The Signs of Christmas

December 20, 2014 — Leave a comment

What are the signs which point to Christmas coming?

In every culture there are different visuals which alert us to the coming of this holiday season.

When I first moved to South Africa, Christmas snuck up on me because I did not see the normal American signs. Once I learned the new signs, I could anticipate its approach.

Here are a few signs which pop up in virtually any culture.

1. Things appear. Things which are unable to be found for most of the year, begin to appear around Christmas. Certain music, different types of food, and of course decorations. It is the time of year some people appear in church for the first time all year! Each nation is different, but all have things which appear.

Even the noblest of leaders can succumb to the lure of entitlement.

We work hard, often at a lower salary than our efforts should provide. What would be so wrong with accepting the perks the job can provide?

In the recent downfall of Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill we saw some of this illustrated, most in subtle ways.

Things which can be a blessing for working hard at a low salary when the church or non-profit is small, can become expected when it grows larger.

What started as, “Let’s bless the pastors and their wives with a meal, pedicure, or day at the spa” can subtly shift to being an expected perk of the job.

I see this in the organizations I work with. Entitlement is subtle but dangerous. Some of the financial reports coming out on Mars Hill, seem to indicate this drift occurred.

Growth No One Wants

December 6, 2014

We all want growth in our Christian walks.

We read books, attend seminars, join support groups, and lift up change-oriented prayers as a large percentage of our requests to God.

But, it seems there is a type of growth none of us aspire to gain.

In fact, if you are like me, we seek to avoid it.

Romans 5:3-4 says, “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,”

Paul links suffering and endurance to character growth.

I doubt we will see a touring seminar or conference based on this premise in the future.

“Come to the Exponential Growth Seminar! We will make your life miserable, inflicting all kinds of hardship and difficulty on you for the purpose of sparking change! Register now for the early bird discount!”

Ownership

December 3, 2014

My wife and I recently came to the end of a long journey and were able to purchase a small home in South Africa.

After renting for 23 years, I see a stark contrast between ownership and renting.

As an owner, when I walked into the house, I saw every minor defect and area which needed attention. Initially, I felt overwhelmed with this responsibility.

When I returned to our rental home, I saw far more defects in the rental than the place we owned. I had learned to overlook them and live with the issues since the place was not my own.

As we began minor renovations, I saw my sense of ownership increase with every passing day and task completed. We enhanced the place in ways we could never even dream of in a rental.

Practice What We Preach

November 26, 2014

The other week, I made a trip to the local police station to get an affidavit. In South Africa, this is the venue you head to make a document “official”.

The officer who helped me chatted with me a bit. He inquired how long I’d been in the nation and where I stayed.

Finally he asked what I do.

“I teach the Bible and train missionaries”, I responded.

The officer nodded, raising his eyebrows. He smiled shyly and glanced around. Leaning close to me he says, “I too follow the God of the Bible.”

“Oh wonderful!”, I replied.

As the conversation progressed you could see him gaining boldness.

Finally, as I was about to leave, he waved me closer, wanting to tell me something not all could hear

“I am a born-again Christian.”

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I must confess as I left, my first thoughts were not rejoicing or excitement.