Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The War on Thanksgiving

You may have read a couple of things about some "War on Christmas". Obviously that's nonsense. Christmas seems to start earlier every year, with some people playing Christmas music as soon as the pumpkins have been smashed. And it really, reaally bothers me. Not because I don't like Christmas, or at least what Christmas represents, but because it pushes Thanksgiving out by the wayside. And when people do talk about Thanksgiving, they almost always end up talking about the food they're going to eat. 

Christians will say that they love Christmas so much because of the historical event it is about, but still, to start playing Christmas music well before Thanksgiving relegates Thanksgiving to being nothing more than the threshold of Christmas. And I think this happens for many reasons. 

The most painful one is that I think our culture genuinely does not care about giving thanks anymore. People talk about "being thankful" during this time, but who are they really thanking? If they are not thanking a real, loving God, then who are they thanking? Their ancestors? Evolution? Themselves? Why is it that we cannot even wait until the day after Thanksgiving to start playing Santa music and thinking about the Christmas gifts we are going to give/receive?

The fact is, America today struggles to have even a single day, much less a holiday season, dedicated to giving thanks. And this has spread into Christian culture as well. We can say things like, "I love Christmas because of what it's really about," but the average person who hears you playing Christmas music does not immediately think, "Hey! They love Jesus!" They think, "Ooh! Christmas! Happiness! Presents! Christmas trees! Ohh... family.." Or whatever. 

We can't even wait until Thanksgiving day is over to go shopping and participating in the materialist dream.

I'm not saying Christmas music is wrong, or playing it early is inherently bad. I'm also not saying that the Thanksgiving holiday is rooted in a good historical background.

But the point of Thanksgiving encompasses and then goes beyond the point of Christmas. Christmas is a time to thank God for the life of Jesus --- Thanksgiving is a time to thank God for the air we breathe, the life we lead, the grace we receive. And it is unfortunate in the extreme that both society and Christians have forgotten how to truly give thanks.

Despite whatever good intentions you may have, sadly, playing Christmas music just helps feed our culture of entitlement. Heck, Verizon has now announced ThanksGETTING. I... I just... Ewyuch! 

So please, don't forget. Don't get sucked into Christmas before giving God the time of day to say, "Thank you." 

We already give a solid month to Christmas, materialism, trees, presents, snow, Santa, mistletoe, wreaths, stockings, etc. Can't we give a single day to thanking our Creator?

And finally, maybe this Christmas season, think about what really happened when Christ was born two thousand years ago. It's not all about joy! It's, in fact, not about happiness! ACTUALLY, it's about darkness! It's about a spot of joy in the midst of a broken, dark world! It is about redemption in the midst of pain. It's certainly not about pretending life is good. It's not about pretending everything is happy. It's not about gathering a whole, unbroken family around a table for a meal. It's about the light in the darkness, the sweet in the bitter, the life coming out of a dead world. 

Song of the Day: Thank You, by Hillsong United


Saturday, November 21, 2015

Swearing

I think the use of language is a very interesting topic within society. However, I think people don't understand the point of why some words are taboo.

It's not because a specific arrangement of syllables is inherently evil. The Bible gives no list of words to avoid; it only gives one, which is the Lord's name (more on that later).

I think people get far too caught up in avoiding specific words. They'll use replacements like crap, heck, etc. Yet the point of passages such as Ephesians 4:29 and 5:4* is not to say that some words are not okay, and other words with identical meanings are. The point is the intent of the words. Does it tear someone down? To say, "you piece of crap" is no more morally right than the alternative, because the intent is still to use language to harm someone else.

This is not to say that all swear words are okay in some circumstances. Some simply have such sexual meanings that there really is no acceptable reason to use them. Others reduce someone's humanity by definition, and to call someone made in God's image a female dog is inherently wrong. Also, the word "damn" literally means to condemn to punishment in Hell, so that's generally a no-go.

Personally, I do not particularly care if someone swears out of surprise, or general frustration. However, there is one more thing to consider. (Well, there's a lot more, but whatever.)

Romans 14:13-23, copied from biblegateway.com: "13 Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. 14 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. 15 For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. 16 So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. 20 Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats.21 It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.22 The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. 23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin."

This passage is speaking about clean and unclean food, but I think it applies to the use of language as well. If, by our words, we cause someone else to stumble in their faith, then we have messed up.This is the best argument against swearing. Although it may not be inherently wrong to use some words, if you use them in the presence of others, and it causes them to stumble, then it is wrong.



*Eph. 4:29 "Do not let any unwholesome come out of your mouths, but only that which is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen,"
5:4  "Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving."

Song of the Day: Pieces, by Amanda Cook

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Keep Calm and Listen

Pre-note: This got kinda long, so if you want the good stuff, just read the red parts.

In light of the recent horrific events in Paris, I'd like to talk about something that drives me insane. I'm not going to talk much about the actual event; I don't feel like adding to the media frenzy more than to say that what has transpired is awful, and I pray for those who have been affected. I do not pretend to know what they're going through, but I do know that God can turn the bitter into sweet, the winter into spring, the lowly into kings.

Here's the thing. We act as if the extremists are the "people out there," the people out bombing innocents and beheading the faithful.

Yet I would like to posit that America is full of extremism, and it is a cancer that is destroying our nation from the inside.

I do not mean the average American is going out and performing murderous rampages.

I mean that the average American only knows how to type in all caps.

A politician lies?
"X'S ENTIRE LIFE IS BUILT ON A THRONE OF LIES! THE FEW THAT ARE LEFT TO SUPPORT HIM ARE IDIOTS!"

A fossil seems to indicate a species variation?
"EVOLUTION IS ONE HUNDRED PERCENT ACCURATE!"

A company turns out to be cheating people's money?
"ALL COMPANIES ARE THE BANE OF AMERICANS!"

One skeleton is found to be falsified?
"ALL EVOLUTIONARY SCIENTISTS ARE LYING FRAUDS!"

A potato is eaten?
"AMERICANS GROW FAT WHILE THE WORLD STARVES!"

And what does this do? What does this accomplish?? What good could possibly come of this?! You know what this causes? A house divided against itself.

And there are far too few people that have not indulged in this. I certainly have at points. But please, examine yourself.

I go to a private Christian school. So when Obama comes up, it's pretty common to throw him under the bus, as if he's secretly bent on destroying our nation, or is totally inept, or whatever. And while this may be fun to joke about, I sometimes forget that people actually believe this. And are very vocal about it.

And of course no effort is made to figure out if he actually does care about the country, or what he's actually been doing, or if what he has been doing has actually been so terrible. People forget that he's the head of a country, and he's a human. Imagine that. What kind of stupid system lets a human run a country. Yes, I do think he makes mistakes and wrong decisions. But I certainly am not going to make some insane extrapolation that he is the anti-Christ.

People need to stop shouting and start caring.

Because if you actually cared about the nation, you wouldn't waste your valuable time by throwing the president under the bus. You'd focus on things like: 1. Loving your neighbor. 2. Finding common ground between you and the other side. 3. Expanding upon that common ground to establish a connection, in order to further logical, lower-case letter debate. 4. Loving your neighbor. 5. Shutting up and listening. 6. COMPROMISING.

The list goes on. I got tired of numbers.

And of course, there are liberal extremists to. They may say things like, "ANYONE WHO BELIEVES IN A GOD IS A WISHFUL IDIOT WHO HAS NEVER OPENED A BOOK!"

The reason I dedicated more to the conservative side is because I understand that most of the people who read this are conservative, and it really bugs me that because they subscribe to a certain political view, they believe they are entitled to never compromise. Compromise is not weakness --- it is an acknowledgement that despite your beliefs, you need to accept some setbacks at the current time so that the country can move forward as a unified nation again. It's called sucking it up and dealing with it so the show can go on.

America is the result of great men with vastly different ideas coming together and realizing that, in order to survive, they may have to give up some things. It does mean you need to throw some issues away, but you do have to let them sit for a while. It happened in 1610, it happened in 1787, it happened in 1819, it happened during the Civil War, WWI, WWII, Vietnam... it goes on. I'm not saying be weak-willed. There are some issues where Christians definitely need to stand strong. But please...

My fellow Americans, please, stop the screaming.

I fervently pray that someone, from either end of the political spectrum, has the guts to sacrifice some of what they desire so that our States can be United. But it won't start with a presidential candidate. It has to start with you --- the everyday American. Try to understand what the other side is saying, before even thinking about what you might say in return.

Honestly, I could write a lot more about this, and how freaking angry it makes me that people on both sides don't make attempts to find any sort of common ground, or try at all to actually interpret where others are coming from. It sickens me. Bile rises in my throat when I read some of the things people say out of a place of complete ignorance.

Song of the Day: City of Hope, by Amanda Cook




Thursday, November 12, 2015

Quotable Quotes and Notable Notes

So I just have a few quotes rolling around that I want to spew out. Some are mine, most are not. If they are mine, they won't be cited. By no means do I intend to elevate myself to the level of these great writers --- that's obviously laughable. I just don't feel like formulating real thoughts and cohesive paragraphs and such.

"If we have the potential to oppress or slay millions, it is because we also have the potential to liberate and love millions." - Gregory Boyd, Letters from a Skeptic

I'm sure glad Americans no longer support the destruction of millions of lives, and the removal of a lifetime of choices from a group of people they consider to be less than human.

*"Between stimulus and response is our greatest power -- the freedom to choose." - Steven Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

"I can no more understand the totality of God than the pancake I made for breakfast understands the complexity of me." - Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz

Don't make the gay men straight. Show the dead men life. (From my blog on homosexuality).

"God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing." - C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

"If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down. But I can find no such case." Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species (More: search irreducible complexity)

"Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Cost of Discipleship

And the song! Going to do two because I forgot the last couple posts. 1 high energy, 1 super chill.

Cast My Cares, Finding Favour:



Bitter/Sweet, Amanda Cook:




Monday, November 2, 2015

I Hate Poetry; That Being Said, Have This

Acquainted with the Light

Ryken Kreps

A retelling of Frost's "Acquainted with the Night"

I have been one acquainted with the Light.
I have walked out in trust--- and back in trust.
I have outwalked the bleakest sinful night.

I have looked forwards to my God, the Just.
I have passed by the devil on his beat
And dropped my eyes, righteously in disgust.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When finally I hear my Father sing
A loving song my heart shall e'er repeat.

So that He may lift me on Eagle's wing;
And further still to an unearthly height,
Finally, up to Heaven He will bring

My spirit, when the time is surely right.
I have been one acquainted with the Light.

Echoes of Him

Ryken Kreps

An original

The knowledge of the shepherd
Is a wondrous thing
The love of the man
As he gives her the ring

The wisdom of the scholar
When he studies the Word
The persistence of the cowboy
As he gathers the herd

The peace of the martyr
In the presence of persecution
The mercy of the king
Withholding retribution

The compassion of the mother
When the child stumbles
The courage of the mariner
When the storm clouds rumble

The forgiveness of the prisoner
Robbed of a full-lived life
The faithfulness of the husband
To the adulterous wife

All these things
Which we admire
Just echoes of Him
Made by a faithful choir