Blog

Happenings around Antioch

Mark Fox February 28, 2021

The Difference Is Dramatic

It’s like a movie plot, but more interesting because it happened. You can read about it in Acts 5.  Evil men, “filled with jealousy” are plotting to stop good men who are filled with the Holy Spirit. Evil sometimes triumphs, at least for a season, and the good men are arrested for teaching about Jesus and thrown into prison. They don’t even get to try the free breakfast, though, because in the middle of the night, God sends an angel to bust them out. Not a drop of blood is spilled. The angel just opens the locked doors and leads the twelve men out, presumably while the prison guards are standing right there beside the doors. It reminded me of Brother Andrew smuggling Bibles into communist countries in the 1950’s. In his book, God’s Smuggler, Andrew says he would often pray, “Lord, when You were on earth, You made blind eyes see. Now, I pray, make seeing eyes blind. Do not let the guards see what’s in front of them.” He didn’t even try to hide the Bibles, and for 35 years, the guards never saw them. Whether it is locked prison doors or not-so-hidden Bibles, God reigns.

The religious leaders of Israel (Sanhedrin) gather the next morning, thinking they have their enemies in the jailhouse, and they send for them to be brought over. A prison officer reports that the doors are locked and the guards are posted beside them, but the cells are empty. He exits stage left and another man enters stage right and announces that the twelve apostles who are supposed to be in the jailhouse are in the temple. Again. And they are teaching the people. Again.

You have to wonder about the thick-headedness of the Sanhedrin at this point, don’t you? They have heard about Pentecost and what happened there, with people speaking in other languages that they had never learned, and three thousand people becoming followers of Jesus of Nazareth. They have heard about the lame beggar and see him every day, now very much healed and no longer a beggar, and they have heard about the two thousand people who became followers of Jesus that day. They have heard about the other miracles, and reports of many others believing in Jesus. Now they hear about a miraculous prison break where the men inside apparently just vaporized and then re-appeared in the temple. Why would the Sanhedrin gnash their teeth in rage and continue to plot against the followers of Jesus? You would think they would learn. But here’s the thing. It has to do with the Words of Life, and whether you believe them and live them…or not.

The Center for Bible Engagement found in a recent survey of more than 80,000 U.S. households that most people who identify themselves as Christians don’t read the Bible in an average week. Their only “engagement” with the Bible comes on Sunday morning. The study also revealed that there is a strong correlation between lack of Bible engagement and daily struggles with worry, gossip, fear, forgiving others, and even with failing marriages and addiction to pornography. The behavior and lifestyles of those who don’t engage the Bible four or more times per week is almost identical to those who don’t believe in God at all.

The difference in the book of Acts between the men and women who had the words of life and lived them, and those who did not have the words of life and rejected them could not be any more dramatic.

It is the same today.

Read More
Mark Fox February 28, 2021
Mark Fox February 14, 2021

How We Should Prepare for Church

How do you prepare for church on Sundays? I don’t mean laying your clothes out the night before, or making sure you have your Bible. I used to prepare on Sunday morning as a child by watching the cartoon, “Davey and Goliath.” Anybody old enough to remember that? I would sit on the sofa with my two brothers, all in our Sunday best with hair slicked down, or licked down, and we would watch TV and try not to fight during commercials, while Mom and Dad hustled around getting ready. That’s not what I mean, though, by getting prepared for church. 

Rather, what’s your mindset about going to church? Two common mistakes are to come either as a spectator or as a worker. Jordan Kauflin writes,  “We come with the expectation, spoken or assumed, that everyone else needs to make sure we have a good time. I need my kids to be taken care of. I need people to seek me out. I need the music to sound a certain way. I need the preacher to stop speaking on time so that I can get on with my life. As for Jesus? Hopefully he shows up by his Spirit so I can have a spiritual, emotional experience that carries me through my week. We come as spectators, expecting to be served. For some of us, we prepare for our Sunday gathering as workers. You might serve in your church as a children’s ministry worker, usher, setup team person, greeter, or hospitality person. We prepare much like we prepare for work (and for some, it really is work). We make a list of all the things we need to do. We make sure we leave on time. Our mind is filled with logistics and details. We remind ourselves how important our role is.”

I would suggest that both of those mindsets are me-centered. Instead, let’s tune our hearts to sing His praise, as the hymn writer said. Go to church to meet with God and to worship Him. “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise.” We go to receive from Him, so pray with expectation that you will not miss what He is saying that day through the songs, sermon, and sharing.

Expect also to be challenged to respond to what God says to you. The Creator doesn’t speak just to hear Himself talking. He communicates through the preaching of the Word in ways that will change your life and mine. Prepare to hear from Him and prepare to respond to what He says. Why do some Christians seem to stagnate and stay in the same place spiritually for years while others explode with growth in maturity and wisdom? It’s as simple as the math formula, “time times rate equals distance.” With what rate do you apply what you learn from God and obey it?

Finally, come to church with the expectation that the body needs you. The Bible says the body of Christ grows “when each part is working properly.” The lady sitting in front of you needs to hear you sing with all your might because she’s just not feeling it this morning. The young man in the parking lot who is questioning his faith may just tell you the truth if you ask how he’s doing. The family behind you has suffered a tremendous loss and they need to know you care.

The truth is, you and I have work to do at church that often makes our jobs pale in comparison. And I know for many reading this column, you have gotten out of the habit of going to church because of the pandemic. Hey, it’s simple to start a new habit. You just start going again. This Sunday, then the next, and the one after that. Keep it up for 8-10 weeks and your heart will be re-conditioned to the point that you are amazed you stayed away so long!

Going to church this week? I hope so, for all the right reasons.

Read More
Mark Fox February 14, 2021
Mark Fox February 1, 2021

Radical Love Means Radical Giving

Gary Thomas tells the story in his book, Sacred Marriage, about two brothers who worked together during the day in a field and in the evening at a mill. Each night they divided up the grain they had processed. One brother was single, and one was married with a large family. The single brother decided that his married brother, with all those kids, certainly needed more than he did, so at night he secretly crept over to his brother’s granary and gave him an extra portion. The married brother realized that his single brother didn’t have any children to care for him in his old age, so he went up each night and secretly deposited some grain in his brother’s granary. One night they met halfway between the two granaries, and each brother realized what the other was doing. They embraced and as the old rabbinical story goes, God witnessed what happened and said, “This is a holy place—a place of love—and it is here that my temple shall be built.”

That’s a picture of what was happening in the first church in Jerusalem. The people were saved from sin and to a new way of life, even to the point that, “No one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own.” That seems to be a contradiction in terms, doesn’t it? If what belongs to me is not my own, then it doesn’t belong to me, does it? Well, no, it really doesn’t. It belongs to the Lord. But at the same time, He lets us choose what we are going to do with those things that belong to Him and are in our hands. He gives us stewardship over much. That’s what was going on in the new church. They were living out the reality of what Jesus had told them when He said, “It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the needy.” Because they believed this promise, that God would give them the kingdom, they were free to meet genuine needs in the church out of love.

I can imagine a conversation Peter might have had with an old friend he bumped into one day in Jerusalem. The friend says, “Hey, what’s this I hear about a…what do you call it, a church? What’s going on with all you people who are following this Galilean guy around? What’s his name, Jesus? The dead religious leader. I mean, he was crucified, right?”

“Yes,” Peter might say, “but haven’t you heard? God raised Him from the dead on the third day, and I saw Him. I talked to Him. I ate with Him. Jesus is alive! And do you know what He is doing now? He is changing lives. Thousands of them. He has given us salvation, the promise of eternal life, and He has given us peace with God and love for God’s people. In fact, just the other day, a believer named Barnabas sold a field, brought the money from the sale, and laid it at our feet. All of it. He did that so people in the church who need food and clothing and are just struggling with basic needs could be helped. Not because he had to, but because he wanted to.”

The radical love of Jesus Christ leads to radical giving. He loosens our grip on things and tightens our embrace on people. It doesn’t mean that His followers never own anything. It simply means that their things don’t own them.

He does.

Read More
Mark Fox February 1, 2021
Mark Fox January 24, 2021

Are We Doing it For Daddy?

It was suppertime at the Fox’s in 2001, and we were discussing the Right to Life vigil that would be held that evening around the Graham Courthouse. It was the 28th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision which legalized abortion in the United States.

One of the kids said to Judah, who was not sure about this vigil idea, “It’s cool, Judah! You get to hold a candle!” Another added, “And we might get our picture in the paper!” Judah was mildly impressed, but I was surprised at what I heard from my children. I responded, “Guys, the reason we do this every year is not to hold candles or because we might get our picture in the paper. If that’s why you’re doing it, I’d rather you stay home.”

There was a slight pause, and the older children looked intently at their broccoli. My problem is that even when I say the right thing (which happens every now and then), I often say it the wrong way. Thankfully, this evening was saved by my 5-year-old who was not offended by my sharp tone. Judah flashed his big brown eyes at me and asked, “Are we doing it for you, Daddy?”

Cindy said, “Oh, how sweet,” and my eyes pooled with tears at Judah’s innocence. And I thanked God for the high and holy privilege he gives us as parents, the privilege and the delight of leading children to faith and obedience.

The question Judah asked made me think about my own motives for standing at the courthouse on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. My heart whispered in prayer, “Am I doing it for you, Lord?” Or am I going to the courthouse to set an example for my children, so that they will see that the issue of the sanctity of life is more important than my temporary inconvenience? That is a good motive, but not the best. Am I going to the courthouse in memory of the more than 60 million babies who have been aborted since 1973? Am I going to the courthouse for the more than 600,000 babies that will not see the light of day this year? To pray and work, as Job said, for the one “who has none to help him”? The boys and girls of all races that will not be able to enjoy liberty and pursue happiness because their right to life was taken away? That is a good reason to go the vigil, I decided, but not the best. Judah’s question rang in my heart: “Are we doing it for you, Daddy?”

That’s really the issue for me. I went to the courthouse Friday evening with my family because my Father is passionate for life, and I am His child. I added my little voice to the millions who were standing and praying and holding candles across the nation, hoping that the holocaust of abortion will end in our lifetime, because I believe God would have me do so. I pray often that what is acceptable in our nation as a “right to choose” will soon become an unthinkable horror. Is it a simple matter? On the one hand, no, it is not. I know the issue of abortion is volatile, with strong emotions on both sides. There are some who say that one side doesn’t care about the difficult choice of the mother. The issue of abortion divides political parties, motivates voters, and separates friends and families.  Most life and death issues do. On the other hand, yes, it is simple. It is a child. It is not tissue, but a human being. A helpless human being. Stephen Schwarz wrote in his book, The Moral Question of Abortion, “Suppose, in the encounter between doctor and child [in an abortion], the child won half of the time, and killed the doctor in self-defense—something he would have every right to do. Very few doctors would perform abortions. They perform them now only because of their absolute power over a small, fragile, helpless victim.

I remember the day we lost our second born to miscarriage. The doctor explained, “We’ll never know what happened. But there was something wrong with the embryo and God decided to end its life in the first trimester.” Cindy and I wept for the son or daughter that we would not get to raise but were comforted by the assurance that our Father is in control. He is the one who gives life, and he is the one who takes life. He is the one who IS life, and that’s why I went to the courthouse and prayed. I did it for Daddy.

Read More
Mark Fox January 24, 2021
Mark Fox January 17, 2021

That “Loving Feeling” Follows Commitment

In a family history that one of my uncles did several years ago, he found this story. My ancestors came from Germany and Switzerland. The Germans were Moravians and they left their homeland to come to America in the 1700’s. The trip on the sailing vessel “Sandwich” took fifteen weeks from Holland to New York. Along the way, one of my relatives gave birth to a little girl, who died a few days later and was buried at sea. The mother also died shortly after, and was also buried at sea.

But another story caught my eye as I read about my past. It stood out especially as we have just begun a series of sermons that will take us through the book of Ruth.

It happened in 1787, when one of my ancestors approached the elders of the Moravian church in what is now called Winston-Salem and expressed his desire to be married. The elders must have agreed that this young man was a worthy candidate, so they wrote the names of all the single women in the community who were also ready for marriage on separate slips of paper. They put the names in a half-coconut shell and the young man drew one out. That was the woman he was to marry. At first, the young woman declined. Then two days later, she agreed to the proposition. But then my ancestor declined. Perhaps he thought, “Hey, she wasn’t so thrilled about being married to me when she first heard this. Well, believe me, she’s not the only fish in the sea. Or, Moravian in the settlement!” I have no idea if he said that or not. The record does show, however, that the young man came back to the elders two days later and had changed his mind, saying, “I believe it is the will of God for me to marry Anna.” The wedding took place less than one month after my ancestor first made his desires known to the elders.

The book of Ruth, on one level, is a love story. When Ruth first catches the attention of a man by the name of Boaz, the reader starts to wonder if there is the possibility of romance in the air. Ruth is a young widow from Moab, who lost her husband after ten years and then moved from Moab to Bethlehem with Naomi, her mother-in-law. Boaz is a respected man in the community, a landowner, and a man of influence. He is also a generous and a kind man, and when he sees Ruth gleaning in his fields, he asks one of his employees who she is. His heart is captured by this young widow, and he tells her that she can glean in his fields every day, and there is no need to go to others. He also warns the young men who work for him to leave her alone.

You will have to read the rest of the story to see how the “courtship” process works between these two. I will tell you this. It doesn’t involve a coconut shell and names on slips of paper, but it may shock you even more.

Both events, the Moravian romance and the Ruth and Boaz love story, illustrate for me the truth that marriage is built on the solid rock of commitment, not on the shifting sand of emotion. Is God against emotion? Of course not, it was His idea in the first place! So we see Him adding emotion where there is commitment.

You fall in love with the one you give yourself to for life.

Read More
Mark Fox January 17, 2021
Mark Fox January 10, 2021

When Great Fear Came upon the Church and the Community

In Acts 4 you can read about a man named Barnabas who sold a field and laid the money at the apostles’ feet. That created quite a stir, so Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5) decided to get in on the action. They hatched a plot to sell some land, pocket part of the money, but then pretend they were giving all the proceeds to the church. Ananias must have beamed proudly as he lay the moneybag down, waiting for the praise of the Apostles. Perhaps his blood ran cold, however, when Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?” Peter saw right past the pile of money and into Ananias’ heart. It had nothing to do with the money. Ananias and Sapphira had every right to keep all or part of it. The sin was hypocrisy. Ananias did not utter a word as Peter spoke. He just dropped dead at the apostle’s feet, possibly falling right on                                                                                                                             top of his money that he loved so much.

Meanwhile, back at home, Sapphira was excitedly awaiting either Ananias or someone else to appear at the door. She may have imagined one of the prominent wives in the church coming over to say, “You and Ananias are such mighty pillars in the church. You are examples to all of us. Oh, I am humbled by what you have done, and I feel so selfish when I think about how little we give.” Sapphira might have imagined herself blushing and responding with, “Oh, well, you know, it is all for God. To God be the glory! Ananias and I are nothing.” But no one appeared, not even Ananias. Where is he? After three hours, Sapphira couldn’t wait any more. She marched down to the church, only to find Peter and some of the other apostles looking rather grim. And sad. No Ananias, though. Where is he?

Peter asked her, “Did you and Ananias sell the land for this price?” Sapphira might have thought smugly, Now, I am going to get what’s coming to me! That’s why Ananias didn’t come home; he wanted me to come here and receive the same reward that he received. She said yes to Peter, knowing it was a lie. That’s when her own blood ran cold, as Peter announced that the same young men who had buried her husband would be carrying her to the same place. Sapphira dropped dead.

The result of this severe mercy of God was that “great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.” I would say so. Not only that, “none of the rest dared join them.” Oh, there were many who believed after this and came to Jesus Christ for salvation. But those who were just interested in playing church, those who believed that Jesus was a great guy but certainly not the only way to God, those who knew they were practicing sin and loved it…they did not dare come anywhere near.

Vance Havner said about this, “There was a holy repulsion, and I know of nothing that the church needs more today. It is the last thing we think we need. We are always trying to attract. Our programs, prizes, picnics, and pulpit pyrotechnics are aimed at drawing the people in. Here was a church that made people stand back! We have catered to the world, we have let the world slap the church on the back in coarse familiarity. Here was a church that prospered by repelling!”

May God give the church what it needs today.

Read More
Mark Fox January 10, 2021
Mark Fox January 3, 2021

Teach Your Children to Pray

It has always been interesting to me that Jesus’ disciples never asked the Lord to teach them how to witness. Or preach. Or cast out demons. They asked Him to teach them how to pray. Maybe they understood that Jesus’ intimacy with His Father was the power source. Someone has said that Jesus went from one prayer meeting to another and in between He healed the sick, preached to crowds, and even raised the dead. That’s a little simplistic. We know that on a few occasions Jesus said, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God.” Ultimately, Jesus came to do what the Father had sent Him to do: to lay down His life to atone for the sins of those who would believe in Him as Lord and Savior. But even there, on the cross, Jesus prayed.

Teach your children how to pray. It was our custom for many years to have family devotions that begin with reading the Bible and end with each of us praying one by one. When our children were very young, their prayers would usually go something like this. Hands folded, knees on the floor, elbows on the sofa, eyes squeezed shut, the youngest would pray, “Lord, help us to have a good day, not to get hurt, and not to fight.” That was OK. It was a child’s prayer, one that focused on comfort, safety and security. Sadly, many adults pray in those same tracks. Their words and sentences get longer and more impressive to the ear, but the requests are the same: “Lord, bless me today. Give me everything I need. Protect me from harm or even from anything hard or uncomfortable. And help me to make it safely to death one day!” No one actually prays those exact words, at least I hope not, but many pray those same themes. Over and over. Day after day.

As my children matured, I challenged them to get outside the prayer box they were in, to look around them for needs in the church, the community, or the world. Or in their own hearts. “It’s fine to pray for your own needs,” I would say. “Jesus taught us to ask for our daily bread. But He also taught us to pray for forgiveness for our own sins and for grace to forgive others who have sinned against us.” Cindy and I taught them and led by example to pray for the sick and the hurting. We taught them to pray for missionaries around the world. We taught them to pray for those who are not followers of Jesus Christ. We taught them to give God praise and thanks in prayer. My children have learned through the years that prayer is to be a delight, not a duty. We have taught them that they can pray any time and under any circumstances. Someone said once, “As long as there are final exams, there will always be prayer in school.” True. Prayer is not a ceremony that requires equipment, rituals, special clothing, or even a place. You can pray in your heart any time, and God hears.

Susanna Wesley, though mother to 19 children, found time to pray for two hours every day. David Brainerd, missionary to the American Indians in the 1700s, prayed in the snow until it melted around him. The Apostle James, beheaded by King Herod in the first century, was called “camel knees” according to legend, because of the callouses he developed through hours of prayer.

We need their kind among us again. Teach your children to pray.

Read More
Mark Fox January 3, 2021
Mark Fox December 28, 2020

How Should We Support Missionaries?

It is one thing to “have” missionaries on your bulletin board at church. It is quite another to “support them” in a way that is consistent with what the Bible teaches. John instructs the church in his third letter to support them “in all your efforts,” and that missionaries should be sent on “their journey in a manner worthy of God.” Why? Because these “have gone out for the sake of the name.” They have left behind family and friends and comfort and security and moved, in some cases, to a place where they will face trials and suffering and sometimes even death. Not for their name’s sake, but for His.

How should we support missionaries, especially those whom we have sent out from our own church? I would suggest three things at minimum that would fill up part of what John meant by “in all your efforts.”

With prayer. John Bunyan said, “You can do more than pray after you’ve prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed.” We are to pray first and most of all. Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” The promise to give us whatever we ask is in the context of mission. As we go and bear fruit in the mission He has given us, we can pray with confidence. That means we can and should pray with boldness for the missionaries we support, that God would protect them and provide for them. But even more importantly, we must pray that God will use them for the sake of His name.

With practical help. From a prison cell in his last months, Paul asked for three things from his son in the faith, Timothy. He asked for his cloak. Paul was cold. He asked for his parchments and books. Paul wanted to read, especially the Word of God. He asked for Timothy to come to him. Paul was lonely! We support missionaries when we write to them or skype with them. We support them when we send them supplies. We support them the best, perhaps, when we go and visit with them to encourage them and help them in the work.

With financial support. We support a family of five in Chisinau, Moldova. Let me share part of their Christmas newsletter with you:

We are profoundly grateful for how God has positioned you in our lives!  Your active prayers, sacrificial support, consistent engagement, even the things you do anonymously, etc; form a vital partnership with our family.  This dynamic partnership allows for us all to be able to participate in the mission of God in Moldova together.

 

2020 highlights and lowlights, not in any particular order…

 

“Fab Five”

  • Men gathering for the first time and reading the Bible together.
  • Praying with and walking alongside neighbors grieving the loss of both parents.
  • Meeting Vitalie outside playing basketball.  Now seeing him involved in a Discipleship group with Sasha and I.
  • Sharing the Gospel and praying with Oleg, a contact from our media ministry.
  • Seeing God establish core values of our church planting team here in Ciocana.

 

“Five2Survive”

  • The potential dangerous impact on our family living abroad in the midst of the Covid pandemic.
  • Ministering in a constant state of flux where the only thing you know is certain is God and CHANGE.
  • Our team being separated a majority of the year and going through team members leaving World Team Moldova.
  • (Our son’s) fall and hospital stay.
  • Struggling against the spiritual warfare in the mission and our family.

Hudson Taylor said, “God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply.” The missionary’s job is to make sure he is doing God’s work in God’s way. But where does “God’s supply” come from? Most often, it comes from God’s people. We must make sure that we are doing our part to supply the needs of the missionaries we support. With prayer, practical help, and finances.

 

 

 

 

Read More
Mark Fox December 28, 2020
Mark Fox December 21, 2020

Jesus Preached it Down to Eleven

Found on the internet recently: a Pony Express recruitment poster from 1860 that reads:  “WANTED: Young, skinny, wiry fellows not over eighteen. Must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred.”

Were I to respond in the spirit of the age I would say, “That’s narrow-minded and discriminatory.” I mean, what if I want to ride for the Pony Express and I am over 60? Or I weighed more than 300 pounds? And what’s all this stuff about risking death? No way, Jack! I want to ride but I don’t want to do anything that might risk my hairdo, much less my life and limbs. Are you really telling me that I cannot apply? Well, you will hear from my                                                                                                                                                lawyer, “Mr. Express.” Count on it!

If you think that club was exclusive, you should check out Jesus’ qualifications for discipleship. He said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” Not only do you have to come and risk death; if you want to follow Jesus, you have to come and die every single day.

See, here’s the truth about Jesus’ church-growth “methods.” He preached a crowd-thinning word, not a crowd-pleasing one. He told his followers that they would be dragged before the magistrates and authorities. He told them they would be hated for his sake. He told them that they would have much tribulation. Then he spoke the mother of all “anti-church-growth” messages when he said, “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in Me, and I in him.” He wasn’t talking about cannibalism there or even about the elements of the Lord’s Supper, as many have supposed. He was talking about so identifying with him that those who would follow him would take his life for their own, would lay down their desires and their plans and take up his. It was at this point that “many of his disciples went back and walked with him no more.”

Jesus did not seek a crowd. He was never interested in drawing crowds or mobs. Jesus was the leader and still is, of the remnant. He was looking for disciples, not warm bodies. He wasn’t interested in scaffolding, which is temporary support but cannot be trusted under any kind of significant load or stress. Scaffolding is up today and gone tomorrow. A scaffold will say, “Lord, we ate and drank in your presence and you taught in our streets,” but Jesus will say, “I never knew you.”  Scaffolding comes and goes, blown about by the wind, but stones set in mortar are here to stay. The cornerstone, Jesus, was getting ready to lay down his life, and he was looking for some men who would lay theirs down as well. He was searching for solid stones, suitable for setting in mortar next to the cornerstone to build a building whose maker and builder is God. 

Someone asked a pastor once how he was able to have such a wonderful congregation of people gathered together on a Sunday morning. They knew that it had not always been that way. In fact, when the pastor first came to the church, it was filled with turmoil and division. Now it was thriving, filled with worshipers who loved the Lord and each other. “How did you do it,” the pastor was asked. “I preached it down to four,” he replied. Jesus preached it down to eleven. The crowd wandered off, but the disciples remained. How about you?

Read More
Mark Fox December 21, 2020
Mark Fox December 14, 2020

Christmas Is Good News of Great Joy

This is what the angel said who appeared to the shepherds on a Bethlehem hillside many years ago: ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” The good news was that the Savior had been born.

What’s the best news you have ever heard? Was it when the doctor said, “Good news. You don’t have cancer”? Or was it when the HR department called and said, “Good news. You’ve got the job”? Maybe it was when your future father-in-law said, “Good news. You can marry my daughter.” I know that last one seems like an anachronism, but I know for a fact that there are still young men even in this day and age who would rather ask than tell. So, what’s your best                                                                                                                                          news ever? Was it when the call came that you had                                                                                                                                          qualified for your dream house?

Those are all good news. But they dwell in the lower regions of what we want or don’t want, rather than in the upper region of what we desperately need. They are also temporary good news. Cancer or not, one day we are still going to die. Whether we love it or loathe it, the job will end. Marriage is wonderful, but even if you live happily, it will not be for “ever after.” You will be your wife’s brother in heaven, and she your sister. And your dream house? It will fall down either before or after you do.

That’s what makes Christmas different. The Savior who was born in Bethlehem was Christ the Lord. He came to give us what we need, not just what we want. He came to satisfy the longing that we are all born with, which he created in us. We long for the eternal. We know in our hearts, because he put it there, that this world is not all there is. In fact, we even know in our hearts that we were created for a relationship that goes beyond what a husband and wife have together, or even a parent and a child. He who made us made us for himself.

Jesus’ birth was good news of great joy. Not just for the shepherds, but for all the people. The Savior was born for people all over the world who would come and adore Him. However, His coming is great joy for “all the people,” but not for every person. That’s why the heavenly host of angels also said, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.” There is a somber message here, mingled with good news of great joy. The coming of the Messiah would bring peace only to those with whom God is pleased. Who does that include?

The Bible says, “Without faith, it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.” The message of Christmas is only good news of great joy to those who believe the promises of God and the testimony of his Word.

It has puzzled many that this time of the year can be the most joyful for many, and the bluest for many others. However, it is no wonder that the season of hope fails to satisfy the heart that is consumed only with what it wants and doesn’t even acknowledge what it desperately needs. It is no wonder that “good news of great joy” eludes the one who lives for the moment and never even considers eternity.

What’s the best news of all time? The Savior, Christ the Lord, has come!

Read More
Mark Fox December 14, 2020