“…I have no idea what I do for a living!
– Mark Lowry, “Flying With a Baby”
Let’s begin our 2009 Christmas concert with a few lighthearted favorites:
- “Sleigh Ride” by the Boston Pops
- Norman Rockwell would be proud of this musical presentation.
- And this Doggy Christmas Special
The theme of this year’s concert is “The Twelve Miracles of Christmas.” In spite of the title I promise to not subject you to that annoying song about a partridge in a pear tree. Instead, we’ll celebrate with music and drama, God’s intervention in the world as it relates to the Christmas story.
Miracle #1 — Every birth is a miracle! Here’s a song by Rachel Aldous celebrating the blessed event(s) in every parent’s life.
Miracle #2 — How unique and special is a God who wraps Himself in flesh and enters the world in human form to live among us? The next two songs capture the power of this thought.
Miracle #3 — The virgin birth of a special child named Jesus, who was both God and man, was both Mary’s burden and blessing as she carried and gave birth to a child who is the long-promised Messiah.
Miracle #4 — Christ’s birth, life, and death were foretold in amazing detail many hundreds of years before. Prophecy is a miracle.
- Enjoy “For Unto Us a Child Is Born” from Handel’s “The Messiah.”
Miracle #5 — The purpose and legacy of Jesus are alive today despite government and religious leaders who feared him and tried to kill him as a baby. They also tried to solve “the Jesus problem” by crucifying him. (see: a dramatic excerpt from “The Passion of the Christ“) Throughout the centuries, opposition in all shapes and sizes have tried to stop the spread Christ’s message by killing his followers. They’ve also tried (and still do, to this day) to make the name of Christ illegal. Yet, the legacy of Jesus miraculously thrives.
Miracle #6 — Soldiers were sent to kill the baby Jesus, but could not find him. Conversely, shepherds and three kings sought and found Jesus, with the help of an angel and a star, and worshiped him, thus demonstrating the protective hand and sovereignty of God.
Miracle #7 — The Bible is a collection of documents, by multiple authors, written in several languages, spanning centuries and yet is perfectly self-consistent. This sacred book is also corroborated with other ancient writings and archaeological evidence and is perhaps the most thoroughly scrutinized document in human history. Just as amazing is the quality and quantity of preservation of original and early manuscripts, greater than any other ancient documents, by orders of magnitude! The Bible has withstood everything man can throw at it. God is surely present in His word.
- “He Is” by Aaron Jeffrey
Miracle #8 — The babe born in a stable grew up and became well-known for miracles like healing the sick, blind, deaf, and lame, raising people from the dead, walking on water and other supernatural acts. Witnesses understood that this kind of power can only come from God.
- “Mary Did You Know?” trademark song of Mark Lowry
Miracle #9 — Christ’s resurrection is one of the most hotly contested events of all time. Opponents believe this is the key to discrediting the divinity of Christ. There is actually sufficient evidence without it to confirm that Jesus is who he said he is leading me to believe that His resurrection, as miraculous as it was, becomes less essential as proof and more about His crowning glory.
- Enjoy this famous resurrection hymn performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
Miracle #10 — The Gospel message is the most important miracle. No human could have conceived or executed such a perfect plan for humanity. Without Christ to model grace, mankind would never have understood it.
- “Above All” by Michael W. Smith
Miracle #11 — The Christmas story continues through the unprecedented impact Christ has had on specific individuals and collectively upon humanity for 2000 years of history. America itself is the result of divine intervention. The fact that freedom is a hallmark of both America and the Christian faith is not a coincidence, it’s a miracle.
Miracle #12 — Christmas has a unifying effect. It brings people together like no other celebration. Enemies put down their swords. Strangers tend to be more polite and helpful toward each other. When we can’t be together literally, the season seems to draw people together emotionally. Let’s take our cue from Josh Groban’s tribute to our service men and women with “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.”
When people use the word faith, it often has a religious connotation. But think of it. Almost everything we know has an element of faith. We have faith in natural laws such as gravity. It is testable. But, predictability of how it will behave in the future is an act of faith. Without faith, every leap and every step would be a mystery until it was completed.
Some describe religious faith as shallow because it cannot be tested in the laboratory. The laboratory part is true, the conclusion is not. Just like a court of law, there are other types of evidence besides lab results. For example, there is no scientific experiment that could prove Julius Cesar was a real person. But, we have sufficient archaeological evidence and written records to confidently call this a fact.
“Faith is not a way of convincing yourself that something is true when you know it is not, as someone has defined it, but faith is believing in something that is true. In order to be a Christian you must believe through faith, because from faith comes life, strength, peace and joy.” — Shawn Vandop
It seems to me that if God expects us to choose Jesus in lieu of the false prophets who proclaim other “truths”, He would provide evidence. Otherwise, how could we differentiate one Messiah from another?
I First Believed Because of My Parents
I received my initial training in the Christian faith from people who taught me many other lessons, too. Mom taught me that the street is a dangerous place. In first grade, a classmate was killed while crossing the street. Mom was right. The street IS a dangerous place! Why shouldn’t I believe other lessons she taught, such as Jesus.
As I grew up, people challenged the principles of my faith. Not just the existence of God, but also the nature of God. So, I was forced to look for evidence. After all, I couldn’t tell them I believed only because my parents and my pastor said so.
“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every Spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.” — Bible, 1 John 4:1-3
Other believers my age seemed to be a reasonable place to start. From sixth grade on, kids from church were among my friends. I can remember having discussions throughout my adolescent years and college about God, right and wrong and the Bible. While their belief provided some affirmation, they didn’t seem to have the special insight I was looking for.
My faith journey continued through my college days to the present. As I recognized and understood the evidence, my faith became stronger. My simple childlike faith gradually matured and became stronger because of the evidence and because God’s Holy Spirit has softened my heart and prepared my mind to receive what my stubborn, selfish heart would otherwise reject.
I Believe Because of the Miraculous Deeds of Jesus Christ
During His time on earth, Jesus did the unthinkable. He cured diseases and healed infirmities with no more than the touch of His hand. He foretold the future with perfect accuracy. He loved the most unlovable outcasts (e.g. lepers, thieves, tax collectors, prostitutes, murderers, and religious zealots. ) He taught timeless lessons for good living. He knew with perfect clarity what people were thinking. He walked on water and calmed a storm. He raised people from the dead, including Himself. In other words, He had full command over the natural world. You would expect someone like this to have the power to escape his own death by crucifixion. Instead, He chose to give His life as payment for all of the sins of mankind.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” — Bible, Romans 6:23
“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” — Bible, John 15:13
There were thousands of witnesses who saw the miracles, heard the words and believed. The established church and the Roman government knew of the miracles and felt threatened by a man with this kind of power. Who am I, living 2000 years after the fact, to question the testimonies of those who were there in person?
“Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did.” — Bible, John 2:23
I Believe Because Jesus’ Disciples Believed
People will die for a cause if it’s big enough and if they believe it to be true. People will not willingly die for a lie. Those who ate, drank, traveled and lived with Jesus knew Him as the Son of God, who would be crucified and rise from the dead, and most of them were tortured and killed for their belief. They saw the evidence first hand, knew the truth and wrote it down.
“This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.” — Bible, John 2:1
I Believe Because of the Testimony of Jesus Christ
Jesus claimed to have authority to forgive sins. He claimed to be the Son of God and the Messiah that had been foretold for centuries. He also foretold his death and rising from the dead. Logically, if there is sufficient evidence to support His claims, then the only reasonable conclusion must be that Jesus is the Lord and Savior for mankind.
Matthew 12:15-17 — “He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered and said, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.’”
John 4:25-26 — “The woman said to Him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming’ (who is called Christ). ‘When He comes, He will tell us all things.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am He.’”
In John 3:16 Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
In Mark 10:45 Jesus said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
I believe there IS sufficient evidence to support Christ’s claims. While I have heard many contest the truth of these claims, there is no credible information anywhere to refute that Christ made them. So, logically the claims become a true/false question? If false, the conclusion must be that Jesus is either a liar or a lunatic. Now think about this. Who would knowingly follow a liar or a lunatic when doing so would put their lives at great risk? As previously mentioned, many of Christ’s most committed followers were martyred for the actions that were inspired by their deeply held belief in these claims.
The answers are in the Bible, which claims over and over to be the Word of God. But in addition, here’s why the Bible can be trusted.
- The Bible is by far (i.e. by orders of magnitude) the most well preserved ancient document.
- The Bible has withstood more scrutiny than any other document.
- The Bible is a collection of writings by multiple authors written over the course of over 1500 years and yet, it is self consistent.
My MacArthur Study Bible and books like the following, help me clarify my thinking, sort through the evidence and understand historical context.
- “Surprised By Faith” by Dr. Don Bierle
- “Who Moved the Stone?” by Frank Morrison
- “A Case For Christ” by Lee Strobel
- “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis
I Believe Because He Pursues Me
Believing that the universe, with all of its complexity, is the result of random chance takes a greater amount of faith than believing in God, who made Himself known and provided plenty of evidence, including His Son, Jesus Christ and his written word, the Bible. The universe is SO big that we would never find God unless He wanted to be found. Because He wants to be found, He is everywhere, pursuing us with patience and persistence.
“We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade, the presence of God.” — C.S. Lewis, “Letters to Malcolm”
I Believe Because I’ve Seen the Lord’s Handiwork
Throughout history many incredible things have happened that are covered with God’s fingerprints. He continues to work in today’s world. No matter how unusual or improbable, skeptics will call these events coincidences. This believer recognizes with his mind and his heart that what is coincidence to some, is more of God’s evidence.
“I’ve had enough ‘signs and wonders’ to get my attention. But let me tell you, I believe because I have chosen to believe! I’ll believe if I never see another sign or wonder.” — Mark Lowry
So Why Doesn’t Everyone Believe?
That’s a simple question with many answers of which lack of evidence is not a valid one. All other answers are somehow related to ignorance and apathy. People will not likely entertain the notion of a god if they have no awareness of any evidence that suggests there could be a god. That’s ignorance. Alternatively, they have awareness of the evidence at some level, but don’t care enough to discover the full spectrum of evidence and assess it objectively. Apathy about anything is part intellectual laziness and part emotional. Perhaps something happened that created anger and bitterness that they direct toward a god in whom they no longer believe. Maybe the image of a strict God is incompatible with their lifestyle making it seem easier to not believe. In any case, the result is both ignorance and apathy, characteristics of a fallen humanity.
If someone’s heart and mind are open to the idea that there is a god and is committed to learning more, the next logical question would be, “Who is God?” This leads to a process of trying to identify God by understanding His nature and how that relates to us on a personal basis.
There are many god choices available. Some would say it doesn’t matter which god is chosen as long as the choice is made with sincerity. This certainly seems fair and flexible from a human perspective. But, is this God’s plan or man’s opinion? Here are just two Bible verses that explain why Christianity and other belief systems that offer alternative gods or paths to God are mutually exclusive.
“And he said to Him, ‘All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’” — Bible, Matthew 4:9-10
“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” — Bible, John 14:6
So, the question has come full circle. Is Jesus who He says He is? If so, and if you want what He has to offer, then your only choice is clear.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” — Bible, John 3:16
This is not a decision you can avoid. It is impossible to remain neutral. Jesus said,
“He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad.” — Bible, Matthew 12:30
Get a Bible and start with the book of John and the book of Romans to discover what God has to say about His purpose for your life and having a relationship with Jesus Christ.
© Copyright August 2008, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
Read more “Clancy’s Quotes” at: ClancyCross.WordPress.com