The Red Cup Again

20151203_090800It’s that time of the year again, the most wonderful time of the year, when we get upset about red cups and Happy Holidays greetings.

I was going to get all snarky and sarcastic but I don’t want to do that.  I know how we feel.  We are seeing the loss of our culture, our traditions, our way of life.  It seems we are circling the drain and it’s just a matter of time till we…

So how do we respond when somebody at the checkout says Happy Holidays?  It’s pretty easy to go all Andy Rooney, beetle browed and  and bah humbug voiced and come back with Merry Christmas.  But maybe there’s a better way.

Remember the Jose Feliciano song?  I know you do.  Feliz Navidad.  It says ‘I want to wish you a Merry Christmas from the bottom of my heart’.  Now that sounds like a strategy.  Merry Christmas is not supposed to be a battle cry.  It’s supposed to be a blessing.

So the next time you are confronted with ‘Happy Holidays’, relax.  Give them a big smile.  Try to channel an Osmond.  And wish them a Merry Christmas.  From the bottom of your heart.

Merry Christmas.

Say it like you mean it.

 

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Dispensations

There is a theological teaching that goes like this:

History can be broken down into separate and distinct eras defined by how God and man interact.

  1.  Innocence – The garden of Eden before the fall
  2. Conscience – From the fall to the flood
  3. Human government – The flood to Abraham
  4. Patriarchs or promise – Abraham to Moses
  5. Law – Moses to Christ
  6. Grace – From Jesus to right now
  7. Millennial Reign – When Jesus returns

In spite of the fact that I have a link to a full explanation of dispensationalism…I could have this all messed up.  I’m not so worried about the details as I am the overall purpose in this.

The first five of these are ways that we could get to God.  And they all failed.  The fifth, grace, is the story of how God came to us.  God spent thousands of years allowing us to try to get to Him.  And we failed.  The area of greatest effort and greatest failure was law.  We took the law of Moses and cataloged it and interpreted it and annotated it and commentated it.  In the end we had laws that were impossible to follow and amazingly easy to circumvent.

In the end, once God had proven that we could not get to Him, He sent His Son so we could have new life, the law written on our hearts, the Holy Spirit to live in us and to guide us.

So here we are in the dispensation of grace.  And we want laws.  Here’s the thing about laws.  Laws tell us how far is too far.  They tell us where the edge is.  They give us the opportunity to walk as close to the edge as we are comfortable with.  And if we  are smart enough or rich enough to hire the right lawyers we can go over the edge.  We can completely circumvent the intent of the law.

So here’s the thing.  We can vote for those who, we think, will pass the laws we want.  We can campaign and lobby for the laws we want.  Nothing wrong with that as long as we don’t get the idea that laws will fix things, that laws are the answer.

Laws can’t save us.  And laws can’t stop us.

 

 

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The Rule of Law

I understand the problem with the issues of gay marriage and bathroom access.  I understand that we want laws and Supreme Court rulings to validate the laws that would support what the Bible says about homosexuality.

But understand this.  We can get the ‘right’ president elected.  We can get the executive orders we want.  We can get the right laws passed and we can get Supreme Court decisions in our favor.  And we still haven’t seen what God wants to accomplish in these last days.

Executive orders and laws and Supreme Court rulings cannot change one heart, cannot change one life.  Only Jesus can change a heart.  And politicians can’t make that happen.  That only happens when we, when I simply tell someone what Jesus has done in my heart.

 

 

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Field of Battle

Any military commander knows that one of the most important factors in winning a victory is the field of battle.  You choose the field of battle.  You choose a location where you have the tactical advantage and the enemy is at a disadvantage.  You choose where you will stand and fight.

I fear that we have allowed the enemy, Satan, to choose the field of battle.  We have allowed the battle in public media to be about gay marriage, cake decorating, and signs on bathroom doors.  I know I am making those things sound frivolous and I don’t mean to.  That is battleground but not the battleground.  It is message but not the message.

The message is this: Jesus Christ, born of a virgin, crucified for our sins, rose again for our justification, seated at the right hand of God, coming again (soon).

I fear that we have allowed the current battles to drown out the message, the message of Jesus Christ.  His name is the name that changes everything else.

To use another military metaphor, Satan has launched an attack on our flank because he knows he cannot win a frontal assault on the name of Jesus.  In defending our flank we could be in danger of leaving the ultimate prize unprotected and the ultimate weapon unused.  The name of Jesus is the ultimate prize and the ultimate weapon. He is the message.

 

 

 

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I’m Part of the Team

My beloved Razorbacks were blown out by Alabama.  Again.  Amazingly, as bad as we looked we could have been in it to the end if not for the turnovers.  Austin Allen may be the best quaterback in the league.  We just need to protect him a little better.

We aren’t far from what was perdicted at the beginning of the season.  Eight wins.  Loses to TCU, A&M, Alabama, and Ole Miss.  An even chance or better the rest of the way.  We’re one win ahead of that.

The offensive line is the problem.  Sometimes they look like ushers rather than blockers.  If we can’t fix that we are in trouble.

I imagine there will be lots of people who will be calling for the head of Bret Bielema.  People who were big fans a few weeks ago will now claim they never liked him.  I hate it when we get like that.  I guess my problem is that I think I’m part of the team.

They’re just kids.  They mess up, do stupid things.  They’re just trying to grow up.  When they mess up I don’t throw them under the bus.  I hurt for them.  They’re my teammates.

Come to think of it, that may be a pretty good way to live.  Family, work, church.  Anyone can mess up, do or say dumb things.  But that’s alright.  We’ll cut ’em some slack.

They’re my teammates.

 

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The Brier Patch

You can kind of see where it’s heading.  Hillary wins, maybe by a landslide.  Some Republicans lose their seats in Congress.  In the coming years two or three liberal judges get appointed to the Supreme Court.  The liberal media and mindless entertainment continue to erode the consciousness of society in general.  The attack on the church continues to weaken our power, our freedoms, and our influence.

How bad can it get?  Pretty bad.  Very bad.  Given the changes that have come tumbling on each other in the last few years, it could be just about as bad as you can imagine.

So what do we do?

I stumbled the other day onto the story of Brer Rabbit and the Brier Patch.  You remember?  Uncle Remus?  Brer Fox caught Brer Rabbit and he was thinking about having him for dinner.   Brer Rabbit said, “Do anything you want but, oh please, please, please, just don’t throw me in the brier patch.”  Brer Fox, being the ornery cuss that he was, uped and threw him in the brier patch.  The next thing he heard was Brer Rabbit laughing up a storm.  “Don’t you know, Brer Fox?  The brier patch is my home.  I was born and raised here.”

So what’s going to happen to the church?  Maybe she is going into the brier patch.  But that’s alright but we have yet to see the power of God working through the persecuted church, the brier patch church.  It’s where we work best.  After all it’s where the church were born and raised.  The brier patch is our home.

 

 

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Five Smooth Stones

I stumbled onto this TV show called Socrates in the City.  It’s a show where people just talk about stuff.  It seems to be Christian oriented but I haven’t explored further so I can’t be sure about that.  This particular show was an interview with Malcolm Gladwell, an author of interesting nonfiction books.  His Outliers, published in 2008, continues to hang around on the paperback nonfiction best seller list.

His latest book is David and Goliath.  It’s about underdogs winning in the face of insurmountable odds.  I got a sample and read the first chapter about, well, David and Goliath.  Here’s what I got:  Goliath had a medical condition that made David’s victory a foregone conclusion.  Goliath was slow and had vision problems.  He would win a fight with armor and swords but he was vulnerable to a small, quick opponent with a sling and stones.  I thought ‘well, this is just another explain away a miracle thing’ and dismissed the book.

The interview changed my mind.  I haven’t read the book but I will.  Mr. Gladwell told how he was raised in an atmosphere of faith but as he matured he drifted away.  He said the process of writing this book led him to restoration.  He said the miracle was not that the stone killed Goliath.  The miracle was that God had spent years preparing David for this moment.  The miracle was that David showed up at that time and place and that David had the courage to step into that valley.  The rest was a foregone conclusion.

I think what we miss about miracles is how they are always preceded by an act of obedience.  It may be simply having the courage to walk to the altar to be prayed for or maybe just making time to pray.

Every other morning I pray free style.  I tell God who He is.  I ask Him to make me more like Him.  Just simple communion. I love those times.

The other mornings I pray my list.  I confess that many times I see this as just a duty to perform.  I don’t know how much my faith is engaged.

Maybe I should look at praying my list differently.  Maybe I should see it as me venturing into the valley, as me picking up five smooth stones.

The rest is a foregone conclusion.

Walls do crumble.  Giants are slain.  Armies are put to flight.  It all begins with prayer and communion with God.  Miracles are born in prayer.

 

 

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