Monday, December 26, 2011

Lines in the Sand

Do you remember the story in the gospel of John where a "harlot" is brought before Jesus caught in the act of adultery? The people want to stone her, but pause long enough to ask Jesus what he thinks of the situation. If you remember, before Jesus speaks a single word, he begins to draw in the dirt with his finger. I don't know about you, but I've always wondered why Jesus would do such a strange thing. Some say it was a word or phrase that pertained to the situation, others figure he was just "doodling" while gathering his thoughts, but I have a different thought.

I believe He drew…a line.

Metaphorically speaking, to "draw a line in the sand" is to establish a point that shall not be crossed. It is a way of saying, "you may go no further". You see, I believe Jesus was drawing a line in the sand as if to say, "No more!" Jesus knew these people were stiff-necked folks full of religion, void of love, and empty of the life of God. I do believe that line said to all, "Today, this sort of nonsense comes to an end!"

Can I prove it? Heck no, but it's as good of a hypothesis as I've ever heard and I kind of like it!

Today, I too am drawing a line in the sand.

Back in September, I wrote a post entitled, "WARNING: Throwing Rocks Will Get You…Nowhere Good!" Please know that I meant every word of that post but honestly, I just didn't have the "whatever" to actually walk it out at the time. Today, I am reaffirming the commitment I made in that post. I am drawing my own line in the sand and declaring "no more"! By the way, if you are wondering just what I had to say in that post feel free to check it out. If not, cool beans!

Guys, I really wish the "stuff" that junks up our hearts and minds could be easily dealt with, but I suppose it just takes time, a lot of prayer, and a lot of Jesus. Jesus said that He came to set captives free. He did not say it happens instantaneously.

Over the past several weeks, I have come to see more clearly than ever that life is too short and too full of hurt and pain for anyone who names Christ as Savior to be "throwing logs on the fire". In other words, there's more than enough hell-fire strife in the world without me making things worse with hurtful words and mean spirited rhetoric. Honestly, I just don't want to continue to use any part of my life to make things worse for anyone when I could be using my energy and gifts to make things better. The bible says that our witness to the world is our love for each other. If that is the case, my witness has been a poor one at best. For that (and a host of many other things), I am very sorry. I am not your Holy Spirit friends and I do not possess the capacity nor have I been given the right to judge the motives of anyone. And the people said….amen.

With that, I would like to reaffirm my commitment to NEVER AGAIN write a blog post (or Facebook post) that attacks my brothers and sisters in the body of Christ in ANY WAY!

Why? Because I have been completely persuaded by our gracious Lord that we have been called to love each other, support each other, and treat each other as He would love, support, and treat each of us. That means each and every person no strings attached, no conditions.

At the end of the day, we must all carry our hurts and pains to Jesus if we truly hope to be free. No amount of mudslinging will ever undo a bad experience or heal any wound. I should know. Only Jesus can restore us and fill our lives with purpose, hope, and meaning regardless of what anyone has said or done to us. If you are hurt, take it to Jesus. If you want justice, take it to Jesus. If you are angry, bitter, or full of unforgiveness (if that's really a word), take it to Jesus. Hit back, and you'll end up with a black eye every single time. Again, I should know!

He still sets captives free and only He has the strength to turn that key in the lock and open the prison door. Trust me; I'm speaking from experience here!

So for all of you who have been concerned, offended, or completely baffled by my posts over the past couple of years, please rejoice for I am finished being "ugly"! I will continue to write (if God allows), but I will only write that which will edify my church family. Anything past that is indeed pointless.

_______________________(MY LINE IN THE SAND)_____________________

Sunday, December 11, 2011

“Satan” Claus? Well…He Does Wear A Red Suit!

For years now, I've heard many of my Christian brothers and ……well mainly just the brothers rattle on and on about the "evils" of allowing children to believe in Santa. In an article called "Christians and Santa Claus", Pastor Andrew B. Ray shares the following with us:

"If we agree that Santa Claus is a made up character and that for years we have been spreading the lie to children that he is real and we believe that Satan is the father of this lie then it kind of makes you wonder if it really is a coincidence or not. Bible students have known and proven that Satan is the greatest counterfeit of the Lord Jesus Christ, so it would only make sense for Satan to create such a character to do his work."

He goes on to say the following:

"We have the fact that Santa Claus is not real.   I know that most adults realize this but adults have told children that Santa is real. It is a Lie!

Oh you devilish "Satan" Claus devotees! Feeling a little….guilty yet? Nah, me either.

Look, I know Santa Claus probably isn't real (notice I said probably… never know), and yes technically we are telling our children a lie, but dog gone it, I like Santa! He's nice, does good stuff, and cares a lot about people. Of course I do realize he is portrayed in many various ways (some of which are less than benevolent), but that's not his fault! In the end, we would all have to agree that at the core of his character he is really good fellow real or not so real!

Still, there are plenty of upstanding folks out there that do not like the idea of having Santa around at Christmas.

I do wonder if people like Pastor Ray have ever exchanged a shiny new quarter for one of their kid's teeth courtesy of the Tooth Fairy. How about telling a kid that their recently deceased pet is now frolicking through the golden fields of Heaven, isn't that a lie? Can you biblically prove that statement as being factual? Then of course there are those "other" situations like when Uncle Joe dies and we tell the kids he's in Heaven, but in reality we know Uncle Joe was a real creepo and only mentioned the name of Jesus when he was honked off at someone. Is that a lie? What about Christmas? Is it wrong to celebrate the pagan holiday known as Christmas?

"Pagan" you say? Indeed, I say!

You see whether you want to deal with it or not, we all in some way or another take part in "stuff" that is rooted in good old-fashioned heresy and deception. Unfortunately, that would include the wonderful holiday known as Christmas.

With that, I would like to share with you (at least for those "Pastor Ray" types), the truth behind the origins of the Christmas holiday.

For starters, let's take a peek at how Christmas came to be. It all began when Roman pagans first introduced the holiday of Saturnalia, a week long period of lawlessness celebrated between December 17-25.  During this period, Roman courts were closed, and Roman law dictated that no one could be punished for damaging property or injuring people during the weeklong celebration.  The festival began when Roman authorities chose "an enemy of the Roman people" to represent the "Lord of Misrule."  Each Roman community selected a victim whom they forced to indulge in food and other physical pleasures throughout the week.  At the festival's conclusion, December 25th, Roman authorities believed they were destroying the forces of darkness by brutally murdering this innocent man or woman. The ancient Greek writer poet and historian Lucian (in his dialogue entitled Saturnalia) describes the festival's observance with the following:

"In addition to human sacrifice, he mentions these customs: widespread intoxication; going from house to house while singing naked (that sounds fun!); rape and other sexual license; and consuming human-shaped biscuits." (Which by the way are still produced in some English and most German bakeries during the Christmas season).

In the 4th century CE, Christianity imported the Saturnalia festival hoping to take the pagan masses in with it.  Christian leaders succeeded in converting to Christianity large numbers of pagans by promising them that they could continue to celebrate the Saturnalia as Christians.  The problem was that there was nothing very "Christian" about Saturnalia. To remedy this, these Christian leaders named Saturnalia's concluding day, December 25th, to be Jesus' birthday and "VOILA!" Christmas is born.

And it doesn't end there! How about Christmas trees?

Well, just as early Christians recruited Roman pagans by associating Christmas with the Saturnalia, so too worshippers of the "Asheira" cult and its offshoots were recruited when the Church sanctioned the use of "Christmas Trees". Pagans had long worshipped trees in the forest, or brought them into their homes and decorated them, and this observance was adopted and painted with a nice little touch of "Christian veneer" by the Church.

Christmas presents?

In pre-Christian Rome, the emperors compelled their most despised citizens to bring offerings and gifts during the Saturnalia (in December) and Kalends (in January).  Later, this ritual expanded to include gift-giving among the people.  The Catholic Church gave this custom a "Christian flavor" by giving it a makeover and touted it as being a supposed gift-giving act of Saint Nicholas.

I could go on, but I think you most likely get my point. The truth is that we all are guilty of promoting the "lie of Christmas" in one way or another. Even our annual church Christmas plays are chock full of half-truths and misconstrued facts (i.e., the wise men). Yet, rarely does anyone dare question these heinous forms of deception. Why? Well, I suppose the reasons are many, but it could be that most of us just don't see any of this as being a big deal. We know we love God, we love His precious son, and we believe that honoring God in our hearts is far more important than picking apart historical facts and forgotten traditions of long lost cultures.

Frankly, I just couldn't care less about all that stuff and I'd guess most of you don't either! In 1st Samuel 16, God tells us that "man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart", and that's good enough for me!

So, to all you "Pastor Ray types" out there, I would implore you to give it a rest. Yes, you got it right on one point, but you missed the bigger picture. That of course being that our gracious God most likely isn't offended by our pagan trees, presents, and Christmas plays full of deplorable fallacies. No, I'd dare say His heart simply looks for other hearts that long to love, worship and adore all that He is and appreciate all that He has done in our lives.

So rock on Sata…..I mean Santa Claus! And when you fly over the abode of the good "Pastor Ray", try not to think poorly of him. After all, I'd say being on the naughty list for writing "mean stuff"…is punishment enough!

PS – If perhaps you awaken Christmas Eve to find a guy in a red suit poking around your house, try not to panic, unless of course he happens to be carrying a pitch fork!

Peace to you all and may you all have a very Merry Christmas!