In our current culture there has been an attack on Christianity. As an american I would not say that I am being persecuted however there are individuals out there arguing that there is no evidence for the existence of God. They argue that while they may not know how the universe came into existence they are currently working on it, and that even though it is a mystery right now, it won't be forever. Some of these people are so aggressive in their assertions that it causes an emotional response in believers. Our faith, what we know to be true is being challenged and someone is saying that it is not true, and there is no evidence? If you were like me, then there is a part of you that so much believes in God that you want to say, "I don't care what the evidence says I'll never stop believing in God!" The unbeliever then looks at you and lumps Christianity in with all of those other religions that say the same thing. I would like to suggest that we not do this. Christianity is not the same as other religions because it has the virtue of being true. In fact we have evidence. Our entire faith is not founded upon the origin of life. Even though by looking at the flood it becomes clear that many of the evidence that exists for evolution could be explained by said flood, but either way the origin of life is not what our faith is founded upon. It is founded upon the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is the corner stone, the thing that makes or breaks Christianity. Paul says that if Christ did not raise from the dead then our faith is worthless, and we should be pitied more than anyone else. This is also a key difference between Christianity and all the other religions of the world. We look to history to prove our faith. Looking at the historical evidence it seems clear that there was man named Jesus and he did rise from the dead. This is the best theory to explain why the 1st century Jews were willing to give their lives witnessing about our risen savior. They could not help but tell the truth. Anytime someone wants to try explain this away the have to say that is was a mass hallucination or something to that effect. So is this 100%? No, but there is evidence, and do not let anyone convince you that there is no evidence, because if Jesus rose from the dead then he is God, and what he said about the creation of the world holds true. This also teaches us something about our faith that has seemed to be lost in our current culture. Christianity is not about me and you. It is about God. God's attributes, God's response to sinners, and God's story. In our narcissistic culture we have wanted to make Christianity all about us. It is true that Jesus saves us from the wrath of God, but that is because God had mercy on us. It is nothing that we did, or do that causes Jesus to save us. In truth we are all wretched sinners in the eyes of God. Everything we do is like filthy rags to God. The good news is for those who trust in Christ when God looks at them, he seems them through the goodness of Jesus, and thus they are justified not because of anything they did themselves but rather because of Jesus. Yes that is the gospel. It is not believe in Jesus and you'll have a better life. It is not believe in Jesus and all your problems will go away. It is not believe in Jesus and you will get lots of money. While all these things might happen, that is not the point of Christianity. Christianity is about Jesus taking your rightful punishment from God so that when you stand before God on the day of judgment you will be justified. This is good news because it is the only way to be justified. We know because Jesus said so. He has authority because he is God, and we know he is God because he rose from the dead. Do you see how this all works together? In my own Christian walk I have tried to make it about me. One thing that is being preached in many churches across the US today is works righteousness. In the more liberal circles its, "believe in Jesus because he makes you moral by caring about all these issues to improve our planet and make it a better place and to keep making it a better place." This is works righteousness. You will be a good moral person when the world is a better place. I ask you, "how is that working out? I don't think you are working hard enough because I still lots of bad things in this earth." Believe it or not, the real danger lies in the more conservative circles. I got caught up in this for a long time. In these circles they say, "You are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, but if you are saved then you will have good works to prove it." So naturally what do then do, well what I did was I was constantly looking at my works to see if I was saved and you know what I found out? I'm not a good person. I struggled with this for a long time wondering why if I believed was I still having sin in my life. I didn't like this sin, I fought against it, but sometimes I would struggle with the same sin over and over again. I really wondered if I was saved and kept trying harder and yet would keep sinning. It almost seemed like the harder I tried the more I sinned. It was this paradox of wondering how If I am not saved by my works, and yet if I am saved I'll have works. Well finally I found the key and it was good news to me. I was told that I was looking to my works to save me rather than looking to Jesus. When you find yourself struggling with sin and perhaps doubt your salvation ask your self this question, "Is Jesus still risen from the dead?" If the answer is yes then yes you are stilled saved. Like I have to, you need to look the cross and resurrection of Jesus for the assurance of your salvation. You do not need to be looking to your works. Now does this mean that you stop battling against sin? No, when you understand the cross you don't want to sin. You fell bad when you do sin, and you want to live like Jesus who didn't sin. It works like this. Jesus takes your punishment for all the sin in your life. Past present and future. So no matter what you do, you are justified before God, however those who understand what it is that Jesus did will not want to sin and will in fact want to live like the one who has saved them. Not because they have to in order to prove their salvation, or earn it, but because they are grateful that their salvation is given to them. From here you can't help but talk about it. I wanted to talk about how as Christians we look to history to show that our faith is reasonable, and here I am giving the gospel. On that point it our whole faith hinges upon what Jesus did, and the truth is(because there is evidence to back this up) he did die on a cross and he did raise on the third day. This is how we know that he is God and all that he had said is true. So keep on in the faith Christian. Keep looking towards the cross and trusting in Jesus that you are saved and when you die, and stand before God, he will see that Christ has saved you. If that doesn't make Merry your Christmas I don't know what will. Except perhaps taking the Lord's supper with us Christmas Eve at 6:00.
So this has been an issue that has been on my mind for a while. My fiance and I both believed in Santa as kids. We did not turn away from the faith, however when I hear from many people who have walked away from Christianity they many times relate believing in Christ the same way as believing in Santa. Many Evangelicals have gone to the point of not teaching their kids about Santa. They do not want to seem as if they are lying to their kids, and they do not want their kids believing in things that aren't true. I found myself asking that same question, "how is Santa not a lie? " I eventually called my parents and asked them that very question. Their answer surprised me. They told me that I was thinking about Santa in the wrong way. Santa was never meant to be the kinda of person he was made out to be, but rather a way of teaching children about the free gift of salvation by giving them gifts that they did not earn at the time we celebrate Jesus' birth. Santa was used to teach about Christ? My dad told me that young Children, those under the age of 8 or so, really cannot understand some of the abstract thoughts involved in Christian faith. They can learn the stories, but they do not really know what these stories mean. As such we teach them the story of Jesus being born, but we also give gifts as an example of our joy about the birth of Christ and teaching by example the fact that a gift is not earned. He said that I needed to avoid the commercialization of Santa. Now look whether you choose to teach your children about Santa is up to you and your spouse. Pray, go to the scriptures, and use discernment. If you do decide to let your kids believe in Santa here are a few things that I would suggest to keep Santa from becoming a stumbling block down the road.
1. Teach about Jesus: It's important that Christian families celebrate Christmas for the real reason which is that Jesus Christ was born to save the world from sins, and eternal separation from God. Your kids while they may not be able to understand the meaning behind the story can still learn the story and be able to know what happened. Always make sure that Jesus is front and center.
2. Avoid a works based Santa: Okay this one might get me in trouble with parents but here goes. Teaching kids that if they are good then Santa will visit them, is worked based rewards. I can see no way of allowing Santa to teach children about Jesus and yet have the whole point of Santa giving a gift being that the child earns it by being good. I know that the Santa threat has been a helper for parents around this time of year, but would not be better to teach our children to be good, because oh I don't know our God commands us to be good. "Be Holy for I am Holy" 1 Peter 1:16. We can punish our children when they misbehave, but should not showing them that right and wrong, come from God. This is what we believe is it not. This also shows that even when they are bad they can still receive the gift from Santa. The idea being here that Jesus as salvation from Christ is not dependent upon our good works, getting gifts from Santa is not dependent upon our children's good works.
3. Don't let them believe in Santa too long: I know there is a thing about being a child and having innocence and all, and that's cute, but maybe the reason we it takes so much longer for children to grow up is because we don't let them. One way or another your child is going to stop believing in Santa, because he isn't real. If we let our children go on believing in something that isn't real then I think we run the risk of distorting the gospel. I think about around the age of 8 is when we need to let our children know that Santa is not real. This doesn't mean we can't still give presents or even say that they from Santa, but is should be made known that you are Santa at that point.
4.Follow Up: We need to make sure that we keep raising our kids and don't stop when they get old enough to kinda take care of themselves. As kids get older you need to explain to them the deeper meaning behind the stories they have been learning. Perhaps as you tell kids the truth about Santa you can also tell them the truth about Jesus. Let them that the God you believe in is real, and could be their God too. Teach them the gospel. That's right you can evangelisie to your kids.
The church is one of the most intolerant places I have ever been to. Perhaps some of you have heard this at one point or another. Indeed it seems to be the calling card of the church these days doesn't it? Why is that? Some of you would perhaps say that it is because the church leaves out those who don't do what the church deems as right. It picks on people who want to live a certain way. It shuns people, and it shames people. In some aspects these people are correct. God does not tolerate sin. When Christians speak out against such issues, we are to d it from a biblical understanding. We call these things out not just because it's our opinion, but because it's God's opinion. We should always stand up and challenge culture and ask them to show and to prove why they are right and the Bible is wrong. If we are to hold true that the Bible is the inspired word of God, then it is with that authority that we speak out against culture. Some of you at this point might be wanting to call me a hypocrite because of my last blog post. Admittedly I did not do a good job of articulating my thoughts. Christians need to speak out against culture, but it should be done from a position of love. We do not call out culture to simply say "Hey you are wrong!" We call out culture to say "Hey you are wrong just like me. We need Jesus!" Christians should speak out to simply increase Christ's influence, but demonstrate the need for Christ, and how and when we call out culture should be done with discernment, and in love. It should also be done with the full authority of scripture. From this mind set Christians are very intolerant, if intolerance is simply having a disagreement with someone. I do not think that this is intolerance. I think intolerance as we apply it in our lives is when one side tries to silence or extinguish an opposing side or view point. For example if I thought that 2=2=5 and tried to either silence or kill anyone that disagreed with me then I would be intolerant. This is exactly the situation we have going on in the middle east right now. Many Christian brothers and sisters are being kicked out, tortured, or killed because of their faith. A church that has been around for over 1000 years has now been torched. Where is the outcry against this level of intolerance? People in America do not seem to understand the privilege we have to stand up and speak what we believe without fear of the government persecuting us. That goes for anyone no matter what they believe. It is something that we should be thankful every single day. More over we should dishonor those who do not have this freedom by abusing the freedom we have. I long for the days when two people could agree to disagree. Now it seems that is if I say, "you're wrong!" That makes me a bad person, it makes me intolerant. Christians will have to be careful how we address people. I admit there have been intolerant Christians in the past and even in the present. Christians that do not wish to have a conversation but just wish to silence any who disagree. This does not mean that we should be silent however. We are called, all of us to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. That means calling sin, sin. It means trying to persuade people that they are in need of savior and Christ is that savior and he is also Lord of their life. Let us not ever seek to silence a conversation, but also let us not be afraid to say 2=2 does not =5, that is wrong. 2+2=4. In the same way living for yourself is the wrong world view, let me tell you what the right one is. If they disagree with you, that's okay. You can disagree agreeably. Thank you for your comments, and I hope they keep coming. If there is something that you would like to get my thoughts let me know in the comments below.
Here you can read various thoughts and discussions that come from the mind of our Pastor