What Would I Say to Donald Trump?

TrumpAfter a recent Bible study, I was asked by someone, “What would you say if you had a chance to talk with Donald Trump?”

It was an interesting question.

It caught me off guard.

I had to pause to think.

For one thing, Donald Trump would never ask me what I thought and I can’t imagine any scenario in which I would get a personal audience with him. So, to be quite frank, the question had never entered my mind.

For another, I knew that the person asking really liked Trump. She asked sincerely and respectfully but I could sense that the answer she was looking for was something positive and encouraging…something like “Stay strong, Mr. Trump! All this legal stuff is just a politically motivated attack on you because they are scared of you. Despite everything that is happening, you will be the president of the United States again.”

Maybe that wasn’t the answer she was looking for but I am pretty sure that many Trump supporters would want to tell the former president something similar…probably with a lot more fervor, passion, and hope.

Not knowing exactly what to say, I stumbled with my words.

“Wow, that is a great question. I haven’t thought about it before. I would probably tell him that it is time to step aside and let someone else lead. But, to be honest, I don’t know.”

And I still don’t know.

One thing I have learned over the past seven years is that there seems to be no middle ground with Donald Trump. You either love him or you hate him. You either see him as some divinely gifted leader or as some devilish narcissist.

Bring up Donald Trump in a mixed social gathering and be prepared for the party to break up into distinct factions…with a punch bowl turned over and a few punches thrown in between.

Calm rationality goes out the window.

Passionate emotions fill the room.

It is not a pretty scene.

So I tread carefully.

I have family members and close friends on both sides of the equation. I have interacted with people who love Trump and with those who hate him…and I have even been caught in between at times.

So my goal is not to stir up more dissension and arguments. We certainly don’t need more of that in our politically polarized culture. My goal is to offer a few calm, rational, biblically-informed thoughts which I pray could be helpful to someone out there.

Let me start with something basic.

Donald Trump is merely a man.

He is not the Messiah and he is not the Antichrist.

If you tend to think that he is one or the other, then all I can say is that there is no reason to keep reading what I have to say. It will only make you more angry. So here is a page on the internet that you can click on to make everything okay.

Donald Trump is a flawed man (like us all). He is weak. He is fallible. He is mortal. He is subject to physical tiredness, sickness, and aging. He can be swayed by his moods and his emotions. He is limited in his understanding and perspective. He is prone to slips, lapses, mistakes, and sins.

He is, quite simply, human.

You may think he is a great leader, above par from everyone else out there, or you may think he is a charlatan building his success off his name and eccentricity. But whatever the case, he is merely a man and not worthy of any kind of special veneration or vilification.

Sever yourselves from such a man,
Whose breath is in his nostrils;
For of what account is he? (Isaiah 2:22, NKJV)

Or as another Bible translation put it:

Stop trusting in mere humans,
Who have but a breath in their nostrils.
Why hold them in esteem? (Isaiah 2:22, NIV)

Donald Trump is not worth the emotional outrage or adoration that he seems to generate.

He is a man.

He lives by breathing out his nostrils.

His life is limited and his strength is weak.

Put your trust or your focus elsewhere.

Donald Trump has supported policies and made decisions that align with Judeo-Christian values and principles.

Some people wonder how any Christian could have voted for Donald Trump.

It’s really not that hard to figure out.

For one, the options were limited. When the other major presidential candidate was Hillary Clinton (2016) or Joe Biden (2020), then every voter had to make a decision to vote for the Republican candidate, vote for the Democratic candidate, vote for a third party candidate (with no statistical chance of winning), or not vote at all.

Maybe in an ideal world a lot of us would have chosen different candidates. But we have to vote in the real world not a virtual one and that requires choosing the best option, or the least disagreeable option, available to you.

When I go to a particular Mexican restaurant with my wife (which is her favorite and probably my least favorite), I have to find something on the menu that I don’t mind eating. I may wish that there was a Chick Fila sandwich or a Five Guys cheeseburger on the menu, but there isn’t. So I have to make the best choice with the limited options that I am presented.

That’s what the last two presidential elections have been like for me.

When I read the Republican and the Democratic platforms, then, as a Christian, I choose to vote for the party that, at least on paper, advocates for the sanctity of life, the sanctity of marriage, the priority of the family, the value of religious liberty, and the importance of individual responsibility and work. Other Christians may have different values or priorities but I don’t see how they can ignore the importance of these issues from a biblical standpoint.

Again, we make the best choice on the menu we are presented.

I can appreciate anyone who looks at the issues, looks at the available candidates, and then makes the best choice that they can according to their own conscience and convictions.

That’s the best that any of us can do.

For all of Donald Trump’s flaws, he did support several key issues and policies that a great number of Christians hold dear. And he didn’t seem ashamed to talk about them. That made him a favorable candidate to many Christians and a “best of the available options” choice for many others.

Donald Trump has not exhibited a character that aligns with Judeo-Christian values and principles. 

I don’t think many Christians would dispute this…though many might excuse it.

“We are voting for a president not a Sunday School teacher!”

Valid point.

The qualifications to be president are much different than a volunteer Sunday School teacher…or even a full-time pastor.

But one thing should still be a constant.


This used to be a given in Christian circles, even when talking about political leaders.

No, they didn’t need to be perfect. No, they didn’t need to be a church-going Christian. No, they didn’t even need to have the best marriage or family life. But they at least needed to have a character that exhibited the traits of integrity, honesty, civility, and leadership.

Character matters.

Character in many ways is everything in leadership. It is made up of many things, but I would say character is really integrity. (Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower)

Leadership is a combination of strategy and character. If you must be without one, be without the strategy. (Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf)

The conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh hammered this point as well:

Character matters; leadership descends from character.

Of course, Limbaugh said this during the Clinton years. He echoed the voices of many Christian leaders at that time too.

I remember those days well.

I even wrote a letter to the editor of my local newspaper on why character matters, even in secular, political leaders. I used Proverbs 25:19 as the basis of my comments.

Putting confidence in an unreliable man is like chewing with a sore tooth or trying to run on a broken foot.

The Hebrew word for “unreliable” refers particularly to a person who is not faithful in his marriage, in his relationships, in his words, or in his general conduct. He tends to use people for his own ends.

Relying on such a person is like having a tooth that hurts every time you chew or trying to run when your foot is broken. It is painful and you ultimately don’t get very far without causing further damage.

Like Limbaugh said, “Leadership descends from character.”

You lead out of the person you are.

You have no other choice.

So let’s be honest. Almost all of us can agree that Donald Trump is not a paragon of virtue.

His mouth is caustic.

His sexual past is notorious.

His self-promotion is usually on full display.

And his personal relationships are either non-existent or frayed at best.

There have been few presidents with as much turnover in his Cabinet as Donald Trump and perhaps none who have turned so vehemently and viciously against some of his closest political allies and friends. Jeff Sessions. Gen. James Mattis. Rex Tillerson. John Kelly. John Bolton. Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster. Bill Stepien. Chris Christie. Nikki Haley. Betsy DeVos. Elaine Chao. Stephanie Grisham. Tom Bosssert. Alyssa Farrah Griffin. Eric Herschmann. Anthony Scaramucci. Ty Cobb. Michael Cohen. Richard Spencer. Gary Cohn. Mick Mulvaney. Mark Esper. Ann Coulter. Bill Barr. And even his former vice-president, Mike Pence.

Now his legal troubles are about to engulf him.

Perhaps all his indictments could be labeled “politically motivated.” But isn’t just about everything politically motivated in today’s world? The question isn’t if it is politically motivated but whether there is any validity to the claims. And most avid supporters, even if they think Trump is being unfairly prosecuted and persecuted, would probably acknowledge that he has acted unethically and flouted the law to some degree.

If there is no fire, he certainly has produced an awful lot of smoke.

In the end, you may still see Trump as the “best of the whole corrupt bunch,” the strongest candidate out there, and the only one who speaks for you. That’s fine. But whatever you do, don’t put all your hope in Donald Trump or see him as some kind of prophesied political messiah. That’s not “fighting the Deep State” but rather flirting with heresy.

There’s only one Messiah. There’s only one Savior. There’s only one blessed hope.

And his name is not Trump.

On the other side of the coin, if you can’t stand Donald Trump and think he was one of the worst presidents to ever sit in the White House, it does no good to keep talking about him incessantly or demeaning anyone who may support him. It is actually counter-productive. Part of Trump’s appeal is that he is hated by the liberal elite and all those who think everyone in rural America is a redneck hick. So every time you insult him, you actually inflate him. The best thing you can do is ignore him, support the candidate you think stands for your values, and spend your time on better things.

So back to my original question.

What would I say to Donald Trump?

I still don’t know.

But if by some strange convergence of unlikely events the opportunity presented itself, then I think I would go with the words of Daniel.

The prophet Daniel worked with the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar was a powerful leader known for his harsh mouth, hasty decisions, and hardened heart. Daniel both loved him and disagreed with him.

When Nebuchadnezzar’s pride reached a boiling point, God gave him a dream that unsettled him. When Nebuchadnezzar asked Daniel for the interpretation, Daniel did not hesitate to tell Nebuchadnezzar the truth. He did not try to flatter him or coddle him. He spoke with urgency and compassion to this powerful leader.

What was the message that Nebuchadnezzar needed to hear?

The Most High rules over the kingdom of mankind
And He bestows it on whomever He desires
And sets over it the humblest and lowliest of men. (Daniel 4:17b)

So this is what I would respectfully say to the former president.

God is God.

God is sovereign.

And you are not.

Humble yourself. Love others. And exalt Him alone.

And if you truly love this country and want to make it great again, then remember that America is only great when America is good.

So step away, stop talking, take personal inventory, and do what is best for this country not what is best for yourself.

This is the heart of a servant.

This is the character of a leader.

Posted in Government/Politics | 5 Comments

Jesus & Transgenderism

Male and female.

Those two words used to be easy to define.

Expressions of masculinity or femininity may have varied but the definitions were as solid as a rock.

It was assumed. It was a given. It was apparent.

But now the terms “male and female” are considered fluid, arbitrary, even dangerous.

What is a man? 

What is a woman?

Some hesitate to even define these words any more. Basic checkboxes on a form:

  • Male
  • Female

Have been replaced with expanded options, such as:

  • Male
  • Female
  • Intersex
  • Transgender Female
  • Transgender Male
  • Non-binary
  • Prefer not to say

How do we live in such radically changing times? How do we respond?

There is the ol’ adage: What Would Jesus Do?

It’s simplistic, and perhaps a little overworn, but still helpful.

The apostle John uses two words to capture the character of Jesus.

Grace and truth.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

In the OT world, these two words are chesed and emet. 

Chesed: Lovingkindness, steadfast love, abundant grace.

Emet: Faithfulness, truthfulness, stability, reliability.

Jesus is the perfect balance, the perfect display, the perfect fullness of grace and truth.

He is the Good Shepherd and the Solid Rock.

The tender one and the truthful one.

So how does this apply to our culture’s current struggle with transgenderism?

Jesus responds with grace.

There are many aspects to gender dysphoria that I cannot fathom, that I cannot understand. But I can identify with the struggle to know who you are, to fight your own body, to not feel comfortable in your own skin.

None of us fully understands what it means to be male or female.

We all can struggle with stereotypes, cultural expectations, and media portrayals.

We all can battle our own thoughts, feelings, and sense of who we are.

We all are dysfunctional to some degree.

We all grow up in dysfunctional families.

We all live in a dysfunctional world.

The struggle is not unusual.

The struggle is the norm.

The Bible often describes our current condition in our present bodies with one word: groaning. 

We also groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for adoption, the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:23b).

For in this earthly house we groan, because we desire to put on our heavenly dwelling (2 Corinthians 5:2).

It is a Greek word, stenazo, from which we get our English word, stenosis, a narrowing in the spinal cord that often brings pain.

Stenazo describes a state of being stuck in a narrow place. Trapped. Caught in a strait jacket. It is an inward groaning. An unexpressed grief that abides in our soul.

We all groan.

None of us feel “at home” in these ol’ bodies of ours. And if you do now, then you probably won’t feel that way at some point in the near future.

I often think of my sister who died of cancer almost 30 years ago. She often described her cancer as an invader in her own body, as something inside her that was killing her and she couldn’t do anything to stop it.

She longed to be free, to be completely healed from her body of death.

I think of myself as a young kid who was always the smallest in my class, who felt vastly different from my two older brothers, who struggled to prove myself, to fit in.

I didn’t feel at peace in my own body.

I didn’t know what it meant to be a man.

I didn’t know who I was…or who I was supposed to be.

This is a common human experience.

Thus, for anyone struggling with their “gender identity” or wondering what it means to be a man or a woman, we all can identify to some degree.

We can show grace.

We can show love.

We can seek to understand.

This is being like Jesus.

But Jesus also responds with truth.

Jesus does not paint a false reality.

He does not leave a lie unconfronted.

He tells the truth…even if it hurts.

He says “truly, truly” over and over throughout the gospels.

Amen. Amen. 

Jesus wants us to live in the truth. It is the truth that sets us free.

To live in an illusion may provide temporary comfort but it ultimately leads to disappointment, disillusionment, deception, and destruction.

We can deny reality but we cannot escape it.

God created us as male and female. It is written in our DNA. It is encoded in our chromosomes. Every cell has a sex. The thirty trillion cells in our body are all stamped with either XX or XY. Medical science and biology all testify to this binary reality.

Yes, genetic anomalies can exist.

Jesus seems to acknowledge as much in Matthew 19. After declaring that God created us “male and female” from the beginning (19:4), Jesus also stated that “there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” (19:12).

Jesus acknowledged two basic realities.

  1. God designed us to be male or female.
  2. We live in a world where our bodies may not always function the way they were designed.

Thus, compassion is always needed.

But it is never dishonest.

To perpetuate an illusion…to reinforce wrong perception…to try to change cosmetically what is biologically real…is not compassion.

It is not love.

And it will never solve a person’s deeper struggle to know who they are.

Here’s the truth.

We are created by God.

We are impacted by sin.

We are loved by a Savior.

We are saved by grace.

We are transformed by truth.

Grace and truth.

They must always go together.

This is how Jesus lived.

He showed grace.

He spoke the truth.

May we follow in His steps.

Posted in Sex and Marriage | Leave a comment

I Am a Spoiled American

I confess. I am spoiled.

It isn’t a secret with my family. I am the youngest of six children and I am pretty sure that all of my older brothers and sisters would say that I am spoiled.

What can I say? I was a late-in-life pregnancy for my mom and she loved me with just about every ounce of her being. I couldn’t ask for a better mom. And I have to say (over the protests of my siblings) that I was the most obedient of them all.

They can call it being spoiled. I call it being rewarded for being good 🙂

As a young teenager, it was often just my mom and me for dinner and she would make whatever I wanted. I was a picky eater and so my typical weekly menu was hamburgers, pizza, eggs, bacon, hamburgers, fried chicken, pancakes, and hamburgers.

Did I mention that I love hamburgers?

Actually cheeseburgers. Ketchup only.

Unfortunately I never grew out of my picky-eatiness. I did add a few vegetables along the way. Thanks to my wife. And I learned to eat fruit by blending them to oblivion until they make a nice fruit smoothie. No chunks please.

But meat is still my menu item of choice. Especially hamburgers.

That poses a problem when I go overseas.

Meat is not a staple in many parts of the world. It is a luxury item. I found this out on my recent mission trip to Uganda.

Our church has supported a national pastor in Uganda for many years. He and his wife have become good friends with us. We are so impressed and blessed by their ministry. And he has always invited me to come to Uganda.

Finally we decided to go. We took a team of nine people with us.

While the rest of the team was concerned about vaccines, Ebola, malaria, long flights, and things like that. I only had one concern.

What would I eat?

I packed my bag with plenty of protein bars, breakfast bars, and beef sticks, expecting that I might need to eat a few of them each day. Little did I realize that I would actually depend on them for sustenance during my entire two-week trip.

I tried to eat the Ugandan food but my appetite just wasn’t there. Their diet consists mostly of matoke (cooked plantains), rice mixed with all kinds of spices and vegetables, and lots of fruit.

Lots of fruit!

Mango. Pineapple. Watermelon. Papaya. Bananas. Jackfruit.

For fruit lovers…it is a culinary paradise.

For meat lovers…it is a little more sparse.

They do have meats. Usually freshly killed chicken and pork. But it is cooked differently and usually not very plentiful. Beef is sometimes available but usually very chewy and hard to eat. Whenever meat is around, it is typically mixed in with everything else. It is more like a garnish than a centerpiece on the plate.

I don’t say all this to garner any kind of sympathy.

The Ugandans love their food and every one else on our team loved it as well.

I was the odd ball.

The picky one.

The spoiled one.

I realized just how spoiled I am on this trip. I love food options. I love to be able to get what I want when I want it. I love having a Chick Fila down the road or a Dominos that can deliver right to my door.

Our refrigerator has plenty of food. Plenty of options. I can make just about anything I want at any time of the day.

It is the kind of life that I am used to.

But it is not normal in other parts of the world.

I have been to Guatemala, Costa Rica, Mexico, Honduras, Argentina, Moldova, and Romania on mission trips. In almost every case I struggled with the local food but I could find some kind of American food nearby.

That wasn’t the case in Uganda.

There wasn’t a McDonalds to be seen anywhere. I think the only American fast food restaurant is a KFC in Kampala. That’s it.

So I felt my limited food pallate much more on this trip.

And I lost ten pounds in the process.

My own personal Ugandan Diet.

But I survived and I learned a lot in the process.

I am so blessed to live in the United States and I take so much for granted.

Running water. Clean water. Electricity. A refrigerator. A freezer. Food in the refrigerator. Food in the freezer. Food in the pantry. A toilet. A shower. Water supply. Water pressure. Hot water. A sewage system. Trash service. Mail service. Paved roads. Sidewalks. Traffic laws. Traffic lights. Green lawns. Comfortable homes. Multiple rooms in our home. Floors in our home. Beds. A kitchen. Appliances. A TV. A computer. Multiple sets of clothes. Closets. Drawers. Air conditioning. Multiple places to shop and to eat. Reliable transportation. Drainage. Police services (without bribes). Educational opportunities. Job opportunities. Medical services. Good doctors. Good hospitals. Good healthcare.  Financial abundance. Food abundance. Comfort abundance. Leisure abundance.

I often just assume that these things are normal. Automatic. Standard options on the road of life.

But they are not.

They are gifts. Blessings. Rich blessings.

They are the fruit of the labor and sacrifices of previous generations.

They are things to be thankful for each day.

Yes, our nation has its share of blemishes, problems, injustices, failures, and sins.

But it is also one of the best places that any person could ever live at any point in human history.

To miss this…or to take this for granted…is the ultimate sign of blind ingratitude.

Those who have the least often give the most.

Before going to Uganda, I would assume that if you took me to a place where the people lived in small grass huts with cow dung floors, no electricity, no running water, and limited food, that they would be the most miserable people on earth.

I know I would be.

But instead I discovered that these people were the most joyful and generous people that I have ever met.

They were also so hungry for God’s Word that they kept begging me to teach them more.

And when I was done teaching, they served our entire team a sumptuous lunch (probably costing them almost everything they had) and gave me a live turkey as a gift.

A live turkey!

They had practically nothing but gave almost everything.

Meanwhile we have practically everything but give almost nothing.

There are a lot of people in the world…and they are all unique, different, and made in the glorious image of God.

Try to wrap your mind around the fact that there are eight billion people in the world.

Eight billion!

It is just a number in most of our minds. But as we traveled the countryside of Uganda, we saw thousands and thousands of people. Everyone in Uganda seems to be outside on the roads. Kids. Women. Men. Pedestrians. People on bicycles or motorcycles or stuffed into taxi vans or on the back of trucks.

Everywhere you looked, there were people.

There are 46 million people in Uganda and it seemed like we saw them all in our two weeks there.

And it struck me that every one of them is made in the image of God. Every one of them is important. Valuable. Unique. Right down to their finger prints.

Every one of them has a purpose in God’s eyes.

Every one of them is a person for whom Christ died.

Whether rich or poor…black or white…clean or unclean…they were each designed to reflect a particular aspect of the multi-faceted glory of God.

My heart was both overwhelmed and overjoyed.

Overwhelmed because there is no way that I can reach each of these people.

Overjoyed because I know that God can.

The best way to impact the world is through the gospel of Jesus Christ…one person at a time.

Uganda is a nation rich in resources. The Nile River. Lake Victoria. Lake Albert. Rich soil. Abundant crops. Coffee. Tea. Mangos. Pineapple. Rice. Bananas. Jackfruit.

Yet it is a nation that also has lots of poverty.

When you ask why, so much of it stems from long-entrenched corruption in the government. Uganda endured many years of Idi Amin. Since then, they have had many years of politicians who line their pockets with foreign relief aid. Uganda is considered one of the most corrupt nations in the world.

Because of governmental corruption, you can pour all the money you want into Uganda and all it will do is make the corrupt more corrupt, the powerful more powerful, and the rich richer.

That’s why the hope of nations like Uganda really is the local church.

The ministry we support in Uganda takes in orphans and abandoned children. They provide a first-rate education to all that come their way. They offer skills training and a microloan program to help people emerge out of poverty. They provide free medical services. They bless the community with food distribution and social services. And they teach people the good news of Jesus Christ.

Every person is loved by God.

Every person has a purpose.

Every person can be transformed.

Every person is offered eternal life as a free gift in Jesus Christ.

It was humbling to see their work.

Every shilling goes to where it is needed.

Accountability is emphasized.

Responsibility is taught.

Charity is practiced.

Eternity is impacted.

No one can reach everyone but everyone can reach someone.

That is the Christian mission.

That is the way of Jesus.

That is the beauty of the body of Christ.


So, yes, I am spoiled.

Spoiled by my momma.

Spoiled by the American way of life.

Spoiled by the many options that I have each and every day.

But I am also spoiled by my heavenly Father who has richly lavished on me all spiritual blessings in Jesus Christ.

In that case, it is not bad to be “spoiled.”

Unless being spoiled makes you, well, spoiled.

But there is another way you can respond.

Humble appreciation.

Daily gratitude.

Simple “thank yous.”

Joyful praise.

And abundantly giving what you have abundantly received.

The generous soul will be made rich,
And he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed. (Proverbs 11:25)

Posted in Confessions | 6 Comments

Is December 25 Just a Pagan Holiday?

As a child, I always loved Christmas. I loved decorating our home. I loved watching the gifts pile up under the Christmas tree. I loved waking up on Christmas morning and opening gifts with my family.

Precious memories.

But I can also remember the first time I read a little booklet that said Christmas was just a pagan holiday converted by early Christians into the date of Jesus’ birth. The implication was that everything about Christmas was pagan and that true Christians should, therefore, not celebrate it.

That sort of put a spoiler on things.

It even created some controversy and division in my own family.

So is Christmas just a pagan holiday dressed up in Christian clothes?

Should Christians avoid celebrating the birth of Jesus on December 25?

Now I confess, there are many elements in our modern celebration of Christmas that are materialistic and perhaps even pagan in origin. Even the names of our days of the week have pagan origins…Sun-Day, Saturn-day, Moon-Day, Thors-Day, etc.

But the question I want to answer is “Did the early Christians just pick December 25 for the birth of Jesus to replace a popular pagan holiday? Did they select the day because of Saturnalia, which was celebrated around the winter solstice from December 17-23, or possibly the Roman worship of the sun (Sol Invictus) on December 25?”

The short answer is “no.”

That is what is commonly termed an “urban legend.”

This “urban legend” did not begin until the 12th century when a medieval writer made the claim that Christmas was shifted from January 6 to December 25 so that it occurred on the same day as Sol Invictus.

This idea picked up steam, especially in the 18th century, when skeptics wanted to link everything about Christianity with paganism. The common thinking was, “There is nothing unique about Christianity. They just borrowed everything from paganism.”

However, there is no evidence that early Christians picked December 25 for Christ’s birth because it was a pagan holiday.

Early Christian writers never hint at any recent calendrical engineering; they clearly don’t think the date was chosen by the church. Rather they see the coincidence as a providential sign, as natural proof that God had selected Jesus over the false pagan gods. (Andrew McGowen, How December 25 Became Christmas)

So how did December 25th become associated with Christ’s birth?

There is no mention of the date of Jesus’ birth in the gospel accounts. It is not something that the biblical writers were necessarily concerned with. The focus was on the incomprehensible incarnation of the Son of God into human flesh not on the specific date on the calendar.

But as time went on, early Christians began to speculate on the day of Jesus’ birth. Early ideas included April 20, May 20, or November 18.

But eventually two dates emerged as primary options for Christ’s birth–December 25 and January 6.

How did the early church arrive at these dates?

A common mode of thought in those days was that Christ’s life had to be perfectly complete, that the day of His death and the day of His conception had to be the same. Thus, Christians who had a date for Christ’s death associated that same day with the date of His conception.

In the western church, Christ’s death was commonly dated on March 25. In the eastern church, Christ’s death was commonly dated on April 6. The variance depended on the year that Christ died and on the date that the Hebrew Nisan 14 (Passover) would have fallen.

Since the ancient world calculated exactly nine months from conception to birth, then naturally December 25 and January 6 became the common dates for Christ’s birth.

The difference in these two dates are the traditional “12 days of Christmas,” with Christians eventually coming to a compromise with December 25th being the date of Christ’s birth and January 6 being the date that the wise men arrived in Bethlehem.

What is important is that the date was chosen independently of any association with paganism.

As early as the 2nd century, Christians were celebrating Christ’s birth on one of these two dates. Around AD 200, an early church father, Hippolytus, wrote that December 25 was reckoned to be the date of Jesus’ birth based on the date of His death on March 25th. What is significant is that this is 75 years before the Roman emperor Aurelian made December 25th the date of Sol Invictus, the pagan holiday honoring the sun.

So instead of Christians picking December 25 based on a pagan holiday, it may have been the other way around. It is not too much unlike people today who take the Christian holiday of Christmas and try to turn it into some kind of secular celebration of winter or Santa Claus or just plain ol’ commercialism.

Augustine would write in the fourth century:

For Jesus is believed to have been conceived on the 25th of March, upon which day also He suffered; so the womb of the Virgin, in which He was conceived, where no one of mortals was begotten, corresponds to the new grave in which He was buried, wherein was never man laid, neither before Him nor since. But He was born, according to tradition, upon December the 25th.

Bottom line, we are not sure of the exact date of Jesus’ birth. But we are sure that Jesus entered our world, that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and that He died on a Roman cross and rose again three days later from the grave. The exact dates are not as important as the reality of their occurrence.

Jesus was born to demonstrate God’s incomprehensible love, He died to demonstrate God’s’ amazing grace, and He rose again to demonstrate God’s unconquerable power.

That is the message of Christmas.

It is not a pagan holiday.

It is a day that reminds us that there truly is hope in this world.

Posted in Christmas Devotionals | Leave a comment

Is Christianity for Real or Is It Just a Bunch of Hopeful Hooey?

She was a young adult dying from cancer. As her pastor, I was by her bedside, reading Scripture, praying with her, and pointing her toward heaven. Suddenly she turned to me with tears in her eyes and asked, “How do we know that this is all real?”

The question caught me off guard. She had always seemed strong in her Christian faith. But this was a moment of weakness…a battle with fear…a realization that death was staring at her in the face and she needed to know that her belief in Jesus Christ was more than just wishful thinking.

Faith is one thing when life is easy and death seems far away. It is another thing when you are on your death bed facing your own mortality and the prospect of eternity.

I am reminded of a quote by Diogenes Allen, Professor of Philosophy at Princeton University:

To look only for what is helpful in Christianity, largely because of this uneasiness at affirming its doctrines, has become a common practice both inside and outside the church. But there is a price to be paid. If we are concerned with finding help only, and not with truth, we are unlikely to find substantial help. For when we actually come face-to-face with temptation, danger, and death, we encounter reality—and at that point the question of who or what will guide and sustain us is no longer a side-issue. This is probably why “spirituality” in general, in spite of its initial appeal, fails us. When the chips are down, vagueness about what we believe is not an asset. (Spiritual Theology, 159)

This was one of those moments “when the chips were down.”

Thankfully three thoughts came to my mind in that moment. These three thoughts reassured her…and have reassured me in my own times of doubt.

1. The wonders of creation tell me that God exists. 

I honestly believe that it takes more faith to believe in materialistic evolution than it does to believe in theistic creation.

The heavens and the earth scream out “intelligent design.”

The complexity and order of the universe (so precise that you can set your watch on it), the fine tuning of the earth for our existence (known as the anthropic principle), and the reality that everything we see around us is more energy than matter, held together by an amazing power, all point to the existence of a Master Creator and Designer.

If that’s not enough to convince you, then just consider the wonder of DNA.

Within every cell of your body there is a six-foot strand of tightly wound DNA.

You have approximately 30 trillion cells in your body. Thus, you literally have 35 billion miles of DNA in your body. That’s enough to stretch to the sun and back 385 times.

And within this DNA is the exact code that details every aspect of your unique design. There is enough information in your DNA to fill a thousand encyclopedias. Even what was once considered “junk DNA” is now seen to contain 15 trillion bytes of raw data that would take a computer 300 years to fully process.

Scientists are just now realizing the unfathomable storage capacity of DNA. Consider this quote from a recent issue of Scientific American.

DNA can archive a staggering amount of information in an almost inconceivably small volume. Consider this: humanity will generate an estimated 33 zettabytes of data by 2025—that’s 3.3 followed by 22 zeroes. DNA storage can squeeze all that information into a ping-pong ball, with room to spare. The 74 million million bytes of information in the Library of Congress could be crammed into a DNA archive the size of a poppy seed—6,000 times over.

Every time we encounter information, we know that it comes from intelligence. To believe otherwise is to believe that a random explosion at a printing press could produce an edition of the New York Times. You can believe that if you want, but I choose to see the wonders of creation and stand in awe of a Creator whose intelligence and power far exceed anything we can imagine.

2. The wonders of the Bible tell me that God has spoken.

Okay so maybe some kind of intelligent God exists. How do we know who He is?

I believe that God not only exists but that He has spoken. And the Bible is His Word to us.

You can ignore the Bible, critique it, attack it, and even mock it but there is no question that it is the most remarkable, most read, most translated, most influential book in the history of humanity.

It has the best manuscript evidence of any ancient writing and it’s not even close. If you are going to doubt the reliability of Scripture then you are going to have to doubt the reliability of every writing in ancient history.

It has been repeatedly verified through archaeology. Nelson Glueck, one of the foremost archaeologists in history, once said:

It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference. Scores of archaeological findings have been made which confirm in clear outline or in exact detail historical statements in the Bible. And by the same token, proper evaluation of biblical descriptions has often led to amazing discoveries. (Rivers in the Desert, 31)

It has also been amazing in its prophecies with over five hundred prophecies fulfilled in exact detail by Jesus Christ. The book of Daniel, written in the 6th century BC, is also amazing in its accuracy, predicting the four world empires from Babylon to Rome. Critics have long argued that Daniel must have been written after the fact in the 1st or 2nd century BC. But this theory has been strongly refuted.

One of my favorite biblical scholars is Robert Dick Wilson (1856-1930) who served as the Professor of Semitic Languages and Old Testament Criticism at Princeton Theological Seminary. He is one of the most unique scholars that you will ever encounter. At the age of 25, he plotted out the rest of his life unto the age of 70, dividing it into three periods of fifteen years. For the first fifteen years, he learned every Semitic language that could be learned, eventually mastering 45 different languages and dialects. For the next fifteen years, he read every ancient document related to the Bible that could be read. And then for the last fifteen years, he wrote all that he had found related to the historicity of the Bible. Amazingly, he accomplished this feat and here was his conclusion:

I have come to the conviction that no man knows enough to attack the veracity of the Old Testament. Every time when anyone has been able to get together enough documentary ‘proofs’ to undertake an investigation, the biblical facts in the original text have victoriously met the test. (The Authority and Inspiration of the Bible)

Written by over forty different authors in three different languages over a span of 1500 years, the Bible stands as a complete unified document telling the story of humanity from creation to the end of time. What is lost in Genesis is regained in Revelation. And Jesus Christ stands at the center of everything.

3. The wonders of Jesus Christ tell me that God loves me.

There is no one in history like Jesus Christ.

Even Time Magazine in their millennial edition admitted as much:

It would require much exotic calculation, however, to deny that the single most powerful figure—not merely in these two millenniums but in all history—has been Jesus of Nazareth. It’s an astonishing conclusion in light of the fact that Jesus was a man who lived a short life in a rural backwater of the Roman Empire [and] who died in agony as a convicted criminal. (Time Magazine, December 6, 1999)

The Man who never wrote a book, never led an army, never held political power, never traveled more than 100 miles from where He was born, never did anything that the world attributes to greatness…literally changed the world.

He died as a criminal on a Roman cross, the worst punishment reserved for the lowest of individuals.

But something happened three days later.

His disciples claimed He physically rose from the dead and that they saw Him, talked with Him, touched Him, ate with Him.

They all died for their faith, facing their own violent deaths under the iron fist of the Roman Empire.

Yet their testimony stood firm.

They turned the world upside down with one message of good news.

Jesus Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.

And He rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures.

And all who believe in Him will have eternal life.

This was their simple creed.

And it is my creed today.

Passed down through the generations, changing innumerable lives along the way.

If Jesus Christ did not physically rise from the dead, then Christianity is a bunch of hopeful hooey.

The apostle Paul said it clearly.

And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. …And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:14, 17-19)

Christianity is falsifiable. Disprove the resurrection and the whole structure falls. Christianity is not interested in giving wishful thinking or religious opinion. It is either true or it is false. It is either reality or it is fantasy. It cannot be both.

Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important. (C. S. Lewis)

Either Jesus Christ is God in the flesh or He is a fraud.

Either He is Lord or He is a liar.

The resurrection is the dividing line.

Because He lives, death has lost its sting.

Because He lives, I will live.

Because He lives, my friend is not dead.

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.

God exists. He has spoken. And He loves us.

Jesus Christ is the proof.

You can follow whoever you want. You can believe whatever you want.

But I have cast my lot with Jesus Christ.

He is the way.

He is the truth.

And He is the life.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. (John 1:1-4)

Posted in Tough Questions of Faith | 2 Comments