Monthly Archives: December 2012

A Nation Grieves

A Nation Grieves

Words to adequately describe the events in Newtown in the past few days do not exist.  For the heroes who did their best to protect the innocent children who were massacred, “grateful” is a woefully insufficient description.

It was an almost immediate response for many to politicize the tragedy, but this is not the time for the political discussion.  Whether the fault lies with “guns” or with the “moral decline” of this nation is a dispute in which we will gladly engage at another time, but it is appalling to use these beautiful, innocent, babies and their families to make points.  This is a time for compassion and support for those who have suffered the loss.

Today, we grieve.  We grieve for what the shooter did to others, but we also grieve for his family, who lost son, brother, and mother in the shooting, and must carry the family name for the balance of their lives.

I have a two adult daughters and a 9-year old granddaughter.  As I watched and listened to the news reports this past week, all I wanted to do was embrace all of them.  I wanted to tell each of them, one more time, how much love I have for them and that nothing else in the world mattered.

We know who, we know how, we know what, we know when, and we know where.  We will never understand the why.  The shooter’s personality and mental condition will be sliced and diced by the pseudo-experts over the days and weeks ahead, but, at the end of the day, their opinions may be “educated,” but they are just guesses.  Only he knew why he did what he did

Death is never an easy subject to grasp, even for adults.  The death of a child is, emotionally, even worse.   King David was a man of war.  He was accustomed to men around him dying.  But, when the death of Absalom, his son, was reported to him, the Scripture says he was “shaken.”  He wept, and cried out what every parent of every child who dies has said, “If only I had died instead of you….” (2 Samuel 18:33).

This tragedy comes in the midst of the celebration of the birth of a baby, a unique child, the Son of God.  He, too, was killed senselessly and without just cause.  But, His death was part of the plan of God, and he rose after three days as He had promised he would.  Paul reminds us that believers in Jesus Christ do not “grieve as those who have no hope.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13)  Note that he did not say we would not grieve.  The separation, the hopes, dreams, plans and futures that will not be realized, the senselessness of an untimely death, cause us to hurt, to grieve, to mourn.

It is right and appropriate that we do, however, because we believe that because Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, we have hope that we will be reunited.  It is that hope to which we cling.  It is that hope we offer as comfort to grieving parents.  Innocent children were slaughtered, they are with God, and we live in HOPE.

To all in Newtown, and to all who grieve, we offer a prayer from the famous Christmas Carol, “Sleep in Heavenly Peace.”

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A Charlie Brown Christmas

CBXmas TreeCharlie Brown TV Special in 47th Season

Our world has changed dramatically since the Christmas Season of 1965.  That was the year that “A Charlie Brown Christmas” first aired on CBS.  It has been enjoyed by millions ever since and has become as much a part of American Holiday TV as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  But, in 2012, it is not politically correct to tell the Christmas story on secular TV.  In 2012, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, Chanukah, and even Earth Day are all approved subjects for public consumption.  Christmas, on the other hand, creates controversy even when expressed in a 47-year old cartoon.

A Charlie Brown Christmas Parable

“A Charlie Brown Christmas” is the depiction of the loneliness that many feel during the season and the joy that comes from inclusion.  It also contrasts the sacred with the secular in Christmas, and that is the source of the controversy.  “Sacred” is not an acceptable topic for secularists.

Charlie Brown and the little Christmas tree are parallel characters.  Each of them is considered by their peers to be defective and unwanted.  Charlie Brown begins the show looking into an empty mailbox, finding nothing, and exclaiming he “just doesn’t understand” Christmas.  All his friends are so shallow consumed with the secular trappings of the season, that they find Charlie Brown’s search for meaning beyond their understanding.

For the other characters, Christmas is all about Santa and the gifts that they will receive.  Using comically PC language for today, Sally, Charlie’s own sister, says she only wants her “fair share” of the Christmas loot.  The children in the Peanuts neighborhood don’t understand Christmas any more than the secularists of today.  Self-centeredness and consumption have replaced peace on earth and good will toward men.

The Tree

When sent to pick out a Christmas tree, Charlie Brown picks the sorriest tree on the lot, proclaiming, “This little one needs a home.”  After much initial ridicule from the rest of the cast, the tree is trimmed and is transformed into a beautiful centerpiece for celebration.  The tree is a beautiful symbol of God’s relationship with His creation.

That poor tree was ugly and useless.  There was nothing the tree could do for itself.  That little tree was not just unappealing, it was wretched.  Guess what?  We are like that forlorn tree.  We are wretched and hopeless.  Our world is ugly and our presence does nothing to enhance it.  There is nothing about us that makes us appealing, we need “a home,” and love that is beyond our own ability to earn or deserve.

Choosing us makes no more sense that Charlie Brown’s selection of that little tree.  No one can understand why He would choose us, but He did.  Instead of being abandoned, we were suddenly included.  Instead of being the object of ridicule, we unexpectedly have eternal value.  After choosing us, he “decorated” us with His own love, mercy, grace, and righteousness.  He made the ugly beautiful.

Merry Christmas!

The real story of the Birth of Christ contained in the Gospel of Luke is recited by Linus in the performance.  Secular humanists, et. al., would much prefer it not be included, but Charles Schulz was adamant about its inclusion almost 50 years ago, and so it remains.

Frankly, the Gospel is the point; the point of A Charlie Brown Christmas; the point of the Holiday; and the point of life itself.  We were without hope and God chose to become one of us so that we would have the opportunity to know Him.  Why would He choose to do such a thing?  No good reason, but He did.  He “decorated” an ugly tree on Calvary’s hill so that He might “decorate” us with peace, joy, love, and eternal life.

If you celebrate another holiday at this time of the year, I wish you a sincere, “Happy Holiday.”  But, I expect your respect of MY Holiday in return.  No matter how much you secularize, marginalize, ridicule and sue, Jesus is still the reason for the season.

Merry Christmas to Charlie Brown and to you!

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Do You Give To Get?

What Motivates You to “Do Something” For Others?

Donation

Do you write a check to a charity at this time of year?  What percentage of your gross income do you give helping others directly?  If you are a church-person, do you tithe?  Do you believe there is a direct correlation between what one gives to God and what one gets from God?  These represent a few of the theological, practical, philosophical, and political questions that are on many minds during December.

Theologically, “giving to get” is nothing new.  Though some TV evangelists and networks would have you believe that supporting them financially is “sowing a seed” in the Kingdom that God is required to multiply back to you.  First, let me tell you that they have no “new” revelation.  The theology has been written about since at least the early 1800s.  The metaphysical teacher and author E. W. Kenyon popularized the theology in the early 1900s.  The Pentecostal and Charismatic beginnings were led, in large part, by people who were Kenyon followers.

If one studies and ponders Kenyon’s teaching and its timing, “God spoke” to him at about the same time the capitalist profit-motive philosophy was in full vogue.  Physical possessions were being accumulated at a rate never seen before due to economic influences that, frankly, had little to do with God’s blessings.  So teaching that if you give God a little, He will respond (make the MUST respond) with a lot gained traction and has maintained it through men like A. A. Allen, William Branham, Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, Oral Roberts and family, Trinity Broadcasting, and the Osteens.  Of course, Scripture is quoted to support the theology, but often the context of the quoted scripture is brutalized to serve the point.

It is also worth noting, that the theology is often embraced by those who are most desperate and often, most vulnerable.  Unfortunately, the “give to get” theology makes a relationship with God transactional.  If I do my part then God is obligated to me to respond in the manner I have set up in the transaction.  For example, if I have “enough” faith, then I will be_______________(you can fill in the blank with whatever it is you want God obligated to do).

The biggest issue with the Kenyon theology, is that God is too big for any box man can create for Him and refuses to be reduced to a transaction.  God, through the Scripture, is abundantly clear that He seeks relationship with us, not a transaction.

Would You Give If You Couldn’t Deduct It?

The philosophy of “giving to get” is the philosophy of the capitalist.  Investment reaps reward.  I invest my dollars in a venture that I believe will bring me more dollars.  I am willing to risk what I have in order to gain what I want, but does that figure into charitable giving?

The practical and political tone to the question comes if it is rephrased to ask, “How much would you give to charity if your donation was not tax-deductible?”  Do you give to charity because you believe in the charity and in its mission, or do you give to the charity INSTEAD of giving to Uncle Sam?

Remember when Jesus said that if you hate your brother then you are guilty of murder, and lust is no different from adultery?  The message He delivered through the hyperbole is that motivation matters.  The widow who gave her “mite” gave more than those who could fill the coffers because her motivation was approved of God.  I wonder what her response would have been if she had been able to “deduct” it from her taxes?

Here’s my point.  There is a huge political debate raging at the moment about raising revenues for the Federal Government and reducing the spending on entitlement programs that it does.  One of the ideas being floated is to do away with the charitable deduction now available to Americans who itemize their deductions.  How do you feel about that?  Would it make a difference in your giving if your gift was non-deductible?  Will ministries like this one suffer if donations are not deductible for the donor?  Who is more responsible for the poor, the government or the church?

Please take a minute to answer our poll.  We’ll give you the results next week.

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