christmas

There is so much irony involved with how we celebrate Christmas. It never really made sense to me as a child. I asked questions like:

-What does a Christmas tree have to do with Jesus?

-Why is Christmas all about presents?

-Why do other parents lie to their kids about Santa Clause?

-Why is Christmas a bigger deal than Easter?

If you’ve ever asked any of those questions, I’d like to invite you to consider with me what it might look like to re-invent Christmas. Here are 5 steps to a reinvented Christmas:

5 Steps to Reinventing Christmas:

Step 1. Be imaginative, but don’t lie. It still perplexes me why Christian parents would deliberately lie to their kids about Santa. It’s like they don’t realize or care that their children should be able to trust them in everything. I’m sure I’ll be stepping on some toes here, but please bear with me—Children don’t need you to lie to them in order to enjoy the Santa story. Children are IMAGINATIVE. They are so imaginative that they can pretend like something is true even when they know it isn’t—to the point that they will often cry in fear of the pretend monster they themselves have created. So why should we lie to them about Santa? Why not say “Hey little Jonny, Santa isn’t actually real, but it’s fun to pretend like he is, so lets leave out some milk and cookies for him *wink*”. If you join with your kids in the game, while at the same time telling them the truth, they will have just as much fun, I assure you. They will also know they can trust you. How do I know? Because this is exactly what my parents did, and I’m thankful for it.

Step 2: Save the Best Presents for Easter. Why did I always look forward to Christmas more than Easter as a child? Certainly Jesus’ coming into the world was a wonderful gift, and his life among us was filled with endless little gifts—but Christians can hopefully all agree that his greatest gift to us was his death and resurrection—his victory over sin and its consequences. So why does our celebrating elevate ‘Baby Jesus’ over ‘Victorious King Jesus’. Maybe it has something to do with Christmas’ Origins, which were less than Christian, to say the least. So here’s what I propose: Give your kids presents on Christmas, just like our culture does; do the whole holiday cheer thing—BUT, hold back one present, which is the biggest and best present for each child, and explain to them that they don’t get to open that present until Easter, because that is when God gave mankind his biggest and best present. The symbolism, I think, will be a much better fit to the true story.

Step 3. Countdown to Christmas Biblically. You can keep whatever countdown tradition you currently use, but I propose that you consider adding something to it: Countdown to Christmas by reading one Old Testament prophecy about the coming Messiah each night. Trace the line of Messianic prophecy throughout the Old Testament, from Genesis 3 to Genesis 12, to Jacob’s blessing over his son Judah, to 1 Samuel 7, Isaiah 7, 9, 11, 53, Jeremiah 31, Ezekiel 36, Daniel 7, etc. Show your Children the millennia of prophetic anticipation that led up to the first Christmas. Show them how Jesus’ coming fulfilled the hopes of Israel. You can get creative with this and do it however you want. My own family did it in the week before Christmas, looking at one prophecy each night. It was doubtless our most meaningful Christmas tradition.

Step 4. Give to the Less Fortunate. This one is already popular, but I have a small twist, so its worth discussing. Use Christmas as a reminder and an opportunity to give to the less fortunate, not just money, but time and love. God, on the first Christmas, gave to us himself. Christ left his heavenly riches and came to walk among the poor and destitute. How appropriate that we should model ourselves after him in doing the same. So giving money is good, but giving time and love is, I think, even better (especially when they are all working together in combination). So volunteer at a homeless shelter, or even better, ask your pastor if there are any families in your church that are struggling to make it financially, and have them over for a lavish dinner, and befriend them, and pray for them.

Step 5. Put on Love. This one comes from Colossians 3:14: “Over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity”. Love is the currency that matters in eternity. It is the currency that doesn’t whither with inflation. So invest in love. Invest in your family. Invest in friends. Sound out cards to old friends from your past that remind them you still care and your doors are always open should they have a need. Invest love in your children and remind them that you care about them, not just by buying them gifts, but by telling them why you love them. Invest in love of God by reading his story and understanding it a little better each year. Thank him for investing Love in humanity’s story 2000 years ago.Red_Icon_Small_clear

Repainting Nepal

September 24, 2013 — Leave a comment

RepaintingNepalWallpaper

This week I did an event at Roots Coffeehouse—They gave me the opportunity to talk about my upcoming trip to Nepal (and also India, but I focused on the Nepal part!), with an organization called TLI (Training Leaders International). The event featured art, coffee, and stories of Nepal. I think I learned quite a bit more than I taught, because to my surprise, four exchange students from Nepal showed up, and they talked with me for more than an hour after. Here are some things I learned from them:

- Nepal is one of the happiest places on earth, despite being right next to Haiti in regards to poverty (according to GDP per capita).

- Nepal’s largest holiday festival will be ongoing throughout my trip!

- The younger generation in Nepal is quite universalistic. The four students from Nepal told me about their families, which were all various combinations of Nepal’s four primary religions (listed in order of popularity): Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity.

- Nepal is very relaxed, and ‘being on time’ means ‘being there within a few hours of the suggested time’.

- Internet access in Nepal is good, meaning I should be able to send updates while I’m over there.

Talking to these new friends made me very excited for my upcoming trip. If you don’t know much about it yet, TLI has gathered many indigenous pastors who I will have the opportunity to teach and encourage. I will be teaching a curriculum that has been translated into Nepalese, which these pastors will receive without cost. The curriculum will focus on the overarching story of Scripture, and will show them the primacy of Christ in the Biblical story, how he fulfilled all the expectations that were set forth in the Old Testament. I realize now more than ever that, although I’m very excited to serve these pastors by teaching them some of what I’ve learned in seminary, I will also have an even greater opportunity to learn from them and glean encouragement from their stories.

Continued Need:

I still need to raise about $2000 in the next week and a half in order to go on my trip. Breaking that down further, my fundraising could be finished if I could find the following people:

Donors

Do you think God might be calling you to join my team? If so, please join by giving online through this link:

http://trainingleadersinternational.org/teams/#fl.147.teams

If you are reading this, you are probably not able to see the picture that has my actual blog post on it... bummer.

Link to give online:
trainingleadersinternational.org/teams/#fl.147.teams
Thank you!

Postmodernism

July 28, 2013 — Leave a comment

PostModernIsm

Restricted…

July 26, 2013 — Leave a comment

Here is an article by the Voice of Martyrs, which takes place within one of the countries I’ll be visiting in October. I’ll be working with Pastors like Sabel—teaching a course on Biblical Theology (you can read more about that trip here).

*  *  *  *  *

When a Christian brother we’ll call “Bilal” died last spring in a small [Hindu Country] city, it was important to his family that his body be buried. For local Christians, burial is not only a way to dispose of a body but also an “Ebenezer” (1 Sam. 7:12), a permanent landmark of a person’s faith and God’s faithfulness. But in [their country], where 75 percent of the people are Hindus, cremation is the expected ritual following a death.

About 30,000 people live in the city where Bilal’s family lives, but there are only four or five Christian families. When Bilal died, radical Hindus tried to take his body for cremation, according to Hindu custom. Death, along with birth and marriage, is one of three significant milestones in Hindu culture. By cremating Bilal’s body, the Hindus hoped to erase his Christian testimony. Cremation would be a message in their culture that Bilal hadn’t really been a Christian, that in death he’d returned to Hinduism. Conversely, a grave would be a permanent testimony that this man had died a Christian.

Bilal’s family refused to turn the body over to the Hindus; they wanted a Christian funeral and burial. The family was at home making funeral arrangements with their church’s pastor, Pastor “Sabal,” when they heard shouting outside the house. A large Hindu mob had gathered, shouting threats and demanding the body in order to perform Hindu last rights and cremation.

Sabal told the Hindus that Bilal was a Christian and that his family wanted a Christian funeral. The mob then became enraged, grabbing Sabal and two other Christians and beating them with sticks and their fists. The Christians tried to flee on their bicycles, but the mob continued to attack.

The Christians found refuge in the home of “Bima,” a Christian widow who motioned them inside her house despite the angry mob chasing them. Why would she invite attacks on her home by sheltering the Christians?

“I am the Lord’s servant,” she told VOM workers, “so I have to be strong. I will not fear, because he is with us. I thought that some of those people might make problems for me, but I have to be strong.”

The mob of angry Hindus backed off, and Christians on motorbikes came to remove Sabal and the others from danger. Sabal was treated for wounds he received in the beating and was later examined by our VOMedical director. While Sabal’s body healed quickly, he struggled emotionally. He couldn’t sleep for a week after the attack.

“I was praying for myself and I understood, when reading the Bible, I understood that I have to forgive,” Sabal said, “because the Lord says if you don’t forgive others you will not be forgiven. Those words were pricking my heart.” God helped Sabal forgive his attackers by reminding him of the forgiveness he had received.

“I have also done some wrong things, some mistakes, so the Lord is working [to forgive me],” he said. “So I have to forgive. The Lord was speaking to me, ‘Forgive them. They have to come to Me.’ The Lord was speaking to me. Then I said yes. I have to work with them so they will come to Christ.” A month after the attack, Sabal came to the point of fully forgiving those who had attacked and injured him.

He continues to minister in the same city, but after the attacks his congregation shrank by half. Many Christians left in fear, so Sabal preaches sermons designed to encourage believers to withstand the persecution he knows they’ll face.

“One day everyone has to die,” he tells his congregation. “The life here [on earth] is very short. Whatever they do to us because we’re Christian — what we will go through — even if we have to die, we’ll die because we’ll have a long life [in eternity with Christ].”

Some of the believers too fearful to attend church still ask Sabal to come to their homes and pray with them. He has faith that one day their courage will be strengthened and they will return to the church. “I believe they will come one day,” he said, “because they have tasted the Lord.”