***For this month’s newsletter I revisited the first Christmas Gracelet from 2009. It speaks on one of my favorite Scriptures during this time of year, or any other season for that matter, that of Isaiah 9:6. I edited a few things and added a few things (surprise, surprise!—long-windedness is a gift that extends to writing as well as preaching!), but the content is basically the same as 8 years ago. No doubt some things have changed for you over these years as well. Some things edited (hopefully becoming more conformed to godliness) and some things added (some joys and some pains, some jubilations and some tribulations); but one thing ALWAYS remains the same, Christ is STILL Savior, Christ is STILL Lord, and Christ is STILL Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, and Everlasting Father! It is my prayer that all who receive this article and your families have the most blessed Christmas Season with a genuine focus on, knowing of, and giving glory to the Savior!***
NOW FROM 2009–Christmas provides us with a veritable smorgasbord of related Scriptures to bless our spiritual lives. All of the Old Testament pointed to the coming of Jesus and all of the New Testament points back to Him, giving revelation of what His coming means and exalting His glory! Some 750 years before the birth of Christ, one of the greatest verses foreshadowing our Lord’s coming was penned by Isaiah the prophet when he said that Jesus’ Name would be called…
WONDERFUL…..Wonderful is a word you use when you run out of words! You know what I mean. When you look at a multicolored sunset in all of its resplendent glory with the background clouds forming a canvas that would make Picasso blush…When you say “I do” to the woman of your dreams and hear those same warm and committed words come out of her mouth as you stand before the presence of your family and friends and God Himself and pledge the rest of your lives to one another…When you hold your newborn baby in your arms and in a moment’s time the hopes from the past, the joys of the present, the expectations of the future, all meet in one miraculous instant…When you know the sinner that you are, you’re convicted of the wrongs you’ve done and know the punishment you deserve, yet on a dark hill called Calvary the sinless Christ suffers in your stead, offering life and liberty to all who believe and bids you to come and simply receive the free gift of saving grace….When you’ve known the Lord for a long time and find yourself failing again, knowing that if it were left up to you you’d have given up on yourself a long time ago, but when you look into the eyes of the One who died once and for all for your salvation, He is still—after all this time–working in you and interceding for you, pressing you towards sanctification with a love that never dies…You could use a lot of adjectives to describe these moments. It could be said that the sun was red and the sky was velvet, the bride was beautiful and the ceremony inspiring, the baby new and the parents joyful, the sinner distraught and the Savior loving, the saint discouraged and the Lord committed; but all of these words would fall far short of describing the full realities of the moment…that’s when you use the word WONDERFUL!!!…And WONDERFUL is the word to use when speaking of Jesus, for no amount of eloquence will ever convey the full scope of who He is! Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! (2 Corinthians 9:15)
COUNSELOR…..For good or for ill, we live in a day wrought with counselors. Much of the money spent in the medical field today is in areas that have little or nothing to do with physical ailments, but with psychological ones. Yet, for all of the money and all of the research and all of the books and all of the professionals and all of the talk shows, our society sure does not seem to be approaching wholeness and tranquility. In fact, it only takes a 30 minute perusal of the news on a given day to discover that our current cultural ills, emotional breakdowns, and moral upheavals place our world in an ever increasing tumultuous state. Perhaps much of modern day psychology could be summed up in the words of Woody Allen who, when asked about the effectiveness of his multiple counseling sessions, said “None of my problems have been solved, I just understand them a whole lot better.” Now, I don’t mean to imply that counseling has nothing to offer, I simply believe that any area of life that leaves Christ out is one that at best approaches knowledge, but will always lack true wisdom. The Counselor that we have as believers is One who can not only help us understand our problems, but has made a way for them to be solved.
When you need direction, your Counselor is always approachable. When you need advice, He’s given you the grandest book of wisdom ever written! A wisdom that is considered foolishness to this world, but is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe! (1 Corinthians 1:21-31)
MIGHTY GOD…..One of the charges most often leveled against Christians by unbelievers is that they are so weak-minded and feeble kneed that they have to use ‘God’ for their crutch. I have oft replied that they are giving me far too much credit; I’m so weak I need God to be my legs, a simple support to who I was apart from Jesus would not be enough to carry me through! Truth be told we all need God to be our legs; for apart from Him we can do nothing (John 15:5). Life is tough. No man or woman alive has the constitution necessary to bear up under the storms of tragedy, the tides of disappointments, the shame of failure, the hurt of betrayal, and the list goes on and on. The old children’s song had it right, “we are weak, but He is strong.” He is the God who tells His own the truth that we will have tribulations in this world, but goes on to declare that we need not fear; for He, our Savior, our Lord, the one true and living God, indeed, the MIGHTY GOD, has overcome the world! (John 16:33)
EVERLASTING FATHER…..Being a dad is one of the most awesome responsibilities that any one could ever have. Many times, indeed most times, I feel so inadequate to the task. I wonder if I’m doing the right things, making the right decisions, saying ‘no’ at the right times, saying ‘yes’ at the right times, and a million and one other things that keep me praying and going to bed at night pondering if I’ve done enough and done right enough for my boy that day. Some days I get it right; some days I get it wrong. But one thing, by God’s grace, my boy will never have to worry about, is if his father is going to be there. I realize the day will come when he will leave our home to make one of his own. I know the day may come when I will be the one needing his care. I realize that, should the Lord tarry, one day I will leave this world and he will be the patriarch of the family. However, while he may grow out of the need for my provision and outlive the span of my days, he will never outgrow the depth of my care or the scope of my love. If that’s my heart’s desire being an earthly father, how much more is God’s love for us. We will always need Him, and He will always be there! And, by the way, He always gets it right too! (see Matthew 7:11)
PRINCE OF PEACE….We recently had a retro day at the public school where I teach. The normal dress code was set aside for those who chose to attire themselves according to a theme from decades past. There were some 70’s disco maniacs and some 80’s punk rockers, but by far the teachers as well as the students chose to imitate the stylings of the 60’s (yours truly excluded of course!). ‘Peace’ signs were on jeans and multicolored shirts and hats and mock protest signs. I wasn’t around for that decade (being 29 and all!!), but I have studied it and it seems to me that very little peace was brought about then or has come to be since. I’ve heard pontificating politicians proliferate pious platitudes promising peace for as long as I’ve been alive, yet still there is no peace. I’ve seen community leaders command an audience on the local news saying that if we just come together then there will be an end to the violence, that there will be peace, yet still there is no peace. I’ve watched as even clergy of various stripes espouse the views that there is no distinction amongst religions and that as long as we are all people of faith of some sort then there will be peace, yet still there is no peace. Nor shall there ever truly be peace, a genuine peace, a lasting peace, until we trust in the Prince of Peace, Who can only be the Lord Jesus Christ alone! Only He can bring peace and wholeness to an individual, and thus subsequently to a world in such turmoil. May we seek to know Him, and to make Him known! May we all remember the truth in the old cliché, Jesus is the Reason for the Season! And may we remember who He is; WONDERFUL, COUNSELOR, THE MIGHTY GOD, THE EVERLASTING FATHER, AND THE PRINCE OF PEACE! (Isaiah 9:6)