What is This “Christmas Spirit?”

reason-for-the-season

I must confess that I have enjoyed several of the Christmas movies on the Hallmark channel during the past few weeks. My wife and I watched them together; I think we are just romantics at heart.

With many of these movies, I can predict not only the outcome but also the sequence of events that eventually brings the unlikely couple together. Things rarely get resolved before the last seven and a half minutes of the movie. Despite knowing the ultimate outcome, they somehow hold my interest until the very end (although sometimes I would like to see more of the story after the couple finally realizes they are in love, but that’s just me).

One thing, however, has bothered me more this year than in previous years. Many of these movies emphasize the “Christmas spirit” as though that is of ultimate importance.

What is this “Christmas spirit” and why does it matter? Obviously, I do not expect these movies to end with a presentation of the Gospel message. That would be great, but perhaps not a logical expectation for Hallmark.

However, this phrase still leaves me wanting to hear more. What is this “spirit” without Jesus? Why would we even want to celebrate the holiday without emphasizing the life and hope the Lord gives to us?

Jesus is the Reason for the Season

Jesus is the reason for the season. This has been stated so many times that I fear we simply gloss over the words without taking them to heart. The truth embodied in this phrase is, however, at the root with my disappointment with the elevation of the so-called “Christmas spirit” that usurps the celebration of Christ’s birth as the sole purpose for the holiday.

Do you ever wonder why much of the world celebrates the birth of Jesus? There have been many men and women in history who have accomplished great things. We benefit from the sacrifices of many who gave their lives so that we could be free. It’s not that we demean their contributions or their service in any way; we just do not get our families together, give gifts, and celebrate their births.

But we do so with Jesus. Why is that?

One verse that has caught my attention more than once this past year is 1 Corinthians 15:19, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” What, you may ask, does this have to do with Christmas?

It has everything to do with it. If Jesus is still in the grave, there would be no such thing as Christmas, no holiday season, no gift exchanges, no feasting on good food . . . I think you get the picture. Jesus claimed to be one with Father. If He had remained in the grave, no one would have believed that He was God in the flesh. The church would not have even begun yet alone endured for two thousand years.

If Jesus is still in the grave, there would be no such thing as Christmas, no holiday season, no gift exchanges, no feasting on good.

Because Jesus rose from the dead and is alive, we have reason to celebrate His birth. He brought light, life, and hope into a dark world. He is truly the reason for the season, apart from Him it would not exist.

Without Jesus, the world would have remained a dark place, without hope and light and life.

Jesus is the Word that Became Flesh

The Gospel of John describes Jesus’ birth in this way, “In the beginning was the Word, and Word was with God, and the Word was God . . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of the only Son from the Father (1:1, 14).

Jesus’ birth represents God becoming flesh so that through His death on the cross we might inherit eternal life. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Jesus came to give us life; He walked out of grave to prove He alone can forgive our sins and bring us safely to heaven. This is why the angels proclaimed Him as “Savior” in announcing His birth (Luke 2:11). He is indeed the Savior of the world; there is salvation in no other name (Acts 4:12).

This sentiment has no ability to save us or deliver us from our sins. It gives us no reason to celebrate Jesus’ birth any more than other great people.

This is why it matters that we go beyond some feel-good “Christmas spirit.” This sentiment has no ability to save us or deliver us from our sins. It gives us no reason to celebrate Jesus’ birth any more than other great people.

The apostle John also tells us this in regard to Jesus’ arrival on earth, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). We have a choice. To reject the Savior is to spurn ones only chance of eternal life and thereby endure an eternity apart from the presence of God.

This is what Christmas is all about: it’s the Son of God becoming a man so that through His death we might have eternal life. It’s because of His birth, death, and resurrection that we have life and hope in the midst of a dark world filled with despair. Jesus is the only way to eternal life, the only path to the Father (John 14:6).

At Christmas, we celebrate the entrance of life, light, and salvation into the world. It’s so very much more than simply tradition or some fleeting warm fuzzy feeling of the season.

I’m not opposed to the spirit of celebration that surrounds Christmas each year; it’s just empty without a focus on Jesus and His message of salvation for the world. Without His words of life, this so-called Christmas spirit leaves us with no ultimate hope once the new year arrives.

If you do not yet know Jesus as your Savior, please call out to Him today. There are no preconditions for coming to Him apart from recognizing your need of forgiveness for your sins and your need of the life He freely offers to you. He changes us; we do not change to be acceptable to Him.

Leah’s Story

nature-people-girl-forest-12165

The following is an essay written by Jessica Kleeberger, the sixteen year old great niece of my wife, Ruth. This is my first post from a guest writer. Her story fits well with a passion of my heart and I did not think I could express it any better than what she wrote.

Kim twisted in her seat to get a good view of the clock, tapping her fingers impatiently against the back of the hard plastic seat. Five minutes passed. Her eye fell on a magazine resting on a side table, and she began to flip through it indifferently. Here was a recipe for the ultimate brownie, there an article extolling the wonders of organic farming, next a promotion for a book with a rather nondescript cover…Ten minutes passed.

Kim, having little patience for the delay and even less for the typical waiting room publication, gave up looking at the magazine and reached for another at random in the stack. She suppressed a groan as she looked at the cover of a slender mother, dressed stylishly in a crocheted shawl and hugging a grinning child. Parenting. Just the thing she hadn’t expected, or wanted, when she had gone out for a celebratory date with Dylan. If only she had not joyfully flung all caution to the wind as she threw herself into his arms. Now parenting was just the thing she could be facing, if the pregnancy tests she had done at home had been correct. Fifteen minutes passed.

Finally, a woman with a white coat and bouncy step emerged from the hall, a clipboard and a sheath of papers cradled on her arm. “Kimberly Wilson?” she asked, pausing in front of her chair. “I have the results of your test.”

Yes, the results said she would be a mother, but she was not a slave to mere ink, contorted into the shapes of letters on a piece of paper. She had options, the nurse said- This was her body, her choice.

Kim thought of all the anti-abortion flyers she had read. They had said that the baby had a unique DNA pattern, the only one of its kind in the world. That life began at conception. She pushed the thoughts out of her head. The nurse was right: This was no one’s choice but hers.

“Take a few days to think about it if you like, dear,” the nurse said, patting her on the arm.

O0o

A few nights later, Kim was awakened by a rustle. She pried open her eye lids, heavy with slumber, and glanced around the darkened room. It was empty. The sound she had heard must have just been the house’s foundation creaking in the wind- she always had been a light sleeper, awakened by the least of nightly noises. She snuggled back down under her blankets, already drifting back to sleep. Her eyes popped open again when she felt something touch her shoulder, and, thinking she must be getting paranoid, she rolled her head over on the pillow to see what it-

“Aaargh!” she shrieked, rocketing up onto her knees and yanking her blankets around her. Only a wild, desperate grasp at her bed post saved her from falling backward off the bed. In front of her stood a shadowy figure, too small to be an adult but seeming almost too still to be a living child.

Kim lunged for the lamp on her nightstand. Her fingers missed the knob, brushing against the lamp, and she barely managed to catch it as it teetered on the edge of the stand. Taking a deep breath and willing her shaking fingers to cooperate, she steadied the lamp and turned it on. The child hadn’t flinched and was staring at her complacently, unstartled by Kim’s panicked flurry. It was probably just an illusion caused by glow of the lamp, but it looked as if the little girl’s eyes, glinting and shimmering like the reflection of starlight on a lake, were silver.

“You frightened me. How did you get in? Where are your parents?” Kim paused for breath, then blurted out, “And who are you?”

“A voice for those who do not have one. Or my little angel. That’s what my Father calls me.”

“A- voice?” Kim murmured, not believing her ears.

She smiled, but it was, Kim thought, a smile far too sad for such a small child. “My mom called me Leah, though. You can call me that.”

Then, although Kim’s stomach was still too slender to bely her pregnancy, Leah tiptoed up and kissed it. The touch of her lips, which felt like the feathery, light brush of angel wings, was swift and gentle, too innocent and reverent for Kim to be offended by it or repulse the gesture. “Hello, little guy,” Leah whispered.

Kim gaped at Leah. “How did you know I was pregnant? And how do you know it’s a boy?”

She shrugged. “He tells me.”

“Who’s He?”

“He is my heavenly Father, and he sent me to show you something.”

“Show me something? In the middle of the night?”

“Why not? Here.”

Before Kim could respond, the child was clasping her hand in a warm, gentle grip. The room with its familiar furniture, cluttered with keepsakes and trinkets, faded in front of Kim’s eyes and vanished.

“What’s happening? Leah, what have you done?” Kim cried, leaping to her feet and trying to yank her hand out of the child’s. Leah didn’t let go. “Shhh, just wait. It will be okay,” she murmured. “Look.”

Something about her quiet confidence made Kim obey, and she was startled to see herself reclining in a hospital bed, cradling a baby. She could see him perfectly- the blonde down on his tiny skull, the squinted eyes that opened to reveal pale blue slits, the tiny fingers curled into fists.

“Joseph,” Leah said softly at her side. Kim, eyes riveted on the scene, tore them away long enough to glance at the little girl. “Joseph?”

“Joseph. Your little boy,” Leah explained, as if this were the most natural thing in the world. “I can show you more.” She raised her hand and flicked her small fingers against each other, but she lacked the coordination to produce a crisp snap. Nothing happened. When her second attempt did not produce any better results, Leah let out a small, annoyed huff and moved Kim’s hand to her shoulder.

“Here, hold on to me.” She clapped her hands, and Kim found herself looking at a sandy haired toddler. Joseph again, Kim supposed.

His arms were crossed, and his lips turned up in a pout. She saw herself again, an expression of frustration and sadness evident on her own face. The baby had been cute, Kim reasoned, but it seemed parenting still cost more grief than it was worth. Then, Joseph’s face changed. She saw the childish anger fade from his eyes, and his lips trembled. “I sorry for being naughty, Mommy!” He flew into his mother’s arms, and she snuggled him close. “I forgive you.”

Watching, Kim could almost feel the warmth of the hug. Just as she was almost wishing she could experience the small arms wrapped around her waist and marvel at how much love the small limbs could give, Leah’s clap yanked her out of the scene and into another.

There was a boy leaning against a school wall, a backpack slung over his shoulder. He reached into a pocket and pulled out a small white bottle. He unscrewed the lid and raised a handful of pills to his mouth…

“Hey, Steve! Wait!” A voice called. A boy ran up to the wall, bending over and placing his hands on his knees while he panted for breath. The clear blue eyes, filled with concern, revealed what Kim had instinctively felt- This was an older Joseph. Joseph took a deep breath and flicked an unruly shock of hair- now darkening into a pale brown- off his forehead. “Steve, you don’t have to take those.”

“I can’t do it anymore, Joe,” the other boy replied shakily, and Kim thought she could see traces of tears in his eyes. “Nobody cares.”

“I do, Steve. You’re my friend, and I don’t want to lose you,” Joseph said softly, moving to place a hand on his shoulder. “I want to help, and I’m not going to leave you alone until you feel better. Come on, and we can talk to Mr. Benson. He can help. I’ll come with you.”

“I don’t know if this will work, man, but… thanks.”

“Anytime.”

What she felt was not a small amount of surprise, and to her amazement, there was also a thrill of motherly pride- pride in this boy whose compassion had saved a life and surprise that the small group of delicate cells growing inside her could do something so important. How might the world be different, she wondered, if all those fetuses had had their chance to save a life, to write a book, to give a speech, to love and give? Kim, wrapped up in the drama in the scene, almost didn’t notice Leah’s smile and whisper: “That was a good one, but I like this one, too.” She clapped.

Joseph’s hair was completely brown now- at least, what little of it Kim could see peeking out from under his graduation cap. His eyes, dancing with joy and tempered with solemnity, looked up and met Kim’s eyes for a moment. Not the eyes of the well-dressed Kim who stood in front of her son to accept roses and a hug from him- No, that woman was different.

She had changed from the Kim who sat in the doctor’s office contemplating whether not to abort a fetus. Yes, she had learned frustration, weariness, and self-sacrifice as only a mother could, but she had also known love, pride, and joy as only a parent could. Her son had changed her. And Kim wanted the change her hypothetical future counterpart had found- she coveted it. A tear rolled down her cheek.

“My son,” she whispered, then a sob escaped her lips. “I want my son. I want to give him a chance- And I need him to give me one.”

Leah squeezed her hand, and whispered, “You still have a chance.” She stared up at Kim, looking sympathetic and far more knowing about matters of life and death than Kim thought any child anywhere should look. Leah clapped her hands.

Kim bolted upright in her bed, breathing hard. She looked around for Leah, but there was no sign of a little girl- just the shadows cast by her curtains, the keepsakes from last summer’s trip to Washington, and the nest of blankets she was tangled in. And- inside of her- the most important thing of all: her son. It had all been a dream, but her choice was made.

She rubbed her stomach, feeling a closer connection to the tiny being inside her than she ever had before. Her choice would mean changing diapers and signing report cards, bandaging scraped knees and washing laundry as dirty as only a little boy can make it. It would not be easy, but it would be worth it. The little one inside her was potential. He was sleepless nights and tears. He was love. He was a human life. He was Joseph.

“I choose you, Joseph,” Kim whispered. “My son. I choose life!”

O0o

He was just as she had seen him in her dream- the blonde down on his tiny skull, the squinted eyes that opened to reveal pale blue slits, the tiny fingers curled into fists.

There was a knock on her door, and a woman poked her head inside the hospital room. “Hello, I’m Victoria. I volunteer here in the maternity ward, making hats for the babies. Can I give you one?” She held up a tiny, knitted blue hat.

“That’s so nice of you,” Kim smiled. “I would love one. Please, come in.”

Victoria tiptoed into the room, unwilling to disturb the baby.  “Oh, he’s precious,” she whispered.

Kim glanced up and was surprised to see tears in the woman’s eyes. Victoria looked up from Joseph’s face and met her eye. “Oh, I’m sorry,” she said faintly, and offered a sad smile that Kim found strangely familiar but couldn’t place. “Your baby is just so beautiful, and this is my first day volunteering here.”

Her voice trembled, and she fumbled in her pocket for a tissue to dab her eyes. “I chose an abortion a few years ago, and I’ve regretted it ever since. That’s why I decided to start coming here to visit new moms- it’s my way of saying I’m sorry to my little girl, if she can see it looking down from heaven.”

At Kim’s confused look, she smiled through her tears. “No, scientifically I don’t know her gender, but I’ve always been sure in my heart that it was a little girl. Each year, I think of her and how old she would have been, what milestones she would have passed…”

Victoria’s voice trailed off, and Kim realized the woman had grey eyes, almost silver, which combined with her tears faintly resembled starlight reflected on a lake. When she smiled again, Kim recognized it.

“My baby would have been seven years old this summer,” Victoria murmured. “I call her Leah.”

Written by Jessica Kleeberger as “A pro-life persuasive Story.”

 

 

A Clash of Kingdoms

lightning

In the aftermath of the 2016 election, we continue to see rioting and violence spread across America. Chants of “not my president” and “not my country” are common. Some of the demonstrations have turned anti-American with the burning of American flags and even deadly as a protest blocking traffic kept an ambulance from getting to a hospital in time to save a man’s life. Regrettably, attacks persist on both sides.

In addition to my initial anger at seeing violence fill our streets, I feel sorrow for the protesters. Their shepherds promised them a greener pasture while failing to warn them of the approaching dark clouds, fierce storms, and certain delays for their hopes.

Although not explicitly talked about or even recognized, the underlying reality in all we see about us is a clash of kingdoms. On the one side is the humanistic gospel that somehow through a powerful and benevolent state we can find the long sought harmony between all peoples, eliminate poverty, and forever preserve the environment.

On the other side is not what you might think. It’s not the call to restore America’s greatness again, but what it represents.

Do you remember God’s response to those who built the tower of Babel? They defiantly sought answers in the unity of mankind apart from the Lord. God, knowing where their rebellion would take them, responded by dividing the world into nationalities and a host of varying cultures, languages, and people groups. God split the world into nations so our hope would reside solely in Him, not in human government or in mankind.

The ultimate clash is God’s kingdom versus globalism. And, the election of Trump represents only a small bump in the road for those seeking the establishment of this coming world order. They already have much in place. . . .

What is Agenda 2030?

You might be tempted to think this talk of a world order is all a conspiracy theory and that perhaps I’ve gone way over the edge. Let me explain why hopes for this future world government are real.

The blueprint for this new world order is called “Agenda 2030” and you can read about it on the UN website. This is not a secret initiative and no effort whatsoever has been made to hide it from us.

The problem lies not in the goals so much as in the methods employed to achieve them, which have always failed in the past on a national level.

Agenda 2030 consists of seventeen “Post -2015 Sustainable Development Goals” with 169 targets to achieve those goals.[i]  On the surface many of these goals, though not all, seem laudable as they seek to “free the human race from the tyranny of poverty,” preserve the environment, and establish worldwide peace. Who wouldn’t want such things? The problem lies in the methods employed to achieve such ends, which have always failed in the past on a national level.

Goal ten makes it clear that this new world government will be socialist, which means that a group of elite rulers will decide upon the distribution of wealth across all nations. This goal is to “reduce inequality within and among nations.” How can this be possible apart from a governing board deciding upon the fair distribution of wealth within and among nations?

The goals of the Agenda 2030 cannot be achieved without enforcement at a high level, a socialistic world order where the elite will dictate the wellbeing of the masses.

Though not all agree with me on this point, many who have studied the goals of Agenda 2030 believe they cannot be implemented apart from a powerful group of the rich controlling the world.

Is America Committed to Agenda 2030?

That’s fine for the UN to have those goals, you might be saying, but do they really affect the United States? Is our country really committed to such a sweeping and fundamental change of the world leading to the elimination of nationalism as we know it? Yes!

The following statement is taken from the Whitehouse website:

2015 is a pivotal year for global development. World leaders gathered in New York today to adopt the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (“2030 Agenda”). The adoption of the 2030 Agenda, which sets out a global development vision and priorities for the next 15 years, captures the hopes and ambitions of people around the globe for meaningful change and progress, including here in the United States. Through the adoption of this historic framework, the United States joins with countries around the world in pledging to leave no one behind by ending extreme poverty and prioritizing policies and investments that have long-term, transformative impact and are sustainable. Under the Obama Administration, the United States has committed and helped mobilize more than $100 billion in new funding from other donors and the private sector to fight poverty in the areas of health, food security, and energy. In the United States, the adoption of the 2030 Agenda coincides with a growing bipartisan consensus on the importance of global development, and direct philanthropic contributions from the American people, who annually provide substantial support for emergency relief and development around the world. . . .[ii]

In his address to the United Nations in 2016, President Barack Obama spoke these words, “I am convinced that in the long run, giving up some freedom of action — not giving up our ability to protect ourselves or pursue our core interests, but binding ourselves to international rules over the long term — enhances our security.” That sounds a lot like Agenda 2030 to me.

The United States is firmly committed to the implementation of the Agenda 2030 goals, which are nothing less than socialism at an international level rather than on a national level. President Obama made it clear that involvement in this new world order means giving up freedoms. In other words, we surrender our individual rights to international law. This is nothing less than socialism packaged under the guise of the “common good.” It always is!

Billionaire George Soros is a leading proponent of this coming world order and speaks openly and often of the need for a worldwide financial system to replace the broken economies of countries such as the United States.[iii]

Many people, including myself, think it’s likely a devastating worldwide financial collapse will be the opportunity to demonstrate the need for such a global economy and hence a worldwide government with real authority beyond what the UN currently possesses.

Will Agenda 2030 Succeed?

Will there ever be such a world order? Will Agenda 2030 succeed?

My answer may surprise you. Yes! It will surely succeed at some point.

Whether in the current form of Agenda 2030 or through some future set of goals, the main objectives of this program will at some point be briefly realized on earth.

Whether in the current form of Agenda 2030 or through some future set of goals, the main objectives of this program will at some future time be briefly realized on earth.

I say this because Scripture foretells the future existence of just such a kingdom. Beginning with the Prophet Daniel in the sixth century BC, the Bible clearly warns that a future world order will at some point overtake the world. Throughout the book he wrote, Daniel prophesied of a kingdom that would envelop the entire world and facilitate the rise to power of someone we refer to today as the antichrist.

The book of Revelation also clearly prophesies of this same coming domain. The global financial system advocated by George Soros is what we see in Revelation 13. Under the leadership of the antichrist, however, it will turn oppressive and deadly. Such a worldwide economic system must already exist by the halfway point of the prophesied seven-year tribulation for this future satanic leader to manipulate in the manner described in Revelation 13.

Jesus’ Kingdom

My hope most definitely does not consist of the vision to “make America great again.” I am not against this sentiment, it’s just that my ultimate expectation rests in the manifestation of a much greater kingdom, one to which I already belong. Colossians 1:13-14 says, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

The Bible teaches that this currently invisible domain will someday crush and destroy the existing world order at Christ’s Second Coming. Daniel pictures the arrival of Jesus’ kingdom as that of a rock demolishing the kingdoms of this world (2:43-45). The prophet also prophesied of the coming of “one like a son of man” who would be given kingdoms and dominions of this world once this final world order is crushed (7:8-14).

Jesus later claimed to be this “one like a son of man” who would crush the domains of the world and setup His everlasting kingdom on earth (Matt. 26:64).

Psalm 2 is just as current today as it was 3,000 years ago when first penned. Verse 1 asks, “Why do the nations rage and the people plot in vain?” This Psalm clearly speaks of the clash of kingdoms we see today. In the end, Jesus receives the kingdoms of this world as His inheritance from the Father.

Earlier, I said that the election of Trump only signifies a small bump in the road to those dreaming of a heavenly paradise on earth with a united humanity. If Hillary had won, I would have regarded the reality of Agenda 2030 as being a step closer.

Even the full implementation of Agenda 2030, however, cannot stop the coming kingdom of my wonderful Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. He is alive. He is coming again just as He promised.

Jesus, the good and true Shepherd, will bring about a kingdom that will far exceed all the dreams that could be possibly imagined by proponents of the new world order. Those who know Jesus will enjoy this paradise on earth and in heaven forever. Those on the left are seeking a temporary paradise that will surely disappoint them in the end.

Now is a time of hope because with each passing day the return of Jesus draws ever so close and with it our final redemption and full realization of our adoption into God’s family (see Rom. 8:18-24).

Does this mean we ignore the wellbeing of those around us until the Christ’s kingdom comes? Heavens no! Only that we do so knowing that lasting peace for the world and the healing of creation only comes with Jesus’ return to earth.

Now is a time of hope because with each passing day the return of Jesus draws ever so close and with it our final redemption and full realization of our adoption into God’s family (see Rom. 8:18-24).

In Jesus alone there is no hate, only love. He died on the cross so that all who believe in Him may have eternal life.

If your trust for eternity is not in Him, please turn to Him before it is too late.

 If you as a believer have your hopes set on the things of this life, please recognize such hopes must be redirected to God’s eternal kingdom and Jesus’ soon return to take us home.

___________________________________________

[i] The goals and targets of Agenda 2030 are posted on the UN website at: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/post2015/transformingourworld

[ii] FACT SHEET: U.S. Global Development Policy and Agenda 2030 on the Whitehouse website at: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/09/27/fact-sheet-us-global-development-policy-and-agenda-2030

[iii] Interview with George Soros: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xf6fWN6KlRI