Posted tagged ‘Christ’

Longing for a Silent Night

December 15, 2017

by Dr. Steven J. Callis

I love to sing the carol, though I am uncertain as to the accuracy of the title.  Nothing about the night itself was holy; except that God chose that time to enter the world with the ultimate solution to the sin and degradation that had disrupted the peace it was created to enjoy.  He brought holy to the ordinary.  The real questionable word in the title is that first word: Silent.

First, Scripture tells us that the town of Bethlehem was filled to overflowing with people.  It was toe-to-heal traffic walking through the marketplace.  There were no vacancies to be found in any of the hotels.  Crowds of people scurrying here and there will make noise!

Add to that the reason they were there in the first place.  As we might imagine, many people were disgruntled at the necessity of travel and a government-mandated enrollment.  Rome was the political center of the world at that time, and the ‘census’ was ordered, in part, to force universal allegiance to Emperor Augustus.  People traveled long distances to fulfill this decree; a pleasure trip it was not.

Mary and Joseph found a resting place in a dwelling meant for animals.  Animals are sometimes noisy, and often smelly.  This certainly was not the ideal atmosphere for bringing a baby into the world.  Further, most of our Christmas hymns highlight the role of the angels announcing the birth of the Christ; at one point, a multitude of angels, singing loud and strong in grand celebration.

No, God probably did not enter the world on a silent night.  In fact, it makes more sense that the One bringing peace to the world would do so at a time when peace was absent.  He came to a world in need of something it could not find or produce on its own.

People who are famous in the public eye have lived under the proverbial microscope for centuries, so it is nothing new.  With the significant and rapid development of our technological world, however, I cannot remember in my lifetime when nearly every action and every statement made by influential people – including those on both sides of the political aisle – is judged, criticized, and protested in a public, widespread forum.  Our society has become more selfish, spoiled, and vocal when they are not rewarded, which leads to a divided, restless, frustrated nation.  We are in a mess, and levels of tolerance are quickly diminishing.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow voiced our perplexity in the third stanza of his poem, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day:  “And in despair I bowed my head.  ‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said, ‘for hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men.’ ”

But the next stanza rings out with hope, “Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; the wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, good will to men.”

No, our world is not silent.  It is still a dark place much of the time.  There is sadness, fear, pain, and loneliness.  Just as God’s pure love could shine brightly on that first Christmas night, so He continues to come into our darkness, bringing peace and joy for all people.  No matter who you are, or where you have been, or what you have done, God’s redeeming grace is available for you.  Jesus, our Savior, the Prince of Peace, is born.

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Playing the Part

July 18, 2017
JUST THINKING:  It is fun to temporarily assume a new identity or culture, like we do for our Cowboy Chowdown, and entering Medieval times like we are this week  At VBS (Over the Moat).  We dress the part, assume the vernacular, and step into character for a short time.  Then we return to our true nature and character, feeling much more comfortable at home.
Jesus left His heavenly throne and all that made Him ‘God,” took on the form of a servant in humility, and for a brief time walked this earth as a human being.  He dressed the part, assumed our vernacular, and made Himself nothing for a short time.  In fact, while in character He laid down His life for you and me; and it was effective because the one characteristic He did not assume UNTIL HE HUNG ON THE CROSS was sin, and even then it was ours, not His.  The spotless One became our sacrifice.
THANKS BE TO GOD FOR HIS INDESCRIBIBLE GIFT.

My Source of Hope

July 30, 2015

By Dr. Steven J. Callis

In our challenging English language, some people confuse hope with wishful thinking. For example, “I hope the Braves win a spot in the playoffs.” Because hope is a genuine trust or expectation, the use of the term in that example only expresses a wish.

True hope means that we trust our life, present and future, to an object or person. I like sports, and I root for the Braves, but my life and future do not depend on their making the playoffs. I “hope” they do; I “wish” they would, but I have not staked my life on their success.

Among the list of those who have spoken or written on the significance of hope, Thomas Pettepiece wrote, “When there is no hope, there is no life. Without hope we give up – – we lose our will to fight, to trust, to live.” So, it is appropriate that each of us evaluate the source of our hope today.

The trend of our nation these days is to demand personal rights regardless of how it affects others, and to make such demands on the premise of political correctness. These challenges, some recent and others longstanding, may cause us to wonder if there are any existing values that are off limits to special-interest groups and political agendas. Some citizens would claim that even the Constitution itself is being ignored for the sake of personal and political interests.

Are there no traditions valuable enough to save? Are there no absolutes on which we can depend anymore? Can we survive on the philosophy that something is right or correct only when approved by my own selfish, personal standards?

Pettepiece proposed that we cannot hope in ourselves, our technology, our government, our laws, our tenacity, our courage, or our will, though these things are all necessary to conquer today’s woes and provide justice. Our only hope, he declares, is in God alone.

For those of us who agree with him, our hope has come under serious attack over recent months, even years. As the challenges become more frequent and broader in scope, it could be that we lose sight of the Source of our hope, and then hope wanes, as does our will to fight and trust.

Edward Albert Day once wrote of God, “There is nothing that at any time diminishes His perfections, dilutes His redemptive powers…God is always God.”

Who or what is the source of your hope today? What drives you to awaken each morning and face your day with confidence and purpose? The Psalmist proclaimed, “I lift my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, Maker of heaven and earth.” God is always God, and you can trust in Him.

For Whom the Bell Tolls: a change of heart

June 30, 2015

By Dr. Steven J. Callis

On Father’s Day last week my wife and I attended a church service in South Carolina.  It was a well-orchestrated time of praise and worship that included a celebration of fatherhood and manhood, yet without demeaning the significance of the “fairer” gender.

Uniquely, the service began with a video of a man playing an acoustic guitar, singing from what appeared to be a living room or office.  The song was unfamiliar to me, and I realized the reason as the lyrics unfolded.  They were freshly written to honor the victims of the tragic Bible study shooting in Charleston earlier in the week, and to encourage the families and friends of those who died, as well as all who walk in the faith.  The theme that spoke to my heart was that evil will not triumph where God’s love abounds.

The pastor stood at the conclusion of the song and explained that churches all across South Carolina were ringing their church bells that morning with nine chimes to represent those who were killed in the Bible study shooting.  He called the congregation to prayer and amid the silence clanged the bell nine times in slow, deliberate fashion, and then led us in a prayer for everyone whose lives are impacted by this event.

One would not expect such a somber beginning to fit with the traditional Father’s Day elements of a church service, but I was impressed at the way it all seemed to flow so smoothly and naturally, obviously anointed by divine intention.

Later in the day I saw news coverage of churches in Charleston ringing their bells and gathering for worship.  I appreciated the sentiment, but confess that seeing news reports could not begin to express the spirit of those moments.  In that atmosphere, in those moments, the tragedy became more personal to me than it had earlier in the week.  With each chime echoing across the sanctuary, and reverberating in my heart and mind, I was deeply moved with a mixture of sorrow and celebration; acknowledging the sadness and loss, yet knowing that God would use the crisis for His glory and for the strengthening of the faith community.

The example of wisdom and grace with which the church and its community responded to this act of evil in their midst is a model for our nation, from individual communities and people groups to the high-ranking government officials and group leaders who saw this as another opportunity to win political points rather than offer support for healing.  We witnessed members of various faiths, races, people groups, and political parties come together in Charleston for mutual edification and comfort.  They genuinely cared about each other, and they came with only one agenda: harmoniously seeking God.

If our god is politics, or personal rights, or economic gain – if our god is anything or anyone other than the one true God of Abraham, the One who was and who is and who is to come, The Almighty, then such unity and harmony will never come about.  The writing of new laws or the taking away of freedoms and rights will not cure racism or any other such ills of our culture.  It must come from the heart, not from legislation.

What we witnessed in Charleston is the re-enactment of the love of God through His only Son, portrayed by individuals who have personally experienced the measure of God’s grace and mercy, and who, therefore, cannot help but reciprocate that grace to others.  From the highest official to the common citizen, we each must make this a matter of the heart, for evil will not triumph where the love of God abounds.