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Christians, Christ and Christmas

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Christmas is a season many people look forward to all year.  On December 26 social media is filled with posts stating there are only 364 days left until next Christmas.  For children, Christmas expectations include school holidays, Santa Claus and presents.  For adults, Christmas is associated with family and friends, good cheer, joy and peace on earth.  That leaves me pondering why Christians are therefore so frumpy every Christmas season. It appears that more Christians are melancholy and exhausted than joyful and refreshed.  Could it be that God uses Christmas and the blues that often come with it so Christians will be given an opportunity to do some self-evaluating each year?

So take a moment and evaluate your Christianity this Christmas season.  Are you thankful or depressed?  Are you angry or filled with joy?  Do you love people or are you weary and avoiding others?  Does the Christmas season make your heart even more full of Christ or does it leave you feeling empty?  Be honest now!  Perhaps you can be more honest by answering those questions this way: how do your actions regarding Christ match up with joy in Jesus?  If you only sporadically attend church to worship with other believers, if you are avoiding relationships with other believers, and if there is no joy in doing for others at Christmas you are probably not doing as well spiritually in your heart as you try to convince yourself you are.

Indeed, we live in a dark time.  Taxes and health insurance are consuming more and more of our salaries.  Politicians and leaders are often corrupt and unrighteous. Relationships can be treacherous. Families deal with hurts and pain. Jobs are demanding and toiling. II Timothy 3 paints a dismal picture of these last days we live in, saying many people will become “lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, demeaning, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, without love for what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.”  (II Timothy 3:1-2)  Verse 5 says we are to avoid people characterized by these traits, and yet I don’t see many Christians who prioritize bringing their children and families up around God-fearing and God-shining believers.  Rather, we pour our time, energy and efforts into the secular culture, activities and lost world around us.  But in the midst of these dark last-days characteristics is one last phrase.  It says people will be “holding to a form of godliness but denying its power.”  (Vs. 3)  In that phrase lies one of Satan’s top strategies against believers.  It is Christians to be associated with church, committed to being good and acknowledging God while denying the very power of Christ and His kingdom in us! 

I confess that keeping “a form of godliness” is a temptation I must continually ask for God’s grace to recognize and resist.  I have been in ministry 35 years.  I am very familiar with church.  I love God. I know how to “be nice” and exhibit a “form of godliness.”  But it takes the Holy Spirit to make me a disciple of Jesus Christ that lives radically for Him and bears fruit.  The power of Christ in me makes me spiritually dangerous to Satan and his plans rather than sweet yet harmless.  The power of Christ makes me bold in proclaiming Christ and His salvation rather than simply being nice and fretting over a chance to mention our church.  The power of Christ provides spiritual authority rather than causing me to embrace thoughts of gloom and being a victim. The power of Christ leads to bold and life-altering continual worship rather than to prioritize other things and a lifeless praise to Christ.  Too many of us have accepted a “form of godliness” rather than tirelessly pursuing a radical expectation of the power of Christ and His kingdom in and through us.

So how does that fit into Christmas?  The Christmas season reveals the condition of our hearts spiritually if we will honestly evaluate our emotional, relational and mental condition.  It is time that we quit pointing our judgmental fingers at society because they say “Happy Holiday” or sell cards that say “Merry Xmas.” Society often perceives and relates to Christ and Christmas in the same way it perceives Christians.  If we are “holding to a form of godliness but denying its power” then the world and the lost are given no reason, example or purpose in pursuing or understanding the higher meaning of Christmas and the Good News of Jesus Christ.

I am guilty!  I suspect every American Christian with our entitled living, our wealth, our pursuit of pleasures and personal happiness, and our independent, self-made attitudes is guilty to some degree as well. But I am aware of it and am fighting it with all my heart.  That is a great place to start.  I pray and acknowledge my need daily.  In my weakness I am being made strong.  In my suffering I find and praise God’s glory.  And this Christmas season I am filled with an awe and joy in my Lord that far surpasses the sufferings and difficulties of this dying world.

Christians, Christ and Christmas!  Saying “Merry Christmas” rather than “Happy Holidays” won’t change my melancholy, my thoughts, my attitudes, my actions or my spiritual impact!  But seeking, trusting and walking near to Jesus and all His power through the Holy Spirit allows me to experience the true joy of Christmas, and to proclaim to the world around me “the Christ of Christmas!”

Posted by Craig Lile with

How Do I Teach My Children The Importance Of Living For Christ?

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It’s one of those days. There is no school; I have work, and currently I can hear my kids running through the halls of the church screaming. And as one kid shoves another in a race down a hall, I’m thinking how ironic it is that on my calendar today is a task I’ve been given: write a blog on parenting. Not just a blog on parenting but How Do I Teach My Children The Importance Of Living For Christ. And I’m assuming that I’m like most parents, and that many days we are just praying that our feeble attempts at parenting our children won’t get in the way of all the grace and greatness God has for them.

So, I bring my loud ones back to my wing of the building so others can work. I bend low to talk to a child and address a heart matter. I search His word. I inhale. I gather up my Bible and all my little Post-It notes with short, scribbled ideas. And I bend and pray that He has good words and wisdom for all of us parents that are far beyond my own abilities because I know that ultimately their redemption is dependent on their Redeemer.

And as I think about the posture of humility He has brought me to in my role as mother, I know that this is where we start.  

We bend.

We bend low to pray with and for our kids.  As we bend, they see how to pray, and as we bend God teaches us how to pray. He changes all of us through prayer and our declared need for Him. We start our days in the early hours bending on their behalf, and they hear us pray for them around the dinner table or by their beds. Their names become a refrain of our cries as we beg their Savior to give them an overwhelming need for Him in their lives. We show our kids that their prayers are worthy to be heard as well and teach them to talk to their Maker. If we choose to make speaking to the Father a constant and familiar part of our family’s culture, when our kids are alone in their darkest moments, they know that His Name is the One they call out. If we want our kids to live for Christ, we ask Him to give them a love for Him and show them how to talk to One we want them to live for.

We bend low to serve. Jesus bent low to talk to the crippled man, wash His disciples’ feet, make healing balm out of mud, write in the dirt as He sent away the woman’s accusers. We kneel to help a stranger with dropped groceries, we stoop to offer food to the man on the street corner, we sit on the carpet to read the Sunday school lesson to preschoolers in our church. We bend to our child’s level to connect with and correct them, to kiss a knee, tie a shoe, and pick them up for a hug. If we want our children to live for Christ, we show them the posture their Savior took.

We seek.

We seek Him in His Word. We show our kids how powerful and important His Word is by showing them its power manifested in our lives and its prominence in our day-to-day schedule. We teach our kids how to read the Bible together and alone and how to memorize it. We tell them how it has changed our life in the past, but we also show them how it is changing our life currently. We find ways for our kids to see that Christ was God’s plan for redemption from the very beginning of His Word and that the very blueprint for living for Christ is found in these pages. When they hear us speak His Word aloud in our day-to-day tasks, they see that knowing it is important and that His truth can be applied to all aspects of our lives. If we want our children to live for Christ, we show them through the Word how Christ lived.

We seek Him with others. When we make church attendance a priority, our kids become comfortable in the walls of the church and see it as a place to run to instead of a place to flee from. They recognize the people there as extended family, and when they stand and sing alongside the saints on Sunday morning, they begin to see that God’s church is vast and diverse. As we seek Him alongside others, our kids find that community is vital for accountability and encouragement. They discover that following Christ is costly, but that God had a plan to provide reprieve and joy through spiritual family wherever He may lead them. If we want our children to live for Christ, we show them how to love Christ’s bride.

 

There are so many things we need to do as parents to teach our kids about their great Savior and their great need for Him. But we all need a place to start. So, we bend and seek, and we pray 2 Thessalonians 2:15 that they will “stand firm and hold fast to what we have taught them.” We must believe firmly and live in the conviction that if we do not teach them to fill up their days with Jesus, the world will teach them to fill up their days with everything else. Hoping that our children will live for Christ is futile if we aren’t living for Christ ourselves. In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul tells the church “be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” He doesn’t say this because he’s being arrogant but because he knows many of these new believers don’t know how to imitate Christ. This is the same with our children. Right now, we are the visual example of Christ that they see and understand. We pray that despite our clumsy efforts and because of His great grace, as we bend and seek, our children will learn to bend and seek, and He will instill living for Him in ALL of us.

Beth Edfeldt
Director of Preschool and Children
Posted by Beth Edfeldt with

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