Merry Christmas


Christmas is a wonderful time of year, celebrating a wonderful story, wise men following a star, gifts from afar, and a virgin giving birth in a cattle stall. A Holy child conceived by the Holy Ghost. His name was “God with us”. God became a man! ….But it was not enough!

If the story had ended there, or even if it had ended with the child growing up to be a great teacher and doing mighty works for God on behalf of the less fortunate, it would just be another story of a great and good man. But it did not end there.

This man came not only to live a perfect life but to die as a perfect sacrifice, a substitute for every man, fully satisfying
God the Father’s just demands. Tens of thousands of volumes have been written about his death on the cross. ……But it was not enough.

If the story had ended there, it would have been a great story, unique among all the stories of men ever told. God had come in flesh and paid for the transgressions of men every where and now God the Father could freely forgive men their sins and not compromise his holiness and justice. ……But it was not enough.

This innocent God-man had committed no crime but was executed on a Roman cross. He was buried in a borrowed tomb. And on the third day, just as he had predicted, He arose from the dead. He was alive! He had been glorified! His body was now fit not only for planet earth but heaven as well. Sin had been defeated. The devil and hell had been openly laid bare and also defeated. And, even death, the greatest enemy of mankind had itself died. Death, hell, and the grave would no longer be victors over those who know the Life.

Solely because of Christ’s life and work, both in living and dying and rising again, God could now forgive the sins of anyone who would trust the Christ of God and walk with Him. …But it was not enough!

Not enough you ask? Yes, to forgive sins was not enough. Because God cold wipe the slate clean, forgiving all your past sins, but there is a problem. You will sin again. Yes, just as every man since Adam, all of us sin. Even the best, most sincere Christian, still lives in a sin tainted body
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a body that desires what God does not approve. And each of us has an ego that wants to be polished and protected every day. So if forgiveness is not enough what could God possibly do more?

God, the righteous judge of the universe, would declare wicked sinners “righteous” based on Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. ….That is quite enough!

The great Apostle Paul gave some reasons why he was not ashamed of the good news about Jesus. He said it is the dynamite of God unto salvation for everyone and that in that powerful story “the righteousness of God is revealed”. What is this “righteousness of God”? It is the person, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Because of the babe of Bethlehem, God takes away sin from wicked sinners and puts it to the credit of Jesus. But He doesn’t stop there. He also takes the righteousness of Jesus and credits it to the account of the sinner. So every man, woman, and boy and girl who puts their trust in the claims of the good news about Jesus and obeys it’s demands is made righteous.

Only perfect people are fit for living in the very presence of God in heaven or in the new earth. Only the completely pure can abide in His holy presence. God seeks after wicked sinners and based solely upon Christ he chooses them to be His own, He draws them to Himself by the work of the Holy Spirit. He convinces, convicts, and converts them by making them righteous as He is righteous, holy as he is holy, and finally, immortal as He is immortal.

This is what Christmas is all about. The beauty of that night long ago is only understood by the beatings Jesus took for you and me. The expensive gifts given to the holy child are only appreciated when we understand what the greatest gift is, the blood of Christ.

The babe, the body, the blood, the bounty, the beauty of holiness, freely given to all, and for all, who will turn from their own way and follow Jesus in simple child like trust.

Religion…is not enough. Acts of kindness…is not enough. Being a committed member of a church…is not enough. Only Jesus Christ himself is enough. He is the only hope, He is righteousness, He is life, is He yours?

See what God has given! Merry Christmas!

Back in the saddle again…


I hope each of you are enjoying the Christmas and New Years holidays as much as I am. Our holiday season thus far has been a blast! Carol and I returned from a lengthy trip to the Carolinas and Tennessee last night.

We left Monroe on Thursday as week ago and arrived in Atlanta late in the afternoon. On Friday we were able to have some time with my brother who lives in Atlanta, do some outlet shopping, a trip to Bass Pro Shop, and then a short drive to Travelers Rest South Carolina. We stayed two nights with an uncle (recently widowed) and on Sunday worshipped with him an aunt at the little church in Cleveland where my paternal grandparents were saved and are buried. My aunt who is almost 80 has been a member there since she was 12. She recounted to me how she walked quite a distance and then crossed the Saluda River on a log and then up the hill and down the valley to the church at 12 years of age.

We drove about 50 miles to Hendersonville, N C on Sunday after church and visited with dear friends, Don and Harriet Yelton. Don is not only a friend and dear brother, but my wife’s boss. He has been Director of WFR Relief for over 35 years and he and Harriet also run AMEN ministry as well. We enjoyed the fellowship of several members of their family on Christmas day and then on the next morning were greeted by a pretty snow which had fallen during the night, almost a white Christmas.

 I was able to see my mom four days in a row which was a great blessing. She is a great woman. Her health is slowly failing and her almost 86 years is taking its toll. She will likely soon be promoted to joy unspeakable and glory to the full! What a hope we have in Jesus!

We drove to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee on Wednesday afternoon and actually vacationed for a whole day! We found DollyWood delightful. We enjoyed the musical “Babes in Toyland”, especially since one of the leading characters is a young man who is a member of our church in West Monroe. We were able to visit with him for a few moments between shows. There was southern gospel music, Blue grass, and lots of very nice folks with accents that made this mountain boy feel right at home. To top off the day we ate beans, cornbread, and blackberry cobbler at “Granny Ogle’s Kitchen”. (I am right at home in the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area. There are lots of Ogle’s there) Some of the best people on planet earth grew up in the hills of Western North Carolina and East Tennessee. They are down to earth, hard working, fun loving, God fearing, “salt of the earth” kind of folks. I am very proud of my heritage.

Today we celebrated Christmas with our grandsons and children here in Monroe and I got in some yard work, put up a Blue bird house, washed my John Deere, arranged some crappie tackle, did a minor upgrade to my boat trailer, and helped Carol put goodies away in the attic for next Christmas. No child ever enjoyed Christmas more then this one I am married to!

We are looking forward to church tomorrow and then on New Years Eve we will have several couples here at our house for fellowship, fun, games, and some vittles. I am looking forward to the New Year with its challenges and opportunities. It seems we continue to have God’s favor and for that underserved goodness we are humbled and thankful. I look forward to writing a series on Jesus Christ our Lord here at Grace Digest in the next several weeks. My blogs, for the most part, are just some of my personal studies that I share with anyone who cares to read them. I pray that they will bless you as they have me.

May you walk in the Light, with the Wind at your back, and your eye on Jesus in 2008.

His peace,

Royce

A Blue Ridge Christmas


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Early tomorrow Carol and I will begin our trek east to my beloved childhood home in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina. The house I grew up in is about 1/4 mile from the Blue Ridge Parkway on the N. E. side of I-40, and across the river from “The Cove” conference center of the county’s most famous resident, Billy Graham. Our other claim to fame in the Asheville area is Biltmore House, supposedly the largest residence in the United States. It is beautiful this time of year and is only matched in beauty in the spring, when wild flowers and the well groomed gardens on the estate scream with beauty “Spring in here!”

My mom, who will soon be 86 now lives a few miles away from her home of over 50 years in a nursing center. Blindness and old age are taking their toll, but she is still the wonderful woman who cared for my every need for so many years. I have mentioned before in my blogs that she taught me much about the life of faith and about prayer. She is the last of 8 siblings, and one of the last of an era, one of those great Americans who lived through the Great Depression and who really know what it means to do without. It will be good to see her once more, but at the same time, in the recesses of my heart, sadness looms as the time draws irrevocably near to our last visit on earth.

As a boy I could go less than a quarter mile in almost any direction and there were aunts, uncles, dozens of cousins, and neighbor’s friendly and familiar faces. We were dirt poor but no one had told us yet so we just enjoyed what we had and were as happy as could be. After mom has finally graduated, the pull for a bi-annual visit back to the hills will be less and less. A few cousins are still in the area, and most are older than my 62 years, so in the natural course of life,  in a few short years, what was once a huge play ground for a gawky little boy will be a strange little coutry neighborhood where only a few fond memories still live.

You probably wonder about the Christmas tree. It closely resembles some of the trees my father would bring in the house and decorate when I was a child. He had the worst decorating tastes of any person I have ever met. As daddy entered a field of scattered pines, the first tree he saw that resembled a pine fell victim to his axe. Even if a couple of limbs had to be wired on to make it acceptable that was no problem. The same two strings of lights were used for perhaps 20 years. There were colored light bulbs with colored metal reflectors held in place by screwing the bulbs in through them. There were two strands of garland, one silver and one red, which after a decade or so began to look like shiny twine, not garland. Some of the early years would find daddy with some sewing thread, a needle, and a bowl of pop corn, stringing it up to add more color to the tree. At its best it was always only slightly more attractive than the one in the picture. Mom was blind so daddy got away with stuff most husbands would have been maimed for! But, it was Christmas and we were happy.

At least once a year, daddy would mention that Christmas for him, when he was a boy, was an orange, and perhaps a few peices of hard candy. It was a true story. My grandparents had 13 children and lived a very primitave life back in the hollars and way up the creeks in Yancey County N.C. We had it good compared to those days and my parents never took it lightly.

My favorite Christmas memory was getting a bicycle one year. It was a hand-me-down from a 1st cousin that daddy had painted red with a brush and it looked like it. But, I was thrilled to have my own bike and it was a wonderful gift. My grandson’s haul, and the huge boxes that were mailed off to granddaughters, are a stark contrast to those days of finding so much comfort in just getting by.

This will be our first Christmas since 2000 that we have not been with our grandchildren but we will see them soon after and celebrate with them then (the boys), and then in June we will once again get to see our 3 granddaughters for a special several day visit in Hawaii as they return from their two years in Guam. (Of course their parents will be allowed to come too)

We will return in time for a New Years eve party with a some of our friends from church and some neighbors who have become as dear as our own family. I wish for each of you who read my blog a great time with family and friends and may the Christ of Christmas rule your hearts as you surrender to Him.

Merry Christmas,
Royce

P.S. For those of you with a slightly warped sense of humor like  yours truely, one more Christmas picture I just had to share. For those of you who are “normal”, just pretend you didn’t see it.

Christmas in ‘Bama

God-with-us


It is a wonderful thing, but an odd thing, that the Creator God would love His creatures so that He would choose to come and live among them on planet earth. I can’t imagine an earthly king who would one day say to himself “I think it would be good to go out of  the palace, through the courts, and out the gate and go live with the commoners“. Such an idea flies in the face of reason. Why would royalty desire the humble means of those poor souls who are only a harvest away from starvation? How could the one whose servants stand at the ready to care for every detail of need want to come and make his abode with the lowly?

Ah, Christmas, the season when we remember the time when earth was interrupted by the birth of a baby boy. His first hours were lived in the most humble setting, a cattle stall with the smell of dung and odor of the animals near by. Yet this child was a King whose birth had been foretold by the prophets, long years ago. His mother was told He would save His people from their sins, and Matthew reminded the readers of his book that according to Isaiah his name would mean “God-with-us”.

The wonder of Christmas is that not only did a King come for a visit but He came on a mission. Men and women and boys and girls were groping along in the darkness of their sins with no hope of life after the earthly tent was finally folded. But He appeared…”To save His people from their sins”. His life would be short by today’s standards but it was one that perfectly met every holy demand of God the Father’s law. His ministry would be to the human trash of the day to heal brokenness, to give sight to the blind, to make cripples run, jump, and shout for joy. He would raise the dead, feed thousands with enough for only a few.

He would break all the rules of religion, he would squash racial divides, he would talk to the wind….and it would listen. He would round up some unlikely candidates to help Him with His mission. The twelve were truly a cross section of the lower rungs of society. He would laugh and love with them, eat with them, pray with them, minister with them, and then be abandoned by them and even denied and betrayed by them. But, oh how He loved them. But the wonder of this One is that He loved everyone intensely. And, He would die to prove it.

A child was born, a son given, a life lived, a live given. He defeated the forces of darkness by defeating death, by satisfying God’s demands about sin and its penalty, and offers to all who will accept the gift, eternal life. He is the only human who could have justly condemned, but He didn’t come for that. For you see, people were already condemned. No, He came to give life, and forgiveness, and peace.

There are still those who deny Him. Some even declare with their lips that He never even existed. But every one of them declares His life and death every time they write a date on a check, or a note to a friend. No other person in human history has been so opposed as this man. The ultimate oddity is that this man of all men who ever lived would have had opposition. He only gave, and gave, and then gave Himself as a complete payment for every man’s sins and today lives so we too can live.

God-with-us! Merry Christmas.

His peace,
Royce Ogle