Jesus Hates Legalism

I know.  I know.  Jesus doesn’t really hate because he never sinned, he was totally divine, while totally human.  I get that, and I am really not trying to be flippant….BUT, Jesus hates legalism.  Let me try to explain.

Legalism, in one definition, is an attempt to gain favor with Godrules or to impress the people around us by doing certain things (or avoiding other things), without regard for the condition of our hearts before that same God.

Read that again.  Because if you don’t hear anything else, and don’t want to read any further, that statement alone is worth wrestling over for a while.

I have been reading and studying in the book of Mark, the second chapter of the New Testament, and one of the four gospels.  Many feel that Mark’s gospel gives us the clearest picture into the “humanness” of Jesus.  There are verses that talk of Jesus showing pity (1:41), becoming hungry (11:12), getting tired (6:31); amongst a host of other very “human” feelings and characteristics.  One of which is anger.

In Mark chapter 3, Jesus was in the synagogue and notices a man with a deformed hand.  Jesus asked the man to come and stand in front of Him.  It was the Sabbath, and the laws (legalism) of the day, prohibited any type of “work” on the Sabbath.  Now, just a few verses earlier, the legalists (Pharisees) had questioned Jesus about “harvesting” on the Sabbath.  His disciples had been hungry and cracked open a few heads of wheat while walking through the fields.  (Not sure how good that would have tasted.  Probably like Triscuits, which, to me, is like sucking on burlap).  But I digress.  You can read about the encounter here in Mark 2:23-28.  What Jesus ended up telling them, however, is that “The Sabbath was made to benefit people, not people to benefit the Sabbath.”(v.27)

So, in Mark Chapter 3, as Jesus heals a man with a deformed hand, and asks for an answer to the question, “Is it LEGAL to do good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing harm?  Is this a day to save life or destroy it?”(v.4), and he doesn’t get an answer……

Verse 5 says “He looked around at them angrily…..because he was deeply disturbed by their hard hearts.”  And in my mind, in all of his humanness, with a grin on his face like a cat who just ate a mouse, with maybe a hint of righteous defiance, Jesus simply says, “Reach out your hand.”  The man did, and the LEGALISTS went AT ONCE to plot the murder of Jesus.

A few chapters later, with a new LEGALISTIC boldness, some pharisees show up to confront Jesus (7:1).  They wanted to discuss some more “LEGLALNESS” with Jesus about his disciples not washing their hands before eating.  Jesus goes on to call them hypocrites, and quotes some words from the Old Testament Prophet Isaiah, that describe their attempts at worship(keeping the rules) as a farce, due to the fact that the condition of their heart is “far away.”  I was intrigued by this idea that they could “appear” and “feel” so religious, but their hearts be far from God.

This brought me to Romans 14 in The Message Bible.  You can read the entire passage (which I highly recommend) here.  If you don’t have time right now I will try to briefly summarize as this post is getting a little lengthy.

It’s as if Paul was re-readng Mark’s accounts of what Jesus had dealt with when enduring some of the skeptical following of the Pharisees.  He is talking about what people eat and keeping certain days holy.(LEGAL stuff)  He goes on trying to explain that each of us have enough to worry about taking care of our own lives, don’t worry about all this stuff, and pointing it out in other people(a form of legalism).  Then, somewhere around the 17th or 18th verse Paul says something that gave me new insight.  “Your task is to single-mindedly serve Christ.  Do that…..and you will please God above and prove your worth to the people around you.”

So to those of you out there who I have ever taught, and somehow conveyed the idea that The Gospel is simply about what you do and don’t do….I am sorry.  It isn’t about that at all.

Our desperate need for God and His desire for us to abide in Him do not mean we have to sit around being “super spiritual” all the time. We do not need to feel obligated to read our Bibles or confine ourselves to a prayer closet for hours each day. It should be part of our lives, but we don’t need to feel as if we are being “spiritual” when we do it and “unspiritual” when we do other things.

When we really love God and He is first in our lives, everything we do becomes spiritual in a way because we are doing it with Him, in Him, through Him, by Him, for Him , and to His glory.

It’s not about what you do or don’t do.  It’s about the condition of your heart.  That’s why Jesus died for you.  So your heart can be transformed.

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What are you without?

I am not real active on Twitter.  I confess.  I do more reading, liking, and retweeting, than actually coming up with my own 140 character nuggets of social media lore for all my followers to internalize.

screen-shot-2017-01-06-at-7-20-46-amA couple days after Christmas, I retweeted this tweet by the Church Curmudgeon.  A Curmudgeon, by the way, is a cranky surly person.  That grey-haired neighbor who never hands out candy at Halloween.  Giving you that in case you don’t get anything else while reading this entry, so at least you did a little vocabulary development.

The next day I was running some errands and picking up a couple of gift cards that were going to be used for door prizes at a youth all-nighter.  I went into Taco Bell….”Sorry, sir. We are out of gift cards.”  I traveled right down the road a block or two to Wendy’s….”Sorry, sir.  We are out of gift cards.”  Started seeming to me that this must have been the popular gift this holiday season.  As a side note, I did get one from Chipotle, which seemingly, no matter how busy they always appear, they never run out of anything.

Two days later we took three hungry college-age boys, two of which had never been, to Olive Garden.  You can imagine the conversations on the way there about the perfectly buttered, warm, lightly garlic-seasoned breadsticks, and the mouth-watering blend of salad, with large crunchy croutons and just the right amount of zing!!  The anticipation mounted as we had to wait about 15 minutes for our table.  We are finally seated, order our drinks and appetizer (free coupon), and settle in for a nice dining experience together as family and guests.  You can imagine our overwhelming disappointment when the server returns and informs us that the 9 breadsticks she just brought to our table of seven (don’t forget three hungry college boys), are the last breadsticks in the restaurant for the evening.

All of these occurrences, as well as reading a blog by someone else about his take on Christmas without Christ, caused me to do some reflecting.  Is there anything I am without?  Is there something I am out of?  Some missing element or ingredient that would make life more satisfying and complete?  My mind went back to my retweet, and the satirical wisdom of the curmudgeon.

I don’t want to be a Christian without the Holy Spirit.

I know there is an entire theological debate and thesis in that statement, but you know what I mean.  I want to be “filled” with the Holy Spirit.  The problem is, that it is not a once-and-for-all event.  The words Paul uses in Ephesians 5:18 indicate a “keep on being filled constantly and continuously” type of filling.

Systematically and programmatically in the church I believe we try and call this discipleship.  How can I grow closer to God and live a life identified as being “filled with the Holy Spirit?”  But discipleship is not a program or a system.  It is a lifestyle.

There are reasons behind why Taco Bell and Wendy’s were out of gift cards.  There are reasons why Olive Garden ran out of breadsticks.  These probably have to do with some sort of breakdown in the system of communication or how the internal programs work in those business organizations.

But there are also reasons why people would get more upset if they discovered the Wifi is out, than if the Holy Spirit had “left” the church.  I think we sometimes look at discipleship in the church the same way we look at the church Wifi.  It is one more thing I get from the church.  If the church does not have any more “discipleship gift cards” or if they are out of “discipleship breadsticks”, then someone is not doing their job.  Or maybe I will just buy, eat, or worship somewhere else.  But discipleship is so much more than being taught or trained in a classroom.  It is a life All-in for Jesus.

Discipleship is about discerning the voice of the Holy Spirit.  It is about studying God’s word in personal quiet time, and hopefully in some type of group setting with others.  It is about sharing with others areas where Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit, has transformed my life.  It is not a program.  It is not a system. It is not a class.  Are you listening?  The voice is usually not very loud.  It is many times illogical.  It is usually uncomfortable in what is being requested of you.  But the voice of the Holy Spirit is always timely.

And unlike Olive Garden, there are always enough breadsticks.  Just ask the guys from Mark 6:43.

Consideration

I was spending some time re-reading the accounts of the Christmas story in both Matthew and Luke.  I was drawn some to the character of Joseph while I was reading and some of the decisions that he made that, in some ways, held the balance of history in their outcome.  Do I really go through with this marriage?  I know we are betrothed, and legally considered married, but this is not what I had planned.  Do I really believe what I just dreamt about?  Jesus?  Save people from their sin?

Now, I am a father.  I like to consider myself a thinker.  However, I don’t know that my simple brain could manage all this information coming at me at once.  Besides, who could I tell that I had been talking to angels? But the bible says Joseph was a righteous man.  In looking at other translations, they use words like just, honorable, upright, good in the same way as righteous.  He had every right under the law to expose her as a harlot, for which the punishment would be death.  But there is a phrase in Matthew 1:20 that I read differently. It simply says, “But after he had considered this…

Joseph took some time to think.  Not sure how long.

Maybe he took a long walk in the countryside outside of Bethlehem.

He did NOT just react.

I think Joseph gives us some good pointers here when it comes to relationships.  If we would sometimes take time to deliberate and consider all that has transpired in a particular situation, we may find that we have more mercy and moderation than we  thought.  This action of thinking by Joseph also gives us some clarity on what it means to be righteous. Those with more of a temper may blame Joseph for his willingness to be lenient on Mary.  I think that, again, is an identifier of righteousness.  Joseph’s action’s are praiseworthy because he is acting mercifully, like one who has been forgiven, and has not forgotten.

UNDER CONSIDERATION

Photo taken from 123rf.com

What if we became a people of consideration?  If we took some time to think before we reacted?  I think it is in those moments when the Holy Spirit is best able to speak to us. God loves to work in the realm of human perplexity.  When we are dazed and confused, and not sure how to react, God loves to swoop in and say, “I have been waiting for you. Thanks for thinking it through, and considering all the angles.  However, this one has supernatural written all over it, and you’re going to have to trust me on this one.”

And like Joseph, we will (hopefully) “…wake up and do what the angel of the Lord commands us to…”(Matt. 1:24)

Take some time in the busyness of the season to consider.  Think about and consider all that God has done.  His goodness, faithfulness, and righteousness, and evidence of those in your own life.  And who knows, maybe an angel will come and ask you to be a part of something supernatural…….

Coaching from the Dugout

I himg_4639ad the opportunity when I was a teacher to coach high school girls fast-pitch softball.  There are many blog entries and themes that I could write about from those 9 years as a coach, but there is one lesson I learned that has carried over to many other areas of life…the best coaching is done from the dugout.  Let me explain.

As we painfully watched the World Series Title slip away from the Cleveland Indians, and if you are a Tribe fan, I am sure there were times that you were yelling at your TV loud enough to make sure that Manager Terry Francona knew you did not approve of what he was doing.  I am also certain there was plenty of “instructional advice” (coaching) that was spewed when Napoli swung at another ball, or Shaw was struggling to find the plate.  We all become experts when we are spectating.  We all want to express our frustrations about what is happening in the game, and many times this “coaching” is done on pure raw emotional response.  I believe that in the midst of the conflict (or game if you will), we would do much better to shout nothing but encouragement, and leave the coaching for the dugout.

I did my best to keep my emotions in check when I was a coach.  Now, don’t get me wrong. There are times when an emotional response can fire up a team, or also let them know you mean business.  But, in the ups and downs of competition.  In the 3 up 3 down innings and the 15 up and 3 down innings, I always had more success when I could keep the balance between intensity and emotion.

So, how does this apply to real life.  I believe as Christians, we are given opportunity after opportunity to “coach” others.  It is formally called discipleship.  The idea that you are so invested in another person’s life, and their spiritual, physical, mental, and emotional well-being, that you intentionally make time to be a part of their life.  The key is that you don’t just yell from the dugout, and instruct them on all the things they are doing wrong. In fact, I would suggest that you never call them out publicly, but rather, wait until they get in the dugout.  Encourage them to no end while they “are out on the field.”  Maybe even call timeout, and have a short talk with them.  When they get to the dugout, pull them aside, and do the coaching part.  Don’t let it go.  Don’t let your emotions get the best of you.  Don’t let your disagreement with their behavior get in the way of your relationship with the person, and the fact that you have been placed in their life to walk them through the tough times of correction.  That is what coaching is all about.

Jesus prayed in John chapter 17 and told his Father that He had glorified Him here on earth by completing the work God had given Him to do.  He then respectfully asked that God would restore Him to the “majesty and honor in His presence that He had before the world existed.” (vv.4-5)  Wouldn’t it be great, if on that day when we finally get to meet Jesus, we would be able to stand before Him and say,  “With your help, I was able to do what you asked me to do.”  We, all too often, feel incapable.  I believe we need to trust God, more than we trust our feelings.  Let’s not stop short of finishing the work He has given us to do.

Who are you coaching?  Who is coaching you?  Come on into the dugout.  There is so much to learn.

Say Yes!

After an 8 month hiatus, I am back to attempting to take time each month to write a blog entry.  There many be an occasional extra, but I want to commit to once a month first, and see where that takes us.  I am saying “yes” to doing this and I want “my yes to be yes and my no to be no.”

James chapter 4 verse 8 says “Say a quiet yes to God, and He will be there in no time.  Quit dabbling in sin.  Purify your inner life.  Quit playing the field.” (MSG)  God is a gentleman. He does not require a lot of fanfare.  He does not need my money.  He doesn’t even need my intellect.  He just wants me.  He would like me to surrender.

He would like me to think of Him when I first wake up in the morning.  He would like me to say yes to getting up and spending time with him as opposed to sleeping in.  He would like me to say yes to straightening the kitchen before I leave, even though I didn’t make the mess the night before.  He would like me to say yes to leaving my daughters a note telling them how proud I am of them, even though I could use that extra time at the office before the day gets busy.  He would like me to say yes to paying for the person behind me in line at Chick Fil A in order to make their day a little brighter.  He would like me to say yes to helping the woman with knee braces down the steps at my daughter’s volleyball game. And the list of opportunities to say yes could go on.  God is working all around me all the time, and the Holy Spirit is prompting all the time.  I have a choice.  Say yes.  Or say no.

I have learned, I think, that saying yes to the small promptings of the Holy Spirit, assists me in saying yes to the BIG promptings that can only be done through the Holy Spirit.  Read that statement again.  I had to.  I believe God uses the Holy Spirit, and our ability to say yes in simple doable things, to build our confidence, so that when it comes to saying yes to something beyond our ability, something seemingly not doable, if you will, we can still say yes.

Just following the “rules” and “doing what we are supposed to” is not the same as saying yes.  The rich young ruler found that out.  In Mark 10, he came to Jesus asking what he needed to do to inherit eternal life.  Jesus talked him through all the commandments (rules), to which the rich guy felt like he had said yes to for most of his life.  But when it came to saying yes to, or surrendering what he really had been saying yes to (his wealth), he was unable to do it.  There is no faking it with God.  That is why James said in the verse I started with, “Quit dabbling….stop playing the field.”  We want a controlled surrender.  A giving up of the things I don’t mind giving up.  God needs all of us.  “Don’t worship any other god, because I, the Lord, the Jealous One, am a jealous God.” (Exodus 34:14)

Saying yes takes practice.  Start today by saying yes to those small inner promptings that don’t have a lot to do with keeping you happy and comfortable, but rather, seem others centered.  I think you will find that in doing so, God will grow you to a point where you will begin to say yes to things that require radical obedience and supernatural ability.

Until next time…..

o-say-yes-facebook

Image taken from Hufingtonpost.com

How Am I Doing?

 

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Image taken from http://www.123rf.com

I recently read a short e-book entitled The False Promise of Discipleship.  It is about 45 pages, and it has really got me wrestling with what it means to “do Discipleship.”

The authors say that because most of today’s discipleship processes or programs have pinpointed the goal of discipleship as “getting closer to Jesus,” we are not producing mature disciples focused on “others,” but rather consumerist disciples focused on “I.” This, they say, is the false promise of discipleship—that the goal or endpoint of discipleship is about us getting closer and closer to Jesus.

Stop and think about that for a minute.  Why have you entered into the discipleship processes/programs that you have in the past?  If I had to answer that, my fumblings would probably include something about growing in my faith and trying to learn more about who Jesus wants me to be.  I don’t think that is a bad or wrong answer, but it is incomplete.  One of the statements the authors make is this:  “That loving, knowing, and serving others is both the heart—and the endpoint—of discipleship.”  It might seem subtle, but I believe it is huge in our approach to discipleship.  It is what these authors define as The Human Paradigm about discipleship and The Jesus Paradigm about discipleship.

I am not going to attempt to re-write the whole book, however, the basic difference between the two paradigms is this:  The Human Paradigm approaches discipleship with “me” or “I” in mind.  If I just do these things, I can get closer to Jesus.  The Jesus Paradigm says that if I could just come to a true understanding of God’s unconditional love and acceptance and how we respond to that love through loving others, then discipleship would be the yield of those efforts.

We often reference the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000.  The generosity of the little boy.  The abundance that comes when you trust God to meet your needs.  The lesson of having faith that God will provide and make a way.  In amongst the miracles however, is a practical lesson about discipleship.  The disciples are looking for a quiet break with the Master after a full day of ministering.  The “program” is complete so let’s “Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat”(Mark 6:36).  Their logic is good.  They are in a desolate place with very little in terms of resources.  They are tired.  It starts to become about them.

Jesus steps in and in verse 37 he says, “You give them something to eat.”  They must have looked at Jesus dumfounded.  There was a disconnect between their head and their heart. Jesus needed them to look at people like he looks at people.  Not to be sent away, but welcomed and fed.  His number one purpose is for us to grow in active, thinking, holy discipleship and become like him.  I don’t think we can do that by constantly “doing discipleship” with myself in mind, with the idea that I am doing it to “get closer to Jesus.”

I have to approach it in complete awe of the goodness of God, and his generous extension of grace to me, and respond to that by loving others and sharing it with them.  I believe that is the gospel at it’s core.  It’s not about asking “How am I doing?”  Am I doing enough to keep myself Christian, and getting closer to Jesus?  Rather asking:  God, How are you this good to me?  And staying lost in the wonder of His Grace and Mercy.  And, How am I doing loving others?

Which questions are you asking?

Go ahead….You give them something to eat.

Story

Donald Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz and Scary Close does a workshop called Storyline.  You can find information about the one this past fall here.    “When you attend The Storyline Conference you’ll be inspired, gain clarity and leave with a life plan. Our story based process has lead thousands to discover lasting change and a life of meaning.”  In the Storyline workbook, which you can get online here, Miller says, “…I see the Bible as a story.  It’s a story about unrequited love.  It’s a story about a God who loves a world that, for the most part, ignores Him….All epic stories have subplots, and each of our lives is a subplot….We want to help people live a great subplot in God’s story.”

Whats-Your-Story

Image borrowed from mengonline.com

The modules in the workbook take you through self-examination exercises to find the “theme” of your life, as well as identifying your positive and negative turns.  It helps introduce you to the character of yourself, by helping you identify what you want, how to create inciting incidents to make that happen, overcoming the conflicts you may face on the journey, with the ultimate goal of crafting a magnificent climactic scene.  The intent is to give yourself a point on the horizon to aim towards.  All of this done with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and ideally done with a group of people to encourage you and hold you accountable.

I worked through most of this book a little over a year ago, and it was instrumental in helping me identify some things that made my a character a little more genuine in the subplot of my life.  It helped bring clarity to the roles that I have played, am playing, and gave me a direction for the roles that I may play in the future.

Much of this rushed back to my mind this morning as I heard “My Story” by Christian group Big Daddy Weave.  It is a masterfully written song that speaks of  Hope, Love, and Life.  It celebrates victory, freedom, and a life of overcoming.  It weaves in the lyrics from the old hymn “Blessed Assurance.”  As I thought about those lyrics, it reinforced for me a thought I have had several times over the last couple years.  In all I have learned and read, and in all I have tried to “know about” Jesus, it really comes down to me KNOWING Jesus.  Encountering the Messiah, the Savior, the Hope of the world.  I cannot speak of my story without mentioning the one who has made my story worth telling……Jesus!!

In an interview about the song, one of the members of Big Daddy Weave states “When the world sees people having an encounter with God, that’s when it starts to look like God in us. When you look at the stories of people in Scripture, all of the patriarchs are all people who walked in an encounter with God. Moses and the burning bush, or Paul on his way to Damascus– they have encounters with Almighty God. Paul encountered Jesus Himself. Those encounters began to show God working through them. That’s the power of our stories.”

That is the power of Discipleship.  What’s your story?  When it comes to sharing the Gospel, it is the best place to start………

What are you wearing?

“You’re going to wear that?”

Justin.s.Shoes_These are words heard by every husband or boyfriend at one time or another, when involved in a relationship.  The concern of he well-meaning spouse or girlfriend who feels that what HE is wearing is somehow a reflection of HER own fashion prowess.  That the worn our flannel with fraying sleeves, sloppy collar, and maybe a button or two remaining, is somehow related to everything that SHE has learned about looking presentable.  The house shoes that have holes in the bottom, are coming apart at the seams, but have just the right contour to fit his bunions, somehow are not allowed to be worn when company is over?

We chuckle.  Fashion is one of those areas of constant change.  We all have comfy clothes that we consider our “Saturday best.”  The sweatshirt, flannel pants, socks with holes, whatever it might be, we are comfortable in them.  Sometimes I think it is because, like us, it has been through some things.  The time when I was younger when the baby threw up all over it.  The time I wore it out to move the car and then tried to wear it to bed!  🙂  The all night prayer meeting in the living room, when I wasn’t sure if my child was coming home, it was there.  Maybe the knees of the flannel pants are worn out from praying for children and family.  Maybe the sleeves of the sweatshirt are salt stained with the tears of being tired of him not understanding how you feel, and you have wiped the hopelessness aways so many times….

What do you wear when it comes to spiritual fashion?  Are you worn out from wearing the rags of selfishness or anger?  Do you have the great looking (on the surface) suit of pride?  Are you wearing the casual hoodie of apathy?  Do you let the problem of the day that makes its way into your brain as soon as the alarm goes off be your “outfit” for the day?

I have never been much of a fashion consultant, but I do have a spiritual fashion statement to make.

“And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ,                                     like putting on new clothes.” (Galatians 3:27)

God has a graciously terrible memory.  The fact that we have been united with Christ            (repented, asked Jesus to forgive us our sins, and in pursuit of a growing relationship with him) allows us to approach God.  Not in the mismatched garments of our human nature, but in the heavenly fashionable robes of the Savior.  When we approach the father in prayer, he sees Jesus.  We have put on Christ.  We are always in style.

Have you put Him on lately?  Or is he gathering dust with the old suit in the back of the closet?  Go ahead.  Try it on.  I guarantee you He will fit.

In all my years, when I have worked to “put on” Christ, I have never heard God say,

“You’re going to wear that?”

Prayer

One of the most consistent attendees at our church’s beginning of the month prayer gathering is a homeless man.  He is faithfully there, respectfully sitting in the back, praying.  He has never gotten up to pray when volunteers are asked for, and has never gotten up to share when opportunity is given for praise reports or testimonies….but he is there.

Now you (or I) may say he is only there to pan-handle for a few bucks, or give himself a break from the harsh toll the weather can have on a person when they don’t have a choice of whether or not to stay out in it.  And that may be accurate.  However, he could stay outside to do that.  Yet, he chooses to come inside.  He could stay and get warm, use the restroom, and head on his way.  Instead, he comes in, waiting for someone to talk with him….or to talk to God.

He listens to the prayers of others.  I would assume offers some of his own.  I wonder if he is confused by so many people coming to pray, but then not really putting their prayers into action.  This reminds me of the parable in Luke chapter 18 where the Pharisee and Tax collector both went to pray.  The pharisee’s prayer tended to be pious and self-righteous, while the tax collector wailed a desperate cry of unworthiness and a request for mercy.  There may not be any parallels in that parable to my illustration of the homeless man at our church, but somehow I think there might be.

Prayer is the building block of our faith.  Communication with God is how He makes will known to us, and humbling ourselves before him in prayer, allows him to work that same will through us.  So if we only ever allow the homeless man in to pray at the normal prayer gathering, and don’t ACT upon those prayers by helping him out, is our faith really genuine?  I think of the verses in the 2nd chapter of James.  I really don’t want to have dead faith.

Ultimately, this seems to challenge my thoughts on discipleship.  It is not a class or something I sign up to be a part of for 12 weeks.  it is a lifestyle.  It is praying in the spirit, for the Holy Spirit to guide my footsteps, to surrender to His promptings, and share the gift of Himself with those He brings into my path.  I don’t have the same needs as the homeless man who shows up for prayer time each month.  But what would happen if I showed up for prayer with the same sense of desperation that I sense he is showing up with?

Last time I checked, Jesus was homeless…….

Boredom

It has been several weeks, a month in fact, since I have put pen to page(or fingers to keys) and shared any thoughts.  So here it goes.

An “elf” left a devotional reading in my church mailbox today.  The scripture reference was Ecclesiastes 6:9.  It says, “What the eyes see is better than what the soul desires.  This too is futility and a striving after wind.”  Basically saying to enjoy present good rather than longing for something possibly better in the future.

The devotional went on to talk about the fact that we live in a world that offers us the world.  Megabyte speeds, high definition, wireless, online everything from shopping to relationships, at the touch of a button.  Yet we are hungry.  We are lonely.  There is an emptiness that pervades our culture and a dullness that seems to remind us that we have lost something of life.  Have God and his satisfying power been eclipsed by all this glitz and convenience?  After all, as a man, I can salvage much of my pride with my GPS because I never have to ask for directions again!!

“Here we are in the most fantastic fun and games factory ever invented — modern technological society — and we are bored.  Medieval people by comparison were like peasants in toy-less hovels — and they were fascinated.”  When was the last time you had an occasion that struck you with awe and wonder?  Have we become so dulled and wowed by our culture that the things of God just make us yawn?  When the sky rolls back like a scroll and the trumpet sounds will we just give a casual glance and comment half-heartedly about some “neat special effects.”

The birth of the Christ child is the fulcrum upon which all of history operates.  I sometimes forget this awe-inspiring fact.  No single arrival of life has had such a lasting effect on the entire spectrum of civilization as did the arrival of Jesus in Bethlehem that night in a stable.  My goal this Christmas is to look at these events from all the different personal perspectives.  The reason being, I think the story has become just that…a story.  Familiar plot, characters, etc.  This allows me to gloss over the important things that need to be thought about.  Character thoughts and feelings.  What if that were me?  You know, things you think about when you really like a book you are reading and have trouble putting it down.

To be continued…