Tag Archives: eternal life

O Christmas Tree

What is the origin of the Christmas tree? 

No one is quite sure when the evergreen tree became associated with Christmas. 

Many believe that for thousands of years the evergreen tree was seen as a symbol of eternal life since it was the only tree that kept its hue throughout the winter. In the Middle Ages there arose a tale that when Christ was born in the middle of winter (not likely), all the trees throughout the forest shook off the snow. During this time as well, the Christmas holiday was celebrated along with the feast of Adam and Eve. During this celebration, evergreen trees would be trimmed with fresh fruit representing the garden of Eden. 

By the 1500s, the areas now known as Germany and the Netherlands and a few other places began to celebrate Christmas with these trees as symbols of life. Churches would have an evergreen inside them with pyramids of candles next to them to present each family in the church. Eventually the candles migrated to the tree itself beginning the tradition of lighting the tree. 

The placing of presents under the trees came later as the tree became a central symbol of the Christmas season. One tradition early in the gift exchange tradition was that of wrapping the gift several times. Each time the gift was wrapped, a person’s name was placed on the wrapping. The gift was given to the outermost named person who unwrapped the outer layer and then handed it to the next name. No one would know exactly who the gift belonged to until the last layer. 

To me, Christmas trees represent so many wonderful things about Jesus. 

I see the evergreen tree itself as a symbol of life eternal and a precursor to the tree upon which Christ hung. I see the lights that twinkle as the light of Jesus shining in all of his followers. Each Christian is a light in the kingdom of eternal life. They also symbolize those who have gone before us much like Hebrews 12:1-2. 

The decorations on the tree are a celebration of the goodness of God. We don’t have one of those designer trees in our house. Our tree is filled with ornaments that represent different times in our lives. We have ornaments from when we were children and when our children were born. We have ornaments from each of the places we’ve lived. We have ornaments representing the things we love to do and those things that define us.  Every ornament is a celebration of God’s guidance and provision in our lives. 

The star on top reminds us to seek Jesus the way the wise men did when they followed the star. 

The first ornament that goes on our tree is a single square nail. This nail resents the savior whose birth we celebrate, but who would later give his life as a ransom for all people.  This nail reminds us that the gospel, the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, is the greatest gift God has given His creation. 

The Christmas tree is just a symbol used to be a reminder. It is not the center of the Christmas story. It is not the meaning of Christmas. However, it can remind us of what Christmas is all about and how gracious our God has been to come to this planet and be born, humbly, as a baby in a manger. 

I pray that each of you has a Merry Christmas this year, and that you remember and celebrate Christ every day of the rest of your life. 

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Why Did Jesus Weep?

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Death is hard. I used to think that I dealt with death pretty well, but these last two weeks have been pretty taxing.

Last week I had the honor of ministering to a family who had lost a young man who was 33. He went to sleep and didn’t wake up. He left behind two young children. This past week I was honored again to be able to minister to another family who lost a son, brother, and husband who was 28. He was murdered while helping a lady with her car.

Death is hard.

Unfortunately death is an inevitability for each and every one of us. How will we deal with it? How do we prepare for what will eventually befall us? Are you ready?

So many people live this life with a focus on today or even yesterday. We are supposed to do that, but we must never forget that there will come a day when we will meet our Maker. We must be prepared because we aren’t even guaranteed to make it out of today alive. James, the brother of Jesus, talks about how fragile our lives are. He says they are a mist or vapor that appears only for a moment. Then he speaks to what I think is key. He says (my paraphrase) to take advantage of every moment while here on earth.

I’ll be honest with you. My hope and confidence is in the resurrection. I plan on living forever with the Almighty, my Abba. I have confidence in this because I’ve been united with His Son in His death and resurrection. Romans 6 talks about when we are united with Christ. Then it says if we have been united with Jesus’ death and resurrection we will also have eternal life today and even after we physically die.

Do you have confidence that you will be raised to live with Christ forever? Do you have your plan for the future? Is your plan based on what your Creator has said in His word?

Death comes quickly. Death is hard. And for many people death is sad. But for those who have been united with Christ in His death and resurrection death is not the end. For us death is actually a time of celebration for the journey of our loved one is complete as he or she is ushered into the presence of the One they longed to see face to face – the Creator.

Paul says to the church in Corinth that they didn’t not have to grieve like those who have no hope because of the resurrection of Jesus.

Yet death is still hard.

Jesus went to raise his friend, Lazarus, from the dead. He had waited longer in the place he was before going just because he knew that Lazarus was going to die and he was going to raise his friend to glorify God. Yet, when he got to the funeral on the fourth day after Lazarus’ death he still saw all the people weeping, grieving over the loss of their loved one and Jesus wept too. He knows how hard death is on us. He loves us in the midst of it, and he offers a way to overcome death.

Jesus has overcome death through his resurrection. He offers that opportunity to you as well. Would you give your life to him and allow him to wash away all that keeps you from having eternal life? Don’t put it off until tomorrow. Tomorrow may never come.


The Least Popular Article I’ve Written

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This will not be my most popular article.

Are you a Christian? If you say yes, then this article is for you. If not, you are welcome to read this because you may get a glimpse into what this life is all about, but you should know that the standard set before us in this article is not for you…not yet. Hopefully, however, you will find that the Savior, Jesus, is well worth whatever it takes to seek Him.

So, are you still with me? Good!

As humans, we have a tendency toward brokenness. If you look at the world around us you will see that we are a broken species living broken lives in a broken environment that we choose broken procedures to try to repair to a less broken status. Because we are a messed up people, then when we do things, by our nature, we mess them up.

This is true of our ability to follow Christ.

We are called to be Christians, but for many people this is merely a moniker, a title that gives us religious clout in whatever circles we desire to reveal that title to others. We are but fans of the One to whom we declared our allegiance when we became Christians.

There is a difference between being a fan of Jesus and being His follower. Unfortunately, since the beginning of Christianity, the majority of people who claim his forgiveness are not much more than fans.

Maybe you’re reading this, and you’re saying, “not me!” I hope so, but let’s look at the calling to which you were called.

First of all, Sunday morning worship services and Wednesday night classes are not the penultimate experiences of the Christian life. We are not called to worship on Sunday and Wednesday only. We are called to offer our bodies daily as living sacrifices to God. Worship is supposed to come from us all day every day. In many churches the people who do show up barely even sing anyway, and the attendance on Sunday morning is considerably different than the actual church membership roster. However, this is only a small sampling of evidence for fandom.

What have you sacrificed/given up for Christ? When we are called to Christ, we are called to die to ourselves. In fact, Jesus says we must take up our own cross. He wants us to come to Him and die with him. Can you imagine if the new church slogan was “Come and Die”? Would you want to worship with that group? You would if you understood what Jesus was calling you to.

He is not calling you to a life of luxury. If he were, would he have spent his life and ministry with no home and little food? Wouldn’t he have had a great financial base with which to do ministry?

He didn’t really focus on wealth and prosperity. In fact, he said as a promise that if you follow him you are guaranteed hardship as a result. Have you suffered hardship because of Christ? If you haven’t, then are you truly following him the way you are called to do so?

He doesn’t call us to live for him when it’s convenient. He doesn’t call us to live for him when we aren’t at work or school or doing something else important. He doesn’t call us to go on mission trips and to revival weekends. He calls us to live in mission wherever we are all day every day. We are called daily to revival as we seek His will for our lives.

In America, the American dream of prosperity and status has had an open door into the mindsets of our churches, and it won’t be until we rid ourselves of the needs and desires for things of this world that we can truly put our hand to the plow and not look back.

The world is watching. Recently I was told by a couple of different people that the reason they didn’t want to come to Christ is that they couldn’t see that it was doing anything special for His followers. That is sad, and it convicts me on so many levels.

You aren’t called to be a fan of Jesus. You are called to be a follower, and following means going where He would go and where He is calling. He went to the broken and hurting and dirty people of his day. He went to the poor and the lame. He went out into the world and didn’t associate with the religious cliques of his time. He is calling you to follow him there. He is calling you to get uncomfortable for Him. He is calling you out of YOUR life and into HIS.

Jesus knew this would be tough, and he knew you would have to make some hard choices. Some of you may even have to reject your family because you choose Jesus over them. You may have to change jobs or friends. You may have to tell your boss you can’t work at certain times because you are dedicated to something greater (and being with the saints on Sunday is something greater). I know of a farmer who dedicated to God that he wouldn’t work on Sunday even during the harvest, and he always got his crops in…in fact he had a bumper crop from that point forward.

When we follow Jesus the way he calls us to follow, then we can truly begin to live in the Eternal Life He is calling us to.

If you’re not willing to give yourself up in that way, then consider the choice. It’s time for all of us to stop pretending we are one way and living another. Jesus spoke a lot about that too, and he said it to the religious folk of His day.

So, I hope you’re still with me. We have all fallen short of this, but through the grace of Jesus He helps us get back up and continue to dedicate our lives to Him. When you fail, don’t wallow in self pity. Stand back up! Jesus has already forgiven you.

Please share this with your friends who are Christians. Please make changes in your life as you truly seek Christ with all your heart. Let hypocrisy die in us as His Spirit comes alive in us.


“Woo Hoo” was the Word of the Evening

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The other day I took my kids to a local retreat center just north of town called Ashwood Palms to do some fishing in their ponds. My son has been asking me to take him fishing there since the last time we went which was about six months ago. When I told him our plans for the evening he was jumping up and down and shouting “WooHoo!”

We made all the necessary arrangements including a trip to Walmart to buy night crawlers. Then we got our gear together and made sure we had a snack for the venture. After that it was off to the fishing hole.

Our outing wasn’t about any particular type of fish. We weren’t even concerned with size. My hope for my son and my daughter was that they would simply catch fish, and lots of them.

They did just that! When they’d hook a fish there would be such excitement it heir little voices, and “WooHoo” seemed to be the word of the evening! Azariah and Sophia were congratulating each other like good sports. It didn’t matter that the fish they were catching were only inches long; they didn’t care about size. They were just excited to have the opportunity to fish and be catching.

I love seeing an excitement for fishing growing in the lives of my children.

There was once another group of fishermen who showed enthusiasm for their ventures. The group was Peter, Andrew, James, and John. They had heard John the Baptizer teaching in their area and had become followers of his, yet they had not neglected their duties as fishermen. The story that many people remember about this group is when Jesus told them to cast their net on the other side of the boat after they had caught nothing all the night before. When they did this they caught so many fish in one cast that they had to get a second boat to haul in all the fish.

They were excited. But this wasn’t the first time they had been excited in the presence of Jesus. When Jesus met Andrew, he was so excited about who Jesus was (the Messiah) that he ran to tell his brother the good news. When Jesus met another future disciple named Philip, it made him so excited that he ran to tell Nathaniel. This was the same guy that we read about later in the book of acts studying with an Ethiopian Eunuch.

These men were excited about Jesus, and he called them “Fishers of Men”.

I tell those stories because they have direct implications to each of us. In Matthew 28, Jesus commanded his disciples to “go and make disciples, baptizing them.” But he also gave them the charge to “teach them everything I have commanded you.” The disciples obeyed. A little over 50 days after the resurrection, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they began to preach. 3000 people were baptized that day, and the process of disciple making started.

We know that this command to “make disciples…teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” was fulfilled through the disciples of Jesus. In 2 Timothy 2:2 we read discourse between Paul and Timothy, one of Paul’s disciples. He encourages Timothy to teach others who can then teach others. In that one verse four generations of disciples are represented.

Let me make one thing clear: this command is for each one of us.

The Christian music group Casting Crowns sings a song, “Here I Go Again” that has these lyrics: “here I go again talkin’ ’bout the rain and mulling over things that won’t live past today, and as I dance around the truth time is not his friend. This might be my last chance to tell him that You love him.”

The song is giving a great description of how we treat evangelism every day. Time after time we are presented with chances to talk to our friends and relatives about the love of Jesus, but instead we talk about the rain or work or kids or fishing or anything other than the saving message of grace in Christ.

I know all our reasons for shying back, but my question is this: if Jesus’ disciples were to make disciples that did the same things that they did, then if we aren’t spreading the message of Christ then can we really say we are disciples of Christ? This was a command, and it wasn’t “go make disciples, baptizing…and teaching some to obey.” This was a blanket statement for all of us.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all saw evangelism with the same kind of “WooHoo” excitement my children have for catching inedible fish?!

The story is told of an older man who went down to the beach after a storm to gather shells. When he got down there he found the sand littered with starfish. As he walked along in amazement at the sheer numbers he saw a lone child tossing starfish back in the sea. “Why are you doing that? There are so many you’ll never get them all! What does it matter? Why try?” The boy was unfazed, and as he picked up another starfish and tossed it back in the ocean he said, “it mattered to that one.”

Instead of being overwhelmed with numbers like the population of the earth or probability statistics, we are called to have the childlike enthusiasm that my children have. I know we can have that kind of enthusiasm too! Every time we see our child do something great we tell others with that kind of enthusiasm. Every time we get a new gadget we show it off with great enthusiasm.

You have been given life eternal through Christ regardless of your past. It was given to you freely with your baptism. Your friends and neighbors don’t have that gift, and they’re dying in their sins. You have the cure. Will you not tell them? Will you not offer them healing?

May we be people who re-evaluate our attitude toward the salvation we have received. May we then become downright giddy as we thank God for his saving grace, and may we be people who just can’t keep it in.

After the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 when 3000 people were baptized into Christ the excitement was so prevalent that it took them only approximately a year to spread the message to the entire known world. When we catch this fire in this day when we are more connected than ever through texting and Facebook and twitter, we will change the world quickly as well. Let’s do just that!

If you have any questions or comments regarding this article, you can email me at jddobbs@verizon.net or call me at the office at 245-1611. You can also read all my previous articles at http://www.mrdobbs.org. God bless you, and spread the Word!


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