an uneventful christmas

Category : God, faith, living a life of faith, sharing faith

Christmas at the R3 household was surprisingly uneventful.  And that’s just the way I wanted it.

I admit, I am not exactly a “sit still” kind of guy.  In fact, I believe I am genetically incapable of sitting still.  Fidgeting is my spiritual gift.  But over the years I’ve really tried to learn to appreciate the “moment” instead of dreaming about some future event.  This does not come easily to me.  I have always been fascinated by ideas.  I’m drawn into dreams.  The pull of a better future is strong.  Sometimes I just find the present to be a bit too dull for my liking.  (Unless, of course I am talking to you, and then it’s really, really, exciting.)

As I’ve progressed in my relationship with God I’ve realized that much of what grows our faith is living in the moment.  The fact that we can’t control the future and we can’t change the past means we can only act in the present.  That’s where we live out a life of faith.

But that knowledge doesn’t always mean I follow through!

That’s why this year was so special.  I was able to focus on the present.  To enjoy it.  And for that I am grateful.

I hope that as you go through this crazy time of year, you can take time to focus on the present.

an R3 kind of Christmas

Category : choice, different, humor, just for fun, living a life of faith

As we begin to wind down 2009, I want the last few posts of the year to be a bit light-hearted. Life is stressful. We all tend to work long hours. We have hundreds (seemingly) of things going on all the time. We rarely get days off (if you’re lucky enough to have a job).

Everything seems to move at warp speed.

So for this Christmas I encourage you to spend quality, focused, time with your friends and family. Enjoy their company and the community you have. Use this as an opportunity to show what it means to live a life of faith, not by preaching Bible verses, but by being there when they need you.

In the meantime, check out this video. I think we can all wish this was our house growing up…

why I’m not excited about easter

Category : different, faith, hope, living a life of faith

  

Just this morning I realized Sunday was Easter.  Oh sure on some level I knew Easter was coming up.   And I even knew it was Sunday.  But I didn’t really know.   Know in the sense that I actually was going to change my Sunday routine.

This isn’t because Easter is important.  It is.  Ask any Christian and he or she will tell you that the reason we celebrate Easter is because Jesus rose from the dead, thus defeating sin, death, Satan, and the need to eat your vegetables.

Okay, maybe Jesus had nothing to do with that last one.

For many Easter and Christmas are the two biggest days of the year.  They represent the re-birth and birth of Jesus.   They are exciting times if you are a Christian.  Yet I’m not excited.  But it’s not because I don’t believe in God.  It’s actually the exact opposite.

Because God is such an important part of my life, I tend to celebrate his birth and death on a daily basis.  For me Christmas and Easter come 365 days a year.  Fortunately the candy doesn’t or I’d have some issues.

One of the advantages to living out a life of faith is that you aren’t restricted by the calendar when you want to celebrate Jesus.  You can do that whenever.   You can reflect on the cost of his death.  You can be excited that God would humble himself and send us his son.  It doesn’t matter what day, because every day is a celebration.

And that’s why I’m not excited about easter.

a Christmas lesson

1

Category : God, different, faith, fear, hope, sharing faith

  

As I’ve mentioned a couple times on R3, I will not have a job come January.  Knowing that has been an interesting experience.  But maybe not in the way you would expect. 

I find I’m focusing more on the things I have than the things I don’t.  I’m also realizing all of the things that used to bother me, such as not having a house, are now blessings.  (No house = No mortgage payments)  

The biggest challenge has been learning to not buy things for myself.  Games, books, CD’s, movie tickets, that sort of stuff.  Things that I never really gave much thought to, are now out of reach.  So what does this have to do with Christmas?  Well, for the first time, in a very long time, I’m really excited about Christmas.  I am now being given presents that I could never afford on my own.  Even simple gifts such as a CD or a book is a big deal, and I am grateful for each and everything I have received.

Sometimes we think the solution to all of our problems is money or comfort.  That if we could only get more stuff, then we’d be happy.  Yet I’m learning that’s not true at all.  Sometimes the best thing that can happen to us is to struggle.  Because it’s in those moments we are forced to rely on God.  And anytime we trust God, miracles happen.

So I may soon be without a job, but even in the midst of that, God is working miracles.  I am learning things I never expected.  Funny how God works like that.

 

away in the manger

Category : God, faith, hope, taking action, trust, worship

  

We’ve all heard the story of Jesus’ birth.  We know that he was born into a family of humble origins.  That he was born in a manger because his parents couldn’t find a room.  We know that Mary was a virgin, and that it was through a great leap of faith she had Jesus.

But whenever I hear this story, I find myself thinking about Joseph

Often we hear this story told from the perspective of Mary or the Wise Men, or even Jesus.  And those are all good ways of looking at this story.  But I think sometimes we lose sight of Joseph’s profound faith.  Remember, he was well within his rights, by Jewish law, to have Mary put to death for adultery.  They had been pledged to be married, and instead she was pregnant. 

Yet he didn’t. 

Instead Joseph trusted a dream he had was from God.  Joseph trusted that God was doing something special, and that even though he didn’t understand, he would act in faith.  All of this means Joseph must have been quite a man to have put his faith in God like that, especially in an honor and shame culture.  After all, Mary knew she hadn’t “known” anyone.  Joseph, on the other hand, had to take her word for it (and of course, the message he received from God).

It would have been easy for him to begin believing the rumors that must have been swirling in such a small community.  You can’t keep secrets like that in a small town.  Yet Joseph remained faithful to both God and Mary.   

There are many times I hear about a tragedy or some extreme act of heroism and I would like to think I would have acted the same.  I’d like to think that when push really comes to shove, I’d be willing to trust God over everything.  But would I?  Would I be able to marry someone who said they were pregnant, but the child was God’s?  Would I believe God spoke to me in a dream?  Or would I believe the snide comments being made by my neighbors?

I will never know.  But I think there’s a really good chance I would have chalked that dream up to a bad slice of pizza.

losing your christmas sheep

Category : God, Jesus, Luke, bible, different, faith, hope

     

Now the tax collectors and “sinners” were all gathering around to hear him. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. (Luke 15: 1-7)

The parable of the lost sheep is one of the most famous parables in the entire Bible.  It’s the first of a collection of stories where Jesus emphasize the value God places on each of us.  As we approach Christmas it’s easy to lose sight of that.  It’s easy to develop a sense of entitlement and “I deserve this” attitudes.  Being with family might even make that easier!

But Jesus reveals something astonishing.  Saying, “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” 

Can you imagine?!  No matter what you’re doing, or how you’re celebrating, or who you are, God wants to find you.  He wants to have a relationship with you.  Can you imagine?!

We often think of Christmas in terms of gifts, vacations and lots of food.  Which, frankly, are all good things.  But to God, Christmas means something a little bit different.  To bring us back into the flock, God sent his son knowing that he would have to die a horrible death.  God was willing to sacrifice everything to find us. 

I’m not sure I’ll ever stop being amazed at that.   

I deserve this

2

Category : God, bible, failure, faith, sin

 

“I deserve this.”

Those are magic words.  Right up there with “this wasn’t supposed to happen to me.”  Each time we say it, we’re betraying the sense of entitlement we all have. 

Often the focus of entitlement is on “American culture” or “American greed”.  But I don’t think that’s the real problem.  Oh sure American’s may have a highly developed sense of entitlement, but all humans believe they are entitled.

After all, didn’t Adam and Eve feel entitled to the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil?  Didn’t Jacob feel entitled to Esau’s inheritance?  Didn’t David feel entitled to more than one wife?  Didn’t James and John feel entitled to a special place at Jesus’ side?

History is filled with a sense of entitlement.

And so are we.  It’s part of human nature.  For instance, if you find out your co-worker makes more money than you, but does less work, how does that make you feel?  Don’t you immediately think you deserve more money?  More respect?  More vacation time?  And they deserve more work?

Psychologists have a theory of motivation to explain that behavior, they call it ”Equity Theory.” 

But the world is neither fair nor equal.  And on top of that, God never promised us a life of fairness or equality.  He doesn’t even promise us comfort.  He just promises us life and freedom. 

I’m not immune of course.  And a sense of entitlement fills me more than I’d like to admit.  Even as I type this I feel that I am entitled to finding a job (as many of you know, I’m currently out of work).  But I don’t want to find a job through hard work, suffering, and faith.  Instead I want this job to fall into my lap, offering a pay raise, shorter hours, and an easier commute.

So why should you care about any of this?

Because entitlement is dangerous.  It blinds us to our own greed and selfishness.  Often we can’t even recognize that what we’re doing is wrong.  Consider the person who steals a tie because he thinks he’s owed by the “establishment.”  Or someone who downloads music off the internet because “it’s not fair to have to pay for it.”

Entitlement surrounds us in sin, but whispers to us “I deserve this.”

The irony in this post is that we’re approaching Christmas.  To many Christmas is a time of rampant entitlement.  We criticize presents because they are “not quite right.”  We complain about relatives and travel arrangements.  We attack store employees because they don’t have what we are owed in stock.  And sometimes we even kill to get a good deal.   

Yet to God, Christmas is a time that contradicts entitlement.  Christmas is when God gave up every right he had, and decided to come to earth for the sole purpose of dying.  Simply to save us. 

So this Christmas, as we start feeling a sense of entitlement, maybe we need to stop and reflect about the actual cost of that feeling.  (Hint: God gave up everything for us.  It cost him his life.)  

What can we give up for him?

what i’m watching: Cloverfield

Category : Jesus, barbarian, faith, feeding my brain

       

Some movies stick with you.  They make you think long after you’ve seen the ending.  That’s how it is with Cloverfield. It seems strange that a monster movie would have such a strong impact on me.  But I can’t stop thinking about it. As with any good movie it makes you think about your own life.

Before I go any further I want to warn people that there may be some spoilers here.  So if you don’t want to know anything about this movie, then you might want to skip this post.

Okay, now we can move on.  After watching Cloverfield I was left thinking about a few things.

1.  The movie involved sacrifice.  Not in the traditional Hollywood way.  The characters you saw in the movie weren’t action heroes, they were ordinary people.  But they chose to stick together and try and save a friend – even thought it may cost them their lives (and even though most of them didn’t want to go).  There was something intense about that.

When I watch Arnold Schwarzenegger or Chuck Norris I know they are going to survive.  After all they’re the Terminator or Walker Texas Ranger.  But an ordinary person?  That has “monster food” written all over it.

As I watched them roam around an abandoned, monster infested New York, I couldn’t help but ask myself, “would I have been willing to do that for someone?”  I would like to think so, but to be honest, I have no idea.  And I think if I’m really honest…I probably wouldn’t.

How hard must it be to know you’re going to die, but still act?

That’s one of the things that strikes me about Jesus.  He knew exactly what he was going to do.  He knew that by following his path he would die.  And he knew better than any of us, exactly what that would mean.  And yet he still did it.  He still went through with it, suffering one of most painful ways to die.

Cloverfield reminds me that I don’t think about that sacrifice enough.  I don’t consider what that cost God, especially when I’m busy being selfish and needy.

2. We don’t have much time to act.  Cloverfield opens up with a group of friends and family celebrating.  It’s just a bunch of people who are living out an ordinary day.  But their lives were destroyed and they never saw it coming.  I think this is the most shocking aspect of the whole movie.  We simply don’t know when tragedy will strike, and by the time we realize it, it’s probably too late.

No one believed a 500 foot tall monster would go on a rampage in NYC.  Just like we never believe we’ll die in a car accident, or of a heart attack.  Characters in that movie said and did things because they thought they had time to make it right later.  But they didn’t.  And that regret ate at them.

There’s something insidious about that thought process.  Because sometimes death really is a long way off, and we never act because we procrastinate.  We assume that because we have all the time in the world we’ll use that time to make things right.  But so often we don’t.

Cloverfield manages to catch both sides of that thought.  And it haunts me.

God calls us to take action, and almost always it’s to act now.  Very rarely does God ever ask someone to act in the distant future; when God asks us to do something it’s to fill an immediate need.

I don’t want to leave this world knowing that I never got around to doing something God asked of me.  Just like I don’t want to live my life for word counts and blogs, I also don’t want to live a life that is empty of accomplishments for the Kingdom.  I want to be able to look back and say, “Yes.  I seized those divine moments.”

Tomorrow is that day that may never come.  So I choose to embrace today.

the meaning of Christmas

Category : God, Jesus, hope

   

I find Christmas to be a fascinating holiday.  Not because I like to get a lot of presents.  Although I do!  Instead, I think it’s interesting watching how people get so caught up in all the things that there are to do before Christmas Day.  I’m sure we can all think of examples of that business.  All we have to do is go to any busy intersection and count how many people look angry in their cars.  Or go to a store and watch people shoulder their ways toward the nearest deals.

Why is that?  What is it about this time of year that we get so self absorbed?  We get crazy and worked up as we pursue gifts for other people.  And it seems that no matter who you are, we are all affected like this.  Of course no one wants to be stuck in traffic or lines or anything else.

Somewhere along the way we’ve come to believe we deserve better.  That we deserve that spot at the stop light.  That we deserve the last gift on the shelf.  But do we really?  Do we somehow deserve these things?  I’m afraid we don’t.  We’re all tainted by sin, and therefore we all are unworthy. Or in other words, we don’t actually deserve any of those things.

That’s why God is so shocking.  If there was ever anyone who didn’t deserve to have to go through of this grief it would be him.  Instead, he chose to suffer, simply to show us how much he loves us.

The one thing that separates Christianity from all other religions is that we don’t have to do anything to earn this love.  God came to this planet not because we earned it, or deserved it, but because he loved us. He sacrificed himself so that we would be able to know who he really was.

That’s the greatest gift any of us could receive. And at the risk of sounding cheesy – that’s what Christmas is really about.

This isn’t to say you should feel guilty for getting Christmas presents, or celebrating on Christmas day.  In fact, God wants you to have nice things, and he wants you to receive gifts.  God is a radically generous God.  So when you wake up on Christmas morning and you are surrounded by all your new things, don’t feel guilty, just remember the sacrifice God made for us.  Just remember that no matter how nice the gifts you receive (or give) they are nothing compared to what God offers to us.  And maybe with that in mind, we won’t mind it when we’re cut off in traffic, or don’t get the exact item we wanted at the store.