The journey of a nerd who loves the Lord

Posts tagged ‘Christmas’

Thinking Hard About The Holidays

Yesterday, I was having a discussion with my friend about Christmas celebrations.  I discussed how so many of us actually leave Christ out of Christmas.  As a result, many have a festive, family filled, giving holiday, but, somehow, regulate God to a mere footnote on the whole thing.  This should not surprise us.  After all, most of us actually leave God out of our day to day living completely.  My friend felt I might be overthinking the whole thing.  After all, is it not possible for people just to come together and have an honest, good time without sinning (or worrying about sin?)  The more I thought about it, the more I thought, “No, no it isn’t.”  Here’s why.


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In the Old Testament, as most people know, God gave Israelites a list of rules and regulations, summarized in the 10 commandments.  Everyone understood that to break any of these commands would result in offending God and possible punishment.  However, many Israelites came to an assumption based off of these rules.  They incorrectly assumed that following these rules, in and of themselves, made God happy and/or lead to eternal life.

Jesus quickly corrected this during his ministry.  He lashed out at the Pharisees who kept the letter of the law, but completely missed the spirit of the Law.  These men missed the entire point of loving God, and loving their fellow man.  They simply looked after their own self interests by acting as the rule keepers of the people.

Jesus took things one step further.  He constantly challenged people to think about their motives.  He showed that the thought behind something could be just as sinful as the action.  He pointed out that if we express anger at a brother, that betrays the fact that, in our soul, we have committed murder.  If we lust after a woman, we have committed adultery in our hearts.  He basically took commandments, and showed the the heart of the matter, in each case, was a matter of the heart.

One of the largest commandments tells us that we must shun idol worship.

Ex 20.3 You shall have no other gods before Me. 4″You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. 5″You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God

When I think of the typical American family Christmas gathering, I often see a celebration of family, giving, traditions…but very little focus on God.  We have replaced Him with things that have loose connections to Him and His Spirit, but miss the mark entirely.  In some cases, these elements completely replace Him.  In some other cases, as I mention above, we may mention God, but He is not central to the gathering.  And, yes, I feel that we sin in doing so… as an extension of Exodus 20.3.

holyWhile the commandment warns us not to worship or serve those things that we create, I wonder if the natural, logical extension of this idea is that we sin whenever we fail to give God the praise and glory He deserves in all that we do.  And, should we not take the time to discuss and think through that…especially during the Christmas season?  I believe we should.  And, by failing to do so, in our hearts and with our lips, we have missed a mark.  It is something that I, myself, need to repent of.

Sometimes, I find myself accused of possibly overthinking things.  I get it.  Look, I know it can be challenging to ponder through this stuff.  And, in doing so, one has to wonder if people like me must have too much time on their hands.  I get it.  The pot calling things black needs to be careful.  No one lives a perfect life.  I certainly do not.  But, I believe that we must pursue the truth so that we can better serve the One who gave His life for us.  Only when we truly know and understand truth can we take the first steps towards pursuing Him.  If we stick our heads in the sand, not willing to pursue truth in fear that it may add to the guilt we already carry, we have missed the point.

For the point of doing exercises like this is not to find the magic step that leads us to immediate holy living and qualifies us for heaven. No… we have all sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God.  Our fates, sealed, led to hell.  However, Jesus died for us on the cross so that we might experience true forgiveness, through no righteous act of our own, and experience eternity with Him.  For that I am, and will always be, eternally grateful.  And, it is with this heart of love for the one who love me first…that I give everything I possibly can…including dedication of my mind and spirit, to follow and pursue His glory.  I do not discuss this stuff and look for areas of my life that need repentance in order to earn my way into heaven… I do this because I want to as thanks for what He has given to me.

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The Logic of Christmas Traditions

I do not have children, nor will I probably ever.  So, take the thoughts I share here with a grain of salt.  Clearly, not having the experience of raising them puts me at a distinct disadvantage when giving advice in raising them.  However, I also feel that distance provides room for objective, logical reasoning.

santaWhen you think about Christmas, and children, you can presume a few things about the traditions shared with them.  Most parents teach their children about Santa Claus, explain that he brings them lots of gifts… as well as their relatives.  Most children wake up opening dozens of presents. (more…)

Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays

Salutations.

First, and foremost, I hope that everyone out there enjoys the blessings of our Lord and Savior today… whether you celebrate Christmas, or something else.

As  I monitor the news I have noted that the “Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holiday” wars continue to escalate.  Recently, a store owner posted “Merry Christmas” on her store window, along with a picture of a manger scene.  She received some scathing emails in return.  Allow me to share my somewhat rare view on the matter.
yellingHere’s the thing. The heart of the matter, is a matter of the heart.  You cannot force people to believe in God. The changes in our government and culture, (e.g., changing “Merry Christmas” to “Happy Holidays” or removing prayer from schools) are merely the symptoms of the core concern…. a turning away, by the people in this country as a whole, away from God.  So, screaming the loudest and insisting people use and/or allow “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays” will not solve the problem.  Jesus, through his ministry, showed us that change come from inside, by walking with Christ in faith.  He never encouraged His disciples to join government or protests in an effort to force cultural changes from the outside in.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  As an American, I believe in our rights of free speech.  Private citizens should have the protected right to say “Merry Christmas” without fear of violence or anything along those lines.  However, actions have consequences, and God calls us to act with the wisdom of serpents.  Paul lived his live within the context of his culture that he might be all things to all people so that he might win some for the glory of God.  It seems to me that by drawing this line in the sand we waste time and energy over a secondary matter by trying to force people to embrace our point of view.  Again, this seems contrary to the spirit of Jesus’ message.

We would do well do consider how we, as a country, got to this point in the first place.  Now, my mother raised her boy to take responsibility.  Which means, when I face a problem with multiple causes, like this, I should seek out any of those I can take responsibility for, first… and spend as little time as possible blaming others.  That does not mean other factors did not play a role, nor does it mean that the problem would not benefit from others helping to fix the issue.  However, if we waste time blaming each other, we do not solve the problem.  Instead, each of us should take responsibility and moves forward, addressing anything within our power.  Doing so, we cover a lot more distance.  With that said, why have we, as a country, fallen so far away from God?  And what should we, as believers, do about it?

Brennan Manning said, “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”  As I mentioned in an earlier post, America (and most western cultures) began moving to a post modern style many decades ago.  Yet, most churches and pepole of faith have changed slowly, if at all.  They continue to show their faith with talking, use of logic and debates, rather than actions, relationships and stories.

I know I paint with some mighty broad strokes here.  However, ask a few non-believing friend about their perceptions of Christians, as a whole.  The answers may shock you.  An article I read recently completed a poll study, showing,

A majority of unchurched Americans (79 percent) think that Christianity today is more about organized religion than about loving God and loving people; 86 percent believe they can have a good relationship with God without being involved in church.

letyour“These outsiders are making a clear comment that churches are not getting through on the two greatest commandments,” to love God and love your neighbor, said McConnell.

What they see the church as is “candles, pews and flowers, rather than people living out their love for God by loving others,” he noted. “Such skepticism can only be overcome by churches and believers who demonstrate the unity and love for which Jesus prayed.”

Jesus said “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Let those of us who want to see a Christian country, state, county or neighborhood…heck…even just our family… keep these things in mind and start with the man, or woman, in the mirror 🙂  If we want others to believe in Christ (and, by extension, the true meaning of Christmas), let us dedicate ourselves to living out His love and truth every, single day.

Jesus said, ” let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”  Therefore, let us get down on our hands and knees, and first seek God for faith and true righteousness.  Let us remember what culture we live in, and dedicate ourselves to winning them over on their terms, the way Paul did.  Jesus died for us, so let us live every day to glorify Him and love others as He commanded us to.  By doing so, we will show them the real reason for the season, and a glimpse into the heart of God.

Jesus’ Birthday

Salutations…and Merry Christmas!

This Christmas, my wife decided to celebrate Jesus’ birthday.  She got a small cake, put a candle in it, and sang Happy Birthday to Jesus Christ.  When she shared this with some other people, they felt it was strange.  One even suggested that perhaps she felt depressed and needed help.  Yet, that was not the case at all. (more…)