A Parent’s Guide to Discussing Christmas

christmas-tree37 Parents Guide to Discussing Christmas

“The best thing of all is God is with us.”- John Wesley, Theologian. 1703-1791

As the days drew closer to Christmas, the anticipation increased. The brightly decorated tree had presents surrounding the base and Christmas music played on the television in the living room. The smell of freshly baked holiday treats lingered in the air. The atmosphere was filled with joy and full of hope. However, it was full of hope that “it” would not happen again. Hope that the drinking would not start. Hope that the shouts of rage and anger would not be directed at the people he declared he “loved”. Hope that the drinking he repeatedly promised to stop would not destroy yet another holiday.

No such luck. The rage began and the kids scattered to different areas of the house. The Christmas joy and cheerful thoughts vanished as quickly as they had come. All hope collapsed. The sound of Christmas bells echoing from the television sounded strangely like the starting bell at a boxing ring. However, now the boxing ring was contained inside a three bedroom, two-bath home in a no-name suburb.
“Please do not let the neighbors hear the yelling and screaming, again.”

As the rounds progressed, the tempo increased and with each passing moment, the siblings’ hearts ached more and more.

“Why is this happening now?”

“What was wrong this time?”

“Is this how a father is supposed to act?”

“How could he do this so close to Christmas?”

“Why won’t God save us?” The battle thundered on.

The heightened conflict was different this time. From its base, the Christmas tree was snatched from the corner of the room. Presents, gift-wrapped with such great care, were kicked out of the way. Ornaments flew around the room as he carried the tree toward the front door.
“No!” The kids screamed with tears streaming down their faces.

“We are not having Christmas!” he proclaimed. Everyone was crying as the tree landed in a crumbled pile in the yard. Once again, the neighbors were very aware of the events unfolding in the home.

Seated on the edge of her bed, her head in her hands, Mother wept. Their tormentor had stormed off and taken his drunken rage with him. The house was quiet now and the kids gathered around their Mom to check for physical damage, and, in an all too common turn of events, preceded to comfort her.

Through her tears she muttered, “All I wanted was for you kids to have a good Christmas. I’m sorry, I’m so very sorry…” *

I pray that the true story above is not reflective of you, your family, or anyone you know. Sometimes it hurts to remember, and as the Christmas season is celebrated, it causes memories to surface. Some memories are wonderful reflections of the past, and other memories; frankly, we would wish to forget forever.

If this story resembles your personal story, words cannot express my distress. No one should harbor those types of memories. However, you now have the opportunity to create joyous memories and influence your children’s holiday recollections. What will your children remember from your holiday celebrations? Will it be joy, happiness and love? This parents’ guide is your opportunity to speak directly into your children and share with them the true meaning of Christmas. You can create positive memories that will last a lifetime. How special it is to communicate to them your love and the love of our Father-God who will never forsake us, and sent His only Son as proof of that love!
The Acts 19 Apologetics Ministry provides this guide as a means to encourage you to seize this chance to speak truth and love into your children.

Will you join me in completing this worthwhile task?

John 3:16: “16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him…”

Psalm 55:22 “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.”

Talking to your family about Christmas and the birth of Jesus in three easy steps:

Step 1: Set the Theme:

The celebration of Christmas is a celebration of the birth of our Savior, sent by God the Father who loves us.

Step 2: Read aloud scriptures:

*Consider having others in your family read the passages.*

  • Jesus birth- Luke 2:4-7 and Matthew 1:18-25.
  • The Shepherds and Angels celebrating his birth- Luke 2:8-20 and Matthew 2:1-12
  • Jesus presented at the Temple- Luke 2:1-40
  • Prophecies fulfilled from Old Testament in Isaiah 7:14 and 9:6 and foretold in the New Testament -Luke 1:26-45
  • Gifts from your Father in heaven—Matthew 7:7-11
  • The Lord will never leave you nor forsake you.—Deuteronomy 31:6

Step 3: Address the points of discussion.

First main point: God the Son came as a man to save us. Jesus Christ is fully God and fully human.

The Father sent God the Son (Jesus) into this world in the lowliest of ways. Born to a poor farm girl, in a small town in the middle of nowhere, and in barn with animals the “the Son of the Most High” was delivered to redeem us from sin.
Jesus’s birth was foretold in Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. This was God’s plan from the very beginning.
Also in Isaiah 9:6, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace.”
Six months prior to Jesus’ birth, the Lord sent the angel Gabriel to tell Mary she will be with child, and He will be called Jesus and He will be called, “the Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:26)
The manger was in reality settled in a cave under a family home in the hills of Bethlehem! (Luke 2:16) Draw the comparison to the nativity scenes commonly seen today. Note of the differences between modern depictions of the birth and the reality of a 1st century birth. Bethlehem was a very small town, without the modern comforts of an “inn”. There was no choice, but to stay in any available space. (Luke 2:12) Hence, the birth of Jesus in a manger.

Second main point: God the Father loves you, and sending Christ Jesus demonstrates this love.

God sent His Son, Jesus, to atone for our sinful human nature. (1 John 3:1, and 4:10)
One of the attributes of God is His perfect holiness. Holiness means to separate from, or set apart. God must set Himself apart from our unholy and sinful nature. (Hebrew 12:14 and Ephesians 2:20-21) Jesus came to us as a fulfillment of God’s love to bring us near to Him. Through our faith in Jesus, we are made holy! (2 Corinthians 5:21)
Father-God loves us so much our Lord provides the path of reconciliation for our unholy nature. Our reconciliation is Jesus! (2 Corinthians 5:18 and Deuteronomy 4:37-38)
You have a Father who loves you and will never forsake you. (Psalm 94:14) The Christmas season is a celebration of God’s love for us, through the birth of His son Jesus. (Luke 2:8-20 and Matthew 2:1-12)
Jesus sets the example of how a husband is to treat his wife and children. (Ephesians 5:25-26, 6:4) No matter our past, we are to model ourselves after our savior Jesus.

Third main point: Christ Jesus is at the center of the Christmas celebration.

All the traditions surrounding Christmas and the holiday season are wonderful. We should wholeheartedly enjoy all of the food, family, parties, trees and trimmings, as long as Jesus stays the primary focus of it all.
We affirm that Christmas is not all about material things or even just family, but remembering Jesus, His birth and the love our Lord has for us.
Purchasing and giving gifts to each other is fun and can be glorifying to God when we know why we are doing it. The gifts and giving represent love and the gift of Jesus’ birth to us.

Conclusion:

The Lord loves you! The Lord will never forsake you, regardless of the situations in your life.
God the Father has sent us the perfect example of love, in His son Jesus.
Remember: Jesus was born, of a virgin birth, “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation” and he came to be with us and provide the path of reconciliation for all of our sins. (Colossians 1:15)

* For the family members depicted in this guide’s opening story, their ending is one of redemption, joy and happiness. The Lord redeemed and restored this family many years ago and in March 2012, the devoted husband lovingly transitioned his bride of almost 40 years to be with our Lord. Here lies a visible example of our Savior’s grace. With that grace and by that grace alone we are redeemed.

Seeker Series, Why… Christian “Intolerance”

toleranceBanner1

​In 2013 a nationwide phone-poll research study was commissioned by now shuttered Mars Hill Church. 913 thousand calls were dialed, 70 thousand conversations occurred and of that, one thousand, twelve minute individual interviews were conducted. This data, taken from the age ranges of 18 to 44, told us that the number one objection if Christianity is that, “it is intolerant”. Significant information from the culture in which we live in, but what is the definition of tolerance? Are we talking about the same concept of toleration of others?

Dictionary from 1828 Webster’s dictionary: TOL’ERANCE, [L. tolerantia, from tolero, to bear.] The power or capacity of enduring; or the act of enduring

Dictionary.com 2013: tol·er·ance, 1. a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one’s own; freedom from bigotry. 2. a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward opinions and practices that differ from one’s own. 3. interest in and concern for ideas, opinions, practices, etc., foreign to one’s own; a liberal, undogmatic viewpoint. 4. the act or capacity of enduring; endurance

• In our modern culture, we have modified the definition of tolerance.

By the definitions above, somewhere the meaning of tolerance has changed. In my own Christian walk, I have always felt this tension, but never understood where it originated. As Christians, the Bible tells to “love our neighbor, as we love ourselves” (Mark 12:31). We our told in our churches, to “go out, and be disciples for Christ” (Matthew 28) and to love people and share the way we view the world, but when we do our culture pushes back. We are told we are wrong, old fashioned, uneducated. Even worse, we are called hateful, raciest and bigoted. Why is this case?

I would argue that it is the changed definition of tolerance (or intolerance) that is a critical diversion of two completely opposing worldviews. As Christians, we are sharing our faith with the assumption that the receiver will understand our message. We take for granted that when sharing the way we view the world; it is received, mentally processed and understood. This is assuming too much.

On one hand, a non-Christian views the world as “getting better”. This view could be traced back to the Enlightenment age, when human achievement through scientific discovery pushed the boundaries of authority. The non-Christian might feel that with further education and self-discovery the world we live in and how we treat one another will continue to improve over the course of time. However, Christians do not view the world under these enlightenment knowledge conditions. Our view can be traced back to Genesis 3 and the “fall of man”. We view that the world is not getting better, but worse. Stated in a theological term, a “total depravity” that stems from a heart that is separated from God. This Christian doctrine of the fall of humankind understands the Bible teaches, as a consequence all people born into the world are morally bankrupt, imprisoned to sin and is, apart from God’s grace unable to follow God or choose to turn to Christ in faith for salvation.

“10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God.” (Romans 3:10-11)

• So where does this new definition of tolerance leave us?

It leaves us with two people, who are literally facing completely opposite directions on how the world works, and how we are to interact with it. Two completely different belief systems, that each seem outlandish and unbelievable to the other. When we share beliefs or worldviews we are assuming the other person views the world as we see it, or at least, close to it. We are not even in the same ballpark!

So, if we are viewing humanity completely differently, where does the tolerance come in? The definition of tolerance, as discussed above, has changed from “capacity of enduring; or the act of enduring”, with someone who has a different viewpoint to “affirming someone” who has a different viewpoint.” When we tolerate we endure, we love, we have patience, we have steadfastness, and sufferance with their opposing viewpoint.

The tolerance definition has moved to full affirmation of the opposing view; anything less you will appear intolerant of the opposing viewpoint. This makes no sense, and goes against the very meaning of the word tolerance. Unfortunately, in our modern culture we now must believe in everything, (or affirm) every belief or run the risk of being labeled hateful, raciest or bigoted. This leaves little room for the Christian to share their worldview of the redeeming offer of salvation in Jesus Christ and further exacerbates the privatization of faith from the public square.

Of course, isn’t the non-Christian being “intolerant” of the Christian worldview? The answer would be yes! It would be a self-refuting statement. A self-refuting statement is defined; “a statement is one that fails to meet its own standard, as an example, I cannot speak a word in English.” Other examples of self-refuting statements are; “You shouldn’t try to convert people.” The non-theist is trying to convert you to their point of view. “It is arrogant to claim to have the truth.” The non-theist is making the claim that they have the truth. “You should be tolerant of all views.” Again, the non-theist is claiming that all views are acceptable, but showing no tolerance to your opposing view. Exactly who are the intolerant groups here?

• What does this mean for me?

As the Bible teaches us throughout Christianity’s history culture has made every attempt to push it to the sidelines. Repeatedly, the truth of the word never fades, never changes, and never fails us as the enduring truth. Christians must continue to lovingly share the gospel, and actively live out their faith, to do anything less is dishonest to ourselves and goes against the gospel. Christians must push back against culture and treat everyone with love and respect. This does NOT mean we should be tolerant of sinful deeds, elicit behavior, or activities that are not grounded in a biblical understanding of the world we all live in. On the other hand, it does mean that we are called to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16) in a world that is desperately searching for meaning and understanding of human nature. The gospel is Jesus Christ is that coherent and tolerant worldview to answer society’s inquiries about itself.

Re-Blog- Five Tips for Leading Your Small Group | TGC

Five Tips for Leading Your Small Group | TGC.

By KEVIN DEYOUNG

As school starts back up, so will plenty of church-sponsored and church-related small groups. Some will study the Bible. Others will read a Christian book together. Almost all will have a designated leader or leaders. While knowing your Bible and having Christlike character are the more important factors, there are also a number of skills which go a long way in leading an effective small group.

1. Communicate early and often, and then follow through.

A good leader is always leading. If you wait until the meeting to lead, it may be too late. In this era of easy communication, there is no reason leaders can’t remind the group of upcoming dates and assignments. Make sure everyone knows what is expected. Conclude every meeting by highlighting what’s next–what should be read? when is the group meeting? where are they meeting? who will be leading the discussion? Then before the next meeting send out a reminder email (or call or text or tweet or Facebook post). People forget. People are lazy. People get busy. People need lots of friendly reminders to stay on task–especially students.

As for the meeting itself, respect people’s time. Get things started promptly and end at the agreed upon time. Sure, emergencies come up. There are exceptions to almost every rule. But people need to know that they can count on you to get the meeting started and ended on time.

Whenever possible, keep things consistent. Changing dates and times almost always leads to dwindling numbers.

Ask people for specific commitments. Don’t do everything yourself. Get someone to bring a snack, another person to organize the upcoming barbecue, and someone else to open in prayer next week. This not only builds up others, it will encourage greater participation. Asking for commitments is better than making a general invitation.

2. Think through your questions ahead of time.

If your group consists of nothing but very mature Christians who have known each other for years you may be able to get away with little preparation. But that’s not the make up of most groups (and if so, it’s probably time to mix things up a little for the sake of newcomers and those just starting out as followers of Christ). Make sure your questions are crisp and clear. If you aren’t sure what you are asking, you can be sure no one else will either.

If the selection you are studying (in the Bible or in a book) is hard to understand, you may need a number of knowledge questions. Don’t make them so obscure that only seminary trained Christians would know the answer. But don’t make them so painfully obvious (e.g., fill in the blank questions) that everyone is embarrassed to venture forth an answer.

Don’t stay at the level of knowledge only. Ask questions which call for analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. Prepare final questions which get at the heart.

Be creative in how you phrase your questions. Don’t just say “What do you think?” or “How do you feel about this?” or even “How can we apply this to our lives?” Ask questions like:

  • What is one thing you want to see change in your life as a result of this study?
  • What new promise can you take with you into the week?
  • What did you learn about God?
  • Where have you seen these things lived out well?
  • How does this relate to the cross?
  • How does this resemble our church for good or for bad?
  • Where is this a struggle for you in your marriage?
  • What do you have a hard time believing in God’s word?

You get the picture. There are hundreds of good questions you can ask on any given week. Few of them will come to you on the spot without any preparation.

3. Be mindful of group dynamics.

Being a leader is much more than opening and closing in prayer. You should do whatever you can to foster a warm, welcoming environment in your group. This means being especially mindful of new people. The 30 minutes of hang out time before the study may be a sheer delight for the old-timers, but for new people it’s bound to feel anxious and awkward. As a leader, you should do whatever you can to make them feel at ease. Ask them questions. Get the group to introduce itself. Have an exercise ready to encourage group sharing. The less people know each other the more structure is needed.

Keep in mind that newcomers may not know your history, your humor, or your theology. I made the mistake once of teasing one of our longtime small group members about not yet being convinced of paedobaptism. It was playful banter between me and these friends, but for the new folks visiting it sent them the (wrong) signal that credobaptists weren’t welcome here. I later apologized and explained that I was only joking with my friends and that we’d love to have them (the new couple) in our group. My bad.

One of the hardest and most important things a leader must do is try to include as many people as possible in group discussion. Obviously, the aim is not to make quiet members feel embarrassed, but often the quiet members simply need to be asked. A good leader won’t allow every discussion to be dominated by the same two or three people. He will specifically call on those who haven’t said much. He may need to gently add from time to time,  “Let me see if anyone else has something to add before I come back to you.”

A good leader will be sensitive to the mood of the group, discerning whether there is hurt, confusion, sadness, or frustration that needs to be addressed. Don’t just play traffic cop. Be a shepherd.

4. Know how to handle conflict.

The worst fear of most small group leaders is that they will be called upon to quell some raging inferno of disagreement. Thankfully, most Christian groups (in my experience) play pretty nice (almost to a fault). Angry conflict is rare, but it does happen. Depending on the circumstances, here are some of the things you may want to say in the midst of disagreement:

  • Sam, it sounds like you are trying to say XYZ. Am I hearing you correctly?
  • Amanda has offered a different interpretation. What do the rest of you think? How should we interpret this verse?
  • I know it’s hard to talk about such a controversial or painful topic, but I don’t think we should we run away from constructive conflict. I’d love to hear what everyone else is thinking.
  • This is an important discussion, but it’s not really involving the whole group. It would be great if the two of you could get together and continue the conversation at a different time.
  • It sounds like I may have done something to upset you. Why don’t we talk about it after the meeting is done?
  • Guys, I’m happy for us have disagreement in this group. But that sounded personal. Let’s try to be gentle even when we are passionate.

There may be times where the leader needs to be even more direct. You may have to shut down the conversation, explicitly correct a wrong interpretation, or reprove someone for speaking in a harsh and unedifying way. While we don’t want hot-headed leaders who make conflict worse, neither can we afford passive “leaders” who put their own people-pleasing and fear of man above the good of the whole group.

5. Plan for prayer.

If you expect prayer to just happen it will only barely happen. There is nothing wrong with 60 seconds of prayer to begin and end a meeting, if that’s your plan. Just to know that without preparation, that’s what will almost always happen. Effective times of prayer–whether short or long–take intentional planning. Are you going to ask for prayer requests? If so, how will ensure your “prayer” time is not all sharing with almost no praying? What are prayer requests from previous weeks that need follow up? How long do you want the prayer to be? How many people are you hoping will pray?

Leading in prayer requires clear direction. Don’t be afraid to call on certain individuals to pray (usually not newcomers). Remind people that their prayers can be short (in fact, you may want to encourage them to be short). Guide people through different topics (family, church, nation, world, etc.). If your prayer time is generally brief, consider setting aside a meeting every few months for nothing but prayer. We’ve often done this in our group, usually separating men and women for these most extended times of sharing and prayer.

The biggest difference between a small group that is spiritually, relationally, and biblically edifying and one that feels like an awkward waste of time is leadership. Good leaders do not always get good followers. But it almost never happens that you get good small groups without faithful, wise, skilled men and women to lead them.

Re-Blog- Simon Sinek on Leadership – TED2014 – YouTube

I don’t agree with Simon’s worldview, but I like his thoughts and his critical thinking process regarding these problems.

Watch the video and consider what Jesus taught during his ministry about leadership and serving others.

I found this video helpful.

Simon Sinek on Leadership – TED2014 – YouTube

Enjoy.

Whiteboarding our Faith- An interactive, discussion…

Canyon Creek introduces Whiteboarding our Faith- Every 4th Wednesday night at the Everett Campus.

Whiteboard Christianity is a freethinking, interactive, discussion forum that is open to all.

Have friends that do not believe in God, bring them! Have friends that believe another religion or another denomination, bring them too!

Each session will contain great conversation where we will wrestle with the essential questions of life and grow stronger in our faith.

Only one rule: All people are respected and in the end, we may not all agree, but we will still be great friends!

Get engaged and come join a session!  September 25th,October 23rd, and November 20th , 7:00pm at the Everett campus café.
whiteboard the faith