We’ve been doing Advent readings (somewhat sporadically, truth be told), and, having heard readings from Douglas Wilson, Randy Booth, Duane Garner, Mickey Schneider and other men we respect and admire, Sam wanted in on the action. This afternoon before we opened our First Day of Christmas gifts, Sam read this for our family. I present it without edit or further comment. Merry Christmas!
This is a paper for Christmas, so you should listen to this on Christmas day. No peeking or copying! This is a Christmas paper. So this will go on while we open our presents. Please don’t yell while you open your gifts, please? Do it for your own boy! So please! Don’t get yelling while I am going to focus on this sheet. In Bethlehem was a lovely couple, the virgins Joseph and his pregnant due wife the Virgin Mary had a son. Baby Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Far away from the little town O Bethlehem, were 2 shepherds watching their flock out in the field. And suddenly, an angel appeared and the 2 shepherds watching their flock out in the field were afraid. But the angel said “Don’t be afraid! O the LORD says the baby Christ is born in your little town in Bethlehem. Away in a manger with no crib for a bed!” so they went to him to worship him. Just then 3 wise men came in with 3 stacks of gold with their camel and donkey. And 1 of them said, “Where is Jesus Christ the king of the Jews? There though we saw his star in the sky as those 2 shepherds watching their flock out in the field saw it and we and they came!” and that was the true meaning of Christmas. The end!
An article entitled “How to Shrink Your Church” appears in the unlikeliest of places – Huffington Post. It is a pretty insightful critique of the one-two punch of sentimentalism and pragmatism. He writes:
Instead of pursuing faithfulness the sentimental church must provide a place where people can come to hear a comforting message from an effusive pastor spouting fervent one-liners which are intended only to make us feel good about the decisions we’ve already made with our lives. If our beliefs aren’t actually, really true then at least we can have a Hallmark moment, right? Above all the sentimental church must never teach us that in the kingdom of God, up is down, in is out, and nothing short of dying to ourselves and each other can help us truly live.
and concludes with:
So, God save us from the successful church. Give us churches who shun sentimentality and pragmatism and aren’t afraid to face the inevitable shrinkage which comes as a result of following Jesus. God save us from church leadership strategies. After all, it takes zero faith to follow a strategy, but incredible faith to pursue the kingdom of God and leave the rest in God’s hands. If I’ve learned anything as a pastor, it is this: faithfulness flies in the face of sentimentality and pragmatism, and if you pursue it you have to expect small numbers.
[HT: Uri Brito]
Unity is tricky business. Because of the Fall (the one in Genesis 3, not the season), we are inclined toward disintegration. Before Adam ate the fruit forbidden, there was harmony, unity, and right fellowship between man and God, the man and the woman, man with creation, and even man with himself. After that which was forbidden was eaten, everything blew up. We can observe this in our own experience without a whole lot of work. Relationships that were once strong fall apart (either slowly or because of some conflict), relationships that never were begun because of differences (perceived or real), even relationships that remain in tact suffer seasons of conflict, and require pretty healthy doses of repentance and forgiveness to endure.
If this is true on a personal level, it is only reasonable to assume that this happens on a larger scale. A good illustration of this is the United States (I choose the US because I’m more familiar with it than I am, say, Botswana or Nepal or France). Read more…
I don’t know if you’ve heard the phrase, but old timers used to speak of the prayer before the meal as “returning thanks.” The phrase has always sounded a bit odd to me – don’t we give thanks? Returning thanks sounds as if someone had thanked us and we gave it back to them. Something like this: “Thank you.” “Oh no, thank you!” Of course this all makes sense if there is some kind of transaction involved in which both parties benefit in some way – say, person A buys a trombone from merchant B. Person A gets the trombone they’ve always wanted, and is thus able to play one of the coolest looking instruments in the brass section, and may, if things go just right, earn the nickname “T-Bone.” Merchant B has finally sold that trombone that has been collecting tarnish in the corner and makes enough money on the deal to go to Sizzler and buy a T-bone for dinner. Both parities have benefited and each one thanking the other is appropriate.
But when we give thanks to God – at mealtime or any other time – the calculus is clearly different. Read more…
In a stroke of marketing brilliance, the people at Apple branded individualism and associated that individualism with their products. The iPad, the iPod, iTunes, and so on all start with the most important thing in our culture – ‘i’. But Apple, whose logo also may be playing into the theme of the exaltation of the self with the fruit having been bitten into (Genesis 3), didn’t invent the theme of the exalted self. Rather, it is merely capitalizing on, and making hip the reality of our time. Apple, in fact, is really only doing what the twentieth and twenty-first century western church has already accepted as the rule of the day – namely, that the individual is an autonomous, self-contained, self-satisfaction-seeking being.
Before proceeding, let me admit here and now that I have recently come to be the owner of a Mac – a MacBook Pro to be precise. Read more…
It is an annual tradition for media outlets to run stories about food pantries, homeless shelters, soup kitchens and philanthropic efforts that take place around the holiday season. It helps them do their part in raising awareness, and it’s something to report that actually has some feel-good component to it . Of course the silver lining has a touch of grey inasmuch as the good news is only possible because the problems of hunger and homelessness.
At any rate, there have been two stories in the past couple of days that have stuck in my mind. Not the stories themselves so much, really, as things embedded within the stories. First, there was an interview with a local man waiting outside a local soup kitchen to be fed some local soup. He was asked about his living situation. Specifically, he was asked, “Are you homeless?” After a long pause he said (roughly), “Well, right now…I’m…there’s a guy who’s…right now…letting me stay…because of my situation right now…and my Social Security check has been cut…so right now…he’s letting me stay on his property…right now.” Read more…