Now What?

When I was a kid, the ‘day after Christmas’ was just about the worst day of the year.

All the months of anticipation…the looking through catalogs, making my ‘wish lists’, presenting it to Santa and my Parents, then waiting…and anticipating that Christmas morning celebration…now was over.

All that was left to do was to clean up the wrapping paper, find places to put my new toys, put away the decorations…and get ready for a long winter (after all, New Year Celebrations were not that big a deal for little kids).

This made it a pretty bad day.

I must confess…as an adult…that the day after Christmas can be a bit of a letdown also. All of the fun of family, gifts, Christmas movies and songs is over, and I’m always amazed, for example, how quickly ‘Christmas music’ seems odd and out of place after the holiday.

So…what are we to do about this?

Are we left with figuring out ‘the next holiday’ to look forward to…then the next….then the next…and just ‘getting through’?

It seems to me that the key is this: What is Christmas about?

IF it’s about gifts…music…cookies and even family and friends and parties, then it’s understandable that we’re bummed and all that’s left is to put the stuff away and get ready for next Christmas.

However, IF it’s about something more–even more than ‘relationships’ with family and friends (as important as those are), then maybe that will help.

I was playing a Christmas Trivia game yesterday with my family when a question came up about December 6, the ‘Feast of Saint Nicholas’. When we discovered that the Pope essentially downgraded this day several decades ago, one of the players remarked, “Well, he’s still celebrated on Christmas–the 25th”, to which I replied “Well, all due respect to Nick, Christmas is about JESUS!” We all laughed at the obvious irony in the conversation.

But seriously…IF Christmas is about Jesus, then it really does not change at all.

Sure, we put away our decorations and clean up our wrapping paper, but Jesus does not change, and the eternal importance of our faith doesn’t change, and the mission in life that He gives us doesn’t change! We are still called to live for the glory of God, sharing the Good News of forgiveness and eternal life through faith in Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit to reflect Him more and more in our living. We are called to live our lives driven toward the kingdom of Heaven!

“Now this is eternal life: that they know you,┬áthe only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”–John 17:3

This Does Not Change!

The Light of the World is still here!

So, this Christmas, as you pack up your decor and put away your movies, let me encourage you to prayerfully consider whether your life is living for for a series of holidays and events, or whether your life is geared toward the eternal glory of God.

Talk to your kids about what it means to have Jesus with you ‘the rest of the year’.

Happy Day-After-Christmas!

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Multi-Level Reality

When I was a kid, I had a Stratego game.

A Classic table game of strategy and ‘warfare’ to defeat your enemy by capturing his flag.

A little later, my brother and I got a ‘modern equivalent’ when we received ‘Tank Battle’–another strategy game–this one with cool tank pieces–with which you tried to defeat your enemy.

Both of these were good ‘strategic thinking’ games, because they taught you to think with offense and defense–attacking and protecting–at the same time.

Yet, they each had a limitation: They were one-dimensional. They were played on a board, and only one piece could be moved on that dimension at a time.

Enter the ‘next generation’ of strategy games: Chopper Strike.

In Chopper Strike, you had 2 dimensions–the Earth and the Air.

Weapons–both offensive and defensive–needed to be deployed in both dimensions in order to defeat the enemy and win. This game was a lot more challenging because you would tend to focus on one dimension and lose track of the other. It led to vulnerability.

In real life, of course, there are many more things to be concerned about…not so much other ‘dimensions’ (I believe there’s only 3), but many ‘arenas’.

There’s the ‘relational’ arena, where we make friends, commit to family, love, forgive, grow…

There’s the ‘career’ arena, where we make our choices on ‘what to do for a living’ and try to determine Who we are, What we’re good at, Where our passions lie, then to make a living in that area.

There’s also the ‘political’ arena–which gets so much of our attention today. It is in this arena that President Trump has made a very controversial decision to remove all of our troops quickly from Syria, and to proceed with haste to do the same thing in Afghanistan. This has raised ‘red flags’ among many–even his supporters. It has even led to the resignation of a trusted member of his cabinet–General Jim Mattis.

Now, believe it or not, I’m not interested in debating that. I will not defend the move, nor will I approve it.

My purpose is to wake you up, and to challenge you to think differently–about this, about the Middle East, about the historical changes that are happening (and increasing) there…as the relate back to the 3 ‘dimensions’.

I said that I believe there are 3: Physical; Mental/Emotional; and Spiritual.

The one area we have been notoriously bad at understanding is the Spiritual dimension. I believe that is because we are generally self-centered, here-and-now thinkers who have a sinful nature and have a tendency from conception to tell God ‘no’ and go our own way.

Romans 3:23: Says, ‘”All have sinned; all have fallen short of God’s glorious standard”

Ephesians 2:1 Says “As for you, you were dead in your sins, in which you use to live when you followed the ways of this world, and the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.”

That ‘spirit who is now at work’ is satan, the devil. Jesus described him as a “liar from the beginning”…a “murderer”, and the ultimate “thief who comes to steal, kill, and destroy” everything that God is doing. (John 8:44; 10:10)

We have an enemy–not primarily a military or political one, but a spiritual one. He makes it his goal to distract, divide, and distance us from God and from one another.

He’s pretty good at it too.

Here’s the important point: We imperil ourselves–spiritually, and in every other way–if we don’t take into account the ‘spiritual’ dimension and the enemy of our souls.

We risk eternal separation from the love of our Creator, Redeemer and Friend, if we don’t deal with our sinfulness by receiving by faith the grace of God, through Jesus His Son.

…AND…we risk not seeing things in the here-and-now accurately.

For example, I am of the opinion that this move by our President is in keeping with God’s ‘big picture’ thinking. He is, after all, “The Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End” (Revelation 22:13). He (God) knows the plan. He’s working His plan. His plan is perfect.

We are part of that plan, whether consciously or unconsciously. If we’re not believers, we ignore (or even oppose) Him…yet He still uses us in His plan. If we are believers, we do our best to follow His will, His Word, and His leading…but we still must rest in the fact that He is still working out His Plan for history. We can trust His plan.

Don’t believe me?

Just take a few minutes to pray, then read Matthew 24-25; Luke 21; Ezekiel 38; Revelation 16-19; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11.Read the news–other than American news media–and see some of the moves. Think about how this move by our President–whatever his motivation–may be part of the Plan.

Don’t be so concerned with the ‘Strategic moves’ of the here and now…instead, make sure by faith, prayer, and worshipful living, that you are ready for the ‘Big Picture.

Are You Ready?

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard people say it…and how many times I have said it too…’Are You Ready...for Christmas“?

Of course, when we ask this it’s sort of a ‘superficial greeting’–similar to ‘How you doin?’ It’s polite small-talk. Friendly banter.

The answer is anything from ‘Not even close’ to ‘Just about’ to the occasional ‘Absolutely–been ready since October!’

(You just have to wonder about those people.)

As for me…I’m ‘Just about’ ready.

A couple more gifts to buy, a little prep for our Christmas Eve service (6:30 @ KCC, by the way)…some ingredients from Meijer…then ‘yes‘, I’ll be ready!

When I think about the eternal significance of what we are about to celebrate, however, I think we should slow down and ask again…at a deeper level, ‘Are You READY?

Are You Ready…to celebrate the Incarnation–The amazing fact that God (the God of Creation, Ruler of all, Sovereign over all history) became flesh and blood–like us? (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23)

Are You Ready…to acknowledge that He came in the most vulnerable form He could–a baby–to traveling parents in an amazing, miraculous way? (Luke 2)

Are You Ready…to worship ‘Immanuel–God With Us’. God who became human in order to walk our walk, talk our talk–yet to do so without any form of sin? (Hebrews 4:15)

Are You Ready… to confess your sin and selfishness to Him, to ask Him for His gracious forgiveness–through the Son, Jesus–and receive His humbling, amazing Grace? (Romans 3:23-24; Ephesians 2:1-9)

Are You Ready…to surrender your life to Him in an ongoing act of worship, acknowledging His right to rule and reign over your life, your death, your eternity…and everything in between? (Romans 12:1-2)

Are You Ready...to believe and stake your life on the fact that He is ‘The Way, The Truth, and The Life”, and that “No one comes to the Father, except by Me” (Jesus)? (John 14:6)

Are You Ready…to lovingly, persistently, graciously and boldly share the Good News about Jesus to all who will listen, praying earnestly that some will come to faith–real, transformational, Life-changing faith in Him? (2 Corinthians 5:17-20)

Are You Ready…to welcome Him back again–this time as Triumphant Lord of All–coming to vanquish the man-centered anti-christs, who seek to establish themselves as ‘rulers’ over all? (Acts 1:6-11; Matthew 23:39)

Are You Ready?

This Christmas, it’s about much more than having the lights up and the shopping done…this Christmas, let’s say it as it should be:

Are You Ready...for Jesus?