You Get To Have The Good Stuff!

Wait, that can’t be right, can it?  I get to have the good stuff?  What about that whole “first must be last” thing, and forsaking the flesh, and…and…

Well, I guess it all depends on how you define, “The Good Stuff.”goodstuff1

There is an unfortunate tendency among far too many Christians to continue to live under the condemnation of sin, to hold on to this notion that we are somehow not just unworthy…but worthless as well.  We believe the lies the world tells us, we listen to the lies the Enemy whispers in our ears; that we are less than, that we are forgettable, that somehow God must have turned away from us because of what we’ve done, or what we haven’t done.

‘Cept that, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

We hear that a lot, but what does it mean?  It means that God loves us despite what we are, not because of what we are.  It’s called “unconditional love” and it’s a concept most of us really struggle with, because we see so little of it in the world around us.

Or, to put it another way, God can’t be disillusioned with us…because He never had any illusions about us!

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)

Which of your sins didn’t Jesus forgive, which of your sins, your errors, your misjudgments or your failures didn’t He atone for when He died on the cross…2000 years before you were even born?

I first found Christ when I was six years old. So, was I:  a) forgiven only of those first six years of my life? Or: b) was I truly made a new creation, washed clean for all eternity by the blood of Christ, my life fundamentally transformed from that moment forward? Let me give you a hint:  The answer is: b).

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2nd Cor. 5:17)

And that’s where we get back to that definition of, “The Good Stuff.”

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)

What does that mean?  What is an “abundant life?”

It means you’re allowed to enjoy the good stuff.  You are allowed to be happy, to do things and experience things that bring you happiness.  That you weren’t put here to suffer, but to come to know an abundant life lived under the redemption of Christ.  Don’t live in fear.  Don’t live in recrimination and doubt.  Set aside the insecurities that rob you of your birthright, and chose to truly believe that God means what He says…that He loves you and wants you to know true happiness.

So…do the things that bring you joy! Putter. Sew. Sing. Paint. Draw. Not for anyone else. Just for yourself. The only person it has to be good enough for is you.

Let yourself giggle as you enjoy the delightfully decadent joy of some wonderful bit of bakery fluff coated with some hoity-toity almond butter slide down your throat accompanied by some far-eastern Darjeeling you bought from that quaint little shop in Pike’s Place Market.  And just savor it. Enjoy it.

Walk in your yard and enjoy the blossoms without noticing or caring about the weeds.

Buy that wonderful hand-knit scarf at the street fair, even though you just really shouldn’t, I know, it’s really just too much, and I’ll probably never have anywhere to wear it, and….do it anyway.  Then make a pretty throw with it for the couch instead.

blow-bubblesMake a bunch of silly scribbles in a sketchbook that doesn’t look like anything, but you really like the way the colors go together.  Then stick it on the front of the fridge with a magnet and smile every time you look at it.

Play the piano, just because you know how.  And sing to yourself as loud as you want, and who cares if the neighbors hear you and think you’re weird.  Draw silly faces on the mirror in dry-erase marker and stick your tongue out at them every morning.

It’s called “rejoicing,” and you can do it a lot more often than just standing in a pew on Sunday with a hymnal in your hands!

I think that sometimes, even as even the most devout of Christians, it’s still hard for us to really, truly believe that God loves us and wants us to be happy, especially after some of the things He’s let us endure. But that’s the lesson I’m trying to learn now, to really take to heart….I get to be happy.  It’s okay for me to be happy!  What a concept, huh?  I think maybe we miss out on a lot of blessings and don’t experience more happiness in our life because we don’t believe it.  We don’t look for it, don’t let it in, don’t recognize it when it shows up.  We play this karma game.  We take a worldly look at God’s work and figure He’s just waiting…waiting….waiting with the ruler poised over our knuckles for us to give Him another excuse to drop the hammer.

So, please, also try to take this to heart.  You get to be happy.  And you don’t have to feel guilty or unworthy about it.  Try to get to the place, someday, somehow, where you can really believe that it really is okay for you to be happy.  I’m trying to let go of all the things in my past that are holding me back, bogging me down, things the Enemy takes such joy in using against me.

I hope and pray that you, too, will find a way to let go of all the things that were born out of tragedy or sorrow or abandonment or trials…and just let it be the past. Like an alcoholic who’s quit drinking, a drug abuser who’s quit using and gotten clean…don’t let your past define you.  You don’t have to fix it, maybe don’t even have to “heal” it…maybe you just…let it all go.

Give yourself permission for that.  Forgive yourself for all of that past, for all of those things.  God doesn’t require any sort of penance from you for it — He’s already paid your penance for you, and more! I am choosing to not let myself be defined by my past.  Make that choice for yourself as well.

Be free!  Be emancipated from all that. The door to your jail cell is open, and has been for a while.  You just need to walk through it and accept (and experience) true freedom.   “though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;”  That is the true essence of God’s forgiveness.

See what kind of a life living in true freedom can bring. It’s called “joy.”  Live that life for yourself; live a life fully in the forgiveness of Christ, free from the burdens of the past.

~ Steve

Should Christians Celebrate Christmas?

It’s that time of the year again. Peace on earth, goodwill towards men. Two-for-one, and an extra 15% off if you buy before Saturday. The more you buy, the more you save.

I honestly wonder why we haven’t yet seen an advertisement for a Christmas sale with swarthy-looking bearded gentlemen, a big smile on his face, holding up his arms as if he was on a cross, but in each hand he has shopping bags with a store’s name on them, with the caption underneath, “When Jesus shops here, JESUS SAVES!!

Come on. You gotta admit, it’d be catchy!

I propose that perhaps one of the reasons that Christmas has become so completely secularized with the all Santa Clauses and reindeer and trees and gluttonous commercialism we see today, is that it was never really a Christian holiday to begin with. It is not a day of the Lord; at least, not OUR Lord.

The use of the evergreen tree as a central element likely harkens back to the pagan celebrations of the Winter Solstice. The “Christmas” tree became a part of the modern observance after the Catholic church designated December 25th as the date of Christ’s birth in order to better co-opt the pagan converts into their new religion.

The presence of mistletoe, stockings by the chimney, and the tradition of Santa Claus or “St. Nicholas” are also elements co-opted from early pagan, druid or secular/cultural traditions having absolutely nothing to do with the birth of Christ. The laurel wreath we hang, the ornaments and candles on the tree are likely a holdover from the Roman celebration of the feast of Saturnalia, part of the worship of their Sun god.

Even the act of placing our gifts beneath the tree, while the manager scene sits of to the side, is a strange custom if you think about it. Whereas the Magi of the Biblical account came an placed their gifts at the feet of Christ, we place out gifts at the feet of a…tree. Again, mirroring the pagan act of worshipping the creation, rather than the creator.

If you actually look to the Biblical timeline, the birth of Christ is much more likely to have occurred somewhere in the September/October timeframe. Not December.  So, there’s very little reason or historic justification for holding “Christ’s Mass” on December 25th.

So, SHOULD Christians celebrate Christmas?

Sure!  Yeah! Go for it!  I have a lot of warm and fond memories of Christmas growing up, and plan to build more of the same in years to come.  Christmas is a great time in so many ways, and I plan to make it a part of my December, as always.  However.

I propose that Christians celebrating modern Christmas is much like Christian parents taking their kids trick-or-treating on Halloween. If you can successfully turn a blind eye to what is really at the roots of All Hallows Eve, and just treat it as a fun, cultural event with no religious or “spiritual” meaning, then that’s your decision. We took our kids out this year, not because we were trying to appease the lost and angry spirits, but because it’s just a fun time for them and for us.

But they didn’t dress up as demons, devils, ghosts or vampires, either.

I, for one, have decided that I am not going to get the least bit bent out of shape if some cashier or bagger wishes me a “Happy Holiday,” because that’s all it really is any more. A holiday. An excuse for a party. It’s two extra days off of work if I’m lucky, and overtime pay if I’m not. It’s a chance to give and get some nifty presents, and have another big feast just as I’ve shaken off the last vestiges of the food hangover from Thanksgiving.  To make nice with family and friends I haven’t seen, and for a couple of days at least, pretend that there’s still hope for this crazy, mixed up world.

I’m also going to consider our religious forefathers’ attempts to overlay a thin veneer of Christianity onto what was clearly a pagan ritual a complete failure, and move on.

So yes, I’d say, go ahead and have a Merry Christmas; I certainly plan to!  Just as long as you realize that it’s really become more of a cultural event than anything of Christian significance. 

And don’t go getting in someone’s face because they wish you a “Happy Holiday,” or threaten to boycott a store because they won’t print “Merry Christmas” on their flyers and banners promising you 25% off all the STUFF you are going to go BUY BUY BUY, mostly out of obligation, to fulfill all the expectations our culture has placed on you. 

Should we really be all that upset that Christ’s name ISN’T being put on that stuff?

We should be picketing outside demanding that it’s NOT, not demanding that it IS. I don’t want these stores cheapening the name of my Savior in the interests of making a quick buck!! Talk about WWJD!?! Christians should have a major problem with having the words “Christ” and “One Day Sale” in the same sentence — not getting their feathers all in a fluff because the Lord’s name ISN’T being taken in vain as a marketing ploy.

I would love to see more Christians do the homework to get into and really understand the Messianic roots of so many of the Jewish feasts and festivals, to find a time and way to celebrate the true birth of Christ in a way which honors God, and denies the “form of this world.” So much of what “Christmas” has become cannot be pleasing to God, even when we toss in a manger scene and a few religious Christmas carols.

We need to return to our Biblical foundations, and honor the birth of our Savior in a way that is honoring to HIM, not profitable for Wal-Mart and Pottery Barn.

Jesus was born in the most humble of circumstances, given gifts by people he had no way of knowing, gifts the significance of which he (at the time) couldn’t have known. These gifts were given because they had a prophetic significance, given to honor him, to proclaim him as the Messiah, and ultimately foretelling his death…not because he was the only left on the Magis’ shopping list. “Frankincense? Myrrh? AND they’re on sale? Woot! Shopping DONE!”

I think we should do everything we can to GET the name of Christ out of modern Christmas, and maybe claim another day as our own. Get it on the calendar as “Birth Of Christ (Observed).” Let them have their X-Mas. Let’s write it off as a lost cause, and get back to worshipping God, not mammon.

UPDATE:

Here’s a very detailed article going into the various dates and histories behind the birth and death of Christ.  Good reading!

How December 25 Became Christmas

Thanks in All Things

We are called by the Scriptures to give thanks in all things.  Even the silly little things.

Did God really help me find my ID card this morning?  Just because I prayed for His help?

I’d like to think so.

But I’d much rather mistakenly thank God for something I did, than mistakenly take credit for myself on something God did.

So I thanked Him, and felt blessed.