(This is our family Christmas letter. I'm posting it here in case anyone didn't see it and were interested.)
What if God was like Santa? A really nice supernatural being who gave us what we want. Wouldn’t it be nice to have such a thing? Anything we want, when we want it, how we want it. If we could only say certain words, perform certain acts or accomplish certain tasks, and that being would be compelled to act on our behalf to our liking, and we could master our own fates.
And… that’s just it… we want to be masters of our own fates. We want to be gods of our destiny, if we’re honest. However, the real problem is despite our best and multitudinous efforts to convince ourselves otherwise… whether it be personal tragedy or caskets … we know we’ll ultimately fail to master our fate. Therefore, it’s natural to desire supernatural beings, under our control, that can save us from anything. Whether it’s the ancient pagan belief of gods in our image who get their power from our prayers or various forms of animism that seek to manipulate heavenly beings through ridiculous rituals, these false beliefs are manifestations of our futile thinking and darkened hearts toward God.
And, if we must admit, our corruption reaches inside the walls of the Church, with corrupted theologies like the word-faith movement and prosperity teaching that among many things teach we can trigger a response from God by what we do, or say. (No matter how we want to interpret John 15:7, for example, “In Jesus’ Name” is not abracadabra.) However, such teaching doesn’t represent God as He reveals Himself in Scripture.
As many of you know and some may not, this last summer, I was diagnosed with a rare, aggressive and terminal form of cancer. Nothing will tempt one to want to master their fate and test someone’s understanding of God like a death sentence. I must admit, there have been times where I have wanted God to answer to my beck and call. Try as I might in my study of the Bible, (while I will continue to ask for healing as I know He can), I find no promise that He will heal me in this life.
In all of my seeking after Him in this trial, He has not reinforced any such theology. In fact, he has spoken richly to me and reminded me of what His real promises in Scripture are:
All of His promises are “Yes” in Christ – when He gave me Christ, He gave me everything: including the promise of an eternal healing far beyond the grasp of this world’s diseases
He has magnificently manifested His grace in this trial – in many ways through you
Who I am: husband, father, employee are all means to the ends of His glory – it’s not about me
Everything good in my life: amazing wife, beautiful children, other blessings are from His hand
It is better to walk a short time in tight fellowship with God than know a long life of mediocrity
If He heals me, I praise Him… if He doesn’t I praise Him.
My role is to be faithful in the trial: focus on my pastoral role in my family, love as Christ loved, be zealous for the Gospel and never charge God with any wrongdoing
I have absolute confidence in His sovereign grace in my life through Christ’s finished work on the cross and His resurrection
Therefore, I have an indescribable hope in my Heavenly Father’s presence
I want you to be there with me…
If what the doctors are saying is correct, this could be my last Christmas letter. And, if that be true, there is only one thing left to say:
Let it be known that God Himself, as a free gift through Christ, is our greatest prize. That gift is EVERYTHING!! All of us have done things that are wrong. For those acts, we deserve to spend forever separated from God in Hell. However, God doesn’t leave us to our fate. He sends His only Son as the only means to provide forgiveness and to conquer sin and death by His sacrifice on the cross and by rising from the dead. As the only One Who is both God and man, He is the only One Who can bring God and man back together. Through faith in Him, there is a beautiful exchange where He takes away our sin and condemnation and exchanges it with a right standing before God and a new, eternal life.
In Jesus Christ all the fullness of the Godhead dwells, and He is the exact representation of God’s being, and in Him rests the hope of the ages. To place your trust in Him is to know new life, but to reject Him is to reject the only cure of mankind’s greatest disease… a disease even more vicious than my own.
The word Christmas means the “celebration of Christ.” Christ is completely worthy of our love and the devotion of our lives. This Christmas I encourage you to refuse to reduce God to someone more manageable, but to seek Him for Who He is as He has revealed Himself. You will find yourself more in love with Him than you could ever fall in love with anything less.