Category: a new kind of Christmas


670px-React-to-a-Gift-You-Do-Not-Like-Step-1

just this past sun., and in fact the past couple of weeks have been difficult to get out what i’ve felt like God has placed inside me.  leaving me with a feeling of things unsaid.

yesterday, while putting the house together with Christmas decorations this thought hit me; as if saying, “this is what you were trying to say on sunday.”

john5 tells of Jesus walking to the pool of bethesda where the man crippled lay for 38 years.  in short, Jesus heals the man & does what Jesus does, He slips away only to return later.  the man is carrying his mat; which Jesus told him to do; and the keepers of the law [we could call them “good church-folk”] aren’t happy that he’s working on the sabbath.

by the time Jesus shows up on this particular day to do this particular work of God working on the sabbath had 39 different categories.  within those categories there were some specifics on what you could & couldn’t carry.  specifically you were not allowed to pick up & put down things in a manner that resembled work.  so what the man, who use’ta-couldn’t walk, was doing was way out of bounds.

the thing that hit me yesterday was that the religious people, who were very good at being good, rushed right past the miracle on the way to the ordinary.

i don’t mean to say that being a good person should just be put aside & not recognized.  but being good isn’t what God came here for; that you and i would be good people.

He comes to do the miraculous…

and then the question that should come to mind:  am i guilty of doing this?

in this season may we make sure that we’re not simply engaging in the ordinary, the usual, the common-place of the season

…as good & enjoyable as all that is;

only to miss out on the miraculous that God is desperately trying to unveil right before our eyes.

by the way, merry Christmas!

Advertisements

good, short conversation from jon acuff & his wife.

Quit trying to turn lead into gold. – Jon Acuff.

so this past sunday, as the Advent Conspiracy continues, we worked around what it means to “give more”; that is, giving presence, your time, your humanity.  and no, we didn’t talk about a piece of the traditional “Christmas story”; instead we focused on an experience & a story from Jesus while at a banquet [luke14].

Jesus correctly reveals that party He’s attending is really a “privileged” party.  it’s for those that can afford to be there, that truly appreciate the finest of things & can invite you to their own “high society” party.  Jesus says this is no way to do things.  then Jesus tells a story of a man hosting a banquet & those that had received invitations simply were too busy to attend.  then those that were not on “the” list were invited & the party raged on.

what’s interesting & note-worthy here is the relational quality of the entire interaction.  He points out the depth of their relationships with one another & says it’s only about how you look to your friends & that’s no way to live.  part of the purpose of your life here on earth is the relationship you have with others & the way you point them toward Jesus.  so He’s inviting them to invest in the lives of others, not just in their own life.

AC_Give_ICON

that’s a hard thing to do during this season especially.  sure we have little trouble giving our spare change to the the bell ringers, and making sure that families that have enough for the season.  but what are we really doing?  are we truly investing in their lives?  or are these things a way to ease our minds with “well, at least i’m doing something.”

i do believe part of the challenge of this time of year is not to just “do a little more”.  i really think the challenge is to become the kind of people that God had created & called us to be.  to step into a place that we can truly give more.  to find new & better ways to give ourselves away.  and not just to our families.  there is a bit of an expectation to giving to our families.  but to give to those that aren’t expecting it.  to give to the ones that are easily overlooked.  give to those that don’t seem to “deserve it” – whatever that means.

so how ’bout it?  can we give more of ourselves away this year?  can we find ways to exemplify the life of Christ but giving more?

AC_Give_WORDmaybe, we’ll see when the bills show up in january.

god-alonerecently i was talking with a friend about  difficult situation they’re walking through & they confessed that they are carrying a lot of guilt.  guilt about how things have gone sideways & the affect it’s having on the family, etc.

now to be fair, when there are difficulties in relationships there is usually equal parts of blame to pass around.  it’s a rare circumstance when one person in a relationship just goes off the rails on their own…although that does happen.  that’s not what this post is about though.

here’s the gist of what i thought about later that night:

guilt is a powerful “prevent-er”.

as we move through this advent season, this week focusing on what it means to “worship fully” if we are carrying around guilt it prevents us from doing the things that we were made to do, the things that God is calling us to do, the things that we were made for.

when we carry around guilt it distracts us.

i wonder: “isn’t guilt a kind of motivator?  doesn’t guilt move us off of doing things that don’t please God?”

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.

 –  2cor.7:10

the difference between what God does & what the world does is literally life & death
guilt keeps us from fully worshiping
guilt prevents us from seeing the future God has in mind
guilt keeps us in a state of sorrow & loss
guilt prevents restoration from taking place

make sure that this season isn’t over-run with guilt & a sorrow that you don’t need to be carrying around.  be willing to lay down the things that you were never meant to carry.  let go of the heavy burden of past mistakes, seek forgiveness, offer forgiveness, search out true repentance with God.

may the God of this season truly be the greatest thing you experience this Christmas.

as we launch into the Christmas season it’s so easy to misplace the object of [what should be] our greatest affection.

AC_Worship_ICONas a Christ-follower it IS something that we say without hesitation, “Jesus is the reason for the season!”  & “You can’t spell Christmas without Christ.”  and all of the rest of our somewhat mis-guided attempts to repaint the Christmas story.

is there a way to repaint the colors of Christmas in ways that will stick & not simply annoy people?

this year as a church we are engaging in the Advent Conspiracy more intentionally.  if you click the picture to the left you’ll be taken to the [AC] web-site & can learn of it’s genesis & it’s intention to return to Jesus as the primary focal point of the season.

this first week has had us focus on that object of our greatest affection – Jesus – and in turn find ourselves launched into full worship.

this past sun. we talked about 3 signs of the coming Messiah:

1 – the angel announcing the “better-good news” over the popular roman message of the “kind-of-good news”.  this announcement is for us as well as the 1st century folk.  the temptation is to believe what we already know & not trust the promise of something new.

2 – the star guiding the wise men to Jesus.  critical point here, God desires to guide us all.  not just when we get our lives figured out & cleaned up.  those wise men weren’t jewish, they didn’t know the God of israel, and yet God is trying to bring them close to Him.

3 – the manger, a highly unlikely place for a baby to be placed; and a king at that.  here we find God meeting us in a place of great venerability.  reminding us that He is with us.

so what should all this do for us?  is it all just a reminder of a story that we’re maybe “too” familiar with?  or is there more?AC_Worship_WORD

these things, and more, should remind us of the great, awesome & powerful nature of God & His desire for us.  and these realizations, reminders & wakening moments should cause great worship to erupt.

so how ’bout it…will you worship fully this season & not let the object of our greatest affection sit in the background?

Snowflake Box detailrecently there’s been this thought that’s been swirling around in my head…it’s really been a continual stream of wondering:

how does the “sending nature” of the gospel show up in your life?

maybe we need to define some things first;

i think, without question, that the gospel of Jesus Christ has, at it’s root, a sending quality to it. consider the season we’re launching into right now.

Jesus comes to earth.  He leaves heaven to join us here.  He’s sent here to do what we cannot –

SAVE US.

so in simple terms; do we believe that we are engaging that “called out” &” sending” thing that happens in the bible repeatedly?

most of us, as Christ-followers would immediately say “well, yes. i do believe that we’ve called into that kind of life.”

but here are, i think, the most important questions:

do we live like that?
do we raise our families like that?
do we work at our jobs with this in mind?
do we attend churches that speak this kind of language?

if we look at these questions & there is a little bit of guilt or heaviness that shows up,

if we want to run from this page,

if God is waking some things up inside you,

may that same God, the one who sent His Son, the One we celebrate & try hard not to forget & bypass;

may that God speak into this season & your celebrations.  may He remind you of the call He has for your life & the places He is inviting you to go.

Holiday-Christmas-Gifts-Redknee-deep in the Christmas season, plans coming together, gifts being purchased & shipped; Christmas songs seemingly in every store.  i was in a store just the other day & there were 2 versions of songs i thought i knew but the tempo was all wrong & much too cheery for those particular songs.

oh wait, did i just say that something new was not so good, and i preferred the old??

…oh no!

SUBJECT CHANGE:

this season, i am again reminded about the 1st century conditions & climate of the world Jesus is born into; dirty, corrupt, loads of people in need, the gap between the “have’s & have-not’s” growing…anything sound familiar?

just the other night someone said, as we were having this very conversation about gifts & giving, that we tend to walk around with our yard stick &  measure up the lives or gifts of others based on our thoughts & presuppositions [our yard stick].  this is fraught with all kinds of problems from how much we spend [gifts] all the way down to how much we think we need a savior.

there is a growing trend, movement of people that are doing their best, in their corner of the world to return Christmas to Christ.  everything from give relational gifts, to reach into dark places & being Christ to some people.  just a brilliant approach to what we do with this season.

there can be a struggle in figuring out how to do this.  we’ve been so steeped in what Christmas has looked like that we’ve all drunk the kool-aid & simply don’t see a way out.

advent conspiracy has some wonderful ways to make the season memorable without going further into debt or simply over-spending.  on the right @ the bottom of their home page is the [AC calendar].  download the PDF & there you’ll find QR codes for every day of december.

sidebar…i don’t think it’s ok to say, “well, if i have it, isn’t it ok to spend it?”  the answer is “NO!, it’s not ok.”  i don’t believe that Jesus was sent so that we could, through our hard work & self-driven effort, have a great life.

the download from advent conspiracy, with QR codes, is about raising our awareness as Christ-followers.  i truly believe that the way the world changes is connected to our sense of compassion for those in need & the way God uses that compassion to move us into action.

so come on, download the PDF, print the poster, hang it in your house/office, and use your smart phone for something more than facebook & pintrest.  [not that those things are bad]

in the words of advent conspiracy: let’s find ways to worship fully, spend less, give more and love all

a vision issue

so every year there are things that i talk about that i truly believe will propel the church into uncharted territory [or at least into territory that it hasn’t occupied in quite a while].  the area of unbridled care for those around us, unfettered enthusiasm for others above ourselves.
many years my hopes for a true sea change in our approach to others falls short, my own life included here as well.

then today, while reading a blog by jon acuff suddenly much became clear.  we have difficulty seeing…

in the article linked above the question was asked if churches around the nation were cancelling sun. service due to Christmas falling on a sun.  interesting conversation, one that i had with leadership teams this year.  the comments were, by and large, in support of churches that would cancel service.  and there were some comments that opposed any cancellation of worship times for any reason.  the root of this objection is a vision issue.

back to unbounded giving & generosity…

each year that i talk about using Christmas as a time to make sure that we give of ourselves & our $$ to those who don’t have [this is not just an issue for those that live near us] it is usually met with modest support, “yes, we should do something like that.”  but that soon give way to “the list” of stuff we have to buy for friends & family and so on.  before we get too carried away, every time i talk about this subject i’m accused of trying to “steal” Christmas.  i’m not sure who i’m stealing it from with is conversation, but i digress…

here’s the long & short of it:  this conversation & others like it are short-lived because of our vision.  we tend to have myopic vision.  essentially, this is nearsightedness.  we can see clearly things up-close, but when trying to view things at a distance the pictures get fuzzy.

THIS IS US!!

when things/issues/wars/etc. begin to affect the things we love/do/participate in; when what we want out of life gets disrupted or the “normal” is jostled we don’t like it.

so, when we talk about things like “you’re not cancelling worship services on Christmas day are you?!”  or considering changing some of your Christmas day purchases to benefit someone in a foreign country.  something like purchasing a goat or cow for a family in a 3rd world country so they’ll have a sustainable income [something they didn’t have before] we object.  “you want me to give my kids a picture of a flock of chickens in somewhere africa?  that sounds like lots of fun on Christmas day!”

this is myopic thinking & acting.

we MUST get beyond the things that make us most happy & comfortable.  consider others more important than ourselves.  this is a hard shift to make & i’m realizing that it’s probably cost me some close relationships & maybe even a job.  but this is the kind of conversation i think Jesus has with those He’s calling.