The Hope of Christmas

I remember a time when I went shopping on Christmas Eve for some last minute gifts (okay, probably all of my gift shopping was done that year on Christmas Eve) and was reminded why that was a bad idea. On the eve of what continues to be communicated and sold as the most joyful time of the year, a time of making happy memories and a season of giving, the not-so-hidden ugly side of the holiday was exposed. This is a season filled with stress and anxiety.

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O come Immanuel (God with us)

As Christmas day approaches, I’m both burdened and hopeful. How about you?

I’m burdened by the pain, suffering, brokenness, violence, war, and division in the world. Burdened by the deterioration of life and a creation that was meant for good and glory. And yet I’m hopeful for a bright future. Hopeful for unlimited peace and joy. Hopeful for eternal reconciliation. Hopeful for a perfectly restored creation.

The source of my burden is the fallen creation and humanity’s inherited rejection of God and his Kingdom. We don’t have to look further than Genesis 3 to understand the universal cause of our pain and suffering.

Yet the source of my hope is in the grace and love of a God who initiated a cosmic reconciliation through the living presence of himself in Jesus Christ. Christmas is the single historical event that changed everything. Christmas is the day we remember that God fulfilled his promise that he would be with us – his creation, his people, his children, his loved ones. Christmas is the day that marks the beginning of the end that will bring about a perfect new beginning. Christmas is the reminder that Jesus is with us now and forever.

 

The Matchless Christ

All too often I find Christians believing in and selling a weak and shallow gospel. It goes something like this: “follow Jesus and get the life you always wanted.” There are all sorts of variations to this, but in the end, these superficial gospel messages are rooted in a superficial theology of the person and work of Jesus Christ. A shallow gospel becomes nothing more than fire insurance for the afterlife or pithy inspirational messages that boost one’s emotional morale for the day.

In contrast, a deep theology of Christ is the unshakable foundation to something more than fire insurance or daily inspiration. Intimately knowing the person and work of Christ, His unrivaled supremacy over all creation, and His defeat over sin and death is what brings about total transformation – a fully restored life and world.

The Central Figure

Do you ever feel like your faith as a Christian is one big circle that seems to go nowhere? Or perhaps is it better described as a tug-a-war match between God and Satan with you in the middle of it? More importantly, how is it that many of us can regularly participate in church, read scripture, pray, and attend a community group (what we call small groups or Bible studies at our church), but still feel as if we’re coming up short and unsatisfied in our Christian walk?

I’ve come to realize the answer is simple but deeply rooted within us: We love the Law. I’m not talking about the laws of the land, but the Biblical laws and mandates most commonly found in the Old Testament. Christians are labeled hypocrites because we spend more time learning to be legalists than walking in the freedom and grace of Jesus Christ. This should be of no surprise to us because we live in a hyper-pragmatic culture that loves to-do lists, steps to a better relationship, workout plans, specific diets, and life-hacks. It’s only natural that we would extend these behaviors into our faith, but the problem is they are totally incompatible.

More disturbing is that many Christian churches, preachers, authors, and musicians are unknowingly feeding the beast within us. With the rise in “experiential worship” and “Christian self-help” preaching and books masqueraded under the guise of “practical, life-application”, we’ve been creating a generation of Christians with a faith that places you and me at the center of the biblical story. The result? A neurotic life that is caught between the greatest source of hope and freedom the world has ever known and our pursuit of self-righteousness.

The reality is, we are prone to miss the central figure in the story of salvation – Jesus Christ.

 

To Have Faith Like a Child

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©2016 Matt Till

I see my daughter wading through the chilly waters of a tiny lake a few blocks from our home on a warm spring day in late April. She slowly steps in by first dipping her toes, then her foot, followed by an adventurous spirit to keep on going. She does not spend much time thinking about the potential dangers of the water or what lurks underneath, or even how cold the water is. In other words, she doesn’t depend on her “own understanding.”

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