What Child is This?

by Wendy Wippel

Wendy Wippel is a molecular biologist who specializes in genetics. She has conducted research for the University of Cincinnati and the Center for Disease Control. She focuses on medical writing, but she also does a lot of writing concerning biblical topics. This article first appeared in The Omega Letter in 2013.

Thoughts for the Christmas Season

It’s the Christmas season, and amid the baking and the bustling and the bows, it’s easy to lose sight of what the fuss is all about — a baby. As the old carol asks, “What child is this?”

There’s a lot riding on your answer. Because that baby is the central figure of human history. Human history, in fact, is divided into two eras (BC and AD) by His existence. (Your birth date? Counted from His.)

• He never traveled more than 100 miles from home, but His followers permeated every country in the world with His story.

• He never wrote a book, but more have been written about Him than anyone else in history, by far.

• The first book about Him, the Bible, has been translated into more than 500 languages, and portions of it into more than 3000 languages. The first runner-up, believe it or not, is Pinocchio. Only 260.

• He had only 12 disciples, but billions of people discuss His teachings every day. According to one Harvard professor (not a Christian), the Sermon on the Mount alone represents the “most luminous, most quoted, most analyzed, most contested, most influential moral and religious discourse in all of human history.” The professor adds, “This may sound like an overstatement, but it is not.”

• He was homeless during His public life, but most of the world’s most beautiful buildings were built in His honor (Notre Dame, Westminster Abbey, Hagia Sophia, Chartres, St. John’s Cathedral, and so on.)

• He died as a criminal, but today thousands of names of cities and countries memorialize His life. (San Salvador, for example, which means Holy Savior.)

• He never married, but more wedding vows have asked His blessing than any other.

• He never had kids, but there’s a really good chance you’re named after one of his family or his friends.

• Untold numbers of people throughout history have willingly gone to their deaths rather than renounce His name.

It begs the question, “What Child IS This?”

Author Ralph Waldo Emerson (an atheist) observed that the name of Jesus was not so much written as ploughed into the history of the world. And author H.G. Wells (also an atheist) said this:

An historian like myself finds the picture centering irresistibly around the life and character of this most significant man . . . The historian’s test of an individual’s greatness is . . . did he start men to thinking along fresh lines with a vigor that persisted after him? By this test Jesus stands first.

Jesus is recognized by skeptic and saint alike as the turning point of history. What child IS this?

We’ve had 2000 years to speculate: A really moral man? A great philosopher? A champion of social justice? A pacifist? A mythical figure? A revolutionary? A fruitcake? An example for all of us to follow?

Those really aren’t the right questions, though. The real question is “Who does He think He is?” And Jesus, tellingly, said none of the above. Jesus said that He came to “seek and save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). Jesus said that He came to “give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). In fact, He said that He came specifically for one moment in time, His crucifixion (John 12:27). And Jesus said that He came to be the make-or-break issue in your life and mine: “For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind” (John 9:39).

What child is this? We all have to answer that question for ourselves. And eternity rides on our answer. Why? Because God created humans to be with Him. But you probably know what happened next — Adam and Eve disobeyed the one rule that God established, and humanity became tainted with sin. And as descendants of Adam and Eve, we inherited that condition.

We’re all SIN positive.

The problem is that sin can’t survive in the presence of the holiness of God. But that same God still loves us and wants us to be with Him. So Jesus came to seek and save that which was lost. We’re what was lost.

Some Christmas carols call Jesus another name: Emmanuel. It means “God with us.” And Jesus, God in the form of a man, came to earth to make a bridge. A bridge described in a lot of different places in the Bible:

To all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God (John 1:12).

He who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life (John 5:24).

For God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son, so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).

Maybe you’re thinking, “That’s great for you, but it’s just not my thing.” Or, “I have my own faith.” Or, “We all worship the same God.”

Then what child is this? One that made some pretty amazing statements:

I am the way, the truth, the life. No man comes to the father but through me (John 14:6).

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me (Matthew 28:18).

Nobody else said things like this. Not Mohammed. Not Confucius. Not Buddha. Not Joseph Smith. Nobody.

People these days say that makes Christianity exclusive. Except that Jesus also said that whosoever believes in Him can have eternal life. Whosoever.

So what child is this? You can call Him a liar. You can call Him a lunatic. Or you can call him Lord. “Undecided” isn’t really an option. He didn’t mean for it to be.

Jesus was crucified because He claimed to be the Messiah, a Messiah described in Isaiah as “wounded for our transgressions,” whose chastisement made peace for us with God. Jesus said that He came to give us life as a ransom for many. Nobody else said that. Not Mohammed. Not Confucius. Not Buddha. Not Joseph Smith. Nobody.

That’s what sets Jesus apart. Only He laid down His life for your sins and mine. And when He died on that cross (a fact documented in Roman records) it would have certainly seemed that was the last history would hear of Him.

But the cross that He died on is now the world’s most common symbol, engraved on tombstones, mounted in and on churches, scattered on hillsides and hung around a whole lot of necks. (And at Ground Zero — at least for now.)

So what child is this? That’s the question. And the answer, as G. K Chesterton observed:

Since Jesus died on the cross it has never been quite enough to say that “God is in His heaven and all is right with the world,” since, according to the Bible, “God left His heavens to set it right.”

God, in the form of Jesus, left heaven to seek and save that which was lost, meaning you and me. When He died on the cross, God was saying that He loves you. He Himself came to earth to give His life as your ransom. It was the God of all the universe, whispering into your ears, “I do.” And that God, who still loves you, stands at the altar, waiting for your answer. He’ll wait. He has all eternity to do so. Do you?

Article from The Lamplighter magazine, November-December 2018. Used with permission.

Strive for Integrity

“May integrity and uprightness protect me.”   Psalm 25:21

Bobby Jones is considered one of history’s greatest golfers. But more than all his victories on the golf course, he’s famous for what happened in the 1925 U.S. Open. He inadvertently touched his ball and assessed himself a one-stroke penalty, even though no one else saw him touch the ball. But he couldn’t violate his conscience. And by assessing himself that penalty, he lost the Open by that one stroke. When tournament officials tried to compliment him for his integrity, Jones simply said, “You might as well praise me for not breaking into banks. There is only one way to play this game.”

Bobby Jones played by the rules. Period. And in doing so, he honored the integrity of the game. One sportswriter wrote, “In the opinion of many people, of all the great athletes, Bobby Jones came the closest to being what we call a great man.”

Jones could have won the tournament, but he would have lost his integrity. And winning the U.S. Open wasn’t worth a one-stroke penalty on his integrity. That’s epic integrity! And that’s something to be celebrated. We live in a culture that celebrates talent more than integrity, but we’ve got it backwards. Talent depreciates over time. So do intellect and appearance. You will eventually lose your strength and your looks. You may even lose your mind. But you don’t have to lose your integrity. Integrity is the only thing that doesn’t depreciate over time. Nothing takes longer to build than a godly reputation—and nothing is destroyed more quickly by one stroke of sin. That’s why your integrity must be celebrated and protected above all else.

The Word For You Today, Bob Gass Ministries

Do You Have Abilities God Can Use?

by Jim Weikal

“Select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom.  We will give them this responsibility.”  (Acts 6:3)

Do you have any abilities God can use? Too often believers shrink back from a “God-calling” because they feel less gifted than others. But think about these points:

1. Do you share our Lord’s interest in the kingdom of God? . . . Yes.

2. Do you have a sense of loyalty to Jesus Christ who paid the penalty for your sin? . . . Yes.

3. Do you desire to see God’s kingdom grow by adding repentant sinners? . . . Yes.

4. Do you trust God’s wisdom in selecting people to work in His kingdom? . . . Yes.

If God put these positive responses in your heart, wouldn’t He equip you with the ability to fulfill them? The church needs Timothies and Tituses. Not everyone needs to be a Paul or Peter. It needs unknowns like Eubulus, Pudens, Linus, and Claudia. Please put your abilities to work for Christ. You will be glad you did!

The Root of Modesty

by Darlinda McDonald

The booklet, Style, by Wally Kubitz, revealed the slippery slope that we have been sliding down for the last nearly 100 years:

In the 1920s & 30s, briefer swimwear appeared which lead to the introduction of the bikini in 1946. By the late 40s and early 50s, Alfred Kinsey’s questionable studies popularized the notion that bedroom intimacy was a public, not a private, topic so the environment was ripe for a nudie magazine like Playboy to make its debut in the mid-50s. In the 1960s, the “sexual revolution” arrived on the scene opening the door for Mary Quant’s mini-skirt. Quant was not shy in declaring that the mini-skirt’s purpose “was to dress women so men would ‘feel like tearing the wrapping off’” (People magazine, 1988). The 1970s followed with short-shorts, also known as “hot pants.” Between 1960 and 2000, the divorce rate doubled, unmarried cohabiting increased ten-fold, and babies born out-of-wedlock increased six-fold.

It should come as no surprise then that our young people are confused. Society as a whole has become desensitized to “the sin that does so easily beset us” and accepts behaviors that even twenty years ago would have been deemed unacceptable. James 1:15 states, “Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin.” Modesty matters. The truth is that immodesty (skimpy clothing, seductive behavior) leads to temptation that leads to immoral thoughts (lustful thinking) that leads to action (physical sin).

How we see ourselves before God is at the root of modesty. When we understand and believe that we are precious children of God, bought with a price and loved beyond measure, everything we say and do will be influenced by that knowledge. Just as children who feel loved by their parents want to please them, we also will desire to please our heavenly Father.

Recognizing that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, our desire will be to honor God – not only by how we dress – but also by keeping our bodies pure and undefiled.