Jesus and You in 2022

Recently I read the claim, put forward by a clergyman, no less, that Jesus never stated that he was the divine son of God. This writer would have us believe that what we have are Jesus’ “daily and constant declarations about how to be human and how we are to imitate him in his humanity.”

Jesus was most certainly human. But to imply that this cancels his claim to deity is is to misread the New Testament and to misunderstand Jesus’ plain words about his divine nature. If we take the Bible seriously we cannot escape the conclusion that it teaches us that Jesus is both God and man.

Even our Lord’s favorite name for himself, “Son of man,” is a messianic title taken from the Old Testament. It implies his ideal and perfect humanity. It also teaches his lordship, kingship, and ultimate rule over the whole world in a divine kingdom that will never be destroyed (Daniel 7:13-15).

So as we enter a new year let it be with the intention of keeping Jesus in the central place in our lives. “In all your ways acknowledge him” (Proverbs 3:6). “Jesus Christ is Lord” (Philippians 2:11). Jesus even said that we are to honor him in the same way that we honor the Father in heaven. “Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him” (John 5:23).

In responding to his critics in John chapter 8, Jesus repeated the claim that he came from the Father, God, who sent him. “I stand with the Father who sent me” (v.16). “My other witness is the Father who sent me” (v. 18). “He who sent me is reliable” (v. 26). “The one who sent me is with me” (v. 29). “I have come from God” (v. 42). “He sent me” (v. 42).

Jesus also stated that his teachings came from God. “What I have heard from him I tell to the world” (v. 26). “I speak just what the Father has taught me” (v.28). “I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence” (v. 38). “I know him (the Father) and keep his word” (v. 55).

In John 14 Jesus said that we are to believe in him with the same faith that we reserve for God. “You believe in God; believe in me” (v. 1) “No one comes to the Father except through me” (v. 6). “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (v. 9). “I am in the Father and the father is in me” (v. 10). “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30).

These are astounding claims. If they are true then in this new year of our Lord 2022 we must respond with some resolutions. With the disciple Thomas we must worship him as “my Lord and my God” (John 20:28). We must obey him as he told his followers, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching” (John 14:23). When we pray to God, we must approach him in the name (on the authority) of Jesus. “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete” (John 15:24). Added to these is the great commandment: “Love each other as I have loved you” (John 15:12).

Many African American churches have “watchnight” prayer services on New Years’ Eve. There is testifying, singing, preaching and, and as midnight approaches, fervent prayer for the new year that is ahead. What a great way to acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus in the new year! It would not be a bad idea if every new day in 2022 began with our heartfelt declaration: “Jesus Christ is Lord!”

Pastor Randy Faulkner


God’s Christmas Tree

Writing in the December issue of Christianity Today, Timothy Larson reminds us that the origin of the Christmas tree was medieval European sacred plays performed at Christmastime. These plays told the biblical story of redemption and included a decorated evergreen tree which represented the Tree of Life. This became a symbol of the season.

I have read that it was the German reformer Martin Luther who added candles, their lights representing starlight shining through the branches of the Christmas tree. Most of us have memories of being charmed by the mystical beauty of the decorated and lighted Christmas trees of our childhood. Perhaps it is the desire to recover that innocent joy that prompts us to decorate the tree again each year at Christmas.

As you enjoy your Christmas tree, consider the fact that there is another tree. It has no ornaments. It has no lights. It is not a thing of beauty. Rather it is a stark testimony as to the reason why Christ came to earth. Older English translations of verses like Acts 5:30 tell us that our Lord died on that tree.  “He himself bore our sins in his body on the the tree so that we might die to sins and live unto righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24). 

The latest edition of the New International Version translates “tree” as “cross.” The meaning is the same. The Greek word xulon in this context means a wooden pole, beam, cross, or gallows; a cruel means of execution. The cross upon which Jesus died may be thought of as God’s Christmas tree.

Romans 5:1-11 emphasizes the death Christ died for sinners. It repeats the words “death,” “died,” “die,” and “blood,” to explain why the Lord Jesus came to earth at Christmas. He died on that tree for a reason, in fact, for several reasons! Think about this as you gather with your family around your Christmas tree this year.

Here are some of the reasons Jesus died on the tree. These are like Christmas presents we receive when we trust in Christ as savior.

Peace with God. The Lord’s sacrificial death for us sinners makes possible a new relationship to God. Where once we were enemies (v. 10), now believers are at peace with God. “Glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14).

Access. Jesus, through his death on the tree, ushers us into the very presence of God where we may enjoy fellowship with our heavenly Father every time we draw near to him in prayer.

Hope. Christian hope is confidence that the purposes of God will be fulfilled in our lives according to his word. This hope never disappoints. One of the themes of this Advent season is hope. “We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God” (v. 3).

Love. God demonstrated his love for us in the death of Christ on the tree. He “poured out” his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to every believer.

Joy. Believers in Jesus may have joy because they are reconciled to God by the death of his Son. Indeed, they are justified though his blood and saved through his resurrection life. Joy to the world!

All of these gifts are real and attainable for those who will have faith in the Christ of Christmas. The manger is not the end of his story. In the words of Hannah King, “Jesus came down from heaven and then went further still: to the very depth of human shame and suffering. He did this for our sake.” He was born to die on the tree.

That tree, the cross, may be for you and me the Tree of Life.

Pastor Randy Faulkner


A Christmas Letter from Paul

Well, not exactly.  Paul did write letters. The letters of Paul make up half of the New Testament. He never really described the birth of Jesus, nor did he write an account of the life of Jesus. But Paul sent a Christmas message in his letter to the Galatians.

“But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law that we might receive adoption to sonship” (Galatians 4:4-5).

Let’s think about Paul’s little Christmas message.

Jesus came in the right way. He was “sent” by God our Father and Creator. Jesus was sent on a mission from heaven to earth. In the words of John the apostle, “We have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world” (1 John 4:14).

He was “born of a woman.” the infant Jesus was conceived in a supernatural way, but born in the normal human way. The divine child took a human nature as he passed through human birth into the world. He partook of his mother’s humanity. This conforms to the prophecy of Isaiah, “Unto us a child is born” (Isaiah 9:6).

C.H. Spurgeon wrote of the birth of our Lord: “Infinite, and an infant. Eternal, yet born of a woman. Almighty, and yet hanging on a woman’s breast. Supporting a universe, and yet needing to be carried in a mother’s arm.”

The fact that Jesus was born under the law means that he was a Jew who observed the requirements and customs of the law of Moses. He was born under and into that system so that he could release people from that system. He fulfilled the requirements of the law by his sinless life. He paid the penalties of the law by his sacrificial death.

Jesus came at the right time. His appearance on the scene coincided perfectly with Bible prophecy. Those familiar with Daniel the prophet know that he prophesied the exact time of Messiah’s coming to Israel (Daniel 9:25-27). There are many prophecies in the Hebrew scriptures about the first coming of Messiah and Jesus fulfilled them. The book of Hebrews tells us that his coming was “in the culmination of the ages” (Hebrews 9:26).

Not only that, but his coming coincided with world events. In the providence of God, there was a confluence of historical circumstances that contributed to the rapid and efficient spread of Christianity just a few years after the earthly life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

Jesus came for the right reason. This is the heart of the Christmas message. In Galatians 4:4-7 Paul enumerates some of the blessings of salvation that are true because Jesus came at Christmas.

One of them is redemption. Jesus is said to redeem those who believe in him. This is a word that is taken from the Roman slave market to illustrate the freedom of those who are released from the bondage of sin. “All are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24). His death on the cross was the ransom payment for our redemption.

Not only that, but his coming makes it possible for us to be taken into the family of God by adoption. In Paul’s day that meant full acceptance, status and recognition as children in the family. He applied that as an illustration of the believer’s relationship to God.

He goes even further to speak of the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is the indwelling presence of the Spirit who makes possible an intensely personal relationship to God. It is because of Christmas that it is possible for us to call out to the Father is prayer and call him “Abba!” It is because of Christmas that it is possible for us to know God and to be known by God and to receive the inheritance of eternal life (Galatians 4:6-9).

Paul would have us think about these things as we celebrate around the Christmas tree, sing carols and feast with our families. He wants us to know that redemption, adoption, the Holy Spirit, inheritance, and knowing God are wonderful gifts of Christmas. All because Jesus came in the right way, at the right time, and for the right reasons.

Pastor Randy Faulkner


Luke’s Christmas Story

There are so many legends and customs that have become attached to Christmas that for some it may be difficult to discern the real story. For a  lot of people the first things that come to mind are St. Nicholas, flying reindeer, and a toy manufacturing center at the north pole!

Unlike many made-up stories, the story of Christmas does not begin with “once upon a time,” or “long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away.”  The Christmas story is rooted in world history and geography. It was written by Luke, a scholar who was a physician, an historian, and a missionary, one of the finest minds of his day. At the beginning his gospel, he states that he had carefully researched the things he wrote about, based upon the testimony of eyewitnesses.

He positioned his story amid the sweeping movements of world history. He described humble, ordinary people of faith who were the focus of God’s interest and his special calling. Luke described the intervention in their lives of supernatural creatures of incredible brilliance and power, messengers of God. These messengers were sent from heaven to declare good news of great joy when they announced the birth of Jesus.

Luke’s gospel begins and ends with good news and joy. He fills his gospel with the good news of Jesus’ good words and good deeds: his healing, his compassion, his wisdom, his miracles, and his saving work on the cross. He is described as “Savior.” He is the Son of God. Luke records how, with divine foreknowledge, Jesus predicted his death and resurrection as the reason for his coming.

These things happened exactly as he had said they would. The message of Jesus’ death and resurrection is the good news of the Christian gospel because it is the basis for our hope of salvation.

So during Advent we peel off the layers of tradition even as we smile at dancing snowmen, elven mischief, and a partridge in a pear tree. We return to Judea and the true story of a young Jewish woman and her husband-to-be, to the real story of the towns of Nazareth and Bethlehem, to an inn and a stable, to a manger and to the blessed baby who was placed there, born to save us from our sins.

The best response to all of this is to believe that what Luke wrote about this baby is God’s truth. He lived a perfect life. He died for sinners. He rose from the dead to give eternal life to those who trust in him. He came to be the Savior. Luke says this story is the true story of Christmas and it is good news for all people — including you!

Pastor Randy Faulkner


A Christmas Letter from Micah

Christmas letters bring us news from friends and relatives we haven’t heard from in a while. Sometimes they contain more information than we want to know about the sender’s activities during the previous year. Other letters are spare, not saying enough, prompting curious phone calls to ask for more detail.

That is what happened to me a few years ago when a friend’s holiday letter hinted, barely hinted, that she might have cancer. This got my attention. It turned out to be true. Her letter came at the beginning of a protracted battle with the disease.

Micah the prophet was a straight-talking country preacher, a contemporary of Isaiah. He was called by the Lord to prophesy bad news for the people of Judah. This was because false beliefs and immoral lifestyles had corrupted the nation, and Yahweh was ready to respond in judgment for their sins.

Embedded in this bad news were some hints of good news which make this letter so relevant for the Advent season. Micah’s prophesy is a call to “Listen!”  to “Pay attention!” and to “Hear the word of the Lord!” We hear this call to snap to attention in each of the three divisions of the book.

Advent is an invitation to wake up and get ready for the coming of the Lord. It moves us from our sleepy drifting through life to an outward-focused expectation.

Mica h wrote about a place. It was a small town in the territory of Judah. As a prophet who spoke bluntly against corruption, Micah was not popular with the convention and visitors’ bureau of Jerusalem. Right from the beginning of his prophecy, he exposed the hypocrisy and idolatry of the people. He followed up with a long poetic dirge predicting God’s judgment on Jerusalem and the outlying towns and villages of Judah.

Amid the prophesies of doom (it’s no fun being a prophet of doom), Micah deflects our attention to another town in Judah which would become famous as the birthplace of Messiah, Jesus Christ.

“But you, Bethlehem Ephratha, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from old, from ancient times” (Micah 5:2).

This prophecy was fulfilled when, in obedience to a governmental edict, Joseph and Mary travelled to Bethlehem. It was while they were there that she gave birth to Jesus (Luke 2:1-7).

Micah wrote about a person. Mary’s baby will be the ruler in Israel, according to the prophet. Micah had been meditating on the future of his nation. God revealed to him that there would be severe judgment against Judah and Jerusalem. But he was strangely comforted by this word of the unexpected arrival of this very special person who would be coming from heaven to earth. His coming will be from eternity into time.

He will come to rule Israel (5:2), and rule the world (5:4). He will deliver his people and bring peace to the earth. This, of course looks forward to the second advent of Christ. Micah says, “He will stand and shepherd his his flock in the strength of the Lord” (5:4).

At our Lord’s first coming he went to Calvary as the Great Shepherd who laid down his life for his sheep. At his second coming he will reign as the true Shepherd-king, as did David his ancestor(Ezekiel 34:23-24).

Micah wrote about a promise. The book closes with a magnificent hymn of praise. In soaring poetry Micah captures the truth of God’s merciful intentions  toward his people. Micah’s name means “Who is like the Lord?” He answers the question with the following description in Micah 7:18-19. It is promise of comfort for any who want a proper understanding of the nature of God.

“Who is a God like you who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.”

This is a promise for us today too, because of that baby who was born in Bethlehem.

Pastor Randy Faulkner