Friday, November 29, 2013

Black Friday Red Friday Good Friday

At one in the morning the stores are mobbed, the highways are jammed, and the lines are long. Starbucks is open all night. The rush is on. It's "Black Friday". The biggest shopping day of the year. I think it's become bigger than Thanksgiving itself! We might as well make it a national holiday. Shopping frenzy day! Shopping fanatical, hysteria (maybe hysterical) day. Shopping chaos day. Panic buying, impulse buying day. Made house day. Made rush day.

It used to be that stores opened early on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Then to keep up with the Jones', or maybe to keep one step ahead of the Jones', stores started opening earlier than their competition. And earlier, and earlier. Then someone got the bright idea to simply open at midnight on Thursday. It was a huge success. That is, until someone opened at 10:00pm on Thursday - a super-early Black Friday. 

This year, for the first time in its 155 year history, Macy's in NY, will open on Thanksgiving day at 8:00pm. Not to be beaten, Walmart opened at 6:00pm. On Thanksgiving day! Has the family turkey dinner simply become a shopping planning event? I hate to see next year's opening day. Soon the Thanksgiving holiday will be overthrown! By shoppers! And similar to how we stuff ourselves with turkey, shoppers will turn into consumer gluttons! Although I think they have already.

How did this name for the day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday, come about anyway? It seems to me that Good Friday, the day we observe as Jesus dying on the cross, should be Black Friday, not Good Friday. And Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, should be called Good Friday because of all the good deals. 

O, I know, Good Friday is good because Jesus died to take away our sins, but for me, I think I would prefer to call it Black Friday. Now, the day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday, most likely got its name because all the businesses are expected to make such a profit that no company will be in the 'red' that day. So, Red Friday would not be a good name for Black Friday, although, Red Friday, symbolizing the sacrificial blood of Christ, may be even a better name than Good Friday. However, if Black Friday was named, as some say, because of the crazy traffic that will clog up the roads and cause havoc on the day after Thanksgiving, then perhaps Black Friday should be called Red Friday after all.

So Black Friday should be called Good Friday or possibly Red Friday, and Good Friday should be called Black Friday or possibly Red Friday unless Black Friday becomes Red Friday first.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Merry Christmas....I mean Happy Holidays! we go again. That season is upon us. OK all you bank tellers, grocery store workers, retail store clerks.....I know you secretly want to say "Merry Christmas!" to your customers, but whatever you do, bite your tongue. You know the company policy. We don't want to offend anyone. Just politely say "Happy Holidays". And don't forget to smile. 

How dare you remind someone that the reason for all the December excitement and celebration is.....shhhh (Christmas). Soon even Santa will start exclaiming, "Merry Holiday to all, and to all a good night." Lowes will be selling Holiday trees and Holiday wreathes. And what about the Holiday lights that everyone will put up. Parades will be referred to as Holiday parades. Office parties will be Holiday parties. People will be rushing to buy Holiday presents before it's Holiday eve. And on Holiday day, we can all gather the family to open our Holiday gifts and then later have Holiday dinner together, with Holiday cheer and Holiday candy. 

And what about the Holiday songs. They need to be changed too. Soon radio stations will be playing "I'm Dreaming Of A White Holiday", "O Holiday Tree, O Holiday Tree", "The 12 Days Of Holiday", "We Wish You A Merry Holiday", and they'll dub Elvis' voice to sing, "I'll Have A Blue Holiday Without You".

Christmas (ooops, I mean Holiday) movies will need to be re-released as "White Holiday", "The Grinch Who Stole Holiday", "Holiday Story", and "Holiday Vacation". And what about the great poem, "The Night Before Holiday"? We will need to re-learn everything! "Merry Christmas" will need to go 'underground'!

Somewhere, though, a remnant will remain. There will still be a select few, scattered among us. who secretly will say "Merry Christmas" to each other, maybe softly, maybe even just mouthing the words, silently. But somehow, someway, this phrase, which is on its way to being banned for public use, will survive. There will be a remnant that carries on. And someday children will be taught how long ago, a cheerful, joyous greeting was once exchanged between 2 people at Christmas time, with a smile and a sparkle of excitement in their eyes. 

And hopefully, this winter Holiday greeting will eventually come full circle - once everyone realizes who the offended ones really are. WE ARE!  It's the Christians! "Happy Holidays" is the offensive term, not "Merry Christmas!"  To us, "Happy Holidays!" tries to cover up the real meaning of Christmas. Christmas is all about Christ. If you don't like "Merry Christmas" -  sorry! But Christmas is about Christ - and it's about us - Christians.

The reason we say "Merry Christmas!" is because Christ's love is for all people, regardless of who they are. And because of that, we as Christians extend our best wishes to everyone, regardless if you are a Christian or not. "Merry Christmas!"is a positive, gracious, cheerful greeting, not an offensive one. 

We need to not be ashamed of "Merry Christmas!", it would be like being ashamed of the Gospel message - the good news of the birth of a baby King, Immanuel, God with us, the King of all kings, who became our King - who brings hope and peace and joy. Now that's something to celebrate, proclaim, and share!

So............."Merry Christmas!" to all, and to all a good night.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Don't Make This A Godless Thanksgiving!

Let's see....when you think of Thanksgiving, what immediately comes to mind? For most, I would say turkey dinner with family and friends. Perhaps a day off. Family reunion. Football. The beginning of Christmas season. We're thankful alright, for things. For stuff. For good health. For living in a land of liberty and freedom. All great things, but have we forgotten something? Have we been so focused on the holiday itself that it's turned into a Godless Thanksgiving? Consider this....should we be just thankful "for"? Or should we also be thankful "to"? That's the real question. Thanksgiving "for" (for all the things we have), or thanksgiving "to"(to the one whom all blessings flow)?  

On this holiday, have we reduced our gratitude to God to just a ritual pre-meal prayer before we stuff ourselves? Thanksgiving shouldn't  be about being grateful for all the things we have, as if inventorying personal assets, without acknowledging that all our blessings are by the grace of God. It should be a day of reflection, gratitude, and praise done with humility, with no hint of greed or selfishness. 

The key to really focusing on what this holiday is all about is to simply go back to Abraham Lincoln's proclamation, which established the Thanksgiving holiday in 1863. He declared it to be "a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens". Awesome! In other words, Thanksgiving is supposed to be about God! It's meant to be a special day our country is to stop, and be united in the purpose of acknowledging God's hand in who we are and what we have. That our blessings are the "gracious gifts of the Most High God".

So this Thanksgiving, be reminded of the true purpose of this holiday. And throughout the entire day make sure you give thanks "to", and not just "for". Make it a day of "thanksgiving and praise", just as President Lincoln intended it to be.

Below are the words of Abraham Lincoln (I've added coloring):

"The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union." In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed. Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth. By the President: Abraham Lincoln. William H. Seward, Secretary of State

Saturday, November 16, 2013

5 Reasons Why The Bible Is Still Relevant

The Bible is not just ancient reference book to add to your collection. It's not just some out-of-date religious history journal. And it's not just a collection of old, fanciful stories. So what is the Bible? Maybe a good descriptive title would be "The Book Of God". After all, it tells us who God is, what He has done in the past, what He promises to do in our current daily life, and what He promises for the future.

"The Book Of God" isn't just about God though. It is about us. It's about God's gracious plan of how we can be made right with God. That plan involves the One who saves - Jesus. Without the Bible, we would not know of God's plan to save us from eternal destruction. So to say the Bible doesn't apply to us today would be crazy. The Bible does apply to us today, and the Bible is still relevant. Below are 5 reasons why.

1. The God of ancient times is the same God today
If the God described in the Bible was a different God than the God of today, then the Bible would certainly not be relevant. It wouldn't apply to our day and age. It wouldn't apply to our lives. Then it truly would be just an ancient history book of times long gone. However, our God, the one and only God, never has changed. That means the God we pray to, the God we serve, and the God we worship is the same God who created this world, and is the same God who sits on the heavenly throne at this moment. The God of the Old Testament is the God of the New Testament.

"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." (Hebrews 13:8)

Because the God we know today is the same God who is revealed in the Bible, the Bible is still relevant in today's world.

2. The Bible still changes lives today
I've talked to many Christians over the years, and I have yet to hear a Christian say that the Bible has not changed their life. The Bible is the only book that can permanently change one's life forever. How does this happen? It happens because the belief and faith that develops from Bible truths results in a transformational response in the way we live and act.

"Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ." (Romans 10:17)

Our lives change because our faith drives it.  But there's much more to it. Our faith develops because the Bible is more than just words on a page - much more than just black and white. The Holy Spirit is involved, and we become convicted.

"For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12)

Besides that, the Bible continually changes lives through a life-long transformation. It's on-going. "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." (Romans 12:2a)

Changed lives is the proof that the Bible is still relevant.

3. The Bible is written to believers
The Bible assumes that the reader believes. And if the reader doesn't believe, the intent is to persuade readers to believe. The Bible presents truths. But there is more to it than simply truths, it presents truths that are convicting. The Apostle John wrote the Book of John for the specific purpose of persuading his readers to believe in Jesus.

"Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." (John 20:30-31)

Perhaps the strongest argument that the Bible is relevant, especially the New Testament Epistles, is the fact that the Epistles are all addressed to Christians. Paul addressed his letters to Christians of different churches or regions. For example, here's one of Paul's greetings, "Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus." (Ephesians 1:1) If the Epistles are written to Christians, and we are Christians, then the principles found in these letters apply to us. 

4. The Bible's principles are timeless
Regardless of culture, and regardless of the time frame, the Bible principles are universal. How humans should treat each other, how to live righteously,  and how they should come to know God are ageless. Teachings on subjects such as peace, joy, and love are always relevant.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." (Galatians 5:22-23)

A mature Christian will begin to display there qualities in increasing measure. They are timeless. 

5. The Bible doesn't have an expiration date
 God's plan for us to be made right with God through Christ doesn't have an expiration date. Well, it does, on the Final Day, when Jesus comes back to gather His church. But until then, the New Testament truths go on. And God's plan of redemption is always available. It doesn't change, God's promises are true, and God is faithful to His word. And even long after this world passes away........

“My Words will not pass away” – Mark 13:31

The Bible deals with eternal things, spiritual things. It deals with things not just in the past, or even in the present, but things of the future, such as life after death, how the earth will end, and what heaven will be like - things that haven't yet come to pass.

So, yes, the Bible is still relevant. And if it is still relevant, so what? So...... read it! And gain more faith as you go, resulting in transformational change that has eternal consequences. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Paradox of Wealth

The almighty dollar, cash, cold cash, hard cold cash, hard cold cash on the barrel, greenbacks, bread, dough, bucks, loot, money, moola. It’s been hoarded, collected, earned, stolen, gambled, won, lost and found. For some it’s been amassed into fortunes, and for some it’s been the ruination of life. 

And no doubt, all through history, there have been those who are rich, and those who were poor - mostly poor though. Yes, the poor have always been the overwhelming majority. But there’s something very interesting about many who are poor. It's possible to be both poor and rich at the same time! That’s the paradox - a paradox is a statement that apparently contradicts itself and yet is true. How can one be poor and rich at the same time? They are opposites!

Poor yet Rich
This may be your story... "I don't have much, and it seems like I'm just getting by, but regardless, I feel rich in so many ways." If so, you understand the paradox.  

Someone who is poor can certainly be wealthy at the same time - wealthy in blessings such as family and friends, relationships bonded with love. What's more valuable than loving relationships? Loving relationships with friends, with family, with God!

Yes, someone who is in poverty can be wealthy at the same time! Wealthy in purpose, in fulfillment, in joy and peace and hope. Wealthy in blessings from God. On the other hand, someone who is financially rich can be poor at the same time. Poor in purpose, in fulfillment, in joy and peace and hope. Poor in blessings from God. 

The Apostle Paul certainly understood the paradox of having nothing, yet having everything. In describing himself as well as his fellow workers, he mentioned a lot of opposites  "We are ignored, even though we are well known. We live close to death, but we are still alive. We have been beaten, but we have not been killed. Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything." (2 Corinthians 6:9-10 NLT) 

What a profound statement! "We own nothing, and yet we have everything." Regardless of the trials and persecution they went through, the punishments, the sorrows, and their poverty, they felt they had it all. 

It seems the more we start to prioritize what's really important in life, the more we develop a loving relationship with God, and live according to His ways, then the more we become rich, regardless of our circumstances. And the more we are fulfilled. And the more we can say, we've got it all. 

That's the paradox of wealth. But here's the most profound paradox:

Someone Rich became Someone Poor could be Rich

"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich." (2 Corinthians 8:9)

That's right, Jesus who was rich in the Heavenly realm gave it all up, humbled Himself, came to earth in human form, to sacrifice His innocent, sinless life so that we who are spiritually poor, in sin, underserving, could become rich in salvation, forgiveness, and promise. That, friends, is called grace - getting what we don't deserve. Jesus is the source of wealth! And you are the beneficiary. 

So, in this world, there are several scenarios: the rich can be rich, the rich can be poor, the poor can be rich, and the poor can be poor! Ha. 

The question is...where are you? Regardless whether you are rich or poor financially, "I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit." (Romans 15:13)

May you come to realize what true wealth is, and may you acquire it to the fullest.