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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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A Time To Give Thanks

 

 

A Christian Tradition

 Name the first three things that come to mind when I say Thanksgiving.

 That’s what I thought you’d say, “Turkey, football, and a nap!”

For many people those three things are really all the holiday is about.  Gorging, gang-tackling, and grabbing the couch.  But I have three other things worthy of your consideration at Thanksgiving.  How about, Praise, Prayer, and Purity?

Praise

 Now, praise is a divinely empowered weapon for human hands.  A life that is full of praise can overcome anything.  The Word tells us to put on the “mantle” (cloak or garment) of praise (Isaiah 61).  The instruction is to use it to replace the spirit of heaviness, fainting, or despair.  When you begin to praise the Lord, you are loosing a power that elevates you above storms and trials.  You are elevated to see from God’s perspective.  In most circumstances praise will remove the clouds from your vision to allow you to see God’s solution to the problem.  There are many Biblical examples of the results of God’s people overcoming with praise.  But the key is the “doing” and not the “preparing.”  The challenge for us is to use praise as a deadly weapon on a consistent basis to destroy the work of the enemy.  Praise is a better weapon than any defense that will ever take the field!!!

Prayer

And then there is prayer to consider.  Prayer is the discipline of seeking God’s heart for the many affairs of our life.  It is giving our heavenly Father the opportunity to influence our daily decisions.  Jesus said in Luke 19:46, “My house is a house of prayer…”  We are also told that the Church would become temples not made by human hands (that’s us folks).  There is a familiar chorus that states, “Know ye not, know ye not you are the temples of the Holy Ghost.”  The point is that our lives should be saturated with prayer.  We should be full and running over with the life of God from the time we spend in His presence; houses that are full of prayer.  We have talked and preached about it, but this is the season to do it.  Paul wrote to the Colossians and said, “Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.” (4:2).  “Devote” means to “give your entire person over to; set yourself apart unto a purpose; become addicted to; apply yourself wholeheartedly to.”  ‘Nuff said!  Instead of napping, start praying.

Purity

Finally, there is the word, “purity.”  The “Puritans” who founded the holiday here derived their name from the root word.  Purity means living according to the character and statutes of the Living God.  America has prospered because it has always had the Judeo-Christian ethic at its heart.  Our people have been blessed because our lifestyle has honored the Word of God and our society has been structured to acknowledge and honor and emulate the purity of Almighty God.  I genuinely fear that such is no longer true.

 In the Scripture, Israel prospered until sin overcame a majority of the people.  Israel was left to its own consequences when it ignored or denied the holiness of God.  America has known and taught the purity of the Scripture, but America is desperately in need of learning once again, “to worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.”   When you really think about it, our primary function as believers is to behold His beauty until it permeates every area of our life.  Another expression that is often used to express this concept is to be “filled” with Him.  The apostasy of our nation is blatant and overwhelming.  We need a true awakening of purity and holiness.

 There is no doubt that the Thanksgiving turkey looks so good when it comes to the table, it tastes so good when passing over our tongue, it fills our tummy ‘til we think we won’t ever be able to eat another bite.  But it doesn’t satisfy for very long.  Before the day is over, we’re back in the kitchen looking for a snack.  Not so, the purity, the holiness of God.  Beholding His beauty, permeated with His power, sated with His splendor, and meditating on His might brings satisfaction that is incomparable.  Sin loses its attraction when compared to the beauty and grace of our Lord.

 This Thanksgiving, as you pass the cranberry sauce, think Praise, Prayer, and Purity…enjoy, share, and be blessed.

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