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Rediscover the Beauty of Christmas

Editor's Note: This article first appeared in the December 2004 edition of Charisma.

I love to celebrate Christmas because I love the Christ of Christmas. Yet we live in a day when celebrating "Christ's mass" is frowned upon by the secularists, who want to excise Jesus from the holiday, and surprisingly, by some Christians who want to exorcize Christmas from the calendar.

You have no doubt heard some of these more popular "Bah! Humbug!" criticisms from sanctified scrooges:

  • Christ wasn't born in winter, let alone on December 25.
  • Christmas comes from an occult winter-solstice festival.
  • Evergreen trees and holly and mistletoe come from pagan customs and therefore are "of the devil."

    Sound familiar? Let's see if I can help those "Christ-massers"among you celebrate the birth of Christ in a deeper, more meaningful and festive way, without guilt or condemnation. read more

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Home is Where the Heart is for Christmas

Editor's Note: This article appeared in the December 1982 issue of Charisma Magazine and was written by Jamie Buckingham, former senior pastor at Melbourne Tabernacle Church in Melbourne, Fla. Buckingham died in 1992 at age 59.

I write this aboard a jet airliner speeding south from one of the nation’s greatest northern cities. I am heading home for Christmas.

How eager I am to see the face of my wife, embrace my now-grown children who are gathering at the old homestead, grab my little grandchildren and swing them high as they squeal: “PaPa’s home!”

How eager I am to sit quietly with my dear friends, my extended family, to embrace and whisper “I love you” in the ears of those as committed to me as they are to their own blood relatives. We will embrace, take off our shoes, sit in front of a fire (sipping eggnog), and feel “at home” in each other’s presence. read more

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Amidst the Pain, Take Comfort in God’s Love

Last Friday, just as our nation was showing the beginning stages of healing from 9-11 to our nation, we took another hit. A total of 26 children and six adults were massacred in a quiet, suburban, elementary school.

The devastation of this small community has rocked the nation. People from all over the nation are sending comfort, wreaths, Christmas trees, toys, ornaments and coffee to the community of Newton, Connecticut. Why does this massacre hurt so much?

Schools are usually considered safe places. In fact, most emergency shelters are in schools. Before 9-11 we felt the U.S was impenetrable. In the last years, churches, colleges and high schools have seen death and violence—and now, an elementary school. The outpouring of love and support to this devastated community shows that we all share in the pain, and we can all share in the recovery.

The burning question this week for me is how will this impact our Christmas services? read more

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Suffering: Why Does God Allow It?

On Nov. 21, 1980, when the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas burned, survivors were brought into the Convention Center, where our Crusade meetings were being held. In an interview, Governor Robert List talked about the good times at the MGM only 24 hours before. “And how quickly,” he said, “the music has stopped.”

Some day, for all of you, if you don’t know God, the music will stop. It will all be over. The Bible says, “It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

The Bible says that Job suddenly lost all of his wealth and his children. The devil said to God, “If You take all those possessions away from him, he’ll curse You and turn from You.” But God replied, “You can do anything to him, except you can’t kill him, and then we’ll see” (Job 1:11-12). read more

Be Amazed When It Comes to the Uncomfortable

Something uncomfortable usually happens at my church. Somewhere in the day, I will be praying a third time for an injury to be healed and wait as they check to see if the pain is gone; or be perplexed by a testimony that is almost too good to be true; or be left in a somewhat confused conversation with God about what I have seen or heard—and I am one of the leaders.

Being in a healing/revival environment can be uncomfortable for pastors. We tend to operate in our strengths of bringing comfort and care, order and answers, and connection and protection. Uncomfortable stuff makes people feel, well, uncomfortable; so we usually try to keep it at a minimum.

But if—and when—the community catches the kingdom mentality that anything is possible with God and sets its collective heart on worldwide transformation and the healing goodness of the heavenly Father, we’re all regularly drawn into experiences for which we have no grid and, perhaps, even little inclination. read more

Steve Hill: The Spiritual Avalanche That Could Kill Millions

This is coming to you from a man who has just passed through the valley of the shadow of death. Since my close call with eternity just a short while ago ... everything has become clearer. I can hear His whisper. Unabated obedience has become my mandate. That is why I'm writing this word from the Lord.

A few days ago, after enjoying quality time with Jesus, I was surprised by an alarming vision. I saw a massive, majestic mountain covered in glistening snow. It reminded me of the Matterhorn in the Swiss Alps. Its peaks were sparkling white and I was amazed by God's attention to detail. It was so realistic I wanted to go skiing! But I sensed that there was more that the Holy Spirit was about to reveal. As I closed my eyes, I was in a winter wonderland bustling with thousands of vacationers. The ski lodge, condos, hotels and cabins were at full capacity at this popular resort.

Day quickly turned to night as the skiers, snowboarders and sports enthusiasts were settling in. Anticipation grew as the snow began to fall. Everyone headed to bed believing tomorrow would be a day of sheer enjoyment on freshly covered slopes. For an avid skier, the exhilaration of being the first one to race down a new blanket of snow is a dream come true. read more

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Leave Apologetics Out of Evangelism

A famous “defender of the faith,” Benjamin Warfield, against the overwhelming teaching of Scripture, actually claimed, “Christianity makes its appeal to right reason, and stands out among all religions, therefore, as distinctively ‘the Apologetical religion.’ It is solely by reasoning that it has come thus far on its way to its kingship. And it is solely by reasoning that it will put all its enemies under its feet.”

Apologetics in this context means, “a reasoned defense” rather than a “presentation-in-power” of Christian belief. Apologetics assumes that one becomes a Christian more by intellectually grasping “right doctrine” or “good ideas” rather than humbly receiving the revealed presence and power of Jesus.

In early church history, as the power of the Spirit became a threat to the church hierarchy, most of the early “church fathers” became more acceptable as “apologists,” defending the faith against philosophical and religious attacks, even as they (rarely) conceded that Christianity was mainly spread by those who healed and drove out demons. Since these apologists were trained in the same intellectual traditions as their opponents, their crucial problem is that they accept their opponents’ premise that human wisdom is the way to discover God and to accept His gospel. The gospel then became a matter of accepting certain facts about Christianity (the creeds), rather than basing faith on the “experience” of God’s revelation and power—a problem even today in evangelical Christianity. read more

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During Christmas Season, Make Sure to Take Time for God

 

There is a concept called Margin. I first learned about margin the hard way. When my oldest child went to kindergarten, I mapped out the route, and figured out exactly how much time it would take to arrive at school on time. With this information, I calculated what time I needed to leave every morning.

For the next three months, every morning was a race against the clock, and most days I lost – I would pull onto the school grounds just as the bell rang.

Then my husband was laid off and took over the morning duty, and suddenly, my daughter was arriving with time to spare. I was in awe! I asked him how he managed to get her to school on time. With a bit of reflection, I discovered that I hadn’t created space for the time it took to get a baby and kindergartener to the car, or the time it took to get from the car to the classroom.

When life gets busy, sometimes we find that we are rushing from event to event, hoping we make it on time. First we decorate the church, then our home. We plan for the holiday parties in each ministry area, and the church staff. We prepare for the Christmas concert, and Christmas service, then comes the New Years’ service. For a few moments, we pause – often after pulling an all-nighter to wrap presents - and have a Christmas get together at home.

The weeks of December are often bundled with joy and energy. Yet in all that activity, it is easy to get so wrapped up in doing that we end up in January totally wiped out, not able to even hear our own thoughts, let alone God’s voice.

This season can be different. There is a growing trend (again) to focus on the spiritual disciplines. As I have been going through several books on the subject, there is one resounding theme: Space.

And this is what I learned: I am the only one who has the authority and ability to create space in my life. Even if I have other people to report to, space will never be created in my life unless I lead the charge.

As you progress through this Christmas season, here is a simple tool to help you reflect on how you spend your time, and where you might need to create space:

Take a moment to make a grid on a piece of paper – then fill in the boxes with your activities for the last week. If you are very crammed, you might even just do the last three days.

Do you notice a pattern? What can you do to focus your time on the most critical items on your agenda? What are you doing that really isn’t urgent, isn’t important, and could be done by someone else?

Now, where is your time with God on that grid? What can you do to create space in your activities, and create time for your relationship with God?

In this season of celebration, remember to take time to nurture your soul. After all, your relationship with Christ really is the reason for the season, and those around you will learn from your example. read more

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Evangelist Steve Hill: Culture Wars Won at Calvary

Culture wars are real. I’m speaking of the battles that continually pursue between those who hold to traditional values and those who are opposed. My friend, the gospel is greater than any force that comes against it. When we preach the pure Word of God, amazing results follow. Please allow me to give you an example.

The governor of Alabama once invited me and several of my evangelist friends to a historic meeting. It was a Saturday afternoon rally in support of keeping the Ten Commandments posted at the State Supreme Court.

Upon arrival we were shocked to see more than 25,000 people gathered together on the front lawn of the governor’s mansion. Surrounding the crowd were all the major media networks broadcasting this historic event.

I remember asking the governor what he wanted me to say at this secular rally. His response was crystal clear: “Preach the gospel and give an altar call.” read more

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Adversity Brings Opportunity for Supernatural Victory

We are living in times that can cause both great fear and great opportunity. These are seasons where the faithful and wise people of God can flourish.

It is not because all is peaceful or that challenges and hardships are diminishing, but these are the days that great character is forged. As we contend with difficulties, strong hearts and minds are being formed and creative new strategies for life are being birthed.

Deep calls to deep and extreme necessities call upon great virtues. When minds become transformed and passionate hearts are engaged, then those qualities, which would otherwise have lain dormant, awake to new life and new opportunities. The Spirit of God empowers and releases these battle tested messengers of light to bring forth His power, presence, and glory upon the earth like never before. read more

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