Friday, December 23, 2011


It will not be any surprise to most of you that Christmas is coming. There is a wide range of “celebration” of Christmas. I use the quotes because some in the family of God do not celebrate Christmas at all. Some celebrate it with all the trimmings: tree, cards, presents, carols, lights on the house, etc. (Of course, many who are not part of the family of God celebrates Christmas with all the trimmings too. And many do not.)

If you read Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola, you will discover that many Christian practices do not originate in the Bible. Christmas has a similarly “tainted” background. [WARNING: I am not documenting any of the “facts” I will mention. I have heard them, seen them or read them. I cannot attest to their veracity. If you know better, differently or more accurately, there is the comments section.]
  • There are various origin theories of the Christmas tree, from Martin Luther to the druids. (Not to mention wreaths, bells and mistletoe.) So, is it an innocent decoration or an non-Christian religious symbol? 
  • No one knows when Jesus was born. So, the early church picked December 25th to coincide with secular holidays. I have heard of two, one celebrated by the Romans and the other by the early Celts.
  • Santa Clause is a caricature of an early Christian, named Nicholas. People’s understanding of him is largely derived from a poem published in 1823. And most television programs around Christmas are animated stories about him and others extrapolated from the poem. 
  • There is the yearly campaign against materialism. (Not to mention campaigns against public nativity scenes, public decorations, and probably public caroling.) Many Christians react against Christmas as being all about presents. Understandable if all Johnny can talk about is finding an Xbox under the tree. But many stores depend on Christmas for survival. (I have heard that stores receive 20-40% of their business for the year from Christmas. Bad business plans? Too many stores?)
These are just a few of the concerns about celebrating Christmas. In the interest of full disclosure, I and my family do celebrate Christmas in more or less the traditional manner. And, in a year where life seems more complicated and hurried than usual, I would like to share a few things that I have been thinking about.

I presume that since God invented everything else, God invented holidays. It is obvious from the Bible that he instituted several holidays for Israel: Passover, Feast of Booths, First Fruits, etc. So, it seems God thinks that having holidays is a good idea. And although Jesus did not give us yearly holidays, he did institute observances. God seems to think that having occasions of remembering, reflecting and reassessing are good.

God did invent culture. All cultures will be represented in his kingdom. And the contributions of all cultures are good. And if a tradition or observance from a culture can be redeemed to fulfill a holy, faithful and positive influence, then it will add to our understanding of God, our restoration into his image and an aid in furthering his mission.

Materialism and consumerism are not just expressed at Christmas. Because there is an entire industry dedicated to convincing people that they need certain products to be fulfilled, cool, popular, healthy and beautiful, addiction to stuff can happen any day of the week. Commercials bombard us every day: TV, mail, telephone, billboards, and the internet. Only a revolution of hearts and minds will change that.

Holidays are what you make them. Christmas can bring out the worst in people. Or Christmas can be a time of renewing relationship with God, strengthening family bonds, celebrating what is good in life, assessing what is important, how a person can walk in that, and what needs to be changed.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Kingdom of Priests

We began some time ago, considering a young church and problems it was experiencing. It celebrated men and gifts at the expense of others. God, we know, gives men and gifts to enhance, improve and build the family of God as whole and those within the family.

Another aspect of this was expressed as the church would meet many individuals focused on expressing gifts in a way that helped themselves and ignored the others there with them.

The church is a family and a body because no one person can represent Christ alone. It is as the entire body seeks Christ together, serves each other and servers together to touch those outside the family that Christ is proclaimed and demonstrated. It is in the gathering that equipping, serving, loving within and without best takes place.

The current form and structure of the church was developed because corrupting influences were entering the church seeking to blow it apart. And someone decided that the only way to protect it was to turn it over to specialists and experts. That was never God’s intention. God’s intention was everyone is an expert. Everyone equips. Everyone serves. Everyone connects with people outside the family. And everyone works together. It is a nation and a kingdom of priests. Everyone in the family is a priest.

If everyone in the family does not act like a priest, maybe they are not equipped correctly? Or maybe they are into their own thing too much?


Prophecy is God speaking into the heart and mind of one person, and saying “give this message to ...”

A prophet’s audience could be one person or it could be a whole nation. A prophet’s message could be about the future, an explanation that clears up a mystery, or an affirmation of something everyone already knows. If God says “go and tell Hartford, CT that I love them” it is still prophecy. It is what Hartford needs  to know and what God wants to tell them.

Final Meaning

There will come a time when God will real the truth about everything. There will be no mysteries to reveal, so prophesy will be worthless. All the things we say, “know’ and theorize about will be confirmed or refuted, so all our words and knowledge will be worthless. Our religious posturing, our convictions, and our theories will be worthless.

The only things that will have any worth is our trust in Jesus, our expectation of receiving good from God, and our giving to others.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Love - 5

Love seems to view people with a positive attitude. People fail. They behave selfishly and dishonestly. The steal, cheat and lie. Love does not give up on them.

Love is realistic. It does not approve of or encourage evil. Rather it encourages and approves the opposite. And some people will attempt to do evil. Man was not designed for evil. Man was designed to be holy. To ignore, cover up or abet evil allows harm to befall the victims, and it allows harm to befall the perpetrators. Evil cuts across the design of what fuels a human being. So, love will not condone any action that brings harm. But love never sees failures as the final word.

Love holds up ones that do fail. They try to protect them from the worst consequences of failure. They work to bring recovery and restoration by healing relationships, strengthening walks, conduct and attitudes, and minimizing what circumstantial damage has occurred.

Love remains committed, believing the best, even in the midst of failure. Love recognizes the power of God to change harts and lives. It is stronger than the worst evil to shape lives. As people fall, they can be strengthened and enabled to rise from the dirt, to stand, and to continue to stand.

Love walks along side. They journey may be very long and hard. Love continues to walk. People may limp and stumble. Sometimes in this life, a person may not be able to rise. Love has the strength to keep walking as long as it takes.

We all know circumstances where it seems impossible for one person to keep walking with another. The heart may wish to keep going, but we are weak. Our hearts may not have the strength to love that long, that hard or that much. That is one reason God created a family. One person may not have the strength of heart to walk for years. So, others in the family need to step up, step close and all walk together.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Love - 4

Probably the main focus of love is giving. The direction of love is away from one's self. A person focuses on someone else. What are that person's needs and wants? What resource or service can I give away?

This is the prime challenge of sin. Our egos scream very loudly. Our needs and wants loom large before us. It is very difficult to see around them. It is very difficult to hear any other message.

In the US, the success of business is often tied to seeing a need and developing a way to fill it. This is probably the most altruistic prescription for commercial success. All too often, someone has an idea, attaches it to a need or desire -- legitimate, moral or otherwise -- and promotes it as the vehicle for fulfilling that need or desire.

People have a need for significance. So, they will proclaim a message that a person's possessions build a person's significance. I am not condemning a person's need for significance. I am not condemning a person's cleverness in designing, developing and persuading people concerning the postive aspects of a product. I am trying to point out that the success of the American economy rests on the success of businesses getting people to become consumed in themselves, their small corner of the world, and how different products and services can make that niche bigger, better, brighter, more healthy, more satisfying and more fun. That is, if it doesn't make them smarter, prettier, richer or more popular.

As we have mentioned before, God has placed love first. And as I have said before, God has designed us and has communicated that design to us. Since, love is first, people will function better if the place love first in their considerations.

It is almost as if this emphasis of society is a weapon used by the enemy to divert us from our design, our destiny and the proper functioning of our hearts.

To flow with God's grace, to be restored to our original intent and design, to live as we are meant to live, we must see around and through these attempts to get us to focus solely on ourselves. We need to see others. But more, we need to see and live in ways the give to others. We need to give within the family of God. We needto give ooutside the family of God. We need to give in our communities and neighborhoods. We need to give halfway around the world.

It must start with moving our egos out of the spotlight, and becoming awake, alert and aware of the lives around us, and of those we connect with every day.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Focus of Living

I was reading part of a book, where the author was describing a crisis in his life. The crisis put him in a position where he could not -- for a relatively long, but temporary period of time -- pursue life in his accustomed manner. He was forced to look at his fundamental approach to living. He realized that he did have a basic approach, strategy and posture that he engaged in when dealing with the issues of life.

I assume we all do. Some people try to overwhelm life by throwing intense bursts of energy at it. Some people assume it's not what you know, but who you know. So, it's a matter of networking, smooth talking and gaining an audience. Some people assume it's a matter of what you know. Some people work hard to understand what's expected, what the boundaries are, and stay well within what's expected.

What is God fundamental approach to life? It could be argued that it is obedience. After all, he does give commands and if we keep those commands, we are in the center of his will. It could be argued that it is faith. After all, faith does please God. It could be argued that it is love, prayer, worship, evangelism ... or something else.

I remember a time when I considered success in life to mean attaining a certain position in a certain organization. To attain that position, I needed to fulfill a large number of roles in that organization. In each role, I gained added training, experience, and I demonstrated my commitment and loyalty to the organization. Eventually, I would arrive at that position ... and success. (And I never did attain that position.)

Now I doubt success in life can be found in a specific position. I doubt God's basic approach can be defined by any of these words. Maybe we need a new word that is a mash-up of all of these together.

Love - 3

Love is an equalizer. It is part of the force that shapes a person's world view at the core.

With love, people do not put others in lower, inferior positions. They do not put themselves in a higher, superior position. People express love by regarding others as valuable and profitable. They identify them as human beings. So, who they are and what they have is valuable. They identify with them. There is sympathy and empathy with dreams, wishes, pains and sorrows.

Love thinks truly, honestly and fairly as it touches one's self, other people and the relationship between the two. And because it touches the heart, it touches words and actions.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Love - 2

Love is first. It is the foundational attitude/action/mind-set. Love encompasses what we think, what we feel, what we say and what we do. It is something we all need, we all receive and we all give. But it also something we can all grow in understanding of and in doing better.

For followers of Jesus, love is the stuff of all relationships. Love needs to be seen in every interaction between someone from God's family and anyone else. That's why love is sometimes best seen when someone fails to love.

When someone acts or speaks in a way that causes pain -- emotional or physical -- the natural response is to cause pain in return. To retaliate. Love may defend itself if there is danger. But it does not simply get even. It controls those feelings. It doesn't snap.

Certainly, because of sin, members of God's family do snap. But, as they learn to love, they learn to hold onto their emotions, and snap less. Love does not give full expression to anger. Love absorbs the emotion. it does not let the fire come close to the gas fumes.