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The Grinch had it right!

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Christmas. Once a year we get together for 90 plus days in pursuit of the perfect gift giving, and getting experience for friends, loved ones, and ourselves. Think about it. Christmas has become an economical boon for businesses all over the world. None more so than right here in the good old U.S. of A. It is so much the case that we base the economic success of retailers solely on whether their holiday sales reach double digit profits.

To see this in action one only has to go into Toys R Us, Walmart, or one of many other shopping hosts during the Christmas shopping season. The shelves begin falling barren from the pilfering of the “must have” items, leaving behind the knock off’s or less appealing toys. People crowd the isles and load their buggies full of stuff that will be tossed to the side in no time at all.

And the cost of Christmas has become astronomical. My kids are in their mid 20’s now so I get a bit of a reprieve. But even shopping for my grandkids I was in serious sticker shock as to what this stuff cost these days. It is utterly ridiculous. I looked at my grand daughter’s list and calculated if I only bought half what was on there it would be somewhere around $800. And I’m a grandparent.

And then there is decorating. I remember as a child how thrilling it was to see just a few colored lights adorning the gutters of the many houses around us. Heck, even farm houses in the middle of nowhere had lights. There were none of these inflatable monstrosities that adorn the lawns of the extravagant few. But we did see lots of manger scenes, santas, snow men, and of course, reindeer.

Last night my wife and I loaded up the grandkids and drove around our little town to look at the christmas lights. I couldn’t believe how few houses there were decorated. We live in a small rural town too. I would have thought we would have had a lot more than we did. It was actually very sad. The houses on our street decorate. But the truth is that there is an event each year from Dec 21 thru 23 where our street is blocked off and thousands come to see the old houses lit up and get a taste of christmas music. My guess is that if not for that event, many of these same houses would not even decorate.

So, “Where Are You Christmas?” The song, from the ever popular movie “Grinch”, has the audacity to ask the question. Many view the film as a fun and entertaining modernized version of the Dr. Suess book, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”. The main character, played by actor Jim Carey to perfection, scoffs and huffs at the people of Whoville. Year after year they run around half crazed spending all their had earned coin on presents that shortly end up at the local dump where he, “The Grinch”, resides along with his trusted dog Max.

For me the story is a sad statement about our society and the things that we have lost. As the famous line from another christmas classic, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” asks, “Does anyone know what Christmas is all about?”

As a christian Christmas is supposed to be a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Although it has been determined that Dec 25th is NOT the actual birth date of Jesus, we mark it as a memorial and testament of the greatest gift of all given by our one true God, sending His son here in the form of a human being, to offer us salvation.

Luke 2: 10-11 The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master.

Of all the passages in the bible, this one has the most meaning to me. It cancels all the insanity of a modernized holiday into a single wondrous event. The birth of Christ is literally buried during this holiday season. Most churches still celebrate in some way. But the numbers of people who worship God during the holiday season has become smaller as time passes by.

But is Christmas hopeless? Even in the story of the Grinch the green grump realizes that Christmas isn’t about anything materialistic. It’s about love.  What greater love has been shown to us than God giving His own son for the sake of our transgressions?

We have the power to change Christmas. It all starts with you, and a little love. “That’s what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown”.

 

The Problem with Christian Music

This is a great blog post. It’s not what you think it is. All you Contemporary Christian Music artists, this is for you.

The Problem with Christian Music.

What Is The Real Problem With Today’s Evangelical Worship?

I had to share this post. We should all put this to use – J.S.

 

What Is The Real Problem With Today’s Evangelical Worship? – David Santistevan — May 27, 2014

 

What is the state of worship in your church?

What is the state of worship in your church?

There’s a popular article floating around about the current state of modern worship.

Many of the points I would agree with. I’m thankful that Jamie is addressing these hard questions and fostering some great conversations.

But at the same time, I also want to present a perspective that I feel is missing.

None of this is new. None of these problems are new.

I don’t believe we are headed for a worship crash because these conversations and wars have been going on since the church has worshiped together in corporate fashion.

No, we are not headed for a crash. We are going to be OK.

But there is still a major problem.

 

The Real Problem

The problem with modern worship isn’t the lights.

The problem with modern worship isn’t the writing and singing of original music. Matter of fact, I believe we need more songwriters writing more songs…better songs.

The problem isn’t the dimly lit room.

The problem isn’t the big rock band and creative music.

For starters, let’s consider the alternative. We could install more bright, fluorescent lights in our churches. We could take away the band and have acapella worship or a simple piano.

We could even remove the stage, placing the musicians on the floor with the congregation. We could do away with all creativity in the gathered church.

This may help for a season, but the core issue would remain untouched, unexamined.

 

What’s the real problem?

Our hearts don’t know their need for Christ. We are not desperate. We are not broken. We don’t approach Sunday with expectant, faith-filled, repentant hearts. We aren’t hungry for Jesus.

I know these are general statements and don’t apply to everyone. But this is more of our problem than what types of tools we use in the worship of God.

I am too satisfied with this world. My eyes are filled with everything but Christ. My heart longs for influence, power, money, and earthly security more than the treasures of heaven. That is my problem. That is our problem.

 

Pastor Your Creative Expression

So rather than a bashing of the fog machine, let’s repent and look to Jesus. Let’s allow our eyes to be filled with His brightness, his beauty, His truth.

If anything, when done well, music, creativity, lighting, projection, and fog machines can help us visualize the glory of God in new ways. They can help us see what heaven may be like. Heaven will have sights and sounds that are unlike anything we’ve ever imagined.

It’s all how you use these tools, explain these tools, and pastor your creative expression.

Distraction in worship comes from a distracted heart, not from creative ideas. My distracted heart will always look for something or someone to blame rather than facing my own apathy. I see this in myself all the time.

Think about the most inspiring worshiper you know. Believe me, they will love Jesus no matter what form the expression takes.

 

Is Performance a Problem?

I’m not sure performancism is the problem either. When I go to church, I want to hear from a Pastor who has studied, rehearsed, prayed over, and developed his sermon. His excellent performance of the sermon will help its truth speak louder to all the worshipers.

Same with a worship leader. Sure, I don’t want a worship leader who just performs worship songs for his own glory. I think we can agree we’re not into that. But I do want a worship leader who is conscious of his excellent performance so the gathered church can worship the Savior without distraction.

I don’t think performance is such a bad word. It speaks to caring deeply, preparing fully, and loving your people. But make sure you focus your “preparation” and “performance” on getting people to engage and sing.

We don’t want a room of spectators, though that’s not always a a terrible sign. Spectators may be a sign that your church is reaching unchurched people, which is beautiful!

 

What’s Next?

Worship leaders, it’s about your downright desperation for Jesus and your pastoral care for people that matters.

You can do both of these things with progressive music, fog, lights, and air tight programming. You can also subtract these tools and sing “I Exalt Thee” every weekend and miss the point of loving Jesus and helping other do the same.

Maybe you want to simplify your services for a season, like Jaime suggests. But the most important action step is to fight hard to stay amazed by God. Humble yourself and you’ll be ready to worship come rock show or Bach invention.

It’s all for Him – from Him and to Him and for Him.

Worship Leader, I love you. I care about my church, your church, and the quality of our corporate worship experiences. Let’s continue to keep it real.

Christmas Hangover……

No, I’m not talking about a drinking hangover. I’m talking about the “let down” many of us feel after Christmas has come and gone. There is so much build up and hype. The TV ads start in October. Decorations are up for months, not weeks. There are so many expectations. “Who do I buy for? How much money do I have to to spend? What will I wear? Can I make it to everyone’s party?”

The “Christmas Hangover” hits me every year. Our church has a big Christmas blowout every December. They invest thousands of dollars to reach people in the community and give those that are seeking the “true” meaning of Christmas far more than they could even fathom. But even being involved in that Christmas program is overwhelming. Maybe even more so. I mean, the truth be told, if I have “less” to do at Christmas I enjoy myself much better. I take very seriously reaching others for Christ. But sometimes I just bite off more than I can chew.

Of course then I get the guilt trip from everyone. “What, you don’t like my family? What do you mean you don’t want to go the three Christmas parties in three days? Where’s your Christmas spirit?”

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To be really honest I love Christmas. I just don’t like what it has become. I don’t care for the pressure of fulfilling expectations.  I do NOT enjoy running myself in the ground going from place to place. The perfect Christmas to me would be to spend a week with my immediate family just sitting around eating, watching Christmas movies, and relaxing while everyone else in the world is running all around going nuts trying to please everyone.

Christmas is like a fine Kentucky Bourbon (sorry Baptist friends). It must be sipped and savored, not guzzled and spewed. Some things in life are just better that way.

So what happens when it’s over? All of a sudden all the hype, the build up, the running yourself ragged, spending yourself poor comes to an end. All that’s left is the clean up and the bills. The emptiness inside grows as everything goes back to normal for another 9 months (Kind of like having a baby isn’t it?)

Well, I am not going to let that happen to me this year. The following is a list of things that I want to make perfectly clear to all around me this Christmas:

  1. I will not be traveling anywhere this Christmas ….. period
  2. I cannot afford to buy Christmas gifts for everyone – children come first
  3. It is acceptable to watch football or basketball on Christmas
  4. You can never get a big enough turkey
  5. There will be a fire pit rally in my backyard over the holidays
  6. Friends can bring gifts to my house. I also accept cash – make it 10’s & 20’s.
  7. I will pray at my house at any time I so choose especially during Christmas
  8. If I just sit and watch everyone, quietly, with a smile on my face I am not drunk or high. I am just ……..at peace.
  9. I will rough house and play with my grandkids as much as physically possible all day Christmas day. Lack of this ingredient will cause serious consequences to parents of grandkids.
  10. I will hug everyone who graces my door on Christmas.

So this Christmas I offer you this simple wish – That you may find peace and comfort at a slower pace, and that you avoid the things in your life that bring you down when Christmas is over. Quiet time is good time. And there is no better time for quiet time than Christmas time. See, even my sentence is redundant.

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