The Difference Between “Easter” and The Resurrection.

“Comes down to a man dying on a cross
Saving the world
Rising from the dead
Doing what He said He would do “(Clay Crosse-Saving the World)

“Why can’t you see me
I tried to catch a glimpse of you
but all I found was an empty tomb
I am so near to you
How was I to understand
That you were God and you were man
What more can I do or say…
The stone was rolled away” (Three Crosses-the Stone was Rolled Away)

I’ve been intrigued how the pagan customs and celebrations have been merged with the sacred and holy. Continue reading

Happy Holidays, Merry Xmas and Other Stuff That Annoys Xtians

Tis the season to get bombarded with the annual “Put Christ Back in Xmas” campaign. It happens this time every year. When retailers begin to advertise for the Xmas season, for many of my fellow zealous Xtians…IT’S GAME ON!!!! BRING IT ON RETAILERS!!! YOU SPAWNS OF SATAN!!! HOW DARE YOU REMOVE “CHRIST” FROM “CHRIST”MAS!!!
That cursed abbreviation just seems to make some folks wanna drop kick the mall Santa or punch an elf on the shelf.
And do not even think of saying “Happy Holidays” to someone….Geez….that is almost as bad as suggesting the decorating committee at church decorate the sanctuary differently than they have in the past twenty years….wowzer….do not even go there!
I can appreciate zeal and passion for a cause as much as anyone. I am passionate about many things and I have been accused of being a zealot more than once. But after I found out the facts, I realized that I was getting worked up over nothing. I was jumping on a cause before I investigated the 411.
If you dive into the history behind Xmas you realize that you are really getting worked up about nothing. It is possible you may be misinformed. As followers of Xhrist we should know what we are talking about before we pick up the stones and storm the malls.
Back in my youth pastoring days, one of the lessons I taught this time of year was about Xmas traditions.
What ‘s the deal about Santa? Why a tree? Why December 25? Why presents? Do these things line up with Biblical facts? What is tradition and what is Scriptural? I think these things are important before we handcuff ourselves to the lamp post in front of Walmart in protest because they hung a “Merry Xmas” or “Happy Holidays” sign in the front window.
All this information is available on the web. So before you post that obnoxious status on Facebook that reads “Put Christ back in Christmas or you don’t love God”(and it’s usually followed with the “if you deny me, I’ll deny you” passage of Scripture) read on my friends…
Some people may write “Xmas” because they are too busy(or lazy) to write out the word “Christmas”. And I’m sure some secular people, who are just as uninformed as Christians, see “Xmas” as a way to avoid writing “Christ.” And sure there are secular and commercial motives in the fact that “XMAS” appears in ads and signs because it can be larger and more attention getting in the same amount of space (it’s about the advertising $$). But those factors do not take away the Christian origin of the word “Xmas.”

Abbreviations used as Christian symbols have a long history in the church. The letters of the word “Christ” in Greek, the language in which the New Testament was written, or various titles for Jesus early became symbols of Christ and Christianity. For example, the first two letters of the word Christ (cristoV, or as it would be written in older manuscripts, CRISTOS) are the Greek letters chi (c or C) and rho (r or R). These letters were used in the early church to create the chi-rho monogram, a symbol that by the fourth century became part of the official battle standard of the emperor Constantine.
The exact origin of the single letter X for Christ cannot be pinpointed with certainty. Some claim that it began in the first century AD along with the other symbols, but evidence is lacking. Others think that it came into widespread use by the thirteenth century along with many other abbreviations and symbols for Christianity and various Christian ideas that were popular in the Middle Ages. However, again, the evidence is sparse.
By the fifteenth century Xmas emerged as a widely used symbol for Christmas. In 1436 Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press with movable type. In the early days of printing typesetting was done by hand and was very tedious and expensive. As a result, abbreviations were common. From there, the abbreviation moved into general use in newspapers and other publications, and “Xmas” became an accepted way of printing “Christmas” (along with the abbreviations Xian and Xianity). Even Webster’s dictionary acknowledges that the abbreviation Xmas was in common use by the middle of the sixteenth century.
So there is no conspiracy to dilute Christianity by promoting the use of Xmas instead of Christmas. It is not a modern invention to try to convert Christmas into a secular day, nor is it a device to promote the commercialism of the holiday season. Its origin is thoroughly rooted in the heritage of the Church. It is simply another way to say Christmas, drawing on a long history of symbolic abbreviations used in the church. Understanding this use of Christian symbolism might help us modern day Xians focus on more important issues of the Faith during Advent, and bring a little more Peace to the Xmas Season.
And these are the basics. With more time and research you can find out much, much more.
So what about “Happy Holidays”? “You know it is just another way to remove Jesus from the season…after all, Jesus is the reason for the season!” May I say…what is wrong with wishing someone a happy holiday? I like it when someone wishes me a happy holiday. It is better than being wished a crappy holiday. I am not offended by this at all, because I know ‘who’ the season is about. The ‘happy holidays’ to me represent the triplet holiday of Thanksgiving, Xmas and New Years…I am OK with wishing someone a happy holiday or Merry Xmas. It is just being polite. And given how rude people can be during this time, it’s refreshing to be greeted in a polite way!

I have found in my travels, that many(not all) folks that are the most vocal about these issues are 1)misinformed 2)just spouting off to be heard 3)are absorbed with self righteousness(I have been guilty of all three!). This is the only time of the year that many of them are offended that the world is being rude to the Savior. Many of these folks are offended by Merry Xmas, but will pay $9.75(not including snacks) to go to a movie over the holidays(or thru out the year) to hear God’s name used in vain on the big screen…and not be the least bit offended. These are also the same folks that will drop a huge chunk of change at the same stores that are supposedly offending them by taking Christ out of Xmas. It has nothing to do with them being offended because Jesus is being slandered, but it is a convenient platform to act spiritual.
The idea to celebrate Xmas on December 25 originated in the 4th century. The Catholic church wanted to eclipse the festivities of a rival pagan religion. Although the actual season of Jesus’ birth is most likely in the spring, the date of December 25 was chosen as the official birthday celebration or “Christ’s Mass”. Xmas wasn’t a holiday in early America—in fact Congress was in session on December 25, 1789, the country’s first Xmas under the new constitution and early colonist considered it a pagan ritual and refused to celebrate. Xmas was declared a federal holiday in the United States on June 26, 1870. So now December 25th is the time that Xhristians have chosen to celebrate the birth of Jesus.
It is a time to rejoice and celebrate because God loved us so much that he sent his only Son to come to earth with the sole purpose to die on a cross so that we might be saved from our sins. “And the word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father full of grace and truth”(John 1:14) “his name is Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matt. 1:21) It was the only way that we would have a chance to be forgiven and reconciled to God.

Race car driver-movie character,Ricky Bobby offered up prayers to “baby Jesus”. “Look, I like the Christmas Jesus best, and I’m sayin’ grace. When you say grace, you can say it to Grownup Jesus or Teenage Jesus or Bearded Jesus or whoever you want.” (Will Ferrell as Rick Bobby, Talladega Nights).

Unfortunately, for many, they like the baby Jesus the best. Who doesn’t love a baby? They are cute, cuddly, and the symbol for innocence. But Jesus didn’t stay a baby. He grew into a man. “and the child grew and became strong in spirit.”(Luke 1:80). I am sure that there are many people out there that are Xhristian and non-Xhristians who like the baby Jesus the best. Their Jesus never grows up. For them he is still lying in that manger. Nativity scenes are a common home or yard Xmas decorations. Why I have even seen Santa sharing a spot at the stable with the magi and shepherds, paying his respects to the Baby Jesus. But it is not enough to ‘like’ the baby Jesus. This baby was no typical baby. This baby came to save the world from their sins. This perfect Son of God would live for 33 1/2 years only to have God’s wrath poured out upon him at the cross of Calvary. That is grace. That is mercy. That is love. That is the Xmas story.
When we get wrapped up in ’causes’ we lose sight of the true meaning of Xmas. Jesus came to die for you and for me. I cannot speak for Jesus, but I know what his words say. I think he would rather us buy food for the hungry rather than to protest the word “Xmas”. I think Jesus would rather us provide shelter for those living in the streets, freezing from the cold rather than getting wrapped up in whether a store says, “happy holidays” or “Merry Christmas”. I think Jesus would rather us serve others that are in need rather than spend money on things we do not need or cannot afford. I think Jesus would rather have us serve him humbly and consistently everyday of the year, rather than getting worked up over a slogan or greeting once a year.
The problem is not putting Xhrist back into Xmas, but to put Xhrist into our everyday lives. It is easy to protest on occasion, but it is harder being obedient to God everyday.

Many that are outraged over the words and phrases, Xmas and Happy Holidays, have no problem being vocal about it. They have no problem telling people what they think…but sadly, many of them refuse to share their story of how Christ saved them.
I hope you have a very, merry Xmas and discover the hope and joy found only in Jesus. For many this is a terribly depressing time of year. I hope you have the happiest of holidays, but more than any of that; I hope you recognize that the baby lying in a feed bowl is the perfect son of God sent to die for you.
Merry Xmas…and happy holidays….

When I Leave I Want to Go Out Like Rich…..

I have loved the music and ministry of Rich Mullins for years. Not the pop Christian “Awesome God” Rich, but the broken, ragamuffin, rebel against the system Rich. The Rich that looked you in your religious face and dared to challenge your churchy beliefs. Not many artists today get it like he did.
His life and music has been an influence in my life since I became a Christian in 1993.
The tragedy of his death in 1997 still makes me wonder why he was called home so early. If he was still here with us today would he be as great an influence alive as he is in his passing….maybe…maybe not.
Maybe his death was God’s way to take his legacy and use it in ways that being alive wasn’t possible.
I recently watched “Ragamuffin” the movie based upon Rich’s life and discovered a side of him I didn’t know existed. Rich battled some demons. From the lack of affirmation and love from his father, to the rejection of the girl of his dreams. He struggled with relationships, self esteem and never feeling like he measured up or deserved God’s love. He was rude at times, arrogant, self righteous and hypocritical. He struggled. He failed. He was honest with his struggles. He was ashamed of his shortcomings. He lived with regrets. He often ran away from problems yet he tried desperately hard to find the love and acceptance that seemed to evade him.
I had always viewed Rich as this spiritual giant. A “radical” Christian way before being radical was cool for Christians to be “radical”. He was a hero of the faith. Had it all together. Never struggled…
But what I have discovered is….(gasp)….he was human…..
I am by no means comparing myself to Rich Mullins. He was an amazingly talented and gifted man. He accomplished more for the kingdom in his short life(41 years) than I can comprehend…but there are some similarities. We both had long hair in the 80s. We both went through identity crisis. We both battled demons. When it comes to having a painful void that wasn’t filled during childhood and early adulthood…I am like Rich. When it comes to struggling with relationships, self esteem and never feeling like you measure up, I am like Rich. When it comes to constantly wondering why an awesome God could love a wretch like me…I am like Rich….I am…(gasp)….human.
The movie was difficult at times to watch because it exposed sides of me that are painful, yet I found comfort knowing that people I look up to as spiritual mentors struggle too. Not that I find comfort in peoples struggles but to know I’m not alone. Toward the end of his life, Rich found truth, healing and acceptance in the love of Jesus. It was through this relentless love of Christ, he found the peace he’d been so desperately searching for.

We are fragile beings. We have emotional baggage that we’ve carried for years. We have limitations.We are human. That’s where the grace of Jesus comes sweeping in. Jesus is not fragile, emotionally driven or limited by anything. He is not human. He is superhuman, supreme, sovereign and ruler of everything. Jesus is simply all we need.
Another way I discovered that I am like Rich is in the way I want to leave this world. Not in the physical death(even tho we don’t have a choice), but in the way he found no attachment with this place. It’s from his shunning of earthly desires he penned these words to his song “Elijah”:

“The Jordan is waiting for me to cross through
My heart is aging I can tell
So Lord, I’m begging
For one last favor from You
Here’s my heart take it where You will

This life has shown me how we’re mended
And how we’re torn
How it’s okay to be lonely as long as you’re free
Sometimes my ground was stoney
And sometimes covered up with thorns
And only You could make it what it had to be
And now that it’s done
Well, if they dressed me like a pauper
Or if they dined me like a prince
If they lay me with my fathers
Or if my ashes scatter on the wind
I don’t care

But when I leave I want to go out like Elijah
With a whirlwind to fuel my chariot of fire
And when I look back on the stars
Well, It’ll be like a candlelight in Central Park
And it won’t break my heart to say goodbye”….

“Elijah Ascending” by Michael Bogdanow

The mantra of many(lost and saved) in our nation is “this is the best country in the world!”… maybe it is…maybe it isn’t…We base our opinions off our freedoms, resources, sports teams and military might. We base our happiness off our stuff and maybe that’s why so many people are miserable, Christians included. We live in a fallen, evil, sinful world and even while Christ compels us not to “store up treasures” here on earth, we dig in even deeper and hold onto the things that will one day be destroyed. If this is the best we’ve got and if this is what we cling to and take pride in, well…we should be pitied.
I have been here on planet earth eight years longer than Rich got to live and I would so trade places with him. When I hear him sing “Elijah”, I get homesick…
Yep, when I leave I want to go out like Rich, who wanted to go out like Elijah…
And it won’t break my heart to say goodbye.