Archive for December, 2018


Here I sit on December 26th wondering if Christmas can speed by any faster than it did this year.  We even notched it back a few degrees from years past.  I have a hard time believing there are 24 hours in every day of the year.  Maybe, just maybe we lose a few after Thanksgiving.  We can request a federal grant to study that one.  I think about a million dollars would make the study feasible.  I could use some research assistants.  

Anyway, now that I’ve woken up from the Christmas hangover (I didn’t imbibe in the occasional spirits), I turn my attention to New Years.  The time of year we make resolutions, over 80% if which will be broken by February 1st.  That’s because most of them have to do with our diet.  A diet is not successful unless it is a lifestyle change.  Who wants to change their lifestyle?  I didn’t think so.  So, we say goodbye to 2018 and hello to 2019.

I hope 2019 is as good as 2018 was.  Seriously, I personally had a decent 2018.  The first thing I did was get my life under control.  I turned a 55-hour a week work schedule down to about 48.  Not bad!  I’m generally out only one night of the week.  That is down from three.  Amazingly, I enjoy life a bit more now and I have more time for family as well as reading books.  Not bad at all!

The second thing was I adopted a dog.  I knew he was going to be a lot of work.  Half lab and half hound makes an interesting combination.  He looks like a lab and acts like a hound.  Did you know hounds are hard headed?  Just like me! He has forced me to make changes that have been very good.  I get up at 5:00 every morning now. It has improved my prayer life.  Walking a dog at 5:45 a.m. for 1.3 miles a trip gives me plenty of time to ask God if I am crazy or not.  Somedays He reminds me that, indeed, I am crazy, and it’s the nature of man.  It’s then I ask for help and a lot of it.  

The dog, Vader (yes, after Darth Vader), has forced me to address my weight.  I have lost 27 pounds since he came into my life.  A lengthly dog walk twice a day has helped.  I have also cut back on my sugar intake and red meat intake.  The last change that my wife and I decided to work on not eating heavy late meals.  I’ve got a ways to go (I would love to lose another 22 pounds), but overall I feel better.   

I’ve also been able to spend a lot of time watching my grandchildren.  They keep me young.  We like to call our time together, “Poppie Adventures.”  It’s fun!  There will be a day they will not want me around.  So…I’ll take advantage of the time they give me now.  We discovered rock painting in 2018.  We paint rocks and hide them around the neighborhood and around town.  You can find pictures of them on the Bluffton Rocks Facebook page.  We like to bring smiles to other’s faces, and a little joy to their lives. 

As I sit and think about 2019, I’m thinking about what kind of person I want to be heading into the new year.  I’m sure my 2018 adventures won’t be topped even though I need to get back into the kayak now that my knees are feeling much better.  So, my thoughts are about what God wants of me in 2019.

I was talking to my dear friend Dwayne from Maryland about this while he visited right before the holidays.  We were actually talking about the modern day church and how to reach the next generation for Jesus.  We like to philosophize around topics like this.  As he got up toward the end of the conversation he happened to say, “I don’t really care what happens, I just need to heal.”  It was like God was speaking!   Literally!  

I enthusiastically told him he had given me my mission for 2019.  Not only was it my personal mission I want it to define my ministry and my church.  The calling is to be a person, a ministry and a church of healing.  I don’t mean physical healing.  I mean relational and emotional healing.  We look at all the physical healing Jesus performed and miss the point.  Those Jesus touched physically were emotionally and relationally scared.  In their judgment filled world if they had a defect they were outcast and often declared “UNCLEAN.”  When Jesus healed them, he restored them to their community.  I wish I had a whole page to write about this.  You will get bits and pieces of it all year long.

What does it mean to be a healing person and ministry?  I’m not sure yet.  I asked Dwayne what a healing church would look like to him.  He said, “I haven’t experienced one so I don’t know.”  We are going to talk on January 1st about being a healing church.  Before a healing church I have to be healing person.  

I know one thing.  Grace, God’s grace, has to be the driving force to be a participant in emotional, relational and spiritual (I added one) healing.  It starts with grace and ends with great grace.  I just got to figure out what is in-between.  Anybody want to come along?

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Don’t look now but Christmas Day is looming.  Right about now, we realize we forgot someone on the gift list.  It’s also possible we received a Christmas card from someone we left off our list.  For younger readers Christmas card lists used to reach into the hundreds.  Now we hope to get a mention on Facebook.

The world will begin to close down around noon tomorrow.  In a few hours we can begin to slow down.  We can begin to focus on “peace on earth, goodwill to man.”  Yes, there are toys that need to be put together.  If I may give a hint, since I’m now in the grandfather stage, don’t kill yourself putting them together the night before.  There will be plenty of time later.  Putting toys together after Christmas extends the day.  Instead, enjoy your family and focus on the importance of this one day.

This one day is so much more important than a manger scene, three kings, a baby, a star and much more.   It is the day we set aside to celebrate the birth of Jesus.  I can’t help but remember the scene from Talladega Nights when Ricky Bobby says grace to the baby Jesus.  It borders on sacrilegious for sure.  The satire points out the truth written by Michael Kruger when he says, “Sometimes our picture of scriptural stories is shaped more by popular perceptions and modern retellings than by the text itself.”  Often we look at Christmas by focusing on the story line and miss the deeper truth of Christmas.

It is the day that God became personal.  I didn’t spell it wrong.  Yes, God became a person.  More than that truth, the concept of God went from a bit of a  mystic concept to a personal God leaving us with no excuses.  We can’t leave the baby in the manger.  It’s sweet for sure.  But God can now be defined in a personal, human sense.

The idea of a personal God is very important.  Many will talk about God from a distant perspective.  But when the name of Jesus comes up, it is amazing how it makes people squirm.  Why?  Jesus connected man to God and God to man.  It is somewhat easy to leave a belief in God somewhat up in the air, since, God is not embraceable.  But Jesus, that’s a different story.  The beauty of the story isn’t that we can embrace Jesus.  It’s that he embraces us.  

He invades our world.  He doesn’t just show up in the little town of Bethlehem.  He appears bringing God into understandable measure.  Man would never be the same again.  

Kings fear.  Wise men trail long distances to find him.  Shepherds are invited to the appearance bringing the marginalized into fellowship with God.  It gets better.  The lame will walk.   The blind will see.  Demons know him and fear.  Lepers become whole.  Gentiles are adopted.   Storms are calmed.  The dead walk.  Women are elevated and respected.  Cultural boundaries are erased.  The guilty are forgiven.  Hope is restored.  Grace abounds.  Love prevails.  Mercy is granted.  Jesus is here!  

What did we do?  Killed him.  Those who cannot move past the baby in the manger can only depend upon man himself.  The self-righteous stay on the outside looking in.  Instead of humility, their pride keeps them from the embrace of a personal God.  

As the baby became a man of whom John the Baptist said, “He must increase and I must decrease,” the grave could not contain the personal God.  The resurrection guarantees the truth that this child is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and came proclaiming, “Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Man.”  

The God who we struggled to get our minds around had embraced his fallen creation and came in the form of a human baby.  We can now relate.  We can now communicate.  We can now have a relationship.  There is no magical prayer mentioned in the Bible.  There is no special action.  All Jesus would ask is “Do you believe?”  Do you believe that Jesus, the Son of God, is the way, the truth, and the life for man or woman no matter their past?  

Honestly, it was not a silent night at all.  It was a thunderous night.  God has come and now we can relate to him as never before.  The world would never be the same again.  “Joy to the World, the Lord has come.”  It ain’t no baby.  It’s God!  

Every Christmas of late there seems to be the group that insists on emphasizing “keeping Christ in Christmas.”   Bumper stickers appear.  Buttons are worn.  Sometimes, at church, if one happens to mention “Happy Holidays,” he may be treated  as if he violated the 11th commandment.  It can get intense. 

We should not be surprised; the non-believing world has no intention of keeping Christ in anything.  If we are surprised we have bad theology.  We also should not be surprised since reliable faith-based pollsters have been telling us for years the percentage of Christians in our society is decreasing at an alarming rate, especially among the younger generations.  We recently learned the older generations (baby boomers and the silent generation) are now outnumbered by the younger generations (millennials), who are no longer defined as “Christian” influenced.  All the numbers point to a secular society.  

I decided to check it out in my own neighborhood.  I take the dog for a walk every morning and night.  So, I wanted to see what voice the meaning of Christmas has in a neighborhood that has many church-going Christians as residents.

As of December 10th the following numbers have been verified: 

32 Santa Clauses

54 Reindeer

51 Snowmen

39 Trees

8 Mickey or Minnie Mouses

12 Soldiers

3 Wolves

7 Penguins

4 Yeti

3 Trains

2 Unicorns

2 Grinch

2 Bear

1 Snoopy

2 Ocean Creatures (Whale, dolphin)

14 Other (I have no idea)

and 4 manger scenes

That is 223 other representations of Christmas to 4 manger scenes.  Jesus doesn’t stand a chance.   Now, I will admit, it’s early.  We are 2 weeks away from Christmas.  The Christians can make a come back.  We need to put on the Christmas rally caps for a big inning.  Maybe a Hail Mary is the call of the day sort of like the one the Dolphins pulled off against the Patriots last Sunday.  Sounds a bit crazy doesn’t it?  

The only person that has to worry about Christ being taken out of Christmas is the Christian.  We get all upset that the government bans manger scenes from public property; however, traveling to Asheville last weekend and looking around town the last few days I don’t see too many churches putting out symbols of the Christ in Christmas either.  How we get so harsh with the secular world and don’t hold ourselves to the same standard is one of the very reasons the world looks at us and laughs.

Hold on for a minute!  The very message of Christmas is the grace of our Lord Jesus who leaves the kingdom of heaven to rescue us from ourselves.  Instead of being critical of the Christmas expressions, we should be engaging our neighbors with the love of Christ more than anything else.  Manger scenes say I honor the day.  The love of Christ brings Christ to life the other 364 days of the year.  

It is so easy to get critical.  After John 3:16 comes John 3:17.  Jesus said, “I came into the world not to condemn the world but that the world through me will be saved.”  The lights are beautiful in honor of the one who is the Light of Light.  The decorations all display the joy we can have when we sing “Joy to the World.”  

Christian, be concerned more with the lack of love and grace than the lack of manger scenes.  If one wants Christ in Christmas…put him there.  Do so with great grace and love.

Now, after all that I have one question, “When and how did unicorns become associated with Christmas?” I googled it, and Mr. Google says it is a millennial expression against tradition.  On one hand, I can’t say I blame them.  A manger scene without the expression of Christ’s love is a tradition that needs to end.  But unicorns?  Somethings I don’t quite get.  Oh well, Merry Christmas anyway.