Yep, it’s that time of year again. In a season that is supposed to celebrate cheer, hope, and goodwill to all I find it sadly ironic that there is such a hostility inherent to the greetings some choose to offer/accept. For the record, I am a follower of Christ, or Christian, if you will. I say “Merry Christmas” to people because I am celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, my Savior. I don’t utter this phrase as a weapon to subtly evangelize the pagan world but as a celebration of the hope I have as a believer.
However, if you are not a Christian this should not make you angry or defensive. Here’s why: if a practicing Jew were to wish me a Happy Hanukkah the last thing I would say is, “That offends me as I am NOT a Jew!” That’s dumb. I would most likely just smile and say it back to them, thankful they had taken the time to share their belief system’s holiday with me. Same with “Happy Kwanzaa” or “Happy Holidays.” I am only sharing my personal cheer with you in my celebration of Christmas so you can feel free to say “merry Christmas” back to me or pull an audible and switch to a “happy Holidays.” It’s all good.
Now, let me talk to my Christian brothers and sisters for a second. I know this world can get a little hostile towards faith at times and we often feel our Christian rights are being stripped away (and the media doesn’t help any of that). But let’s be honest, is it gonna help the cause of Christ one iota if we get so upset about the Christmas greeting? Let’s try not to perpetuate any “war on Christmas” this year by advertising our insistence that “Merry Christmas” is the only acceptable greeting this time of year. That’s kind of counter-productive to the Gospel I think.
Here’s the truth, neither Hannukah nor Kwanzaa have anything to do with Christmas. They are separate holidays that celebrate completely different things that just happen to fall in line with the Christmas season. Blame Hallmark for the competition.
In short, whatever you celebrate, or don’t celebrate for the atheists and unconvinced out there, don’t be a jerk. Let’s use these phrases with the joy and cheer they were intended to share. Who knows? Maybe true Christmas cheer can be spread this year by me and my fellow Christ followers🙂
Merry Christmas to all!
Click Bait. It’s a well used ploy of bloggers and social media hounds everywhere. It was once known as the ole “bait and switch.” Simply put, it’s a slightly misleading title that gets your attention to click on the page or article only to have it say something different than it led you to believe it would. Admittedly, I am a little guilty of it here.
I bet most of you thought I was going to say Christmas. Nope.
Though I am a big advocate in celebrating my Lord’s birth as well as His resurrection, I’m not going to soapbox about that here. So what am I keeping Christ in? I’ll get to that.
First I need to explain something from my perspective. As I scroll on my Facebook or Twitter feed I am astounded more and more each day at the clear polarization of political ideology. People hold dogmatically to their political opinions, often to the detriment of kindness or any remnant of open-mindedness. But, in the last few years, I have been struck with a much more puzzling polarization.
It seems that the vast chasm between Christian camps is ever widening. This is usually masked in socio-political rhetoric but it covers a broad array of topics and there is a similar dogma that permeates these emotionally charged opinions. I’m not choosing sides and I am not judging you or trying to mock you if you fit into one of these camps but for the sake of my point I will paint the stereotypical picture of these extremes for you here:
There are those who believe we should kill all our enemies, both literally and metaphorically, to protect us and ours. They call for the closed border, want military action for the retaliation of all national or international offense, fight the “war” on this or that, justify racial prejudices, even demand the boycott of Starbucks over a red cup all in the name of Jesus. This saddens me.
But then there are the other siders. Often the guilt trippy ones who use social justice as a means to shame and denigrate other “so called” Christians who don’t share their sentiments. Kind of the “hippies” of christendom, if you will. These are often the ones who love using Jesus as the poster boy for open borders, any LGBTQ issue, racial prejudice on the other side of the coin, or any moral liberalism in the name of tolerance. This also saddens me.
Like Martin Luther King, I have a dream. Maybe that’s a bit melodramatic. I have a hope. I’ve been accused of being on both sides by both sides and I know the sting of frustration when you think your Christian family is off base, but I do have a hope.
In a battle field where scripture is wielded on both sides to defend arguments, I have this hope that people who sincerely love Jesus might unite under at least one thing Jesus said. I know we won’t all agree on everything here on Earth, and that’s ok. It won’t be that way in Heaven, though. We’ll be one big family then. No more fundamentals or liberals. No more republicans and democrats. No more right wingers or left wingers. Not in Heaven. No, the one scripture I wish we would all take to heart here on Earth would be this: “And the world will know you are my followers by your love for one another.” John 13:35
I can be so guilty of forgetting this. When another believer insults me, maligns my character, slams my beliefs, belittles my opinions or demonizes my convictions I have a very hard time loving them in that moment. I want to defend my position and defend myself. But this is the clear indicator to the unbelieving world that God is real and that He can actually make a difference in your life. I need to show you that by my love for my brothers and sisters in Christ. Why else would you want to join that family?
So, brothers and sisters. While our world is heating up with political agendas and polarizing beliefs let’s keep one thing at the forefront of our minds: do they see our love for each other? It’s easy to get worked up because we love what we’re fighting for but do we throw other Christians under the bus if they don’t line up with us? This shouldn’t be the case. Ever. We can’t just use scripture to tear down. “All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, correcting, rebuking and encouraging with all authority.” 2 Timothy 3:16.
I’m not so worried about fighting to keep Christ in Christmas this year.
No. Let’s try to keep Christ in Christian.
So I was walking this morning after my workout. I have been lifting at 6:30 but shifted back to 6:00 so I could walk afterwards each day. This is my new effort to ease back into jogging eventually. I’ve known for some time this was a necessary step for my health but I’ve allowed several reasons, excuses and justifications to keep me from this endeavor.
I shared that random and personal glimpse of my health journey as a segue into the over arching theme that walk brought into my life. Here’s the thing: what I’m about to share is what God taught/is teaching me this morning. You can probably very well apply this to your life and situations (which is my hope) but you might also decide that I’m full of it. That’s certainly your prerogative.
But I truly hope that you might approach what I’m about to share with the humility that I received it in. It is simple but very profound. Deep but understandable. I find it obvious now that it has been pointed out to me, but it was almost counterintuitive before.
Here’s the rub. There are only three things that ANY of us needs to succeed. In life. Marriage. Work. Ministry. Health. ANYthing. We only need three. simple. things.
Desire – Ability – Discipline. Or DAD for short.
Try it out in your head for a sec. Apply this to any situation. Do you have the desire to do it? Do you have the ability to do it? And Finally, do you have the discipline to do it? If any of these is a “no” the likelihood of you doing it greatly diminishes. That has been my achilles heel for years. I WANTed to get in shape but i was injured so I lacked the ability. Then when I had the ability I lacked the discipline. Sometimes I feel the NEED to be more organized or disciplined in an area but don’t really WANT to. Desire has to be there first then ability and finally discipline to stick with it.
But you know the real kicker in this simple truth is for me? All three of these are actually a gift from God. God places the desires and passions in our hearts that He wants us to accomplish. When we abide in Christ we gain the ability to do whatever He wants us to do. But, like Paul, to this end we labor and toil with all His energy which so powerfully works in us. His desire, His ability, His discipline. As John 15 clearly states, “apart from Christ you can do nothing.” More specifically, we can do nothing that God wants us to do apart from Him.
That’s so simple and yet I find myself making excuses and getting so frustrated when I am not being fruitful or faithful. But if I, instead, hold my actions and thoughts up to the DAD test I will be able to quickly identify where I am lacking. Am I attempting to do something God has not given me desire and passion for? Do I lack the ability and need education or training? Or am I being undisciplined and noncommittal?
But honestly I feel the one that is most often lacking in my life is discipline. I want to serve/know God. I have the ability to do what He has called me to. I simply lack the discipline to see it through. And you know what? Laziness is nothing more than cleverly disguised rebellion. I need Jesus to break my lazy, rebellious heart and have victory in me. I desperately need His strength to undergird my struggle. This can be so daunting at times.
So where are you in all this? Are you constantly feeling like you are worthless and useless to God because of your failures to accomplish great things for Him? Well, the real fun thing about this was when God used a little pun to drive this home for me. He reminded me that sometimes we just need to ask our ABBA Father (DAD) for help. He loves us with the Father’s heart. There is no condemnation for those in Christ. So hard to accept yet so true.
So get out there and evaluate life with your DAD! No more excuses. We can accomplish what He sets before us in His strength! Cause He really does love you.
There aren’t many things I might consider myself an expert at. Gargling, I’m pretty good. Eating, semi-pro. I make a mean cup of coffee. But I am GREAT at starting fights. It’s like a have a talent for saying just the right thing to set someone off. I’m so good at it that I don’t even mean to most of the time. Probably because I live in a society of extremely thin-skinned folks who will voraciously defend their perspective to the detriment of any hope of a relationship that’s based on anything but a rigid sense of commonality and like-mindedness.
Oops. Did it again.
It could be that I hold very strong opinions that fly in the face of cultural norms. I mean. I believe that the Bible is true, that Jesus is God and the only way to the Father and that these two beliefs should mold and hold every one of my other beliefs, opinions and actions in the harmony of love and truth.
And also I can be a jerk sometimes. Honestly, as much as I try to be a nice guy who listens and withholds judgment I am seldom able to fully love and overlook the offenses of others when they are yelling at me and belittling everything I hold dear.
So how can you benefit from my patented Three Step Method™ of starting a good fight? Simple! In fact, our society is ripe for a good fight any time of day or night these days. All you need is access to social media and you are ready to start a good fight! Ready to hear these three simple steps to starting some knock down, drag out fights with family, friends and strangers alike?
1. Have a really strong belief or opinion about something. Anything, really, But especially the hot topics: God, politics, and raising kids are three that do it for me.
2. Post said belief/opinion on social media. Like this one. A blog, Facebook post or even a strongly worded Instagram description will do. Just throw it out there for all to see with no discernment at all. State it with the most polarizing wordage you can and make it clear that anyone who sees/thinks differently is a MORON. Then move on the step three.
3. Let your family and friends go at each other’s throats for days before you chime in to passively-aggressively defend your point of view while simultaneously trying to look like a peacemaker. Then when someone attacks you THEY look like the jerk.
Sound easy? It is! These days everyone is looking for a good fight anyway, all they need is fodder for debate. Well, throwing out your weighted opinions with disregard to anyone else’s feelings or beliefs is the perfect way to give it to them! Trust me, I know! I’ve gotten so good at it that even when I’m not trying to start a fight and am simply making a statement from my own belief system a fight almost always breaks out.
Well, I hope you all appreciate this brief tutorial but from the looks of things, most of you already are pretty good at this already, too! Best of luck ostracizing everyone and only keeping a small group of really like-minded people close in your life and I’ll see you in the comments section!
(sarcasm is not my spiritual gift but I do like it as a stress reliever. no offense intended to anyone, but I’m sure some will take it anyway.)
I just bet at least one person is not gonna like this blog post. I mean, at least one! So aren’t I, then, being hypocritical to post it anyway? I know many of my posts are somewhat controversial and I’m ok with that. I do my best not to come out swinging, daring you peons to come against the Mighty Pate. (I don’t really think you guys are peons, by the way) I am old enough and mature enough to express my opinions, concerns and dislikes in a manner consistent with biblical integrity. But do you know what I really strongly dislike? You wanna know the premise of this post? What has really kept me from posting much at all these last several months? The sheer amount of arrogance and ignorance that is displayed in people’s responses to other people’s posts.
Am I afraid? By no means. Intimidated? Certainly not. So why my hesitation? Because I learned a long time ago you can win the argument and lose the person. As a Christ follower I am compelled to love you. Even the yous out there I don’t know. And when you love someone you don’t waste precious time arguing and debating all the time. That’s silly.
Confession time: I used to love to argue and debate all the time. I am reasonably good at it, from a worldly point of view. I can be articulate and knowledgable without being a complete know-it-all. I base my opinions on sound reason and don’t back down easily. I can use philosophy, psychology and theology interchangeably to come at a point from several angles. In short, I loved to debate because I felt I could stand my own ground on a variety of topics and fair rather well against the ill-prepared. So what changed?
Well, the truth is I am probably not as innocent as I used to think I was when debating someone. I thought and said things like, “I’m just defending truth!” and “Someone needs to help them understand how they’re wrong!” I thought of myself as the lone voice of reason to the ignorant masses. But alas, I am not. And as I left a trail of broken relationships and lost opportunities to show people the love of Christ, I began to see what I was doing was not, in fact, for Christ but for my own ego and self worth. I forgot that scripture says we are ambassadors for Christ, not His lawyers. I was arguing for Him as if He needed me to convince people of their sin. He doesn’t. John 16:8 says that when Jesus ascends into Heaven He will send the Holy Spirit to “convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment.”
So why would I argue with a lost person about sexual preferences/identity, pro-life stances, micro and macro evolution and the exclusivity of the Christian faith as opposed to the inclusivity of all other world religions? The sad answer used to be that I wanted to go toe to toe with the world and win one for Jesus. But (sorry little Pharisees) that’s dumb. Jesus didn’t tell us to do that. He told us to love people. He told us to represent Him well to the world. To bear His name in the marketplace with compassion and humility. Are we? Am I?
Is there a proper time, place, manner to discuss these things and even offer some rebuttal to one’s opinions? Sure there is. If it passes the test of love. I am not much of an “agree to disagree” person because I am very relational. I like to think that people will share my opinion if I could just get them to understand my point. But that won’t always happen and when it doesn’t I have to be willing to put that person ahead of my desire to be right. I have to love them and disagree with them at the same time. That’s hard for me.
If I am to be salt and light in this world I have to come to terms with a few truths: 1. People who do not love/follow Christ will not see things my way on most topics. I need to love them anyway. 2. Many people who also claim to follow Christ have some very different opinions on things than I do. That’s ok too. I need to love them as well. 3. I am not all-knowing and can be wrong about something even if I think I am so right. It has happened before and will no doubt happen again. Grace. Humility. Truth. Love. I need all of these things and so do you. I am happy to discuss these thoughts with you. I’m happy to back up my opinions with Scripture, whether you hold that as a valid support or not. I am also happy to be sharpened by you even as I hope to sharpen some of you with love and truth. As Pilate asked Jesus before His crucifixion, “what is truth?” I refer back to the Gospel of John 17:17 “Sanctify them by the truth, Your word is truth.”
Sorry if I’ve argued with you and you didn’t know how much I loved you. I’ll try harder to shine the love of Christ and not put the spotlight on my intellect, opinions or even what I hold as my convictions. I have them, so do you. One day all truth will be revealed and we’ll all know how wrong we were about so many things. But Love, agape Love, is never wrong. But I’m not going to argue with you about it.