The Perfect Christmas Myth

The Perfect Christmas Myth

The holiday season is upon us again.  What does that thought stir in you?  For many of us, it is the pressure for the perfect Christmas.  What we would not do for the perfect Christmas season.   The beautiful decorations greet you as you drive up to your home.  As you walk into your home, the scent of pine sweeps you into Christmas euphoria.  The only thing that interrupts the pine smell is the whiff of a ham baking in the oven.  You are greeted with Christmas cheer by your children dressed in full Christmas attire!  With the sounds of holiday music playing, you recline in your comfy chair with your hot cider and dream of a white Christmas. 

            As you snap out of your dream state, you realize that your holiday season will not be the “Joanna Gaines” Christmas that you dreamed of.  Why do we put that pressure on ourselves to have the “Perfect Christmas”?  Why do our expectations of the holidays fall short of our experiences?  Could it be that other things drive our expectations?

            What are we searching for that drives us to do all these things?  To be sure, some people love the whole experience of the holidays, but other times it is caused by something else.  It could very well be that we are trying to capture something that we cannot attain by the craze of decorations.  Here are a couple of thoughts that may help you.

            Are we trying to relive our childhood memories?  Are we trying to recapture moments from the past?  One of the things I have learned along the way is that you can never recapture a past moment.  We tend to think that we will have the same results if we just do the same thing.  That may be true for some things, but it is hard to replicate feelings when trying to attach emotions with experiences.  Vacations are notorious for that.  How often have I tried to relive past experiences, and I left disappointed because I had those false expectations.  The holidays can be the same.  The truth is that God has new experiences for us.  He has new things He wants us to experience. God always wants us to experience new things.  Our life was never meant just to relive past experiences.  New things are His speciality.  So maybe this year you ask, “Lord, what do you want me to experience this Holiday season?”  He may want you to stay thankful.  He may say you need to enjoy the moments.  God has something He wants to do inside you this Christmas, and it is most likely different from last year. 

            Another reason we can get into the trap of the “perfect Christmas” myth is that we feel the pressure to impress others, or we fear that we will be judged by how well we “do” Christmas.   This isn’t a healthy way to enter the season.  I encourage you to enter this season with the question,  “What would give me peace?”  You cannot live your life according to the expectations of others. It’s easy to fall into the trap of living to impress.   This “keeping up with the Joneses” will drive you to exhaustion.  My suggestion is just to be you.  There are much more important things than your peace being stolen by the expectations of others.  Paul writes this in 2 Corinthians 10:12 “ But they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.”  The scriptures warn us against comparing ourselves with others.  We need to be careful not to fall into this trap.  A flower does not care about the flower next to it.  It just blooms. 

Let’s dispel the “Perfect Christmas” myth.  Just enjoy the journey.  Remember the meaning behind it all.  Jesus came to Earth.  He came to show us His way of love.  Let this season be centered around Jesus.  Let us ever be reminded of God’s love for us, and let that fuel our love for others this Holiday season.  Enjoy this season, be content, be thankful, and be reflective as we approach 2022. 

“Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable Gift.” – 2 Corinthians 9:15


Hesed-God’s Loyal Love

Hesed-God’s Loyal Love

The Lord passed in front of him and proclaimed: The Lord—the Lord is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love and truth,

Ex. 34:6

When God chose this moment in the Biblical narrative to describe Himself to humanity through this interaction with Moses, He could have used a lot of different descriptive words.  He could have said,  “I am the Lord God harsh and demanding.”  He could have been like the wizard in the “Wizard of Oz” movie,  by declaring Himself as “I am the great and powerful God!”  He could have used many different descriptions, but God chose to reveal Himself like He did in Ex 34:6.  Why?

When we talk about God,  some people talk about the Old Testament God and the New Testament God.  The God of the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament can seem to be a God of harshness and judgement.  There are sometimes where after the people stray from God and the consequences come.  That is true.  But here when God declares who He is he uses some amazing words.  He says, “the Lord is a compassionate and gracious God” So let’s process that for a minute.  How about this phrase, God “abounds in faithful love.”  Now as we dive into this phrase, we will see an amazing truth about God that will help us as we navigate our relationship with Him.  

The word that is translated to “faithful love” is the Hebrew word “Hesed”.  This is a word that can easily lose the full meaning through translation.  This word is translated other places “kindness,” “faithfulness,” “mercy,” “goodness,” “loyalty,” and “steadfast love.”  All these are great translations, and they are not wrong.  The full meaning of this word has to do with a love that is not dependent on the object of the love, but it is more descriptive of the one who is doing the loving.  This word carries the idea of a loyal love that is always available whether the recipient is worthy or receptive to the one giving the love.   This word also carries the idea that the one who is loving is bound by their own nature to love.  The story of the children of Israel is a prime example of the loyal or faithful love of God.  As the Bible story unfolds,  the children of Israel are constantly in a state of straying away from God and returning to God.  Hmm, sound personally familiar?  The amazing thing is that God is always there to receive them back when they return to Him.  This happens over and over in the Old Testament.  You see, God’s loyal love gave them the ability to return.  God’s faithful and loyal love allows us to return to Him too.  If God’s love for us was not loyal we could never find our way back to Him.  God never gives up on us because He cannot give up on us.  It is not in the nature of who He is.  His “Hesed” or loyal love always provides a road for any prodigal to come home, any person who gets caught up in this crazy world, any person who just forgot to acknowledge God this week or any person that has just lost their way.  The road back to God is paved by His loyal love.  God’s loyal love is the reason Jesus came.

But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

Jesus is the word “Hesed” in the flesh.  He is the one who loved us first, because it’s God’s nature to have steadfast love.  While we were away from God doing our own thing and living our own way, Jesus died for us.  You see, God loves you and pursues you whether you return His love or not. 

Are you struggling? God’s is not waiting for you to become perfect His attitude toward you is loyal love.  Do you need to return to God?  Turn back to God and you can rest assured that Gods loyal love is waiting for you.  

Is “This Lamb” Yours? by Joel Addison

The “Passover Lamb” they offered 

Yet not to be defiled, 

They wouldn’t enter the Praetorium 

Plotting evil all the while, 

     Religious leaders full of the law 

     Couldn’t see the innocence that Pilate saw 

Yet, fearing a riot and losing his position 

Quickly made pilate change his decision 

     Beaten, scourged, and humiliated 

     This “King of the Jews” they berated 

Jesus was offered gall to drink 

In order to numb His senses 

Instead the cup of God’s wrath He drank 

Bearing all our offenses!

     He hung on the cross 

     By the nails of our sin 

     And willingly died 

     That we might live again.

Dead in a tomb with no hope it seemed 

The disciples resolved to relinquish their dream.

     But Jesus arose and came to those 

     Confused and frightened ones

     Confirming His Ressurection 

     Giving the Great Commission 

Planting Seeds to Grow!

Planting Seeds to Grow!

Here in Georgia, the pine tree is king.  Take a hike in almost any park and you find yourself surrounded by pine trees.  More specifically you will be surrounded by the Loblolly pine.  These pine trees found in Georgia grow to about 80 feet tall.  While that is a tall tree,  the California Redwood dwarfs the Loblolly pine.  One Redwood in particular measured in at 380 feet.  Now that is a huge tree. The most amazing part is the size of the seed that it grows from.  The seed of Reedwood is about the size of a tomato seed.  That’s incredible.  The potential for that giant tree is in that tiny seed.  That little seed has the roadmap for making that tree.  Pretty impressive.  

Just like that tree, God’s special DNA is in you.  The hard truth is that what you do with that potential is up to you.  Just like a seed that is not planted will never become a Redwood, unless we do something with what God has given us we will not become what He intended.  This is a tough pill to swallow sometimes.  However, the good news is that just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean that the potential is not there.  Listen to what the apostle Paul says about this subject.

Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.  Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 

1 Timothy 4:14&15

Paul tells us Timothy received some kind of gifting.  He also tells him not to neglect it.  He then goes further and says to be diligent and give yourself wholly to it.  If you do, Timothy, everyone will see your progress.  It will be evident that you have that gifting.  Along with this comes the idea that if you are not giving yourself to it, no one will ever know it is there.  Ouch!  So just because the potential is there doesn’t mean it will automatically be experienced.  

So this year what are the things that you need to be diligent about?  What things do you need to give yourself wholly to?  What things do you need not to neglect?  Maybe you want to be a better parent this year.  Give yourself to it. Make it a priority.  Find a podcast or watch a video or even read a book on parenting.  Ask yourself what you can do to be a better parent.   Maybe there is someone you admire the way they parent,  reach out to them and have conversations with them.  Let it be something you think about.  When there is an area I want to grow in, I feed myself information about that.  Periodically I will listen to something or read something on being a better husband.  I do this so I can become better.  Not perfect, but better.  Most of the New Years’ resolutions fail because we stop giving ourselves to them.   The scriptural principle is that whatever you sow to you will reap.  

It comes down to the currency of our day.  It is not money.  The real currency of the day is time.  So what are we “spending” our time on?  Ok, time for true confessions, I love anything StarWars related.  I watch anything Star Wars related.  So guess what?  If you have any Star Wars questions, I can answer them.  If you want opinions about anything Star Wars related, I have way too many of them.  You could say that I, embarrassingly, have given my time to it.  Because I have given myself to it I know way too much about it.  What you give yourself to WILL grow whether good or bad.  

We can’t change what has happened already, so we are putting the past in our rearview mirror.  The past is the past.  We are going to do some proper seed planting.  We are going to be careful about what we plant.  We are going to give ourselves to the thing that we want to grow in.  This year we are going to see the potential of the seed in us grow.  This year we are going to be purposeful and see some changes.  Let us commit to growing so that everyone around us will see the change that is happening.  We may not all become perfect but we will grow when we give ourselves to growing the seed of greatness given by God to everyone.  Now is your moment and it is time to GROW!

The Lost Art of Meditation

The Lost Art of Meditation

“In silence and in meditation on the eternal truths, I hear the voice of God which excites our hearts to greater love.”

C. S. Lewis

1 Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, 2 but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night. 3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers. 

Psalms 1:1-3

True confessions.  Silence is naturally hard for me.  I am not usually a quiet person.  I love to have music playing while I work.  I love to be entertained.  The truth is I am probably like most people in the modern age. So when we talk about meditation, I used to get nervous.  I think it was because I had a misunderstanding of what Biblical meditation is.  But as I gain understanding it has opened up a new world when I choose to engage in Biblical meditation.  In this article, I want to help break misconceptions and inspire you to incorporate this practice in your life.  If I can learn it anyone can.

Meditation once was thought to be an important discipline for Christians.  Contemplative thought was celebrated and encouraged.  Christians were people who thought deeply about how life and the scriptures related.  However deep thinking has gone to more modern thinking, which is given to us in short doses.  Social media has not helped us in our ability to think deeply.  Information now comes so fast that our minds can only handle the headline thoughts.   Think about the last time you actually read an entire article from a headline you read.  Notice that you may just be skimming this magazine article.  If so, I caught you! Don’t be embarrassed, our culture is teaching us to think shallow.  It is teaching us to think an inch deep and a mile long.   We rarely go deep into a subject.  

Another enemy of meditation is distraction.   As I write this I am constantly reminded of the temptation to be distracted.  My phone is the worst.  When my text alert goes off I have to muster up all the self-discipline I have to remind myself that I am not bound by any law regarding the timely reading of someone’s text.  Even when I am preparing for my Sunday morning sermons I am constantly reeling myself in.  How is it when I was researching early Jewish customs on my computer, I ended up watching a video on the new vaccines for Covid? Many of us tell ourselves, “I’ll just be a second”.  Then after I have wasted time on that, it will take about 20 minutes to fully reorient myself to what I was doing.  It is truly amazing that with all the information out there deep learning and meditation are being left in the dust.  I desperately want off that train.

Scripture is clear.  We need meditation.  Even the secular world sees the value of meditation.  God created us for contemplative thinking.  There are so many scriptures on this that I would take up all the space here to quote them.  Just do a google search and you will find it to be true.  God made us to meditate on Him and who He is.  As believers, we don’t just center ourselves or think about our inward selves.  Our meditation is on our Creator and more specifically His word.  Notice the scripture above. Our meditation is on the word of God.  You will find that when the Bible talks about meditation it is talking about meditating on God through His word.  Much of the time our shallow thinking has taken over and robbed us of deeper thoughts on God.  We must stop, take a pause and think about the truths of God.  A ministry that I love introduced me to the idea of the 1-minute pause.  I have learned to do that periodically.   Just take 1 minute to stop and refocus my attention back on my God.  I may think about Jesus’ great love for me. I may stop and just thank Him for giving His life for me.  I may think about the things that I am facing and remember how big our God is.  I may say out of my mouth.  “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” Or “God I thank you that you will never leave me or forsake me”  “Thank you that you will not leave me alone”  but I won’t stop there. I will begin to meditate on what that truth means for me.  I have to resist the temptation to think, “Oh, I know this already.”  You see that is the trap. I will think about it for a solid minute.  You may say, “that couldn’t help”  But many times it is just what I need in the middle of the day to reset my mind back on the Lord. 

There are many things you can do that will help you on your meditation journey.  Just a few bellow

  • Find a quiet place.  I know, I know, “you don’t know my house.”  Which is true.  But find something.  I used to go out on my lunch break and find a park and that was it for me.  Just somewhere the world can’t get to you.
  • Take a walk in nature.  There are some great parks with trails. 
  • In the car.  Turn off that radio.  Yes, even the Christian stuff.  Take a moment just you and God.  Podcasts and worship music are great but sometimes it can make us lazy.  Sometimes we need our own thoughts, not just thoughts created by someone else. 
  • Memorize some Scriptures that you would like to think about.  Write them down and put them where you go regularly.  The bathroom vanity is my favorite.  Brush your teeth and brush your heart at the same time.  
  • Stop reading your Bible on your phone.  It can be wave after wave of alert interruptions.  Also, the google and youtube temptations are way too much for most of us  
  • Start journaling.  Journaling is a great way to meditate and think deeply.  Make your journaling part of your prayer.  Writing out prayers is a wonderful discipline.  Who knows you might go back later and see how God has answered them.
  • The biggest thing is to begin with something.  Even if it is small.  Believe me, you will grow in it.  

If we have ever needed the practice of meditation, it is now.  There is so much instability in our world.  In a world that pushes the immediate stimulation of our minds, let’s push back against that.  It will take some effort to push back but I promise you the rewards are life-changing.  Remember that God is an ever-present help in time of need.  Let us make a decision to be people that invite Him in.  Let’s become people that meditate on our amazing God!  Let us commit to reclaim the lost art of meditation.