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The Great Birthday

Charles Spurgeon

“The angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” — Luke 2:10

There is no reason upon earth beyond that of ecclesiastical custom why the 25th of December should be regarded as the birthday of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ any more than any other day from the first of January to the last day of the year; and yet some persons regard Christmas with far deeper reverence than the Lord’s day.  You will often hear it asserted that “The Bible and the Bible alone is the religion of Protestants,” but it is not so.  There are Protestants who have absorbed a great deal besides the Bible into their religion, and, among other things, they have accepted the authority of what they call “the Church” and by that door all sorts of superstitions have entered.  There is no authority whatever in the word of God for the keeping of Christmas at all, and no reason for keeping it just now except that the most superstitious section of Christendom has made a rule that December 25th shall be observed as the birthday of the Lord, and the church by law established in this land has agreed to follow in the same track.  You are under no bondage whatever to regard the regulation.  We owe no allegiance to the ecclesiastical powers which have made a decree on this matter, for we belong to an old-fashioned church which does not dare to make laws, but is content to obey them.

At the same time, the day is no worse than another, and if you choose to observe it, and observe it unto the Lord, I doubt not he will accept your devotion: while if you do not observe it, but unto the Lord observe it not, for fear of encouraging superstition and will-worship, I doubt not but what you shall be as accepted in the non-observance as you could have been in the observance of it.

Still, as the thoughts of a great many Christian people will run at this time towards the birth of Christ, and as this cannot be wrong, I judged it necessary to avail ourselves of the prevailing current and float down the stream of thought.  Our minds will run that way, and, because so many around us are following customs suggestive of it, therefore let us get what good we can out of the occasion.  There can be no reason why we should not, and it may be helpful that we should, now consider the birth of our Lord Jesus.  We will do that voluntarily which we would refuse to do as a matter of obligation: we will do that simply for convenience sake which we should not think of doing because enjoined by authority or demanded by superstition. Continue Reading »

The Reason for the Season! … (December 2017 Update)

Christmas has always been my favorite time of the year since I became a follower of Christ.  I know that December 25th is not the day of His birth and I know that modern Christmas celebrations have become so commercial that it is often hard to find Jesus in them.  But I enjoy remembering and celebrating the fact that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten of the Father.” I also enjoy the lights that remind us that He is “the light of the world” and that “the light shines in the darkness and the darkness can never conquer it.”  So, for me, Christmas is a time to remember – and to celebrate.  Jesus is the reason for the season!  He became a man so that He could go to the cross and die for my sins.  And He arose from the dead and will come again someday! That is worth celebrating – but none of it would have ever happened without that one night in Bethlehem.  “For unto you is born, this day in the city of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord!” Continue Reading »

John Calvin as a Pastor

John Calvin as a Pastor

Most people remember John Calvin as a theologian. He certainly was that.  But above all else, for almost all of his adult life, John Calvin was a pastor. Preaching and teaching the Word of God were the primary elements of Calvin’s ministry. Many times, he preached or lectured on the scriptures as many as 12 times a week.[1] More than anything else, Calvin regarded himself as an expositor of God’s Word.[2] In his last will and testament, which he dictated on April 25, 1564 shortly before his death, Calvin began by describing himself as a “servant of the Word of God in the church of Geneva.”[3]  He summarized his life by these words: “moreover, I declare that I endeavored to teach His Word undefiled and to expound Holy Scripture faithfully, according to the measure of grace which He has given me.”[4]  Continue Reading »

He Giveth, and Giveth and Giveth Again! … (November 2017 Update)

One of my favorite hymns is “He Giveth More Grace” by Annie Johnson Flint.  Many times when I am troubled or when God has supplied unexpectedly, I find myself singing some of the verse of this great song.  It was written by a woman who lived all her life in adversity but continued to trust in the Lord.  The song concludes: “For out of His infinite riches in Jesus, He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again!” (Full song is at the end of this Update).

As I think about Thanksgiving this month, I am brought back to this song – He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again! I have so much to be thankful for … a wonderful family, both here in Ukraine and in the states… dear friends that are as close as family even though we are separated by geography and by time… a warm house and a full garden… wonderful opportunities for teaching… seeing students who are living the lessons they have been taught.  But most of all, we are grateful for Jesus and the change He has made in our lives!  We are so blessed to be part of His family and even more blessed that “He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again!”  Here are some of those blessings from this month…. Continue Reading »

Here I Stand … (October 2017 Update)

October 31, 2017 will mark the 500th Anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation.  It was on October 31, 1517 that Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the church in Wittenburg, Germany.  His theses started the debates that would lead to the Reformation and ultimate separation from the Church in Rome. His goal was not separation but reformation.  He wanted to bring the church back to its doctrinal foundations found in the Bible alone.  The Roman Church had grown so corrupt and powerful that something needed to be done.  Luther’s 95 Theses began the Reformation.

Ultimately the reformation of the Roman Church failed and a conflict ensued between the Protestants (protesters) and the Roman authorities.  At the Diet of Worms (1521), the break with the Roman Church was finalized when Luther refused to recant his teachings.  At the tribunal to convict him of heresy, Luther stated:

“Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Holy Scriptures or by evident reason…. I consider myself convicted by the testimony of Holy Scripture, which is my basis; my conscience is captive to the Word of God. Thus I cannot and will not recant, because acting against one’s conscience is neither safe nor sound. Here I stand. I can do no other. So help me God. Amen.”

So Luther stood only on the Word of God and the Reformation continued. Luther’s stance, along with many others who joined him, resulted in the separation of the church into Roman Catholic and Protestant.  It resulted in a return to the Word of God as our sole authority. It returned to the doctrine of salvation by faith alone.

This Reformation has changed the map of history, but more importantly, it has changed the lives of many people who came to see that Christ’s death was sufficient for them, apart from the traditions and rituals of the church.  Churches and missionaries around the world minister on the same basis as Luther did in 1517: Our conscience is captive to the Word of God.  We are here in Ukraine for this one reason: to teach the Word of God to ministers in Ukraine so that they too might have consciences bound to God’s Word alone.  So, while we miss our homes and families in the states, we can say with Luther, “My conscience is captive to the Word of God.  Here I stand, I can do no other. So help me God!”  Thank you for standing with us so that the gospel of His grace might be spread to the people of Ukraine and the former Soviet Republics! Continue Reading »

Redeeming the Time … (September 2017 Update)

Ephesians 5:15-16 says, “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time.” That sums up our August here in Ukraine!  While we had planned to make August a rest and recover month before the start of classes, God had other plans for us. We had planned to head west to the mountains for a vacation time, but we had to stay in Kiev to work on documents and some other things around the house.  That opened the door to a number of ministry opportunities that we did not expect. Continue Reading »

Family Blessings … (July 2017 Update)

John said, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (3 John 4). John was speaking about spiritual children in this passage.  But the same is true about our earthly children.  There are few blessings better in the world than having a wonderful family!  I have really been blessed with great children who have great families.  I have watched them go through many difficulties and walked through them honoring the Lord and coming out stronger.  It has also been a great joy to see how they have served the Lord in various capacities.  One of my great joys has been watching Sean and Meredith serve as missionaries through the Traveling Team in the US.  We were able to have this joy doubled as they came to visit us in Ukraine under the month of June.

Also, one of our greatest joys is to see our students walking in the truth as well!  It is an amazing experience to work with students for 4 short years and then to see how God is using them in their ministries.  We get to see this often and it is a real encouragement to us.  It is a struggle to know we miss so much time with my physical family (kids and grandkids) in the states, but that sadness is replaced when we see our students ministering here in Ukraine!  “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” Continue Reading »