Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Deeper Meaning of Christmas

Photo Credit: tommaync
The late Theodor Geisel, also known as "Dr. Seuss", shared some thoughts on the deeper meaning of Christmas in his children's classic, How the Grinch Stole Christmas:
"And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more."
Dr. Seuss was right in saying that there is more to Christmas.  The meaning of Christmas is not found in shopping or food or Santa or trees. As nice and as good as these things may be, the heart of Christmas is found in an obscure manger over two millenia ago where the God of the universe became a baby.

Christmas is when eternity entered into time. Christmas is the reality of Immanuel, that God is here among us.  Christmas is the open door to hope that our sin can be forgiven.  Christmas is selfless love.  Christmas is knowing that we have a Savior that sympathizes with humanity.  Christmas is the faith that wrongs will be righted and justice will be realized.  Christmas is "the celebration of Christ" (the literal meaning of Christmas).  Christmas is Jesus.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Story Behind "A Charlie Brown Christmas"

Photo Credit: K!T
From Mental Floss:
"In 1963, TV producer Lee Mendelson filmed a documentary about Charles Schulz and the daily process involved in creating his Peanuts comic strip. The Peanuts documentary never sold, but Coca-Cola execs happened to see it and asked Mendelson if he’d be interested in doing an animated Charlie Brown Christmas special. Within a few days, Mendelson and Schulz had the outline of a script ready, with notes like "sad Christmas tree," "school play," and "ice skating" scribbled in the margins.

When it came to actually producing the special, Charlie Brown was truly a problem child. Unlike most of the other characters, Charlie Brown’s head was completely round, which made it difficult for the animators to indicate movement from side to side. Snoopy, on the other hand, was the easiest character to manipulate, which is why they had fun making him do everything from dancing the jitterbug to impersonating a vulture.

When CBS executives previewed A Charlie Brown Christmas, they were uneasy, to say the least. There was not enough action, it moved too slow, the voices had been done by real kids, not adult actors, there was no laugh track, etc. Most upsetting was the fact that Linus read from the Gospel of Luke in one scene. ("You can’t read from the Bible on network television!")

Nevertheless, CBS had made a commitment to their sponsor, so they aired the special as scheduled on December 9, 1965. And, as it turned out, A Charlie Brown Christmas drew in 15.4 million viewers, placing it second in the ratings that week after Bonanza. A few months later, Charles Schulz and Lee Mendelson found themselves onstage accepting an Emmy Award for Outstanding Children’s Program."

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Oswald Chambers on Understanding Truth

Photo Credit: REL Waldman
From Oswald Chambers' classic devotional, My Utmost For His Highest:
"If you cannot express yourself well on each of your beliefs, work and study until you can. If you don’t, other people may miss out on the blessings that come from knowing the truth. Strive to re-express a truth of God to yourself clearly and understandably, and God will use that same explanation when you share it with someone else. But you must be willing to go through God’s winepress where the grapes are crushed.
You must struggle, experiment, and rehearse your words to express God’s truth clearly. Then the time will come when that very expression will become God’s wine of strength to someone else. But if you are not diligent and say, “I’m not going to study and struggle to express this truth in my own words; I’ll just borrow my words from someone else,” then the words will be of no value to you or to others. Try to state to yourself what you believe to be the absolute truth of God, and you will be allowing God the opportunity to pass it on through you to someone else.

Always make it a practice to stir your own mind thoroughly to think through what you have easily believed. Your position is not really yours until you make it yours through suffering and study. The author or speaker from whom you learn the most is not the one who teaches you something you didn’t know before, but the one who helps you take a truth with which you have quietly struggled, give it expression, and speak it clearly and boldly."

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Chuck Swindoll on Attitude

Photo Credit: arturodonate
Charles Swindoll on the importance of our attitude:
"The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life.

Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company... a church... a home.

The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude... I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.

And so it is with you... we are in charge of our attitudes."

Monday, December 06, 2010

How Christians Can Relate to Our Culture

Photo Credit: Steve Rhodes
For any thoughtful Christian that wants to make a lasting difference in the lives of individuals and society, there needs to be given serious consideration to how we will relate to the broader, non-Christian culture in which most people live.

We can seek to live our lives no different than non-Christians and blend right in with everyone else.  We can view ourselves as being in a war with the culture (with Christians being the good guys and everybody else the bad.)  Or we can take a different approach where we seek to engage the culture while maintaining our distinctiveness as followers of the Nazarene carpenter.

Pastor Mark Driscoll offers a compelling perspective on this topic in an article posted to his blog, entitled "Why Christians Go Postal Over Facebook, Jay-Z, Yoga, Avatar, and Culture in General."  I encourage you to read the whole post but here's a highlight
"Engaging culture requires discernment by God’s people to filter all of the cultures they encounter, Christian and non-Christian, through a biblical and theological grid in order to cling to that which is good and reject that which is evil. As we engage culture (watching films and television, listening to music, reading books, shopping at stores, and so on), we must do so as theologians and missionaries filled with wisdom and discernment, seeking to better grasp life in our culture. We do this so we can begin the transforming work of the gospel in our culture by contextualizing the good news of Jesus. Not compromising. Not changing. Contextualizing.
Practically, this means doing what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:22–23, “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.” The truth is that every ministry is contextualized, the only difference is to which culture and which year of that culture. Everything from pews to chairs, sound systems, projectors, suits, and a printed Bible in the English language are very recent missiogical contextualizations in light of the two thousand years of Christianity."
As Driscoll shares in his post, it is up to us to discern which elements of our culture we are to 1) Receive; 2) Reject; or 3) Redeem. Every culture on earth has things that are given by God and areas that are intrinsically evil.  There are also those aspects that were once good but have become corrupted over time. The thoughtful missionary understands the difference.