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The One Gift We All Should Buy Ourselves This Year – Monday Morning Momentum

Lost the Plot, Did We?
     Amazing how great and tragic loss gets us asking the right questions, isn’t it? Sad there are so many distractions to take our eyes off the plot. Ever felt so stuck in the swamp you forgot you were sent there to drain it? Then, you must have seen the news on Friday, too… Terrible that we have to lose dozens of precious children to get us to pray more fervently, attend church more faithfully (even at all), or take a break from the busy-ness of business to consider what really matters at the time of year that really matters… Then, as the media cycle dies down… back to our Christmas shopping again, right?

     Which is more tragic, the tragedy we saw or the tragedy of forgetting it?


OK, Shift Gears…
In Pursuit of Happiness…
     At the intersection of all the newer stuff out there every year – the better, sleeker, smaller/larger (depending on the technology) – the “better deals than ever“, and the constant IV-drip of the marketers’ “you, you, you”, lies what used to be the village of “I really ought to get something for me”.

      It was founded decades ago when Madison Avenue discovered that adding a few drops of consumer psychology to our water supply could turn grown adults into whiny, tantruming children who lose their minds when they can’t have what they want when they want it. Today, the town has grown up into a bustling city, renamed “Gimme” and you and I all have hearts that speak its native language.We even have a gift or two on our list that we’re buying just for us, right?

      Paul makes in interesting point in 1 Corinthians 1, as he points to the identity of his audience:

“[I am writing this letter] to those who have been set aside/dedicated to serving God – holy by calling”

     In fact, the letters God inspired Paul to write are all reminders to people who have lost the plot. “You started out on the right foot. You just got so caught up in the walking, you forgot where you were supposed to be headed. You’re so wrapped up in the men around you, you’ve lost touch with the Maker. You were called out to be holy – turn around and stick with first things in light of what’s been done for you!”

     See? You just read half of the New Testament.

To Regain the Plot, Consider the Characters
     We were created in God’s image, not a carbon copy of God, though. We are the creation, not the creator, and not endowed with the wisdom of all He knows. We lose the plot constantly because we don’t think like God. Yeah, you’ve been reading the Bible for a decade or two. That’s great. Me, too. That just makes me more prone to the sin of pride. God calls out to His people over and over again – “repent” – change your mind, radically and agree with the ways of God.

     God isn’t so busy wrapped up with my deadline, your project problems, her sales quota, their ballet, soccer, karate, and gymnastics schedule. He always knows what the plot is… His glory. He’s totally stuck on Himself, but it’s okay. He’s the most important person in His life, and that’s okay. Implication: we’re not. We’re not the reason we’re alive, not the answer, not the point of the story… So, when we get all caught up in “us”, by whatever device, we’ve hijacked the lead role and lost the plot.

The Good News
     The Good News, of course, is Jesus. But, the message of the Gospel isn’t. The Message of the Gospel is something far more offensive to our carefully tuned ears: “repent”. That’s great news – there’s a solution to… us. Repent… Turn away from the way that you used to think when you were, as God calls us, dead in your sin. Take off the old self, what’s familiar to you, “The Pursuit of Me and My Stuff”, and put on new thoughts. Renovate your mind.

     But, the news Paul writes in 1 Corinthians is not to those who don’t know Christ. These aren’t people who are “dead in their sin”. These are people who’ve received grace by faith, but are being tugged this way and that by “every wind of teaching and the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming” (Eph 4:14). Know anyone like that?

     The great news is, at least we know the Main Character and the plot. At least we have a means to regain the plot once we’ve lost it. And, despite the pain we’re feeling over our loss, their loss, any loss, we have gained something by the tragedy – a painful post it note that reminds us there was a plot in the first place. Go ahead, put your kids’ picture or one of the photos of those victims of the shooting on your dash board. But, don’t let it be there in vain – let it be a reminder of who the story is about and who you and I are not.

    Pray for comfort for the families who have lost. Pray that God puts a smile on their face through the comfort that can only come from “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles (2 Cor. 1:3-4)”. But, pray also for the salvation of all around them. No sense in showing up to the gates of Hell with a smile on your face… Let’s not gain a smile and lose the plot. Give the gift of the Plot Writer to yourself and others this Christmas. 

     Jesus is the reason, not just a season.

Grace, peace, and momentum to you today in Christ!

AP

Should Christians Celebrate Halloween…

     It’s not a question. I’m not asking if Christians should celebrate it. I’m making a conditional charge: should you do x, y will happen. How often do we seriously consider the ramifications of our ways? I have often been very much like Peter – act first, think later. As time has gone by and God has begun shifting my focus from playing to an audience of men to playing to an audience of Him, I’ve also begun learning restraint, prudence, and consequence: I’m considering my ways and how they impact His bigger picture.

     Should we celebrate Halloween, something will result. Bottom line, is that something “Glory to God” or “Not glory to God”?


     I, being so very ADD, get off task often. On track or off track has everything to do with purpose: “What is your purpose on this earth?” If you believe that Christ is Lord and God sent Him to save sinners bound for hell, it’s not a big leap to assume you believe God’s purpose for man is to love God and to worship and enjoy Him forever. This is called a “doxological” statement, meaning – it’s about God’s glory. Are we here to glorify God or not? If so, then anything we do that doesn’t point toward the glory of God is a rabbit trail, resulting in either sin or error. By the grace and power of God, He can and will redeem it, regardless. (Another story for another time.)

     I’m reading Justin Holcomb’s post, a guy that I like and genuinely believe to be a clear thinker, but I think he’s just wrong on this one. He quotes Nicholas Roger’s book, which charges that the Celtic Samhain was not a holiday based on human sacrifice. Holcomb seems to dismiss the argument against the pagan roots of Halloween in favor of the early church celebration of the martyrs of the Roman persecutions. But, he agrees with Rogers that about 500 years later it had become “a holiday that affirmed the collective claims that the dead had on the living.” So, let’s throw out the most common objection to celebrating Halloween “it’s rooted in pagan tradition”. No problem, we won’t cavel over that one.

     With that point off the table, can I just play the village idiot and ask a question: “If a holiday started out as a Holy Day dedicated to honoring the saints persecuted by the Romans but took on an alternative meaning linked to “claims the dead had on the living”, has the holiday been hijacked? If so, how do we reclaim its original meaning without getting knocked off our own course? More to my opening point: “How does wearing a costume, indulging ourselves with more candy anyone can safely metabolize in a year, and decorating our homes with pagan symbolism (ghosts, which are not departed loved ones, rather demons impersonating loved ones, witches – which we’re clearly forbidden from emulating, bats, black cats, and other symbols which point only toward a culture of darkness), bring glory to God?”

     I’m not being a smarty-pants. I’m sincerely trying to advance my own understanding of this issue. I agree with Holcomb and guys like Mark Driscoll who try to fit culture into the 3r’s receive, reject, and redeem. If we decide not to reject Halloween outright, my only practical question is this: “Does redeeming it mean participating in it? Is it possible to mock a pagan ritual without glorifying it in some way? Or, does ‘redeeming’ it mean a flat out return to the original intent for the Holy Day with a no-apologies approach, wherein the martyrs of the faith are celebrated and the name of Jesus Christ is lifted high, worshipped with no pretense, superfluous flow of chocolate, nor costume of any kind?”

     Doesn’t that return us to our purpose and turn the water cooler conversation abruptly back to the gospel?

     “Hey, Jim, you coming to the Halloween party on Monday?”
     “No, I’m heading over to XYZ Church for a big celebration.”
     “Really? What do they have going on, a Halloween party or a ‘Fall Festival‘?”
     “Neither. It’s actually a celebration for a bunch of people who lived and died for a guy named Jesus who lived, died, and was resurrected so you and I could spend eternity with our Father in heaven. Ever heard of Him?”

     Albert Mohler stated regarding this matter about four years ago:
     “The complications of Halloween go far beyond its pagan roots, however. In modern culture, Halloween has become not only a commercial holiday, but a season of cultural fascination with evil and the demonic…


     On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther began the Reformation with a declaration that the church must be recalled to the authority of God’s Word and the purity of biblical doctrine. With this in mind, the best Christian response to Halloween might be to scorn the Devil and then pray for the Reformation of Christ’s church on earth. Let’s put the dark side on the defensive.”

     If living for a Man who is both fully man and fully God and died for me is my express purpose in life, when I do something, I want it to reflect Him. Shouldn’t we all? So, why do we invest so much money, time, energy, excitement, and anticipation in partaking in traditions that fail outright to reflect how great He is and what He has done for us? Should you do one, you cannot do the other. Or, am I completely “narrow minded”?

    As my friend Dan Diaddigo said to me yesterday:

“At it’s best, Halloween is a secular expression of community… But, community is about something; it circles a center. And the center of Halloween is darkness.” Well spoke, Dan.

     This is a discipleship issue. How we live is an overflow of how we believe. If the church is to be a community that circles a center, how we circle will show the world our center. Should we celebrate Halloween, there is a spot of darkness emulated somewhere at the center to be seen by those looking in. Should we celebrate Jesus, there isn’t a spot of darkness that will not be lit up by the light that shines from within. How, then, should we shine?

Happy Reformation Day.

to God be the glory.

AP