Matthew R. Perry

Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Category

Speaking at EKU’s Campus Outreach Tonight — Please Pray

In Christmas, Church Life, Evangelism on December 11, 2008 at 4:19 pm

I’m speaking tonight at EKU’s Christmas Outreach at 7:30. The theme is “Don’t Miss This Christmas” with the idea of not missing the true meaning. It will take place in the Student Services Building which seats between 500-600 people. Campus Crusade for Christ (hereafter, “CRU”) invited not only students but also faculty.

I ask for prayers for God to speak and just use me as His vessel. I’ll preach from John 1:14, which is the Christmas message in a nutshell, don’t you think?  I’m thankful to God for Adam Dixon, director of the EKU CRU for the opportunity.  I’m excited–but I want God to be glorified through His Word.
I’d appreciate your prayers.

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Santa Christ?

In Christmas on December 1, 2008 at 11:47 am

Tim Challies excerpted a portion of Sinclair Ferguson’s wonderful article on “Santa Claus Christianity” which is found in his book “In Christ Alone.” Here is an excerpt:

I took the hand of my toddler son (it was several decades ago now) as we made our way into the local shop on the small and remote Scottish island where earlier that year I had been installed as minister. It was Christmas week. The store was brightly decorated and a general air of excitement was abroad.

Without warning, the conversations of the customers were brought to a halt by a questioning voice from beside me. My son’s upraised index finger pointed at a large cardboard Santa Claus. “Daddy, who is that funny-looking man?” he asked.

Amazement spread across the faces of the jostling shoppers; accusing glances were directed at me. Such shame–the minister’s son did not even recognize Santa Claus! What likelihood, then, of hearing good news in his preaching at the festive season?

It is always easier to lament and critique the new paganism of secularism’s blatant idolatry than to see how easily the church — and we ourselves — twist or dilute the message of the incarnation in order to suit our own tastes. But, sadly, we have various ways of turning the Savior into a kind of Santa Claus.

For the Christian, this is easy to let happen. I listen to a local station here that has started playing Christmas songs 24-hours a day. I am saddened by how many of those songs are about Santa or the weather or the jingling of bells while riding on a sleigh. It brings out some great sentimentality, but it does not really cut to the root of why this season is so special.

I hope you will take time to read this very insightful article.

American Consumerism Turns At Its Worst

In Christmas on November 28, 2008 at 2:27 pm

By now, you may have heard of a 34-year-old Long Island Wal-Mart worker who was killed during the blackest of Black Fridays.

The 34-year-old worker, employed as an overnight stock clerk, tried to hold back the unruly crowds just after the Valley Stream store opened at 5 a.m.

Witnesses said the surging throngs of shoppers knocked the man down. He fell and was stepped on. As he gasped for air, shoppers ran over and around him.

“He was bum-rushed by 200 people,” said Jimmy Overby, 43, a co-worker. “They took the doors off the hinges. He was trampled and killed in front of me. They took me down too…I literally had to fight people off my back.”

The unidentified victim was rushed to an area hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 6:03 a.m., police said.

This breaks my heart for a number of reasons.

One, a man lost his life. The fleeting nature of our lives is one thing, but to die in this way is agonizingly brutal.

Two, a man lost his life while people were shopping for Christmas presents!! On a day when, like it or not, we honor the birth of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, a man is trampled to death to find toys and products that will eventually wear out or burn out. On a day when we remember the selfless sacrifice of the Son of God gave up His home with His Father in glory to “save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21), the loss of life as a result of the selfishness and callousness of consumers simply trying to get a deal is a low point. This is American consumerism at its worst.

Three, a man lost his life while people were shopping for Christmas presents, and only a few stopped to check on him. The article notes that this man was gasping for air, yet people walked over him and around him.

Four, the way the economy is right now, many toy stores and other department stores are giving Black Friday-like deals and have been for almost a month! This Black Friday business has just turned into a shopping tradition. It’s the thing to do the day after Thanksgiving. If some of these shoppers had been looking in the previous weeks, they would see that getting up at 2 A.M. and working themselves into a consumeristic, frothy frenzy would not be worth it.

Fifth, this should be a wake-up call for America. Some of you are saying, “OK, now. You’re overstating things.” Am I?

  • In a culture whose citizenry simply thinks about their own rights, their own conveniences, their own ends-justifies-the-means mentality, more and more events like this will happen.
  • In a world that embraces Darwin’s survival of the fittest, who believe that this world is all there is, with no God to inform and direct their moral and spiritual center, this is the natural and logical outworking of that worldview.
  • In a world where one is defined not by who he or she is but by what he or she owns, we should not be surprised that this happened.

May God have mercy on us — and may His people not be caught up in the current of the times.

Matthew 1:18-25:

    Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.  [19] And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.  [20] But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  [21] She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”  [22] All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
 
    [23] “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
        and they shall call his name Immanuel”

    (which means, God with us).  [24] When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife,  [25] but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

   

12 Days of Christmas (Straight No Chaser)

In Christmas, Music on December 27, 2007 at 2:54 pm


Amazing.

When Christ Makes Himself Known — a Sermon on Luke 2:15-20

In Christmas, Sermons on December 27, 2007 at 11:48 am

(You may listen in full to this sermon which was preached on Sunday, December 23, 2007, at the Boone’s Creek Baptist Church, Lexington, KY.)

Given the time of year, we are inundated with lists. Men of the Year, Women of the Year, Comebacks of the Year, etc. One of the most intriguing lists to come out is the quotes of the year. With issue with Don Imus and his racial slur, the proliferation of quotes from the presidential debates, and really just the din of commentary from 24-hour news networks — there was a lot to choose from. The winner? The University of Florida student named Andrew Meyer who tried to speak up during an address of a U.S. Senator. The security guards then tazed him. His quote, “Don’t taze me, bro!” That small quote shot all over the place like crazy. Fred Shapiro noted, “Meyer’s quote was a symbol of pop culture success. Within two days it was one of the most popular phrases on Google and one of the most viewed videos. It also showed up on ringtones and T-shirts.”

We tend to take for granted how fast information is spread. And we take for granted the ones who spread it. With the Internet, with CNN and FoxNews, with even the antiquated inventions such as the radio and telephone, information passes quickly and in many different ways. And even with the information that passes, before we look to see whether we believe the information, we look to the credibility of the ones passing the information along right?

So when we read through this and see exactly who these first ‘good news tellers’ (also known as missionaries) were, we would be skeptical if we lived during that time, not knowing how the story would end. Yet, when Christ makes himself known, he does so in ways that no one else can conceive of, and in ways that no one else could get the glory. By coming in such humble means through a poor humble young virgin and by using such outcasts on the outskirts of the city — and even so we’re still celebrating this holiday (holy day) 2,000 years later. Why? It is because of one of two reasons: either we are a group of unintellectual rubes who hang on to fairy tales as a crutch, or there is enough substance and significance that we can hang on to this great story and event with every confidence in the world.


1. When Christ makes Himself known, we must go and see (Luke 2:15-16)!

When the shepherds heard the Word of the Lord through the angels, how did they respond? Did they go and pray about what they had heard to see what they should do next? Did they go and talk to the scholars and the priests to make sure they had it right?

They could well have reacted like Scrooge did in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol when the ghost of Jacob Marley visited Scrooge in his home. Scrooge, a very cynical and practical man, found himself (as one would imagine) very surprised. After Scrooge asked Marley to sit in a chair (which he did), Marley replied, “You don’t believe in me.” “I don’t,” said Scrooge.

“What evidence would you have of my reality beyond that of your senses? … Why do you doubt your senses?”

Scrooge replied, “Because a little thing affects them. A slight order of the stomach makes them cheats. You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!” If you know this story, you realize that Marley was real — but Scrooge needed double-convincing that this supernatural event actually took place!

In our culture, we are very much in danger of these things. Some of the issues that come up are very spiritual (we must pray about this! We must go and confirm this with the pastors and scholars) or very secular (Bah! Humbug on anything supernatural — there must be some other explanation!). Each of us has different lenses through which we look at the world — and that tends to color our reactions.

Yet these shepherds — these outcasts of society; these smelly, dirty, unkempt, earthy shepherds — were told from the angelic choir itself about an event which happened over on the outskirts of Bethlehem. What was their reaction?

Luke 2:15-16 again says,

“When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.’ And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.”

Their reaction may seem very unspiritual to us — they didn’t think, they didn’t pray, they didn’t ponder — they just reacted with excitement. Much like we would react when a child is born into our family, or when someone is engaged, or … as is the case with some folks at school … when they find out they passed a test and are graduating.

Only more so. These shepherds likely did not receive a kind word from anyone. And yet, they received a good word — Good News — not just from anyone on earth, but from God Himself who made the greatest event ever known first to them. They couldn’t wait.

2. When Christ makes Himself known, we must go and tell (Luke 2:17-18)!

In Luke 2:17-18, says, “And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.”

We tend to focus a lot on how surprised the shepherds were, and for good reasons. When the angels arrived on the scene, the shepherds were “very afraid.” Yet, do you think that Mary and Joseph were afraid when the shepherds showed up hastily on the scene. Mothers are very protective of their newborns. I’m sure they had already been through quite a bit just to get to this particular point. This company showing up unexpectedly, I’m sure, was met with some bit of concern.

So naturally, the shepherds felt a duel need to explain themselves. First, to possibly disarm (emotionally, that is) a protective father from harming his son. Yet, they had to speak these things not simply for their protection but also because of their desire to see what the angels were speaking of!

Over the next few weeks, there were be football a-plenty. As you watch the games, you will notice certain groups of people in the game. You will see the players, you will see the spectators, and you will see the commentators. There is a game taking place on the field. Tackles are made, blocks are executed, passes are thrown, and touchdowns and field goals are scored. The crowd in the stadium and at home are there watching what is going on — either cheering or booing what happened. Yet the commentators are there explaining each play, each block, each move executed. Their job is not simply to watch, but to tell what is going on!

What about us? Are we spectators or commentators? And if we comment, is it only when the company is safe, or are we like the disciples when they went before the judge, accused of stirring up the crowd with the message of Jesus. When they were ordered to speak no longer about him, Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20, ESV). Have you asked God to give you the courage to go and tell? You’ve seen in part what he’s accomplished. Don’t be a spectator simply watching the action, tell us all about it!


3. When Christ makes Himself known, we must go and ponder (Luke 2:18-19)!

In Luke 2:18-19, we read, “And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. [19] But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.

When we look at Mary, we see what a discerning and meditative heart she had in soaking in all that transpired in her and before her. When the angel first approached her with a greeting, her first reaction was that “she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be” (Luke 1:29). Later, when the 12-year-old Jesus stayed behind at the Temple to talk to the religious leaders, and his inquiring parents asked him what he was doing, with him responding how he must be about his father’s business — Luke tells us that “his mother treasure up all these things in her heart” (Luke 2:51).

Mary takes time for this as well when the shepherds arrive. While everyone else was wondering, Mary was treasuring these things and pondering them in her heart. Is there a difference between wondering and pondering? To wonder about something means “a cause of astonishment or admiration”. To ponder means to weigh in the mind, to think about and reflect on a matter. While the differences may seem slight, they are there nonetheless.

We tend to like admiring things based on simple external things. Many may attend church based on external things — great music, pleasing aesthetics in the architecture, a warm and welcoming atmosphere, even to the point of a pleasant temperature. Even with preaching, many times it doesn’t matter what’s said, just so long as what is said is brief, the speaker is well-dressed and in the ballpark of articulate.

There is great value however in looking deeper, pondering, treasuring up all the things we see. You see, Mary didn’t simply admire what was happening. The danger would be for her to simply admire what was happening then forget when the shepherds left. Mary treasured these things up on the shelves of her heart for her to pull down and recall and remember when necessary. And would they ever be necessary as she would watch her Son die. She would have never been able to process such a despicable acts (at least as far as the world was concerned) unless she took time to ponder the lessons God taught her in life.

When we think of meditating, it is not like that of the monks centuries ago who sought to remove themselves from life — but is rooted in life. Paul notes in Philippians 4:8-9:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. [9] What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Christmas is an exciting and special time, regardless of your background. The truth is, many people are more apt to include certain religious celebrations in their Christmas plans.


4. When Christ makes Himself known, we must go and glory (Luke 2:20)!

While Mary was pondering and treasuring all that God was accomplishing before her, what did the shepherds do? Luke 2:20 says, “And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.”

We will not stay in this place for very much longer today. In fact, we live in a culture where the average church service lasts about an hour. Whereas the last point dealt with much on how we deal with what’s going on here, this last issue deals with what we will do when we leave.

The shepherds returned back to where they were, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. To glorify means to see and know the attributes of God and to speak about them.

But the shepherds “returned back.” Where did they return? They went back home. Home. Home is a place where many love, but it’s also a place where many struggle. You see, I have been a youth pastor long enough, and was a youth long enough, and have been on enough missions trips to realize the euphoria and the spiritual-centeredness on these trips, and conferences, and events. The hardest part of the trip was not going — it would be coming back home. Back to the trappings of the culture, back to the temptations and distractions that would take me away from God, back to the people who cannot relate to what God may have done — and even feel the need to bring us “back down to reality.”

The shepherds had to return home. While we do not know what happened to them after they returned home — but we know they returned the right way. They had seen it, they remembered what was told to them.

Conclusion

M.R. DeHaan, founder and longtime host of the Radio Bible Class wrote a poem which touches at the heart of this time of year:

What’s all this hectic rush and worry?
Where go these crowds who run and curry?
Why all the lights — the Christmas trees?
The jolly “fat man,” tell me please!

Why, don’t you know? This is the day
For parties and for fun and play;
Why this is Christmas!

So this is Christmas, do you say?
But where is Christ this Christmas day?
Has He been lost among the throng?
His voice drowned out by empty song?

No. He’s not here — you’ll find Him where
Some humble soul now kneels in prayer,
Who knows the Christ of Christmas.

But see the many aimless thousands
Who gather on this Christmas Day,
Whose hearts have never yet been opened,
Or said to Him, “Come in to stay.”

In countless homes the candles burning,
In countless hearts expectant yearning
For gifts and presents, food and fun,
And laughter till the day is done.

But not a tear of grief or sorrow
For Him so poor He had to borrow
A crib, a colt, a boat, a bed
Where He could lay His weary head.

I’m tired of all this empty celebration,
Of feasting, drinking, recreation;
I’ll go instead to Calvary.

And there I’ll kneel with those who know
The meaning of that manger low,
And find the Christ — this Christmas.

I leap by faith across the years
To that great day when He appears
The second time, to rule and reign,
To end all sorrow, death, and pain.

In endless bliss we then shall dwell
With Him who saved our souls from hell,
And worship Christ — not Christmas!

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Merry Christmas!

In Christmas on December 25, 2006 at 12:22 am

Wishing all of you a Merry Christmas!

Lessons from the Manger, Part III: God Compels Us To Search The Depths of the Gospel (Luke 2:15-20)

In Christmas on December 23, 2006 at 10:38 am

The shepherds, upon hearing this Good News, had to search it out. “Let us go to Bethlehem and see things thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us. And they went with haste… ” (Luke 2:15-16a). When the Good News truly grips us, we just have a desire to plumb out its depths.

The shepherds were not allowed to testify in court, but God allowed them to testify before a number of witnesses, didn’t he? They could not keep it inside — they had to testify, regardless of what the culture deemed appropriate.

Not only did the shepherds testify, but when they left and went back home, they were like the angels who were praising God.

he scene at the manger teaches us the treasure of the Gospel and the central matter around Christmas: Jesus Christ. In Mark 1:1, Mark begins, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Does this mean the Gospel that Jesus preaches or that Jesus is the Gospel? Well… yes.

The shepherds saw the Gospel and, hopefully through faith, would continue seeing the Gospel that is Jesus Christ and then they would tell about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I pray that we would see more than lights and presents and tinsel and the roast beast on the dining room table this Christmas.

May we truly see the Gospel — may we see Jesus Christ!

Lessons From the Manger, Part II: God Conquers Our Peace Through the Good News (Luke 2:8-14)

In Christmas, Devotional on December 22, 2006 at 11:06 am

angelstoshepherds.jpgYes, they were in the same region, but they had little idea of the events that were taking place. Shepherds were reviled in that culture. The nature of their work did not permit them entrance into the Temple. They could not even serve as witnesses in court. Far from the status of Mary and Joseph who were from the line of David and Abraham and were from the town of Bethlehem, these shepherds were outcasts — at least in that culture.

Yet God brought them into the story, didn’t he? Whereas God used the events of the day to bring Joseph and Mary to where he’d have them, God brought his heavenly host to the shepherds to bring them where they needed to be. If the shepherds were surprised to see human beings approach them, imagine their response when angels came to deliver the news.

These angels were not like the ones depicted in the paintings of old —those who seemed to meek and mild. This is the host of heaven — God’s warriors! Yet these warriors were used by their Commander-in-Chief to conquer our peace. The angel came and said that the news they had will be of great joy … for all the people. Something rather significant was happening here. God is conquering our peace through the Gospel of Christ. How? First, he is breaking down social barriers set up in that culture. It would not be those who were religiously pure outwardly or those who commanded a certain financial or educational station in life that could approach God in worship and service — God is conquering our peace through the Gospel of Christ. How? First, he is breaking down social barriers set up in that culture. It would not be those who were religiously pure outwardly or those who commanded a certain financial or educational station in life that could approach God in worship and service — by God coming to the shepherds and those in the lowly strata of society, he makes a way for everyone regardless of where they are to come to Him.

Secondly, God broke down spiritual barriers as well. Dr. Luke tells us this:

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

[14] “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

The peace is not a political peace or a cultural peace but a spiritual peace where a holy God is reconciled to sinners. This is what Christ accomplished. He is our Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6-7); he leaves his peace with us (John 14:27); he gives us peace with God (Romans 5:1); Christ’s peace guards our hearts and minds (Philippians 4:7); and that peace is to rule our hearts (Colossians 3:15).

These verses and many more show just how our Prince conquered our Peace through this Good News for all the people.  He is a Savior, yes.  But he is also Christ the Lord — the Word made flesh who dwelt among us.  Won’t you behold His glory that’s full of grace and truth this Christmas?

(Part III:  God compels us to plumb the Gospel’s depths — Luke 2:15-20)

 

Have You Heard of a Jesse Tree?

In Christmas, Devotional on December 21, 2006 at 9:56 pm

jtree.jpgHT to Don Brown, Pastor of the Village Church of Holly Springs for bringing to my attention the Jesse Tree Family Devotions to be used during the Advent Season. It takes you through the major milestones in redemptive history and are great teaching tools for your children (and the parents to).

Have any of you ever used the Jesse Tree during Advent? Tell me your story!

Lessons from the Manger, Part I: God Controls the Direction of History for His Purposes (Luke 2:1-20)

In Christmas, Devotional on December 21, 2006 at 9:57 am

Do you ever feel as if life is simply a series of random events connected only by the fact that they are happening to you?

Do you ever entertain the idea that everyone else seems to control your life (government, boss, professors, parents, etc.) and that they seem to be so loud that God’s voice is completely drowned out?

Do you ever question your motivation for getting out of bed and putting one foot in front of the other each and every day?

These questions among many others haunt both Christian and non-Christian alike.   Many simply feel carried along by the current of their life and circumstances.  Some respond optimistically, others grow cynical and sarcastic at every turn thinking, “If my expectations of life and people are low, then I won’t be disappointed.”

Me suggesting that a lesson could be learned around a cattle trough may seem just this side of ridiculous.  Yet I believe the Christmas story as told by Dr. Luke in Luke 2:1-20 provides a much-needed remedy for those Christmas (year-long?) Blues.

1.     God controls the direction of history for his purposes (Luke 2:1-7).

As you read through this passage, you see that Caesar Augustus, who served from 27 B.C. to 14 A.D. as Emperor of the Roman Empire, pronounced that every citizen needed to return to his hometown to be registered for taxation purposes.  While this came as a major inconvenience as well as poured more lemon juice on a sore spot of Roman tyranny, Luke reminds us that Mary is nine months along and could have her Son at anytime.  Yet, they made the long trek back to Bethlehem — not in a smooth-riding car or bus on smooth roads, but on the back of a donkey over rough terrain.  When they arrived, the time had come for Mary to give birth.  They had no room in the inn, so they went to a cattle trough.

They could have asked why!  The timing was terrible, the city was in an uproar, the inns were full, and the time had come — all collapsing on one thin slice of time.  They may have felt out of control:  they were under the control of Caesar’s whim, the innkeeper’s rules, and even had to rely on the ability of the donkey to stay straight and true.

Yet God is in total control of history.  He fulfilled the prophecy he uttered to Micah about the Christ being born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2) and being born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:18-25).  God moved Caesar to issue that edict in order to continue God’s work of redemptive history.   God ordained the inn to be full so they could have the Child in the manger.  That way, the shepherds could approach the Child in their element and away from the ones who called them outcasts.

You may think, “I’m under everyone’s control.  I have to pay my taxes — if I don’t, I’m in jail.  I have to go to work — if I don’t, I’m fired and cannot provide for my family and will lose everything.  If I don’t do my homework, I’ll fail my class and the teacher won’t let me pass on to the next grade.”  Yet God is in control and places all these things in our lives for our good and for His glory.

(Tomorrow:  Part II — God conquers our peace through the Gospel, Luke 2:8-14).