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Friday, 30 December 2011

We Celebrated Christmas. Let Us Not Forget...

..the Jewish people.
This year, while we were celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem, the Jews had a very similar holiday of their own - the Hanukkah. This is a eight-day holiday celebrated by the Jews to commemorate a miracle which took place in 165 BC, long after the last book of the Old testament, Malachi, was written. Therefore nothing of it was recorded in the Old Testament. But it is mentioned in the New Testament, in John 10:22 as "the Feast of Dedication, and it was winter."

Their Hanukkah, which means Dedication always begins on the 25th day of Kislev, on the Hebrew calender. Because their calender is based on lunar months, their dating varies from late November to late December on our Gregorian calender. This year, the 25th of Kislev coincided with the sunset of the 20th December, which meant that our Christmas day fell on their fifth day of their holiday.

So what is exactly the Hanukkah?

It was when the Temple in Jerusalem was re-dedicated to the God of Israel in 165BC. As part of this ceremony, a candle had to burn on the Altar for eight days. At the time, there was enough olive oil to fuel the candle for just one day. But the candle kept on burning for the whole eight-day duration despite the lack of the fuel supply, and this was considered a miracle from Heaven - a wonderful sign when considering that the Temple was desecrated three years earlier by the Greek Seleucid monarch Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 168BC. This was when pigs were sacrificed at the Altar, which was, in turn, dedicated to the Greek God Zeus. Judaism was banned, as with male circumcision, and foods which was not Kosher were forced to be eaten by the Jewish population. A group of Jews, which became known as the Maccabees, revolted and successfully liberated the Jewish nation, which afterwards the Temple was re-dedicated.

Hanukkah had since then been celebrated by lighting one of each of the eight candles of the menorah, the Hanukkiya which actually has nine candles, the ninth, known as the Shamash is usually in the middle of the menorah, either higher or lower than the other eight candlesticks. Shamash is generally used for lighting up the others.

The Hanukkiya

On the first evening, the Shamash is lit with the first candle. They burn for half-hour into the night. The next night two candles are lit, and so it goes on until on the eighth evening when all eight are lit. The only exception is before sundown on the Friday, where the appropriate candle must be lit before sundown, and not on the Sabbath itself. Therefore often a longer candle is provided for this occasion.

Gifts are usually given to children, as well as to each other, particularly in the USA and in Israel, where the Jewish children don't feel left out where other children receive presents at Christmas. Also throughout the period, food cooked in olive oil is eaten, and a game known as Dreidel is played among family members. This consist of a four-sided spinning top, each side having a Hebrew letter printed on it. The letter which lands face up determines the action of the player who had thrown it, namely whether to add some coins in a central bowl, take all of the bowl's contents, or half of it, or not do anything at all. The player which has all the coins wins.

Unlike the Passover and other God-ordained Jewish festivals, there is no strict sabbath keeping with the Hanukkah festival. Work is permitted as during the rest of the year. But every Hanukkah festival will have a Sabbath within it, which is observed normally.

So we begin to see some striking parallels between Christmas and Hanukkah. Both are in winter, both involve lighting candles, both involve giving of presents, both involve cooking festival meals, both involve family games, both involve a period of days - Hanukkah has eight days, Christmas has twelve, and both involve allowing to work throughout the holidays. After all, it is vital for public services such as television broadcasting, the Police, hospitals etc. to be adequately staffed on Christmas day.

And furthermore, Christians are obliged to give honour to the Jews, as their own Christian faith was originally Jewish, and its launch was from none other than Jerusalem, the Jewish capital. Romans 15:27 reads:

For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews' spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings.

If only Christians over the past two millennia realised this! Instead, the Roman Catholic Church, along with some Protestant churches as well, had persecuted the "Christ-killing Jews" - despite that the Lord Jesus himself said that no man can take his life from him, but he lays down his own life according to his Father's commandment. (See John 10:18.) One of church history's hall of fame greats was Martin Luther, a Catholic monk who one day read Romans 1:17 and realised that the just shall live by faith, launching the Reformation. Yet he was never freed from Rome's dislike of the Jews, referring to all their synagogues as "Synagogues of Satan" a reference taken from Revelation 2:9. Then not to mention the Nazis, and their leader, Adolf Hitler, who had six million Jews exterminated simply because he felt that the Jews were an "inferior" race to them.

Yet what really astonishes me are the two straightforward verses found in Genesis 12:2-3, which reads:

I will make you (Abraham) into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.

With verses like these, one would think that the Jews would be the most popular nation on earth, with people showering blessings upon them and in turn be blessed themselves. How could it be so possible to be hated and cursed for so long, not only throughout the Christian age, but going back well into Old Testament history when the fledgling nation was troubled by the Canaanites, then later by the Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans and by the Arabs today?

Paul the Apostle never had any dislike for the Jews, especially being one himself. Rather, in Romans 9 he shows his feelings of distress over how his fellow countrymen can be so blinded from the truth of the Gospel, and was even willing to be severed from Christ if it meant many, if not all, of his fellow Jews believed and were saved. Paul had the right attitude, and so must we, who are saved through faith in Jesus Christ, even though the majority of us would not go as far as forfeiting our salvation for their sakes, nevertheless, our recognition for who they are and our fervent love for them and our desire to see them come to faith in their Messiah, must not cease among true Christians.

When I was backpacking Israel in 1993, I was walking through a street at Tel Aviv when I saw an Orthodox Jew trying without success to lift a laden trolley onto the sidewalk from the street. At his beckoning, I approached and together we lifted the trolley. He was so thankful as he dismissed me with a smile, that I walked along grinning from ear to ear with happiness! Later, during the vacation I felt God revealing to me much about Israel as a nation and the land he calls his own, and with everything fitting together, I could only gasp with awe at the inspiration of the Bible and the promises he made and kept, and will keep.

God had not forgotten his chosen people

Paul in his letter to the Romans, had written that the Jews were blinded from the reality of their Messiah Jesus in order that Gentiles, that is non-Jewish people, can believe the Gospel and be saved. He likened us to branches from a wild olive tree grafted in to the cultivated olive tree. He then warns us (non-Jews) not to become big-headed and arrogant after being recipients of God's mercy. Unfortunately, that has happened, and the Church's history had been tainted ever since, with many Popes having lived wicked lives and suffering horrible deaths, particularly of syphilis or even murdered by an angry mob, a jealous husband or anti-pope (a rival of the current Pope occupying the Throne of St Peter at the time.) Such a sorry state of the Church, the body of Christ, during the Dark Ages, could well be the link with their hatred of the Jews as "Christ-killers". In the Old Testament, for example, looking at the fate of the Canaanite kings at the time of Joshua and afterwards, Goliath during the reign of King Saul, Haman at the time of the Persian dominance over the Jewish Diaspora, and in modern times, Adolf Hitler, none had suffered such infamy and despicable deaths than they.

Their demise serves as a warning to us. God said to Abraham that anyone who curses him and his descendants (i.e. Israel) will himself be cursed. It is a matter not to be taken lightly. In turn, anyone who shows favour to the Jews, to the nation of Israel and Jerusalem in particular, will be blessed by God and enjoy his favour.

Contrary to the opinion of some Christians, God is not finished with the Jews on a national level. As I have mentioned already in previous blogs, there is a large quantity of passages in the Bible that prophesies that Israel will inhabit their own land of Canaan in the future, with Jerusalem as their capital city. When the Lord Jesus Christ returns to earth as King of kings and Lord of lords, he will enter the city of Jerusalem and there set up the throne of his father David. If you want reference, read Jeremiah chapters 30 to 33, and the last twelve chapters of Ezekiel. Also consider Romans 11:25-32, particularly verse 26, where Paul promises salvation to all of Israel in the future.

The Jews are the Lord's physical brethren and in a sense, our spiritual brethren. True enough, they are sadly blinded from the truth of the Gospel for our sakes, but this won't last for ever. One day, when all non-Jewish Christians are brought in, their veil will be removed and will all be saved.

May God bless you as you be a blessing to our Jewish brothers.

Happy New Year.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Merry Christmas!

I just like to wish all readers and followers of my blog a very happy Christmas and a prosperous new year ahead.
And I thank you all for your comments and encouraging notes. May I ask you all to keep your comments coming in, and look out for many blogs, I hope that will come in the new year.
God bless,

Sunday, 11 December 2011

I Will Cause You To Walk In My Statutes

This article is the result of reading other postings on this website. With a huge number of readers and followers believing that a true saint can lose his salvation and be lost again, I came across this verse of Scripture, upon which I write this article.

I will cause you to walk in my statutes. Ezekiel 36:27.
This sentence just quoted was uttered by none other by God himself through the prophet Ezekiel. And he spoke this to the exiled Jews who were taken by the Babylonians under King Nebuchadnezzar in 586BC.

But to put it in context, here is the more complete quotation:

For I will take you (the Jews) from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. (The land of Israel, or Erech Yisrael). Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.
A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take out the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgements and do them.
And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God.

Ezekiel 36:24-28 K.J.V..

This is one of several extraordinary prophecies found in the Old Testament. This one, along with Jeremiah 31:31-34, also quoted in Hebrews 8:8-12, are prophecies addressed to the sons of Israel who will dwell peacefully in their own land after the Return of Jesus Christ, who himself will sit at the throne of his father David in Jerusalem. So these prophecies are still unfulfilled at this time. It is true that many Jews have returned to their own land and Israel became a sovereign nation in 1948. But today the Jews dwell in unbelief, that is to say, not accepting the Christian Saviour Jesus Christ as their Messiah.

The Jews dwelling in their own land but still in unbelief.

I will cause you to walk in my statutes. This being the result of a new heart and a new spirit put within the person. What does this mean? It would mean that the new heart is a set of new desires and wishes, the longing to know God personally and to do his will. This also includes not wanting to sin, the desire to abstain from all that is evil. The new Spirit can only mean the Holy Spirit, who indwells every believer to guide him to the right way to please God.

And this is a good description of the Christian today, one who has been born again through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The true believer is given a new heart, a desire to know God personally and to please him. He is against the idea of sinning willfully. 1 John 3:9-10 says,

Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil; whosoever does not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.

So here we have two groups, the children of God and the children of the devil. History tells us that both can dwell in any church today, which is endorsed by Jesus himself when he gave the parable of the wheat and the tares (Matthew 13:24-30). When Paul, Peter, James, John and Jude wrote their letters, they were addressed to a church assembly or a group of church assemblies. Paul for one, wrote to the church in Rome, to the Church in Corinth, to the Churches in Galatia, to the Church in Ephesus, Philippi, Colosse and Thessalonica. All of these churches must have had some unbelievers within the assembly, as Paul often writes that they will partake in the resurrection if they remain in the faith, e.g. Colossians 1:22-23. Even to Timothy, Paul warns that there will be unbelievers mingling with the true saints under his pastoral leadership. Hebrews 6:4-6 tells of a person who partakes in the Holy Spirit yet if he still falls away, he would be "crucifying the Son of God all over again." When an unbeliever dwells with the saints, he receives all the goodness of the Holy Spirit within each individual and he is convicted of his sins. But if that person, especially from a Jewish background, decides that this Jesus Christ was not the Messiah the Jews had been waiting for, and returns to Temple sacrifices, then there is no more hope for him. This is because once his mind is made up, no persuasion can ever change his mind again. He cannot be brought back to repentance, and he leaves the church.

And this was exactly what John says:

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. 1 John 2:19.

Notice what John says here. Those who went out were unbelievers. They were never saved because they never believed in the first place, despite being made partakers of the Holy Spirit and tasting the good word of God. So this is what "falling away" is all about. Apostasy is not a believer becoming an unbeliever, but an unbeliever convicted of his sins by the Holy Spirit yet deciding that Jesus was not the Christ, therefore attempting to find salvation through means of another route, if bothering at all. Eventually they are the ones who drop out of the church.

So the apostle's letters were addressed to Christian churches, which have some unbelievers in them. Sooner or later, these people will manifest themselves by deserting the faith. Only those who persevere to the end are proved to be true saints and will be saved.

And that is what our salvation is all about. It is a gift, a gift from God given to every believer by grace through faith. It can be likened to a box full of good things: forgiveness of sins, a new heart, the Holy Spirit, communion with God, eternal life, adoption into God's family, already seated in Heaven, a Heavenly inheritance and perseverance. Yes, perseverance is as much as a gift of God as eternal life itself. This particular gift fulfills two purposes, (1)-it keeps our faith in God strong during the most trying times of our lives. And (2)-it has the power to separate the true saint from an unbeliever, especially when the lives of both of them are virtually identical for a time. I have personally watched those who I thought were devout Christians leave the church after turning against God himself and everything else spiritual. Trying to persuade them back to the faith was of no avail. They have gone forever. Just as Peter also writes, the sow has returned to wallow in the mud and the dog to its own vomit. Why did the pig return to wallow in the mire after it has been washed? Because it is a pig, and that is what pigs do. The context to this was that the apostate had returned to his sinful ways because he was a sinner, as all sinners do if they never underwent regeneration. (2 Peter 2:20-22).

There may be other verses which indicate that a true believer could fall from his secure position. 2 Peter 3:17 is one example, 1 Corinthians 4:4 is another. But are these verses threatening Hell? It really depends what is read into them. Only those who believe that one can lose his salvation would read damnation into these verses. I doubt very much that the writer had this in mind. A true saint's walk with God is not always peaches and cream, just as our walk with our natural fathers were not always tranquil! As my own case was proved, a true saint can have his faith shaken. I went through this myself. In one of my last blogs, Your Future Is In His Hands, (published November 27th, 2011) - I related an experience I had while I was a volunteer in Israel, back in 1994, where my faith was so low, that I near enough renounced it altogether, with the decision to go my own way, regardless of the consequence. But I didn't remain that way for long. You see, it wasn't God I was disappointed with, it was formal Christianity, established in an English setting, which had let me down. But from the moment God called me in his still small voice, I responded immediately. If there was a case of forever losing my salvation and passed the point of no return and be lost forever, that occasion would have been it.

It was impossible for me to hate God. Being angry with God, maybe yes. King David was angry with God for letting an ox stumble while carrying the Ark of the Covenant in a cart, which cost the life of one of the King's closest helpers. (See 2 Samuel 6:1-11). It is alright to be angry at God. Confessing one's anger and the cause of it is all part of one's relationship with God. After all, God would have known about the incident and the consequential anger long before it would ever occur, yet God still saved him at the point of repentance and faith. But for a believer to hate God would have been impossible, since the Holy Spirit dwells in him (Romans 8:15-16) and that no one who has the Holy Spirit can say, "Jesus be cursed." Rather, the believer is a child of God, adopted into his family forever. (See 1 Corinthians 12:3).

So the true believer has been adopted into God's family and is also a member of the Bride of Christ. When the bride walks up the aisle of a church, all her body parts are there. Some are hidden, others are on show. But when she presents herself to the groom, she is fully complete with every part functional, down to the last cell. The Bible also likens the church as the body of Christ, with every part fully functional in him.

So the true believer is a child of God, adopted into his family. God knew that such a person would become a believer from eternity past. So if God also already knew that one would lose his salvation sometime after he turned to Christ, would God have saved the person in the first place? At the Judgement, it is Christ himself who says,

I never knew you, depart from me, you who work iniquity. Matthew 7:23.

I never knew you. This does not sound like a once-saved person who had lost his salvation sometime afterwards. If that had been the case, then Christ wouldn't be telling the truth when proclaiming judgement, because there was a time in the man's life when Christ did know him. This verse therefore, indicates that either Jesus Christ knew him from eternity past, or never knew him at all. There is no halfway point here. It's either one or the other.

Then take a look at all the great saints in the Old Testament. Among all the named saints, from Abel right through to Malachi, there is not a single case of any losing their salvation and ended up in Hell. Could this be the result of eternal foreknowledge of God, and his ability to preserve the faith of every believer, even in Old Testament times? Can we really imagine that such men as Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi, along with others not named here, were in danger of losing their salvation? Didn't Jesus, on at least one occasion, declared to the Pharisees that they shall see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, along with all the prophets, sitting in the Kingdom of God, while they were shut out?

Sure, there are a couple of uncertainties. One of them was King Saul. There is a controversy whether his soul went to Heaven or Hell at his death. In this case I don't know, neither is it up to me to say. It totally depends whether God knew King Saul from eternity past or not, although I personally believe he did, if David's lamenting over him and his son Jonathan had any value attached to his grief. (2 Samuel 1). Such as the greatness of God's grace and mercy upon such a king who erred so deeply during his reign.

The other case was that of the unnamed prophet of God from Judah, who after rebuking King Jeroboam, disobeyed God when he was deceived by an old man to refresh himself and eat while on his journey home. Soon afterwards, he was slain by a lion (1 Kings 13). Did his soul went to Heaven at his death? Personally, I'm convinced that he did. Why? Because God knew him. He was a good example of what Paul had written to the church in Corinth. He wrote about anyone who abused the Lord's supper was slain, but his soul was saved, but as by fire (1 Corinthians 3:12-15, 11:27-32).

So what must we do to be saved? First we must realise that each one of us have broken the Law, enshrined in the Ten Commandments. Have you ever looked at a woman with a lustful eye? Then you have already committed adultery with her in your heart. (Matthew 5:27-28). Likewise, he who hates his neighbour without a cause commits murder (Matthew 5:21-22). Also if you have ever lied, then you are guilty of being a false witness against your neighbour. Have you had a desire for somebody else's possession? Then you are guilty of coveting. Is the Lord your God the very first priority in your life, above absolutely everything else in you life? If not, then you are guilty of idolatry. Have you ever shouted, "Oh, for Christ's sake...!" Then you are guilty of blasphemy. Have you ever cursed your parents, or disrespect them? Then you are guilty of dishonouring your parents.

So we are guilty of breaking the Law of God as given in Exodus 20. If we have broken the Law, then we are guilty before God, and deserving of Judgement. Paul says that even if we have kept the Law perfectly, but stumble at just one point, we are guilty of all of it.

But the good news is, that Jesus Christ who died on the cross to atone for our shortcomings, is now able to cleanse us from our sins, forgive us fully and impart eternal life. This salvation being the imputation of Christ's sinless righteousness on our life's account. In other words, we are pronounced, "Not Guilty" by the righteousness of Christ in our lives. Furthermore, our body and soul becomes the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, who will dwell in us forever, giving us the desire and power to know God personally and to do his will. The very conviction of our sin, revealed by the Law, makes us want to run to Christ for mercy. Once safe in his arms no one in his right mind would want to be separated from him ever again.

This is the meaning of Once Saved Always Saved, which I wholeheartedly believe.

With such sovereign power of God, his love, grace and mercy, why doubt such a wonderful truth?

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Hats Off To Jesus - That's It For Another Year

December at last! After thirty days of November, here in the UK, which I think was the dreariest month of the year, with dark evenings drawing in and the weather getting cooler and wetter, I feel a better mood comes in with December. Winter Solstice, the end of the year, Christmas holidays, the world of snow, Christmas trees, tinsel, baubles, giant illuminated plastic Santa and coloured lights ablaze over city streets, knowing that children are getting excited for their presents, wallets are getting slimmer by the day as bank accounts diminish and the credit card goes into overdrive. Meanwhile, stockists of socks and neck-ties feel their eyes sparkle as wives and girlfriends enter their shops to keep their tills ringing.

And oh yes, people who had little time for anything spiritual throughout the rest of the year begin to turn "churchy". As Christmas carols begins to be sang, the pews begin to fill. The BBC's Christmas broadcast of Songs of Praise each year brings views of packed cathedrals, beautiful traditional carols and a wide TV audience.

There is something nice about a helpless baby in the crib. He does not pose a threat to the way we like to live our lives. An adult Jesus will be too demanding. A baby, on the other hand, is so cute. Everyone would like to hold the baby Jesus and cuddle him. He does not make any demands on anybody, doesn't he?

And the Christmas carols. Surely we all have our favourites. Although I like quite a number of traditional carols, my favourite is Come all ye Faithful. This song contain the verse which just about embrace the whole of the Christian creed in a nutshell. Here it is:

God of God
Light of Light
Lo he abhors not the virgin's womb
Very God
Begotten, not created;
O come let us adore him,
O come let us adore him,
O come let us adore him,
Christ the Lord.

This is such a beautiful song, the lyrics always touches my heart whenever the song is sung. But this is because the carol teaches the incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity, specifically to die a cruel death on the cross to atone for our sins. As someone once said, Christmas is all about Easter. But it seems to me that a much greater percent of the British population either do not fully link the birth of Jesus Christ to his death and resurrection or do not wish to, and how much less one's daily commitment to him? And statistics seem to bear this out, even if surveys cannot be made absolute cut-and-dry, they do give a fairly approximate guide with allowance for some variations.

In the UK, according to the Christian charity Tear Fund, with 10% of British people attending church on a weekly basis, only 7% of the total population say they are practicing Christians. In turn, 32,200,000, or 66% of the population say they have no connection with church at all throughout the year. The remaining 24% have a nominal connection with the church but don't attend regularly. All this is quite a contrast to the 43% of the British population who attended Christmas services in 2005, compared to the 45.7% who said they had no religion at all.

Furthermore, a graph shows that church attendance in the UK is constantly declining. By examining the chart representing those who profess the faith to those who don't, in 1983 those who called themselves Christian were the majority with 66% professing the faith, until recently, in June 2008 the number of non-believers overtook to become the new majority, by 2009 the number of non-believers stood at 51% to the professing 44%. The remaining 5% probably were not sure. The orange line represents the people of other faiths, such as Muslim, which stayed practically level throughout the 26 years the survey covered. (To study the illustration, you may have to bring the zoom to 200%.)

In the USA, statistics seem to indicate that 26% of the population attend church every week or more. States such a Louisiana, Alabama and South Carolina top the bill with a staggering 58% of the state's population attending church regularly. In turn, New Hampshire and Vermont, in the New England area, has a lowest attendance of 24%. But by looking at the comparisons, it becomes immediately obvious that the Americans are much more keen on regular church attendance than the British. And yet, a recent news report says that the UK is one of the most generous countries in Europe, if not the world when it comes to giving to charities. Charity TV shows, such as the BBC annual Comic Relief and Children in Need entertainment shows has always raised millions of pounds from the viewing audience, in addition to private giving, the greater number of donations going to medical charities.

So here in the UK we see ourselves as a Christian country. We make a great festival of Christmas, so much so, that the image of a baby lying in a cattle feeding trough somehow gets lost in all the bright lights and tinsel glitter. We all love to celebrate Christmas. And I would dare to say that die-hard atheists such as Professor Richard Dawkins had every year pulled and snapped a Christmas cracker with his family members over a table laid with a succulent roast turkey with all its trimmings, followed by Christmas pudding set alight with Brandy and served with lashings of cream. Not to mention nuts, chocolates and all other festive niceties to add to the excitement in his children's eyes as they tore away the gaily-coloured wrapping to reveal their presents. Indeed, thanks to the Christian faith, even atheists can, and do enjoy the holiday.

And this is the point of this article. Although we love Christmas, we still want to keep the baby in the crib. In the crib is where we want the child to stay, because if we take him out of the crib, he'll start to grow up. And as he grows, he'll begin to say things we would not want to hear. Real horrible things like as; to be his disciple, we must take up the cross and follow him. And to add to this, the preference to him over everything we have, including our family and even our own lives. And the gritty discomfort we feel when he quotes from the Law of Moses. And whenever he quotes from the Law, we become aware of our own sins, and that is not nice. And those statements he comes out such as selling all that we have and give the proceeds to the poor and come follow me. Okay, we might be rich in Heaven one day but does this mean I have to wonder homeless through the cold, wet streets? After all, he did say that foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head, and that the servant is not greater than his master. Challenging stuff!!!

Yes, he did say also, on this very issue, that what's impossible with men is possible with God. Then that bit which really puncture our righteous pride. That is to trust in him brings eternal life, and this life is in the Son of God, and not of ourselves. So what are we left with? Nothing. For the Cross of Christ slays the old man stone dead. In other words, to live is Christ, and not of us. Little wonder that we want to keep the child in the crib, even to celebrate his birth every year. But stay in the crib he must.

But would Jesus Christ really want every follower to catch rheumatism, arthritis and a host of other ailments by tramping through the cold, wet, wind-blown streets? Well, there is absolutely no record of this ever happening, but history is filled with records of imprisonment, torture and death of saints who has answered his call. But with all of these martyrs, it would have been impossible for a single case to have happened unless God himself gives him the power. Because our self-preservation is the strongest instinct every person has, only the power of the Holy Spirit in the person would make his love and commitment to Christ even stronger than his natural instinct. So the central message for every true believer is this: Be filled with the Holy Spirit and let him both guide you and be rich in the knowledge of his word, which is gotten by reading the Bible with a believing heart. Only then would it become possible for your love for God and his Kingdom to dominate your life to the point of death.

After all, in Heaven one's joy is so full, so satisfying that it can be likened to a child's excitement on a Christmas morning, except that the excitement is eternal. There will be no unwanted presents, no burnt turkey, no family rows, no hangover from excess drinking, most important of all, no post-holiday blues to endure on the first day back at work.

Merry Christmas.