Christmas is Done

It’s a refreshing feeling. Everything is back to normal. Stores are open. The house is back in order. The radio DJ’s I know are back on live and all the ‘best of/syndication’ is finished. Traveling is behind me, business hours make sense again and my friends are all back in town. The commercials, the tv specials, the marketing… it’s all about spending money now. That fear of ordering in time or would I receive a gift from someone I didn’t consider? All gone!

Everything changes for the holidays and I usually sigh in relief when it all changes back. I wouldn’t call myself a scrooge… I just see the busyness and stress in all of it. My summary might be…

It was great, but I’m glad its over

Do you cringe any when you see the commercialization of Christmas? Do you see childhood memories and innocent ideals squashed by the machine and trivialized by the masses? Rudolph, Santa and Frosty all have price tags now and Baby Jesus is either left out or promoted with an agenda.

I think we can do this same exercise with church and our relationship with God if we aren’t careful. Sundays can quickly become about parking, childcare, awkward conversations, “I hope he doesn’t ask us to greet our neighbor for 5 minutes”. Whose seat did I take? Song choices are weird, sit down, stand up, I can’t find that verse in the Bible, sit down again, another offering?!!? Lunch plans, getting asked to serve, guilt trips… and when we find our way back home… wheh! That is all behind me now.

When Jesus turned the tables over in the temple He noted that His Father’s house was being operated by a bunch of thieves. But before He called out their transgression, He first stated the original intent.

‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers

Matthew 21:13

“My house shall be called a house of prayer”. What a contrast! It would have worked had He just called them robbers and drove them out, but He first established the proper baseline. This place is for prayer. Prayer is communication and worshiping THE God. You have taken something Holy and made it into something human.

While I’m not writing this to call us all thieves… I do see us approaching our time of worship against the original intent. I know this easily because I have done it.

What if we decided to approach the church with the same humility, love, and sacrifice that Jesus approached the cross for us?

Could we simply change some verbiage? I don’t have to lead a prayer or pass out cards, or shake hands, or smile, or meet new people, or teach a class… I get to. I am honored to. A man climbed on a torture device that I deserve and He took my place because He desperately wanted me to be saved.

He didn’t just die for me… I was His prize. He cherished a relationship with me. The thought of not having me was worse than the pain of the cross. He longs for me. When Jesus was born into animal filth and the cruelty of this world, the angels cheered! His plan was in motion… the plan to get me to Him.

So can my response match His? Can I muster together activity in my heart that will allow me to reciprocate in this life a desire to be with Him?

When my six year old gets vegetables on his plate he eats what he likes and then claims he is full. If I offer chocolate, he invariably exclaims, “YES!”. But he was just full one second ago. And, if I return to the vegetable, he is still full. He has no desire for what is good for him, only for what his appetite enjoys.

He has to want to be healthy. He has to learn about what harming his body with junk can really do. He will never truly be healthy… he will always return to the bad food, as long as his thought process is… ‘I have to eat vegetables to get what I want”.

What he needs is a love of himself. A love for health and purity and for what the body was created to take in and process. What we need is a love for Christ. A desire for the bread of life and to yearn to be what we, as temples of the Holy Spirit were created to be.

This can easily be checked. Do we have to… or do we get to? Is it a task or an honor? Do we anticipate, or are we glad when it’s over? Do we come to pray, or have we commercialized religion?

Some of the trivial things will not change, but our outlook on them certainly will. Christ gave His all… His very best. Do we have to give back? Do we cringe when we give a tenth? Do we roll our eyes or sigh when the newsletter announces service days? Are we proud of the response to our Savior? Can we go to simply pray to our Savior and commune with Him… or do we have another agenda?

I’m Picking Your New Years Resolution

January of last year I decided it was time to get in shape. Some time in February I determined that round was a shape and considered it a successful mission.

There is nothing magical or even supernatural about a new year. Being a Christian, we can experience new beginnings at the drop of a prayer. But a new year isn’t any less God ordained either. So if our human minds help us understand that we aren’t stuck to the patterns of our past… take advantage of it!

One of my favorite songs is Holy Spirit You are Welcome Here. One of the lines reads:

” To be overcome by Your presence, Lord “

The word, overcome, is a powerful word that deserves some attention. In what context do we use this word? To overcome addiction means to root out a significant part of our lives never to return. To overcome a foe implies conquering that enemy. When we overcome obstacles, we rise up over them and improve our lives in spite of opposition.

Every version of ‘overcome’ I can find has a negative spin on it. The end result might be great, but that greatness comes from success powered only through adversity. If we are overcomers, we were once strugglers, failures, and forgotten.

So how are we overcome by the presence of God? I would claim its all of the above. To be overcome is to throw off critical aspects of who we are that don’t line up with who God made us to be. It’s to be vanquished by unbeatable foes only to walk out unscathed. It’s to be brought to our knees before a Savior who wants to see our very best.

To be overcome is to be wrecked. It’s to be turned upside down and inside out. It’s to say I don’t want this life, I want eternal life. I don’t want what I like, I choose what God desires. I know that I don’t overcome, but God does.

To be overcome by the presence of the Lord is to be destroyed and made new. Think of a dam bursting. The water can be contained no longer. The power has built up and the blockade simply can’t stand against the weight. It may trickle out for a time but eventually man-made materials will give way and water will pour forth in epic fury.

We have a barrier that often keeps God at a distance and limits His desire to work in our lives. To be overcome is to let the water in. Let it explode into us. To be drown in the Spirit. To be drenched in love, soaked in grace and waterlogged in new life.

To be overcome means we may dig in and fight back, but we cannot succeed. We will topple and give way. My new years resolution for you is simple. Choose to accept the overcoming love and cleansing wreckage that God’s grace provides. Be renewed in the presence of a mighty, living God.

God’s new years resolution? It’s you! He wants you. He sacrificed for you. His desire is you. His love is for you. Will you keep playing the game called “Christian” or will you let Him build in you the creation He originally intended? Will you bend knee, ugly cry, and let the holy wrecking begin?