Joy To Your World (book review)

“Joy To The World” is a Christmas song, right? Well, we do often sing it during the Advent season, but T.M. Moore persuasively makes the case in his book Joy To Your World that this message is a year-round blessing.

Quite simply, Moore reminds us that “the Christian life is joy.” Joy is what distinguishes the Christians from others, and joy is what attracts others to the Christian faith more than anything else.

Jesus sent His followers out to make disciples, and the empowering force behind the Christian’s testimony is the joy that Jesus is the One who has conquered hell, death, and the grave. So of all people, Christians should be brimming over with joy.

T.M. Moore writes: “When, because of our knowledge of God, the joy that fills our souls comes to expression as joy lived, then our lives will make sense, our salvation will be visible to the watching world, and we can offer any who may ask, sound reasons for how that joy can be theirs as well.”

This is an excellent message to be read at anytime, not just at Christmas.

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I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day

john-14-1That first Christmas was supposedly a silent night and a holy night. Maybe there was some singing angels involved, but at least their message was about “peace on earth.”

Sometimes that idea of “peace” at Christmas time can make us feel like hypocrites. Sometimes it seems as if there is more turmoil than peace, and more ill-will than goodwill.

Even Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem called I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day starts out in celebration, but then shifts to the dark words, “And in despair I bowed my head: ‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said, ‘for hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, goodwill to men.’”

If you have had a hard time finding peace this Christmas, this short message will bring you hope and encouragement, so that you can truly say, “Merry Christmas!”

Poetry Saturday—The Christmas Wish

purple-christmas-treeA Christmas wish is special,
It is full of heart and warmth,
Especially if you share it
With God and Jesus in your heart.

So go and tell about Him,
For He was born on Christmas day,
To teach each and everyone one of us
How to live the Christ-like way.

So when you’re carving Christmas ham
With all the trimmings and the pies,
Please hold out your hands
And thank the Lord up high.

So when someone asks me
What will my Christmas wish be,
I just look up and tell them
That I have the Christmas wish in me… Jesus! —Billie Jean Watkins

**Billie became a Christian in October 2004, and wrote this poem as she got ready to celebrate Christmas for the first time as a Christian.

7 Quotes From “The Dawning Of Indestructible Joy”

the-dawning-of-indestructible-joyThe Dawning Of Indestructible Joy is a wonderful book from John Piper to prepare your heart for celebrating Christ’s First Advent! It’s arranged as a 25-day countdown until Christmas morning. Check out my review of this book here, and then enjoy a few quotes that caught my attention.

“The coming of Jesus was a search-and-save mission. ‘The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost’ [Luke 19:10]. So Advent is a season for thinking about the mission of God to seek and to save lost people from the wrath to come. … ‘As the Father has sent Me, even so I am sending you’ (John 20:21). It’s the story of how the vertical advent of God in the mission of Jesus bends out and becomes the horizontal advent of Jesus in the mission of the church. In us.”

“If there is a longing in your heart this Advent for something that the world has not been able to satisfy, might not this longing be God’s Christmas gift preparing you to see Christ as consolation and redemption and to receive Him for who He really is?”

“Christmas is about the coming of the Son of Man who ‘came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.’ These words in Mark 10:45, as a brief expression of Christmas, are what I hope God will fix in your mind and heart this Advent. Open your heart to receive the best present imaginable: Jesus giving Himself to die for you and to serve you all the rest of eternity.”

“Take the very personal words of the Apostle Paul and make them your own. ‘The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me’ (Galatians 2:20). This is how Jesus destroyed the works of the devil and rescued us from our sin. Don’t leave Christmas in the abstract. Your sin. Your conflict with the devil. Your victory. He came for this.”

“The point is that when Jesus comes, He confirms the truth of all God’s promises. He shows that God is trustworthy; He keeps His word. … Christ came to prove that God tells the truth, that God keeps His promises. Christmas means that God can be trusted.” 

“It is God’s message of hope this Advent that what is good need never be lost and what is bad can be changed. The devil works to take the good and bring the bad. And Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil [1 John 3:8].”

“This is what God does again and again. He may be doing it for you this Advent season—graciously and tenderly frustrating you with life that is not centered on Christ and filling you with longings and desires that can’t find their satisfaction in what this world offers, but only in the God-man. What a Christmas gift that might be! Let all your frustrations with this world throw you onto the Word of God. It will become sweet—like walking into paradise.”

The Dawning Of Indestructible Joy (book review)

the-dawning-of-indestructible-joySometimes I am concerned that even those who know the story of the Incarnation of Jesus miss out on the stunningly powerful miracle that took place in Bethlehem. Instead of being awed by the majesty of Christ’s First Advent, we merely give lip service to His birth. John Piper’s book The Dawning Of Indestructible Joy will give you a fresh perspective of the miracle of Christ’s birth and all that it means.

The Dawning Of Indestructible Joy is written in 25 chapters, building an exciting countdown from December 1 until Christmas morning. Each day John Piper will awaken your heart and mind again to the unimaginable gifts that Jesus Christ made available to us through His incarnation. Gifts such as freedom from sin, intimacy with God, eternal life, and soul-lifting joy.

Each chapter is short enough to serve as an ideal family reading time, perhaps each evening around the dinner table in December. The Scripture passage for each day is short enough, too, for everyone to memorize so that they are prepared to share with anyone else the joy that comes with the miracle of the Advent.

Make this book a part of your family Christmas tradition.

What Child Is This Anyway?!

christ-the-kingA couple of years ago as we were setting up for our Living Nativity, I was wrapping a towel around the doll we were going to use for the infant Jesus. A young boy from the community was carefully watching me and he asked, “Is that baby Santa?”

“No, it’s not Santa,” I said. “See this manger? We’re getting things setup to tell the story about the very first Christmas, long before St. Nick came on the scene. Maybe you’ve heard about Mary and Joseph?”

The young lad’s eyes lit up as he seem to get the answer. “Oh! Is that baby Moses?!”

Clearly, people don’t know all the facts surrounding the first Advent of Jesus. Sometimes things in culture and church get jumbled—what belongs to which? Is Christmas a pagan holiday? Where do Christmas trees come in? Was the birth of Jesus actually on December 25? What does it all matter anyway?

Instead of running from these questions, Christians should use them to point people in the right direction. 

Have you heard the tune called Greensleeves? It’s been around longer than anyone knows. William Shakespeare referenced it in two of his plays and didn’t feel the need to explain it to his audience. The tune has been set to some pretty bawdy words about New Year’s Eve parties, and even as a mocking song to some folks about to go to the gallows. And then in the mid-1800s William Chatterton Dix used this tune to write words about Christ’s birth in What Child Is This?

What an excellent question! Who exactly is this Child? Is Jesus merely a line on the pages of history? Or is His birth something more? Oswald Chambers noted, “The tremendous revelation of Christianity is not the Fatherhood of God, but the Babyhood of God—God became the weakest thing in His own creation, and in flesh and blood He levered it back to where it was intended to be. No one helped Him; it was done absolutely by God manifest in human flesh.”

The first-century historian Luke simply records that Mary is pregnant with “a child.” That is, until Jesus is taken to the temple in Jerusalem eight days later, and we see that a man named Simeon didn’t just see this Child as any baby, but as a fulfillment of prophesy (see Luke 2:25-32; Isaiah 7:14 and 9:6).

This Child is much more than just a historic person. He not only split history into BC and AD, but He has changed my life, and countless others’ lives as well! That’s why the chorus of this Christmas carol joyfully announces, “This, THIS is Christ the King!”

People may be confused about what tradition belongs to culture or Christendom. You may even be confused about what belongs to which. But none of that should stop us from knowing the Child we celebrate this Christmas. None of that should stop us from helping seekers to find Jesus as their own Savior. None of that should stop us from enthroning Jesus Christ as King and giving Him the highest praise He deserves!

Jesus used common, everyday things—farmers, fish, trees, weather, children’s songs—to tell people about a Heaven that was prepared for them. Paul used the cultural idols and poets to point his community to Jesus. Philip used the Scripture a governmental official was reading to point him to Jesus.

So we, too, can use whatever is around us to point people to Jesus this Christmas! What Child is this? This, THIS is Christ MY King! Merry Christmas!!

The First Noël

romans-3-22When I worked in the business field, I was invited to be a teacher for a program called GROW (Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women), where I taught a class on marketing. Then later on, I served as a reviewer as the students turned in their marketing plans.

One of the main points I tried to drive home to my students is a basic Marketing 101 principle which says—you can’t be all things to all people. You have to pick a niche market and then try to dominate that market. There are two general ideas here: (1) Make your product or service pricey and therefore exclusive to a select group, or (2) Make your product or service affordable and accessible for the mass market.

The Incarnation of Jesus totally violates this Marketing 101 principle. (Which goes to show you that God knows more than all the world’s so-called “experts”!)

First, there was a marketing message to shepherds (see Luke 2:8-11). This would have been the “mass market” as shepherds represented the every-day, working-class man. The first two verses of The First Noël carol addresses these “certain poor shepherds in fields where they lay.”

But then there is this appearance of a very exclusive group of Magi (see Matthew 2:1-2, 11). These men were highly educated and had gained great influence and affluence. Verse 3 of The First Noël references these “wise men…from country far” who could present such lavish gifts to Jesus.

God did exactly what I told my GROW students they shouldn’t do if they wanted to be successful!

The Incarnation of Jesus is one of those rarest of rare things that actually can be all things to all people! Why? Because ALL people need what the Incarnation of Jesus brings. That’s why the final verse of The First Noël calls for ALL of us to join in singing our praise to God because of the salvation Jesus had purchased for ALL mankind.

Here’s the reason—

  • ALL we like sheep have gone astray (Isaiah 53:6)…
  •    …and the penalty for that straying from God is death for ALL sinners (Romans 6:23).
  • But Jesus came to ransom ALL from that penalty (Mark 10:45)…
  •    …so that ALL who believe in Him will be saved (Romans 3:22)!

“The coming of Jesus was a search-and-save mission. ‘The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.’ So Advent is a season for thinking about the mission of God to seek and to save lost people from the wrath to come. … ‘As the Father has sent Me, even so I am sending you’ (John 20:21). It’s the story of how the vertical Advent of God in the mission of Jesus bends out and becomes the horizontal Advent of Jesus in the mission of the church. In us.” —John Piper

You have been rescued, now go be a rescuer. Take this Noël message to ALL … young/old, rich/poor, Black/white, educated/illiterate, healthy/sick, friend/enemy…. the message in the First Noël and every Noël is for everyone! 

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