The Gateway

St. Louis, Missouri, boasts the Gateway Arch which stands at the Mississippi River as a testament to the pioneering spirit of the people approaching the eve expanding West.

the Gateway Arch rises up behind the new glass entrance
Gateway Arch National Park. Photo courtesy of StudioBrookes.

Founded by the National Park Service in 1935 to commemorate Thomas Jefferson’s vision of a transcontinental United States, the Gateway Arch National Park (formerly known as the “Jefferson National Expansion Memorial”) stretches from the Old Courthouse to the steps overlooking the Mississippi River. In between, the Gateway Arch rises high, a bold monument to the pioneering spirit.

Today, the Gateway Arch celebrates the diverse people who shaped the region and the country. The dreamer, Thomas Jefferson, negotiated the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, doubling the size of the United States. The explorers, Lewis & Clark, and their Shoshone guide Sacagawea, scouted the new territory and mapped a route to the Pacific Ocean. The challengers, Dred and Harriet Scott filed suit at the Old Courthouse for their freedom from slavery, and St. Louis suffragette Virginia Minor sued for women’s right to vote. The Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen designed the stainless-steel monument that honors them all.

gateway arch 1
Picture taken while I was visiting the arch.

The graceful arch is based on the catenary curve, that is the shape made by a free-hanging chain when held at both ends. When speaking of his design, Saarinen said, “The arch symbolized the gateway to the West, the national expansion, and whatnot.”

A view of the Gateway Arch reveals over 43,000 tons of concrete and steel that arc 63 stories high into the Midwest sky. Since its completion in 1965, the tram ride in the monument has taken millions of visitors on the trip to the top to enjoy stunning views stretching up to 30 miles to the east and west.

Much more information about the arch is available at the National Park Service website. (www.nps.gov/jeff/index.htm)

The Gateway Arch, of course, is not the only way to the West. It is certainly a wonderful monument to those who made the trek through difficult terrain with less than ideal circumstances and comforts.  But, today, there are many ways to get to the West from the East, in addition to going through the Gateway Arch.

Such is not the case in a matter of significantly more import than physical travel.  I am speaking of our ultimate destination for eternity. 

We know that we are finite creatures, born in space and time, and that we were created from dust and, given enough time, we will return to dust after our death. 

In Scripture, the Holy Bible, Jesus says that He is the gateway to heaven.  That is, that no one can come to the Father Almighty, God, the Creator and Sustainer of all things, except through Jesus Christ, God’s Son.

“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

John 14:6

Unfortunately, today there are many who assert that there are a variety of “ways” to get to heaven or to please God.  However, Jesus’ words do not equivocate.  There is no quibbling.  There is no suggestion that any other “way” is possible or effective if we want to go to heaven where the Father resides.  Jesus simply and clearly said that He is the only way to the Father.

Good works are not sufficient.  Giving money is not sufficient.  Being hopeful that the balance will tip in your favor is not sufficient.  Nothing is sufficient because everything other than what Christ did on the cross is based on our own abilities.  The problem is that we are all sinners and we are dead in our sins.  We can do nothing to aid ourselves or to move ourselves toward heaven.  We are dead.

If a person is dead, he cannot do anything for himself.  If he is to have life, an outside force must operate to give him life again.  He can’t summon up the strength to get life, he is dead.

“but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

Praise God.  He loved us even though we were sinners, we had been disobedient to His law.  While we were sinners, before we could do anything to assist in our salvation, Christ died for us.  He accomplished all that was necessary to pay for our sin.

Jesus Christ, however, rose from the dead.  He conquered death and sin. 

“We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.

Romans 6:9

Because He died and rose again, He is capable to rescue us from our sins, and He will do so if we have faith in Him.

“because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”

Romans 10:9-10

If is for this reason that Jesus could tell His disciples, that He was THE Way, THE Truth and THE Life … there is none other

There are many gateways to the Western part of the United States, but there is only one way to heaven, no matter where you live or who you are. 

The Way is Jesus. He is the way to eternal life. Come to Him if you have not already done so and claim Him as your Savior and Lord of your life.   If you have already come to Him, praise His name. Thank Him for the life that He has given you, now and forever more.

Father, we praise your name for the love that was expressed to us through Christ’s life and death, and for your mighty power in raising Him from the dead so that we could claim Him as our Savior and Lord.   Thank you Father, thank you Lord Jesus, and thank you Holy Spirit for quickening our hearts and bringing us to yourself.

FINAL RESTING PLACE

Cemeteries are found throughout the countryside. I love to read the headstones and see the notations made about the life of the one who died. Some cemeteries seem to be random, standing as solitary sentries for a few memorial markers along the roadside.  Some are huge and stand as monuments commemorating historic events that shaped our nation, community, and ourselves.    

One such place that we visited was the cemetery in the Vicksburg, Mississippi battlefield.  It was sobering to see the cannons all lined up as if they were ready to inflict injury on the enemy.  It was even more sobering to consider that in the battle, American was pitted against American as the Civil War was raging throughout the country.

Cannons in Cemetery in Vicksburg MS
Cannons lined up and ready, Vicksburg, Mississippi

In the battlefield there were monuments throughout the area to fallen soldiers form various states and communities.  This is the Illinois monument, complete with soldiers names inscribed inside the mausoleum-type structure.

IUED llinois state memorial Vicksburg Mississippi civil war cemetery
Illinois monument, Vicksburg, Mississippi

Some have a decidedly modern atmosphere, such as Sunnyslope cemetery in California. 

Sunnyslope Cemetery, CA '56

While some have a decidedly older atmosphere,  such as this cemetery located in Boston.

Boston cemetery
Cemetery in the City of Boston, Massachusetts

Then there are cemeteries that bear special significance to us personally, feelings that other places do not produce.

Virginia cemetery IMG_20160529_1316404_rewind
Cemetery in Salem, Virginia

My husband’s family is buried in this Virginia cemetery.  I love going there, not only to remember the people and thank them for teaching my husband to be a Christian man who loves me unconditionally, but also to meditate on the end that will ultimately come to all of us.  I also love to look out over the hillside and see the church steeples reminding me that Christ is the One who governs all of life and who gave His life as a ransom for many.

I truly don’t mean this to be morbid, but I do want us to think about our mortality and the finality of our days. 

The writer of Ecclesiastes correctly notes:

No man has power to retain the spirit, or power over the day of death. There is no discharge from war, nor will wickedness deliver those who are given to it.”

Ecclesiastes 8:8

The writer of Hebrews affirms that each of us will die, it is the fate of all finite beings:

“And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.”

Hebrews 9:27-28

Paul, writing to the Thessalonians said this about the end of our lives:

“For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise firstThen we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.”

1 Thessalonians 4:16-17

In other words, all people will have to die unless they are still alive when Christ returns.  Even they will rise to meet the Lord.  None of His people will be left out!  This is what Jesus meant when He said:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.””

John 8:51

The believer in Christ will certainly die a physical death just like everyone else – but the believer will not have a spiritual death.  Instead, we will be with Christ.   Physical death is a reality for all mankind because of sin.   Spiritual life is a reality because of the grace of God as it is a gift from God given to us through the Lord Jesus Christ.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 6:23

Our Western culture does a fantastic job of shielding us from death.  We are killing each other faster than we are birthing people, but we rush the bodies off to the undertaker, to the funeral home, so that we don’t even see the body, often with either closed casket or cremation burials.  Many children have never been to a funeral/memorial service and go into their early adult years before experiencing this type of personal loss.

Even if we wish to hide our heads and ignore reality, all of us will face death at some point, and when we do, we will no longer have time to make the decision that is of eternal consequence.   Do I follow Christ Jesus as my Savior or do I act as if God does not exist at all, only to be supremely surprised when that belief is in error!

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”

Ecclesiastes 12:13

Beloved, be sure of your faith and of the One in which you have your faith.  Be sure that you have answered that question correctly.  Let the cemetery remind you that no one is immortal, we are all going to die and the ground will not be the final resting place for our spirits. 

Blessings to you, today, tomorrow and throughout your life.

Father, I pray that these words would be of encouragement to those who believe in Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  I pray that the Holy Spirit would use these words to convict and soften hearts that are hard and that You would work in those hearts to bring them to Yourself.  In Christ’s name I pray.

THE MIGHTY RUSHING WIND – PART 2

In an earlier post, we ruminated about the wind which can remind us that the Spirit of God is characterized by wind or by the breath of God.  We then thought about the influence of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost when He came into the room like a “mighty rushing wind” and enabled the apostles to preach to the foreigners in Jerusalem in their own language.  Acts 2:2-5

The Spirit of God did not stop His work on earth when Pentecost was over.  Even in 2017, the Spirit has continuing involvement with those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.  The Spirit convicts us of our sin so that we can repent, and the Spirit teaches us the way of righteousness.  Paul says it like this:

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation [no guilty verdict, no punishment] for those who are in Christ Jesus [who believe in Him as personal Lord and Savior]. [John 3:18] For the law of the Spirit of Life [which is] in Christ Jesus [the law of our new being] has set you free from the law of sin and of death. “

Romans 8:1-2 NIV[Amplified]

And again Paul says it like this:

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?  By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” 

Romans 6:1-2

And again, like this:

“For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. … But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. … But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. … But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

Galatians 5:5, 16, 18, 22-23. ESV

As Christians, the Spirit of God enables us to walk in ways of righteousness, not in sin.  We, as sinful creatures, cannot defeat sin by ourselves; we need help outside of us to overcome our sinful desires, and that help comes from the Holy Spirit.

What does all this have to do with wind?

Fence with trees felled by wind
Trees felled by strong wind along neighbor’s fence.

There is a fence between our house and our neighbor’s house.  It has been standing there for well over 30 years and has withstood numerous rain/wind storms.  After a recent storm with ferocious winds, we noticed a change in the backyard fence.  Something certainly looked amiss, but we couldn’t quite tell what it was.

Fence with tree root ball and uprooted fence
Root ball of tree with upended fence posts.

Upon a more detailed inspection, it immediately became apparent that a 70+ foot tall oak, along with several smaller trees, had fallen over. Further, it had upended one of section of the fence when its root ball, which apparently had grown under the fence and into our yard, was pulled out of the ground as the large tree toppled over. 

I certainly am not going to say that the tree sinned so it was knocked down by the wind.  But, I am going to say that this can be seen as a mini-parable describing the cleaning out that the Holy Spirit can do in my heart when I give control to Him. 

Paul says that we are not to continue to sin.  We are under grace so sin has no control over us … that is to say, sin cannot make us do wrong.  Because our sinful nature is not yet under the full control of the Spirit of God, we will be tempted to sin.  But, praise God, the Spirit is with us and He can knock down any sinful thought that we have, He can prevent any sinful action that we desire to take, and He can mute any sinful word that we yearn to speak.  Just like the tree came down, and it mattered not that the roots were under the fence – it came down as the roots were pulled out of the dirt, lifting the fence with it.  The Spirit will stop at nothing to rid our hearts of sin, because transforming us into the image of our Savior is His job and He knows how to do it.

“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

Romans 8:29 ESV

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

Romans 12:2 NKJV

We are to be transformed into the image of God’s Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.  This is the Spirit’s work as He leads us away from sin and into righteousness. 

Here is Romans 12:2 as presented in the song entitled “Do Not Be Conformed” and sung on Renewing Your Mind, an Integrity Music Scripture Memory Song album.

When you see or hear the wind outside, ponder and ruminate on whether you have allowed the wind of God’s Spirit to blow through your heart and uproot any sin that is hiding there.  Consider whether you have experienced the freedom in Christ as a result of the Spirit’s snapping the bonds of sin that had entrapped you for so long.  Praise the Lord for His provision of the loving Spirit who desires only that we be conformed into the image of Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father, now and forever more.

Father, I praise You for sending the Lord Jesus Christ as my Savior, and for calling me to Yourself so that I could partake of this infinite gift of salvation that You have given to those who believe on the name of Your Son.  I praise You for providing the Holy Spirit as the enabling wind Who can eradicate the sin that besets me, and Who guides me in the ways of righteousness.   

ERADICATION OF FREEDOM

We were traveling through East Tennessee doing errands and found ourselves in Morgan County, near the Frozen Head State Park.  I have heard of this park for years but had never visited the location, so we took the opportunity to do so.  The park was beautiful and we were very glad to have taken this side-trip. 

frozen-head-state-park-trees-forming-arch-2
Frozen Head State Park, Morgan County, Tennessee.

However, on the way to and from the park, we passed the Morgan County correctional facility.

morgan-county-correctional-institution
Morgan County Correctional Facility, Morgan County, Tennessee

As we drove by, we could not help but notice the “razor wire” in multiple layers that surrounded the facility. 

morgan-county-correctional-institution-3
Morgan County Correctional Facility, razor wire surrounding facility.

The sight put me in a somber, introspective mood.  Being incarcerated and seeing the outside world but not being able to get to it would be terribly difficult.  I have had occasion to work with female prisoners in various facilities and I believe that it is fair to say that life there is hard, both physically and emotionally.

While I have not been in jail, I have experienced a period of time when I could not move off my bed.  Many years ago, I was in a body cast that ran from my head to my left knee.  I was immobile in bed, unable to move my body, for over 7 months.  I gained some measure of “freedom” when the leg part of the cast was cut off and I could sit up and walk again, while wearing the body part of the cast.  All in all, the cast experience was almost 14 months. 

My experience was not pleasant by any means, but even on my darkest days, I knew the time of my inactivity was limited.  I had an end date when the cast would come off and I could, slowly, return to normal activity for a 10 year old. 

That is not the case for many of those incarcerated in the jails of our country.  There is no certain end date for their release to the outside world. 

As bad and as dreary as that scenario is, there is one scenario that is far worse.  We know that Adam and Eve disobeyed God and were cast out of the Garden of Eden because their union with God was broken by their disobedience.  And, as a result, Adam’s descendants live in sin. 

According to Strong’s Lexicon, in Hebrew, the root word “sin” is the Hebrew word חַטָּא chaṭṭâʼ, khat-taw’; that refers to “a criminal, or one accounted guilty:—offender, sinful, sinner.”  Generally speaking, to sin is to miss the mark; to violate God’s law thereby bringing judgment on yourself.  In short, disobedience is the crux of sin … we disobey God’s law and we all must pay the penalty for it.  Sin is the ultimate bondage and enslavement for all mankind.

The first time the word “sin” is stated in Scripture is found all the way back at the beginning.  In Genesis 4:7 we read God speaking to Cain after his offering was not accepted by God:

“If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.”

Genesis 4:7 ESV

Shortly after these words were spoken, Cain did not rule over sin.  Rather, he gave in to it and murdered his brother Abel.

Scripture talks of sin as putting us in bondage. 

“For the sin of their mouths, the words of their lips, let them be trapped in their pride. For the cursing and lies that they utter,”

Psalm 59:12 ESV

“The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin.”

Proverbs 5:22 ESV

In the New Testament, Jesus told those who were feeling free because of their status as children of Abraham:

“They answered Him, ‘We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.’”

John 8:33-34 ESV

We, in the modern world, intrinsically know the truth of these statements from Scripture.  Notwithstanding the bravado from the thrill of repeated criminal activity or from the high brought on by illicit drugs, when the excitement is gone, what remains is the sure awareness that we have done wrong, that is, we experience guilt.  Whether we want to admit it or not, we know that we have violated God’s law.  

We don’t have to be imprisoned in a jail with razor wire to be in bondage.  We might be a slave to drug or alcohol addiction.  We might be a slave to smoking or overeating.  Sin can even be hidden in respectable clothing … it can come in the form of gossip or malicious speech, both of which can be subtle but dangerous addictions.  It can come in the form of doing good things for others for the purpose of praise and glory to you, instead of doing those same things for the glory of God.  Any time we rob God of the glory that is properly His, we have committed sin.   And, the more often we sin, the more sin becomes our master. 

How do we get out of the razor-wire confinement imposed by sin?  We look to the One who took our sin on Himself.  We must repent and cling to the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. He has paid the price for our sin.  We don’t need to keep sinning because He has broken its power over us.  Paul says it like this:

“For the death He died He died to sin, once for all, but the life He lives He lives to God.  So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.  Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”

Romans 6:10-14 ESV

“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

1 Corinthians 15:56-57 ESV

Listen as the Centurymen sing the beautiful hymn “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name” from their album The Centurymen Silver Anniversary,

The power of Jesus’ name is the answer to the bondage of sin.  While sin eradicates, obliterates, and otherwise destroys our freedom, the Lord Jesus Christ has broken sin’s shackles and replaces that bondage with freedom in Him.   Praise His Holy Name!

Father, I thank You that Your Son has conquered death and sin; that He died so that Your children could have freedom from sin and could live with You eternally.  I praise Your Holy Name!

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, INTRODUCTION, Series Post No. 1

This is the first post in a series of thoughts about the fruit of the Spirit found in The Bible at Galatians 5:22-23.   I plan to post this series each Friday, if the Lord grants it, and we will take time to think about what the Scripture says, and how it applies to my daily life.

 

I have used a number of references in preparation for this study, but throughout this study we will be specifically referencing Dr. R. C. Sproul’s teaching series Keeping in Step with the Spirit, CD Teaching Series; and Developing Christian Character, CD Teaching Series, both of which are available from Ligonier Ministries at http://www.ligonier.org. I will also make frequent reference to Jonathan Edwards’ sermons collected in the excellent book Charity and Its Fruits, available through The Banner of Truth Trust at https://banneroftruth.org/us/. Another reference that I have referred to in this study is the Westminster Shorter Catechism. This is an incredible reference for understanding our Christian theology, not just the fruit of the Spirit. I would encourage you to obtain a copy of the Shorter Catechism together with proof texts at http://www.pcaac.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/ShorterCatechismwithScriptureProofs.pdf.

 

WHAT DOES SCRIPTURE SAY?

 The first question we need to ask is “Why study the fruit of the Spirit?”

 

We know that the Westminster Shorter Catechism teaches that the chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. Catechism Answer Number 1.

 

The Catechism also teaches that God created man, male and female, “after His own image in knowledge, righteousness and holiness” with dominion over the creatures. Catechism Answer Number 10.

 

However, because of Adam’s fall, sin entered the world and all mankind lost the “knowledge, righteousness and holiness” that had been given to us at creation. Catechism Answer Number 18.

 

Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:22 says it this way:

 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

 

No longer do we have the righteousness and holiness that we had when mankind was first created. But all is not lost. The Catechism again comes to our aid by explaining that sanctification is the work of God’s free grace by which we are renewed in the image of God and are enabled more and more to die to sin and live to righteousness.

 

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.  For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Romans 6:12-14

 

Paul continues to consider the Christian transformation in Colossians 3:10 where he says that we “have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator” and Ephesians 4:24 says that our new self was “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

 

So, how important is righteousness?     God calls each of his children to righteousness. Remember the first catechism answer – our primary purpose is to glorify God … we do that through the practice of righteousness.

 

At this point, some are asking “what in the world does all this righteousness talk have to do with the fruit of the Spirit?”   Listen to the words of Jesus.

 

Jesus prioritized the disciples’ concerns in Matthew 6:33: they were not to worry about what they would eat or wear — they were to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” and all the other needful things would be added to them.  Jesus explicitly stated that our goal is righteousness.

 

In his book The Holiness of God, Dr. R. C. Sproul says “the goal of all spiritual exercise must be the goal of righteousness.[i]

 

So, how do we know if we are growing in righteousness? Dr. R. C. Sproul continues to provide this answer:

The fruit of righteousness is that fruit that is exercised in us by the Holy Spirit. If we want to be holy, if we have a real hunger for righteousness, then we must focus our attention on the fruit of the Holy Spirit. [ii]

* * *

[The virtues listed in Galatians 5:22-23] are the marks of a person who is growing in holiness. These are the virtues we are to cultivate. … In this list of the fruit of the Spirit, the apostle gives us a recipe for our sanctification. … The fruit of the Spirit – that is where our focus must be. [iii]

 

HOW DOES THIS APPLY TO MY DAILY LIFE?

 

Martin Luther explained righteousness in practical terms by saying that “Every Christian is called to be Christ to his neighbor.” We understand this to mean that we should live our lives to conform to God’s will so that when people see us, they see the reflected holiness of Christ in our lives – people will see us reflecting Jesus’ love to others and, in so doing, they can see Him living through us.

 

We all sin every day, or more likely every moment of every day. But for the believer in Jesus Christ, that sin is covered by His righteousness and we are made children of God through His work on the cross. Therefore, we can follow our chief end, which is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever, by growing in righteousness. This is done by allowing the Holy Spirit to work in our minds and hearts so the fruit of the Spirit becomes recognizable in our life.

 

Our search for righteousness leads us directly to the Holy Spirit and the fruit that He promises to provide and grow in our hearts.

 

So, for now, I would challenge you to read Galatians Chapter 5 and focus on the comparison between the acts of the natural man and the acts of the believer in Christ Jesus who has the Holy Spirit working in her heart, specifically verses 19-23.

 

Blessings to you and I pray that you will continue to walk with me as we learn about the fruit of the Holy Spirit and as we mature in our transformation into Christian believers who speak and act as Jesus did and who share in the passions that Jesus had for the lost sheep and for the worship of His Father, the Almighty God.

——————–

[i] The Holiness of God, R. C. Sproul, published by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., © 1998 R. C. Sproul, page 166.

[ii] Ibid., page 167.

[iii] Ibid, pages 169-70.

WHAT ARE THEY DOING?

Many years ago, my daughter bought me a Christmas gift that has continued giving delight for over 3 decades. She had heard me exclaim over various Christmas villages that I had seen in store windows, as I love looking that the buildings, the people, and the activities that they were doing in their snowy worlds.

She and my husband happened to be shopping when she saw a Christmas Village set. Once she laid eyes on it, my husband knew that we were going to have a Christmas village in our home. They bought the set and gave it to me as an early present that year, and it has been on display during the Christmas season ever since. We even call it “Lindaville”.

 

village - original set
The original Christmas Village set purchased by my daughter years ago.

Every year since that initial purchase, we have added new buildings, accessories, and scenery reflecting our interests. Here are some of the additions to Lindaville that we have incorporated into the village over the years.

Village church with musicians
Christmas village church with musicians outside serenading the people in the neighborhood.

 

Village house with picket fence
Christmas village house with picket gate.

 

village animal shelter
Christmas village animal shelter with their little friends being well treated.

 

Village Diner, dog park and playground
Playground and dog park with Tennessee Volunteer Diner close by.

 

Village sweet shoppe
Christmas village Sweet Shoppe with delivery man and truck.

 

On a quiet evening, I sit and stare at the village, imagining the people in their houses, the business people at work, the craftsmen delivering the goodies from the bakery, the volunteers taking care of the animals at the shelter. I love watching the children in the playground on the see-saw going up and down under the blinking lights on the playground trees.

 

I wonder what they are doing, thinking, planning, enjoying, fearing. And, when we are ready to turn the lights off for the night, I jokingly tell my husband that the parents of the children making snow angels should be contacted since the children ought to be in bed at that time of night!

But then, as we ourselves go to bed and turn off the house lights, I think about not just the ceramic village but of our real friends and family who are far away. What are they doing, thinking, planning, enjoying, fearing?

We often respond to the inquiry “How are you, today?” with a quick “Fine, thank you.” or “Okay.” or “Better than I deserve.” But we seldom take down the façade and let others see us as we really are – perhaps hurting physically, perhaps in pain because of harsh words spoken by someone we love, perhaps fearful over concerns about health, perhaps in fear of the mail in January when the bills for the presents purchased will arrive and we know the income will not be sufficient to pay them all. The list could go on and on and is as varied as there are people.

The Christmas season brings out smiles where there often are frowns. It brings out acts of generosity when penny-pinching is the norm at other times of the year. It provides occasions for us to don our holiday sweaters and our holiday ties, we put on the bright jewelry and party vests, and we polish up our smiles that hide our real hurts and concerns. But for many it is a very difficult, painful time.

The Good News, however, is that the Christmas season is a giant birthday party for the One born two thousand years ago, in a Bethlehem manger. This One is the Son of God and He does not need to ask “what are they doing?” He already knows exactly what we are doing, and He even knows why we are doing it! This One has come to show us the Way out of our crushing fear, our overwhelming struggle as we seek to run from our problems, our continual convicting awareness of our sin and guilt before God.

Indeed, this is the Christ whose birth was announced along with the admonition not to fear and to be at peace!

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. … Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

Luke 2:10 and 14.

This is the Christ who told His disciples:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

John 14:27.

This is the Christ who said, after His resurrection:

As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!”

Luke 24:36.

This is the Christ of whom it was written:

“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Acts 4:12.

This is the Christ who has provided salvation to those who believe on His Name.

Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

Acts 16:30-31.

What is the best present to get at Christmas? It is the gift that has already been given … no strings attached … free to all who believe.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 6:23.

The Babe who was born in that Bethlehem manger became our atoning sacrifice on the cross.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Ephesians 2:8-9.

This gift, when accepted, gives peace with God, fellowship with other Christians, a life with the Holy Spirit guiding and securing your steps as you are transformed into the image of our Savior.

What are we doing this Christmas season? I am confident that there are a bunch of activities that we have accomplished over the past several weeks. However, I pray that we have had as our priority the worship of the One who was born so long ago, whose birth we celebrate at Christmas, and may we have taken the time to be still before Him, casting our cares upon Him and giving Him our love and adoration.

Christmas day has come and gone for 2015. The ceramic people in the village are doing the same things they were doing ever since we put the village up. They are static and cannot change.

In contrast, I pray that God’s Gift that we celebrate at Christmas will energize us to worship Him, study His Word, praise Him, and witness to others of His love, mercy and grace.

So, what are you doing this Christmas season?

 

Father, may I honor and worship you throughout the year, not just at Christmas, and may I glorify your name in all that I say and do. Accept the gift of my heart and life, Lord, and may I live for you throughout my days, as you give me the grace and mercy to so live. I praise you and honor you, and I thank you for the saving grace extended to me and all those who call upon your name. In Jesus Holy and Wonderful Name, I pray.