Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Do you know, right now, I am actually sitting in my home with Christmas lights lit up around my window, staring outside waiting for it to snow?

Yes, I am one of those.  I have a hot cup of coffee, a couple of pieces of toast, and I want snow!  Christmas means two things to me: Christ and snow.

Now, I know, I KNOW, there probably was no snow in Bethlehem the night Jesus was born.  I get that. But you can bet that there was snow for almost every single Christmas since I have been born.  And since I take this relationship that Jesus and I have very, VERY personally, I think He is in on that whole "Let It Snow" wonderfulness of Christmas.

Back to the point of this rather random blog entry - anticipation.

So much of this season is filled with anticipation.  Mostly, you can see the anticipation for the gifts that are under the tree, or hiding in the closet, in most kids' faces.  They cannot wait to rip into the gifts and immediately text their BFF's about all the choice product they received.  It's a tradition (well, maybe not the texting, but I'm sure that is slowly becoming a part of our traditions).

There is anticipation among the cooks of the household about picking out the perfect meal and baking the best treats to stuff our bellies with.  There is anticipation among scholars and students alike as they eagerly hand in the last assignment and check-out for the winter break.

There is anticipation in the chance to see loved ones again (or maybe that is anxiety, your choice).

For me though, my greatest anticipation is the chance to say, "Merry Christmas" to someone on Christmas Day.  Now, this is not some political blog post on the horribleness of losing the word "Christmas" to the PC crowd.  I honestly could care less.  I will say, "Merry Christmas," because I celebrate Christmas and that's that.  That's Freedom of Speech 101.

Here's why I get so excited to say, "Merry Christmas."  Because I LOVE to CELEBRATE the birth of my Savior.  What a fantastic time of year!  Forget the presents, forget the food, forget the relatives, forget all the weird traditions that have attached themselves to this time of year, and remember that we say, "Merry Christmas!"  We celebrate the amazing, wonderfulness of our Savior being born.  Such a time as this, God prepared beforehand, that we might come to know who our Savior is!

And that is the wonderful thing about Christmas.  With every cheerful exclamation of "Merry Christmas!" - you, dear Christian, are given the opportunity to tell someone about your Savior.  What a fantastically, simple way to evangelize!  Merry Christmas!  Merry Christmas!  God came to earth, to save sinners - Joy CAME to the World!

It is so easy to get bogged down in the traditions of the season, to the shopping, to the gifting, to the traveling, to the weirdness of "Happy Holidays," but I want to urge you to celebrate Christmas this year.  Celebrate it for the right reason, that our Savior is born, and happily, cheerfully, exclaim "Merry Christmas" to all!

Oh, and if you love me, you can say, "Let it snow!" too.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Journey

Last week I posted a bit on thoughts of heaven.  To continue a bit in this train, I wanted to write a bit this morning about the journey and the process.  There is a fantastic hymn written by Henry Francis Lyte, called Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken.  Besides the fantastic, Anglican grammar that calls to me from these verses - it is the story of the journey to constantly follow Christ that compels me to worship when I hear/sing this hymn.

The first verse says:

Jesus, I my cross have taken,
All to leave and follow Thee;
Destitute, despised, forsaken,
Thou from hence my All shalt be.
Perish every fond ambition,
All I've sought or hoped or known;
Yet how rich is my condition!
God and heaven are still my own.

This weekend I was reminded again about the loneliness that following Christ can bring into your life.  I've seen women who choose to follow Christ even when their husbands refuse to acknowledge that He exists.  I've witnessed high school students who confess that Jesus is Lord, and then have to go home that night to parents who would rather drink themselves into oblivion than step foot into a church.  There are young children who have faith that can move mountains, when their parents merely go through the motions - thinking that if they just show up, they will be blessed financially.

It was a sermon on doubt, that reminded me all the more that I have this lonely journey in my own life.  At times it seems that no one can escape this portion of the journey.  I have yet to meet a single soul who has lived out their life following Christ and everything has been huge, wonderful, lush green hills and no valleys of despair.

This brings me to the last verse of this hymn:

Haste, then, on from grace to glory,
Armed by faith and winged by prayer;
Heaven's eternal day's before thee,
God's own hand shall guide thee there.
Soon shall close the earthly mission,
Swift shall pass thy pilgrim days,
Hope soon change to glad fruition,
Faith to sight, and prayer to praise.

This journey on the earth is hard, often times destitute, and even filled with people who forsake you.  What should we expect though?  "If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you," John 15:20b.  There are strong divisions in families, because there are strong-willed people in families.  The only thing that will bring you through these times of hardship on the journey is to focus on the fact that one day we will go from Grace to Glory.  The earthly mansions will be closed, our pilgrim days will be ended - and we will forever praise and worship in full sight of God, our Awesome Savior.  Rely on God's Hand - He is surely faithful to guide you through the valleys, even over the hills, and into our heavenly home.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Too Much Heaven on Their Minds...

10 points to the first "cool" person who knows where my blog title comes from!  Go!

Let me pose a question to you.  When was the last time you, dear Christian, marveled about heaven?  Let's get even simpler for our non-creative geeks in the room, when was the last time you simply thought about heaven?

Hopefully, it was recently, as in yesterday, or a couple of hours ago, or even minutes ago, or, "Hey, I'm thinking about it right now!"  Maybe I am starting a series here on Christian disciplines or something, but I think that it is VITALLY important to our relationships with God to reflect, think, meditate and hold strong hope in/on Heaven VERY OFTEN, if not consistently constantly.

When our minds are filled with the hope of heaven or the thought of heaven, you know what happens - we evangelize more.

When our minds are focused in on the fact that we are NOT home right now, you know what happens - we spend less money on frivolous things like Starbuck's Grande Pumpkin Spice Lattes and begin to tithe more than 10%.

When our minds are set on the wonder and amazement of a heavenly dwelling that is being prepared for us, you know what happens - we get to grasp what it means to worship God with our whole heart, mind, soul in Spirit and in Truth.

Some encouragement then, because maybe, like me, you have no idea where to start when it gets to thinking about heaven.  First, read Revelation 4-5, 19-22.  Yep, actually read that scary book at the end of your Bible.  You'd be amazed at how much you will be understand (even without a PhD in Greek).

Second, find theologians, church fathers, great pastors, who have written down their thoughts and reflections on heaven and soak it in!  Maybe you are not filled with great elocution like Augustine, Milton, Edwards, Moody, or Piper - but that is the great thing about being a member of the body of Christ!  You get to use other parts of the body for what they are made for - to uplift the rest of the body, to equip them, and to disciple them.  What a fantastic thought!

So, to begin your thoughts on heaven today, I am leaving you with a quote from none other than my personal "hero of the faith," C.S. Lewis (you probably could have guessed that).  This is from The Problem of Pain, something we should all read!  : )

"Your soul has a curious shape because it is a hollow made to fit a particular swelling in the infinite contours of the Divine substance, or a key to unlock one of the doors in the house with many mansions.  For it is not humanity in the abstract that is being saved, but you - you, the individual reader, John Stubbs or Janet Smith.  Blessed and fortunate creature, your eyes shall behold Him and not another's.  All that you are, sins apart, is destined, if you will let God have His good way, to utter satisfaction.  The Broken spectre 'looked to ever man like his first love', because she was a cheat.  But God will look to every soul like its first love because He is its first love.  Your place in heaven will seem to be made for you and you alone, because you were made for it - made for it stitch by stitch as a glove is made for a hand."

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

When it's time to let things go

Have you ever noticed that humanity has a tendency to overcommit themselves?  This being especially true in Christian circles - we feel obligated to serve others and serve in the Church, and so we sign-up for every dinner, Sunday school class, food drive, usher duty, musician duty, media duty, etc, etc, etc.  This all then adds to our already pretty full schedules, do to school, work, homework, general reading duties, television obligations (yeah, I said it), grocery shopping, the never-ending pile of laundry and dishes, etc, etc, etc.

Then let's not forget the things that we keep in our life because we just love them.  For students this could be playing on sports teams, being in a play or musical, or being a part of debate club.  For adults, we still cling to what we loved as a child - so finding a group of "old" people that wear knee braces and pound the hardwood to shoot a ball through a hoop, or participating in your local theatre guild, or being on the Board of your community's art society - WHATEVER, it's a bunch of stuff, right?

It's stuff that fills your day.  Lots and lots of stuff.  My mom, still to this day, loves to make lists of all of the things that she has to accomplish each day.  (I know now where some of my OCD comes from).  One day, when I was young, I noticed that on her list, she had written down "Make my list for tomorrow" as a thing to do.  This makes me chuckle, even to this day.

All that to say is when do we let some things go in our life?  When do we realize that enough is enough, or that maybe we should not commit to one more evening being spent out as we cling onto our past.  Not that these things aren't enjoyable, don't get me wrong - I still love to grab the old running shoes and pretend that I "got game" with a bunch of "old" people.  But I learned a long time ago that playing basketball on a scheduled basis like I did growing up won't fit into my schedule now.

Recently, I've had quite a few people come to me saying that they are having a hard time with everything.  They've added that when they are in church they rarely get anything out of it.  I ask them about their life, and the reply in each situation has been an overwhelming amount of stuff that's going on.  None of the stuff is bad, in fact, most of it brings these people joy and happiness.  But, the stress and anxiety is rising, and sure enough, God feels far away.

Can I say something?  God is NEVER far away.  That Bible that is growing dust on your shelf, is ALWAYS there.  So, my next question is always about their devotion time.  Sure enough, it's a rarity.  There just isn't enough time in the day.  And I believe them.  With the schedules that I heard about, getting up earlier isn't going to happen.  And if it does, it's only going to lead to the person getting sick, being crabby, and really not having a good time reading the Word at 4 am.

So, my question to them is when is enough enough, and what are you going to cut out?  It is so incredibly hard to admit that we can't handle the situations that we put ourselves in.  It is even harder to let things go in our life, in order to be able to build up our relationship with God.  But, it has to be done.  Sometimes maturing in our walk and journey as a Christian is realizing that our commitment to God comes before anything else that we commit to.  If you can start off your day spending time meditating on His Word, praying to Him, and seeking His face for your day, then the anxiety about the tight schedules, or all of the things that have to get done won't be so bad.  Because He is faithful - we cast our cares upon Him.

My last bit of advice to these people has been this - practice saying, "No."  Not only practice saying it, but put that practice into play.  Actually be mature enough to know when your schedule is entirely too full, and realize that maybe it is time to let some things go.  I read somewhere anyways that this world is filled with "vanity upon vanities," so what are we really letting go of anyways?  Don't worry about it - God is faithful.  I guarantee that if you put devotion to Him back in your life, you won't miss out on anything you are supposed to be a part of.  Now, if you will excuse me, I need to go check off "blog" on my list for today.  ; )

Monday, November 1, 2010

Happy Belated Reformation Day to All!

So, I literally have 5 minutes, 5 MINUTES, to express some sort of profound love for what is known in huge circles as Halloween, but in choice circles as Reformation Day.  Yesterday is quite possibly my favorite holiday (aside from Christmas Eve, that will always remain #1 with a bullet).  We celebrate Luther nailing 95 thesis to Wittenberg's church door written against the works-based salvation through the system of indulgences that was proclaimed at one time in the RCC.

Luther was not the beginning of free-form thinking that went against the papacy, but he was at such a time that it became the most widespread revolt against it - what with the moveable press taking off, the German princes wanting to stand up for themselves, and well, the near bankruptcy of the RCC.  All of these added up to one massive revolution, that was intended to be a reformation. 

I must confess, I do not have any brilliant thoughts on the subject of the Reformation, just a few questions that I want you to ponder over.  First, let's all agree that for all its original intentions, the Reformation failed.  While, saying this, you might get a little squirmy in your seat, but it's true.  Luther wanted to reform the Roman Catholic Church, not start a new church.  While, his attempt failed, I whole-heartedly agree that Luther had every right to stand firm on the truth of the Gospel.  I wouldn't be here today if he didn't. 

If you google the question, "How many Christians are there in the world?" the typical response will be that there is somewhere in the ballpark of 2.1 billion*.  The asterisk is there, always, because it is hard to define what a Christian really is.  Yep, I kid you not, being a Christian is almost undefineable for the outsider.  If you google, "How many Muslims are there in the world?" there is no asterisk.  Just a straight number.  Now, I am not suggesting that this is the fault of Luther and Reformation Day.  But, it is something to think about.  Luther and the Reformers started the ability to question the authority, especially when the authority placed itself higher than the Word of God.  This, of course, is a great thing.  But, it is a scary thing that there is no certainty now in the world's ability to define what a Christian is.  There are so many denominations, so many different practices, so many theological debates - the outsider looking in is going to be confused, and happy to place * next to our name. 

Ponder that for a moment, or a day, or a week - and ask yourself what am I doing to help Christianity not be defined with a *?  Then ask yourself, what definition am I giving it?  If it is more than the simple Gospel, that we are saved by faith through Christ alone, then we have something more to ponder, yes?