Month: November 2017

The Wonder of Christmas from the Eyes of a Child

Do you remember the wonder of the world when you were a child? I remember learning from my parents about thing that would today be very mundane. But back then, they were fascinating! How does a phone let you talk to someone on the other side of the world? Why do I go to school five days a week, Sunday one day, and my parents try to sleep in the other day? How does food go from the cow to my plate?

Harvey Mackay writes, “Throughout the holidays, a lot of emphasis falls on children. Why? Because children bring such a marvelous perspective to events that many of us take for granted. Kids get excited about life in general. They see everything with fresh eyes, knowing they will find something new and different every time they look. Adults, on the other hand, look for things they know and expect. Imagine what we grown-ups are missing.”

I often wish I could go back and read the Bible for the first time, all over again. Think about all the wonders of Christmas that we have grown far too used to. Angels surprising Mary and shepherds. How would you react if you were surprised like this? Or, a star that suddenly appears to show the Magi the way to Jesus. Or God becoming man in the form of a baby to seek and to save the lost. Wow. Do you remember the feeling that you used to have on Christmas Day as a child? It felt like a day that was different from all other days. A day of wonder. A day of family. A day of faith. And yes, a day of gifts. And yet, these gifts remember the greatest gift humanity has ever received. This Christmas, set aside all of the times you’ve heard this story before. Set aside your preconceived notions of what is happening. Simply experience Christ with the child-like wonder that we had lost. And experience the promise of Christ at Christmas all over again.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and questions, please comment below!

“In Everything, Give Thanks”

As we look towards Thanksgiving, we tend to think back on this past year. The events that stood out to us. The events we celebrated. The events that drove us to tears. There’s a delightful woman here at Buffalo Prairie EPC who commonly gives thanks for the weather. She gives thanks for the warm sunshine of summer, the colors of the fall, and the beautiful snow of winter. In everything, she finds something to be thankful for. Unconsciously, I believe that there’s a decision embedded within the way that she views life. Anytime something happens, good or bad, we decide whether to react positively or negatively to it. When we get stuck on hold with customer service for an hour, do we get mad that we are there waiting, and waiting? Or, do we find a way to make the best of it? This is the difference that gratitude makes. And this is what the holiday of Thanksgiving is all about.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, Paul is writing about what he is thankful for. He says, “ in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” The statement is pretty self explanatory, but the background behind it is fascinating. Paul had founded the church in Thessalonica. He started at the Jewish synagogue, then the house of Jason became an important meeting place for the church. As Paul started to gain momentum within this town, the Jews and officials started to take note of it. In Acts 17, you can see that the Jews started a riot in reaction to Paul. The rioters stormed to Jason’s house. When they couldn’t find Paul, they grabbed Jason instead. Then they took him off to the authorities. While Jason and the Jews were pre-occupied, Paul got out of town. Here, he is writing to this church that he had loved. This church that he had founded. Despite the rough ending, he reminded them to give thanks in everything. Give thanks when you get hauled off to the authorities. Give thanks when you have to sneak out of town. In everything, give thanks.

For us, this can mean that Paul is telling us to give thanks when we get home from a tiring day at work and find out that the kids have made a mess. Give thanks even when finances aren’t balancing. Give thanks whether it is raining, snowing, or the sun is shining outdoors. In all things, give thanks. Is that your attitude of gratitude today? Give thanks.

Church Shooting Reality Check

Sunday morning. Sutherland Springs, Texas. 26 people dead. Aged 5-72. One man with mental problems dead in a crashed SUV. Three days later, questions are answered. Other questions continue to linger. Why did he do this? Why at the church? How does his troubled military career play into all of this? Ironically, or perhaps, providentially, Sunday was a special day in the life of the church. Churches across the nation and around the celebrated the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. This was a day where we learned about Christians in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Africa who face persecution for their faith daily. Many believers listen to the stories and appreciate the prayer time. And they feel thankful that it would never happen here.

Then it did. 1 Peter 4:14 says, “If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” Now, these 26 never thought of themselves that way. They were simply attending church. The same thing they may have done for decades. They didn’t fit the mold that we think of a persecuted believer or martyr. They weren’t put on trial. They didn’t make a famous, “Here I stand” statement. They simply showed up for church. Yes, it happened because of a troubled man who never should have had firearms in the first place. But what small action did the 26 take? They showed for church. And Peter says that they are blessed for their small act of obedience. Peter says that the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon them for their small act of obedience.

Coming out of this incident for believers, I believe have a few takeaways. First, be thankful for the safety and security we enjoy that those in persecuted areas of the world don’t. Second, remember that those who died for showing up for church died with the blessing of God upon them. Lastly, let us follow their example and their lead in obedience. The small act of obedience of encountering Christ and worshiping him this Sunday morning.