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19 December, 2009

What Has Become of Christmas?

Christmas is supposed to be the greatest time of the year; It is supposed to be the time when all Christians rejoice because it is the time we use to celebrate Jesus coming to Earth through the Virgin Birth. Something has happened, if not in the world, at least in me! I have begun to seriously wonder just what we are doing in this season. Why we even bother with the traditions we have.
We exchange gifts. My understanding of this tradition is with the 3 Magi who brought gifts to the Christ Child in Bethlehem. We are to give gifts to one another in the same fashion, we are to give them to Jesus, but, because He isn't here physically, we exchange with each other in lieu of Jesus. The problem is that people are not giving in the same fashion, they (or should I say "we" ) are rather looking to get more than we had before, trying to find a way to justify spending more than we can truly afford; All in the name of Christmas! If we are to be giving "to Jesus" and in the same fashion, why not give them in the fashion that Jesus taught? Namely: Giving of ourselves, not our pocketbooks. Not attempting to purchase "things", but, rather to build relationships! Jesus came to bring us back to The Father, to rebuild the relationship that was destroyed by sin in the Garden of Eden. Why not take this season to reflect and rebuild what may have been broken, or even lost? What better gift could one receive than to know that they are loved enough to be called back to a broken or lost relationship?! It's not that I have a problem with the giving of gifts; It's what has become of it! We are looking more for what we can get rather than what we can give; Almost as though we are trying more to impress someone, or make a point rather than showing our love for them!

Then I look at the houses; They are decorated and "dressed to the nines", lights enough to be seen by a satellite, all sorts of plastics filling the yard, that are tied down in such a way that the Mailman trips on his way through to the box! Why?
What part of this is celebrating Christmas? Which part says: "Christ has come! Celebrate with my family and I"," Christ is here and we want to tell the world!"? All these decorations are ,seemingly, pointing toward the house and not Christ and certainly not His Miraculous Birth! I have to admire the creativity they use when putting their displays together, but, that still does not answer what does it have to do with His Birth? Why are we doing these things at this time of year? If all we want to do is point at our own creativity, why not do it during Halloween? How about New Year's? The only problem there is that a large number of people will probably be too drunk to notice just what has been done to a house, but, still why are we pointing at ourselves during a time when we should be pointing at Him and the Tremendous gift we were given? Thoughts tend to go back to us looking more for ourselves than others. Jesus taught us to "deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me." How so we deny ourselves and still find a way to creatively decorate our houses?

What is Christmas really about? I know the stories, and certainly The story in the Bible; That's not the question. The question is: What does Christmas mean to you? Why do you do the things you do? Can you glorify God in it? Can you show people about Jesus in these traditions? O.K. , so there is more than ONE question, but, really, I think there is just one question it has a lot to it.
When we are buying these gifts, are they to show the love we have? Are we going to have that same feeling for them after Christmas, or are we going to go right back to the same old ways? Have we really given them anything, or have we just satiated their frustration at the lack of a relationship?

What has happened to Christmas in Your heart?

26 August, 2009

True Neighbors; Luke 10:25-37

In the 10th ch. of Luke, we are given the Parable of "The Good Samaratan"; Jesus tells us of a man who happened on a road with robbers who beat and robbed him, then left him lying on the road. Jesus tells of a Priest who comes by, but passes on the other side, and a Levite who does likewise; then a Samaratan that actually stops to help him.

When we look at this story, something kind of leaps out at me: two Church leaders pass by to the other side to make sure not to be near him, and a man considered to be less than human stays and tries to help! One might consider the two religious leaders to be the ones who need to be thought less than human, because of their lack of human compassion, and would probably be correct in thinking so, but lets look at these men:
The men of their position did not just get up on Sunday morning, shower, shave and dress in their finest for the Worship services; quite the contrary: they were required to go through weeks and even months of preparations for worship, because it was not just their clothes but, their entire mental and spirtiual preparations that had to be dealt with and would have been jeopardized by just touching this man! Had they gone so far as to bend down to help and tend to his wounds, they would have had to go through the whole process of getting ready for Worship again. The Samaritan had nothing to lose by stopping and giving this man the aid he needed; they weren't allowed into the worship services anyway, so what did they have to lose? A little time? Their time wasn't worth keeping, much less keeping up with, so....what?
To paraphrase: The Church Leaders were ready for Church and could not be bothered with helping people, Church was more improtant! The Samaritan looked at himself and said the samething everyone else did: I have nothing, so I have nothing to lose!
Are we so entrenched in "church" and the things we do at "church" with the people we do these things with, that we can't stop long enough to help someone in need; that we have too much at stake? The Preist and the Levite spent a great deal of time and effort getting themselves properly prepared for Worship of the Most Holy God, yet, it was the Samaritan who was in the correct place for worship; He was the one that took the time to help one of God's own children, and did not stop to count what he would lose: Thus HE was the true neighbor, not the church leader.

14 July, 2009

My Favorite Story

In IKings 19, we are given, what I think, is one of the greatest stories in the Bible.
It really began in Ch. 18 when Elijah was at the altar and facing off against the prophets of Baal; Elijah was to build the altar and fill it with the offering, build a trench and fill the trench with water, then drench the altar with water as well. he did these things; but, not after the Baal prophets had exhausted themselves trying to get their false god to answer, Elijah even began to taunt them he was so sure of what God was going to do. When God did burn the wood, the offering, all the water, and even the altar itself, Elijah went so far as to have the prophets taken to a nearby stream and killed! Elijah had to have been so full of God's power and authority at this point, even full of himself, yet, when Queen Jezebel, wanted him dead, he ran for his life! He never even looked back, he just ran and hoped he could find a hole big enough to hide himself in, then pull the hole in after him.
He ran to Beersheba, left his servant there and traveled for yet another day into the desert; At this point, he starts to do the one thing that pretty much every human is guilty of:we start feeling sorry for ourselves. Everybody hates us, nobody likes, we're gonna go eat worms...etc. He started to cry out to God, looking for pity I suppose, and got a lesson instead. In vs. 4 we hear Elijah asking God to just take his life and get it over with. He fell asleep and an angel came along and woke him up to eat, then travel. When Elijah got to a cave at Mt Horeb, he tried to present his "case" before God; How he had done so much to help prove God's existance, killed a good many false prophets, and yet , here he stood, all alone, with no one to stand beside him, no one to help him, and wondering why God would lead him to such things only to leave him to die at the hands of such people?!
God commanded him to go stand on a hill and wait for Him; God passed by and a huge wind came by and tore rocks from the mountain, then an earthquake, and after that a fire, but, God's voice was not in any of those things; It was after the fire that a still, small, voice came and THAT was God's voice!
2 things I look at when I read this: 1)God does not compete with anything! His voice is there for us to hear, but only if we determine in our hearts and minds, make a conscious decision, to turn everything and everyone off so that only God's voice is heard. Only then can we even know that He is even speaking . 2) God is the creator of everything that is, His "plate" is , by far, more full than anything we can ever imagine, and He takes the time out to teach an individual. He looks at this frail, fault ridden human, and puts them on a "hill" so they may see things more clearly, and makes sure they understand He still loves them regardless of their faults and frailties. God wants to take the time to be with each of us, and teach us according to the frailties we have, not punish us for them.
Is it any wonder that I love God so much?

12 July, 2009

Where Did I Go Wrong?

There are times when I think I am in a tough place; times when I actually think that I am accomplishing nothing; I have wasted my life and God has nothing left to work with because I have taken what He made and now, it is useless! Basically, I'm feeling sorry for myself because the things I had planned just aren't happening.
The Apostle Paul was a man who had many things to look back on, and not so many of them were quite so glamorous as many nowadays try to romanticize about. We tend to look at the great things he did for Christ, in the name of God, the sermons, the Churches he started...etc. Paul was a man that ended his ministry in prison waiting for execution; I have to imagine that he spent at least some of that time going back over his life and wondering "what if....?" What if: he had been able to continue his life the way it started? He started by learning at the feet of Gamaliel (?) which left him with a great education that was heavy with tradition. He believed, when Jesus came along, that He and His disciples were a blight on the Synagogue that needed to be, not just dealt with but, eradicated! They all needed to die, just like Christ did, and he set out to do just that; He intended to kill all that he could get to and he was going to do it with the "blessings" of the religious leaders of the day! Paul had set out to murder good people, put God's name on it, go home and call it "good". If Paul had been able to do what he had started out to do, he would have been able to keep people from knowing what freedom in Christ meant by the sheer power of fear alone; they would have been afraid to proclaim His name anywhere for fear that Paul , known at that time as "Saul the Persecutor",would come with their death warrant in hand. In stead of being the one to start so many Churches, he would have ended them long before they even had a chance to meet the first time. The sermons he gave to so many people,Kings included, would never have been heard, instead, they would have heard his pronouncement of their deaths and the legal reasons for them. People would not have had the opportunity to know of God's grace, they would have known, instead, the pain of stones on their bodies as they lay dying. All this is to look back on!
I can imagine that Paul would sit in his cell (o.k. the backroom he was allowed to borrow from a man in town) and think: Only You, God, could have used me like this. I am not worthy to even be in the presence of Your Name, and You used me to take Your Word to the people and show them what Grace is really for; Paul was using his own understanding of what God had done and what He had given to people, Which is what I try to do on so many occasions and usually find myself in a position of self pity and feeling that God had nothing to work with; Paul was a man who killed people and found a way to do so with the Churches backing, and God used him to proclaim the Good News of life eternal trough Jesus Christ! God is never without something to use; He created all that is, from nothing! What could He do with such as "me", a "me" that He has already made and taught and gifted and...., and ....., and....;When Paul was using his own understanding and reaching out, he failed (epic fail); when he gave all he had, including "bad things" that most people would rather no one ever know about, to Him, he was able to be used in such a way that the world is still experiencing today. Makes one wonder what He is doing with "me" now, with the things I think are not happening the way I think they should? What plan does He have that could probably work, if I just allowed Him to work in the first place?