The “War on Christmas”- Almost Laughable!

I, like many, have been hearing a lot about this “war on Christmas” lately. It seems that for the past several years, this topic almost dominates the social and even political conversations that go on in our society. Everyone from the President of the United States to the fellas at the barber shop is talking about how there is a “war on Christmas”!

After searching though the search engines of the internet to see what might be being said about all of this, and you know that what is on the internet is always trustworthy, I found an enormous amount of political debate about the meaning of Christmas and what should and should not be acceptable forms of celebration during Christmas, often referred to know as the Winter Season or Winter Holidays.

Since I am a Christian and a Preacher, I suspect that most would expect this blog post to be the typical defense against the attack or “war on Christmas”. Well, I am quite sure that most will be disappointed by this post if that is the case.

The entire idea of a “war on Christmas” is almost laughable if you ask me. Especially when looked at from the perspective of the believer, those who call themselves Christian. The Christian is a person who is confident in the truth about Jesus being the Christ. The Christian is a person who is sold out to the absolute truth about the birth of Jesus to the virgin Mary for the purpose of giving Himself as the sacrifice for the sins of all.

For the Christian, the responsibility and expectation given to them as disciples of Jesus is to show the World what God has done in your life. This is how the Christian is to be the witness. Many times in the accounts of the Bible when a person was healed they went everywhere telling everyone about what Jesus did for them! This is what it means to be the witness to the world for the Kingdom of God!

It is not the Christian’s responsibility to prove that God exists. It is not the Christian’s responsibility to prove that Jesus is the Christ. God does not need our proof. It was Jesus Himself that provided evidence to Saul on the road to Damascus.

It was Jesus all throughout the gospel of John that provided proof of His Lordship to the Pharisees and the rest of the Jews. It was God who raised Jesus from the dead and proved to the entirety of existence that He Is!

No, the Christian’s role in the Kingdom of God is to bring glory to the King! We do that by being faithful to what we believe about Him and His plan of salvation to all who likewise believe! Love God and Love people. That is what is to be focused on!

For the Christian, loving God is all about worshiping Him and serving Him as ambassadors! Part of that is taking time to stop and acknowledge that thousands of years ago, a baby was born as a fulfillment of God’s promises! Acknowledging that without this baby, who was God in the flesh, there is no hope for humanity as far as any relationship with our Holy God!

Too many of us are spending all of our time trying to force others who are not believers to accept our ways or traditions at Christmas. I mean, really! Look at Daniel for example; here is a man who was taken from his home, culture, and even an attempt to change his religion/faith was attempted.

Did he put out a bunch of news flyers about a “war on Christianity”? No! He simply continued to be faithful to what he believed about his God. Sure, he was ready to “defend” his actions, although I would look at that as being prepared to give reason for your beliefs!

Where did this idea of a “war on Christmas” begin anyway. Surely the rest of the world is experiencing the same type of social and cultural debates about Christmas and even Christianity. Let me suggest that what is now called the “war on Christmas” is indeed the same as what is referred to as “the war on Christianity”. This has been happening since Adam and Eve were lied to and gave into temptation!

The enemy, Satan NOT PEOPLE, has always been trying to destroy God and the ones that He loves! A few headlines in the news are saying that Donald Trump is winning the war on Christmas, and that we are once again allowed to say “Merry Christmas”. Other articles and blogs show that Henry Ford began a campaign against Christmas in defense of Jewish and other religious holidays being left out back in the 50’s.

As long as we are pointing fingers, why don’t we say that the “war on Christmas” was started by King Herod during the time of Jesus’ birth found in Matthew chapter 2. Or we could blame the King of Egypt who sought to kill all the male babies which, had he been successful, been the end of God’s plan of salvation!

As long as we are blaming, we would have to look at every person who stood in the way of or tried to stand in the way of the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus! This is why I say that this so-called “war on Christmas” is laughable. What is happening in society today is nothing new! God’s true enemies have been trying to stop His plans since the beginning of the world! It is a hopeless pursuit on their part.

Let me finish by pointing this out. The only real war that is going on is the war against the faith of human beings. The battle field is in the minds of each person, and the heart/soul be the spoils to the victor!

Therefore, Christian, do not be fooled by the ways of the world as those ways broadcast some absurd propaganda intended to lead everyone to believe that any one person or group of people have the power to change any part of the absolute truth about Christ! NO! Christmas and your celebration of it, is totally up to you!

Our President, the President of the USA, can publicly give society permission to say “Merry Christmas” or some other person which the world gives authority can instruct society NOT to say, “Merry Christmas”. It will not change how I celebrate Christmas.

I personally do not hold ill feelings toward anyone who does not believe what I believe about God. Nor am I offended by anyone who even protests my faith. No, I feel compassion and concern for them. No, it is not that I have no concern about others being offended by my actions, yet when it comes to how I and my household love God and love people, yes, there is a limit to my participation in the manners in which society seems to demand of all of us.

“If it is disagreeable in you sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will sere: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”                                Joshua 24:15

Christian, do not let the world dictate what you are about at Christmas or any other time. The only way to truly have a Merry Christmas is to love God and love people in a way that honors God and brings glory to the Kingdom of God!

To Give or Not to Give- That is a Good Question

 “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”  John 13:35 (NASB)

Often times in bible studies and just casual conversation, I hear people bring up the topic of discerning when to give to those who ask. Usually this question refers to those who are seen on the street holding the cardboard sign which is intended to explain their situation. Other times, people will call or arrive at the church office wanting some assistance with something.

I personally believe that this “dilemma” is born out of a torn heart. Many Christians genuinely want to help those in need. I mean, if we are genuine Christians, then it would be in our hearts to show love and compassion for the needy. On the other hand, Christians are people and people don’t like to be taken advantage of. When it does happen, and it seems to happen often, it king of leaves a bad taste in our mouths.

Some respond by cutting off all benevolence to anyone, after all that would only be fair and safe, right? Others take the attitude that they will just give what they can always, leaving the receiver in God’s hands. Many leadership meetings at churches have been spent discussing this matter. Ultimately, churches and Christians alike really want to help those in need and minister to them, yet at the same time do not wish to be taken advantage of and allow some to steal from them.

As I address this issue, let me make it clear that I personally to not have a concrete, “this is what to do” answer. What follows is just my two cents. I pray that it is helpful.

First, we see in John 13:35, among many other places in Scripture that the Christian is one who loves others. In fact, that is how we are to be distinguished from the rest of the world. Jesus even taught that we are to love God and love others. I will submit that loving God and loving others is not something that the Christian strives to get better at and achieve, rather it is what is in us. It is who we are.

The Christian is one whom in the Holy Spirit has taken up residence. Even though the trinity cannot be explained completely, we can know that the three are one. Therefore, since God is love,

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.     1 John 4:7-8  (NASB)

and the Spirit of God is God, then we can conclude that love is in the believer. This is why the Christian has this “dilemma” in our hearts when it comes to showing love and compassion to those who present themselves in need. I think that the first point of focus would be with self. We Christians would do good to ask ourselves, who is making the decision as to whether or not a person is genuinely in need or not?

The question that we usually ask ourselves almost immediately is, does this person really need help? Or, is this person being honest, or are they just making up a story to get the help they are asking about? My not so favorite one that some have asked is, how do I know they won’t go buy drugs or alcohol with what I give them?

To 99% of the people in the world, it seems that those questions are legitimate questions. However, for the Christian, we must remember that since the Spirit of God is living in us, our approach may be different. I am not saying that it is wrong to think about those questions, however, I am saying that they should not be out guide to reach the conclusion to the “dilemma”.

Second point. I do not think that the Christian is “obligated” to give to everyone who presents a need. The scripture is clear that we are to help others when we have opportunity and the means. Along with that, I will submit that the Christian has a responsibility to be good stewards of that which God has entrusted in their care.

I do not believe that God desires for the Christian to be taken advantage of. Nor do I believe that God desires the Christian to be taken for a fool. After all, we are ambassadors for the Kingdom of God to this world. We must look at benevolence of any kind as an investment. An investment in the work of the Kingdom of God.

Jesus taught a lesson using a parable about a wealthy man leaving his wealth in the care of three men. Each having the same responsibility. Two were successful, the other failed. The two that succeeded increased the wealth of the Kingdom because they feared their master and thought to do what he would want them to do. The third, on the other hand, was more afraid of failure than the master. He did what he thought was best and did not consider what the master would have him do.

The same is true here for the Christian. The Master, our Lord, has given us His valuables. We have the responsibility to be stewards of that wealth. That wealth, by the way, is His love, the gospel of Christ, Salvation. This should lead us to the question, why does the scripture teach us to give when we can give?

I often try to insert into those conversations about this matter the answer to that question. At least what I believe to be the answer. It is two-fold really. First, but not foremost, the scripture teaches us to give because that is what love is. If love resides in a person, then compassion will rise to the surface. Second, and foremost, the scripture tells us to give because of John 13:35. The world will know the Christian because of the way we love.

As far as knowing when not to give or be taken advantage of. I often think about Acts chapter 3.

“But Peter said, “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—walk!”               Acts 3:6 (NASB)

Here Peter and John were presented with a man in need. It so happened that this man had a genuine need. However, they did not give the man what he asked for. Instead, they invested in the Kingdom of God by giving him what was most valuable. The result was that the crippled man encountered God and the world around them was impacted greatly by the witness! If you don’t believe me, go read it for yourself.

The point that I am getting at here is this. There are times to give and there are times not to give, that is when it comes to the things of this world. When it comes to giving the love of God, there is never a time not to give. For the Christian, the key is to seek guidance from the Master. “What would Jesus do?” even though that has become a cliché, it still rings true.

The letter to the Galatians instructs us to keep in step with the Spirit. That means that we are not making the decisions. I know, that is hard to accept, but it is the way the Master set in place. The Holy Spirit will guide us away from poor investments with the Master’s wealth, and make us aware of the good investment opportunities for the Kingdom of God.

I hope I have explained this well enough that you all can see that it is a matter of making disciples in everything we do. We help the needy in hopes that they will encounter God and His Kingdom, whether they are Christians or not. We help the Christians who are in need for the purpose of getting them back in the Kingdom work force, and we help those who are not Christians for the purpose of exposing them to the love of God! So, we must seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit when it comes to helping the needy in this world.

Oh, one last thing. God does not expect nor desire anyone to become needy for the sake of helping those in need. Give what you can, when you can. If you have not the means, seek the Lord for other ways to help. Peter and John told the crippled man, “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give you.” Acts 3:6. If we genuinely have the Spirit of God living in us, then we always have something to give.

We should offer that whether it is received or not.

 

The Spirit of Christmas- is it really in the air?

““The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭1:23‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Over the generations that Christmas has been celebrated, many times the “Spirit of Christmas” has been mentioned, talked about, or even taught about. There have been stories and books written, even movies made about the “Spirit of Christmas”.

The question might be, what is the “Spirit of Christmas”? Furthermore, is it the same for everyone or is it something that means something different for every individual? I think you will find that there are many answers offered and opinions given, whether called for or not.

Since I am a Christian, it should be obvious that my answer to the general question would be that the “Spirit of Christmas” has to do with the presence of Jesus. After all, Matthew’s gospel points out that they called Him Immanuel, which means “God with us”. The presence of God is what every Christian should be experiencing even when it is not Christmas. For those who are not Christians, well let me just point out that God’s presence is always there, one only need to surrender to Him.

““Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.””
‭‭Luke‬ ‭2:14‬ ‭NIV‬‬

We can see in the gospel of Luke as the Angels spoke to the Shepherds about the birth of Jesus. Notice that they are promised that on earth there will be peace to those on whom his favor rests. It is kind of an amazing thing to notice. The peace of Christ being given to those who will notice it. Those who believe that Jesus is the Christ and that His death and resurrection were sufficient for the sins of man!

If asked, there are not many people in this world who would say that they do not want peace. Since Christmas is about the birth of Jesus in the flesh, it makes sense that there would be a keen awareness of His peace or His Holy Spirit during the time of celebrating His birth. After all, it marked the beginning of the fulfillment of God’s promise in chapter 3 of Genesis.

It seems that during Christmas time, after Black Friday, and the hustle and bustle of what the season has become in our society, on Christmas Day, everything seems to slow down. Most everything is closed up, many people are in their homes with their families and nothing else is happening but Christmas fellowship and eating stuff.

It is no wonder that many people feel an extra strong sense of the “Spirit of Christmas”! That Spirit of Christmas is simply the peace of Christ and the comfort in knowing that indeed there is a Savior provided by God! Only if we all could be so attentive to that Spirit those other 364 days of the year!

Now, I realize that not everyone believes what I believe to be the truth about Jesus and Christmas. I realize that Christmas for those, has some other meaning. I cannot possibly fathom what that could be or that it would have any real meaning for them. However, this is the case for many. I will say, the fact that there are people who do not believe that Jesus is the Christ and do not celebrate Christmas for what it truly is about, does not change the truth about God or Jesus born in the flesh. It certainly does not change the presence of God and His Kingdom in this world.

Maybe, the truth of the matter is that people all over the world are experiencing the presence of God , or the “Spirit of Christmas”, in a powerful way during the Christmas time, some realizing that it is God’s Holy Spirit and others completely oblivious or rejecting the truth. Either way, for the Christian, it is one of the best times to let the light of Christ shine brightly in our lives! After all, what a better time to be the witness than the time when many people are noticing what is referred to as the “Spirit of Christmas”!

Merry Christmas ya’ll!

“And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”
‭‭Colossians‬ ‭3:14-16‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Life is Short- You Do Not Have to Die!

Life happens. Not only does it happen, but it happens really fast. One day we are making plans for the future for ourselves as well as our families. It seems that we are keeping up with the pace of life. That is, as long as everything goes according to plan.

We all have dreams, plans, and maybe aspirations. Some have extreme motivation to chase after them, others not so much. Either way, when we get momentum behind our life’s plan, we tend to believe that life is good and we are on our way to meet our goals and desires for our lives.

Who we are and who we become in life greatly depend on the things that happen to us and around us. Also, the consequences of decisions and choices along life’s path. Let’s not forget that the people we choose to be around also affect who we are and become. Finally, our beliefs and worldview impact the course of life.

Generally, we live our lives according to the plans that we make and sometimes make adjustments along the way. Some are better at this than others. When life is playing out as we have planned, we say “Life is good”, or even “God is good”. Yet when these plans derail or seem to change against our will, we struggle to adjust. We tend to panic, stress, or even give up on the plan.

The fact is, even though we all have free will to make choices in this life, there are some things to which we have no say. Many people like to say, “no one has to do anything but pay taxes and die.”. I would disagree with that, no one really has to pay taxes. We have the freedom to choose not to pay and suffer the consequences. However, being born and dying are in fact the two things that no one can choose.

Really, only being born is what we do not have choice in. Many have chosen to take their own life. In that regard, I guess that dying would be a choice, although not usually an option for people. The reality of it all is, people generally do not get to know how many days will be given them, only God knows some things.

“Now listen, you who say,  “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “if it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”                                 James 4:13-15

It is real easy to get caught up in living life and fail to recognize the value of it. People have been living in this world for thousands of years. Each of them living the life that was theirs. All of us have been given life by the creator. God is the one who created life and breathed breath into man. Living our lives without acknowledging Him as Lord is foolish!

People these days generally live no more than 100 years. Most live to be in their 70’s or 80’s. Even though that seems like a long time on the calendar, it is not much time at all in the grand scheme of things. The bigger point here is that on one is promised another day. Life happens.

It is important that we all look at what is the most important thing. That is, what goes on beyond this life. What the Christian believes is that there is eternal life. A choice is to be made. Will that time be spent in the presence of God? Or, will that time be spent separated from God forever? The time that goes on after life in this world is eternal and will not change.

For those who do not believe in life after death, well then it is important to make good use of the time you have in this life. It does not change the fact that life is short. It does not change the fact that death can come at any time. Either way, whatever the belief is, it seem foolish for a person to ignore the fact that death can come at any time.

I am not sharing this to scare anyone or to be a gloom and doom kind of person. I am sharing this because it is important that people acknowledge that life is short and that we are not promised tomorrow. Maybe it will help us to slow down and notice what we are missing.Maybe it will help us to get off our hind parts and start living life the way God intended it to be lived! Either way, the opportunity to have confidence in the eternity that happens after this life is over is there.

Yes, the gospel. It is the most important, most urgent piece of information in existence. The message that all people have fallen short of God’s glory and need a savior to pay the debt owed to this Holy God. That message that says that Jesus is that Savior and anyone who believes that it is true can be with God for eternity!

“”Therefore let all Israel be assured of this; God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off- for all whom the Lord our God will call.””

– Acts 2:36-39

The bottom line is this; Life is short! You or I, or even all of us may not be given another breath. Are you confident? Are you confident in what you believe about life after a person is dead? If you believe that there is not life after death, are you positive? And, if you believe like I do, the Christian belief, that there is life after we die and there is a choice to make. Then I would ask you, are you sure that if this be your last day to live in this world, would you spend the rest of eternity in the presence of God or will it be spent for ever separated from God?

Whatever pictures or movies can be displayed about what Hell will be like, I will say that I do not pretend to know any more than what scripture describes about it. However, I will say that the worst thing about Hell is that God is not there, and it is a permanent situation!

Life is short ya’ll!

Black Friday and Christianity- Can They Go Together?

Every year on the Friday after Thanksgiving, retail stores begin their Christmas sales. They are offering low prices for all of the things that most likely will be on everyone’s list. Resulting in mobs of people waiting hours outside the stores, sometimes in freezing cold or rainy weather.

Once the doors open at midnight, it is on! The mad rush of the mob is unleashed and it is every man or woman for themselves. This is madness as its peak in some places. People acting in ways that they would never even think of acting any other time of the year.

Women staying up through the night, not even painting the barn (putting on makeup). From store to store, checking off items from their lists as they go. Filling one cart and tying it to a second in order to continue taking advantage of the great deals that are offered. All so that their families can have the best Christmas ever!

As I am typing out this blog, I myself am thinking about some things I want to buy. I myself prefer to do most of my shopping online. Especially on Black Friday. But that is just me. Others may see it as a time to share in an experience with a family member or maybe be able to afford some things that otherwise would not be able to.

As with everything, there are pros and cons. But the question I present here is, is Black Friday for the Christian? Can a Christian take advantage of the sales and at the same time, refrain from some of the aggressive, selfish, mean, and more than competitive activities that go on over some of the items in the stores?

As I stated before, Black Friday shopping is not my thing. However, that does not mean that that is my answer to the question at hand. The way I see it, if a Christian can stand in line in the cold, race around each store, stay up all throughout the night, max out credit cards or spend the entire Christmas budget, and still donate to Fill The Boot when the fire department is standing at the traffic light raising money for Muscular Dystrophy. Then by all means, knock yourself out! Not literally.

The Christian must keep in mind that at all times, the Spirit of God is to be our guide and we are to keep in step with the spirit. In all things we do, we must be led by the Spirit to present a proper witness for the Kingdom of God, even when there is only one ipad pro left on the shelf and 37 people are reaching for it at the same time.

How does the Christian maintain the proper witness in that situation? I don’t know, as I said before, I do not go to the stores on Black Friday. This is why we must be led by the Spirit. Some might ask themselves, “what would Jesus do?”. To answer that question, we would have to answer the  question as to whether or not Jesus would participate in Black Friday shopping.

I will say however, that the Christian cannot simply disconnect from living in this world. Part of Jesus’ prayer in chapter 17 is that God will spare us from the evil in this world. Not that we would be removed from this world. Therefore we must keep in step with the Spirit!

I personally do not see scripture condemn shopping on the Friday after Thanksgiving day. Nor do I see any scripture forbidding us from taking advantage of sales and being wise about spending the money provided by the Lord. Yet, I will leave you with this portion of scripture which I hope will be helpful as the season goes on;

“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is  not in them. For everything in the world-the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life-comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. 

1 John 2:15-17

 

Skipping Church for the Holidays

Here it is, once again. It is the time that people begin to travel and meet with family to celebrate Thanksgiving. Plenty of food, fun, and work! Most of us tend to eat way too much food and some even drink way too much drink. However, for many, together with Christmas, this time of year is special.

If you are like most, these times can also be very busy and cost way too much money. Family members arriving from wherever they live. The stress level many times goes sky-high. Everything must be just right, after all, family does not always get together.

And then there are some families that do not look forward to these times. Some families do not enjoy being around other family and sometimes life has caused things to be unpleasant. But each year they go through the motions.

Thanksgiving is a National Holiday here in the United States of America. It is not a Christian Holiday or any religious Holiday. Christmas on the other hand is very much a Christian Holiday! But, that is another blog post so stay tuned for that one.

Getting to the point. It seems that the preachers and Elders of the churches have some of the same conversations around this time of the year. This conversation is centered around how many people attend or do not attend church services on the Sundays before and after both of these holidays.

It is expected that people will be traveling. Because of this, the attendance numbers will either be larger than usual or lower than usual. It all depends on who does the travelling. The mystery lies in whether or not those who attend church regularly, will attend church while traveling or not. Within that question, another question needs to be answered.

It seems to be a two-sided coin when it comes to getting any conclusion to the question. The church leaders have come to expect that numbers will either be high or low on these holiday Sundays. But they do not have to be so drastic.

The first side of the coin. Previously, I mention the question of whether or not people who normally attend church, do so when they are travelling. Although I have no statistics, I would say that the majority, more than 50%, do not. Those that do attend while travelling, usually do so because the people they are visiting also attend church. Therefore, it would be easy for them to attend.

However, many of those people who are not visiting other people find it easy just to skip going to church for that Sunday. After all, they only have so many days of traveling and want to make the most of it. This is why I guess about 50% of regular church attended who travel will attend church while traveling.

The second side of the coin. This side of the coin deals with those who travel as well as those who do not travel during these holidays. First, there are those who travel and visit family, friends or others who are not church goers. Many of these people find it difficult to attend church when those that they are visiting do not. It can get a bit awkward. Although it really should not be, it is.

I will get back to them. The second point about this side of the coin is about those regular church attenders who do not travel for the holiday season but have visitor at their home. Again, there is an awkward situation which occurs when family, friends, or others have traveled to visit but are not church goers. So, they skip church for the sake of not having to have the conversation with their guests.

Both of these situations are the same situation. It comes down to having the conversation about who we are as Christians and either feeling like we are being rude or offensive by inviting our guests to church or leaving them for the hour that it takes to go to church, or actually being a witness to what it means to be a Christian and allowing the world, the guests, to see how important your faith is.

Let me just point out that it is not sinful to skip church on Sunday. Do not think that I am trying to make that statement. This blog post is simply an effort to bring out some truths that I think should at least be thought about, if not talked about within our homes and churches.

The reality is that if the Christian did a better job of prioritizing their relationships with God and taking every opportunity to worship God and be His witness, especially to those who are not believers or church goers, then the church attendance conversation between church leadership circles would not be such a big conversation.

Sure, because people will travel and others will not be able to attend even if they wanted to, there would still be an influx of attendance, high and low. The real dilemma is about the proper witness that the body of Christ is putting out into the world. Or is it really what it sometimes looks like. The Christians put God first always, unless it is uncomfortable or is inconvenient.

“…let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encourage one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”   Hebrews 10:24-25 (NASB)

This blog post is intended to be a reminder and an encouragement. That all of us who are believers, Christians, would do everything we can to be the best witness and bring honor and glory to God during this Thanksgiving and Christmas. Ultimately God knows our hearts.

I pray that God will bless you all and that this Thanksgiving will be memorable and sweet for each of us. Blessings to you all!

“Me and God have church by ourselves”- Do Christians Have to Go to Church?

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭10:23-25‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Over my time in full-time ministry, I have had many conversations with a number of people about going to church. These conversations centered around many aspects, ranging from availability due to work schedules, physical ability or lack there of, and my favorite being “Me and God do our own thing on Sundays”.

Now, I know that there are many other ways that this conversation goes between the Preacher/Christian and others. The one I am focusing on here is the idea presented about whether person must go to church to be a Christian.

First, let me make it clear that it is a fact that there are people who work on Sunday mornings. It is a fact that there are plenty who cannot physically get out or come to church. It is also a fact that there are countless individuals who would love to be at church on Sunday as well as be involved with what a congregation is doing as a whole!

Let’s put all of those aside for the moment. What I am dealing with here is the idea that a person who would say that they are a Christian and also stands in the position that he or she does not “need” to attend church. That they and God do their own thing and that is good enough.

It would seem that the question at hand then would be, “does a person have to go to church to be a Christian?” To that question, I would say that going to church does not make you a Christian. But that is not the question really, is it?

When a person presents the idea, “me and God do our own thing”, the real issue is being presented in a subtle manner. What this person is really doing is challenging or daring the Preacher or whoever else, to question their salvation based on the fact that they do not go to church. It really is a defense tactic because usually the person is asked if they would like to attend church or the Preacher mentions church.

The core of the problem is that people, church goers as well as non-church goers have a misunderstanding of the purpose of attending church or being a part of the ministry of the church. The church goer sees it as evidence that a person is saved, where the non-church goer sees it as a test of their salvation or belief. This is why this conversation is such a problem in the Kingdom of God today.

The real question that church goers should be asking themselves and others is, “do I/you know Jesus?”. At the same time the real question that non-church goers should be asking themselves is “do I really know Jesus?”. If everyone would focus more on this question, the church attendance conversation would be non-existent.

As was presented at the beginning of this blog post, Hebrews chapter 10 gives us some insight into what this Christian life is to be about. In verses 23-25 we can see that words like “hold fast”, “stimulate one another to love and good deeds”, and “not forsaking our own assembling together”, which draw a picture for the believer and the “Church”.

The picture that is drawn for the believer here is that of community. A picture of people who although are different in many ways, share life together. Just as we can see all throughout the book of Acts, every time the believers shared life together in work, prayer or fellowship, God blessed them and their numbers grew!

God, the creator, does not make mistakes. He has created human beings to need fellowship. He created a mate for Adam because He knew that is is not good for man to be alone. Jesus’ death and resurrection is all about restoring fellowship and unity! I know, many thought is was about God letting people go to heaven as apposed to going to hell. Yes, that is true, but it is a very surface level understanding of the work of the cross. Not to mention a little bit selfish.

The truth is, you and I are offered grace, forgiveness, and reconciliation by the blood of Christ not primarily because we need a Savior. NO! All of that happened so that God would be glorified! Only God could take what is broken and make it whole again! Only God can take the rebellious soul and administer consequences and yet spare the law-breaker!

No, Jesus was born in the flesh, gave His life brutally on a cross, and then God the Father raised Him from death so that all of creation and all the universe would know that He indeed is Lord of it all! Oh, and by the way, because He loves His creation, that’s you and I, we get to experience the blessings that come with His glory and Lordship!

So, maybe it really is a question of salvation. Scripture tells us that those who believe would “Repent, and each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:38-39. This goes together with chapter 17 of the gospel of John. We can read there that Jesus Himself prayed to the Father that the believers would be one with Him as He is with the Father. He prayed for unity in the body of Christ.

All who are genuinely saved are a part of the body of Christ. It is the same Holy Spirit living within each of them. So, when James teaches that the prayer of a righteous man is powerful, I cannot believe that here is a more powerful prayer than that of Jesus our Lord!

Therefore, it would be logical and actually expected that those who are believers, those saved by the blood of Christ, would be united! As we grow spiritually along the way, our desires fade away and the desires of the Holy Spirit begin to be dominant in our hearts. All of this should take us back to our original question. Must a person go to church to be saved?

I will conclude with this answer. A person does not get saved by attending church. That would be a work and we are not saved by works. However, if a person is genuinely “saved” by faith in the blood of Christ through repentance and baptism, and the Spirit of God is living within them, then would we not desire the fellowship of the body of Christ? After all, that was our Lord’s Prayer in chapter 17 of John.

No it is not a sin to work on Sunday. No it is not a sin to miss church service. However, if a person is a true believer, there would be a desire to be a part of the body of Christ. Notice, I still have not said that there should be a desire to go to church on Sunday. That is because there is more to being a part of the church than going to church on Sunday morning.

If a person works on Sunday morning or is unable to physically attend worship service and there is that desire to be a part of the body of Christ, they will find a way. People generally do what they want to do.

Most church congregations hold worship services on Sunday morning. Many have other times of worship such as Sunday evening, Saturday evening, and even on Wednesday evening. So there really is no excuse. After all, that really is all that it is, an excuse. Aside from worship services, there are bible studies, outreach programs, evangelism, and much more that the body of Christ is doing.

So, it really is not about going to church on Sunday morning. It is more about knowing God in such a way that not only allows a person to be reconciled to Him in spite of that person’s rebelliousness against Him, but also to know Him in a way that the person’s desire is to be a part of the body of Christ, the Kingdom of God.

Ultimately, a Christian will have an overwhelming desire to surrender to a life of participation in the body of Christ and glorifying a Holy God!

I pray that we all have the desire to be a part of the body of Christ! Oh, the answer that you might be looking for from me is, NO! No, you cannot be a Christian and not be a part of the body of Christ.

“Know that the Lord is God”- Be contagious this Thanksgiving

“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭100:1-5‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Here we are just a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving 2018. If you are like me and my family, it seemed kind of fast and filled with lots of change along the way. It is inevitable you know? Change. Whether we like it, invite it, or even see it coming, change will happen. I mean for example, just the other day I was talking with a young teenager and referred to him as “sonny” and no one looked at me funny!

As you may already know, I am currently preaching a series of sermons on being thankful and living a life of gratitude. While preparing those messages, I often think about the various gospel songs and hymns which sing about being thankful and how much there is to be thankful for.

Often times, the preacher gets to a point where he and maybe even his family just need to sit back and go to church. I mean, it is nice once in a while for the preacher just to hear the sermon with the rest of the church.  As much as I love to preach, this past October I was blessed to sit back and listen for a few days.

Our church held revival for two nights and a Sunday morning in the middle of October 2018. Mr. Aaron Davis of Eastern Pines Church of Christ in Pikeville,Ky delivered the preaching. We also had some great worship with great prayer and music each service time!

I have always been one who believes and peach that God will give me what I need when I need it. Brother Aaron brought powerful preaching with excitement and challenges! As he preached, he continuously referred to Psalm 100:1. “Shout for Joy to the Lord, all the earth.” Each time he referred to that part of scripture, he would let out a loud “WOOOOO!” Eventually, others would catch on.

Yes, that is correct. This preacher had our Conservative Independent Christian Church congregation getting loud during church! Even though the messages stayed close to the basics of the gospel message, they were powerful and exciting. Just what our congregation needed.

Also, just what this preacher needed! Sometimes we all can get to the point where we are living life and working so hard for the Lord that we can forget that there are some absolutes that are never going to change. That is not to say that people generally forget about Christ on the cross or His power and grace, but that we can get distracted from it.

I personally believe that emotions and attitudes are contagious. All it takes is one or two excited people, genuinely excited, to enter a room full of people and energize the room. Anyone who has been with other people who simply cannot stop laughing will understand what I mean.

There are two people especially that I know that come to mind when it comes to contageous joy and laughter.  One being a super awesome and Godly Lady who worked as the secretary of a church which I was part of years ago.

All it took was to get her tickled and laughing and before you know it, everyone around also began to laugh. Another is a great man with a strong and joyful spirit who I admire greatly.

Each time I see him, no matter what is going on in my world, it is not long before I am feeling joy and laughter. He is one who is not afraid to laugh hard and loud! I would say that he is not ashamed of his joy, so much so that it fills whatever room that he occupies!

The point is this. It is easier to get up every day and look around and find everything which is wrong and hurtful. It seems a bit more difficult to start each day with gratitude and joy in our hearts and minds. For the Christian, it should be that we are the most thankful, joyful, pleasant people in the world! Easier said than done right!

Right! Unless, we are surrendered to the Spirit of God which we should have already submitted to when we confessed Christ and repented! Let me point out that I am the chief sinner when it comes to this struggle. Every day is a day of choices!

You and I, we all get to choose what kind of day we are gong to have. We all get to choose how we react to the world and what happens each day. Yes, even those who struggle with depression and similar struggles.

No one ever said that life would be easy. But we all have the choice to press on toward the goal or quit. Some days less joyful than others but there is always something to find to be thankful about, if we really want to see it!

I would encourage everyone this Thanksgiving to be that person who brings joy and laughter into the room, wherever you are. You never know who else in the room may need a boost from your joy!

Who Told You That You Were Different? – God

I  have just started preaching a Thanksgiving sermon series. Yes, it will be a longer series but that is OK. I started off in chapter 3 of Colossians. All of this book of the Bible is about how Jesus is the center of everything and holds everything together. A regular visitor to my mind appeared as I studied.

“Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him- a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.”   Colossians 3:9-11 NASB

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This regular visitor being the thoughts surrounding the differences people have and show that seems to be a great source of conflict and sin, instead of being a great source of strength and glory. Why is it? Will there be no end? Where do we start?

The fact is, people are different. Men are different than Women, Adults differ from youth and children. People are different by race, culture, religion, personality, mentally, physically, and on and on. There is nothing wrong with being different! So why is it such a problem? Why is it such a powerful tool for hate and division?

Although I do not presume to have the answers to those questions, however I may have a good place to begin, I do have some thoughts which hopefully will be of some use to others. My thoughts about this great and vast topic, which has many avenues of discussion available, ultimately lead back to what we read in Colossians 3:9-11. These verses use the words, “no distinction between”, when pointing out the differences in people.

Lately, I have had numerous conversations with others about some aspects of this topic. It is not new to me that this problem of division over people and their differences is not exclusive to the world, the church is just as guilty maybe even more so. After all, the church has no excuse. The church has the truth, in scripture, as well as the Holy Spirit. There is no excuse!

I sometimes think back to Adam and Eve. After they had disobeyed God and then realized that they were naked, they then tried to cover themselves up. For the first time, they had a real knowledge of their differences as well as a knowledge of how different they were from God Himself. It is only when God shows up and asked the question,

“Who told you that you were naked?”    Gen.3:11 NASB

What a powerful and deep question! I suspect that Adam and Eve did not even comprehend the depth of the question. Really it was a rhetorical question. God was revealing to them just how he knew that they had eaten of the forbidden tree. They should not have know that they were naked. They should not have known so deeply of their differences.

Sometimes I wonder if God does not ask His Church the same question when it comes to the divisions over race, gender, age, music, non-essential doctrine, and so on. Sometimes I wonder if God is not asking the Church and the world, “Who told you that you were different?”

According to the scripture that the church believes to be absolute truth and God breathed, it says that there is to be “no distinction” between any people. You see, it is sin that causes us to see our differences as a problem!

Too many times I myself have been involved with, worked with, or heard about churches that are filled with on type of person. Some are larger churches and still only are only filled with people of “their kind”.

Some are smaller churches who do not reach out. Many churches that are located in the middle of ripe fields of harvest, refused to grow and be used for the kingdom of God because the people who live around the church are not like them.

I have seen to many “White” churches not reaching out to other races. “Black” churches only reaching out to other people like them. Financially well off church members giving off a subtle vibe of judgement to those who might dare come and visit their church who are different. One denomination shunning others who do not like the same style of music or are not as liberal or legalistic.

I have had conversations with many people of all backgrounds and ages about how the bible says that it is a sin for a man and a women of different races or cultures to marry. Let me just say that I do not find that anywhere in the Bible.

First, I will point out that Timothy was a product of interracial marriage. Acts 16:1. Oh, and Moses married a Cushite woman. Numb. 12:1. And if anyone is going to quote old testament scripture about it, their interpretation or application is wrong, or even both.

Oh, it’s true, if someone visits the church, most will put on the church face and welcome and love them while they are there. Yet, what would happen if many people who are different come, and actually stay? The church is guilty, more times than not, of self segregation. The fact is that if the Church is going to be like Christ, than there can be “no distinction” between any person. We must reach out to all with “no distinction” without compromise or sin!

I am not saying that we should not embrace our differences. I would even go so far as to say that we should celebrate our differences in a way that brings honor and glory to God, the one who created us and allowed those differences to be!

So the next time a brother or sister in Christ makes the mistake of separating another from the fellowship due to the fact that they are not the same, be the one that is willing to help that brother or sister have a different understanding. Let’s be The Church! The Church, like Christ, makes “no distinction” between male/female, Old/young, Asian/Hispanic/Black/White/Etc…., US Citizen/visitor.

In the eyes of our Lord, there is no difference. Jesus died for all! We must ask God to help us see others the way He does!

 

“COEXIST” – My Two Cents for What It’s Worth

We do not have to travel far down the road to find the familiar bumper sticker which would seem to encourage people of all religions to “COEXIST”. For the record, I do not own nor display one of these bumper stickers or signs anywhere. However, I am in favor of getting along with all people, as far as it is up to me.

Now, having pointed that out, I will say that there seems to be some confusion about this “COEXIST” bumper sticker. Not only on the part of those who do not display it, but for those who do as well.

Where to start? Let me start with my own basic understanding of what this statement is about. I am sure that someone will correct me if I am in error. Nevertheless, my understanding is that the idea is that if people of all religions would simply get along, there would be world peace. I know it is much deeper than that, but that is the general idea.

The real thought behind the statement to “Coexist” is that no one religion has exclusive rights to “truth”. This comes from the worldview rooted in “relativism”. What is true for you may not be true for me, is how that looks. This idea seems to be an effort to create a world where everything is happy, fair, and all-inclusive for the sake of world peace.

There are two main points I would like to address, my two cents. First, I would like to submit to the world that we already coexist. If we look at the definition of the word;

1 : to exist together or at the same time
2 : to live in peace with each other especially as a matter of policy

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/coexist

The fact is that we do exist together at the same time, all of us, whether we like it or not! However, I will admit that the second offered definition, “live in peace with each other”, we have yet to master. But in a general sense, I say we already coexist.

As for my second point, I will submit that it really is not possible to “live in peace with each other”. The fact is that each person is only able to control or manage her/himself. No one can force any other person to live at peace with any other person or people! The very idea of that I would liken to North and South Korea hugging it out and then acting like nothing ever happened! I mean to force another to do something that they are not willing to do seems to be the opposite of living in peace with each other.

The idea that people of different belief systems, which many times stand in contrast with each other, submitting to the idea that every religion or belief system can be right would require everyone to compromise their belief system. I will be the first to say, as a Christian, I will not compromise what I believe to be the truth nor do I expect anyone else to. Yes, I will share my beliefs with others for the purpose of allowing them to decide for themselves if they agree or disagree.

I do however, believe that it is always an option for an individual to offer respect and kindness, even love, to their neighbor. I for one do not demand that anyone believe what I believe about truth, God, or any other worldview or idea that I hold. I do my best to treat everyone that I meet with respect, like a person who has ideas, opinions, and beliefs. It is ok, it is ok to disagree! It does not always mean hate or dislike.

The real problem with the “COEXIST” bumper stickers is that there is an insinuation, intended or not, that those who display it are the ones who are “right” and anyone who disagrees or does not function within their idea of “COEXISTING” is “wrong”. This my friends, is the epitome of hypocrisy and flies in the face of everything that it says it stand for! No one can stand and say that they are “right” without saying that someone else is “wrong”.

“”But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
‭‭Luke‬ ‭6:27-28‬ ‭NASB‬‬