clerk restocking the shelves at the grocery store. The clerk responded with, “Have you been good this year so Santa will come?”

Arianna looked a little confused and then answered, “Santa’s not real, God’s real.” Now it was the clerk’s turn to be confused. Not knowing just what to say, I smiled, and we moved on down the aisle.

I thought about the conversation all the way home. I don’t think of Santa as evil, but Jesus is so much better.

Santa keeps a list of who is naughty or nice. The theory is he only visits those who have been good. We use it to motivate kids to cooperate with us those last weeks before Christmas, or those gifts aren’t going to show up.

Jesus, on the other hand, came knowing we weren’t nice. We needed a Savior who could save us from our sin. (Matthew 1:21) His coming depended on God’s goodness, not our goodness.

Santa supposedly leaves a lump of coal to those who don’t measure up. Jesus offers complete forgiveness and has taken the punishment we deserve by dying in our place.

Santa lives forever to keep track. Jesus now lives forever to intercede for us before God. (Romans 8:34)

Santa shows up one day a year. Jesus has promised to never leave us or forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5b-6)

But the most important difference between Santa and Jesus is the one Arianna pointed out so simply. “Santa isn’t real …God is real!” It is fun to pretend, but my belief in God isn’t a fantasy. It is something I have staked my life on. So as you celebrate Christmas this year remember it is about a Savior, not a Santa.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

Now that’s something to be excited about!

A Father Who Waits

I can still see him sitting in the corner of our living room, pen in hand, next to a small handmade bookshelf, where he kept his Bible and other reading material. He sat there either early morning before his day started or late at night while he waited for one of his three daughters to come home. Once we were home he quietly locked the door and went to bed. His job was done for the night.

I didn’t notice how carefully he kept track of us until one night while working the late shift at a local nursing home. The commercial washing machines that were entrusted to my care decided to leak all over the floor. When I came back to the laundry room, after putting  linens away, I was met with a small lake.

 My shift should have ended at 11:00, but it took me until after midnight to mop up the mess.  Assuming my parents would be in bed I didn’t call to tell them I would be late. When I finally made it home the lights were on and my mother met me at the door.

Why was I late? What had happened?

Her voice was a mixture of rebuke and relief. Before I could answer she told me Daddy had gone looking for me, tracing the path I would have taken from home to the nursing home.

I apologized and we waited together for Dad to get home. I’m not sure what time it was when he finally drove into the driveway. He didn’t say much, just that he was glad I was ok, and please call next time. He quietly locked the door and we all went to bed.

It made me wonder how many other times he had sat and worried about us. Praying we would make it home safely.

But as much as my earthly father took care of me how much more does my Heavenly Father. He waits for me to remember that he is waiting for me… day after day, week after week, year after year.

How long has it been since you have sat at His feet?… read His word?… met with other Christians?

But God wasn’t content to wait. He came looking for us, even going so far as to send His son to walk among us, and eventually die for this race of rebellious, thoughtless people.

In this season of celebrating Jesus birth wouldn’t now be a good time for you to come to Him? Come for the first time or return to Him from a long absence. He is not only waiting, He is pursuing.

“For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Luke 19:10

“Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hear my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with me.” Revelation 3:20

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

“I remember concerning you the devotion of your youth, The love of your betrothals, Your following after Me in the wilderness, Through a land not sown.” Jeremiah 2:2

(See also John 3:16; Romans 10:9&10)

Lessons from my Granddaughter

(Written November, 2011)

In early November I got out the Thanksgiving decorations box. I carefully unwrapped a ceramic pilgrim man and put him on the buffet. Our three year-old granddaughter, Arianna, gasped with wonder and said,… “Jesus!”

I had to tell her, “No, it’s a pilgrim.”

I unwrapped the matching pilgrim lady and again Arianna whispered, …”Jesus.”

“No,” I responded, “Another pilgrim.”

We hadn’t been talking about Jesus. We don’t have statues of him standing around our house and yet when something new and wonderful was taken out to be displayed she just assumed it had to be Jesus.

When the first snow came in November she squealed and said, “God sent the snow.”

“Yes, Arianna, God sent the snow.”

I smile at her simple happiness and wish I could rewind my life to a simpler time. My grown-up heart is cynical. I have lived in this broken world too long to be optimistic. The reality is, life is hard. It isn’t how God intended. We have each royally messed up.

…And so we have Christmas. Not to distract us from what is bad in our lives. Not to have a month of gift giving and parties. We have Christmas because God promised he would send a redeemer all those years ago when our first parents sinned.

Just as Adam and Eve chose sin over God, we have chosen our own selfish ways. Instead of turning our face to God we turn our faces inward. We turn them anywhere but toward God. And yet…

“God so loved the world… (God so loved me, you) that He gave…” He gave his son, not only to be born, but eventually to die for my lost condition. What a marvelous hope!

So I stay close to Arianna. As she delights in Christmas and wants to learn all about the baby and what God did, I feel my own heart melting. It is becoming a little more childlike. As I tell her about the great God who loves her, I am reminded of just how great He is.

“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest; For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways, to give knowledge of salvation to His people by the remission of their sins, through the tender mercy of our God, with which the Dayspring from on high has visited us; To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, To guide our feet into the way of peace.” Luke 1:76-79

God Loves Me Dearly / Gott ist Die Liebe

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In my quest for discovering old hymns, I’ve been collecting old hymn books. My sister, Nancy, who was supporting my endeavor, recently brought me an old Lutheran Hymnal that she had picked up at a garage sale. She had put a bookmark with a note on one of the pages.

It was a song our Dad used to sing to us in German when we were children. I imagine his mother sang it to him as well. Sometimes he would play the tune on his violin. Since I had never heard the English version I didn’t know how sweet the words were that he was singing to us. Below you will find the song with German and English words.

Sometimes simple is best. This is one of those times. I hope you enjoy it.

(In the first line there should be an Umlaut over the word Lasst and erlosen. I simply can’t figure out how to type it. Also, please forgive my very rusty German pronunciation.)

God Loves Me Dearly

Gott ist Die Liebe – by August Rische (1819-1906)

Gott ist die Liebe, lasst mich erlosen, Gott ist die Liebe, Er liebt auch mich.

Drum sag ich noch einmal: Gott ist die Liebe! Gott ist die Liebe, Er liebt auch mich.

God loves me dearly, Grants me salvation, God loves me dearly, loves even me.

*Therefore I’ll say again: God loves me dearly, God loves me dearly, Loves even me.

I was in slav’ry, Sin, death, and darkness; God’s love was working to make me free. *

He sent forth Jesus, My dear Redeemer, He sent forth Jesus and set me free. *

Jesus, my Savior, Himself did offer; Jesus, my Savior, Paid all I owed. *

Now I will praise You, O Love Eternal; Now I will praise You all my life long.*

P.S. This is dedicated to my six grandchildren. Ashlee, Arianna, Aidan, Emerson, Will and finally Jase who was born 7-6-2021.

Jesus My All to Heaven is Gone

John Cennick (1717-1755) / George Coles

Jesus my all to heaven is gone, He whom I fixed my hopes upon;

His track I see, and I’ll pursue the narrow way till Him I view.

The way the holy prophets went, the road that leads from banishment,

The King’s highway of holiness I’ll go for all Thy paths are peace.

This is the way I long have sought, and mourned because I found it not;

My grief a burden long has been, because I was not saved from sin.

The more I strove against its power, I felt its weight and guilt the more;

Till late I heard my Savior say, “Come hither, soul, I am the way.”

Lo! Glad I come; and Thou blest Lamb, Shalt take me to Thee, as I am;

Nothing but sin have I to give; Nothing but love shall I receive.

Then will I tell to sinners ’round, What a dear Savior I have found;

I’ll point to Thy redeeming blood, And say, “Behold the way to God.”

He is Calling for You!

He spent his days begging on the road that led from Jericho to Jerusalem, unable to make a living any other way. His name was Bartimaeus and he was blind. 

A cloak was his only possession. It shaded him from the sun, protected him from rain, became his only comfort and blanket at night.

He had heard of a man named Jesus who heals. Miracle of miracles today he was passing right by him. Being tired of barely surviving he cried out to the one who could change his life.

“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

“Be quiet!”, they scolded. Leave the Master alone!

He cried out even louder. “Have mercy on me!”

He knew his situation was hopeless. Sooner or later he would die from lack of food or exposure to the elements. He would not be quiet. In desperation, he shouted again. “Have mercy on me!!!”

And then the unbelievable news…”Take courage, stand up! He is calling for you.”

Bartimaeus threw his cloak aside, jumped to his feet and ran to Jesus.

“What do you want?”, Jesus asked.

“I want to see.” Was Bartimaeus’ reply.

“Go your way your faith has made you well.”

But as Bartimaeus looked at Jesus, he couldn’t go his way. He followed Jesus on the road, wherever that road would take him. He left it all. His cloak, his future, his dreams of a seeing life. All he wanted was to follow Jesus.

This would be Jesus last trip into Jerusalem. He was on his way to the cross.

William MacDonald sums it up “It was a good thing that Bartimaeus sought the Lord that day because the Savior never passed that way again.”

Are you like Bartimaeus? Do you see your need? Do you see your hopeless situation?

If so, “Take courage, stand up! He is calling for you.”

For further study: Mark 10:46-52; II Corinthians 6:2b

Hymn – I Heard the voice of Jesus Say

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My goal is to put up one or two old hymns every month. Music paired with true words are healing to the soul. I hope they are an encouragement to you.

Horatius Bonar, a clergyman from Scotland, wrote this hymn in the 1800s. It has been sung to several tunes, but my favorite is an English folk tune called “Kingsfold” which was paired with the words around 1900.

You will find the music and words below so we can sing together.

I heard the voice of Jesus say, “Come unto Me, and rest.

Lay down, thou weary one, lay down, Thy head upon My breast.”

I came to Jesus as I was, Weary and worn and sad.

I found in Him a resting place, and He has made me glad.

I heard the voice of Jesus say, “Behold, I freely give

The living water thirsty one, stoop down, and drink, and live.”

I came to Jesus, and I drank, of that life giving stream.

My thirst was quenched, my soul revived, and now I live in Him.

I heard the voice of Jesus say, “I am this dark world’s Light.

Look unto Me, thy morn shall rise, And all thy day be bright.”

I looked to Jesus, and I found in Him my Star, my Sun,

and in that Light of life I’ll walk, ‘Till trav’lling days are done.

………………………………………………………..

“To be entitled to use Another’s name when my own name is worthless,

To be allowed to wear Another’s raiment because my own is torn and filthy.

To appear before God in Another’s person – the person of the beloved Son –

This is the summit of all blessing.”

Horatius Bonar (1808-1889)

For further study:

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

“but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:14

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

Missing Christmas

They all were looking for a king

To slay their foes and lift them high:

Thou Cam’st a little baby thing

That made a woman cry…

And so begins a poem by George MacDonald, “That Holy Thing”.

This year we are missing the Christmas we were expecting…the Christmas we remember…

Over 2,000 years ago a baby was born. His purpose…to save His people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21) The focus wasn’t on the corrupt government or the invading armies. He didn’t come to change society, He came to transform hearts. Repentance, not easy living, was His goal.

33 years after he was born He died an awful death at the hands of those He had come to save.

3 days later He rose from the grave in spite of Satan’s best efforts to do away with God’s redemption plan.

40 days later, He ascended into heaven. (Acts 1:9-11)

Now might be a good time to remember some of the promises He made before He left.

John 14:3 …If I go and prepare a place for you I will come again that where I am, there you may be also.

John 16:33 “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage, I have overcome the world.”

John 17:3 “This is eternal life, that they may know You the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”

We need to remember that…

He is with us,

He died for us,

He has overcome the world,

He is preparing a place for us,

He is coming back to take us home.

There is nothing I would like more than to sit down with each of you and have a cup of tea. I can picture each of you hurrying around getting ready for Christmas with many or few people this year. Most of all I pray that each of you finds the peace that only Jesus can give.

For further study:

..in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. I Corinthians 15:52

Keep me as the apple of the eye; Hide me in the shadow of Your wings… As for me, I shall behold Your face in righteousness; I will be satisfied with Your likeness when I awake. Psalm 17: 8 & 15

Oh, that You would rend the heavens and come down, That the mountains might quake at Your presence – Isaiah 64:1

And rend your heart and not your garments. Now return to the LORD your God, For He is gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness and relenting of evil. Joel 2:13

Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled

“Let not your heart be troubled, believe in God, believe also in Me.”  John 14:1

Those are familiar words to all of us. Jesus was talking to his disciples. In a few short hours he would be arrested.

The current situation was alarming. Most of them had no idea how alarming it was.  They must have sensed Jesus was on edge, but even though he had tried to tell them of the trouble that was coming they couldn’t comprehend it.

He tried shifting their gaze from earthly trouble to heavenly peace. (John 14:2-3) It is a good place to rest our eyes. These days of sickness, unrest and trouble have been taking it’s toll on our children, our families, our countries, and our world. I can’t remember another time like this in my life. There have been wars, and local trouble, but this trouble is world wide.

What kind of power could make this such a world wide event? I can think of only one. Satan, himself. He is determined to destroy men and turn them against each other and more importantly against God.

We are reminded in Ephesians 6:12

“for our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” 

My granddaughter, Arianna asked me the other day why God didn’t come and make the new heaven and the new earth now. (II Peter 3:13) Why was He waiting?

I paused, because I long for that too.  My answer was simple.

God is very patient. He is waiting for those that might yet decide to come to Him.

II Peter 3:8-9 “But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise as some count slowness, but is patient towards you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” 

Are you one of those He is waiting for? Have you turned to Him in repentance and accepted His forgiveness?

We each have a great need. Our sin has separated us from a holy God. Because He loves us He has made a way for us to come back to Him. Jesus took our punishment on the cross. Paid for our sin. He rose three days later and conquered death.  He asks us to repent and believe.

Repentance involves a change of direction.  Turning away from selfish and worldly pursuits and a turning to God.

There is trouble now.

I don’t know if it will be temporary or if this is the beginning of the end.

Wouldn’t now be a good time to make things right with God?

Ezekiel 18:32 puts it simply. “For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies, declares the Lord, so repent and live.”

 

 For further study:

I Peter 5:8

“Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” John 14:28b

“These things I have spoken to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

“Behold, now is the acceptable time, behold now is the day of salvation.” II Corinthians 6:2

Dealing with Anxiety – Study 11 – Thomas

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Anxiety that lasts too long can lead to depression. Having dealt with depression in my 30s it is something I fight against when the first signs appear. Sometimes no matter how hard we fight we can’t overcome it. Just such a case is found in John 20:24-31.

His name was Thomas. We know from John 11:16 that he was already discouraged. He was willing to follow Jesus to Jerusalem and to death. (Remember the Lazarus episode?)

Now things were truly hopeless. His worst fears were realized.

His leader was dead. The disciples were all in hiding. They feared for their lives. They seem to have forgotten all Jesus had tried to tell them while He was still with them.

It is one thing to die with your leader in a glorious battle. It is another thing to be left alone and expected to carry on when your Captain is dead.

Read John 20:24-31. Here is the template anxiety template

Thomas was absent when Jesus first appeared to His disciples. (vs. 19-21) What was Thomas’ reaction when they tried to tell him they had seen the Lord?

What did he demand in order to believe?

Since Thomas was in such distress why do you think Jesus waited another 8 days before He appeared to him?

What is the first thing Jesus said? Why did he say it?

What did he say to Thomas? What was His tone?

Remember Jesus had told them these things again and again. I find his gentle patience amazing.

What was His final word to Thomas (and to us) in verse 29?

Do I ask God to prove Himself? Do I demand answers when God expects me to trust Him?

Why was the book of John written? (vs. 31)

What are we asked to believe and what is the result of that belief?

Our faith isn’t dependent on our circumstances. Thomas and the disciples were done in. They were completely discouraged, but they had forgotten that their real life was in heaven. They were here for a purpose, and it wasn’t to have a soft, easy life.

They were to engage in the battle that was raging. Jesus death was not without meaning. It sealed their redemption. It brought them life. They were just beginning to understand.

…and so, like Jesus, I say to you “…be not unbelieving, but believing.”

If you have any questions please comment below or e-mail me.

For further study:

I Peter 1:3-9, 18-19

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