Thursday, December 22, 2011

Keeping Christ in Christmas: A "Cross-less" Christmas is a "Christ-less" Christmas

Anybody notice the Christmas decorations out there at the end of November already?? Store circulars are out in full force with the familiar holiday merchandise. You can see, "For Every Wish" signs in the big stores instead of "Merry Christmas" and even Winnie the Pooh and Tigger standing with Santa these days in displays. Anyone also notice less and less angels and nativity scenes? Even less of "Christmas" trees because now they're called "holiday" trees. Just like happy holidays instead of "Merry Christmas." It is the most wonderful time of the year. No doubt, the most universally festive occasion in the entire world. The post offices throughout the nations gain special attention during this time as mail and gifts are transported to millions of recipients in a flurry of activity everywhere. Most people would like to be home but some like the military cannot. Special tokens of affection are sent to them and others in a similar situation who are, "out of station", as they say. The atmosphere is absorbed with a general pause on the realities of life and death and replaced with a tremendous emphasis instead on a fantasy world. Entertainment and plenty of seasonal refreshments are necessary staples, without which Christmas would not be the same.
For the believer, it is even more wonderful. Christmas cheer to us is supposed to be something genuine and lasting. We know our, "Reason for the season" and so our celebration has depth and breadth and height etc. because it is the love of God that sent the Lord Jesus Christ to earth as a baby born in a manger. Wouldn't it also be a good time to do some soul searching this year? Perhaps, it is time for a truly, spiritual look at our whole approach to the season. What if we humbly yield to the Holy Spirit and ask Him to weigh our hearts and correct any misconceptions and wrong attitudes or sinful actions that may have been routinely entertained in our hearts and minds during the past Christmas celebrations?
We may have been brought up with just the celebration part (and the associated preparations) in mind during Christmas. Even in the church, this may be common as everyone gets ready to stage that musical or banquet. Christmas can be a joyful time for all believers and it should be, but perhaps another angle to it is there that has not been considered by most. The leap from the status quo of nominal Christian celebrations during Christmas to a deep, soul cleansing experience of lasting joy for the mature believer can be found at the Cross of Christmas. May it be something that will touch your soul as you read the following paragraphs. It will make your Christmas that much more meaningful and joyful.
Please know this: because the Cross is not remembered as it should be at Christmas, (which is the reason why He came in the first place), the world has been given the space and necessary ammunition it has required to steadily take Christ out of Christmas. Instead of God and His Christ being honored, everything but Jesus is recognized and idolized. Many Christians are faithful patrons of Christ-hating merchants and businesses who make it a point to take Christ out of Christ and who have no doubt that their merchandise will sell to so-called believers because the nominal believers do not really care about whether the Christ in Christmas should remain there. But then again, without the Cross, what kind of Christ is one left with anyway?
Sadly, for many nominal believers and even good church going people, Christmas is about getting those gifts stored up for the grand day which is more important than defending the honor of the One Who gave us Christmas in the first place. One can get so caught up in the festivities, decorations etc., that in actuality, the Jesus of the Bible is nowhere to be found in their Christmas celebrations.
Christmas shopping, music, concerts, dinner, parties, laughter, good times, gifts all topped off with a security measure: prayer! A Christmas prayer to, calm or anaesthetize the conscience. Usually, among most church goers, Jesus is given a lot of lip service but He does not have any say in their lives at all! This is the season to be jolly! But they want to celebrate Christmas. A few sentimental holiday carols and some charitable deeds perhaps. Yet, truth be told, they are self-centered, frivolous, busy-bodied, worldlings who have their eyes fastened on this material world after all with no real affection for things above. The fact that prayer was made is supposed to make it Christian. Think worldly, act worldly but have a Christmas prayer and perhaps some Bible reading or a sermon in the church. To such nominal folk the cross of Christ is distasteful and repulsive. In all honesty, dear reader, does this describe you?
Talk about the Cross at Christmas time, one may ask? Now, who would ever opt to think about the crucifixion of Jesus Christ at Christmas? Indeed, it is a rare thing for anyone to think about the Cross of Calvary at Christmas time. Yet, the Truth is that the two are inseparable.
A true Christian will always follow Jesus as He reveals Himself in His Word. However, the majority of those who call themselves Christians are fond of the world. Therefore, the majority must never be the Christian's guide. It is readily understood by at least some professing believers that the majority in the world are in gross error doing as they please as they use the Name of the Lord God in vain with mock manger scenes and sentimental carols because they do not believe in His Name to begin with. However, let it not surprise the person who would follow the Lord and inherit eternal life to know that the majority in the visible church are also following a Christ child of their own making reveling in the vanities of the season, arm in arm with the world.
The Christ child was formed in the womb of the virgin girl in order to die for the sins of the world. To minimize this Truth or to ignore it at Christmas would be meaningless. While we do not celebrate Easter at Christmas, nevertheless we cannot deny the atonement and the resurrection at Christmas. The conspicuous absence of a reverent and holy approach to the season celebrating the birth of the King of kings and Lord of lords is due to the glaring fact that the Cross of Christ is not central to the life of so-called believers.
In fact, the Christmas story presented by the inspired writers has more of the Cross than many would think or may wish to acknowledge. Listen to what the Scriptures say during that very first Christmas season:
"And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins." Matthew 1:21
And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. And there was Anna, a prophetess, daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher, she was much advanced in days, having lived with an husband seven years from her virginity, and she [is] a widow of about eighty-four years, who did depart not from the temple, with fasts and supplications serving, and she, at that hour, having come in, was confessing, likewise, to the Lord, and was speaking concerning him, to all those looking for redemption in Jerusalem. night and day Luke 2:34-38

Here is another passage that is usually read around this time:
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this. Isa 9:6 -7

The peace which the Prince of Peace in this "Christmas passage" is revealed to be the peace that was purchased by the Blood of His Cross:
"And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself " Colossians 1:20
Now let's see how this child grew up and the whole reason why He was born into this world:
For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.
He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.
He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.
And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.
Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Isaiah 53:2 -11

Dear friends, please set apart some time to deliberately think about the cross and what it meant for the Christ Child who was destined to die for our sins and what it means to you and it will surely revive your soul and give real meaning to your celebration of His birth this Christmas season.

O Lord, thank You for Your Mercies toward us in sending Your Beloved Son Jesus Christ to be born into the lowest estate amongst animals, to walk in the midst of a hateful, selfish, sin-loving society, and to die on a horrible cross for sinful people like us, so that we can be freed from a masquerading lifestyle that calls itself Christian, while in truth it actually seeks to court the world's favor and idolize the passing vanities of this life.
Help us, dear Father to glorify only You from now on as we truly ought, by approaching Christmas with a childlike wonder coupled with spiritual maturity in wisdom and adoration. May this year mark for us a permanent departure from a worldly attitude towards Christmas. Help us to become spiritually mature by meditating on the Cross of Christ which was set up for our redemption from the foundation of the world.
Yes, Lord, by Your grace, may we worship You in holy reverence, gratitude, and complete surrender to Your Will in our lives this Christmas season. Help us to know the Eternal Joy that is ours now, through the suffering of our Loving Savior, Jesus Christ on our behalf on the Cross. In His Name we thank You, Amen.

Have a Blessed, Christ-centered Christmas!

Written By: Bro. Pradeep Stephen, New York, USA.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Andrew Murray

This is a biography of an amazing Christian writer, dynamic preacher, and a missionary statesman of the 19th century. The highlights of this write-up on the life history of Murray are "Revival" and "Work of the Holy Spirit."

Andrew Murray hailed from a remote Dutch-Reformed Village, Graff Reinet in South Africa. He was born on May 9, 1828, as the second of the 11 children of Rev. Andrew Murray Sr. and Maria Murray. Rev. Andrew Murray Sr. was pastoring a Dutch-Reformed Church. He was a man of prayer and was constantly praying for revival in his country. Young Murray’s life was influenced greatly by his father’s prayer life and by other great men of men of God such as David Livingstone and Robert Moffat.
Andrew Murray completed his formal studies in Scotland and his further studies in Theology and Dutch language in Holland. He returned to South Africa after being ordained at The Hague. Andrew Murray was just 20 years of age when he started preaching the Word of God. He rode on his horse for miles and days and conducted meetings for the Dutch-Speaking South African Farmers. His dynamic preaching about Christ Jesus often attracted a huge multitude of people. However, at one point, he was so desperate that he said, “when I look at my people, my peace forsakes me. I am forced to flee to the Master to seek a new and a more entire surrender to His work. My prayer is for service, but I am held back by the increasing sense of my own unfitness for the work. I lament that awful pride and self-complacency that have till now ruled in my heart. O that I may be more and more a minister of the Spirit.”
God took him through a path wherein Andrew fought against his pride and understood the greatness of humility. This enabled him to produce a masterpiece on ‘Humility’. Andrew Murray writes in his book, “The deepest humility is the secret of truest happiness - a joy that nothing can destroy.”
In his book called “Absolute Surrender”, Murray gives a beautiful illustration on just what absolute surrender means. “God claims absolute surrender from us. It means everything has to be given up to its special, definite object and service. Pen in my hand must be absolutely surrendered to my hand if I am to write properly with it. If another holds it partly, I cannot write properly. God cannot work His blessed work in us without absolute surrender from our behalf. If our hearts are willing for absolute surrender there is no end to what God will do for us and to the blessing God will bestow.’’ Later, Andrew recalled the lessons God had taught him as follow: “If only we did not so often hinder Him with our much trying to serve, how surely and mightily would He accomplish His work of renewing souls unto the likeness of Jesus Christ.”
Andrew Murray was a multifaceted man of God. He was not only a preacher, pastor, and writer but also a missionary statesman. Andrew Murray was invited to speak in the Keswick Convention in 1895 and he was responsible for bringing this movement to South Africa. These conventions enabled people to progress in holiness, faith, and prayer. These conventions are considered to be the best place for recruiting the missionaries. He also wrote, “The Key to the Missionary Problem.’’ This book emphasizes more fervent prayer and fresh dedication for the cause of the missions.
Andrew Murray was a prolific writer who continued to write until he crossed over into glory in 1917. He has written more than 240 books and most of his writings were focused on sanctification and edification of the believers. Originally, his books were written in Dutch, later they were translated into English and various other languages. Andrew Murray’s life and writings have touched the lives of the Christians across the globe. His books such as, With Christ in the School of Prayer, Abide in Christ, The Deeper Christian Life, and Absolute Surrender have been found to have great impact on the prayer life and the ministry of the readers. Andrew Murray has greatly blessed the Christendom with the richness of his spiritual wisdom and his ability to perceive and to cater to the needs of God’s people.
All his life Murray had been working and praying for revival in South Africa, but he did not understand when the actual outpouring took place in his own church. He realized it after being convicted by the Holy Spirit that it was the work of the Spirit.
We Christians are called to move into deeper experiences in Christ Jesus.
In Luke 5:4-6 we read, “Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, ‘Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.’ And Simon answering said unto him, ‘Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.’ And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake.” Here we see the fruitless efforts of Simon Peter and when he goes deeper with Jesus and casts his net as per Jesus’ direction, he is able to obtain a splendid fortune and much happiness. Our Lord Jesus Christ wants us to go to the depths of the fullness of the Holy Spirit and not just knee deep, but to be inundated in the River of God and be led by the current of the Holy Waters to bring forth revival in our house, locality, and nation.

Fixed ideas, preconceived notions, and certain convictions will sometimes hinder the working of the Holy Spirit, but discerning things with the help of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God will keep us cautious about new doctrines that crop up everyday in these last days as well pave way for a true revival.

God bless you as you yield to go into deeper waters to be led by the Spirit of the Living God!!

Written By: Shanta Daniel
[Copyright@ Permission is granted to duplicate this article in its entirety, but only without additions, alterations or omissions of any kind, including the author and ministry name at the end]

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