A WORD FOR CHRISTMAS AND BEYOND

As a final post for 2012 here is something about Christmas that I wrote 7 years ago:

A WORD FOR CHRISTMAS AND BEYOND

It’s getting very close to Christmas.
Should we be celebrating even though we know there is no real connection with the 25th December and the birth of our Lord? Should we shun the celebration because the REAL source of the holiday is a pagan celebration?

Some Christians proclaim we should “Put the Christ back into Christmas”. I’ve heard others saying we should take the Christ out of Christmas because the event was never really about Him anyway – pointing to all of the closely held traditions that originate in pagan practices.
But please let me make this point. At what other time of the year are unbelievers willingly confronted with hymns praising our Lord – even singing along?

Despite attempts to replace the “religious” carols with American songs about Jingling Bells, snow men, and reindeer with unusual facial colouring, the Christ praising songs still hang in there among the favourites. At this time of the year, despite attempts to secularise Christmas, in our western tradition, it has remained acceptable, (even among unbelievers) to remember that our Lord was born into this world as a human baby.

Surely, while this acceptability remains we should make the most of it. There is a starting point for the preaching of the gospel while people have this seasonal awareness of the beginnings of Jesus human life.

How can we “exploit” this situation? By belittling the occasion because the date has no historical fact? By shunning celebration because of its pagan roots? Or by recognising an opportunity to make people aware of Jesus BEYOND the manger?

I recall several years ago one radical group of Christians in my home town joined a Christmas parade. Their contribution was a man dressed as Jesus carrying the cross being whipped as he walked along. The person with the whip was dressed as Santa Claus. Now did THAT cause an uproar in the local press!

Now this brings me to another point I’d like to make – the difference between Christmas and Easter (yet another pagan celebration appropriated by the church). Around the time of Mel Gibson’s movie, “The Passion of the Christ” I was astonished at the reaction of the major movie reviewers. These people who can eagerly type their praises of intensely violent and ugly films like Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill and others – somehow found the brutality of Jesus being scourged and crucified as intensely offensive.

I realised then how acceptable Jesus can be when He’s no more than a baby in a manger. But Jesus suffering and dying for our sins, the brutality of the crucifixion, the sheer ugliness of torn flesh and shed blood – well it’s just not acceptable is it? At least not in the world’s eyes – it’s too confronting. A baby receiving birthday presents and visits from angels and shepherds, all of the peace and goodwill messages, THAT is what they can accept. But move that baby on to adulthood and look at the end purpose of His life and the world doesn’t want to know. They’ll celebrate His birth with songs of paraise – but His death?

Just pass them more chocolate eggs.
Manger

Five doomsdays that never happened

Five doomsdays that never happened:

http://au.news.yahoo.com/world/a/-/world/15673013/five-doomsdays-that-never-happened/

And the Day of the Lord that WILL happen (date unknown to man)Blood moon

Isaiah 13:6 Wail, for the day of the Lord is at hand!

It will come as destruction from the Almighty.

7 Therefore all hands will be limp,

Every man’s heart will melt,

8 And they will be afraid.

Pangs and sorrows will take hold of them;

They will be in pain as a woman in childbirth;

They will be amazed at one another;

Their faces will be like flames.

 

9 Behold, the day of the Lord comes,

Cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger,

To lay the land desolate;

And He will destroy its sinners from it.

10 For the stars of heaven and their constellations

Will not give their light;

The sun will be darkened in its going forth,

And the moon will not cause its light to shine.

 

11 “I will punish the world for its evil,

And the wicked for their iniquity;

I will halt the arrogance of the proud,

And will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible.

 

See also: Jeremiah 46:10,  Joel 2 & 3,  Amos 5,  Obadiah 1,  Zephaniah 1,  Zechariah 14,  Acts 2,  1 Thess 5,  2 Peter 3

In Guns They Trust

bushmasterSee the linked article and ask: ” was this a logical and reasonable thing for the boy to do?”

Under the circumstances and due to the prevailing(?) attitude to firearms in the US I think it was. Sadly!
Is it any different to home owners arming themselves just in case? It just seems more shocking that a child should do this out of fear of what may happen at school.

“US authorities say an 11-year-old boy caught with a gun at school in Utah told administrators he brought the weapon to defend himself in case of an attack similar to the mass shooting last week at a Connecticut elementary school…”

http://au.news.yahoo.com/full-coverage/connecticut-shooting/a/-/article/15672024/us-boy-brings-gun-to-school/

As it was pointed out in comments under a previous post, the only answer to the violence (and the gun obession) is the gospel of Jesus Christ. But what about the attitudes of the American Christians responsible for sharing that gospel? What role do guns (for protection) play in their lives?

What Kind of gospel can be shared when trust is placed in weaponry rather than in the God of the Gospel?

White Canvas of Doom

I’m back at that place where I have an empty white canvas to deal with. I’ve finished the paintings I was working on and I need to start something new.blank canvas

To be honest, I have TWO white surfaces to deal with. One stretched and primed canvas and a sheet of primed Masonite/hardboard.  I’ve read that some people are intimidated by the blankness of a new painting surface, like writers facing an empty page, struggling for ideas, not knowing how to start.

Sometimes I start a painting with a particular artist in mind. Would I be able to approximate their style and technique? While the result looks nothing like the work I had in mind, it gives me a starting point that evolves as I add and scrape away layers of paint.

My problem with the blank canvas isn’t a lack of ideas. I have too many things I’d like to try, but as soon as I start putting marks on the white surface, I ‘ve committed myself to NOT trying so many of the other things I’d like to do. The hard decision is choosing what I want to do first, something that won’t have me wondering what I could have been doing, if only I’d started with one of the other ideas.

However, since most of the time I end up doing three or four paintings on top of each other before I find something I like, it doesn’t matter what I start with because it’s likely to be buried under several layers of paint anyway. Those paintings I consider to be my successes usually come about through trying to hide the mistakes I’ve made during the preliminary stages of the painting.

The Whole Truth Or Its Nothing Like the Truth!

Word_2A few years ago, I went through a time of re-evaluating my understanding of scripture. I saw it being used very legalistically and reacted against that practice. I began to question the idea that scripture should be called the “word of God” and received a very harsh backlash from a few members of a forum I frequented, even though I didn’t deny the authority and inspiration of scripture.
Essentially I now think most of the argument was more about semantics and terminology than honestly addressing the nature of scripture.

Not long after this I came face to face with another view point, where scripture was taken extremely lightly and was seen as being secondary to the “voice of the Spirit”. It led to all kinds of strange beliefs and practices and attempts to bring correction through appeals to scripture were dismissed.

These experiences showed me the dangers of extremes.
One extreme takes every word as being individually God inspired and therefore containing the full authority of God. It leads to taking individual verses out of their intended context and trying to apply them in some way in our lives. It reduces scripture to a collection of instructions or individual stand-alone truths that must be held in all circumstances regardless of intended context.

The other extreme sees scripture as out-dated and almost irrelevant because we now have the Spirit to teach and guide, we just need to follow His leading. Of course that relationship with the Spirit is true (or should be) – but part of His Spiritual leading comes through the scriptures He inspired. We can’t cast aside His previous revelation as being no longer relevant in order to follow a “new” thing totally separated from revelation already provided.

A dangerous side of this is found in the SELECTIVE approach to scripture where some think they can pick and choose which parts are relevant today, which parts are REALLY inspired, and which parts are not. This often leads to adding new “truths” in place of scripture and progresses to practices and beliefs contrary to the scriptural revelation of God’s character. Look up the antics of people like Todd Bentley and John Crowder to see examples of this.

I am convinced that scripture needs to be seen as a whole revelation and reliance on “texts” needs to end. We at least need a basic overview of the bible. I see that is much more important than familiarity with individual “memory verses”. How do the Bible’s parts fit together? How does the story of God’s relationship with mankind progress from creation (Genesis) right through to the end of the book of Revelation?
Where do the prophets fit into the history? During which period were they prophesying? Pre-exile, post-exile, or during the exile? We don’t need to be experts on these things, but a little knowledge of the flow of scripture and how different parts relate to each other helps increase our understanding of God and His purposes: in other words what scripture is REALLY revealing.

Additionally I have seen the importance of recognising what scripture ACTUALLY says; accepting it literally unless context makes it clear that other meaning should be sought (clear symbolism for example or things expressed as poetry).

Too often people ignore the literal message because it challenges what they want to believe. They then choose to interpret what they read to make it more palatable.

Psychobabble cliché

glass
Glass half full or glass half empty?

Why put up with value judgements based on meaningless comparisons? Why can’t we just recognise there’s something in the glass and stop quibbling about quantity.

Today I was told a viewpoint I’d expressed was “glass half-empty”.  If so I think it was preferable to the spin being presented by my “accuser”.

I’d rather recognise reality, even viewed in a negative light, than to fall for a falsely rosy outlook. I’d rather know I have a half empty glass than to have an empty one deceptively covered with wet cling-film.