pecaspers: a Blog in transition

September 24, 2013

Is It Christmas Already?

Filed under: Culture,Ministry,My Life in General — pecaspers @ 6:51 AM
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It is late-September. Do you know what that means? It means that Christmas is right around the corner.

That’s right; I went there.

You can argue that I’m jumping the gun here, but the fact is that most retailers have their Halloween stuff out already and will be putting Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations out in the coming weeks. Our church choir has already begun preparing for our Christmas cantata. Our LibertyYouth Christmas activities have been on my mind for over a month. We are less than 100 days away from the holiday that is the climax of “the most wonderful time of the year,” as the song goes. Ready or not, here Christmas comes.

As stores and churches make long-range preparations for the coming holiday season, I want to challenge you to go ahead and plan to prepare your heart. Ask yourself now whether your past Christmases have been mostly about how the eternal God took on flesh and lived among us, or if they’ve been focused on all the materialistic trappings and traditions with only a tip of a furry red hat to the baby in the manger. Will the biggest gift you give be to yourself, your kids, your spouse, or to your church as the body of the Christ we celebrate? Will you hustle and bustle to get the deals and buy presents and decide that you are too busy to be present among God’s people when they gather to worship Him?

I’m not trying to lay a guilt trip on you. I’m trying to give you a heads up so you can make plans that speak clearly about your priorities.

Jesus said, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21, ESV) Paul instructed the faithful brothers in Colossae, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your[a] life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”(Colossians 3:1-4, ESV)

What treasures will most consume your Christmastime? Will they be laid up under a tree or laying at Jesus feet? When you set your mind on things above, will that be higher than the reindeer paws up on the housetop?

December 24, 2012

Christmas Thoughts…

Filed under: Culture,My Life in General,Tallassee Tribune drafts — pecaspers @ 9:32 AM

[This is the full text of an article I cut down to fit the requirements for a submission to The Tallassee Tribune on behalf of the Tallassee Ministerial Alliance.]

First, I need to make a confession. On Thursday, Dec. 20, I had had too much caffeine as I made a long drive home, and so I found myself struggling to fall asleep as midnight approached. I’m ashamed to admit that with the wind howling outside, I caught a slight case of the heeby-jeebies considering the irrational thought that just maybe the Mayans were right about some impending cataclysm. I tell you this as a set up to explain why I knew better and to show what this all has to do with Christmas.

After the flood, some 1700-ish years after creation, God made a promise as he enjoyed the sacrifice Noah made having been brought with his family out of the ark.

“…The Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” (Genesis 8:21, 22 ESV)

God destroyed and remade everything through the flood. He restarted the spread of humanity over the earth by showing grace to one man and his family and saving them from the flood. He promised Himself that He wouldn’t repeat this kind of destruction, even as He recognized that mankind is inclined toward evil from the start. So the Mayans couldn’t be right because the whole idea of their calendar is based on a cyclical view of time–destruction and recreation without end–while the Bible reveals that time is linear with a beginning and always moving forward to the end God laid out before He began it all. But what’s that got to do with Christmas?

Mankind is inclined to evil, lawlessness, disobedience to God, sin. This is because everything reproduces after its own kind, and when Adam sinned and broke his relationship with his Creator he became a sinner only able to reproduce more sinners. However, after the fall of man as God was cursing the serpent (on His way to cursing the woman and the man), God gave a promise saying, “I will put enmity between you [the serpent] and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15 ESV). “Offspring” here is literally “seed.” Here is the first hint at the coming Messiah, that a man would come born of the seed of woman–men have “seed”, women do not, so this is unique and puts this offspring of a woman outside the line of inheritance of the man such that this one to come is not bound by sin. And He will be struck by the serpent, but He will strike the serpent with a devastating blow to the head. Do you see Christmas yet?

Further back toward the beginning:
God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. (Genesis 1:26-31 ESV)

Man was made in the image of God to rule creation to the glory of God and to fill all creation with The image of God to the glory of God. And all of creation was spoken into existence by the word of God, and the way creation is ordered was spoken into order by the word of God. And now, it’s Christmas.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-5, 9-14 ESV)

Before He was the baby in Bethlehem, He was the eternal Word of God. After Bethlehem he grew into a man who died as the perfectly sinless Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world through his death on a Roman cross at the hands of the Jewish religious and popular leadership. After the cross, came the grave. And–glory to God–after the grave, came the resurrection!

You can visit the place we’re pretty sure Jesus was born, but you can’t visit his tomb. He’s not there and no one cared to preserve it. He’s coming again, and of that coming no one knows the day or hour, certainly not the Mayans. Will you be ready? We’re 2000 years closer, and He said He’s coming soon. Are you prepared for the real end of this world?

December 19, 2011

Red and Green

Red and green are the colors of Christmas. Red because of the bloody reality of a virgin birth, because of the bloody reality of a death by crucifixion, because of the blood of the lamb who takes away the sin of the world. Green because of the new life which Christ came to bring, because of the eternal life that he paid for with his death, because of the promise of a life that never withers and never fades and never ends–evergreen.

Red and green are the colors of Christmas. Red because of the oppressive debt you’ll incur buying toys your kids won’t appreciate but will break in a couple of weeks, because of the hue of your screaming daughter’s face when she doesn’t get the pony she wanted, because of the color your son will see when he shoots his eye out with his new BB gun. Green because of the money you’ll spend on presents and food and cards and decorations, because of the envy that drives so much of your children’s wish-lists, because of how sick you are from all the constant go-go-go of the holiday season.

Red and green are the colors of Christmas. Red because that’s the way your eyes will look the morning after you get too deep in the “Christmas cheer” at that party. Green because that’s the way your face will look after you expel some of that same “cheer” singing carols into the porcelain megaphone.

Red and green are the colors of Christmas. Red because that’s what color Santa Claus wears. Green because that’s what color Christmas trees are. Why does it have to mean any more than that?

We’re all going to be donning lots of red and green in the coming days. In fact, your decorations have probably been up for weeks. The question we need to ask ourselves is what sort of red and green are we using. What’s your red and green mean? But wait, you can’t answer yet. You have to wait until it’s over.

I doubt there is anyone reading this article who is saying to himself or herself, “I’m only celebrating commercialism, greed, and over-indulgence this December 25. It’s got nothing to do with worshiping Christ.” However, the truth is that there is often little proof that we did otherwise when we look back after the day is gone. So I challenge you not to think too highly of yourself but to consider yourself, and how you celebrate this Christmas, with sober judgment (Romans 12:3). Let us examine ourselves, and how we celebrate this Christmas, to see if it puts on display our faith in Christ and the glory of God (2 Corinthians 13:5).

How will you celebrate the coming of Messiah this Christmas? Will you gather in worship with your church? Will you take your visiting family members with you to church? Will you give generously to help people in need? Will you read the story of Christ’s birth from the Bible? Will you spend money you don’t have to give presents to people who don’t really need them? Will you keep your family away from church because Christmas inconveniently falls on a Sunday this year? It’s not what you say about Christmas; it’s what you do that matters (James 2:14-16).

Red and green are the colors of Christmas. What kind will yours be?

October 31, 2011

Halloween and Christmas

Filed under: Culture,My Life in General — pecaspers @ 9:16 PM
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I was in Wal-mart when they started putting out the Halloween costumes a month or so ago. Then I rounded a corner and found myself faced with Christmas decorations. I’ve become accustomed to the Christmas stuff coming out before Thanksgiving, but to see Christmas lights, ornaments, and garland already gracing the shelves before the leaves had started to turn was a little bit of a shock. Yet that’s not the point of this post.

I love Halloween. I’ve always loved it. It’s mostly because I love to dress up in costumes. (What? That’s not weird. It’s not like I go to conventions or anything…but maybe that’s because I lack the free time and disposable income…I digress.) Halloween is also the holiday I’ve had the most success with over the years; I can’t think of any major heart-aches or social breakdowns associated with my Halloween history. And then, of course, there is all the candy. That’s why it bugs me when Christians get so down on Halloween and people who celebrate it.

My Halloween philosophy: I celebrate Halloween like everyone else celebrates Christmas.

By “everyone else,” I mean anyone who isn’t a devoted follower of the Christ whose birth Christmas commemorates. For most people, they completely neglect the fact that there is a specifically Christ-focused meaning behind Christmas. (Don’t give me that whole, “Christmas is only a pagan holiday!” crap. Read up on some real church history before you echo the oft-repeated errors you’ve heard.) I realize that Halloween came about because of a intermingling of European
pagan spiritism and pre-Reformation Catholic Christianity. It can’t be avoided that present-day Wiccans and other neo-Paganists have adopted Halloween as their holiday. I don’t care much about that just like I don’t get all frenzied up about ousting Santa Claus from Christmas. I like costumes, candy, and parties.

You see, most people don’t care that Christmas is about the actual birth of God as a human child so that He could live a sinless life so that He could die as a perfect sacrifice for the sins of all humanity so we could repent and believe the good news. Most people just like getting dressed up, getting/giving gifts, and going to parties. Did you see the Christmas episode of Glee last year. The Jewish characters, the atheistic characters, the characters with no discernible religious beliefs, everybody celebrated Christmas. Have you seen the movies that come out in November and December–[Insert Character here] Saves Christmas, A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas, etc. Contrary to all the “Happy Holidays” hullabaloo that surfaces every year, most everybody loves Christmas. Why can they all enjoy a Christian holiday without serving Christ, but I’m supposed to shun a holiday with no basis in reality?

What do I mean by no basis in reality. Well, lost souls don’t really wander aimlessly on All Hallows Eve. The demons aren’t really on the prowl looking for goodies and causing trouble the night before All Saints Day. Satan has no greater power this night than any other. Hell is no nearer to Earth on October 31. I get to enjoy Halloween because at its foundation there is only folk-lore and superstition, and those things aren’t even what the holiday is about anymore. Ask any six year-old, Halloween is about costumes and candy. I don’t have to believe in those other things to enjoy putting on a costume and eating candy. If everyone else gets to swap presents and go to Christmas parties without believing in–or even considering–the TRUTH of Christ, then I see no reason I can’t enjoy Halloween.

The vast majority of people in my culture don’t think of Halloween as having any religious significance. No non-Christian is going to look at my enjoyment of Halloween and say, “I can’t believe you like costumes and candy, you hypocrite. I hate your Jesus because of you.” What’s sad is that the conflict about Halloween always seems to come from Christians. Isn’t it a bit…well, hypocritical to demand that schools have fall parties and harvest festivals because “we” disapprove of Halloween and then cry “foul” when other people demand that schools have winter festivals and holiday parties because they disapprove of Christmas?

Maybe I’m wrong. What do you think?

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