christmastime is… gone…

After the song that my wife and I wrote about her Calvinism and all, and the subsequent fame that it entitled us with, I’m beginning to fear that it will all be in vain if I do not keep up with something interesting to the internet audience.  I have had quite a few more views on my blog in the past few days than I normally have… I’ve been terribly busy in the past month or so… and now my wife and I are away from our northern abode in Thompson, Manitoba in order to visit friends and family in Western NC and Upstate SC.

With that being said, whether you are an old friend or someone who randomly stumbled upon my blog, you may be wondering a little more about me.  My buddy, Andrew Pritchett, was commissioned to write my biography a few weeks ago.  You really should check it out.  I’m unsure who was actually doing the commissioning, though.

If you want the slightly less exaggerated version, then you should read my about page.

Hopefully my wife and I will have some time to get another song together that will sweep the internet by storm.  For now, everyone have a happy new year.

incarnation…

I wrote this to be submitted for this week’s Spiritual Thoughts Column for the Nickel Belt News, a weekly newspaper that is distributed across northern Manitoba. Whether or not it will actually be published will be seen on Friday.  Tell me what you think…

Like many in my generation, I grew watching too much television. And every December I would watch hours after hours of Christmas movies. Old habits die hard. Over the past few weeks, my wife and I have spent many of our evenings watching Christmas movies and specials. Most of them are about Santa. You know the plot. Santa messes up big time. Christmas will have to be cancelled until someone else, such as Ernest, steps in and “saves Christmas.” You would think that as many close calls as Santa has had, someone would look into hiring a new Santa who knows what he is doing. In spite of the cheesiness, most of these movies are entertaining, but at some point they all reinforce the same value: Christmas is not about getting presents, its about family, peace, and giving.

Those things are all good, but none of them encompass the meaning of Christmas. We should cherish our family all year round. We should seek peace 365 days a year. We should give to the less fortunate every chance we get. In simple terms, the meaning of Christmas rests in the birth of Christ. In slightly more complex terms, Christmas is about the incarnation of the Son of God. Incarnation means “in the flesh.” Christians believe that Jesus is fully God and fully human and that, in the birth of Jesus, God became flesh. The “how” to this concept is something that a thousand theologians could not fully explain, but the “why” is simple. God became man in order to provide us, sinful human beings, access to a holy God. Jesus Christ came to be an example of how to live, the mediator between God and man, and ultimately to take upon himself the penalty for human sin. As the early church father Athanasius put it, “The Son of God became the Son of Man that the sons of men might become sons of God.”

In Colossians, the Apostle Paul says that Jesus Christ came to live and die in order “to reconcile to himself all things.” Christmas is the day that we celebrate that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” so that we would have the chance to see his glory and to respond in service and in love. Why? Because we have been reconciled to our Creator. That is why we sing and celebrate at Christmas. In the midst of giving and receiving presents and spending time with family, remember that those things are temporal. Take time this Christmas to celebrate the eternal: the coming of God in the flesh to reconcile us to Him, our creator and our saviour.

thoughts about youth ministry and I think my wife is a calvinist…

Leah and I have been rethinking our ideas about youth ministry here in the past few weeks.  Its not so much that we are realizing new things, but that we are trying to implement things that we’ve known all along.  I have about 47 books on youth ministry.  I haven’t read all of most of them, but I’ve read at least a little of all of them… and they all talk about the same thing: building attractional programming and building positive relationships.

The relationship stuff can be helpful.

However, most of them are filled with statistics and psychological stuff.  All of that can be helpful, but rarely do these guys actually talk about teaching kids the word of God.

When youth ministry becomes primarily about programming, the goal is no longer to see kids know and treasure Christ, but for them to be assimilated into the programs: teenagers start leading the worship band or take charge of the children’s sunday school classes, and the youth pastor is convinced that they are “saved.”

When youth ministry becomes primarily about relationships, the goal can move from knowing and treasuring Christ to making positive decisions and doing good.  A teenager volunteers at the soup kitchen or collects canned food for needy families and we think they’re “saved.”

Pause for a second.  Those are great things.  I wish every teenager in my youth group would be a leader in church life or volunteer their own time to helping others.  I’m not opposed to that at all.  But it needs to be the result of their knowledge of and love for God.

The goal is to see them know and treasure Christ above all else.  Period.

How are they going to do that if I water down his word?

How are they going to do that if I talk about funny stuff or “relevant” stuff more than I teach them about who Christ is and how worthy of treasuring He is?

Their math teachers don’t water down Trigonometry for them.  Their English teachers don’t make them read the abridged version of Hamlet.  Why should I water down God’s word?  If they can understand Calculus and Chaucer, then they can understand justification.

We’re still building relationships with them.  We’re still having fun with them.  But we’re through watering Truth down.  Period.

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On a lighter note, Leah and I were trying to write a real song and this is what came out:

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Over at Internetmonk.com, there is a really cool thing call the Liturgical Gangstas.  He asks a question and has someone from a number of different denominations answer it.   Check it out if you haven’t already.  The second one is about the meanings of Sacramental, Attractional, and Missional.  Interesting stuff.  Be sure to read the first one about Spiritual Growth, as well.