Thursday, November 29, 2012

When the Rubber Meets the Road...

Do people look at your life and know Jesus is real?  

It's a question I keep asking myself.  I think it is a question we all need to ask ourselves if we are Christians.

I was raised in a Christian home and have been in a myriad of churches all of my life, but this past year has taught me more about faith than any that have come before.  

Shortly before God called Bryan to plant Church@The Square, we went to an Acts29 bootcamp for church planters to find out the "inside scoop" on what church planting was really like from the inside.  We heard stories of victory and stories of despair.  I listened to wives in the women's track share about being tested and describe their personal stories to support their husband's in his calling.  So, when God made it clear to Bryan that he wanted him to start a church, I felt confident about where we were going and felt like I had an idea of what was to come.

I knew the basics.  It wasn't going to be easy.  We were doing something financially risky.  Our marriage would be tested.  Our children would be challenged.  In the end, we had to believe losing everything for the sake of the Gospel was really no loss at all, even if our church didn't succeed.  I knew that.

Fast forward over a year later, living it is a new story.  It's easy to have faith when you know how life should play out.  It's not easy when life derails and chaos becomes the norm.  Consistent schedules have long gone out the window with retirement plans and a nice emergency fund.  I have had to decide whether I really loved Jesus enough to be ok with life unpredictable and bank accounts not lining up neatly.  Do I love Jesus enough to sacrifice my comfort and settle for thrift store clothes over trips to the mall?  Do I love Jesus enough to forsake my pride and give up caring about what others' think to follow Him well?  Do I love Jesus enough to eat bean soup one more time this week because it stretches our grocery budget further?

By no means do I think we are martyrs, that's not my point.  By living in the United States alone, that places us in the category of the wealthiest people in the world.  Any sacrifices we make here are pathetic compared to what many global missionaries give up daily, but I'm not them.  I'm me.

Giving up anything that I value is uncomfortable and tests my allegiance.  

Christian brothers and sisters, we cannot serve God and money.  Jesus made that clear.  If you're not actively fighting to serve God instead of money, I can guarantee that you aren't serving Jesus.  Remember, Jesus said that the road to eternal life was narrow and those who find it are few.  Following Jesus isn't the way we naturally drift.

I really do like Christmas and Christmas trees... I'm just trying to help you see a bigger picture here!

Ok, so what's my point?  As Christmas approaches, it's easy to get caught up in consumerism and holiday frenzies.  I feel the pull.  It's fun, it's light hearted, but most of it is pointless.  

As Christians, if the way we celebrate Christmas looks exactly like the way an unbeliever celebrates Christmas, something is off.  

Something is very wrong.  If we truly believe that Christmas is about celebrating the greatest gift God has ever given mankind, Jesus, we need to reevaluate how we spend this season.  We don't need to rack up our credit cards buying things to impress people we don't even like.  We don't need to pump our kids so full of the Santa hype that they completely miss out on Jesus, the only one who can really satisfy their hearts.  We don't need to pack our schedules so slam full that we run ourselves empty and are unable to enjoy Jesus at all.

Here's what I am proposing:

Boycott EVERYTHING.  (Definitely Just Kidding!)

1) Recenter your Christmas around Jesus.  Be creative.  Use an advent calendar.  I don't care how you do it.  Just do it.

2) Don't get caught up in an American Christmas.  I'm not saying that you have to throw away every Santa and Frosty the Snow Man that you own.  I'm not.  We're not supposed to hide in dark holes to escape our culture.   Live in it, but don't let it own you. In our house, we don't play the Santa game.  We teach our kids about the real St. Nicholaus and how he was a courageous man who loved Jesus and was a giver.  We don't teach our kids that Santa is evil or that they needs to spill the beans to all of the other kids around them that Santa is a hoax.  We simply just don't make it a big deal.  We make Jesus, the God of the Universe, coming to the world as a baby a huge deal.  Why?  Because, He is.

3) Simplify your Christmas.  How much?  Simplify your schedules, your traditions, your giving, your life until Jesus is easily seen and celebrated.  That will look different for every family.

4) Give generously to someone in need.  Pray about it as a family.  Use it as an opportunity to worship God for giving us Jesus.  This may be to someone you know or someone you don't.  It has meant different things to us different years.  God will direct you to choose wisely.

The bottom line... I don't believe in legalism.  I don't think hiding from Christmas will teach your kids anything about it all.  I don't think you should only give your kids three gifts each to teach them how to be grateful.  I don't think you have to run every time you see a Santa in the mall.  I don't think you have to stroke out because you can't buy every person you know a Christmas gift.   I don't think you have to plug your ears every time a secular Christmas song plays in Walmart.  I don't think we need to burn Christmas trees.  I happen to like Christmas trees very much and plan on driving around with our kids to look at Christmas lights like we do every year.

I do believe people need to see Jesus in our lives.  I do believe how we celebrate Christmas can either show people that Jesus matters a lot to our family or that He really doesn't matter at all.

As we plug in the Christmas trees, eat our gingerbread men, and sip our egg nog lattes, let's live in such a way that people know Jesus is real... not just another Packaged Santa Claus.  Jesus has rocked our world and has turned it upside down.  

Luke 2

The Message (MSG)

The Birth of Jesus

1-5 About that time Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Empire. This was the first census when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone had to travel to his own ancestral hometown to be accounted for. So Joseph went from the Galilean town of Nazareth up to Bethlehem in Judah, David’s town, for the census. As a descendant of David, he had to go there. He went with Mary, his fiancée, who was pregnant.
6-7 While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. She gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in the hostel.

An Event for Everyone

8-12 There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.”
13-14 At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises:
Glory to God in the heavenly heights,
Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.
15-18 As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. “Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.” They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the sheepherders were impressed.
19-20 Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself. The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they’d been told!

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