December 2, 2011 § 7 Comments
I remember defending his existence in fourth grade, then finding out I was wrong soon thereafter. A man I had never met in the flesh, but looked forward to his coming on December 25th every year.
The good-will ambassador for many girls and boys across the world is truthfully presented as a character along with Charlotte, Wilbur, Rudolph, and any other fictional characters we encounter in the children’s literature in our home.
As far as I know we are the only people in our family who do not teach our children to believe in Santa Claus. We have not been ridiculed for our choices, but I want to lay out my reasons here to prompt your thinking on the matter. Truth is too important to flippantly follow the status quo, and therefore, I want to give you some meaty measures to add to your milk and cookies for Santa this year.
First, there are attributes we assign to Santa that are only manifested in God: omniscience and omnipotence.
Omniscience, means that one is all-knowing. The holiday song, Santa Clause is Coming to Town, goes, “He knows when you are sleeping, he knows when your awake, he knows if you’ve been bad or good. So be good for goodness sake.”
Only God knowns our thoughts and ways, our lying down and waking up. He judges the thoughts and attitudes of our hearts like no one else can. Omniscience belongs to God in His triune state alone.
Omnipotence, or unlimited power, is attributed to the man who can fly around the world in one night, fit down chimneys or pass through locked doors, and magically provide your heart’s desire one day every year.
Unlimited power is only found in God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Second, and equally important, Christmas is a religious holiday about the birth of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. This Christian holiday has been secularized so that it is more palatable to non-Christian’s worldwide. Yes, there is an atheistic movement to quiet or extinguish the celebration, but Christmas is largely a money-making secularized holiday.
We have run the risk of making Christmas more about ourselves than the King born in a manger. A jolly old man bringing us more material presents is not the presence that should be celebrated this time of year.
Please understand that I genuinely love Christmas movies, music, and decorations. You will find me glued to Hallmark on many occasions during the Christmas season. Honestly, one of my favorite creations of my artistic mother is a two foot Santa and Mrs. Claus that she painted in ceramics. However, I have chosen to make Santa a fictional character in limited books and movies for my children so that they will not miss the message of Christmas found in the nativity and Christ-centered books on our shelves.
Growing up, my parents followed the three gift rule like many other parents I know. They gave my sister and I three gifts each Christmas just as the wisemen presented to the Christ-child. (Albeit there could be ten pieces to the “one” gift.)
However, this post by Ann challenged my perspective on even this practice. Jesus is the gift and the three gifts were given to Him on His birthday not the opposite. What do we give Jesus on His birthday?
That is why we, along with multitudes of others, choose to give to Gospel for Asia, Samaritan’s Purse, Operation Christmas Child, World Vision, and Compassion International at Christmas and throughout the year. In serving the poor, needy, orphaned, and unreached, we are presenting sacrificial thank offerings to God and His Son, Jesus at the celebration of His birth.
Does this mean that we cannot exchange gifts with others? I would say no. To show our love and appreciation for each other as an extension of the gift of Christ Jesus in our life is a blessed privilege. Must we exchange gifts to celebrate Christmas? Likewise no.
We have had the Kneeling Santa figurine since a Christmas Wedding Shower 10 years ago. As I reflect upon its meaning now, I am unsettled in my spirit. Yes, Santa is bowed worshiping the New Born King, but this even implies that Santa preceded Christ. The true “Santa” was actually St. Nicholas who lived after Christ and gave to the poor in the name of Jesus.
The face of the Father of Christmas may indeed be merry and bright, but it is not found at the North Pole. Conversely, He chose the lowly and humble stable to make his glory known. Then brought forth wisemen from across the earth and angels soaring in the sky to announce His coming and celebrate His Son, the gift of Christmas. He brought His Messenger in this way so that the heart of every boy and girl could know the favor of their Creator through Christ the King.
However you choose to celebrate Christmas in your home, I hope that you will submit these practices to God and seek His will. I pray that you will make Christ predominate in your hearts, homes, and heritage this Christmas and each one to come.
Raise the Risk Challenge:
- Read Ann’s post referenced above here.
- Consider who the face of Christmas really is in your family and make any necessary changes.
- Give a gift to Jesus by sponsoring a child locally or either here, here, or here.
November 22, 2011 § Leave a comment
We see passion in people who are willing to change the ordinary by just a few degrees and live in ways that others might view as radical, risky, or weird. I have often thought, as perhaps you have, “Will this minor change I am making have any impact? What is the point?”
Our friend and co-laborer in Christ, Jennifer Merchandani, has recently embarked on a mission to change the world one can at a time. We even caught her this Sunday after church nosing through the trash to find two treasures of Fanta and Coca-Cola.
She is passionately proving that one can make a difference and without knowing it, she has encouraged others to come alongside her. Students, adult leaders, and even my family in Alabama have started collecting soda cans because we recognize that small efforts combined lead to life-changing growth.
Thank you Jennifer for sharing a portion of your passion with us today and being our guest. Thank you for your ministry to our students. We count it a blessing to be co-passengers on this DRIVE with you.
Some people call me crazy. Some have even scoffed at my plan or crinkle their nose when they see me digging in the trash cans. I am on the mad search for aluminum cans, and I am willing to go the depth required (no pun intended).
If you’ve ever met me, you know that I tend to think “big”. “All things are possible” is scripture I claim. It seemed like it would be easy enough: collect cans, cash them in, and donate the money towards building a home in Honduras for one of the several “trash dump” families. I mean, there are cans EVERYWHERE. I can’t drive down the road and not see them on the side of the street, or walk by a garbage can and not take a peek, even when it’s located inside a nice, clean church, with nice, clean people walking by. It takes everything in me not to walk up to complete strangers and ask, “Are you done with your soda,” and if so, “Can I have your can?”
What compels me? At first, it was the realization that innocent children are living in conditions that are unthinkable and being exposed to, sold into, or kidnapped for things that make my stomach turn. I can’t even imagine their lives without tears welling up at this very moment. Secondly, I understand that I can’t do “big” things or “fix” the problems these “trash dump” families face, but I can do a little. While I am not a math major, I do know that if you take a lot of a little and add them all together, it will equal BIG! Lastly, the mere fact that God has given me the ability to do something, and I will one day be accountable for what I did or didn’t do compels me. It only costs me time, energy, and a little dignity.
What is your role in this crazy thing called life? Where are you storing up your treasures? What has God-given you and how are you choosing to use it for His glory?
There is no telling how eternity would be impacted if all the members of the body of Christ came together and decided not to be just hearers of the word, but doers.
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8
November 17, 2011 § 1 Comment
Now is not the time to take risks.
If you are like me you have a 401(k) or a 403(b) and each quarter you receive your statements and see inconsistency as your investment goes up and down and down some more. You watch the occupy Wall Street protests in some major cities in our country and on top of that you hear that a country with 11 million people like Greece has an impact on the bottom line of your retirement account.
In this environment?
But in the words of Lee Corso, “Not so fast my friend.”
We make investments expecting a return that will be more than what we put into it. We weigh a good investment versus a bad investment based upon how much money the investment brings. Some people invest in the stock market… others invest in gold…
Let me suggest a more reliable investment.
In an environment where you’re not sure what is going to happen next, I want to challenge you to raise the risk and find someone to invest in instead of something. Finding a person of true character and not one who is a character may take some time and an intentional effort, but when it happens, you will find an investment worth the risk.
Invest in People:
(1) Who live for something bigger than themselves
(2) Who are actively doing something
(3) Who have a vision for the future
(4) Who are content in their current circumstances
(5) Who serve others without bias
(6) Who are humble in spirit
(7) Who have more questions than answers
(8) Who learn from their mistakes
(9) Who can win and lose with class
(10) Who have overcome adversity
Raise the Risk Challenge:
- Think back on your past. Who took a risk on you or gave you a break that helped propel you to success?
- In your sphere of influence, who would be a good person to invest in that you feel would be worth the risk?
- What would you add to the list above… what do you look for in others?
November 11, 2011 § Leave a comment
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.~ Philippians 3:20-21.
Prayer proceeds to the throne of God through Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord. We have seen the lame walk and heard the proclamation that the deaf hear. Christ will hear and will answer our cries for the deliverance of the saints and the newness of life brought forth from dead dry bones.
The ultimate prayer of the persecuted church is for the salvation of lost souls. That they may see the dry bones walk in newness of Christ- life. Yes, we join them in praying for their personal deliverance and protection and provision for their families but the ultimate goal of the church is that the body should be added to. Paul said, “Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.” (Philippians 1:14)
Have we been encouraged, changed, and challenged by our brothers imprisonment?
This Sunday as we unite as one around God’s throne interceding on behalf of the persecuted prisoners of our spiritual warfare, may we not forget to pray for the salvation of the persecutors around the world. For in praying for them we are praying that Christ’s kingdom will be added to and our family extended around the globe. “Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:10)
“Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things I urge you the more earnestly to do thins in order that I may be restored to you the sooner.” ~Hebrews 13:1-3, 18-19
Read here all of the Raise the Risk posts concerning the persecuted church.
Raise the Risk Challenge:
- Use this weekend as a teaching time for your family. Set an empty place setting at your table as you remember the persecuted church. Let an empty bowl represent the prayers of the saints for the persecuted and the perishing around the globe.
- Give to the cause of protecting the persecuted and their families.
- Write a letter to a persecuted Christian at PrisonerAlert.com a ministry of Voice of the Martyrs.
- Download free materials to use in your church or small group this Sunday to join in the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.
- Consider God’s call to make His name known among the nations. Is He calling you to go and serve to the ends of the earth? Seek His face in prayer and join with Isaiah in saying, “Here am I, Lord, send me.” (Isaiah 6:8)
November 8, 2011 § Leave a comment
This song beautifuly conveys my passion to live this life so that the nations and the generations will be impacted and reached with the gospel of Christ for the glory of the Lord. As a mom to two preschoolers, I do not get many opportunities to go into the international world. My “world” usually consits of Target, Publix, parks and church. With the advancement of using indeginous peoples to reach the unreached and hard to reach people of our world there are many opportunities to give that were not open to believers in previous generations.
Today, and with video posts throughout this week, I want to highlight our favorite mission to give to during the Christmas season and ask that you join us in giving this year. I know that the holidays can be a very expensive time of year for many families and individuals, but they do not have to be. The following are six suggestions for cutting down on holiday gift-giving in a way that frees funds for missions.
We have been given the Gift of His Presence, now let us give presents for His honor just as the wisemen did over two thousand years ago. There are many local and state agencies that provide Christmas gifts for children within the foster care system and those belonging to low income families. I encourage you to give to these as you feel led of the Spirit.
Internationally speaking, our favorite mission to join with is Gospel for Asia. Would you visit their site today to learn more and give?
Now for those penny saving ideas…
1. As a family, choose to openly re-gift for the adults. By openly I mean that the entire family is in on it. You know that BB gun you never use, but your mom is pining for one? Regift! Or how about that Cousin Eddy hat that you have never worn? Give it back to your sister! (Really, I am hoping that my sister reads this and takes a hint. )
2. Draw names as individuals or as families. This cuts down on the number of gifts especially for larger families.
3. It seems that many children, like my own, are inundated with gifts from doting grandparents and with all the aunts and uncles. In light of this, we have greatly limited the gifts that we bought for them. Last year we purchased only stocking stuffers for the kids. This year, they are getting the joint present of a train table and train set which I bought on 75% off clearance after Christmas last year. Shopping early is a great way to save.
4. Go homemade. With so many ideas on Pinterest, you can easily find a way to beautifully display homemade treats and crafts in a way that your inlaws or outlaws will enjoy. Pictures of grandkids, or grandpets, are nice at any age. I wrote a poem earlier this year and Ron said, “You should frame this along with a nice picture and give it as a gift.” I was very grateful for his encouragement and also happy that this may be a sentimental gift that is cost friendly. Also, consider making copies of old or recent homevideos on DVD. We always watch old Christmas homevideos during the holidays.
5. Find gifts for your loved ones that hold a special memory and write an accompanying note describing the event. My mother had a sweet stuffed panda bear when she was a little girl. My Grammie unsuccessfuly tried to eliminate the said bear from the house on multiple occassions. However, my mom would rescue the teddy at each attempt. Once Grammie finally succeeded, my mom never lost the memory of her beloved bear. Many Christmas’ ago, our friend who owns the local drug store heard of mom’s woeful tale and decided to give her a panda bear similar to her childhood bear for Christmas. My mom was thrilled and continues to display her bear each year at Christmas.
6. As a special gift for the one you love or perhaps your parents or adult children, purchase a journal and write a note each day of December filling the pages with special memories, words of encouragement, or favorite quotes. Add family photos, magazine clippings, or draw your own illustrations.
Remember when it comes to gift giving it is not the size of the gift or the amount spent, but that you gave in love.
Raise the Risk Challenge:
- Purpose, plan, and give more lasting gifts this year which focus on the gospel message and providing for the poorest among us.