This past weekend, Penny and I celebrated Christmas with our children and one year old grandson, Elliott. We spent the day with each other; eating our traditional dishes (sausage balls and sweet rolls are a must on Christmas morning), opening and playing with gifts, watching Christmas movies, and in general having fun together. How blessed we are! How good God has been to us! A day together with my family when we are all healthy and happy is at the top of my list of best days of the year.
But there are others we know and whom we are praying for that will not be able to enjoy this Christmas in the same way. Some of our friends have children in the hospital or who are desperately ill. Others are suffering financially due to job loss. Still others carry a burden of chronic pain that keep them from enjoying the things I take for granted each day. Can those whose lives are not as easy as mine still make the most of Christmas?
This past Sunday at Olive Chapel in Apex, NC, I read from the account in Luke 2 in which the angels announced to the shepherds that the Savior had been born; and I suggested the following four ways that we can all make the most of Christmas:
1) Investigate it. v 15-16
The shepherds were proactive; this was big news, and they decided to go check it out for themselves. If you have been blessed to have heard the good news of the gospel, have you also searched it out for yourself? Jn 5:39 tells us to “search the Scriptures…these are they which testify of Me.”
2) Proclaim it. v 17
The shepherds saw Jesus for themselves, but they did not keep this news to themselves. They began to tell everyone what “was told them concerning this Child.” Have you told anyone about Jesus this Christmas? If not, what more opportune time to mention His name than at Christmas time.
3) Contemplate it. v 18 and 19
Everyone who heard the message told by the shepherds “marveled”; but Mary…”pondered these things in her heart”. Mary meditated on the significance of these events. Take time to read again the Christmas story and meditate on God’s gift of salvation.
4) Exclaim it. v 20
The shepherds returned “glorifying and praising God for all…that they had heard and seen.” A person who understands the true meaning of Christmas cannot help but give glory and praise to God.
If the stress and festivities of the holidays have made you a Grinch, remind yourself of the true meaning of Christmas: investigate the story by reading His Word; proclaim it to others, telling them about Jesus and His gift of salvation; contemplate all that God has done for you; and praise Him for it privately and publicly. If you do these things, you will be making the most out of Christmas.
“If a man would learn to pray (the proverb says) let him go to sea. I say, if any man would learn to pray, let him think of marrying…No one step or action in life has so much influence on eternity as marriage. It is an heaven or an hell (they say) in this world; much more so in the next.” Charles Wesley, 1782
Thus begins the first chapter of Good Christians Good Husbands? Leaving a Legacy in Marriage & Ministry by Doreen Moore in which she reviews the marriages of three prominent 18th century Christian leaders and draws conclusions as to what we can learn from their perspectives on ministry and marriage. The first marriage reviewed was, by all accounts, a failure (John and Molly Wesley); the second marriage was agreeable, but unromantic (George and Elizabeth Whitfield); and the last marriage is documented as a success by family and friends alike (Jonathan Edwards).
Though I had read before of the trials of John Wesley’s marriage, this book outlined the details of his marital woes and also some of the suggested causes. It was enlightening to read that John had been engaged to a woman named Grace Murray; a significant leader among Methodist women; but his brother Charles was against the marriage and had a part in marrying Grace off to another man behind John’s back! Thus, Ms. Moore suggests that John’s “hasty and impetuous” marriage to Molly Vazeille was “on the rebound”. Also quite interesting in this soap opera-like story is that the “cause of Methodism” is the prominent mistress. Everything that Charles or John did, they did for “the cause of Methodism”, including John’s decision to marry Molly. I agree with Ms. Moore when she says that “there is no Scriptural precedent for marrying solely to enhance one’s ministry or in Wesley’s case to break down people’s prejudices about him…Wesley, though a success in his public ministry, failed in his Biblical understanding of marriage.”
Unlike Wesley, George Whitfield married a woman who was as equally committed to ministry as he and willing to endure great hardship in her life as a result. They spent little time together – but it was a congenial partnership. They both put ministry ahead of their marriage.
In contrast to both of these, the marriage of Jonathan and Sarah Edwards was presented as a more balanced view, with no dichotomy between ministry and marriage – “both are the work of the Lord”. Ms. Moore stated that Mr. Edwards “spent himself for all the souls in his care, whether those in his family or those in his church…He even believed he was under a greater obligation to his family because of the nearness of the relation.” For Edwards, the essence of his duty both to his family and to his ministry was summed up in the word “love”. Edwards himself said, “The nearer the relation, the greater is the obligation to love.”
I conclude this review with a personal thought. A Christian marriage – whether in full time ministry or not – should be a holy example to the world of God’s love and character in action; a living demonstration of 1 Corinthians 13…patient and kind, honoring and protecting, and always persevering. Oh that our friends and neighbors might look at our marriages and say, “What a happy couple they are – whatever they have we need!” giving us opportunity to point to Christ as the foundation and source of our marital bliss. pjk
Two weeks ago my wife and only daughter, along with her steady beau, called me to the dining room for a meeting after supper. I had been warned by my wife that this meeting was imminent, but alas, I still found myself unprepared. The talk ensued and I was informed by my daughter’s suitor that he loved my daughter, wished to marry her, and would like my blessing to do so. The day I have dreaded since my daughter was born had arrived – another man was sitting across from me asking me if he could have her! I admit that I like this suitor very much; that he is the most suitable suitor to date! Yet, all I can think of at this moment is that my baby girl will be leaving me to be taken care of by another – is he ready for this responsibility? Will he nurture and protect her, love and cherish her, as I have done the past 23 years?
When Penny and I married 30 years ago this past May, I had just graduated from college and had surrendered to a call to ministry. One thing we both knew – we did not want our marriage to turn out (or end up) as many ministry marriages we had witnessed. At the time we were in a circle of churches that lauded the sacrifice of wife and children on the altar of “ministry”. They praised those who neglected their relationship with their spouse and children because they had “more important” obligations. We had observed that the result of this attitude was bitter wives and children who rejected the God their daddy purportedly served. We promised each other that we were entering this marriage and this ministry as a team; or as scripture states “one flesh”. That to lose our marriage or our children to save our “ministry” would be a failure of the highest order.
This week I started reading a book entitled Good Christians Good Husbands? Leaving a Legacy in Marriage & Ministry. The title is intriguing and the introduction eye opening. It broaches the question every minister planning to marry should ask: what biblical and theological convictions should govern how one views one’s role as a minister of the gospel in relation to one’s role as a husband and father? The author, Doreen Moore, states that the purpose of her book is to “help us develop Biblical convictions regarding one’s relationship to ministry in light of having a wife (and family).” I look forward to reading this book and sharing with you insights from it in my next blog post.
In the meantime, I have given my blessing to Allison and Aaron and will attempt to be a good father of the bride in the weeks and months ahead before the wedding day!