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Book Review of Reflecting Christmas by Matthew J. Elliott

I was given the opportunity to review Reflecting Christmas by Matthew J. Elliott. Matthew is the founder of Love the Saints Ministries, a website committed to “Encouraging Believers Every Step of the Way.”

Christmas is the most well-known, and popular holiday in the world. While cultures are separated by vast differences, no matter where you go, you’ll find people who celebrate this holiday. In Reflecting Christmas, Matthew looks to the Christ behind all the traditions and practices.

The Content of Reflecting Christmas

Reflecting Christmas by Matthew J. Elliot
Reflecting Christmas by Matthew J. Elliott

Matthew looks at the different symbols related to Christmas. He sees Christ in each of them and also discusses the way some of them illustrate our relationships to God. For example:

  • In the evergreen Christmas tree he sees a picture of Jesus’ lordship.
  • The bells of Christmas signify joy, like those rung at toasts or weddings. They remind us that the holiday is a celebration.
  • He sees in the wreath a picture of the crown of thorns on Christ’s head.
  • The Poinsettia looks back to the Star of Bethlehem.
  • The lights of Christmas remind us that Jesus is the “Light of the World” (John 8:12). Matthew moves beyond that to remind followers of Christ that we too are called to be the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:14-16).
  • The colors of Christmas are primarily green and red. Green, reminds us of freshness and new life. This reminds us of the spiritually new life we have in Christ.

Although I am only discussing these symbols, obviously if you’d like to know about them in more detail, you need to purchase the book.

Matthew’s style in Reflecting Christmas

Continue reading Book Review of Reflecting Christmas by Matthew J. Elliott

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The One Thing to Avoid When Judging

marriage-gods-way-author-scott-lapierre-judgingIn Matthew 7:1 Jesus said, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” Last post, 3 Truths About Judgingdiscussed what this verse is not saying: judging is wrong. So what is it saying? The primary rule for interpreting Scripture is to look at context. Let the Bible be the commentary on the Bible. Matthew 7:2 says:

For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. 

We will be judged with the same standard we use with others

If you judge someone for doing something, you better make sure you don’t do it. If you judge people for:

  • Lying, you better not lie
  • Losing their tempers, you better not lose your temper
  • Being late late, you better be on time
  • Watching or listening to things they shouldn’t, you better not watch or listen to anything compromising
  • Gossiping, you better not gossip
  • Not serving, you better be a servant

There’s nothing wrong with saying something is sin, but there is something wrong with saying something is sin while committing the same sin yourself. It’s similar to Romans 2:1: Continue reading The One Thing to Avoid When Judging

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3 Truths About Judging

marriage-gods-way-author-scott-lapierre-judgingLast post discussed what correcting people is: loving. This post will discuss what it is not. Unfortunately, if you correct some people you’ll often be criticized for judging.

In Matthew 7:1 Jesus said, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” This verse might have the distinction of being the most misunderstood and misinterpreted in all of Scripture. There are people who have never opened a Bible, but if they’re confronted they’re going to respond with some version of Jesus’ words.

When Jessica Simpson received criticism from the Christian community she said, “It didn’t really surprise me because I grew up with a lot of that backlash. That’s why I didn’t end up going into the Christian music industry. I think that if they’re really good Christians the judgment wouldn’t be there.” That pretty much sums up the attitude of many people. This is the mentality in the world, and unfortunately it can even be a mentality that creeps into the church.

1. Judging is something everyone does

Some people love to throw out Matthew 7:1 as though you can never say anything is wrong. But there is a real inconsistency – and even hypocrisy – with these people. Those who condemn others for judging do plenty of judging themselves. If you asked some of these people, “Is it wrong to murder, abuse children, or steal from others?” unless there is something wrong with them, they’re going to say, “Yes.” In answering in the affirmative they are judging. Continue reading 3 Truths About Judging

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Does the Gospel make God an abomination?

People mean well when they say all sins are the same, but the problem is they’re not! One way they’re different is certain sins are identified as an abomination. Two such examples are recorded in Proverbs 17:5:

He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the just, both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord.

Two groups are an abomination to the Lord:Marriage-Gods-Way-author-Scott-LaPierre - Does the Gospel make God an abomination?

  1. Those who justify the wicked.
  2. Those who condemn the just.

The tremendous irony is this is exactly what God does through the Gospel!

God justifies the wicked, which is an abomination

Romans 4:5 says God, “justifies the wicked.”

The word justify means, “to declare righteous. The Lord takes evil, wretched people and justifies them through faith in Jesus Christ. Continue reading Does the Gospel make God an abomination?

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What generation won’t pass away?

Marriage God's Way by Scott LaPierre - What generation will not pass away?Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near—at the doors!  Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.(Matthew 24:32-34; see also Mark 13:28-31; Luke 21:29-33).

I don’t think another word in Scripture has caused as much confusion as “generation” in the above verses. The most famous misunderstanding might be Edgar C. Whisenant’s book 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988. 4.5 million copies were sold and another 300,000 were mailed free of charge to church leaders across the nation. Although Whisenant had 88 reasons for his conclusion, the strongest came from the word generation. The logic is:

  • Israel is the fig tree.
  • The words, “When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near” refer to Israel becoming a nation in 1948.
  • A generation is 40 years.
  • Jesus said the generation that sees Israel become a nation will not pass away.
  • Therefore, Jesus must return by 1988.

The problem is the Rapture didn’t occur in 1988 or on any of the other dates Whisenhant predicted (1989, 1993, 1994) before his death in 2001. Some pastors still quote this verse saying, “The generation that sees Israel become a nation will not pass away!” They conclude a generation isn’t 40 years. So the generation of people that saw Israel become a nation will not pass away before Jesus’ return. Continue reading What generation won’t pass away?

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Christianity is the OPPOSITE of other religions

The difference between Christianity and other religions is contained in a few amazing words spoken between Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22:7 and 8:

Isaac said, “Where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”
Abraham replied, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.”

Marriage-Gods-Way-author-Scott-LaPierre - Christianity is the OPPOSITE of other religionsFor a moment, consider the absurdity of Abraham’s words: “God would provide His own lamb for sacrifice? God would provide what’s necessary to worship Him?”

This doesn’t make sense. Religion is about what man does. At the heart of every religion is an individual providing a sacrifice. That’s what makes it worship.

Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit though, Abraham prophetically said God would provide the Lamb. John the Baptist saw Jesus as the fulfillment: “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

In Christianity the unthinkable takes place

God provides the sacrifice necessary to be worshipped. In other religions people do the work, but in Christianity God has done the work. This doesn’t just make Christianity different than other religions. This makes Christianity the opposite of other religions. Continue reading Christianity is the OPPOSITE of other religions

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Don’t disguise compromise as evangelism

Don't disguise compromise as evangelismSometimes when believers are engaging in ungodly activities or relationships they’ll disguise their compromise as evangelism:

  • “Jesus hung out with tax collectors and sinners!” Please see this post: Jesus was a physician, not a close friend.
  • “I am going to this place because I want to share the Gospel with people.” Is that true, or is it feeding the flesh?
  • “I’m close friends with these people because I want to see them become Christians.” Is that true, or is it because the Old Man loves the relationship?
  • “I engage in this activity, because I want to be able to witness to those doing it with me.” Is that true, or is it a way to give in to temptation?

We need to make sure we’re not “using our liberty to indulge the flesh” or “as a cloak for vice.” (Gal 5:13, 1 Pet 2:16).

What’s the danger of disguising compromise as evangelism?

Continue reading Don’t disguise compromise as evangelism

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Why did Jesus teach more about hell than heaven?

Why did Jesus talk so much about hell?
Which path are you on?

Why did Jesus teach so much about hell? If people are heading off a cliff, the worst thing you can do is look the other way. Jesus did the opposite. He warned people!

Recent posts discussed the Blessings and Woes in Luke 6:20-26. Seems many preachers fall into one of two categories:

  • Those who only want to talk about God’s grace, mercy, forgiveness, love, and all the things God wants to do for them. Many of these individuals could be considered “health and wealth” or “prosperity preachers.” They only want to teach on the blessings.
  • Others who only want to talk about God’s justice, holiness, wrath, anger, judgment, and punishment. We call these “fire and brimstone” preachers. They only want to teach on the woes.

But Jesus taught on both. He discussed the Narrow Gate that leads to life, and the Wide Gate that leads to destruction (Matt 7:13-14). In the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus He explained the comfort of Abraham’s Bosom and the torment of hell. He was a balanced teacher!

Or at least it seems that way at first: Continue reading Why did Jesus teach more about hell than heaven?

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The Warning of the Woes

The warning of the woes is you can live for this life or the next.
The warning of the woes is you can live for this life or the next.

The four woes contain the same warning. You can live for this life or the next. We’ve already discussed the second and third. Let’s look at the third and fourth…

“Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep” (Luke 6:25b).

The third woe corresponds with the third beatitude:

Blessed are you who weep now,
For you shall laugh”
(Luke 6:21b).

Blessed are those who mourn over sin, and cursed are those who laugh at it!

Think of people who laugh at their sin and the sin of others. There’s no grief whatsoever regarding the sin they see around them or the sin they’re engaging in.

But Jesus says this present state of laughing is going to be replaced with weeping. This is the weeping that takes place while these people suffer for eternity in hell: “There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Luke 13:28a).

The fourth woe: “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so did their fathers to the false prophets” (Luke 6:26).

This final woe corresponds with the final Beatitude: Continue reading The Warning of the Woes

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Woe to the rich and full!

Jesus says, "Woe to the rich and full!"
Jesus says, “Woe to the rich and full!”

A “woe” is a cry of pain that results from suffering. With each woe Jesus pronounces a judgment: “Woe to you who think you’re spiritually rich, who don’t hunger spiritually, and who laugh at your sin. This is what awaits you!”

While the four Beatitudes discuss blessings for believers, the four woes discuss curses for unbelievers. Believers can be encouraged by the blessings, that while they’re suffering now, they’ll be rewarded later. Just as much, unbelievers are warned that while they’re enjoying life now, they’re going to suffer later.

“Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation” (Luke 6:24a).

The four blessings form pairs with the four woes. They complement each other. Whatever is true regarding the blessing, the opposite is also true regarding the woe. The first woe corresponds with the first blessing:

“Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” (Luke 6:20b).

Jesus isn’t speaking of being physically or financially rich. He’s speaking of being spiritually rich, but to be clear, nobody falls into this category. We’re all spiritually poor, but after that we all fall into one of two categories: Continue reading Woe to the rich and full!

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Are you living for eternity or today?

Are you living for eternity or today?
Are you living for eternity or today?

Are you living for eternity, or are you living for today?

Luke 6:22-23 Blessed are you when men hate you,
And when they exclude you,
And revile you, and cast out your name as evil,
For the Son of Man’s sake.
Rejoice in that day and leap for joy!
For indeed your reward is great in heaven,
For in like manner their fathers did to the prophets.

Jesus presented values that were contrary to the thinking of the day, and this is a perfect example. The world doesn’t say the hated, excluded, reviled, and cast out are blessed. The world says these people are cursed.

What’s Jesus describing?

  • “Excluded” from synagogue or temple worship. The Amplified says, when people…exclude you[from their fellowship].” The parallel for today would be getting kicked out of some religious circles, because you’re too conservative or too bibilical. It’s tragic that in some Christian groups today – and I use the word “Christian” loosely – if you talk about sin, repentance, or holiness, you can find yourself excluded. Suddenly you’re legalistic, judgmental, hateful, or self-righteous.
  • “Reviled” and having “your name cast out as evil”are synonyms for being slandered. If you take a stand for Christ, people might try to destroy your reputation.

Continue reading Are you living for eternity or today?

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There’s no blessing for being obnoxious!

There's no blessing for being obnoxious!
There’s no blessing for being obnoxious!

Do we suffer for Christ, or for being obnoxious?

Jesus said, “Blessed are you when men hate you, exclude you, revile you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake” (Luke 6:22).

The last six words make an important point: there’s only a blessing for suffering for Christ.

There are times we’ve all been selfish, unkind, and harsh. We haven’t listened well, and we’ve acted arrogantly. As a result, people have hated, excluded, reviled, or criticized us.

But there’s no reward for this.

It’s unfortunate when we’re disliked or rejected because of our selfishness, but we say:

  • I’m suffering all this persecution, because of the way I live for Christ.
  • Everyone hates me because I’m such a strong Christian.
  • Others don’t have it as bad as me, because they’re not as committed to the Lord as I am.

Sometimes we’re persecuted, but it’s actually because we’ve failed to demonstrate Christ-like character. Yes, there’s rejection for living like Christ, but there’s also rejection for being an insensitive or inconsiderate person. Continue reading There’s no blessing for being obnoxious!