Celebrating Christmas in a Season of Economic Crisis

I don’t know if you have noticed (of course you have), but our country continues to be in a pretty serious economic recession. This financial crisis has affected every area of American society and culture. Over the past several months, I have talked with a number of families and individuals who are feeling the impact – retired couples who have lost more than half of their retirement nest egg, craftsmen who have nothing left to build, real estate agents who have no buyers or sellers, and small business owners who have gone belly up. There are a good number who are facing the reality of losing their home, losing their automobiles, and to be sure, some are even having a difficult time putting food on the table.

In the midst of these challenges, we approach Christmas – the season of buying and selling and giving gifts. I think it is safe to assume that this is not good news for most of us. In fact, instead of a time of celebration and cheer, the Christmas Season may feel like a swift kick to the head of a guy who is already down.  If you identify with what I’m saying, allow me to offer a word of spiritual encouragement.

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“Typography” by Taylor Mali

This morning Danny Stiling, a friend of mine, posted this video on Facebook.  I am grateful to him for introducing me to Taylor Mali – a wonderfully, powerful poet.  You can check out more of his stuff at www.taylormali.com.  In this particular poem, Mali urges us to believe and to speak with a conviction that affirms that belief.  I firmly, like, agree with him, I think…you know?

Of Facebook and Barney Fife – part 2

A Few More Thoughts on “Facebook and Barney Fife”

If you are a Christian and you ever feel the idol of “Facebook Righteousness” rising up in your heart, and you start loading your pistol and looking for “law breakers”, I offer these thoughts…

a. Cultural/Personal Variation – It might be considered that Christians come in many shapes and sizes. Some Christians feel comfortable using strong language. Some do not. Some feel comfortable drinking a beer. Some do not. This may or may not be a matter of sin. What defines a swear word for you or I, may not be defined as a swear word by others. Paul spoke of this plainly in 1 Corinthians 10 when he talked about the issue of meat sacrificed to idols. We must realize that areas of cultural variation in certain areas of ethical and moral behavior exists among gospel believing Christians. We simply have to live with that. Continue reading

Of Facebook and Barney Fife

Recently I read a post on Facebook from a friend (yes, I have those) who was bemoaning the fact that many of her Christian friends do not meet her expectation of how to behave on the social network.  She said that she was “saddened to see so much vulgarity come out of the mouths of people on Facebook who call themselves believers.”  As my friend was shocked at the Vulgarity among Christians, I must admit that I am often disheartened by something else: the Self-righteousness among Christians.  Sometimes the self-righteousness and anger that is displayed on Facebook in the name of Christ can be very discouraging indeed.  It seems to me that the judgmentalism and self-goodness that is expressed on FB does the gospel far more harm than the vulgarity ever could.  It can also be a bit disconcerting to see the resistance to self analysis that exists in believers whose most empirically, self-evidential claim is the fact of our depravity.  Doesn’t most every Christian who asserts the Gospel of Christ begin with the fact that we are big, fat, sinners?  Yet, on that theological truth, how forgetful we are.  I include myself in this. Continue reading

Preach the Gospel…and hey, don’t forget to buckle your seat belt

The Sussex Safer Roads Partnership in the UK found an original way to encourage seat belt safety.  Instead of simply displaying the potential horror of failing to wear our seat belt in the event of an accident, Safer Roads chose to communicate a deeper message.

Daniel Cox, the director of “Embrace Life”, said that the inspiration of the short film came from wanting to offer a more positive message about road safety. “A lot of the campaigns focus on the more graphic and horrific outcomes of accidents whereas I really wanted to bring people into the conversation.”

As I watched the video, I was drawn in to the beauty of the message.  So many things are communicated: an automobile accident is not an individual tragedy, it is a communal tragedy; not only is the father impacted, so is the wife and their daughter; seat belts are arms of love wrapped around our loved ones.  The video really is a remarkable little piece of film-making.

In regard to the gospel, Christians could certainly take a lesson on how the gospel should be communicated.  More often that not we preach the gospel in a very truncated fashion.  We eliminate the nuance.  We place all the emphasis on only one element – often the horrific.  We preach the gospel like someone running through town, ringing a warning bell, while no one seems to know what it is they should be afraid of.  As Christian leaders and pastors, many of us often emphasize preaching “the whole counsel of God”, while neglecting to portray the kindness, the beauty, the tragedy, the love, the compassion, and the depth of the gospel narrative.  We forget to “bring people into the conversation”.  Certainly I am guilty of this error.

I’m grateful to Daniel Cox and the Sussex Safer Roads Partnership for reminding me that it is important to wear my seat belt and it is crucial to preach the gospel in a way that honors the fullness of the gospel and brings a greater glory to God.

The video can viewed by clicking below.

I Have A Gospel Dream – Revisiting Dr. King’s Famous Address

i-have-a-dream-martin-luther-king-c101208712 I am a child of the civil rights movement. I grew up as a minority white kid in inner city Atlanta, Georgia during the volatile season of the late 1960s and early 70s. The desegregation movement sent me, along with a hand full of white kids, to the previously all black Elementary School known as C.D. Hubert. My sixth grade year, on the first day of class, Coretta Scott King, Dr. Martin Luther King’s wife, spoke at C.D. Hubert to encourage us to embrace one another and to remember the reason her husband died. We ended that meeting as we did every all-school meeting, with students and teachers, black and white, raising their hands together and singing in on voice – “We shall overcome”

However, as a ‘minority’ white kid, I sometimes became the face of the enemy. In 1977 I attended a brand new school named Martin Luther King Middle. The week that the miniseries “Roots” was aired on television, I was attacked five times by angry black kids who blamed me for American slavery. I also suffered at the hands of a few racist teachers in the days when it was legal to spank children who forgot to finish their homework. My spankings tended to be much worse. In fact, one beating was so severe that it left me with deep bruises on my legs and backside.  Yet, somehow, in the midst of all of that drama, I avoided becoming a racist. I didn’t hate black people. Somehow I was able to see that the major differences in people were not determined by the color of their skin, as Dr. King so eloquently puts it in his “I Have a Dream” speech, but by the content of their character. In the world that I grew up in, there were mean and evil and broken black people, and there were mean and evil and broken white people.

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Halloween: A beautiful picture of Grace

Well Halloween has come and gone and I am grateful that this year I heard far less “alarmist” Christian Halloween talk than I have in years previous. Maybe it was the distraction of the coming presidential election that kept most evangelicals from thinking about the ‘horrors’ of Halloween, but this year I didn’t hear anyone talking about burning Harry Potter books, or praying against Satan, or dressing their children up as Bible characters.

This year, instead of absenting ourselves from a so-called “pagan” holiday, our church had a community festival. That’s right. On October 31st, All Hallows Eve, Surfside Presbyterian Church had blow-up games and dunking booths. We gave out candy and had a box maze and a pie eating contest and all kinds of kids and parents came and dressed up like princesses and superheroes and some even dressed up like monsters. It was a great time for all and a blessing to our community here in south Myrtle Beach. I thought it was great.

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