Faith General

Christmas For Real

2020 has seemingly been a disaster. Everything that you and I would NOT want in the script of life happened. I won’t even take the time to rehearse that list.  It is what it is, Now, as 2020 wraps up, the calendar shouts out “Christmas is here!” Between quarantines and lockdowns, some governments are severely restricting people’s freedoms to gather.  One parishioner was fined $1300 because he crossed a police line to attend church. This happened in North America, not in a third-world country.  Times are changing, but Jesus is still here. Jesus still reigns overall.  And, that’s not some cheesey cliche’.

What shocks us in North America is we have enjoyed freedoms for so long, we’ve taken them for granted. Then, when the police hand us a ticket for crossing a line to attend church, we think our civil rights have been violated (and they have), not realizing many of our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world worship with such opposition all the time.  And yet, their joy over the presence of Jesus is far greater than ours.  

Jesus at Any Cost

Decades ago, I worked at a Christian hotel and conference center in Austria. It was a 15th-century castle in the Alps. During World War II, it was a regime headquarters for the Nazis. There is even a dungeon that was used during the Reformation to imprison witches and heretics. Now, owned by an international Christian group, believers in communist-held countries would smuggle out to attend Bible conferences at the castle. As a young warrior-aged man fresh out of university, my jaw-dropped when I heard the stories of similar-aged young men who got through the border to hear God’s Word. How they smuggled Bibles in and sacrificed being arrested. “I’m such a wimp!”  I’d say to myself. We in the West are so soft, so spineless in many respects when it comes to living for Jesus.

That summer changed my entire view of living for Christ. To be honest, our time in the West is coming. It may be here. We can blame it on a pandemic, and, yes, hopefully, as it passes, things improve, but I’m not so sure. The cost of following Jesus is increasing. The question is, how much are you willing to pay?

Some Christmas Pondering

Maybe by now, you are thinking “Some festive Christmas post!  What happened to twinkle lights, hot chocolate, roasted chestnuts, and a new pair of Christmas pajamas this holiday?”  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy that part of Christmas, but to be completely honest, once I realized the setting in which Jesus was truly born, not the cutesy wooden stable with farm animals, but the stone feeding trough deep in the heart of the semi-underground stable, the unsanitary conditions where Mary gave birth, Christmas takes on an entirely different look!  In fact, the entire reason Jesus entered our world orbits around redemption from my sin. His life for mine. His sacrifice that offers me forgiveness and the gift of God’s presence in the Holy Spirit.  My entire view of freedom changes!

I was twelve when the worlds of Jesus’ birth and his death and resurrection collided in my heart. Maybe at the time, it was more out of fear of hell than love for Jesus, but I recall pulling those bunkbed blankets over my head, crying out to God to save me.

Christmases have come and gone since then. Some years have seen wonderful holidays, while others have left pits in my stomach. When death strikes so close to Christmas. Who likes picking out a casket on Christmas Eve?  And, yet, Jesus still showed up. In fact, probably more so that year than I have experienced in a long time. 

The older I get, the less I really want under the tree. The more I value love, family, friends, and the overwhelming presence of Jesus. 

Christmas is for real!

Warrior On!

David Riffel is the Founder and Executive Director of Having gone through his warrior years (18-30) essentially without a mentor, God has placed in him a heart for warriors, to come alongside them in various ways as they figure out life. David’s newly released book, Mentoring Warriors: Coming Alongside Young Men 18-30, outlines principles for mentoring and gives advice for warriors in six key areas of life: self-management, life skills, education/career, relationships, faith, and identity.

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