Category Archives: Discipleship

A Malignant Melody

You better watch out
You better not cry
Better not pout
I’m telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town

He’s making a list
And checking it twice;
He’s gonna find out
Who’s naughty or nice (Sinatra sings “naughty AND nice” to increase the vagueness?)
Santa Claus is coming to town

He sees you when you’re sleeping
He knows when you’re awake
He knows if you’ve been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake!

Santa Claus is Coming to Town

This song is always in the mix of Christmas songs that we hear this time of the year. Many of them, even this one, I don’t run to the radio or CD player or whatever media from which it comes and turn it off. I see it as a teachable moment. Guarding my kids (and myself) from such things is not the answer. Nor is the answer letting them figure it out on their own. Assuming this has no effect on us is dangerous.

So, what is so malignant about this melody? You have to admit it’s catchy. Fun. Helpful to parents that cannot otherwise get their children to obey them any other time of the year. Who knows what shopping would be like if the parents could not remind the kids about the premise of this song– “You’re not getting anything if you are naughty.” So, is Christmas about giving a gift or a wage? Are we to earn a gift? No. And that is why this melody is malignant (among other things).

I’m assuming the first three lines of the song are phrases used by Santa Claus (and parents) to remind them to straighten up because Santa Claus is coming. I don’t like the equating of crying and pouting. They are not the same. As a parent, crying is allowed and encouraged. There is nothing wrong with crying. It’s needed and good oftentimes. Pouting is different. Pouting is trying to persuade where crying is a response to pain of some sort. Pouting is fake; crying is not.

I don’t think I have to persuade any readers of this post that Santa Claus is not coming. However, the close similarities of what we Christians often talk about is the fact that Jesus Christ is coming again. If you hold off until He comes to “straighten up” it is too late. It is absurd that Santa or Jesus are okay with kids being “nice” only in the month of December (or at least the day before Christmas for the unruly kids). How much is enough to earn the gift? Is a gift leverage? Are the days leading up to Christmas threats? Nice isn’t it?

This is just a side note: how can Santa see and know if you are awake and asleep and have to “find out if you are naughty or/and nice”? Just saying. It seems he should know that too. While we are here, I also cringe that Santa is given such attributes. Only the Triune God has such attributes and to ascribe them to another is troubling and fatal.

“So be good for goodness sake” is another spin or twist of this Christmas story. I thought we were to be good so we would have presents under the tree. I’m not being “good” for nothing. “If I am going to be good it’s going to cost you mom.” What reason do parents give five seconds after the “gift” is opened and the receiver hates it; it is not gift he asked for and throws it aside as rubbish? Being good for goodness sake will not work here or ever. That would be like saying I go to work everyday just to work; not a paycheck. I intentionally do not say thank you to my boss for my wages. They are not a gift. I earned them. Grace and job must be kept separate on this level and together on other levels. This leads to the issue.

One problem with this whole scenario is the meaning of gift. A gift is undeserved. Of course, you are welcome to celebrate Christmas however you so choose but you might want to change the vocabulary. Start calling the presents wages or earnings. That will help them not confuse things. Gifts are gifts. How one responses to a “gift” is a reflection of your love for the giver or your love of the gift. Is it really loving to give a gift only if the kid has met some undefined, ever-changing standard? No. It’s not.

The fact is no one is good. No one. If we get what we have earned that would be eternal punishment. If we receive the gift of salvation that is mercy. And that mercy comes from Someone. When God chooses to love someone for no reason that is grace. Of course, the grace that saves is the grace that transforms. This is the perfect season to describe this. Many have Christmas trees in their homes. We hang ornaments on the tree. Some even look like fruit. You could even hang a real apple on the tree and you should think it odd if someone thought that a Frazier Fur produced an apple. Everybody knows that it can’t do that. Only a real apple tree can produce an apple.

Only a grace-given, mercy-receiving, justified sinner can produce righteousness…fruit. If it comes for external show, it is not true fruit. Granted, it is hard to tell the difference sometimes. Nevertheless, we should be fruit inspectors.

Dear friend, every breath you take today is a gift. A GIFT! Gifts come from Someone and that Someone deserves thanks. How you celebrate Christmas boils down to who you love. Your perspective is different when you understand who you are and who God is. Your ideas of Christmas change when you understand the meaning of gift and love of the giver. We should be eager to give gifts this Christmas season because we have been loved and love; not for goodness sake.

~Jason

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Danger Increases in the Silence

Sermon Introduction for Job 2:11-3:26:

We enter a new scene. Job is alone. Satan is gone. The children are gone. The possessions are gone. The wife is more than likely gone. The whole community, including his extended family, have abandoned him. Little kids spit at him. All that is left are memories. You can’t easily erase those. You could wish the memories to be taken like the rest but it will not work. The darkness seems to illumine the memories. The silence seems to make the voices you are hearing louder and louder. Death would be a mercy at this point. You think the immediate trauma is the hard part. Yet the shock seems to aid the sanity. The insanity comes in the wake of the days that follow…when you are alone. No wife to talk to. No children to check on. Silence.

Applications:

  • Even with people around it can be lonely and painful. Mere presence does not replace relationship and fellowship.

  • Don’t over expect on days like this day. Don’t take everything they say too seriously. Yes, Job really wished the day of his birth to be cut off. Yet, during their conversation his tone changes. This is the initial outburst of a hurting man. Wait them out. Be patient. Give them the benefit of the doubt.

Conclusion:

Jude 1:24-25

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

(If you are familiar with Job, you know that he is declared blameless and he is not in the meeting or in the presence of God. Here Jude says Jesus is able to keep you from stumbling and present you to God blameless. I think it is an amazing connection to see and believe!)


God’s Slow, Steady, and Wise Hand!

One year ago today, the Lord began stirring in me a desire to move to another church. Granted, I cannot explain how this “stirring” works. This stirring is like feelings. They can’t be trusted. This stirring could or could not be from the Lord. Therefore, it must be tested. John tells us, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (I Jn 4:1). I think “spirit” is partly “feelings.” So, your feelings need to be tested with scripture.

The main point I want to make in this post is slowness. We live in a world that wants, whatever it is, immediately! A dear brother pointed out to me that God is content to work in decades, centuries, and long periods of time. The entire Bible begs this point. I don’t say these things as one who does not struggle with the temptation of wanting things to happen quickly. Nor am I saying that some things don’t need to happen quickly. They do. However, waiting is often not an option for us.

I have a journal entry to show how God worked “slowly” with me and all the others involved. In fact, that slowness is still part of the scenario. I see this slowness as healthy and good. May God grant me [us] patience and mercy through this transition.

Journal Entry September 20, 2013

While praying yesterday morning, I prayed part of Psalm 69 “Deliver me from the mire and do not let me sink.” I began to think of moving my family to Davis Memorial. I imagined what it would look like for my family to be there. I really was encouraged by the thought. I need more evidence that I should do this. My feelings are not firm foundations. Actually, they can be “mire.” We will see how the Lord might lead and confirm.

Our first Sunday at Davis Memorial was July 9, 2014. I became convinced early on. The evidence was slow. I ran it by my wife first. It took time for her to see it, but she did. I ran it by the pastor of Davis Memorial and it took time for him to see it, but he did. In time, I hope the members of Davis Memorial will see it.

I am aware that some of the members might read this. If you do, do not feel rushed. Take as long as you need. I hope you are encouraged by this post to wait on God. Also, I hope to reveal more of the process and reason for moving in later posts. If anything, I hope you see this was not a spur of the moment decision. Also, don’t see my process and understanding of this without error. I trust that God was working things out long before and He is still at work now. To God be the glory forever and ever!


Piper Leading Others To Love Missions

An Excerpt from a sermon on January 22,1984

We Must Have Strategies to Pursue the Lost

These three truths lead to an inevitable conclusion about the priorities of Bethlehem Baptist Church.
1.Truth one: God sent his Son into the world to save sinners from every nation so that they would glorify him for his mercy (Romans 15:9; 1 Timothy 1:15).
2.Truth two: this purpose of God has not yet been completed.
3.Truth three: Christ has passed on to the church his mission to seek and save the lost. As long as this age lasts, our charge from Jesus is to tell of his salvation with our lips and show his love with our lives so that people from every tongue and tribe and nation (Revelation 5:9) will be saved by faith and give him glory for his mercy.

The conclusion that follows from these three truths is that strategies and actions to seek and save the lost (especially where they have least opportunity to hear the gospel) must have high priority in the life of our church.

~Jason


Discipleship: The Forgotten Means

The Gospel According to Matthew has multiple purposes. We should see the Great Commission at the end as giving us one of these purposes (possibly the most important one). That purpose is “go and make disciples.” Making disciples consists of “baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that [Jesus] commanded and that he is with them always.”

It is in this Gospel (and the others) which gives us our understanding of baptism. It is here that we see more clearly the doctrine of the Trinity. The teachings of Jesus are abundant. However, not only do we read what Jesus taught but how he taught it. If we are to teach the disciple all that Jesus commanded we need to look back to what preceeded the Commission.

In discipleship, content and method are the essential elements. We see Jesus teaching and then showing the disciples how to do it by way of example. So, teaching the disciple to observe is not merely repeating facts. And this cannot happen if the teacher is not with the disciple. By this I think I mean two things: (1) The teacher with the disciple and (2) The Teacher (through the Holy Spirit) with the teacher and disciple.

Over the next few months, we will walk through the Gospels attempting to see various aspects of discipleship. Now let’s observe the content and methods used by Jesus. I hope to point out the big picture items and the methodology of Jesus beginning in Matthew.

Here are a couple observations from Matthew 1:1-17 (written by one of Christ’s disciples)

  1. This is not the beginning but the revealing of the Promised One. Therefore, we should work hard at teaching fulfillment in Christ.
  2. This is proof enough that disciples should read the whole counsel of God. Reading and hearing the word is vital in discipleship.

Acts 19:9-10 9 But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus. 10 This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.

This is our hope and desire of discipleship.

~Jason