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Monthly Archives: December 2010

Welcome to Whoville

What’s up with the Eastlake Totem Trees? Did the city fathers of Sammamish, WA, decide to enter the Whoville Christmas decorating contest? (For those who might be confused, the trees stand in front of Starbucks at the entrance to Eastlake High School. They were topped off a few years back but the trunks were left standing. The city council suggested making totem poles. But they could not agree on what to do with them. So they stood formless until now.)

Someone covered them with what looks like giant Christmas socks (or Winter Festival stockings, for the politically correct.) As we drove by this afternoon, my daughter, Caitlin, commented, “I feel like I just entered Whoville.”

Somewhere Cindy Lou Who is smiling and the heart of the Grinch is beating in time with Jingle Bells.

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2010 in Christmas, Photos, Sammamish

 

Candy Cane Theology

One of the treats of the Christmas season are Candy Canes. By design, candy canes are sweet, attractive, and filling. But don’t eat one before dinner because it will take away your appetite for more nutritious fare. Candy canes also promote cavities in your teeth, so my dentist friends tell me.

The same can be said of Candy Cane Theology. It too is sweet, attractive, and filling. And it too will take away your appetite for solid spiritual food. Candy Cane Theology won’t rot your teeth, but it might rot your soul because it promotes wishful thinking based on a doctrine of works.

I participated in a memorial service recently that was a striking example of candy cane theology. I opened the service with Scripture and prayer. Another individual led a time of sharing about the deceased. Still another pastor gave the message.

During the sharing time, everyone raved about what a “great guy” the deceased was, how he was the life of the party and made everyone laugh, how he was passionate about saving lives in his work. But never once did anyone speak of his faith or whether or not he loved Jesus. The closest they came was when one person mentioned asking if he believed in God and he said yes. The speaker said that in his belief, the person was now in heaven. Many of the speakers demonstrated wishful thinking. They reasoned that because the person was so good and full of life, he must be in heaven. 

I found it curious that the pastor who gave the sermon never once opened his Bible. He spoke about biblical principles as he talked through the resurrection of Lazarus in John 11. He spoke of the hope of the resurrection. But he didn’t talk of forgiveness of sins or how you could have a relationship with Jesus Christ. There was no challenge or encouragement to believe the message of the gospel. It made me glad I began the service by reading John 14:1-6 and saying that only through Jesus Christ could we have the hope of heaven.

I came away with two conclusions. One is that only God knows the state of a person’s heart and their eternal destiny. Not knowing the deceased, I cannot say for certain that he was a Christ follower. I don’t know whether or not he made a profession of faith at some point in his life. Based on what I heard during the memorial service, I would say, No. But I was reminded that only God knows the heart.

The second conclusion is that I must present the gospel clearly at every funeral. You cannot give people false hope that God grades on a curve–if you are good enough you can get into heaven. Just as the rich man did in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), you can state that the deceased would implore his friends and family to make certain of their eternal destiny. I want people to leave with a clear understanding of how to get into heaven and what they need to do in order to make that certain.

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2010 in Funerals, Preaching, Scripture, Theology

 

The Christmas Rescue

Last Tuesday afternoon, I was blissfully sitting at my desk watching a video while eating my lunch. The lights flickered and then went out. I was now blissfully sitting in the dark (figuratively speaking, since sunlight was streaming through the window). It was the second power outage in 12 hours. The first one around midnight lasted a few minutes. This one, though I had no way of knowing at the time, would last 40 minutes.

After a few minutes of waiting for the power to return, I called Seattle City Light (on my cell phone since the office phones were without power) to report the outage and get an estimate on the repair time. The attendant informed me that crews would be dispatched and hopefully in 1-2 hours they would have an estimated time of repair.

With no lights, phones, or internet, I pulled out a book, moved closer to the window and started reading while I waited. I needed someone to rescue me from darkness and powerlessness.

It dawned on me that my circumstances reflected the message of Christmas. In one sense, Christmas is a rescue operation to turn the lights back on and restore power to the universe.

The prophet Isaiah states that because of sin, the world existed in darkness. It was a land of deep darkness desperately in need of light (Isaiah 9:2). The prophet also foretold of the coming of a Savior (9:6-7) who would be unique. He would be God in human flesh. He would bring peace, justice, and righteousness.

In Luke 1:26-38, the angel Gabriel announced to the Virgin Mary that she would give birth to Jesus. He would be the Son of God, the one promised by the prophet Isaiah. Luke 2:1-16 tells how the shepherds heard the announcement of Christ’s birth and came to honor and worship the child. Matthew 2:1-11 adds how the wise men saw the signs of his birth in the heavens and also came to honor and worship the child. They were convinced the Christ child was the one the signs and prophecies pointed to.

Through the incarnation, Jesus Christ took on the form of a servant and became a man (John 1:14). He was the one foretold by the prophet Isaiah as the light who would shine in the world of darkness (John 1:4-5). God became man so that he might save us from our sins and reconnect us to the source of life and power (John 1:12).

Christ did not come to be a Christmas ornament; a decoration on a lawn; a story told once a year; a reason to give presents; a character in a pageant; an excuse to visit family; a reason to be nice to the neighbors we don’t like; a time for a ceasefire or a call to end a war; or a reason for a party. Christ came to be our Savior. He was born to die. He came to pay the final price for our salvation. He came to give his life as a sacrifice. He came to ensure our forgiveness and freedom from sin. He was born to die so that we might spend eternity with God.

In your spiritual journey, start at the manger, and then go to the cross. Remember his birth, but consider his death. Confess your sins and receive the gift of forgiveness and eternal life he offers. Allow Christ to rescue you and turn the lights back on in your life.

 
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Posted by on December 19, 2010 in Christmas, Scripture

 

The Silent Monks

Here are two versions of The Silent Monks “singing” the Hallelujah Chorus. Very funny and creative. Enjoy.

Short version – about 3 minutes. My guess is that people were taken by surprise and didn’t start filming until part way through.

Long version – about 6 minutes. The full song plus an introduction explaining the back story of why the monks are using this method.

 
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Posted by on December 18, 2010 in Christmas, Fun, Videos

 

When social media and Christmas collide

What happens when Facebook, Google, iPhones, Amazon, Foursquare, and Twitter collide with the Christmas story? You get “The digital story of Christmas.” I’m not quite sure if it is a good thing or not, but it is creative.

 
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Posted by on December 17, 2010 in Christmas, Fun

 

The Day After Christmas

Twas the day after Christmas, and all through the house,
Every creature was hurting — even the mouse.

The toys were all broken, their batteries dead;
Santa passed out, with some ice on his head.

Wrapping and ribbons just covered the floor,
While upstairs the family continued to snore.

And I in my T-shirt, new Reeboks and jeans,
Went into the kitchen and started to clean.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the sink to see what was the matter.

Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the curtains, and threw up the sash.

When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a little white truck, with an oversized mirror.

The driver was smiling, so lively and grand;
The patch on his jacket said “U.S. POSTMAN.”

With a handful of bills, he grinned like a fox.
Then quickly he stuffed them into our mailbox.

Bill after bill, after bill, they still came.
Whistling and shouting he called them by name:

“Now Dillard’s, now Broadway’s, now Penney’s and Sears,
Here’s Levitz’s and Target’s and Mervyn’s–all here!!

To the tip of your limit, every store, every mall,
Now chargeaway, chargeaway, chargeaway all!”

He whooped and he whistled as he finished his work.
He filled up the box, and then turned with a jerk.

He sprang to his truck and he drove down the road,
Driving much faster with just half a load.

Then I heard him exclaim with great holiday cheer,
“Enjoy what you got; you’ll be paying all year!”

(Author Unknown)

cited in PreachingNow@preachingmagazine-info.com

 
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Posted by on December 16, 2010 in Christmas, Fun

 

Frosty the Snowman killed in hit-and-run accident

In the “truth is stranger than fiction” category, Frosty the Snowman met his demise in a hit-and-run accident in Champaign-Urbana, IL. As this video and news story explains, a few individuals decided it would be fun to build a snowman in a traffic lane and then hide on the side of the street to see what would happen. One car swerved around the snowman to avoid an accident. However, a city bus crossed to the other side of the street to run over the poor fellow. The bus driver was later called before the transit authority and resigned his position.

Should we be more outraged that people deliberately put a snowman in traffic as a prank, or that a city bus driver would drive recklessly to remove the obstacle?

You cannot make this stuff up.

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2010 in News stories, Videos, Winter