Keep Your Head Down…?

Perhaps you’ve noticed.

Today, if you put an opinion ‘out there’ that it not what the dominant cultural norm is (at least, for this week), you will get attacked, castigated, painted some form of creature not worthy of an opinion.

So, what do we do in that case?

Many of us just stay quiet.

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…and that’s a problem.

Here’s the thing: If you look at life from an earthly, temporary, here-and-now-is-all-that-exists mindset, you will be subject to the whims of your ‘age’, your culture, etc.

However, if you look at life from a Biblical mindset or worldview, you will not look at events the same way. You will realize that we are at a ‘point’ in the Eternal Scheme of Things that God is working out, in His perfect timing and plan.

The choice of which way you look at life is profound and important, for a host or reasons–not the least of which is that it will impact exactly how you will respond to cultural things.

Most importantly, it also helps you to know what’s ‘right and wrong’ about these cultural things. After all, if God is real, and He’s working out HIStory with a ‘plan’ in mind, that might mean that there’s and ‘end date’ to history! Certainly, there’s an ‘end date’ for each one of us, as individuals, and if God is real, then we should pay attention to what He thinks, more than what our culture thinks.

This means that God’s Word on the matter would mean more than a Hollywood star, a Politician, a Facebook Meme, or the loudest person at the party. None of those things could change God’s Word. That would be important to know.

I know that I, personally, have been struggling with this whole thing. As a Christian, I absolutely believe in God, in His Word, in His Will, and so on. Not a doubt in my mind.

I also believe that our culture–Western culture in general, but American culture in particular–has long ago turned its back on God and has tried to ‘throw off’ the ‘constraints’ of living life–even a little–according to His Word.

I believe that the biggest, most influential move to make would be for The Church–not a ‘building’ or ‘organization’, but rather all of the Individuals who believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior–to experience a ‘revival’ of passion, purity, and power, through Repentance, Prayer, Worship, the Word, and renewed commitment to follow Him, come what may. I still believe that.

However, one thing I must confess is that I’ve sort of taken a ‘let them go their way’ mindset…I’ve disengaged from cultural and political discussions, assuming that ‘the die has been cast’. That is wrong.

Here’s one Key that those of us who are Believers know: “We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.”–1 John 5:19. We know that satan is a liar, a thief, a murderer and that he will do anything and everything he can to deceive millions who are in darkness and think they are ‘enlightened’. He wants to take them down with himself. We know that “The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy; I (Jesus) have come that they (His followers) might have Life, and have it To The FULL” (John 10:10, emphasis mine).

There IS a battle raging in our world today. It’s not primarily a ‘political’ battle. It’s not even primarily a ‘cultural’ battle. It is, first and foremost, a SPIRITUAL battle.

…and we Believers need to engage!

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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, the 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!

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?

What Are You Waiting For?

Many of us know when we need to make changes.

Maybe it’s after that Doctor appointment. Maybe it’s after another fight…one more job loss…when the bills outlast the money.

Changes rarely happen with we’re comfortable. In fact, changes almost never happen when things are going well and we’re ‘safe and secure’ in our own lives.

That could be why I see a couple realities as I look around:

  1. People generally like where they’re at…and they want to stay there.
  2. When changes do happen, it’s often only when we ‘have to’ make them.

In those cases, the changes can feel traumatic…forced…difficult.

When it comes to FAITH, however, God is more ‘invitational’ to us.

He invites us to change, and asks us to respond because we ‘want to’.

Think of it this way:

If you’re a parent, you love your children. You want them to obey your rules…because you know what’s best for them. You know how to avoid danger better than they do. You know how to stay healthy more than they do. You know how to maintain relationships more than they do.

When your kids are little, you can ‘compel them’ to obey. In fact, as a parent, there are times you must do so.

However, as they get older, you don’t want to keep doing it that way–rather, you hope that they will realize that you are inviting them to a healthy, safe, relationally-sound lifestyle because you love them and want the best for them!

In the same way, God the Father invites us to move closer to Him…not primarily out of ‘fear’ or mere ‘obedience’ (although, as the God of the Universe, He deserves both). Rather, He invites us to move closer to Him because He created us, He loves us, and He genuinely knows and wants the best for us.

He loves us with a sacrificial love–one that sought to ‘rescue’ us from the dominion of darkness in this world.

In fact, that’s what Christmas is all about!

That’s why the cry of ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel…’ still rings true.

 

We know we need Him…and the great news is that, He Came!

So…what’s it going to take for you to respond?

Is it going to take a crisis? Is it going to take a setback? Is it going to take an illness?

OR…is it possible for you, instead, to respond to His love through faith in Jesus, the Son–who was sent to ‘Rescue’ us that first Christmas.

He is holding out an invitation to you…will you respond?

I want to invite you to come and hear more about it this weekend at our Christmas Program, “RESCUE!”. Saturday @ 7pm or Sunday @ 9 or 11am.

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Getting Warmer!

Ahh, winter.

A beautiful time of year–from the indoors!winter 2

I love to watch the snow coming down out the back of my patio door…or my office. Beautiful!

Seriously, there are very few feelings that are nicer than coming from the snow into a warm house…chili waiting…or maybe hot chocolate, wrapping yourself in a blanket and sitting by the fire.

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There is just something satisfying about warming up when it’s cold outside.

When the world is cold, a source of warmth is most welcome!

Well, we all know that there are more ways that this world is ‘cold’ than merely the temperature.

This world can be a ‘cold’, mean-spirited, critical, self-centered and nasty place. It can be a place that bullies, abuses, and discourages us.

At times, we can feel alone, isolated and exposed–like a person locked out of their house with no coat and no keys on a winter morning. Not only is it uncomfortable, but it’s also dangerous!

So, how do we ‘warm up’? Where do we get our ‘fire’ and our ‘blanket’?

It may not surprise you that I believe it comes from God.

As Augustine said,  You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee’. The writer of Ecclesiastes said, “He has planted eternity in the human heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). As Physicist/Philosopher Blaise Paschal wrote, that the human heart has an ‘infinite abyss’ within, and that  “…this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself” (Blaise Paschal,  Pensées VII(425)). The Psalmist wrote,

“As the deer longs for streams of water,
    so I long for you, O God. 
I thirst for God, the living God.
    When can I go and stand before him?” (Psalm 42:1-2)

This winter, let the cold outside remind you of the harsh evil of the world…but let the warmth inside remind you of the Love of God, the Father in heaven, who wants us to experience the warmth that comes from knowing Him–through Jesus, the Christ.

“This is how God loved the world: He gave[g] his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.”–John 3:16-17

Let this thought sink in: God–the God of the Universe–wants you to know Him! He created you, He loves you, and He has ‘Life to the Full’ planned for you–as you love Him and move toward Him by faith in Jesus. hot chocolate

My prayer is that, no matter how cold the world is outside, you would experience the Love of God on the inside…and that His love would change things for you!

 

 

 

I Wonder…

I wonder what will happen tomorrow…or the day after tomorrow.

Will the ’causes’ that I agreed with have passed? Will those I disagreed with have failed?

Will the candidates I voted for have won, or been defeated?

Obviously, I don’t know that, and no one does-despite what all the conspiracy theorists out there say!

One thing is true: No matter what happens, it will still be UP TO ME to choose how I treat my fellow humans.

If my opinions prevail, and every vote I cast is part of the winning majority, I will still be responsible to love, respect, have compassion for, and pray for, everyone–even those who vehemently opposed me.

If my opinions fail, and every vote I cast is part of the losing minority, I will still be responsible to love, respect, have compassion for, and pray for, everyone–even those who vehemently opposed me.

This truth is something we simply must grasp–all of us! Each of us!

After all, the only way we can hope to get out of the cultural quagmire and the animosity so prevalent in our culture is if each one of us take responsibility for our own actions. Not the Government–not the President or his cabinet, the the US Congress, not the State Congress, not the courts…and so on.

YOU and I simply MUST commit to civility, discussion, respect and yes, love for one another.

From my perspective, as a Christian, the most loving thing I can do–no matter what political events transpire around us–is to point people to Jesus the Christ. He is “The Way, The Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father, except by Him. (John 14:6). He is the “Good Shepherd, who lays down His life for His Sheep.” (John 10:11). While our enemy comes to ‘steal, kill, and destroy”, Jesus has come “that they might have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10).

“God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever would believe in Him would not perish, but will have everlasting life! For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but so the world could be saved.” (John 3:16-17)

None of those things are changed by our temporary (and yes–important) politics.

All of those things are true for everyone in the world–not only in America.

Keep that in mind tomorrow…and the day after, and the day after, and the day after….

We are here…for Him!