Monday, December 28, 2015

2nd Christmas!

Last week my boys were watching one of the cartoons they usually watch. I normally try to avoid the sometimes mindless cartoons (i.e. Spongebob, Amazing World of Gumball, etc.) that my boys watch. This time I wasn't able to get out of the living room fast enough, partly because I was curious for how the episode titled "Second Christmas" would go. In this episode 3 of the characters tried to convince the gullible member of their group that there was a Second Christmas where a Second Santa brought gifts and left them under a Second Christmas Tree. If you take everything from Christmas and add "Second" to the front of it, you have the idea of the episode. Eventually, the fifth member, and leader of the group, makes the 3 characters admit they were lying about Second Christmas. The duped character gets angry and takes it out on all 4 of the other team members, even the innocent leader who tried to warn her all along. As I sat and watched this cartoon with my boys, I couldn't help but go into "pastor mode" and think about how unprepared we are for the real Second Christmas.

Christians celebrate Christmas as a time to give gifts commemorating the greatest gift God has given to mankind, His Son, Jesus Christ, as the Savior of the world. We basically celebrate Christmas as the first coming or Advent of Jesus. But how excited are we to celebrate the Second Christmas (if you want to call it that)? How much do we look forward to the second coming of Christ, that second Advent? As believers in Christ, we should look as excitedly to the second coming of Christ as we do Christmas morning. Our hearts should be enraptured (pun intended) with the thought of the return of Christ. We should look with great expectation to the moment when God sends Christ to gather His church, His bride, from every corner of the globe for an eternity in heaven.

It is great to think about the second coming of Christ but it ought to also leave us with a longing to make sure as many people as possible enjoy it. We ought to see the sinful and depraved world around us and see the need for the Gospel to be shared so more people will enjoy that Second Christmas that most Christians look to with great expectations.

I'll end with this. In my personal bible study today the question was asked "What are some of your hopes and hesitations for Christ's "Second Coming"? To be completely honest with you I wrote my hope was "It would be soon." For my hesitation I wrote "I won't have shared the Gospel enough." I have a sneaking suspicion that those answers are pretty universal across the body of Christ. So why not get started today preparing yourself and others for the Second Christmas that will occur "in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye" (1 Corinthians 15:52, NIV). Use today as an opportunity to share the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ, with someone you know isn't prepared for His return. In the end, you will be able to celebrate with them now, at Christ's return, and for all eternity.

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Monday, December 21, 2015

Merry Xmas!

Every day when I take my sons to school they anticipate a particular moment with great expectation. They wait for the morning show on 106.9 The Light to share the Daily Nugget of Knowledge. This is a bit of trivia that generally gives you a new perspective about some mundane aspect of life or tells you something new that you didn't know. The boys are frustrated if they miss it because we get to school to early and will ask me to tell them after school what the trivia was about. Once when my wife took them to school they made her record it on her phone for them to listen to later. One day last week the Daily Nugget of Knowledge had to do with Christmas. Well, actually it had to do with Xmas.

A Christmas Postcard from 1910.
The interesting thing they shared about Xmas is that the use of Xmas rather than Christmas isn't some new secular way of trying to rid the world of the name Christ. I was a little surprised because I had never heard the real reason people used Xmas instead of Christmas. So I did a little research to make sure what I had heard was right. Come to find out that the abbreviation of Xmas has been used since as early as 1551. The reason "X" is used is because the first letter in the Greek word Christ is an "X" shaped Greek letter called "Chi" (pronounced like the ki in kite). The use of the "X" is an abbreviation of the name Christ and has for centuries represented Christmas, rather than some secular attempt to remove Christ from Christmas.

Now I realize there are Christians who, regardless of the explanation of why the "X" is used, will still say its not right and that the world is trying to remove Christ from Christmas. The world (those who don't know Christ) are not trying to remove Christ from Christmas because they don't celebrate Christ's birth to begin with. They celebrate an opportunity to spend time with family and a time to give gifts to each other. So forget the advertisements that use Xmas instead of Christmas and realize that the world is not gathering to celebrate the birth of Christ like Christians do. The important thing we as Christians need to do is to share Christ with those who do not know Him so they can celebrate Christmas for the right reasons. That is our calling. Not to get our feathers ruffled over red cups at Starbucks and department stores saying Happy Holidays. We gather with our families to celebrate the birth of our Savior at Christmas. Our next greatest desire should be to see other families doing the same where they once did not.

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Monday, December 14, 2015

How fake are you?

Saturday I had the opportunity to minister to families in Bluefield, WV through a partnership our church has with a church in that community. As always, I enjoyed talking with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. As lunch was wrapping up, I stood in the kitchen area talking to two of the men that serve in that church. As we talked we jumped to various topics like work, sports, and family. Then as the topic changed to faith one of the men made an interesting comment. He made a comment (my paraphrase) about how people think that Christians are supposed to be uptight and stuffy people and made the motions with his hand as if he were tightening a tie around his neck. We continued our conversation about how it did no good to be fake with people and how those outside of the faith only benefit from Christians being real with them.

Being fake is nothing new to the Christian faith. Peter faked not knowing Jesus as He was being tried and since the earliest days of the church we've seen believers putting on masks. Don't believe me? When was the last time your pastor or someone at church asked you on a Sunday morning "How are you?" and you answered honestly? Now we all have problems and issues we'd rather not air to the public but there is a difference between being fake and keeping things private. When the world sees us are they seeing someone who pretends to have it all together or someone willing to admit their struggles.

I am borrowing from the Casting Crowns song here but our world can see past the "Stained Glass Masquerade" that most Christians put on. They see what we are like outside of church, away from our Christian friends, and when its just us or our family. We aren't fooling anyone, other than maybe ourselves. What the world needs is authenticity. They need honesty. They need Christians to put down the masks and quit pretending to be something that they're not. They need to see people who have struggled with the same issues as them and triumphed because of the One they follow. They need to see people willing to admit their shortcomings and, yes, even their sins, so they can hear about the forgiveness offered by God. When we are real with the world around us that does not know Christ, it gives them a glimpse of Him. Hopefully our authenticity will help lead them into a relationship with Him. So the real question today is maybe not "How fake are you?" but instead "How real are you?"

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Monday, December 7, 2015

Do you look like your Father?

Last Tuesday I was on the phone at my parent's house and walked into a spare bedroom so I could hear what was being said. While in there I noticed my mom's old photo albums on a shelf and randomly pulled one down to look at after I got off the phone. Just so happens I picked up the one my mom had used for my pictures as a kid. I found a picture and on Thursday I posted the picture to my Facebook page for Throwback Thursday. The picture (right) was of me and my dad at my grandparent's home about 1983. When I posted the picture I didn't think much of it other than it was an old picture and one of a few where my dad still had his beard. What was interesting was that many people commented on how much I looked like my dad. I've never noticed it before but there is a good resemblance there. I just hope I age as well as he has. All the comments about the resemblance had me asking both my mom and Misty, "Do I really look like my dad?"

When it comes to our walk with God that should be the question we ask ourselves regularly. We should ask ourselves "Do I look like my Father?" Ephesians 5:1 says, "Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children..." (NIV). Our lives should reflect, resemble, and imitate the characteristics of our heavenly Father. We ought to exude love and compassion for others. We should stand on principles that reflect righteousness and justice. We need to extend grace and mercy to those who do not deserve it and even those who do not want it. We ought to pursue purity and holiness that resembles the holiness of God. Our goal should be that when others look at us they see a great reflection of our heavenly Father in us. As children of God there can be no greater complement than someone saying we look like Him.

My encouragement to you today is to ask that question of your self, "Do I look like my heavenly Father?" Be sure your answer is an honest evaluation of the situation. If you do look like Him, then keep up the good work. If you don't look like Him, what do you need to change? Whatever your situation, do what you need to do to imitate God. By trying to look like your heavenly Father you'll find it is a great way to bring glory to Him and lead others to Christ.

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