In Times Such As These

There are those of us that look at the world these days and lament for how far bad things are. We talk of how corrupt the government has become. We speak of how the world is becoming more and more hostile towards Christian ideals, of how far the morals of society has fallen. We talk of how the world groans for the return of Jesus. We pray and shout, “Come now, Jesus!” We wish to be saved form the wicked world, and to leave it to the prideful and arrogant non-believers. What a time we should be living that the world seems to be turning on those with a Biblical world view!

However, I think we should consider a different view. I still say that the Christians in the West are still blessed. The Christians in the East are martyred daily. They are persecuted for their faith. And in the midst of their suffering they praise God and they weep for joy because they are considered worthy to suffer for Christ. If only we in the West, who have no such barriers to hinder us, were to act with the same passion as our brothers and sisters in the East. In stead, we squabble over minor things. We let the divisions of the Church define our faith. We should let the Bible define our faith, and stop putting so much emphasis on our labels. We shouldn’t just be Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, and so one. We should remember that we are one with Christ and all a part of the same body.

I, like many others, do not like the way things are becoming in the U.S. More and more, we are seeing where a person is told they must set aside their personal beliefs when they are in conflict with the PC standards. It is unfortunate that Christianity is looked so negatively. Yet we should not be surprised by these things. We are told by Jesus Christ that the world would hate us, because they first hated Him. The Bible tells us that things will get worse before the return of Jesus. Should we hunker down and hide ourselves from the world and pray that He hasten His return? I say no!

While an ideal society that looks kindly to Biblical ideals would be nice, we as Christians over time have squandered such a blessing. I believe the Church in the U.S. as a whole became lackadaisical over the many years we thought we were a Christian nation. Now society is continually turning away from Christianity. I heard it put this way once; we don’t need to live in Mayberry to be Christians. While it would be nice, that’s just not the case. However, we can still be Christians if we lived in pagan Rome. That’s just what the early Church had to do, and it thrived.

What are we to do in such times? I say we take advantage of our current blessings. We think of ourselves as living in ever-darkening times. I say, what better place and time is there for Christians to be? We are to be the light of the world and the salt of the Earth. It is a privilege to be a Christian in such darkening times. What and opportunity we have to reach the lost! The lost, the non-believer, those with hostile attitudes to Christianity, they are all around us. That simplifies things! Now we can witness in any “direction” and the Word will be heard! I consider it a privilege to be a Christian in the here and now. In times such as this, I wish I had even half the boldness of Paul. In times such as this we need to pray to Jesus that the world needs Him to return, that all of creation groans for it; but please wait just a little longer. Perhaps one more day, or more if You will it, lest another soul can be saved in the precious time given.

Consider these things. Ponder over what it means to live in such times as a Christian. Look at your sphere of influence in this ever-darkening world. How can you serve God in such times and witness to others?

I leave you to your thoughts.  God bless.

-JCH

Merry Christmas

Christmas is fast approaching and the season will be over before we know it.  In thinking about the season, something weighs on me as it seems to do every year.  It is the ever growing argument of “Happy Holidays” versus “Merry Christmas.”

Before I begin, I would like to say up front that I am all for saying “Merry Christmas” as much as any Christian.  I would rather say “Merry Christmas.”  I’d rather hear “Merry Christmas” when out in public.  I don’t like that “Merry Christmas” is being replaced more and more with “Happy Holidays.”  But let’s take a look at this argument for argument’s sake.

First off, why is it an issue?  Many Christians would claim that this is a Christian nation, and that Christmas is a Christian holiday.  While this nation may have been founded upon Christian values, I challenge the saying that this is a Christian nation.  I call anyone who says this to be very honest with themselves.  Look around.  What do you see going on in society?  Christ said that we would know His followers by how they loved each other.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t see that everywhere I look.    I see it in some places, and it warms my heart.  But what I do see is a society that is driven by entertainment.  And I see entertainment that is over sexualized in every corner of the industry.  People are praised at how much they can drink.  In movies and tv shows and books, the criminal is made into the hero and the authorities are the villains.  I’m not talking about Robin Hood here, I’m referring to drug dealers and biker gangs and so forth.  No.  Sadly, when I look at our nation, I do not see a Christian one.  I see a pagan one, driven by the sensual pleasures of the here and now.

We will bypass the common argument that Christmas was built on a pagan holiday.  I acknowledge the events that led to December 25th being selected as Christmas day.  But Christ is known to not have been born on December 25th.  Big deal.  For those that want to stick by the whole “pagan” argument, I point you to the passages in the Bible where Christians are allowed to buy and eat meat that had been dedicated to pagan gods.  (1 Corinthians 8:1-10)

Now concerning food offered to idols:we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.
Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” For although there may be so- called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.
However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.

So the whole pagan argument is neither here nor there.  If we are convicted in our hearts that we are worshiping God and bringing glory to Him, then whose to say that it is all wrong?  If you are convicted not to celebrate Christmas because of any seemly pagan origins, then by all means, don’t celebrate Christmas.  If you simply don’t believe in God or the birth of Jesus Christ, then why do you care?

With that aside, we as Christians are not called to celebrate any day as near as I can tell.  The closest thing to be found in the Bible around this day is the Jewish Festival of Lights, which we better know as Hanukah.  So this would be the only Biblically legitimate claim to the season.  But that’s beside the point I will be getting at.

So Hanukah and Christmas, in my eyes, are the only real holidays in the season.  While I acknowledge that other groups have days that they celebrate this time of year, you must understand that I don’t believe what they do and therefore do not hold their holidays in any esteem.  I do however, accept their right to celebrate a day however they wish without any harassment on my part.  If they wish to reject God and the idea why Christmas is celebrated, I accept their freedom to do so.  That’s no worse than me not recognizing their holiday.  It’s all the same really.  Which is what real tolerance is; disagreeing yet accepting the other’s right to believe what they will.

This finally brings me to the actual act of saying “Merry Christmas” versus “Happy Holidays.”  In light of all of the above, there are clearly many who do not respect Christmas, or recognize it as it should be recognized.  So I must ask myself, do I really want people to say “Merry Christmas” to me and not mean it?   No.  I’d rather someone be genuine about what they say.  I don’t want a half hearted “Merry Christmas.”  I don’t want them to say it because they have to.  If they’re genuinely wishing me a “Happy Holidays,” I’d rather have that.  At least it’s honest if nothing else.  That doesn’t mean I have to say “Happy Holidays” and sacrifice my own feelings.  That doesn’t mean I have to wish a good holiday to a belief that I don’t believe to be true.  But I can still be respectful about it.

This may seem callous at a glance, but is it really?  I’m not calling anyone any names.  I’m not telling anyone what they have to say to me or others.  What I’m simply asking is for genuineness.  If that means telling me “Happy Holidays,” so be it.  If that means you’d rather tell me to “shove off,”  that’s okay too.  I’d rather have your honesty.

To the Christians out there, why do we celebrate Christmas anyway?  Is it because we have an excuse to shopping and buy all kinds of stuff we don’t need?  Is it about snowmen and Santa Claus and decorations?  No and no.  Christmas is about God sending Jesus Christ to Earth to set in motion His plan for the redemption of mankind.  It’s about God’s selfless gift to us, while we didn’t deserve it. We commemorate this in many different ways, but I hope that the meaning is not lost on those who celebrate Christmas.  And as Christians, should we force a saying on others to commemorate God’s gift?  Shall we badger everyone for not believing exactly the way we do?  Or would it be better to simply share God’s love and the message of Jesus Christ, and minister to others even when they don’t believe.  Perhaps this love will bring them around to believing as we do.  If they choose not to believe, are we to berate them and belittle them?  What did Jesus tell the disciples that he sent out in twos to do if a village did not receive them?  Burn it to the ground?  Cleanse the village of unbelief?  Nope.  He told them to dust the sand from their sandals and move on to the next village.  Some people will hate us no matter what we do or say.  Jesus told us as much.  So I challenge you to share the love of Christ this season, and give selflessly.  If you are met with opposition, ‘dust the sand from your sandals’ and move on.  Is forcing a person to say “Merry Christmas” when they don’t believe it really capturing the meaning of the season?  In my humble opinion, I don’t think it does.  They don’t need to say “Merry Christmas,”  they need to hear the words of Jesus Christ.  So as God sent Jesus for mankind, let us also celebrate Christmas in like manner with an unbelieving world.  Let us bring Jesus to them and show them who He is, in stead of making them say a few select words to appease us.  For if they come to believe, they will freely say “Merry Christmas” without being coerced.

With all that said, I would genuinely like to wish you a Merry Christmas!  If that doesn’t do anything for you, I simply wish you a good day.  And to all, I wish a Happy New Year!  God Bless.

-JCH

The Road To The Kingdom

Since I have not prepared anything for the site yet, I decided to share a piece that I wrote a while back and never really did anything with.  The Road To The Kingdom  was inspired by the work of John Bunyan and his work, Pilgrim’s Progress.  I liked the style he used in that story and endeavored to do something similar here.  It also reflects the internal struggle that I have faced, still face, and will likely face in the future.

The Road To The Kingdom

By the light of the Kingdom I go. By the Light of the Kingdom I see the road. I travel the road towards the village of Forgiveness, which I must pass through on the way to the Kingdom. Forgiveness is a pleasant village with warm meals and comfy beds, waiting to receive the weary traveler. But the way is perilous an fraught with danger. In the shadows lurk unspeakable things.

On this road, as I made my way to Forgiveness, I was delayed by servants of the dark one. I rounded a bend and just around the turn stood a thief blocking my way. His name was Bitterness, for he would steal my joy if I so allowed it. But the instead of yielding, I drew my sword; as I travel armed. A kingly blade as it was, I forced Bitterness off the road, and I attempted to move onward. But out of the shadows leapt a murderer. His name was Hatred, who kills one’s lobe and stills their heart as if it were stone. I turned about to parry his thrust. Engaged in battle as we were, Bitterness crept closer to attack while my back was turned. For a brief moment, I had disarmed Hatred and turned to Bitterness before he could harm me. Bitterness fled into the shadows. With my attention focused elsewhere, Hatred re-armed himself and attacked with renewed vigor. I was almost caught off guard. As I defended myself from Hatred, Bitterness again attacked form the shadows he had retreated to.

Back and forth we went, with no gained ground for either party. For how long we fought I don’t rightly know. Fearsome foes as they were, they might have subdued me in time. As I grew weary of the fight, and weakened to the edge of exhaustion, they only became stronger. I would not surrender to them. They would kill me before I lay down my arms and allow them to steal my joy or turn my heart to stone. I slowed, and almost failed to block a deadly strike. I had, for a brief moment, lowered my guard.

As my defense began to falter a great warrior riding a white steed came to my rescue. his armor seemed to reflect the sun in all directions. His sword was fast, and there was no fault to be found in His skill with the blade. I knew who this was. He was the patron champion of the village of Forgiveness, and the Lord of the Kingdom Himself. And there He was, fending off my assailants in my moment of need. With no hope of victory, my aggressors fled in to the darkness form which they came.

From there, my Lord and King personally escorted me towards my destination. His armor not ever losing its shine. Together we traveled on the road to the Kingdom, by the Light of the Kingdom, by the way of Forgiveness. In time, I found myself standing at the gate of mercy, which invited travelers into Forgiveness. I looked in, but thought back to the road. In a way, I was still fighting the two foes.

I could still hear the steal on steal, ringing in my ears. In hindsight, I saw many attacks aimed at my heart that should have ended me. By all rights, I should have died on that road. Then I recalled something peculiar. Many well-aimed strike by my foes were blocked, but not by my blade. I pondered this some more. As I relived the attack in my mind, I saw not two attacking one, but two defending against two. There was no mistaking the fourth party. My Lord and King had beneath me the entire time. But so immersed in the fight as I was, I had not noticed my Savior until He went on the offensive and drove the two away. How foolish of me to think I had withstood such an attack for these powerful battle-hardened enemies on my own.

I looked down at my attire; muddied and worn by the open road. A warm breeze blew through the streets of Forgiveness. The aromas of warm bread and other delectable meals filled my nostrils. “Come. Feast with Me in the village.” I looked up to my King to find Him smiling down at me. I smiled and looked through the gate of mercy again. I stepped through, at last in the safe walls of Forgiveness. Tonight I will rest well.

But I still remember. In my mind I still go back to that fight with Bitterness, who would steal my joy; and Hatred, who would kill my love and turn my heart to stone. I remember the cold look in their eyes. I remember the fierceness of their attacks. I remember the relentless efforts to subdue me. But what I remembered most, is my Lord and King who was there for me when my guard was down. And I will never forget how He traveled with me on the road to the Kingdom, by the Light of the Kingdom, by the way of Forgiveness.

I hope you enjoyed this piece.  Please check back again later for more posts.  God Bless.

-JCH

Welcome To My Site

Good day to whomever may be reading this!  Welcome to my new site.  I’m new to this, so bear with me as I learn the ropes to managing a blog site.  I am looking forward to writing a little more , and doing so on a broader platform than I’m used to.  I am also hoping to hone my writing a bit, as it has been ‘hit and miss’ lately.

So please check back later.  I hope to have some posts coming soon.  In the meantime, take a look around my site.  If you have any thoughts or suggestions, I would be glad to hear them.

-JCH