Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Brave Israel Told Only Half the Story

Israel Folau has caused quite a stir in saying God's plan for gays is that they will go to hell "unless they repent of their sins and turn to God".
He has since quoted 1 Corinthians 6 : 9, 10 to support his opinion.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
The word "hell" is not mentioned in this quote and, in a correctly translated Bible, would not likely be used at all. (You can read about "hell" in previous posts "What is Hell?" published on 4th August 2010 and "Jesus Visits Hell for Three Days" published on 4th September 2013.)

So all Paul (and Israel) are saying is that there are some people who will be in the unseen realm (hell) and therefore will not inherit (be present in) the kingdom of God during the remaining eons of space and time.

Before discussing this further, let me first congratulate Israel for standing up strongly for what he believes. So few Christians seem to be brave enough to do this, especially if they are being attacked in the public arena and their livelihood depends on their public acceptance.
So well done Israel. I sincerely wish there were more Christians like you.

Now to the other half of the story.
It is true that people who are not yet reconciled to God will not inherit the kingdom of God. 

The kingdom of God is the rule of God in the heavens and on the earth during the present and future ages (or eons) and is a joint venture administered by Christ and his chosen followers.
Clearly only those reconciled to Christ, those chosen by God to believe the gospel in their lifetime, will be co-workers with Christ in this enterprise. In other words, only the righteous, those with right-standing before God, are going to be comfortable being in a joint venture with him.

And who will these people be?
They will be those who have been called by God "to repent of their sins and turn to God", using Israel's simple description.

And so those whom God set apart, he called; and those he called, he put right with himself, and he shared his glory with them. [Romans 8 : 30 GNB]
The co-workers with Christ in the kingdom are just the first-fruits of the harvest. Beyond those kingdom ages, when the ages have completed and we progress into the eternal realm, all of God's creation will be in unity and harmony with God. Yes, there will be eventual universal reconciliation as a result of what Jesus did on the cross for all of us.
In all his wisdom and insight God did what he had purposed, and made known to us the secret plan he had already decided to complete by means of Christ.
This plan, which God will complete when the time is right, is to bring all creation together, everything in heaven and on earth, with Christ as head. [Ephesians 1 : 8 - 10 GNB]

Although all of us are sinners while we live in our earthly bodies here (and the list of sins is even longer than the one Israel quoted above), there will not be sinners in the kingdom of God or in the eventual eternal realm - only ex-sinners of all shapes and varieties who have been changed by God into Christ-likeness. 

So Israel is correct. All sinners not reconciled to God will miss the kingdom of God era: however all will be reconciled to God in the eternal realm after the ages have been completed, just as Jesus promised.

"When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to me." [Jesus quoted in John 12 : 32 GNB]

Blessings, Barry

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Benefits of Knowing God's Plan

First of all, let's remember what God's plan is for His creation?
Paul in writing to the Ephesian church tells us what God revealed to him about His plan - the plan which had not been disclosed previously, although hints of it had been given to some of the Old Testament prophets.

He (God) made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment -- to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. [Ephesians 1 : 9 - 10 NIV]
If this is to be so, then sin and death must be dealt with along the way.
Well, Jesus dealt with sin 2000 years ago ...

Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
[1 John 2 : 2 NIV]

and, as a result, God no longer holds our sins against us ...
God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. [2 Corinthians 5 : 19 NIV]
And Jesus will deal with death at the end of the ages (when the times reach their fulfillment) ...
For he (Christ) must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. [1 Corinthians 15 : 25 - 26 NIV]
So all is in place for God to achieve His "unity plan" at the end of the ages.

Now, let's consider the benefits of knowing this?
There are quite a few for me.

One, my opinion of God as a God of unconditional love is reinforced.

Two, I have a terrific single-focused good-news message for the  world, that God is not mad with them, He is reconciled to them and plans to give them the best eternal future possible.

Three, I can distance myself from the good-news/bad-news dichotomy often presented by mainstream Christianity that God is love on the one hand yet He will oversee the torture of the majority of His creation forever on the other.

Four, I can relate to everyone of my friends, colleagues and neighbours as people on the journey to the same destination as me, even if they are at a different stage of that journey. As such, I can pray for people with much more hope and optimism than I previously might have had, knowing I am praying in line with God's will.

To know the end result of the space-time realm in which we live is as reassuring as it is empowering, and encourages me to roll up my sleeves and be involved in the ministry to which God has called me - the ministry of sharing "the message of reconciliation".

What about you?
Blessings, Barry

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

I Just Can't Believe It

One of my very best friends, who is almost as big a Bible junkie as I am, just can't believe that all of creation will eventually be reconciled to God.

He acknowledges what the Bible says in verses like

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him (Christ), and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
[Colossians 1 : 19-20 NIV]

For God had allowed us to know the secret of his plan, and it is this: he purposes in his sovereign will that all human history shall be consummated in Christ, that everything that exists in Heaven or earth shall find its perfection and fulfilment in him. [Ephesians 1: 9 - 10 Phillips]

For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.
[1 Corinthians 15 : 22 NIV]

For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all. [Romans 11 : 32 NIV]

and genuinely hopes this really might happen 
BUT ...
just can't believe people like Hitler will ever accept God's offer of salvation.

There are three major problems here.

First: Salvation is not a Gift.

God's salvation does not depend on people's acceptance of it.
God doesn't offer salvation as a gift to be accepted or rejected. He has already graciously given it through the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ.
It's a done deal.

God was in Christ personally reconciling the world to himself—not counting their sins against them—and has commissioned us with the message of reconciliation. [2 Cor 5 : 19 Phillips]
A bit like someone putting a million dollars in your bank account rather than offering the money in cash for you to accept or not. It's in your account - it's already in the bank - it's a done deal.

Let me share a real-life illustration of this happening in 2018.
A couple from our church dined at a local High Street Italian restaurant. After finishing their meal, the husband went to pay the bill. The waitress told him there was no need as the bill had already been paid.
He contested this, saying he still had a debt to pay. Then the waitress explained that a local High Street trader has a table selected for each sitting and that he always covers the bill from that table.
So my friend and his wife had no debt to pay - it had already been taken care of before they had even eaten, and no matter how much the bill might have come to.

That's how it is with our sins. They have already been paid for - 2000 years ago. We have no debt to pay, our salvation was secured on the cross of Calvary centuries ago. It was all God's doing, we had nothing to do with it - it's a done deal.

Second: Jesus' Sacrifice Was Successful

Either Jesus was successful in His sacrifice on the cross for the sins of the world, or He wasn't.
All Christians I have met, including my friend, will agree that Jesus' mission to die for the sins of the world was successful. But then, illogically, assert that all will not be saved because some will not choose to accept God's gracious gift, thus contradicting their initial assessment of Jesus' success.

He (Jesus) himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world. [1 John 2 : 2 NLT]
And when I (Jesus) am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself. [John 12 : 32 NLT]
Third: God is Sovereign and Will Always Get His Way
Although God has chosen to save all, skeptics believe many (most) people will choose not to be saved and therefore overrule God's choice. In other words, the created being will overrule the Creator and His plans for His creation.

But who are you, my friend, to talk back to God? A clay pot does not ask the man who made it, "Why did you make me like this?"
After all, the man who makes the pots has the right to use the clay as he wishes, and to make two pots from the same lump of clay, one for special occasions and the other for ordinary use. [Romans 9 : 20 - 21 GNB]
People may plan all kinds of things, but the Lord's will is going to be done. [Proverbs 19 : 21 GNB]

God works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.
[Ephesians 1 : 11 BV]

Believing salvation is a done deal, Jesus' sacrifice was completely successful and God's sovereignty will make sure His plan for the full reconciliation of His creation is achieved is the correct Biblical view and gives God the honour and respect He deserves.

Blessings, Barry

Monday, April 2, 2018

How Will We Look in the Millennium? - Part 2

In our previous post, we noted two different resurrection bodies of Jesus.
One looked quite human and one looked very celestial.
The human-looking one was worn by Jesus when he was on earth after his resurrection and the other was worn by Jesus after his ascension to heaven.

So what body we have probably depends on where we will be ruling with Jesus in the millennium.
If on earth, then with a human-looking body like the resurrected Jesus on earth: if in heaven, then with the celestial body like the resurrected Jesus from heaven.

So where will we be in the millennium?

My guess about where we will be and therefore what bodies we will have in the millennium is influenced by another guess that I am currently investigating.
I am guessing (and trying to establish) that redeemed Israel will rule on earth while the Body of Christ will rule in the heavens, the celestial realm.

So my current guessing leads to ...
If you are a believer, and therefore a member of the Body of Christ, you will be ruling with Christ in the heavenlies and will therefore have a heavenly body, a celestial one, one like Jesus had when he met Saul on the road to Damascus.

If you belong to redeemed Israel, and therefore a member of the Bride of Christ, you will be ruling the nations with Christ on earth and will have a human-looking body, one like Jesus had when he ate breakfast with his disciples on the seashore.

What do you think?
Blessings, Barry

PS 1. If you are an non-Israelite unbeliever, the only category of humankind remaining, you will not be aware of the millennium as you will be asleep until you are resurrected at the consummation of the ages.

PS 2. I promise I'll get back to more faith-building topics next.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

How Will We Look in the Millennium?

This post is a thought bubble about our millennium bodies. Hardly an important, faith-building topic, but one that sometimes piques our curiosity.
I haven't delved too deeply into it, nor have I tested it to see if it is consistent throughout Scripture as I usually do before posting. But I wanted to share this thought from left field with you and invite your feedback on a "lighter" subject for a change.

With Easter approaching, I started this thought trip while musing about the resurrected body of Jesus.

Firstly, Jesus kept on just turning up, seeming to arrive from nowhere.

On that same day two of the disciples were walking to Emmaus, a village seven or eight miles from Jerusalem, and were conversing about all these recent events; and, in the midst of their conversation and discussion, Jesus Himself came and joined them, though they were prevented from recognizing Him.  [Luke 24 : 13 - 16 Weymouth]
Secondly, Jesus moved through walls, a bit like sound does, maybe.
It was late that Sunday evening, and the disciples were gathered together behind locked doors, because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities. Then Jesus came and stood among them. "Peace be with you," he said.

A week later the disciples were together again indoors, and Thomas was with them. The doors were locked, but Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." [John 20 : 19, 26 GNB]

Thirdly, Jesus looked "normal", having flesh and blood and eating food.
"Look at my hands and my feet and see who I am! Touch me and find out for yourselves. Ghosts don't have flesh and bones as you see I have."
After Jesus said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.

The disciples were so glad and amazed that they could not believe it. Jesus then asked them, "Do you have something to eat?" They gave him a piece of baked fish. He took it and ate it as they watched. 
[ Luke 24 : 39 - 43 CEV]

But then the resurrected Jesus appeared to Saul on the road to Damascus.
When Saul had almost reached Damascus, a bright light from heaven suddenly flashed around him.
He fell to the ground and heard a voice that said, "Saul! Saul! Why are you so cruel to me?"
"Who are you?" Saul asked. "I am Jesus," the Lord answered. "I am the one you are so cruel to.  [Acts 9 : 3 - 5 CEV]

Wow, that one's different.
The resurrected Jesus from heaven (after His ascension) looks a bit different to the resurrected Jesus on earth (before his ascension).

Are there any other clues?
What about the glimpse Jesus gave to Peter, James and John in the presence of the "resurrected" Elijah and Moses?

After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John (the brother of James) and led them up a high mountain where they could be alone.
Jesus' appearance changed in front of them. His face became as bright as the sun and his clothes as white as light.
Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared to them and were talking with Jesus. [Matthew 17 : 1 - 3 GW]

And John's frequent reference to Jesus as the Light.
John wasn't that light. He came only to tell about the light. The true light that shines on everyone was coming into the world. [John 1 : 8 - 9 CEV]

Once again Jesus spoke to the people. This time he said, "I am the light for the world! Follow me, and you won't be walking in the dark. You will have the light that gives life." [John 8 : 12 CEV]

"While I am in the world, I am the light for the world." [John 9 : 5 GNB]

Now John says that we, the children of God, will be like Him.

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that whenever he is revealed we will be like him, because we will see him just as he is. [1 John 3 : 2 LEB]
So, if we are going to be like Him, which Jesus will we look like?

I will continue this thought bubble in the next post (after Easter).

In the meantime, what are your thoughts?

Blessings, Barry

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Parable of the Local Football Match

To ensure there was a good crowd for the opening match of the season, the coach of a local football team was authorised to give tickets to every person who lived in their small country town.

In addition, he gave gold passes to those who were his close friends, which entitled them to attend the pre-match lunch in the clubrooms with club officials and the players involved in the match.

So everyone in the town got to enjoy the first match of the year, and there was a special treat beforehand for the coach's close friends.

Sounds a bit like what God has in store for His creation, doesn't it?

We have put our hope in the living God, who is the Saviour of all people, and especially of those who believe. [1 Timothy 4 : 10 NIV]
All of creation gets to enjoy eternity (the match) with God, but the friends of the Coach (believers - members of the Body of Christ) get to enjoy the pre-eternity ages with Him.

And just as the coach's friends were chosen by the coach well before the day of the match, so believers (members of the Body of Christ) have been chosen well before eternity, even before the ages began.

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ. [ Ephesians 1 : 4, 5 NIV]
How exciting is that?
If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, who died for the sins of the world, you have been chosen before the creation of the world to be adopted into sonship.
Indeed, you weren't chosen because you believed, you were given belief (faith) because you were chosen.

Just like these Gentiles ...

The Gentiles listened with delight and extolled the Lord's Message; and all who were pre-destined to the Life of the Ages believed.
[Acts 13 : 48 Weymouth]

We are very privileged people. But we also have great responsibility, not only in the now, but also in those pre-eternity ages - yes, we have been chosen for a purpose.

In the now ...

God has made us what we are, and in our union with Christ Jesus he has created us for a life of good deeds, which he has already prepared for us to do.  [Ephesians 2 : 10 GNB]
In the pre-eternity ages ...
... and did raise us up together, and did seat us together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that He might show, in the ages that are coming, the exceeding riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus, [Ephesians 2 : 6, 7 YLT]
Doesn't that excite you? Chosen for ministry on earth now and ministry in the heavens in the coming ages. I don't feel as if I can stop writing about this at the moment. But I must. Just one more verse...
Do you not know that we shall judge the angels? How much more, then, the things of this life!  [1 Corinthians 6 : 3 GNB]
Blessings, Barry

PS. I am not tempted to de-gender "sonship" in the Ephesians 1 quote above because to do so would lose so much of Paul's thrust here. "Adoption to sonship" is a legal expression that referred to the full legal standing of an adopted male heir in the Roman culture of his time. So Paul is saying that believers have full legal standing as adopted sons (I call them male sons and female sons) and heirs with Christ in God's family.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Re-Writing the Bible (Again)

On several occasions I have referred to English translations of the New Testament Scriptures that have led many Christians to misunderstand the plans, and indeed the character, of God.
I won't go over old ground with this post, just draw attention to a new translation recommended for my consideration and opinion by my beautiful granddaughter.

It doesn't take long when looking at a new translation to discover the theology or doctrines of the translator or translation team.
For example, a minister once told me he changed his preferred translation because the translation team of his new preference was more evangelical than of his previous choice. It really can be that obvious.

What did my granddaughter recommend I review?
The Passion Translation (TPT).
It reads really well and has many very helpful comments at the bottom of each page, and I have enjoyed its fresh, passionate approach. It claims to use italics to show words used to clarify the narrative that are not in the original texts, which again is very helpful.

However lack of consistency in using italics (or not using them, actually) demonstrates the translator's personal bias and beliefs. This what I call the Bible PUB test - Personal Unverified Bias or Belief.
Take, for example, two verses that are used to demonstrate God's sovereignty and God's purpose for His creation.

Here's the first - Acts 13 : 48

When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed. 
(Acts 13 : 48 NIV)

When the non-Jewish people in the crowd heard these words, they were thrilled and they honored the word of the Lord. All who believed that they were destined to experience eternal life received the message.
(Acts 13 : 48 TPT)

Let's overlook the wrong use of 'eternal' in both translations, and focus on the added words in TPT that were NOT italicised.
God's sovereignty in appointing/predestining has been replaced by mankind's belief/decision to determine their own destiny. There's that free-will myth again, discussed in "The Really Good News About God" page 78ff, showing the translator's PUB.

Here's a second - Romans 11 : 32

For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all. (Romans 11 : 32 NIV)

Actually, God considers all of humanity to be prisoners of their unbelief, so that he can unlock our hearts and show his tender mercies to all who come to him. (Romans 11 : 32 TPT)

Let's overlook the TPT's diluting of God's action and involvement to just considering, and focus on the added words in TPT that are NOT italicised.
We again have God's sovereign action replaced by the freewill action of those who have chosen to come to him.

TPT is dotted with "salvation by mankind's freewill action" rather than God's gracious provision through the faithfulness of Jesus - all occurrences are displayed in the same type as the main text - which leads to so much incorrect thinking and theology.

I don't mind an author (or translator) publishing a book with these personal beliefs (which I can read and agree with or not), but I don't appreciate these beliefs being inserted into the text of an English translation without proper notation.

Having a literal translation on hand, like a Young or Concordant or Rotherham, will help evaluate the Bible translations we most frequently use and will keep us on track with understanding and appreciating God's character and His plans for mankind.

Blessings, Barry


Saturday, February 24, 2018

Can God Get Into YOUR Place?

After the recent school massacre in the US, a post on facebook went something like this:
Dear God,
Why do you allow so much violence in our schools?
Signed: A Concerned Student.

Dear Concerned Student,
I am not allowed in schools.
Signed: God.
How many of our institutions have refused to allow God in?
In Australia, our governments, councils, universities, schools, even most of our homes don't allow God in.

Let's use our imaginations here.
What do you imagine would happen to our country if we DID let God in?
What if all of us, in whatever setting we found ourselves, operated under the direction of Jesus, who urged us to love God and to love our neighbour as ourself?

If we define "love" as wanting the best for others, and doing that best whenever possible, can you imagine what our society would look like with everyone wanting the best for everyone they work and live with?

In the local news recently was the story of a man who, in noticing how bald two tyres were on a stranger's car, took the stranger and her car to a tyrestore and arranged for the tyres to be replaced. After he had paid almost $250 for the tyres and their fitting, he told the stranger that he never wanted to be repaid but, when she could afford to pay for the tyres herself, she should look for the opportunity to do a similar thing for another needy person.
He then left her and she still does not know who her good Samaritan was or anything about him.

Can you imagine how far that $250 might travel, if the lady did the same thing for another stranger, and that person did the same thing for another, and so on? How much love (wanting and doing the best for others) would be passed on over the course of a year or two?

Now there are more ways of showing love than was demonstrated in this event, but the effect would be similar.
Let's love God and want and do our best for Him.
Let's love our neighbours and want and do our best for them.
That would produce a society in which God was allowed in, and would represent something like the kingdom (or realm) of God in which grace abounds and God freely causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. [Matthew 5 : 45]

Blessings, Barry

Friday, February 23, 2018

Santa and the dGod

In my previous post "A Christmas Reflection", I made a plea for Christians to restore Jesus to his rightful place in their Christmas celebrations.
Today, I am going to be bold and show how closely Santa resembles the diminished god of mainstream Christianity (dGod) which gives a false understanding of the God of the Bible.

Consider these two parallels ...
Firstly, both Santa and the dGod are mysterious characters from a long way away who make occasional, but regular, visits.
Santa arrives on date each year that we have chosen, and the dGod arrives when invited, often on a Sunday morning and occasionally when we need help.
Not sure about that?
How often do church leaders invite dGod (usually the Holy Spirit) in their opening prayers to join them for worship on Sunday mornings giving the strong impression that he only visits when invited rather than being present with us at all times?

How often do church-goers ask dGod to be with them in a trying or dangerous situation or to provide for them when in need, again indicating he only walks with them when invited and withholds his presence or help unless specifically asked to be involved?

Even King David of Old Testament times knew God was with him regardless of his circumstances ...

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
[Psalm 23 : 4]

So how much more should New Testament followers of Jesus know that He is always with them, no matter where they are or what they are doing.
The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel - which means, "God with us". [Matthew 1 : 23 quoting Isaiah 7 : 14 written about 700 years earlier.]

Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in your midst? [1 Corinthians 3 : 16]

The God of the Bible is a totally different person to the dGod. We should be continually thanking Him for being with us rather than inviting Him to be with us. This gives us a better attitude toward Him and His promises, and gives us a far better understanding of being in the kingdom and always in the presence of the king.

Secondly, as mentioned in the previous post, Santa and dGod keep lists of our good and bad deeds and then deliver appropriate consequences.

A more complete quote from "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" shows us

You better watch out, you better not cry,
You better not pout, I’m telling you why:
Santa Claus is comin’ to town.
He’s making a list and checking it twice,
He’s gonna find out who’s naughty and nice.
Santa Claus is comin’ to town.
He sees you when you’re sleepin’,
He knows when you’re awake,
He knows if you’ve been bad or good:
So be good for goodness sake.
You better watch out, you better not cry,
You better not pout, I’m telling you why:
Santa Claus is comin’ to town.
KIds look forward to Santa's arrival, although with some trepidation. Eager for the presents he might bring on the one hand, but fearful of the possible judgement on their behaviour on the other.

How similar is this to the reputation of the dGod?
It is almost universally thought, both in mainstream Christianity and the world in general, that God does much the same as Santa. God keeps a list of each person's deeds, indeed each person's thoughts, to assess their future rewards. The good go to heaven: the bad miss out and go to eternal torment in a place they call "hell" instead.

And of course the big question on each person's mind in both settings is, "How do I know if I have been good enough?"

The God of the Bible again is totally different to the dGod. He is the Saviour of everyone, whether they have been good or not; whether they believe it or not. However believers of this good news have the joy and security of appreciating and experiencing its realisation in the present.

For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. [1 Timothy 4 : 10]
And another thought.
Because the concept of Santa is usually introduced to children before they encounter the concept of God, the mysterious, white-bearded, occasionally-visiting, gift-bearing, judgemental Santa can easily become a template for a child's first impressions of God, especially when those impressions are reinforced by the image of the dGod they eventually meet in church or Sunday School.

We need to get a good grasp of God's nature as love, God's role as the Saviour of the world, and Jesus' work on the cross as completely reversing the work of Adam so that we can correctly convey the really good news of salvation to our children. 
Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all. [Romans 8 : 19]
Blessings, Barry

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

A Christmas Reflection

I have been concerned (annoyed) for many years that Santa has almost totally replaced Jesus at Christmas time.
The real meaning of Christmas is drowned out under the feasting, drinking, parties, dinners, holidays, extravagant shopping and  excessive gift-giving, and the stresses and crime often associated with them.

For example, how often do we hear Jesus mentioned (compared to Santa) in the lead up to Christmas, on Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day in the media, in shopping centres, in general conversation, especially with children, even in many Christian homes?

Surely Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the "God With Us", the Saviour of the World, is the reason for the season and, with His name clearly embedded in its title, why is He now almost totally ignored when this season is mentioned and celebrated?

I remember when we moved to Brisbane a few years ago, we bought a house in a street which had Christmas decorations displayed on the roof tops and in the front gardens of nearly every house. Although we were not in the habit of decorating our previous houses in this way, it didn't seem possible to live in this street and not do so.

Interestingly, all the decorations displayed were of Santa, reindeer, sleighs, soldiers, Christmas trees, gnomes, and the like. Nothing even closely resembled the real story of Christmas in a whole street full of striking illuminated decorations.

So, as well as being "shamed" into installing Christmas decorations for the first time, here was my big chance to introduce something that told the real story of Christmas, and to do it in a way that outshone those secular displays.

Our "out-of-character" display, showing Mary and Joseph with Jesus in the manger, shepherds, angels and a very large bright star overhead, gained a lot of attention and discussion in the neighbourhood and gave us an excellent opportunity to share the real meaning of Christmas with our neighbours as we competed with them for the most eye-catching display.

I continue to marvel at why people are more intent on telling the fairy tale about Santa from the North Pole rather than sharing the facts about Jesus from heaven.

Although both Santa and Jesus come bearing gifts, they are hardly worth comparing. Things that are of benefit only on earth from a fictional character like the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny versus a gift that benefits this life and the next from the Creator of the universe.
No competition there!

Another important difference appears when we consider to whom these gifts are given?
Kids are told by parents and others that they must be good to receive their gifts from Santa and are often bribed into acceptable behaviour or performance with the threat that Santa won't even visit them unless they do.

Just to illustrate, here's a chorus from "Santa Claus is Coming to Town", often sung at Christmas time.

"He sees you when you're sleeping,
He knows when you're a awake;
He knows if you've been bad or good,
So be good, for goodness' sake!
Oh, you better watch out, you better not cry,
Better not pout, I'm telling you why:
Santa Claus is comin' to town."

How contrary to the real message of Christmas is that?
Being good to receive gifts from Santa is the antithesis of what Christmas is all about and totally turns on its head the reason for the season.

Compare the Santa song with the Bible's description of Jesus' mission and conditions for receiving gifts from him.

"I didn't come to invite good people to turn to God. I came to invite sinners."
(Jesus own words recorded in Luke 5 : 32 CEV)
St Paul affirmed this when he wrote to Timothy: "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners."(1 Timothy 1 : 15 CEV)
How about we Christians consider restoring Jesus to his rightful place in our Christmas conversations and celebrations?
We have lost enough ground to the secular western world already without losing out in the proper celebration of the Christian seasons themselves.

I can handle parties and celebrations as long as we remember what we are celebrating. I can handle trees and lights and tinsel as long as Jesus gets a look in and his true worth is recognised.

After all, the message that Christians have been given to tell the world is that 

"God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people's sins against them". 
(2 Corinthians 5 : 19  NLT)

Surely we can do this at Easter and Christmas - at the very least.

Blessings, Barry