Tag Archives: Gospel

Just. Don’t.

I’ve said this before, but I’m sure that I wasn’t the first:

The Gospel is offensive enough.

It doesn’t need our help, nor does it grant us the right to be a jackass about it.

Unexpected Gifts

Gifts are the stuff of Christmas merriment for most of us. It is fun to both give and receive that just-right, just-what-I-always-wanted present. Many of you probably have a tale of a very special gift that you received, where just remembering it makes you smile again.

And yet, sometimes Christmas brings us unexpected, even unwanted surprises. Gifts that, if were truly up to us, we would not open. You could probably tell me a few of those stories, too.

My family has its share. My mother was born on Christmas Eve, and while grandma used to call it her little Christmas present, decades later, Mom’s sisters still chide her for ruining their holiday.

When my dad was eleven, growing up on a farm in central Arkansas, he received a Daisy, lever-action BB rifle. (This is my story, quit making up your own!) So Harold took his new toy and a carton of BBs, and hiked out into the woods with his younger cousin Delton.

To load the rifle, you first had to cock the lever back, and then drop the BBs into a small hole near the end of the barrel. Dad was slowly, deliberately dropping in each BB, and Delton watched excitedly, asking, “Harold, can I pull the trigger yet?”

“No, Delton, not yet”

“Harold, can I pull the trigger yet?”

“No, Delton… not yet.”

Delton couldn’t stand it any longer, and he finally reached over and pulled the trigger. The BB hit Dad in his upper lip, where he still bears a small scar today, and sent him reeling backward, clutching is bleeding mouth.

Delton panicked, and raced back to my dad’s house. “Mrs. Hartsfield, Mrs. Hartsfield!” he yelled all the way to the front porch. Finally, he reached my grandmother at the door. “Mrs. Hartsfield,” he cried, “I’ve shot Harold!”

Unexpected, unwanted gifts. In my not-so distant past, there have been Christmases that I felt disappointed and alone, depressed, and afraid of the future. It was then that I began to understand the lyrics to the advent hymn…

O come, O come Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here

Many of you resonate with the hymn as well: funerals where poinsettias were present; or perhaps the TV or the radio were the only family nearby; or a whirlwind of circumstance eclipses the holiday season.

O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here.

It’s to those times and feelings that I want to share another unexpected gift. During the darkest hours, where we are reminded of just how fragile we are, the Apostle Paul writes of a wonderful gift, a treasure.

2 Corinthians 4:6-11 (New Century Version)
God once said, “Let the light shine out of the darkness!” This is the same God who made his light shine in our hearts by letting us know the glory of God that is in the face of Christ.

We have this treasure from God, but we are like clay jars that hold the treasure. This shows that the great power is from God, not from us.

Paul likens us to jars of clay, common everyday pottery. Today we might use the comparison to brown paper bags. Common, used for carrying all sorts of things. But we wouldn’t think of carrying treasure in them. It seems insecure, too risky.

Yet that’s what God has done for us. He prepared the most precious gift of His son to come to us.

The arrival of Emmanuel brings with it the gift of hope. When we’re not sure if we can bear the load, the treasure of the gospel that He has placed in our fragile lives means that we can go on, and even overcome.

We have troubles all around us, but we are not defeated. We do not know what to do, but we do not give up the hope of living.

We are persecuted, but God does not leave us. We are hurt sometimes, but we are not destroyed.

 

Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

If this Christmas season has been less than idyllic for you, take heart. As believers we have an eternal treasure stored in our fragile paper bags. We have genuine hope because we have a Savior who has come to live in our hearts.

 

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!

“I mean no offense, but…”

I have a friend who is a newspaper reporter. His wife is a copy editor. She is smart, funny, and cute as a bug. My friend fell hard for her when they met in journalism school, and latched on the first chance he got.

But from my experience with other copy editors over the years, she is the exception to the rule. Case in point: there was a certain word processor at my firm who spent years in the book publishing business. She had a very good eye for what proper text should look like, how it should read. But unfortunately, she had absolutely no idea how she was “read” by others. She took little or no thought of her appearance (I’m trying not to be cruel here, but there it is anyway), was rude and abrasive and completely unbendable in her ways. Even though she had no actual authority as to how “things should be done around here,” she acted as if she not only knew such things, but that everyone else around her was an idiot – including me.

Hence, she was not very well-liked among her coworkers. No one was sad when she left for another position.

I do not know where she is spiritually, but I would not at all be surprised to find out that she is devoutly religious. Why, you ask? Because some of the most offensive people I know are religious.

I once met one the Rainbow Head guys who sits in the end-zone at football games. He sported a t-shirt that had JOHN 3:16 printed on the front, and REPENT on the back. I asked him where he got the inspiration to do this for a living. He said he felt called. Then he posed for a picture with me. Several others did the same while I was there.

By way of confession, I had a t-shirt made when I was in junior high that read GET RIGHT OR GET LEFT. I enjoyed the look on people’s faces when they asked me to explain it to them, since they obviously didn’t get it.

One of my college roommates experienced a dramatic conversion about a year before I met him. Sex, drugs and rock & roll were going to kill or imprison him if Christ hadn’t intervened. He was grateful for his new life, and was more than happy to confront anyone who wasn’t doing the same. I once caught him with a group of his church friends, praying for my lukewarm spirit. He used to say, “Jesus was bold. I need to be bold for Christ.” Before he was a Christian, he was willing to fight anyone in his way. As a Christian, he was willing to Bible bash with the same verve.

How do you present yourself? How does the world “read” us as Christians?

I think too many believers mistake being bold for Christ with being – I’m trying to be delicate here – butt heads. It’s almost as if they (we… I) believe that being a Christian means having the license to be offensive along with the Offense of the Gospel. The “tribulation” they (we… I) receive is validation of being faithful to the Message.

Meadow Muffins!, as Sherman Potter would say.

Children of God, the Gospel doesn’t need our help in being offensive (in fact, it doesn’t really need our help at all, but that’s another post). To couch ostentatious in religious fervor is not what Paul had in mind when he said that he is “all things to all people, so that by all means I might win some.”

We don’t need to be puppy dogs. There’s a place to be bold. But odds are, most of the time we think we’re being bold for Christ, we’re just offensive. Stop it.

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