Christmas not a celebration anymore…

Christmas in the post-War United States

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Isn’t it funny how things that start off as well meaning end up becoming just a ritual… and instead of being uplifting everything just becomes a bit of a drag… or worse – just plain stressful.

Christmas is a bit like this… the whole point of Christmas is a Celebration – We’re celebrating the fact that Christ came down from Heaven to hang out with us… so that he could: a) set an example and b) die for our sins.

Now that is something to Celebrate for a couple of reasons. How cool is it knowing that God would send his son to come down and spend time with us…

God is a personal God… he WANTS to spend time with you… it’s not about having to do a whole lot of stuff to earn his favour! – Why because his son died FOR YOU.

Christmas is about giving… God gave his son to us – the ultimate gift, and so we give gifts in return, but we’ve lost sight of it all and gift giving has become a ritual “I MUST go out and shop for this person” – hasn’t it become about what WE get out of giving (with the expectation of getting something back)?

Even in our giving it’s become about GETTING.

Isn’t that why the malls are crammed full of people?

I mean Saint Nicholas (or as the Dutch called him Sinterklaas) who was famous for giving gifts to the poor… and over time we have created a a figure that gives US an excuse for buying more… when the whole purpose was to give without the expectation of getting back.

What great reason to Celebrate getting something that we have no way of being able to earn or buy… like a expensive gift to a person less fortunate than yourself…

Or like eternal life

a gift we can’t buy or earn

a gift that can only be given.

And only Jesus Christ can give it.

Accept it!

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3 types of Christians

Jesus is So Cool

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It seems to me that there are 3 types of Christians… there may be more, and if you can think of any I’d love to know.

So what are they?

1: Believe in God and the Gospel… but that’s where it ends

This is a dangerous place to be. Why? Because you KNOW that God is there and you KNOW that Jesus is the only way… but you have chosen not to follow to him. You might even go to church… but you haven’t really made a decision to follow him. You like the benefits of being a Christian, the friendship, the community… the good teaching, but it’s all just at face value.

Lots of people believe that Jesus existed… some even like the teaching. The problem is even demons believe in Christ.

Unfortunately it doesn’t make you saved!!

2: Believe in God and the Gospel… as long as it doesn’t get in my way

These people have taken a step closer to actually relying on Christ the way that he requires for us to live our live to the fullest. And to be honest this is the place that I find the hardest to move from. I had given my life to Christ, but I hadn’t given MY LIFE to Christ. It was a case of “I will do anything for you… as long as it doesn’t cost ME to much” or “I will go where you want me to go… but not there” or maybe even “I’ll work for you… but it will have to be a well paid job”

You see we have made the step to follow Christ… but we’re not willing to trust him. So instead of having him at the steering wheel… you’ve still in the drivers seat.

The question you need to ask is… is are you actually still a Christian if you haven’t given your WHOLE life to him… and HIS plans?

Because he requires your WHOLE life.

3: Believe in God and the Gospel… enough to give your life for it.

The Bible is full of promises that say that God wants the best for us… but we need to trust him – FULLY.

“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.  What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” (Matt 16:25-26)

Are you willing to lose your life, so that you can live your life to it’s fullest?

“My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal 2:20)

You see the more we are worried about what we could loose… we can  look what Christ gave… he gave HIS ALL. And it’s all he asks of us too.

It’s SIMPLE – but not EASY

God wants you to be MORE than ‘just happy’…

A giant grouper at the Georgia Aquarium, seen ...

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God wants you to be happy, but not at the cost of us doing things that are unwise for our lives. It would seem to me that God wants MORE than that for your lives… To be MORE than happy!

A few weeks ago I wrote the blog ‘Give it up’ about us being selfish, and it seems to be a case of “if it feels good do it” or “as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else”… We’re so intent on being happy at any cost.

In Hebrews it say it like this “He chose to share the oppression of God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin.”…

Do you see that?  “Fleeting pleasures of sin” – we’re worried that if we don’t sin then we won’t be happy… but they’re only short lived pleasures aren’t they?

In the Bible it says “Blessed are the people who fear the Lord” … that means more than happy!

Both Max Lucado & Craig Groeschel use a story like this to illustrate this:

A fish is thrown onto a sandy beach, as you can imagine the fish is not happy… it’s gills are working over time and it’s jumping around the place trying to get to the water.

Now if we give the fish $1 Millon do you think he will  be happier? Of course not… it still needs water to help it breathe.

What about if we gave the fish a beer… or a picture of it’s favourite female fish? It would still be unhappy right?

The point is that whatever you give the fish on the beach it still won’t satisfy. There is nothing that will satisfy the fish on the beach because it wasn’t made for the beach. Anything less than water will leave him wanting the water for where he was created.

Earth is not Heaven… it was never meant to be. That’s why the ‘things of this earth’ (money, drink, sex etc…) never satisfy for long… because God has a much better plan… a much greater plan. That will leave you feeling satisfied (and no longer thirsty)

Jump into the water!

God isn’t Fair…

To the Pike River coal miners and their families

To the Pike River coal miners and their families

In the news today I saw a story of a couple who lost both their children, one in the Pike River Mine tragedy in New Zealand 13 days ago… this alone is sad, however 8 years earlier they had lost their daughter in a car accident, she wasn’t even at fault. The question that often is asked “why did God cause this?”

In John 9:3 Jesus said that somethings happen “so that the work of God might be displayed in his life”… in the story the man had spent years in a society that looked poorly on a blind man, blaming it on past sin and wrong doings. Basically Jesus was saying God will be glorified through this tragedy… but it kind of seems kinda harsh doesn’t it?

But just because God allows things to happen doesn’t mean that God causes it all to happen.

I sometimes I question God… it’s only natural because our minds are just so small to understand all things. Sometimes like the story in John about the blind man, people are healed… however sometimes through all the pain and all the prayer and hope of a miracle, like that in the Pike River mine there is death… and we are left wondering… we are left hurting and there seems to be no reason for it.

Why would God take people so young? Or with children without a dad?

And as little as it may seem while in the middle of all the pain… there always seems like there are glimmers of light that we sometimes get shown to us through it all; Like a nation showing support to Christchurch during a earthquake or help from All around the world to show support to the families who lost loved ones at Pike River – but it still hurts doesn’t it.

Even in the middle of our pain (especially in the middle of our pain) God is good

How?

Bad things happen to good people, that’s just life unfortunately.

Bad things happened to Jesus too… and that’s the best news for us… his death led to our life – eternal life.

Isn’t it interesting how we’re pretty quick to ask why something bad happened – how often do you ask why God might bless you might bless you for something good?

The truth is good things happen to people like you and me… people who are sinful – and deserve DEATH – nothing less.

No matter what sort of pain you are going through remember to keep your eyes on Heaven , the ultimate prize and reward… and remember to be thankful that God doesn’t always give us what we deserve.

When  it comes to OUR SINS – thank God that he’s NOT fair.