Christmas Eve Thoughts


From my comfy chair here in sunny Texas I remember those snowy Christmas days in the mountains of North Carolina when I was a young boy. We didn’t have much in the way of gifts and beautiful decorations but what we did have was appreciated and we loved each other. Popping popcorn to be strung on the tree was a tradition that we (momma, daddy, and me) loved and enjoyed. For some reason I can only remember one Christmas gift I received as a child. It was a hand-me-down bicycle. One of my cousins had it for some time and my father painted it with a brush and gave it to me for Christmas. I remember that vividly and can’t remember any other gift as a child.

With the blessings and bounty of Christmas season, with all of it’s added activities, it is easy to be caught up in the busyness and loose sight of what’s most important. Love. Love is the message of Christmas. Giving and receiving gifts are a reflection of the greatest Giver of the greatest Gift, Jesus the Christ, who came to live and love as a man and reconcile sinners like us to God. Forgiveness of sins, eternal life, joy now, blessed hope, and a future with Him are gifts of grace from the loving hand or our God.

I am blessed to be married to one of the best women I have ever known. Observing the way she loves others now over two decades and I’m still amazed at how deeply she loves. Love is not only an emotion, love must be given to really be love. Carol regularly teaches me this by the way she loves me in tangible ways. A good, God fearing wife is a treasure beyond measure!

Soon, 2019 will be a history lesson and 2020 will be a new decade to make history. In spite of all the political turmoil, the hustle and bustle of daily life, and in our cases, aging and the aches and pains that accompany it, let’s live on purpose. Let us love on purpose. Not only our spouses, our children and grandchildren, but those who need to be loved most. Let us look for opportunities to love others where ever we find them. A sincere smile, a kind word of encouragement, an act of compassion can make a huge difference in someone’s life.

If you are a Christ follower, God wants to love the world though you, and me. May you and I purpose to be ready for duty every day, even the days when we don’t especially feel like it.

Love like Jesus loves you, you don’t deserve it. Accept others as you have been accepted, without merit. Give all the glory to God, only He deserves it.

Royce
Dec 24, 2019

The Christmas Story from the Gospel of John


Most of the sermons and Bible lessons you have heard about the birth of Jesus have been from the gospels of Luke and Matthew. We love the telling of the virgin being with child, his humble birth in a cattle stall, the wise men, the gifts, etc. As with many other topics, John, in his gospel, gives us another vantage point. As was his custom, John focused on the Jesus he had seen, walked the dusty roads with, shared many meals with, and had witnessed in his resurrected body. The purposed of the gospel of John is clearly stated in John 20.

but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.As in what some refer to as “Little John

John 20:31 ESV

Just as in 1st John, in the first chapter of the gospel of John, the elder statesman for the good news about Jesus begins wide open! Right away he established the deity of Jesus, discussed his divine prerogatives, and more!

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.

John 1:1-4 ESV

Then 10 verses later John gives us the incarnation of the eternal Christ.

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 

John 1:14 ESV

God became flesh! You might wonder, since God is God and can do anything, why did Jesus have to come and live on earth, be rejected by his own and then die like a common criminal? The answer is God could not compromise his justice to execute his grace and mercy. In the economy of God sin cannot just be overlooked. Sin must be punished because it is an affront to the Holy God of the universe.

Christ came as the man Jesus not only to die, but also to live! He lived and worked and ministered for some 33 or more years and though tempted to sin in every way mortal men are, He never once gave in to the temptation, he never sinned once. The reason this truth is vitally important is that when He went to the cross and died, it was His perfect life that was given on your behalf. He took your sins (all of them, past, present, and future) and mine upon him and died “for” us, in our stead. God’s requirement of perfect living to be approved by him has been met. You have been credited with Christ’s righteousness. God’s justice has been satisfied, Christ died in our places satisfying God’s righteous requirement that sin be punished.

Because God became a man, Jesus the Christ, you and I can have eternal life. Our sins are forgiven not because of our doing but because of the doing and dying of the Lord Jesus. Because of His great love for sinners God treated Jesus they way you and I deserved to be treated so He could treat us the way Jesus deserved to be treated.

The good news is, Jesus did come here and accomplish His work. He now lives in his followers by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and as our man in heaven who intercedes for us before the Father.

I love the way John tells the story of Jesus making sinners His own people. It is so simple yet profound. The way John explains it there is no room for human goodness, good works, merit, or help in any way.

10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

John 1:10-13 ESV

Christ himself is the ultimate gift of Christmas or any other day. Have you received Him? “All” who received Him, who “believed” in His name became children of God. The gift is for you, and you, and every you who will take the gracious offer.

Merry CHRISTmas,

Royce

“Until death do us part…”


This familiar statement became very absolute and painful on December 10th, 1997. Over 17 years earlier I had looked Jeanine Kay Hutchings in the eyes and promised those words, “Until death do us part”. And in a span of time much shorter than our exchange of vows before our friends, family, and our Lord, our marriage was over.

In the spring of 1999, once again I looked a beautiful woman in the eyes and promised once more I would be her’s “Until death do us part”. And with friends, family, and the Lord as our audience Carol Samsill Robinson became my wife, until death says it’s over.

Largely, out of these experiences of having a spouse die, Carol and I, (at her insistence), eventually became grief group facilitators, a ministry we shared for 16 years. We hosted and co-hosted 13 week Grief Share groups in the spring and again in the fall. Both Carol and I have lost our parents, other relatives, and scores of dear friends and acquaintances. I have never been far from grief my whole life. I can remember the sadness when my grandpa died when I was only 5 years old. And I preached my first funeral before I was 30.

Everyone who lives very long will have someone they love who dies. And of course, they themselves will die too. As common as death and dying is, it is surprising how little many people know about death and what happens after. If I have heard one I’m sure I have heard a thousand widows talk about being reunited with their deceased husband in heaven. I recently heard a woman say of her parents after her mom died, “They are walking hand in hand looking at the flowers”. Apparently many people believe heaven is just a continuation of life on earth without any problems. That is partially true, there will be no problems, but that’s about all the truth in that idea.

The only source of truth about what we can expect after physical death is found in the Bible. There are many passages that address this subject. A few are my favorites.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Revelation 21:3-5 ESV

The key phrases in the passage above is “the former things have passed away”, and “Behold, I am making all things new”. Death is gone, grief is gone, mourning in gone, crying is gone, pain is gone. Those things are no more. God will remake earth and it’s inhabitants.

Another passage I love is what Paul said, first in Philippians 1:23,

I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.

Paul makes it abundantly clear that life with Christ is “far better” than life here on earth as it is now. Paul again tried to press upon his readers how much better life after death will be by saying this in 1 Corinthians 2:9.

But, as it is written,“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
    nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—

We know very little about what life with God will be like according to this. No one has seen it, no one has heard it, no one has even imagined what God has prepared for his people.

Not only will death and it’s consequences be gone, (“passed away”), sin, the cause of death, will be gone too. Even the memory of evil, of sin, and even of death will be gone forever.

No mom is in the presence of Jesus wringing her hands and worrying about a son or daughter. And I doubt people in heaven are watching little league games and cheering on their great grandsons. No, this life will be gone, completely gone.

There are so many misconceptions because we are so “earth bound”. What we do and have done here on earth is the only context we know so we continue to hang onto it . There are some myths, some half truths, and some misgivings that can easily be cleared up.

There are three theological words we need to become familiar with.

  1. Justification. Justification is the act of God declaring a sinner “not guilty” upon the ground of the finished work and worth of Jesus Christ alone. When we are set free from the penalty of the law (death) we have been “justified”. We have been reconciled or “set right” with God.
  2. Sanctification. Once a sinner has become a child of God by “justification” “sanctification” begins. Sanctification is the process of God working in you and on you to make you more like Jesus. The Holy Spirit in us starts to conform us to the image of Christ. It is a process in which all of us stumble and fall and get carried along by the Lord, but eventually God will complete this work.
  3. Glorification. Glorification is when we are raised from the dead in a body like the body of Jesus, or we will be changed when Jesus comes “in the twinkling of an eye”. Glorified people have been justified, and fully sanctified. They will not only have a body like that of Jesus but their lives will be perfected.

People in heaven are no longer partial to certain people. They love everyone perfectly equal, just as Christ does. There is no hint of any personality flaw that riddles humans on earth. A glorified people loves like God loves and their number one priority will be to glorify our great God and Savior Jesus Christ .

Your husband on earth will not be your husband in heaven. And, your wife on earth will not be your wife in heaven. Marriage is only for life on earth and no longer. Jesus made this perfectly clear when he answered the Jewish antagonists when they questioned him about a women who had been married to 7 men. “Who will be her husband in heaven?” Jesus answered,

“For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.” Matthew 22:30 ESV

You see, in heaven you will love everyone with the same quality and quantity of love that God does. You will not love your former spouse any more than you will love your neighbor. Love will be perfected. It is extremely difficult for us to imagine loving that way, to that degree but it will happen.

It is my sincere belief that no familial relationships will extend into the eternal community of the saints of God. I loved my godly mother, she was the best woman I have ever known. But, she isn’t my mother now. I speak of her in the past tense, she is no longer my mother. Earthly relationships are only for the life of the people involved.

We will know others. But, I believe we will know everyone. There are no human limitations in the life with God in his eternal, glorious, presence.

Eternal life with the one who loved us enough to die for us will be so loving, so euphoric, so full of joy and gladness that even the memory of living here would be a downer. Living the life of God is an eternal day with Jesus as the light, only joy, peace, and glory for ever. This is not the end of our story, it is the beginning of it.

An Attitude of Gratitude, Be Thankful


man in praise

Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 

This directive from the Apostle Paul to the churches in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 could not be more clearly stated. If I want to be in the will of God, doing the will of God, I must be thankful without regard to the circumstances.

There are many reasons given in Scripture why we humans should give thanks to our God. He is good, His love is steadfast, and every good thing we have and experience is freely given by His gracious hand.

It’s a tall order to be thankful in “all circumstances”. Many of my friends find themselves in horrible circumstances, most through no fault of their own. And the encouraging, spontaneous response from their lips is that despite their awful state of being, giving thanks to God is a natural response.

It is from those I know and love who are in such dire circumstances that I draw strength and am challenged to be a better man and disciple of Jesus.

Earlier this week my doctor informed me that I have cancer. I have a large volume of “low grade” cancer in my prostate. Further tests will find if the cancer cells have spread outside of the prostate. So, like tens of millions of others, soon I’ll begin the unpleasant fight to beat this ugly condition.

Today is Thanksgiving day and I have so much to be thankful for. Later today Carol and I will share a meal and some precious time with our daughter Kelly, and two of our grandsons. The past year has not been kind to them in many ways, but you know what? We will be laughing, joy filled, and thankful.

The beautiful and well known passage in Philippians 4 is a road map to peace in times of trouble, calm in the storms of life, and hope when circumstances offer none.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness[d] be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7 ESV

It doesn’t make sense to not worry when times are hard. but if we who love the Lord will keep going to God with our problems, asking Him for help, rejoicing and giving thanks, God’s blessed peace will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

The reason you see smiles and joy in the faces of many people who find themselves in the worst of circumstances is that something supernatural has happened in their lives. The have been given God’s peace. I too know that peace, not even a hint of fear about the present or the future because of the peace of God that I have within.

Be thankful. It’s good medicine.

Royce