Thoughts on Keeping Christ in Christmas

Screenshot 2018-12-18 at 8.59.08 AMThere is no command in the New Testament to celebrate Christmas. Jesus is not disappointed over losing “his day” to Santa Claus or commercialism or anything else. He never asked for a day but rather we assigned him one. What Jesus wants is a place in your heart not a date on your calendar. He wants to bring each of us into a personal relationship with a loving God. He tells us to abide in him as he abides in the Father.

Suing the local government over the right to put up a nativity scene doesn’t “keep Christ in Christmas.” The secular society never had Christ to begin with so there’s no keeping him there. We as believers must keep Christ in our hearts, in our homes and in our church. And we must do so year round not just when Santa is at the mall. That’s not to say we can’t celebrate Christmas. We put up a tree in our home (after Thanksgiving), hang stockings, watch Rudolph on tv and put out milk and cookies for Santa. We also light the candles on the wreath as we keep the weeks of Advent. I can’t do anything Hallmark Channel showing Christmas movies in October but I have a great deal of control over what verses we read, hymns we sing and prayers said during our family devotions.

Don’t be surprised or offended that the world is not interested in Jesus. The manger reminds us that he came into the world. The cross reminds us that, for the most part, the world rejected him. Do good deeds, share good news. Badgering unbelievers with Christian images isn’t going to do anything for them. Show them Christ. Be salt and light. And like I said, that continues into January and beyond. If your Christianity can be stored in a box in the attic, maybe it’s time to revisit the Gospel.

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Book Review: The Gospel of Self

Screenshot 2018-03-08 at 10.42.51 AMThe Gospel of Self, How Jesus Joined the GOP is written by Terry Heaton and details his role at CBN and The 700 Club. Before we used terms like fake news and every single person had a voice via social media, the Christian Broadcast Network entered a new frontier of sorts by not only reporting the news but by shaping the way people thought. CBN in general, and Pat Robertson’s 700 Club in particular, played a profound role in shifting the Republican Party to the right back in the 1980’s. While Robertson was in front of the camera Terry Heaton was behind the scenes and very much involved in making the things Robertson talked about a reality. Heaton believes today’s Christian Right is the end result of work they did together back then. Continue reading

Book Review: Jesus Untangled

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Jesus Untangled: Crucifying our Politics to Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb by Keith Giles

Giles is an intelligent writer that has done his homework and presents his case well. He is right in saying that Americans have their politics wrapped up in their Christianity. There is no morally right political party and pinning all of your hopes and dreams on any party platform will leave Christian believers disappointed. Let’s begin by analyzing what he does a good job of in this book. Continue reading

Red, White and Jesus

Screenshot 2016-05-24 at 2.10.13 PMMemorial Day is coming up. It’s always the last Monday in May. Will the holiday weekend have an effect on your Sunday church plans?

Scenario One:  Some churches have nothing to do with American holidays. There will be no patriotic music this Sunday or any other day they meet to worship. There are no pictures of members that have died in the service, no displays of dog tags in the vestibule. Those churches do not have an American flag in the sanctuary nor flying on church grounds. Some Christians believe our allegiance cannot be divided between the Kingdom of God and anything else.

Scenario Two: American Jesus. Some churches proudly display Old Glory in their sanctuary 52 weeks a year. They will ramp it up on days like Memorial Day and 4th of July with flag banners and other patriotic/Christian decor. They will run red, white and blue bulletins with service members names listed in memorial. They will sing the National Anthem or some other patriotic montage as a choir special and the congregation will be led in saying the Pledge of Allegiance. You may see Jesus draped in the flag or Bible verses printed over flags, national cemeteries, etc. You will definitely get the sense Jesus drives a Chevrolet and buys American (and maybe even supports your 2nd amendment rights).

Scenario Three: Something in between. Like most issues, I fall into this category personally. I believe we can be good citizens and live in a way that glorifies God. We can honor brave men and women that fought and died for our nation without making patriotism our religion. It’s probably easier to do on Memorial Day than Independence Day. Our church has an American flag and a Christian flag in the sanctuary; those were there before I was called to pastor and will be there after I’m gone. But we don’t equate America with Christianity. Jesus is no more American then he is Russian or Chinese. We are to pray for all people (1 Tim. 2:1) including kings and queens (1 Tim. 2:2). We can render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s in keeping with Christ’s command.  We are citizens of a nation AND pilgrims and strangers in this world. We are called to respect the laws of our land until they conflict with the Law of God. At this point in history we still have the freedom and liberty to do both without conflict (most of the time).

Images of Jesus draped in the flag, crosses with stars and stripes, flags with scripture superimposed; these things set off the Michael Spencer voice in the back of my head that I will never be able to get rid of. I believe we can be good Christians and celebrate our national identity at the same time if we are careful. The Gospel plus anything isn’t the Gospel anymore. We need to avoid creating a hybrid Christian-American theology. Patriotism is one thing, nationalism is another. Jesus came to seek and to save people made in God’s image from every tribe, tongue and nation.

Memorial Day honors men and women that died for America. Christian worship honors one man who died for all people everywhere. 

Your thoughts?

Post Script: Let me add that at no time of the year do we forego having church for a ceremony, celebration, awards program, etc. I will preach a Gospel message from the Word of God on Sunday morning just like on Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, the week of July 4th, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. We might mention or recognize mothers, graduates, etc. but not to the extent we skip church and spend that hour doing something else.

 

Book Review: A Christian Survival Guide

A Christian Survival GuideThere’s an old saying that goes something like this: People don’t plan to fail, they just fail to plan. The goal of A Christian Survival Guide: A Lifeline to Faith and Growth by Ed Cyzewski is to help Christian believers make a plan.

Cyzewski points out in the introduction that former Christians that have left the faith are often most aware of the serious issues Christianity presents. The last book I reviewed by Mike Hamel asks serious questions that the author doesn’t have good answers for; while he hasn’t left the faith he is no longer as certain as he used to be about the tenets of the Christian faith. A Christian Survival Guide wants readers to anticipates issues that will arise and be prepared ahead of time. From the introduction: This book aims to help the saints persevere, and so we’ll focus on answering that last question—what will help you survive as a follower of Jesus? Surviving as a Christian depends on having the right beliefs, putting them into practice in community with other Christians, and most importantly, meeting with God regularly. If we fail to address basic survival matters such as understanding God’s story from Scripture, defeating sin, or living in step with the Holy Spirit, we run the risk of missing out on the abundant life Jesus promised us, if not losing our intimacy with Jesus and leaving the faith altogether. Continue reading

The Problem with Religion

not my religion In 2008 I said the Problem with Religion is that it’s easier than following Jesus. Posting a list of rules or setting up a routine to stick to is often easier than imitating Christ. Jesus challenges us to love unconditionally, to love the unlovable, to consider others before ourselves, to act in humility, to seek God’s will about our own and all others for that matter, and the list goes on. “Keep these 10 commandments” is predictable; following Jesus is not. Your family at home and your boss at work probably appreciate rule following and predictability; acting Christ-like may not make friends and influence people. Continue reading

You’re Right, I Must be an Idiot

Don’t you love it when non-Christians, atheists, gay-rights activists, etc. reference the Bible and tell you that you’re reading it wrong? “Most of the Old Testament was negated and set straight by Jesus” and “You go out and stone a bunch of people, I’ll be living to please Jesus in the meantime” are on the list of things I’ve been told. I was told “the Old Testament pretty much doesn’t matter anymore” and the evidence for this claim was Jesus responding to the question about the greatest commandment. Kudos for knowing Jesus’ answer to that question; Love the Lord you God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. A second is just like it, love your neighbor as yourself. This was an example of Jesus setting things straight.

The problem is that Jesus responded by quoting the Old Testament. Continue reading