“Does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth.” (1 Corinthians 13:6)
Sadly, error has often been shielded in the name of love. Although love forgives the greatest sins, it does not condone them. “Do not judge!” a person cries as a strange looking sheep enters the congregation. I beg their pardon, but neither I nor anyone else wishes to be torn to shreds by a wolf. Christ told us not to judge according to the appearance but judge with righteous judgement (John 7:24). That is how love judges. Overlooking a friend’s sin is like ignoring a leak in their boat; you are helping them drown.
Also, love is thrives in an environment of truth and will wither in error. Some have gotten the notion that it is loving to accept all who profess Christ as genuine, regardless of what they believe. But that is being unloving, to that person and to God. Would you want your friend to give their life savings to conman? It is unloving to let a person think they're headed to heaven if their lives show they are headed for hell. Wouldn't it be kinder to warn them before it's too late? And we're being unloving to God when we accept a doctrine that dishonors or misrepresents Him. Would you like it if someone called your mother a liar? Then don't let others call God one!
Some people wonder how a Christian can hate sin but not the sinner. What if you had a loved one who stabbed themselves everyday? Would you love what they were doing to themselves? Wouldn't you do everything in your power to make them stop? Or what if you had a friend that smoked all the time, wouldn't you still love them even though you can't stand the smell of cigarettes? Genuine love cannot tolerate anything that destroys and since sin destroys, love hates sin. “You may depend upon that man who will tell you of your faults in a kind and considerate manner.” *
And if we don't love righteousness, we can't love God because He is righteousness. “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments,” (John 14:15). Since we love God more than all our heart, soul, and mind, we should be willing to sacrifice anything for Him—even our most cherished sins. The desire to please Him should consume our heart and the way to please Him is by practicing godliness. True, our works can never earn our salvation anymore than a few pennies could pay off the national debt. Rather, they are a small token of our gratitude for all He's done for us.
*C.H. Spurgeon, Spurgeon’s Sermons Volume Three (Hendrickson Publishers, 2016), 16.
“Does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered.” (1 Corinthians 13:5)
Love never stains its gown by playing in the mud. Love acts like it looks—beautiful. If we are dressed in love, all our outward ugliness will fade in comparison. And just because love is humble, doesn't mean it's not dignified. It can be worn at any occasion, whether it's casual or formal. It doesn't yell, balk, bite or wear a sour expression because that would go against its dress code. When I whine or roll my eyes I've torn love's gown. Too often stressful situations have made me act unbecomingly. The next time you're tempted have a fit, think back to the last time this happened and how it effected others. Did it make you feel any better? Did it give you peace? A calm state may be hard to maintain during a hurricane but an unbecoming attitude will blow you toward the eye of the storm.
Have you ever sacrificed something for someone (however small)? If not, are you sure you have love? We all tend to think of ourselves first, even the best of us. We go to great lengths to make ourselves comfortable and happy with usually little or no thought about someone else. Count how many times you thought of yourself today and how many times you thought of others. You may be shocked at how many times you think of yourself. If our thoughts are consumed with ourselves, how will we follow the command of laying down our life for our friends (c.f. John 15:13)? It's not too likely we'll have the opportunity to risk our lives for another's, but opportunities for sacrifice arise every day. Missing the football game to help out your grandma, cleaning the kitchen for your mom instead of watching your favorite TV show, or staying late to help your boss when you'd rather be resting, are a few examples of the little sacrifices we can make each day. Instead of thinking how to make life easier for yourself, think how you can make your parents, sibling’s, friend’s, or strangers easier too. “Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor” (1Corinthians 10:24).
Paul never said love is not easily provoked, but that it's not provoked. I must admit, I'm not easily provoked, but when I am, I am sharper than a porcupine. My quills start spiking every time someone criticizes my writing, cooking, or artwork. I'm being unloving when I do that. I need to remember that I've offended others many times, even if unintentionally (c.f. Ecclesiastes 7:21-22). Christ had much more reason to be angry than us, yet the only time He ever displayed anger was when the temple was defiled (Matt. 21:12-13, John 2:13-17). Anger is permissible when it's for God's honor, as long as it doesn't turn into hatred or violence. I'm not saying we should stand back while other people are harming us or others. But just because we shouldn't hit back, doesn't mean we can't block the opponents punch. “When we are injured, we are bound as Christians to bear it without malice; but we are not to pretend that we do not feel it, for this will but encourage our enemies to kick us again.” *
“God forgive them, for they know not what they do” is the greatest declaration of a loving heart. Christ forgave His tormentors while they were tormenting Him. How can our hearts be hardened over petty offenses when our King bore the ultimate insult? He forgives thousands of sins, why can't we forgive one? He forgives instantly, why must we withhold our forgiveness for months? You don't have to offer a friend who has betrayed you immediate restoration into your heart—you don't even have to be friends again—but you need to let go of hate and wish them the best wherever they go, even if drift farther away from you.
*C.H. Spurgeon, The Complete John Ploughman: Combined Edition of John Ploughman's Talk and John Ploughman's Pictures (Christian Focus Publications, 2007), 34.
“And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7)
The town of Bethlehem was bustling, probably fuller than it had ever been before. People were everywhere, making the place a torture chamber for introverts. Probably citizens of every class and religion were there, rich and poor, believers and atheists. It is significant that out of all these hoards, not even one noticed the Messiah’s birth. Surely there must have been at least one rabbi who had studied the prophets and would have seen the signs! But no, not even they cared. Everyone was too busy in their own affairs.
The inn had no room for Him and the world seems to have no room for Him either. They are looking extremely hard for a Savior, but not Him. All the well-trained rabbis would have known the facts about the coming Christ, yet they failed to recognize Him. The world knows much about religion and being religious, but they fail to recognize the One to whom their religion points. If they had acknowledged Him, they still would have rejected Him. They didn't want God, they wanted a superhero who would feed their gaping mouths without even requiring a thank you.
It is sad when God is in our midst yet we fail to see Him. It wasn't those in Bethlehem who recognized the King, but those in the fields. Sometimes those deepest in religion are the farthest from God, and sometimes the farthest from religion God chooses to bring the closest to Him. “Be ye quite assured that the name of a Christian is not the nature of a Christian, and that your being born in a Christian land, and being recognized as professing the Christian religion is of no avail whatever, unless there be something more added to it—the being born again as a subject of Jesus Christ.” * God is near to each one of us and I pray God will open our eyes to see that. Is there room for Him in your heart?
*C.H. Spurgeon, Spurgeon’s Sermons Volume Three (Hendrickson Publishers, 2016), 212.
The story of Christ's birth is miraculous. But it is more than a story; it is a historical fact. It is one of the few Bible stories that is universally known, but the common retelling differs from the original narrative. Aspects of the biblical account have been fictionalized and the alterations are regarded as fact.
"And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn." (Luke 2:7)
Christ is always depicted as being born in a stable. But if you were to examine Luke's entire chronicle, he does not mention a stable even once. A manger is a food trough for animals and since He was laid in a manger, it is assumed that He must have been born in a stable. An old tradition suggests He was born in a cave (The MacArthur Study Bible, page 1481, note on 2:7). Since Scripture does not expressly state the place, no one can be certain whether it was or wasn't a stable. I have no qualms if someone portrays His birthplace as in a stable, because there's no proof He wasn't. All we know is that He wasn't born in the inn. However, all this should be taken in consideration, remembering tradition isn't necessarily fact. Regardless of His birthplace, there is a part of the nativity scene that is undoubtedly falsified.
"Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, 'Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.' When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They said to him, 'In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet: "And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the leaders of Judah; for out of you shall come forth a Ruler who will shepherd My people Israel." ' Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, 'Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him.' After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh." (Matt. 2:1-11)
Three elements are wrong with the three kings. First, as the account above shows, the number of the men isn't cited. They brought three different gifts, hence the notion of three men giving them. Maybe there were three—or four, or five, or ten—but since time machines haven't been invented for us to travel back and ask them, it's best if we remain silent as to their number.
Secondly, they weren't kings. Matthew repeatedly refers to them as "magi"—never "kings." I don't think Matthew would have insulted a king by simply calling him a magi. Therefore, the song We Three Kings should be more accurately rendered, We Wise Men.
Lastly, they did not arrive immediately after Jesus's birth. He was probably at least a few months old when they visited Him. Joseph and Mary had taken a more permanent residence in a house (v. 11), indicating time had elapsed. Herod must have thought Jesus was older than a newborn since he ordered all male babies under two executed (v. 16).
These modifications to the story of Christ's birth might seem inconsequential. After all, they don't attack any major biblical doctrines. But the smallest deviation stains the pure tablet of truth and breaks its authority.
Another reason is that it poses a great danger to the youthful mind. Ken Ham found that those who attended Sunday school were more prone to be antichurch because their teachers were presenting the Bible in the same manner a person would tell Hansel and Gretal, Cinderella, and other fanciful stories ("Going, Going...Gone," Answers Magazine, July/Aug./Sept. 2011, page 125). We should never fictionalize any Bible passage; it could have dire consequences. Charles Spurgeon wrote “Let us never teach even the least error to a little child, for it may live on and become a great heresy long after we are dead” (C.H. Spurgeon, Commentary on Matthew: The Gospel of the Kingdom, 440).
Cute little elves don't exist, but angels do. Santa may not deliver gifts, but God bestows us with the gift of salvation. Even though we shouldn't tell The Night Before Christmas as if it were fact, that shouldn't keep us from spreading the true Christmas story! How could St. Nick’s presents ever compare with God’s gift
Thank you is not just a polite phrase, it's a thought, a feeling, an attitude. It should be more than an automatic response to receiving a gift. It should be a sincere, inner feeling we express—especially to the One who gave us all things. Gratitude and contentment are words that describe the Thanksgiving holiday, but are rarely expressed. They vanish as soon as Christmas ushers in its allurements of shiny bows and new toys. And when Christmas ends, the complaining of life's woes (big and small) begins. But that isn't how it should be. Thanksgiving should be practiced every day of the year.
"It is good to give thanks to the Lord and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High." (Psalm 92:1)
You are probably familiar with the account of Exodus. It is a truth-filled book that showcases God's power and man's ungratefulness. Thankfulness was foreign to the Israelites. What little gratitude they had melted faster than a snowflake in the Sahara. With the music of praise still ringing in their ears, they journeyed to a place called Marah. The water there was as bitter as the Israelites’ attitude. Instead of approaching the Lord in prayer and humbly asking for water, the people griped to Moses.
"So the people grumbled at Moses, saying, 'What shall we drink?' " (Exodus 15:24)
God had parted the water only three days earlier. If I didn't know better, I would have thought some person had snuck into their camp and conked each Israelite in the head to have caused such a sever case of amnesia. The parting of the Red Sea should have washed all the ungratefulness from their bodies! Even though God sweetened the water, their hearts remained sour.
"The whole congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The sons of Israel said to them, 'Would that we had died by the Lord's hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.' " (16:2-3)
If God had given them their preference of dying in the land of plenty rather than dying of starvation, they would have complained about that too. They couldn't be satisfied. Nevertheless, God provided them with nourishment. It would have been wise if they had used this food to close their mouths. It had barely settled in their stomachs before they engaged in another round of bellyaching.
"Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, 'Give us water that we may drink.' And Moses said to them, 'Why do do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?' But the people thirsted there for water; and they grumbled against Moses and said, 'Why, now, have you brought us up from Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?' " (17:2-3)
It's easy to sympathize with them. Would we react any differently if we were put in a life-threatening situation? God knew they were but flesh and graciously endured their waverings, perpetually satisfying their needs. What more could they ask? But ungrateful people aren't content to be thankful anymore than a dog is content to stay clean. If they can't find a grievance, they concoct one.
"The rabble who were among them had greedy desires; and also the sons of Israel wept again and said, 'Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic, but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna.' " (Numbers 11:4-6)
The Israelites had crossed the line. Complaining about lack of food is one thing, complaining about the absence of their favorite dishes was entirely another. I must admit, if I had to eat plain oatmeal for a month, I'd probably gag on it on the tenth day. But even that plain oatmeal is a reason for a multitude of thanks. Complainers tread on shaky ground. They may receive more than they bargained for.
"Say to the people, 'Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat; for you have wept in the ears of the Lord, saying, "Oh that someone would give us meat to eat! For we were well-off in Egypt." Therefore the Lord will give you meat and you shall eat. You shall eat, not one day, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days, nor twenty days, but a whole month, until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you; because you have rejected the Lord who is among you and have wept before Him, saying, "Why did we ever leave Egypt?" ' "(11:18-20)
Have you ever noticed that a display of God's power typically precedes their complaints? At Marah (Exodus 15:22-25), God had recently parted the Red Sea. In the wilderness of Sin, where they lamented the shortage of food (16:1-3), God had sweetened the bitter water not long ago (15:25). The chapter before the water in the rock incident (17:2-7) describes God's provision of bread and meat (16:4-16). Shortly after God's glory descended upon the tabernacle (Numbers 9:15-23), the Israelites hungered for Egyptian delicacies (11:1-6).
How could anyone be so ungrateful? But are we any different? What if the Exodus happened nowadays—our complaints would be so loud an astronaut could hear them in outer space. Not only would we complain about food, but we would bemoan the absence of our technological devices, TV, and internet. We'd be crying, "We are going to die out here of boredom, Moses!"
The Israelites are our mirror image but we can shatter that image with the mallet of thankfulness. They are our lesson; let us learn from it and not repeat their folly. The Israelites didn't realize that “A little sprig of the herb called content put into the poorest soup will make it taste as rich as the Lord Mayor's turtle.”
*C.H. Spurgeon, The Complete John Ploughman: Combined Edition of John Ploughman's Talk and John Ploughman's Pictures (Christian Focus Publications, 2007), 40.
“Who can make the clean out of the unclean? No one!” (Job 14:4)
It is easier to wash a hundred pounds of soot off a wedding gown than it is to clean man’s soul. Job realized the impossibility of this task, but not everyone does. Some people don't even think they need cleaned—well, I don't think pigs realize they are dirty either. “Do not suppose, my friends, that men like the gospel any better now than they did then. There is an idea that you are growing better. I do not believe it. You are growing worse. In many respects men may be better, —outwardly better; but the heart within is still the same. The human heart of today dissected, would be just like the human heart a thousand years ago.” *
However, Job’s words are not completely true; there is one person who can make the unclean clean. The heart is harder to cleanse than leprosy, but Christ can reach beyond the skin and cleanse the leprosy of the soul. I doubt there is any soul filthier than mine or Paul's—God cleansed ours and He can cleanse yours. All you have to do is come Him, knowing full well your sinfulness and inability to rid it, and you don't even have to bring the soap.
Day by day we'll soil our garments but God keeps cleansing us until eventually we’ll shine like stars.
*C.H. Spurgeon, Spurgeon’s Sermons Volume One (Hendrickson Publishers, 2016), 90.
Mariposa is a self-taught artist and aspiring children's author who captures the glories of God's creation on paper. She has a Ph.D. in creativity and a master's degree in imagination.
Aberdeen is a book-eating, ink-drinking dinosaur from the createtus period. When he isn't falling into plot holes or taking cover from the volcano of ideas, he's hanging out with Dee-Dee the doodledactyl. Read full bio