Tuesday, December 13, 2016

THE HEROD IN US ALL



Like it or not, Herod the Great was a part of that first Christmas story.   Herod was the King of Israel when Jesus was born.  As you look at Herod’s life, it’s obvious he mistreated people, misused people, and  misled people.  As a result he experienced a life empty of meaningful relationships and God’s favor.

There’s a hint of Herod in all of us.  Whenever we run our lives, we’re signing up for exactly what Herod experienced.  We’re signing up for an empty life.  Because we are not wired, we are not created to sit on the throne of our lives and call the shots.  But the good news is, at that first Christmas, God brought hope for us in all of our relationships.  We must, however, let the Christ of Christmas confront how we treat others and relate to those around us.

Christmas confronts our misuse of people.  In what area of your life do you tend to misuse people?  Do you tend to see people as pawns, as objects, as rungs on a ladder to get to where you want to go?  In marriage you may be misusing your spouse.  At work you may be misusing others to climb the ladder and get ahead.  You can even misuse your kids or your parents.  Someone who has issues of power and control will misuse other people. 

Christmas confronts our misleading of people.  Do you ever mislead others?  Again, it calls for a thorough examination in every area of our lives and an honesty to admit we are doing it.  Do we live lives of integrity, or do we hide behind a fa├žade of a robe and a crown so that others don’t see the real person who is holding the scepter?

Christmas confronts our mistreatment of people.  In what areas of your life do you tend to mistreat others?  For example, why do we cut people down?  Why do we gossip?  Why do we slander?  We do it because of power and control.  We think if we rip others apart it somehow elevates the person doing the ripping.  But it’s really just the opposite. 

Around the Christmas holidays, we are thrust into many environments with family and all the relatives and friends and people who have mistreated us.  It can be very difficult.  Perhaps you were mistreated by a parent, a child, or some other relative.  So often we mistreat them because they mistreated us.  Why not, this holiday season, take them aside and say, “I’m so sorry.  I’ve misused you, misled you, and mistreated you.  I want to ask you to forgive me.”  You will not believe what could happen.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

TO-DO LISTS



After a very busy month of May, my wife and I took a long weekend to relax and recharge.  I took the opportunity to make a “to-do” list of things, mostly personal, that needed to get done.  By the time I was done, there were about 30 things on the list.  I felt really good about myself and my organizational skills and was now ready to get some things done.  Here I am a week later, and I realize I forgot to put something on the list.  I neglected task #31:  DO the list.  To date I have not done one thing on the list.  Is my list-making just a futile exercise or productivity-flavored self-torture?  


The to-do list is an inescapable, age-old productivity tool. It is our very human attempt to create order in our disorderly lives and an expression of our ability to impose self-control (a fruit of the Spirit, by the way). Most of us, including to-do list haters, keep one, and so do 63% of professionals, according to a survey released by LinkedIn.

Would Jesus keep a to-do list?  I don’t think he would have (or did) because, knowing all things and being completely filled with the Spirit, he would not need any external reminders.  But I think he would say this about to-do lists: “If you can keep all your commitments and get done what you are called to do without writing anything down, no problem. But if you have more to do than your memory is able to hold, one of the other reasons I’ve given you a mind is so that you can figure out a better way to keep track of everything than just keeping it in your head. So go, do what you need to do to remember what you need to remember in order to get done what you need to get done.” 

No, there is nothing wrong with to-do lists.  They are just difficult sometimes to DO.  Perhaps I need to try something different.  Maybe a “done” list will work.  Yeah, I like that.  I need to get started on my “done” list.  Do I put that on my to-do list?

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

FRUITCAKE



Johnny Carson said it, and I believed it.  Every year, shortly after Thanksgiving, he began the Christmas season by reminding us, “There’s only one fruitcake in the world. It’s been passed around from person to person since time immemorial, and it doesn’t matter how hard you try. You’ll never escape The Fruitcake.”   Fruitcakes are known to take on lives of their own, passing from one person to the next, sometimes lingering long enough to carbon-date.  Cut one open, if you dare, and figure its age like you’d count the rings of some ancient tree.

When I was in elementary school, my mother worked at Collin Street Bakery.  Anyone who recognizes that name knows what they are famous for – red tins of fruitcakes.  In our home, this was not just a Christmas phenomenon; it was a regular occurrence throughout the year.  Mom would bring home the extras, and those things never go bad.  Perhaps my dislike for them comes from having them so often.

Behind every fruitcake, of course, lurks a fruitcake-baker, and over the years people have tried to convince me they have finally discovered the secret to truly good fruitcake – soaking the raisins in bourbon, pouring brandy over the finished cake, substituting walnuts for pecans, eliminating the candied pineapple. No matter the adaptation, my opinion never wavers.  Fruitcake is dense, dry and tasteless, except when it is gummy, sticky and tasteless. It is a grim excuse for a dessert and a terrible holiday tradition.

In the event I receive one of these unwanted traditions this year, I have found a great website – fruitcakerescue.com.  Yes, you can give a fruitcake a home by mailing it to this place in Michigan “where they will be lovingly cared for until we can find them a new home or are enjoyed by Stan”.  God bless you, Stan.  It is good to know there is a place for the fruitcakes that are abused, forgotten, abandoned and unloved.  I’m sure you’ll be hearing from me soon.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

THE PREACHER'S DAUGHTER



As I closed my series on pride last Sunday, it was certainly interesting to hear about the Ronda Rousey/Holly Holm UFC fight the night before.  Most thought Rousey could not be beaten, including Rousey herself.  And in prideful fashion, Rousey refused to touch gloves prior to her fight with Holm.  But as the Bible clearly states, “Pride goes before a fall”, and Ronda Rousey fell – knocked out in the 2nd round by challenger Holly Holm, AKA “The preacher’s daughter”. 

Now that Holm is the champion, she will have the challenge of prying the remote from the hand of pride.  Her father a minister, she claims to be a Christ follower and reads her Bible regularly.  Here is a quote from a recent article…

“But I much prefer, if I have the time for that, to go to church. I feel really not focused and detached if I don’t go to church. I feel like I feel better about myself and life and my relationship with God if I go. I feel more connected. I try to go every Sunday morning, but there’s times that I just can’t. And then sometimes I get a little irritated with myself because I’m like, ‘Really, Holly? God sacrifices and has you in mind all day, every day. One hour (is all it takes).’ … I’m very blessed — how can I not want to give back one day, one hour even? I’m like OK, I’m going to Starbucks (and) instead of bringing my iPad, maybe I’ll bring my Bible. I might as well use the time then.”  (from the Albuquerque Journal)

So I am happy for Holly Holm – not because she knocked out Ronda Rousey – but because now she can use her “known” to make Him known.   He must increase, Holly, and you must decrease.  We in Christendom are pulling for you as you remember Who it’s from and Who it’s for.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

THE RED CUP



It’s just a cup.  A red cup.  A cup that has some saying that Starbucks has launched a war against Christmas.  For Starbucks, the annual reveal of their red cup is meant to signify that the holiday season is approaching. Instead, it's stirring up some controversy. The iconic Christmas cup has featured several winter-themed designs since it first appeared in 1997. From minimalist snowflakes and hand-drawn reindeer to a winking snowman and decorative ornaments, each year the design is distinctive and different from the last.  This year it is red.  It holds the Peppermint Mocha I’m drinking right now – non-fat and extra hot.

Since Starbucks is NOT a Christian company, I have no issue with the red cup.  Why would I expect a secular company to put traditional Christmas designs on their cups? Starbucks is not the church and they can do whatever they want with their cups. The over-hyped story about the war on Christmas is really a war on Christian intelligence.  I hope you are not falling for it.  Most of it is just media noise.

Starbucks maintains that their holiday cups were meant to be a blank canvas for customers to create their own stories, inspired by the doodles and designs that customers have drawn on white cups for years.  So here is my story.  The red on my cup stands for the blood of Jesus Christ.  He came at Christmas so He could shed His blood for my sin.  The blood of Jesus cleanses me from my sin and hides it forever from a holy God.  So at Christmas I not only celebrate His birth, I celebrate the blood He shed on the cross for me – and for every employee who works at Starbucks.  It is WHY He came.  And that makes my Peppermint Mocha taste even better.