Keeping Christ in Christmas 2018

This is a post that was inspired by those “Keep Christ in Christmas” magnets you see on cars throughout the year. I first posted it several years ago and because it still seems relevant, I dusted it off and posted it again. I hope it impacts your holiday. I have to confess to you that I have a little pet peeve regarding the “Keep Christ in Christmas” bumper stickers, church signs, and car magnets that seem to pop up this time of year. To me these appear as a command to the reader, regardless of what they believe, that it is their job to make sure Christmas is all about Jesus so the person in the car will feel affirmed. Of course, these magnets and signs are a reaction to our culture’s growing tendency to refer to this as the holiday season. Boldly I say, count me as one follower of Christ who fully supports this cultural trend. First, it IS the season of holidays. There’s Thanksgiving. And Hanukkah. Ramadan. Kwanzaa, the New Year. Probably others of which I’m not aware. It seems the height of Christian arrogance to make everyone use our name for a certain time of the year. It dismisses others’ points of view. Whether or not we as followers of Jesus agree with their belief system, diminishing their traditions does not put us in their good graces to have an open discussion about Christ. It creates defensiveness; an us-against-them posture which closes people off. Second, and more importantly (in my estimation), do we really want the name Christmas associated with the consumerism and commercialism that runs rampant in our culture and amps...

Walking the Path Together

Walking through the brokenness of life is a tough experience we all share. There are temptations, unfulfilled desires, unjust circumstances, and trials around every corner. As followers of Jesus, these circumstances rightly become the subject of our prayers. But what is our mindset when we pray about these things? Often the response we choose is “God take this situation away” or “God make everything better” or “God make this person more what I need them to be.” This results in frustration or anger at God when things stay as they were. Yet, as part of being a follower, Jesus instructed that his disciples are to “deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Matt. 16:24) There are burdens to our brokenness that we are going to have to carry as we follow Jesus. But, they will feel light because he promised to carry them with us. So what if this realization changed the mindset of our prayers? Instead of asking for everything negative thing and challenge to be wiped away, what if instead we asked Jesus “will you walk with me as I experience this?” Instead of trying to escape the pain, extending our hand and asking the One who overcame the world to be present with us in it. In this world, God’s goal for each of us may not be to make the pain go away or for us to achieve our potential. Even as you draw near to Christ, your marriage may still be “unfulfilling”. This is the cross you must take up. Regardless of how obedient you are, your church attendance still remains...

Mid Week Meditation – John 6:61

Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? – John 6:61 The gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – are the biography of Jesus. The record that we have of how the Image of God interacted with humanity. How he taught, who he was in relationship, what drew his attention all give us a picture of the God who created us. A lot of what Jesus taught was tough to hear. We can see that in the reactions of those who were present with Jesus, and we can feel that within ourselves as we read through the story of the Son of God. When reading the gospels (or other parts of the Bible), it is interesting to note things that get us stirred up. What is offending you? This is the same thing that Jesus asks in John 6:61 mentioned above. In particular, being offended is often a sign that the sword of Jesus’ words are cutting into something that you hold close. It could be decisions you make on how to handle money; it could be how you choose to live out your sexuality; it could be how you use Jesus to justify our approach to politics. Maybe it is something altogether different. Reasons to be offended are probably as numerous as people who follow Jesus. What if we learned that when we are offended by Jesus, that is a good place to begin to develop awareness. What if we were comfortable enough with grace that we could ask “why am I offended?” That can be the start of transformation....

The Prayer of the Disciple

In Mark chapter 9 we meet a father of a boy who has been possessed by a spirit from birth. As Jesus is confronting the issue of the man’s belief, we hear what has become my favorite prayer in the Bible. I use it throughout the day as a way to transform my thoughts as I am confronted with temptation, complacency, and difficult decisions. “I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief!” Take a moment to read the passage. First the man approaches Jesus and says “if you can.” This is not the prayer of faith, it is desperation. It is the equivalent of blindly flailing our arms about and grabbing onto everything. Jesus is just another tactic that we try to get the results we want. Asking for help overcoming unbelief is a prayer of humble awareness. An awareness that power comes from our proximity to the Father. It is awareness that our brokenness often gets in the way as we follow Jesus. “I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief!” is the prayer of the disciple. If we think of it as columns, we want our belief column to get bigger and the unbelief to get smaller. To accomplish this, it takes intentional time seeking the still small voice of the Father. Less of me, more time spent in the image of Jesus. Less compartmentalization in my life, more time being consumed by thoughts of God. In our lives as disciples of Jesus, overcoming unbelief is the process of sanctification as we engage our day to day lives. It is unbelief that keeps our to-do list long...

What Are You Offering?

Genesis four says that God accepted Abel’s offering and rejected Cain’s. And much has been made about the fact that no real reason seems to be given for this rejection. Abel attended flocks while Cain worked the soil. Some have tried to read into this a reason for God’s preference. Among those that I have read: Abel offered the first portions and Cain did not give his best. God clearly wants an animal sacrifice. God is not capricious or random, he makes his ways known when we are to obey. We are not told any stipulations God placed on the offering, so that conclusion seems uncalled for. God prefers shepherds to farmers. The idea that God has the ability to choose whom he wants to choose. Using this situation as a basis for election seems without basis. We long so much for cause and effect. If I do this one thing or this series of steps, then God will accept us. This is simply a way to manipulate God and get what we want. God offers his love and grace before any of us obey. The same is true with Cain and Abel. Although expelled from the garden, they were living under God‘s grace. Maybe the truth is that we’re not told what is wrong with the offering because there wasn’t anything wrong with it. Both of the offering brought by Abel and Cain are described by the same word (minha) with no apparent difference. The key to this issue of the offering is found in Cain’s response. “Why are you angry?” God asks Cain. God’s disapproval becomes a...

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