Recently I noticed an article chiding followers of Christ for their misunderstandings of Christmas floating around cyberspace. It was gathering a good bit of attention from some of my friends who don’t normally go in for Biblical Christianity. Usually when that scenario plays out you can bet the post is cynical at best and derogatory at worst and most often simply filled with half-truths. This particular post was found in Time.com and written by Mark Sandlin. (link here) In the post, Sandlin shared what he felt were 10 things Christians should NOT DO on Christmas to which my skeptical friends thought were great. A few of Mark’s comments were right on while on the other hand a few of them made me question if the guy really knows Jesus or not. So today I have written a quick response to Mr. Sandlin and then 10 quick things that Christians SHOULD do on Christmas. So anyway, here we go . . .
As I woke up this morning I saw the news feeds about Ferguson rolling out faster than moths to a flame. Some were spot on and some were just downright silly. As the commentary continued it became obvious that very few people were seeing the real root of the problem or even really cared to know what the true answers were. Why? Because it’s someone else’s fault.
I want my cupcake! That’s what I said YEARS ago when I got home from trick or treating as my dad took away the freshly frosted pastry that I had in my plunder. The reason for this confiscation was because some nut jobs the previous year had given out dangerous treats and parents were warned not to take food which wasn’t properly packaged. I was bummed. (I actually snuck back to the trash later on and retrieved my snack.) But every year the question arises as to what Christ followers should do about Halloween. The only time I really get nervous in this quandary is when someone says definitively that everyone who claims to be a Christian MUST take their point of view.
Well here we go again. Every six months or so some self-proclaimed expert gains temporary notoriety by boasting from their special research that the authenticity of Bible and the claims of Christianity are a sham. Today’s scholar, Michael Paulkovich, writes to prove the messiah is a myth by citing more than 100 writers of the first and second century in which none of them mention Jesus. In short, his first argument being that if Jesus really did exist, then theses educated experts would have written about him. However, the simple absence of Jesus in the documents of these writers does not logically conclude that they had never heard of him. Even if they did not have knowledge of Jesus this does not prove that Jesus was a myth. All we know for certain is that they didn’t write about him. In one sense though, this would actually be expected as the mission of Jesus was not one of vying for public recognition. Jesus didn’t come for the paparazzi of the day or swim in the circles of the writers that Paulkovich referenced. Rather, Jesus spent most of his time with the least of humanity. The other side of the coin of which Paulkovich fails to research is the archaeological and historical writers of the era who did speak of Jesus. Here are just a few historians of the day who wrote about Christ.
Recently I came across a movie covering an event that I apparently missed in my history classes. The flick came out in 2012 and recounts a decisive battle that took place on September 11th of 1683. Like the infamous Sept. 11th, 2001 that so many of us remember, this battle was also begun by Muslims in the name of Allah. The Day of the Siege is the name of this historical drama that remembers the Muslim army of over 300,000 soldiers from the Ottoman Empire with the intent to conquer Vienna and ultimately Rome thereby turning the Vatican into a mosque. The main character in the piece was a humble Catholic Monk named Marco d’Aviano who lived from 1631 to 1699. It was Marco who encouraged and united the western forces which ultimately led to the defeat of the Ottoman army.
So what did the Dad Buffalo say to his Boy Buffalo when he headed off to college? Bison! Ok, maybe that’s a bit lame. But my son laughed at it when he headed off to college last week. Yes, after my bovine banter, prayer, and some more edifying words John pointed his car in the opposite direction of our house and this stage of our lives came to a close. It was that quick. The funny thing is that I clearly remember years ago in Moscow, Russia, when Deb and I were headed back to the States for John’s birth. A mentor looked me in the eye and said, “Steve, when you come back you’ll be a different man.” His words were so true. Our life phase as a young married couple without parental experience had come to an end and the next was about to begin. When John was born, Deb and I changed and entered into a new world. This week we transitioned into another.
This summer has been much more busy than anticipated and I’ve only had time to post twice since May. For that reason I am slating August 18th as the time to resume blogging. Be sure to check in at that time and also feel free to send in questions or ideas that you want to hear about in the future. Over the next six weeks Robert Tippett and I will also be discussing another run of the “Sunday Night Discussions.” The intent for the second season would involve much more investment and would begin around mid-September. We already have some great potential guests lined up.
So have a great second half of the summer and we’ll see you August 18th.
This Sunday is Father’s Day and for some people that means a powerful time of positive reflection. Dad was great. Others though approach Father’s day with a yawn at best. Either way I typically look at this confused occasion as an opportunity to teach about God’s design for fatherhood and the family. Dads are influential and important beyond measure. When I talk with solid leaders I like to ask them about their fathers and their relationship with them. If I’m studying the life of a great leader from the past or one presently alive that I just can’t get close to I still try to uncover something in connection to their fathers. Almost without exception, the great Kingdom leaders that I know had a good relationship with their dad and he was a tremendous part of their inner formation.
My story is not too shiny in this department. When people ask me about my father I sometimes jokingly reply, “Well, which one”? I suppose I could categorize my journey with dads this way.
Where did the time go? That question has probably been on the mind of Barbara Walters of late. This past week Walters announced her retirement from the news media after a very long and illustrative career. As far back as I can remember she has been a household name of not only female reporters but in the world of journalism in general. Her gifts in life have added much to the landscape of the news media we know today.
In an interview last week she recalled some of her regrets in life and I found it interesting that at the top of the list was a longing to have had spent more time with her daughter. Her story is not foreign and I’ve witnessed similar occasions in my ministry career. Stories of people in their retirement years who aren’t so much concerned about a missed step up in the pecking order, but rather a missed relationship with those at the bottom, those closest to them, their own family and other loved ones. This seems to be a sad reality that so many of us are susceptible to.
News stories began to flow almost immediately about Russell Wilson after his team won the Super Bowl last night. Like many Christ followers I was impressed with his attitude and desire to give God the glory and believing in “the talent God gave him.” Russell was right on as even our breath is a gift from God. But another point that really struck my attention was what Wilson had to say about his father. He referenced his dad a couple of times and specifically noted how his father would purposefully look at challenging situations with the question of; “why not you?” When I heard that it all came together. That kind of fatherly encouragement is something that I’ve observed not only in the story of Wilson’s life, but in many other great leaders. They had dads who believed in them.
Confidence is a foundational building block in leadership development and one that is sorely needed in our day. The principle of speaking about a positive future in the life of a young person by a father or another male leader is of incalculable worth. You just can’t measure how important something like that is to a young boy or man. I know that many people in our day grew up without such a blessing and I can relate to that. But all of us can be encouraged to know that there is a “Father of the fatherless” and one who calls us out of fear and into courage. No matter what our background is, we can know God and know his encouragement in our lives and see a future greater than we’ve ever imagined before.
In addition, as leaders today we can look at those coming behind us and speak into their lives. What we saw passed down from father to son in Russell Wilson’s life is a rarity today. But it doesn’t have to be that way. In addition to my kids, I try to find opportunities to speak even small positive words to kids on my block and around me. Recently I told a neighborhood boy the account of King David and Goliath and then finished my story with; “You know . . . you could be a great king someday too.” Just one man or woman speaking a positive message of potential victory into the hearts of others is just what they need and it might even just be enough to change the world.
So, who are you encouraging today?