For most people Christmas may be a time of joy and expectation. But not for everyone. I know too many people who get depressed at this time of year.
Carol Nelson said,
Christmas is a time when you get homesick — even when you’re home.
I’ve known that feeling some years, particularly those years immediately after the death of a loved one. What about you? Or what about those around you? Friends and family and co-workers?
If you’re having a Blue Christmas please talk to someone. Call a professional, cry to a friend; just don’t hold it all in and let it reach a point where you find there’s few options.
Catholics who trust in Christ for salvation will go to heaven, just as Protestants who trust in Christ.
Catholics or Protestants or even people who are a part of my church family who trust in religion or their good works and NOT in Christ will not go to heaven.
A lot of our Catholic brothers and sisters believe in a place called purgatory, where the soul goes after one dies to be purged or to be cleansed and prepared for heaven. To be honest, the Bible doesn’t mention purgatory anywhere. The Bible does say in 2 Corinthians 5:8, “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” No mention of purgatory. Hebrews 9:27, “Just as a person is destined to die once and after that face the judgment.” Purgatory is not a real place.
There are many translations of the Bible because if you’ve studied ancient languages, it’s difficult to take foreign words and phrases and translate them into another cultural context. Plus, our language has changed just over the last 50 years in this country. So the King James Version was the most popular English translation for centuries. But most people, even with a college education, find it difficult to understand it today. So scholars have created new translations so that we can understand the original Bible.
And the reason even modern translations look different is because the teams of scholars behind each translation have different philosophies on how to translate the Greek and Hebrew. Some teams lean toward “dynamic equivalence,” which means translations that fit the idioms of our language today. Others lean toward more “word for word” translations which make the translation more accurate but more difficult to understand. So the goal is to find a happy medium.
Example, if we were translating the phrase “I ate a hot dog,” into Chinese would we translate that literally, word for word? Thank about it. I ate a hot dog. Your reader might think that you light canines on fire and devour them. Or would you translate it so that the reader understood that you were eating some kind of “cooked sausage?” And those are the difficult choices translators have to make.
For all practical purposes, all of the English translations that are readily available are good. In other words, they reflect what the original languages meant. But depending on what you’re trying to do with the Bible, that may impact which translation you use. So I would choose a translation that is easier for you to understand. So the Revised Standard Version and the New International Version have been popular in the last generation. Recently I have seen a huge swing in the usage of the English Standard Versaion. I often recommend the New Living Translation because it’s easier to understand.
I typically use the New American Standard Bible if I want a word-for-word translation and I’m really going to just a study a verse or two. But I don’t do that often. So for sermon preparation and devotional time I use the NIV & NLT. But if I want to read big chunks of the Bible at a time, like reading through the Bible in a year? Then I use something even easier and different like The Message. So what I’m saying is that you ought to own more than 1 translation and consult them from time to time so that you can keep God’s word as fresh as possible.
One of the lynch pin verses of my ministry is the Great Commission that Jesus gives at the end of Matthew (28:18-20). I believe it is our (the church’s) marching orders. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Uhhh…seems cut and dry. What’s our job? Make disciples.
But what I love even more about this passage is what sandwiches it. One day I was reading this and not really “with it” spiritually speaking. Might I say I even had some doubts about what God’s purpose for my life was? So maybe you need to pull out your Bibles out but look at this: 28:16-17, “Then the 11 disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.” What? Some doubted? After they saw Jesus raised from the dead they doubted? Pretty much. Isn’t that how I am sometimes? God comes through again and again for me. And yet, I sometimes doubt.
But look what happens immediately after that phrase, “but some doubted?” “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore….'” In other words, we can only accomplish the mission Jesus set out for us because He is with us. Moreover, we don’t have to doubt because Jesus is with us. Surely Jesus isn’t with us 2,000 years later! Yes, He is, because it ends in the same way, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Don’t you love God’s Word?
We are easily amazed by things but what amazed Jesus, Son of the Living God?
Twice the Scriptures describe Him as being amazed. In Matthew 8:10-13 Jesus is amazed at the incredible faith of a Gentile. And in Mark 6:6, in Nazareth, Jesus was amazed at the lack of faith of his own countrymen and home townspeople. It is a paradox that the religious people of the day, who had the Scriptures, would lack faith, while the Gentiles should demonstrate faith.
Jesus lays out a paradox of his own. The religious, who would expect to participate in the heavenly banquet, were kicked out. But the foreigners were allowed in. The simple lesson is that Jesus respects faith, not ethnicity, background, religiosity, tradition, or other truly external things.
According to Tim Keller, there are 2 basic ways people try to find happiness and fulfillment:
- Moral conformity: Living “RIGHT”
- Self-Discovery: Living “FREE”
Everyone chooses one of these two ways and everyone thinks those in the other group are the problem in the world.
Those people are “immoral.” NO! Those people are “bigoted.”
Some go back and forth or hide behind one even though they are part of the other. And BOTH of these approaches are WRONG!
Actually the 2 ways are more similar than they appear. Moral conformists have the sin of pride as a barrier. It’s how they CONTROL life. If I am “good,” then I will be blessed.
But it doesn’t work that way.
This means you can rebel against God by breaking the rules OR by keeping all of them diligently.
You can avoid Jesus as Savior by keeping all the moral laws. Then God OWES you answered prayer and a good life. Religious people try to get leverage over God, to control Him.
They obey to get things. They don’t obey God to GET GOD HIMSELF. Sin is not just breaking the rules. It is putting yourself in the place of God as Lord.
So both ways are wrong and lead to Hell.