Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas: Should We or Shouldn't We?

Should Christians celebrate Christmas? That's a question most Christians would find nonsensical, if they thought about it at all. Of course Christians should celebrate Christmas. What would their faith be without the celebration of it's founder's birth?

From a cultural standpoint, I support Christmas. Christmas is the single, most visible evidence of our Judeo-Christian heritage, and there are people in our increasingly secular nation who hate that heritage. They are waging a "war on Christmas" as part of their efforts to eradicate all knowledge of America's Judeo-Christian roots. It is an act of rank anti-Christian bigotry. For that reason I support the celebration of the "mass of Christ" as a declaration of committment to what it is perceived to be evidence of: our Judeo-Christian heritage. That is my view of Christmas from a cultural perspective, but from a spiritual perspective I'm beginning to feel very differently.

I've known for years that Christmas isn't Biblical but originated in pagan religious festivals celebrating the winter soltice and/or the birth of various pagan gods such as Mithras. I've also known for years that in the Bible God tells His people NOT to worship Him the way the heathens worship their gods. I'm increasingly convinced that that's exactly what we're doing when we use pagan festivals to celebrate Christ's birth. And I'm increasingly uncomfortable with that.

I understand that Christmas is deeply engrained in Christian culture and most Christians see nothing wrong with it. They might think I'm being legalistic in questioning the correctness of celebrating Christmas. Some Christians might remind me that, in his epistle to the Galatians, Paul told believers not to let anyone judge them with respect to days they observe. Others might remind me that Christ freed us from the strictures of the Mosaic Law. I get that, but I also know that the Bible in the New Testament says we are to worship God in spirit and in truth. How can we worship the Lord in truth if we're using the festivals, practices, and traditions of false religions?

I'm not telling anyone to stop celebrating Christmas. I don't condemn the overwhelming majority of Christians who observe the holiday. In fact, I still observe Christmas, though not primarily as a religious holiday. Christmas, for me, has become more about gratitude and reflection rather than about celebrating Christ's birth. It's about giving thanks to God for His blessings and for the strength and comfort He bestowed on me to sustain me during my trials. And it's about reflecting on what I did during the year, honestly confronting my sins, and asking God to help me do better in the new year. That's what Christmas is mostly about for me now.

So, should Christians celebrate Christmas? I think the answer to that question should be left to each believer. I don't think congregations should require all their members to believe one way or the other. The question of Christmas is not, I don't think, a salvation issue. Believers with polar opposite views can be equally saved. Therefore, both sides should treat each other with respect. They should not make the other side's opinion into a character flaw. Both sides should strive to be Christlike in this debate. And that's what Christianity is really all about, isn't it? Becoming Christlike, not getting too concerned about which days your neighbors observe. That's the essence of Christianity.

Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 24, 2010

New Template

Well, I finally found a new template for God and Me. Finding just the right templates for my blogs has become something of an obsession for me. I want my humble spots on the 'net to be an expression of me and what I'm trying to say, and finding templates, backgrounds, or skins that do that has been a pain. But then I saw this template on the Final Sense website and the header grabbed my attention. The template is called Lake and Mountain and the first thought that came to my mind when I saw it was that it'd be perfect for God and Me.

At first glance a nature template wouldn't seem like the perfect choice for a Christian blog, but it is. How? The header photo shows a glimpse of the beauty and majesty of God's creation, which reveals the beauty and majesty of God Himself. It reminds me of the teaching in Scripture that God is "seen" through nature and that creation testifies to His existence. This template calls attention to God in a less direct way than a template featuring a cross or a church would, but I think it's more effective for that reason. An unbeliever who stumbled across my blog might pass on by if a church jumped out at him from the computer screen. However, a photo showcasing the beauty of nature might be less threatening to him, and he just might decide to check this blog out. And whatddaya know, a new follower!

I really like my new template. It's going to be good for my blog. God revealed in His creation is the perfect visual theme for God and Me. I'm glad I went back to Final Sense, and I hope everyone enjoys my blog's new look. I certainly do, thank God.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I'm A Believer!

Well, I've finally decided to do it. I've decided to call myself a Christian. What, you say? You weren't already a Christian? Well, yes and no.

As I've written before, I was raised in a nominally Christian home. My family celebrated all the "Christian" holidays and abided by superficially Biblical morals. But neither of my parents modeled real Christian living to my siblings and me, and neither took us to church (our Grandmother did). Despite my religiously deficient upbringing I managed to emerge from childhood believing in the orthodox fundamentals of the Christian faith, and I retain that belief to this day. Yet, for several years I've been reluctant to call myself a Christian. Why? A few reasons.

First, I hesitated to call myself a Christian because I've never had the kind of "conversion experience" that Christians so often talk about. I prayed the sinner's prayer and asked Jesus into my heart when I was 15, and nothing happened. I didn't feel God's presense. My life didn't suddenly change. I wasn't instantly freed from bad habits. In short, I didn't have that "conversion experience" which supposedly proves you're saved. Therefore, I didn't feel right calling myself a Christian when I wasn't sure I actually was one, i.e. saved.

Second, I hesitated to call myself a Christian because I was afraid of giving the faith a bad name. I'm a human being, flawed like any other. I know there are forces out there who love to use any failing of a professed Christian to denounce the faith. I didn't want to openly say I'm a Christian and then get caught doing something unChristlike, thereby making all Christians look bad and dishonoring my Savior. I couldn't see a way out of that predicament so I stopped saying I was a Christian.

Third, I hesitated to call myself a Christian because I don't understand every aspect of the faith. I do understand the fundamentals of orthodoxy that I said I believe in, but Christianity is deeper than that. The fundamentals are the "milk" of the faith, as Paul put it, not the meat. I understand some of the "meat" of the faith, but understanding it all is still beyond me. I didn't want to appear ignorant about my religion if I were ever asked a hard question, so I played it safe by avoiding the "Christian" label.

But then something happened to change my mind: I got breast cancer.

Television preacher John Hagee once said that adversity is God's university, and I can attest that that's true. When I felt that telltale lump in my breast this past March, that was my enrollment into that divine school. And it's been a beneficial and enriching course. Having breast cancer hasn't been easy but going through this valley of disease has brought me to a place with God that I would never have gotten to otherwise.

While fighting cancer I've seen God work miracles for me. Not big, spectacular ones but small, personal ones that spoke to me in the way I needed it most. The most meaningful miracle I've experienced is receiving God's strength to deal with my illness. While I was waiting for the results of my biopsy I was sure I'd freak out if they came back positive, but I didn't and I know that was God. He gave me His strength which kept me calm, positive, and unafraid. That's been a huge blessing for me and I'm very grateful for it.

As I've gotten closer to the Lord during my trials I've learned the worries I outlined above don't matter. God isn't looking for me to be perfect, to have full spiritual knowledge, or to live in a constant state of spiritual ecstasy. Rather, He just wants me to trust Him. As I do that, God will lead me to the people and sources that will help me grow in faith, knowledge, and even "perfection". I don't have to worry that I might embarrass my Savior or appear ignorant of my faith. God is close to me and He will guide me through any akward moments. Because of that, I feel I'm finally "in the fold", so to speak. Jesus is the shepherd and I'm one of His sheep. I'm a Christian. I'm a believer, and I'm blessed.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Devil Made Me Do It

As we approach Halloween with its emphasis on the demonically supernatural, I was inspired to do a post on a habit among many Christians that's a real pet peeve of mine. What is that habit, you ask? It's Christians' habit of blaming everything bad they do on the devil.

Now I understand that Scripture calls Satan the tempter. He tempted Jesus during His forty day fast in the wilderness, and he tempts us. But blaming the devil for all our sinful deeds is, in my opinion, a cop out. While Satan definitely works to lure us away from God and His way, we are also led away from God and His standards by our own sinful nature.

The Bible says that the unsaved man is naturally full of enmity toward God. When we are saved we do receive a new nature via the Holy Spirit, but the old one isn't erased. It remains, constantly contending with the new nature for dominance in each Christian. Maybe that's why many Christians blame the devil for their sinning: it's easier than waging spiritual warfare with themselves.

A life of perpetual, internal, spiritual struggle isn't what many people today are told to expect when they "accept Christ". Rather, they're told that accepting Christ means instant sainthood epitomized by a "victorious Christian life" of health, wealth, and happiness. Acknowledging, let alone struggling with, their sinful nature just isn't on the menu. So, when things start to go wrong and these Christians find themselves sinning they see it as a Satanic attack on their "victorious life". They don't take responsibility for their own actions, repent, and seek forgiveness from God and man; instead, they enlist prayer warriors to help them repel the devilish assault. In going this route, they deprive themselves of golden opportunities for spiritual growth.

The apostle Paul plainly states that all believers begin their Christian walk as spiritual infants and must grow into mature believers. This maturity develops through spiritual struggle, not just study of God's Word. Blaming the devil for their sins means Christians don't grow as they should. It prevents them from dealing honestly with their weaknesses. Facing their weaknesses teaches Christians humility and helps protect them from pride. Facing their weaknesses teaches Christians patience and empathy for others who struggle and helps protect them from self-righteousness. Facing their weaknesses teaches Christians to rely on God for strength, bringing them closer to Him. Working, with God's help, to overcome their imperfections exercises Christians' spiritual muscles in a way blaming Satan can never do. And spiritually strong believers can resist real Satanic attacks much better than weak ones.

The devil made me do it may be an easy out but it can't create a mature, strong follower of Christ. Those who regularly use this out may appear Godly but lack the power thereof, as Scripture puts it. Therefore, anyone seeking to become a true Christian must put aside blaming Satan and accept responsibility for his sins. He must recognize his complete dependence on Christ for the strength to overcome sin. And he must accept that overcoming sin will be a lifelong struggle, but one that will refine him like fire refines silver. That will make the Christian spotless when he stands before the Lord. That's why the struggle is necessary and worth it, and why "the devil made me do it" must go.

Saturday, March 27, 2010


I found this video on, formerly known as God Tube, and it's so cute I just had to post it. This adorable trio of siblings saying the Lord's Prayer will put a big smile on your face. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A Problem With "Purity"

We live in a hypersexual age. The anti-Biblical philosophy of sexual liberation is now the reigning authority on how we should live our sexual lives. So long as you practice "safe sex" there should be no restrictions on your sexual behavior. If it feels good, DO IT! That's what our society now devoutly believes. Understandably, Christians who take their faith seriously are appalled by this state of affairs. They are horrified and grieved by the physical, emotional, and spiritual suffering intrinsic to sexual "freedom". Wanting to spare themselves and their children such hardship, and wanting to remain true to God's way, faithful Christians started a "purity" movement to teach and maintain the Bible's sexual ethic in their homes, schools, and churches.

I admire the intentions of the "purity" movement. An uncompromising and unapologetic commitment to God's standards is, sadly, missing from the lives of far too many modern Christians. Believers and unbelievers alike need to hear a spirited defense of the Biblical sexual ethic of chastity before marriage and fidelity within marriage. The "purity" movement is trying to deliver such a defense but I feel it may be spreading an unintentionally negative and unBiblical message to its followers.

The problem stems, I think, from the very idea that "purity" means abstaining from sex until marriage. The implication of this notion is that once you have sex, even in marriage, you are no longer pure. And the implication of THAT is that sex is somehow intrinsically defiling. That is not the Bible's teaching.

God created sex and, like all of His creations, it is good. The Bible doesn't teach that sex is inherently impure. If you doubt that read "The Song of Solomon", the Bible's ode to physical love. If you're open that book will disspell any notions you might have of God being anti-sex. God's not against sex. God is against sex in wrong circumstances.

God has given humankind a set of rules to govern our sexual behavior, just as He has given us rules to govern other aspects of our lives. These sexual rules are meant for our protection and our good. God doesn't want sex to bring us heartache, spread disease, or destroy our families. He meant it to be a joyful experience within the proper circumstance, namely, marriage. Sex outside of God's ordained arrangement IS impure, but the impurity lies in the unlawful situation and in disobedience to God, NOT in the sex act itself. I feel the "purity" movement doesn't do a good job making that distinction. Consequently, some people influenced by the movement might come away with an utterly unBiblical discomfort with sex itself. And that's a shame because the goals of the movement are supremely laudable.

The "purity" movement needs to counter the damaging doctrine of sexual liberation intelligently, in a way that neither saddles people with unscriptural prudishness nor leaves Christians open to gross stereotyping by the sex libbers. The latter would like nothing better than to portray supporters of Biblical sexual morality as menacing advocates of a dangerously backward and repressive ethic. Let's not give them the rope with which to hang us.

Christians and others who are committed to traditional sexual morals have no need to be defensive about what they believe. It is the philosophy of sexual "freedom" that, when put into practice, has caused untold suffering for people of all ages. The purity movement has the joyful, compassionate, life-affirming, love-affirming, alternative. It should make sure the public truly understands that.