Religion

Why We Can’t Save Christmas

Blog_ChristmasDisasterI’ve watched enough children’s Christmas programs over the past few years to notice a common theme. Somehow, all the gifts get misplaced, lost, or worse yet—stolen, and Christmas will have to be cancelled. Even Santa can’t remedy the catastrophe. Yeah, he may see you when you’re sleeping, know when you’re awake, know if you’ve been bad or good AND travel at the speed of light delivering gifts to every child in the world between sundown and sunrise one night a year, but he’s powerless against this degree of loss. It will take a miracle to save Christmas.

Cue the average, insignificant kid, dog, reindeer, or one of Santa’s distant, unknown, and under-qualified relatives. If only they step up to the task and confront insurmountable odds in the nick of time, Christmas just might be rescued. There’s always hope, if only a faint glimmer.

These shows might be fun, colorful, and mildly entertaining. They may be likened to the macaroni and cheese of holiday programming. But they miss the central truth of Christmas. It doesn’t need to be saved. We do. And that’s why our savior came.

Just watch the news, read the papers, or scroll through the latest headlines and it’s clear. We need to be rescued. All the coexist bumper stickers in the world haven’t helped us to live at peace with each other. We need divine intervention. And that’s what happened over 2000 years ago in a manger in Bethlehem. God came down. He intervened on our behalf, changing the course of history.

Even without the presence of presents or the glow of a tree, it’s impossible to cancel Christmas. It was never about all that stuff to begin with. It’s about a greater gift—one that can never be taken away. Our creator God bringing salvation to a lost, dark, and dying world: a more glorious theme than even the best of Christmas programming.

It’s impossible for us to save Christmas. But because of Christmas, we can be saved. If only we receive the gift.

 

Photo Credit: 1905 Christmas Disaster Red Santa Sleigh Accident Raphale … | Flickr

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The Most Difficult Prayer

Blog_PrayerThe other day, my irresistibly charming son started showering me with hugs and kisses while I was in the midst of folding laundry. “You’re my best mommy ever,” he smiled, looking into my eyes while working his awe-inspiring dimples to the max. My heart was melting after a few minutes of his seemingly innocent compliments. That’s when he popped the question. “Will you let me drive the car?”

I’m not sure he understood when I told him he has more than ten years before he’s old enough to get a drivers’ permit. As he walked away, looking dejected, I wondered what his little mind had envisioned when he asked me to let him behind the wheel. And I wondered whether his initial compliments were part of his childlike ploy to get what he really wanted.

How often do we come to God with ulterior motives? We claim our hearts are filled with love and adoration, when really we just want something from him. Our prayers become tools of manipulation, as if we could strong-arm God into doing our will.

There was a time when I desired to have a little house, just big enough for my family and some guests. In the midst of praying for our needs to be met, I learned that a genuine prayer of faith includes the more difficult phrase, “yet not my will, but yours be done.” Modern faith movements would tell us to demand what we want, but true faith believes God has our best interests in mind, whether or not his answers align with our desires.

As for me, I’m glad I prayed that prayer. Not having the burden of a house has enabled us to give more to those who truly need it. When it came time to adopt our son, we didn’t have debt holding us back. My husband was able to go back to school to nurture his artistic gift, and I was able to get my teaching certificate. We’ve both been able to work at a non-profit school, doing what we love at a lower-than-average salary. And we’ve had time to invest in our kids during their most sensitive years. None of this would have been possible if I had demanded something of God we didn’t really need.

When I think of my son’s request, I laugh because I love him and I know he loves me. He’ll grow and he’ll learn. But for those of us who’ve been walking with God for years, it’s time we learn to let go of what we think we need. It’s time to mature in faith. Prayer is a time to align our lives with his desires, not to demand our way. It’s when we say with genuine faith, “not my will, but yours be done.”

 

Photo Credit: Free Series Graphic: “Sweet Hour of Prayer” www.churchleaders.com

Settling for Less

What is it that so moves us to go through the mindless motions, week after week, year after year? Why do we settle for infinitely less than what our Savior died for? Why do we live bound to our comfort zones and safe houses when he left his comfort and security behind to suffer and die that we can have LIFE that is truly LIFE? There’s a vast difference between walking dead while awaiting resurrection, and walking dead unaware, desiring for nothing more.

 

Photo Credit: Free photo: Rose, Dead, Flower, Floral, Vintage – Free Image on …

Among the Dead

No man dies to live among the dead. No man lays down his life so others can live as zombies. And, to be honest, that’s what empty religion can do to a person. We appease our conscience with a weekly (or yearly) visit to church—stand up, sit down, repeat memorized phrases in droning monotone, and leave unchanged. And I must ask…is THIS what Jesus died for?

 

Photo Credit: Dead, Flower – Free images on Pixabay

He Didn’t Die for This

Blog_PhilippineCemetaryHave you ever come face to face with death? I did once, at a graveyard in the Philippines. There, the bodies are not buried six feet under, but in cement enclosures above ground. To reach the burial site for the funeral we were attending, we had to walk through a maze of these cement enclosures until we reached a back wall where the poor rent slots for their deceased loved ones. Because they can’t afford a permanent resting place, the remains are often tossed on the ground once the rental agreement is complete and the space is needed for a new occupant. While navigating the maze of tombs, it’s not unusual to encounter skeletons with skulls full of withering hair. It’s a sobering encounter with the reality of our own mortality.

A walk through life can often feel like a walk through that graveyard—every day surrounded by news of suffering. Even worse is a much-anticipated visit to a place meant to bring hope, only to find a mausoleum of death. It’s beyond unfortunate when a church feels like a mortuary—a place of meaningless ritual, passionless preaching, and meaningless tradition. Really? Is this what Jesus died for?

Reflecting on my journey through that maze of death, I realize one glaring truth. No man dies to live among the dead. No man lays down his life so others can live as zombies. And, to be honest, that’s what empty religion can do to a person. We appease our conscience with a weekly (or yearly) visit to church—stand up, sit down, repeat memorized phrases in droning monotone, and leave unchanged. And I must ask again…is THIS what Jesus died for?

There is much to be said about what Jesus DID die for. Still, we neglect to consider what he DIDN’T die for. And we can be sure he DIDN’T die so we can show up once a week in a pretty dress or snazzy suit, impressing others with a façade of pious humility. He didn’t die so we can drive up in our sleek sedan, drop a few coins in the bucket, and return after that miserable half-hour to a life of self-indulgence. He didn’t die so we can stand in a room full of strangers, together mindless robots repeating phrases that mean nothing to us. Believe me, NO man would die for THAT.

What is it that so moves us to go through the mindless motions, week after week, year after year? Why do we settle for infinitely less than what our Savior died for? Why do we live bound to our comfort zones and safe houses when he left his comfort and security behind to suffer and die that we can have LIFE that is truly LIFE? There’s a vast difference between walking dead while awaiting resurrection, and walking dead unaware, desiring for nothing more.

“‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” (Matthew 15:8)

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)

“He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)

Source: He Didn’t Die for This

You Are Loved

I’m sitting at my computer, searching for words to let you know how loved you are. Until now, my screen was blank, just waiting to be filled with the right words…for you. Over the past few weeks, I’ve written about love, but all my words fall short of what you really need to hear. Even now, I know there’s nothing I can say to convince you that you are loved. And that true love CAN heal you.

You’ve been told many different things about love. But every definition has failed to live up to your expectations. If anything, you feel like you’re wandering in a barren desert—and each well you’ve come to has run dry.

Love that was supposed to fulfill you has instead left you wounded and alone. Arms that were meant to protect you have broken you. Hands that were meant to help you have hurt you. Words that should have built you up have torn you down.

You need to know that you may be broken, but you are not beyond repair. You may be crushed, but you can be restored. You may have been torn down, but you can be rebuilt—and you can come out stronger than before.

What I’ve written is true. Yet beyond this, the greatest words I can give you are not my own. These are the words that you need to hear. These are the words that will bring healing.

“O LORD my God, I called to you for help and you healed me.” (Psalm 30:2)

“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)

“Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits–who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion.” (Psalm 103:2-4)

“Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He sent forth his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave.” (Psalm 107:19-20)

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3)

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)

There is hope. And you ARE loved. Just thought you should know.

Source: You Are Loved

A Love that Satisfies

God alone can fill the empty void in our hearts.

Source: A Love that Satisfies