My thoughts about Christmas…

It is amazing to me how much controversy gets stirred up by people over Christmas. Secularists get upset with “Merry Christmas”. Some Christians get upset with Santa Claus. Some other Christians get upset at any mention of Christmas. Amazing. So I thought I’d offer here my two cents worth on the subject.

         It’s a fact that we have no idea of the date of Jesus’ birth. It’s also a fact that the word “Christmas” appears nowhere in the Bible. But to ignore the subject of the incarnation of Christ or to rail against Christmas as being “unauthorized!” seems to me counter-productive. Why would you not capitalize on the opportunity to verbally portray the beauty of Bethlehem? Why willfully ignore the subject that is on the minds of those once or twice a year visitors when they visit the assemblies of the church? The same logic goes for preaching on the resurrection on Easter. Jesus was born. Preach it! Jesus was raised. Preach it! Especially those times when folks are already thinking about it!

         At the other end of the spectrum is the subject of Santa Claus. The jolly old elf is demonized by anti-capitalists and other “ists” who make it their life’s work to be against stuff. No thanks. Santa Claus is a harmless, fun-filled fantasy of joys and toys for girls and boys. If some of these folks whose hearts seem to be “three sizes too small” would lighten up a bit they might enjoy life more.

         I love Christmas. Give me Norman Rockwell and “O, Holy Night”. Give me “you’ll shoot your eye out”, Zuzu’s petals and Linus telling Charlie Brown what Christmas is all about. When the tree is put away I’m ready to get back to the routines of life. But come December I’ll be ready for the sweetness of the season to warm my soul again.

Brad Fry

Published in: on December 28, 2010 at 9:28 pm  Comments (3)  

What Is Jesus To You?

When he walked the earth Jesus was different things to different people. To some he was the enemy. To others he was a friend. To some he was crazy. To others he was brilliant. To some he was a liar. To others he was Lord.

         While Jesus, as the writer of the letter to the Hebrews says, “is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8), he didn’t impress everyone the same way. But there does seem to be a common thread running through many of the people who were changed by him.

         There was Nicodemus, a sincere and truth seeking Pharisee looking for the way to God (John 3:1-21). Jesus told him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5).

         There was the woman who had been caught in the very act of adultery and then used for political capital (John 8:1-11). Jesus said to the ungodly opportunists, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7). He then told the woman, “Go, and from now on sin no more” (John 8:11).

         There was the soldier whose faith put to shame those who should have known better (Luke 7:1-10). Jesus said of his complete trust, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith” (Luke 7:9).

         There was the sister who had buried her brother and implied that Jesus should have done something to keep him from dying (John 11:17-27). Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26).

         There was a thief on a cross asking for last minute favor. Jesus promised him more than he asked for when he said, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:39-43).

         They were people who needed what only he could give. Some of them knew it and some of them didn’t. Some hadn’t been looking for him when they found him. But after they found him they would never be the same.

         While the reality, character and identity of Jesus can withstand the most searing scrutiny; those who will most often be blessed by him are those who come to him with hearts and minds yearning for truth, for help, for faith and for forgiveness.

         Maybe Jesus isn’t what you want him to be. But he is everything you need him to be. The prophet Isaiah wrote, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). That’s what Jesus is to me.

Brad Fry

Published in: on December 17, 2010 at 11:19 am  Leave a Comment  
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“Hearts Bowed Down With Sorrow”

Perhaps nothing leaves such tragedy and heartache in its wake as suicide. As we draw closer to Christmas we’d do well to be reminded that this is the time of year with the greatest number of suicides.

         Why would someone take his or her own life? What could possibly be so bad or unbearable that a person would “end it all”? If such a person could be reached in the nick of time, what reasons might they give for giving up?

1. “No one cares if I live or die.”
Everyone needs a place to belong. Everyone needs people who are there for them, will encourage them and accept them. The great line from the “Cheers” TV show theme song was that people wanted to find a place “where everybody knows your name.” While I agree with the sentiment I think there’s a better place to fulfill the desire. May I suggest you look to Jesus and his church? There truly is strength in numbers (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).

2. “I’m afraid.”
I knew a young man who took his life because he had done some things that were going to have some pretty stiff consequences. Instead of dealing with them, he shot himself. There is no obstacle or circumstance, however unpleasant, that God cannot help us through, with, over or under. “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (James 4:7,8)

3. “I don’t know what else to do.”
When I was a kid my dad once told me that the Bible had the answers to the most important questions in life. He was right. Jeremiah said, “I know, O Lord, that a man’s way is not in himself; Nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23). It’s no wonder that we get lost when we stop following his directions. But as long as you’re this side of the grave, you’re not past the point of no return. Find God’s answer to your problems. If you don’t know how to start, find a mature Christian for some guidance.

         There is no problem so great that God cannot help. There is no heart so lonely that God’s love cannot fill. There is no life so lost that God cannot set on the right path. God loves you. He wants to heal your hurts and give you abundant life (John 10:10). “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

Brad Fry

Published in: on December 8, 2010 at 10:58 am  Leave a Comment  
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Who Needs Church?

There are many people who go through life thinking that their relationship with God is just fine while they have little or no relationship with the church. The reasons they give for staying away from the assembly range from hypocrisy, real or imagined, to the idea that they can just as meaningfully worship at the fishing hole, in the garden or on the couch. The line from the Don Williams song rings true for them, “I don’t believe that heaven waits for only those who congregate.” Their view of Jesus may be that he simply wanted to spread a message of love. They may see the church as a non-vital body part like an appendix that they can just as easily do without.

No one can deny that the church is an imperfect thing. By its nature it will always be imperfect because it is made up of imperfect people just like the folks who criticize it for its imperfections. But neither can one deny the church’s rightful place and priority in the life of the Christian if we believe what the Bible says. The New Testament simply knows nothing of a faithful Christian who is willfully unattached to other Christians through corporate worship and spiritual fellowship.

Here are just a few of the truths that the New Testament teaches us about the church:

  • The church is the body of Christ (Colossians 1:24). To cut yourself off from the church is to be cut off from the body, to be amputated. The amputated hand is not only cut off from the arm but also from the head, who is Christ (Colossians 1:18). Let’s be real clear. The amputated body part dies. So does the amputated Christian.
  • The church is the bride of Christ (Hebrews 12:22 with Revelation 21:9). To leave the church is to walk out on Christ.
  • The church is the place where God is glorified (Ephesians 3:21). To leave the church is to be more concerned with what you want than what he wants.
  • The church is the household of God (1 Timothy 3:15). To leave the church is to leave God’s family. It is to be the prodigal son or daughter (Luke 15:11-32). And until we also, “come to our senses”, we’ll be sloppin’ with the pigs.
  • The church is the possession of God (1 Peter 2:9). To leave the church is to strike out on your own, to be your own man or woman, not God’s.
  • The church is the blood bought flock of God’s sheep (Acts 20:28). To go it on your own is to be repossessed by the world, living outside the care of God’s fold.

The church isn’t perfect as it exists on the earth. We’ve already established that fact and that’s news to no one. But it is perfect in its design because God is its Designer. God created it with the realization that it would be populated by imperfect people. A few of those imperfect people may be insincere hypocrites who have no interest in being truly transformed. God knows who they are. But the rest of them are conscientious men and women who are acutely aware of their own sin and shortcomings. They know they are not perfect in and of themselves. But they also know they are perfected by the One who is. So they stay with his church. You would do well to stay with it too. Otherwise you’ll spend longer than you bargained for with those hypocrites you allowed to keep you from the church.

Brad Fry

Published in: on December 1, 2010 at 10:42 am  Leave a Comment  
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