I’m in trouble this Christmas season. My wife signed us up for Hallmark Movies Now. So don’t blame me when these five things happen.
I’m in trouble this Christmas season. My wife signed us up for Hallmark Movies Now. So don’t blame me when these five things happen.
I am of the opinion that the way many Christians are responding to the so-called war on Christmas is wrong. We live in a time when many people, organizations, and business will not publicly say “Merry Christmas” because it might offend someone. Likewise, many of the traditional decorations and songs will no longer see the light of day. Starbucks even has the audacity to fail to decorate their coffee cups to our liking. This has prompted many people to say that there is a war on Christmas.
What many Christians don’t realize is that the Prince of Preachers himself, Charles Spurgeon, also had a war on Christmas.
“We have no superstitious regard for times and seasons. Certainly we do not believe in the present ecclesiastical arrangement called Christmas: first, because we do not believe in the mass at all, but abhor it, whether it be said or sung in Latin or in English; and, secondly, because we find no Scriptural warrant whatever for observing any day as the birthday of the Savior; and, consequently, its observance is a superstition, because not of divine authority. (Charles Spurgeon, Sermon on Dec. 24, 1871).”
Since I refuse to be taken in by the in the genetic fallacy, I would strongly disagree with the conclusion some might derive from this that it is sinful to celebrate Christmas because of its origins, but we must agree that it is not a holiday mandated by Scripture. So my questions for those who believe that there is a war on Christmas would be, “Would you consider Spurgeon part of the war on Christmas if he were alive today because he certainly would not say, Merry Christmas?” Or is he a man with Christian liberty exercising his conscience?
The point of those questions is this, just because some people will not say Merry Christmas, or decorate their businesses the way we want, does not mean there is a war on Christmas that we must hold at bay.
I bring up the Spurgeon quote only to prime the pump and get us thinking. I believe there is a more direct problem with the way many Christians respond to the “war on Christmas.”
Building on the premise laid out by Spurgeon that there is no biblical mandate that we celebrate a holiday called Christmas in December, we, therefore, have no biblical foundation to require anyone to celebrate Christmas, not even other Christians. If it has no biblical basis, then it is a tradition of men. Some non-biblical traditions of men are good, and some are bad, but they all become evil if we make them a requirement to be a Christian in good standing.
“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” – Colossians 2:8
Now some may protest and say, but we are not saying they need to celebrate it to be good Christians, and you said some traditions are good. All we are saying is that it is a good tradition that should not be under attack, and stores should not be so worried about offending people. They should say “Merry Christmas” because that is what holiday it is. To that, I would say, I understand the sentiment. Political correctness has run amuck, but is the Christmas holiday the hill upon which we really want to take a stand?
The foundational problem with political correctness is that it trades truth for falsehood to avoid offense, but what exactly is the reality of the Christmas holiday that they are violating. What holiday truths need to be pressed upon those who refuse to celebrate it or are trying to avoid offense? Santa, elves, reindeer, decorated trees, the Christmas spirit?
There are wonderful truths of the birth of Christ that every Christian should broadcast to the world, even if it is illegal to do so and lands us in jail, but we do not need to convolute those truths with the traditions of the holiday. Doing so does more damage than good.
Until I hear better reasons why we should fight the “war on Christmas,” my conclusion is this, as much as I love and celebrate Christmas every year, it is not a holiday required by the word of God. Christians should not require other Christians, and certainly not non-Christians, to celebrate it.
Several Christian leaders recently released a statement which was designed to clarify the Biblical position on human sexuality. The statement said nothing new about these issues. Christians have held every proposition in this document for thousands of years. What is new over the past years, is the outrage that comes from those who disagree with statements like this. It is not merely disagreement but venom.
What is pictured above are some of the tame responses; the ones that left out the profanity-laced threats. We live in a time where if a group of people holds to a view of marriage that agrees with almost all of human history, 50% of today’s population will consider them bigots. Some will even call them Nazis and fascists. In condemning them, however, these new moral revolutionaries condemn most people who have ever lived.
The tide is indeed turning against those who hold to the biblical teaching on sexuality. So much so that the warning of being “on the wrong side of history” comes with some empirical force. This, however, should not surprise believers.
In history, when the authorities came for Christians, it was rarely ever because they were “Christians,” it was usually because of some other trumped-up charge. They often said that believers lacked patriotism, or indicted them with some other anti-social behavior. The same will happen in America if these trends continue. They will not say, it is because we are Christian that we need to be punished, but because we are hate-filled bigots abusing those around us through discrimination.
The important thing to remember is that the “wrong side of history” will not ultimately be determined by consensus, but by the only true God who revealed Himself in scripture. The Christian must remain faithful to God. To do this, we must never waver from His word, and we must continue to love those who hate us for it.
If we can only respond to this outrage with belligerence, maybe we should not respond at all. Not being belligerent does not mean that our logic cannot be sharp or our arguments strong. Nor must we water down the wrath to come for those who will not repent, but to quote Francis Schaeffer, “There is only one kind of person who can fight the Lord’s battles in anywhere near a proper way, and that is the person who is by nature unbelligerent. A belligerent man tends to do it because he is belligerent; at least it looks that way.. . .. We do it not because we love the smell of blood, the smell of the arena, the smell of the bullfight, but because we must for God’s sake. If there are tears when we must speak, then something beautiful can be observed.”
May God be your strength, truth your anchor, and love your battle cry.
(The following is a quote from Greg L. Bahnsen’s book Pushing the Antithesis)
A busy academic and social schedule in college can easily pull the Christian away from God’s Word. But remember: you cannot defend God and His Word if you are not sanctified (set apart) for Him by means of contact with His Word. Too many Christian Students drift away from the faith in college because they have not been prepared for the spiritual and apologetic battles they will face. Dr. Gary North once wrote an article advertising a Christian college. The article showed a dejected father who had sent his son off to a secular college. It stated: “I spent $40,000 to send my son to hell.”
Seven Practices Christians Must Do in College.
1. Frequently remind yourself of the nature of spiritual warfare. In order to prepare yourself for your college classes, at the beginning of each semester you should re-read the biblical passages that demonstrate the active antagonism of the unbelieving world against your Christian faith. You must not forget the nature of the unbeliever’s challenge to your holistic (all encompassing) faith.
2. Diligently seek to evaluate everything you are being taught from a principled Christian perspective. After classes each day, jot down comments on the contradictions to the Christian faith which you encountered. Keep them in a notebook. Writing things down is the best secret to a good memory. Reflect on biblical answers to these supposed contradictions.
3. Develop small Bible study and accountability groups with other Christian students on campus. A part of defending the faith involves promoting its defense even among believers. As a Christian in fellowship with other Christians, you should urge fellow believers to realize their spiritual obligation to defend the faith before and unbelieving world.
4. Seek out any Christian campus ministries that are strongly committed to the Bible and are developing the Christian life. Attend their meetings and involve yourself in their ministries.
5. Find a good church in the area of your college. Commit yourself to attend church regularly. As Christians, we must not be “forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encourage one another” (Heb. 10:25).
6. Where possible use class assignments to present the Christian perspective on issues. We would recommend that you avoid narrow testimonial types of papers. You should rather discretely develop worldview oriented themes that work basic Christian principles into the picture. In-your-face testimonials might be an affront to your professor and may appear to be a challenge to him. But working out your biblical principles might alert him to the philosophical implications of Christianity and will certainly help you flesh out your own understanding. You must be about “making the most of your time” while in college . . . You will certainly not find your professors assigning papers that encourage your Christian faith. But you must seek the opportunities—when they are allowed.
7. As a well-rounded Christian seeking to glorify Christ, you must approach your academic studies in a mature and diligent fashion. Your are both paying hard-earned money for a college education and spending your God-given time in college; make the most of your investment. Do not cut corners in your studies or simply try to “get by.” Christ calls you to excellence. Some students are naturally lazy, others suffer from voluntary inertia. Do not allow your educational experience to inadvertently teach you to be intellectually lazy. Such laziness is disloyalty to Christ.
-Greg L. Bahnsen; Pushing the Antithesis–
Everyone seems to have a grievance they want to air. Along with this, it seems most of the world is offended by someone else’s complaint, and they want to stir up the rest of the world because of it. We are a people clamoring to be heard. I suppose the world has always been this way, after all, there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9), but with the introduction of the internet and social media, it seems we hear more of it these days.
As the world continues shouting, truth has fallen in the streets (Isaiah 59:14). Our culture has replaced reason with emotions. Instead of talking about issues, we talk about how we feel, offer our offense, and then tell those who disagree that they are evil. Personal attacks rule the day. We judge people for their judging, unaware of our hypocrisy. In a world that believes truth is relative and self-autonomy the highest value, anything and nothing can be stated as truth, and anyone who disagrees will be labeled as hateful.
Yet, if truth is relative, then even someone’s hurt feelings can be privately interpreted as malignant, and if someone’s offense gets in the way of another’s self-rule, there can be no reasonable solution. All we have left are masked plays for power. Even those who claim to promote liberty and rights from within this worldview, no longer have truth or reason on their side. The will-to-power has become the new truth, even when it is disguised with a calm and compassionate voice. Our culture has suppressed the truth in unrighteousness and has become vain and futile in its reasonings (Romans 1:18,21).
He who shouts loudest wins. We shout on television, we shout on online, we shout with our pocketbooks, and more and more we seem to see people starting to shout with violent protests. Since we can no longer reason, anyone who denies that truth is relative and self-autonomy is king will be bullied. Might makes right is the only logical outcome in a culture that denies truth.
It should not surprise us that many people use the word “hate” like a bully uses his fists: to dominate and intimidate. They sneer “I will not listen to your reason because you were found wanting the moment you failed to recognize my autonomy. If you do not bow to my understanding of truth, I will beat you into submission with threats and social pressures if I can gain enough power.” He who shuns evil makes himself a prey (Isaiah 14:15). If this culture does not like what you say, it will try to silence you with trigger warnings and accusations of micro-aggressions.
In spite of the noise of this fallen world, the word of God stands strong. Truth does not bow to pressure because truth cannot be altered. The word of the Lord is firmly fixed in the heavens (Psalm 119:89). Though the light goes out into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light (John 3:19), the word of the Lord will not return void (Isaiah 55:11).
The grass will wither, and the flower may fade, but the word of the Lord endures forever (Isaiah 40:8). In fact, it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of the law to fail (Luke 16:17). We, as his children, have not been born of corruptible seed, but incorruptible, we were born again through the word of God which lives and abides forever (1 Peter 1:23), and we have nothing to fear because our lives are hidden in him (Colossians 3:3).
Every word of God is pure, and he is a shield to those who put their trust in him. Those who add to his words, or take away words, he will rebuke, and they will be found to be liars (proverbs 30:5–6). The word of God is the rock upon which we must build our lives, for all other ground is sinking sand (Matthew 7:24-27). As believers, we do not need to compete with the noise of the world, trying to be louder than culture and to play its games, but we must speak, whatever the consequences may be (Acts 4:20). We must speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).
We have been commanded by the Word of God himself, Jesus Christ, to go out into all the world with his truth. It is not our cleverness or our volume that gives the word of God its power. It is truth, and it will stand forever. May it be a light to our feet, and a lamp unto our path (Psalm 119:105). If we abide in his word, we are truly his disciples, and we will know the truth, and the truth will set us free (John 8:31-32).
“The wicked have laid a snare for me, but I do not stray from your precepts.” – Psalm 119:110
What is it about being forced to slow down that makes you want to run faster than you were before? I think it is because we realize we had been taking our abilities for granted. On top of that, we realize that though we were running fast, much of it was spent on directionless pursuits. It is amazing how we can feel pressured to check social media, or check a gaming app on our phone. There have been times I have felt like my evening was full because I needed to write a blog post, but no one is sitting at their computer waiting for me to post. Not even my mom does that. Still, something inside me says you better get something written soon.
These are small examples, but we fill our days with these types of anxieties. Many of the things that have us running so fast could be eliminated without a deficit to anyone involved. Often, the only real negative impact we feel is the effect it has on our pride. We tend to think, if I am busy, then I am important. People need me to fulfill all of my so-called responsibilities, because if I do not, things will fall apart, but it is not true. Much of what we feel pressured to do is noise.
We rarely realize this until something hits our life that forces us to start reevaluating. There comes a time when your body or emotional state says, it is time to change pace. At first, we usually think we can work through it, but, in the end, we find that providence is serious about making us slow down. It is at this point that we will hopefully start to gain perspective.
The process is painfully pleasant. About a year ago I found myself in a similar situation. First, I wanted to power through as if my will-power could right all the wrongs with my health. Once I resigned to the fact that I could not do it, I settled in to make some changes. The first thing that I needed to do was to get rid of all the needless distractions that had been adding stress but did nothing to help me be productive with things that were important.
I started by reevaluating what truly mattered. The key to this was making sure my mind was set on things above, or in other words, making sure I was seeking first the Kingdom of God. I will not talk about this much here because I do so in other posts (see links at the end of this post), but if we fail to get this right, everything else becomes meaningless, regardless of whether we are moving fast or slow. Upon reflection, I found I had filled my life with needless interruptions, and they were not benefiting me in any way. I came to realize that I did not know I was being distracted because I was not even aware of what I was being distracted from. I believe this is the case for many people.
Then began the process of slowing down and removing needless stress. This process involved deleting apps on my phone, limiting social media time to once a day, and I even began to schedule time on my calendar to check email only three times a day, instead of checking it continually. This reduction was the part that felt painful at first. I felt like I was going to miss out. If much of my productivity happens with email, how could I accomplish all that I needed to get done? I noticed myself repeatedly looking to my phone for notifications that were no longer available. I had to retrain my mind’s habitual response. The result of this was that I found I was not less productive, I was more productive. I had hours in the morning, afternoon and evening, which were email and social media free. These uninterrupted hours forced me to become more strategic with my time at work and home, instead of wasting it always checking to see if there was something new in my inbox, and diverting my train of thought. This also gave me more time to do something I enjoy, writing.
Regarding social media and time online, I realized I was not missing out on much. I also noticed that my executive attention, the ability to focus on something for an extended period of time, began to grow stronger. Before I was forced to slow down, I had already realized that the internet had started shrinking my thoughts. I began blogging 2005, that was eventually reduced to Facebook posts, and then I was down to 140 characters on Twitter. Though all of these can be powerful tools if used correctly, sustained thought is not something online platforms encourage. The big takeaway was that my mind was spending much less time flitting from one unimportant thing to another.
I also began to choose my television time much more carefully, and I would always keep my Kindle or a book with me. If I was going to spend time doing something during my free moments, I could at least make it something mindful. I could continue to talk about more of these little changes, such as reducing entertainment and letting my mind get bored to make myself desire more useful stimulation, but I think you are getting the picture. Let me conclude with few thoughts on the importance of slowing down.
Slowing down is not something we have to be forced to do. It is something we can do even when our health is strong, and life is good. Jonathan Edwards once said this about a man he honored deeply, David Brainerd.
“[One] imperfection in Mr. Brainerd, which may be observed in the following account of his life, was his being excessive in his labours; not taking due care to proportion his fatigues to his strength.”
Much of what I have written about is removing the unnecessary and unproductive activity from our lives, but sometimes we even need to slow down on that which is worthwhile and godly. Our Lord has put His treasure in jars of clay, and though the outward man is wasting away, the inward man is being renewed day by day. This truth should teach us two things. First, our bodies cannot do it all, and they will eventually fade. Second, when our bodies force us to slow down, even in our service to God, we are not necessarily reducing our pace in being renewed spiritually, which is the ultimate goal.
It seems our culture as come to believe that the two are inextricably bound. If you are not running fast, then you are not being renewed. Sometimes, the best path to being renewed is through slowing down. Maybe it is time to take due care to proportion our fatigues with our strength. It is by doing so that we find we are redeeming the time more effectively than when we were before. It is important to remember that doing less does not mean we stop doing difficult work. Much of our most important undertakings are challenging. This truth is why I think we sometimes prefer busyness over slowing down. If we are using it as a form of procrastination, that type of busyness can be a form of laziness. In the end, I found during my time of slowing down that I was actually accomplishing more.
A divided mind, one caught between heaven and earth, will never find peace because it is chasing things in two different directions. A heart that is united in the fear of the Lord will be able to slow down and cover more ground simultaneously. This need to slow down and regain focus, like all battles with the sinful nature, is a daily struggle. Part of what prompted me to write this post is the fact that I have allowed many of these things to begin crowding my life again. We must continually guard our hearts against being pulled away from the Lord and his service by things of no importance.
Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. – Psalm 86:11
Posts on Setting Our Minds on Things Above
Do not Judge. – Matt 7:1
It is difficult to think of a verse more misused than this one. The number of times it has been used to censor Godly reproof would be impossible to count. If you are in the habit of reading the Word of God and upholding Godly standards, then you have most likely had this verse thrown your way while commenting on some behavior or trend of which God does not approve.
This verse, to many people, means that no one is ever allowed reprove or correct someone’s behavior or beliefs. If you speak, even in love, against things like sexual deviancy, drunkenness or false religious beliefs, then according to these people, you are a judgmental Pharisee. Of course, this is a judgment they are making about you, which means if their interpretation of this verse is correct, then they are also judgemental in their reproof. After all, if they believe that telling people they are wrong is intolerant, they should stop telling judgmental people it is wrong to judge.
With only a small amount of exegesis, we will see that Christ is not saying that it is always inappropriate to reprove someone with the word of God. In fact, this is something we are commanded to do, and it is something for which the Word of God is intended. 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” So what then is Christ telling us? He is telling us of a difference between those who think they are above the law and those who see themselves as under the same standard as the person they are correcting. We are all under the same requirements, and we should not act as if we are exempt from the rules we apply to others. This understanding of judging is seen in the following verses when Christ tells us to remove the plank in our eye before looking at someone else’s speck.
There are a few different ways we can approach someone who is in sin. First, we could act as if all standards of conduct are relative, and not correct anyone except those who try to correct others. This self-refuting judgment, of course, is hypocrisy at its finest. Second, we could act as if the moral law does not apply to us and condemn anyone who violates it, but his type of condemnation is the actual definition of judging. Or finally, we could look at our own shortcomings under the moral law and approach the one who is erring by saying, there is a standard which God wants us to follow because of His love for us, and neither of us is above that standard. Along with both of us being under this standard together, we both fall short so let’s work on our shortcomings together. After all, His standards are an expression of His love.
When we think of a judgmental person, we also tend to think of their attitude as much as we think of their actions. This judgmental attitude is often seen in the first two approaches as well. The first person, the one who thinks that it is always wrong to reprove, usually ends up with a judgmental attitude, because as they criticize, they are acting as if they are allowed to rebuke when the person they are reproving is not. Hence, they are proudly unaware that there is a plank in their eye. The second person also tends to succumb to a judgmental attitude because they too fail to see their own guilt in these matters. Both will have tendencies toward harshness. Only the third person, the one who believes God’s moral standards can be known, that they themselves are not above the struggles with sin, and believes that a reproof is an act of love, will be able to avoid the judging that Christ is speaking of in this passage.
And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. – 2 Tim. 2:24 – 26
Last night Kobe Bryant ended an outstanding 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers. Not that there were not any ups and down with his career, but overall any fan of basketball would have to agree that that he shined as bright, or brighter than some of the greatest players to play the game. Not only was his run one of greatness, but his final game was one of triumph as well, scoring 60 points to close his career.
So what now? Most people only dream of that kind of glory and grandeur and spend their entire lives pursuing it. Rarely do any even come close to what Kobe has experienced, though a few will attain it at a lower level. What we were reminded of last night, however, is that earthly glory always comes to an end. No matter how beautiful the bloom, the flower will start to fade. For those who have placed their hope and confidence in the kingdom of this world, this evaporation of earthly splendor is troubling because eternity has been written on their hearts, yet they acknowledge no higher aim.
It has been said, the greatest tragedies are not those who pursued greatness and failed to reach it. The biggest tragedies are those who achieved it and realized that it could not give them the fulfillment for which they longed. We were made to pursue glory by a glorious God. The problem is we have a natural propensity to exchange the glory of the everlasting God for created things, but the things of earth can never give us what we are seeking. No matter how fast we run, how high we climb, or how many accolades the world gives us, it is ultimately not enough. Even then we will continue the pursuit to see if we can find something else in this world that can lift our heads, and we always seem to find something: temporarily.
There is only One who can give us what we are seeking, and that is the Lord of Glory Himself. Our glory is found in Him, and until our pursuit turns from the things of the world to the eternal God, we have nothing to expect in the end except disillusionment. In Christ, though, it all comes together. Our sins have been forgiven, which causes even death to lose its sting, and no matter how insignificant the world thinks we are, when Christ, who is our life, appears, then we also will appear with Him in glory (Col. 3:4). He is our honor and triumph.
Influence, affluence, legacy; none of these things are wrong in themselves. They can even be used to bring God glory, but when we put them in the place of God, they will all fail to deliver. We must not seek from the world what only God can give. There may be times when the things of this world will cause you to hold your head up high, but only briefly for it is all passing away. Your glory is not found in your attractiveness, your talents, your bank book, your health, or even your legacy. Your glory is found in Christ, and so is your rest.
The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever. – Isaiah 40:8