Monday, December 22, 2008

Presents Vs. Presence

As Christmas is now only days away and most everyone has purchased their gifts that will be given, I have a simple question for you. “What is it that you are giving… to your friends, to your sons, to your daughters?” Got it in your head? Good. I talk with strangers, acquaintances, family and friends, many who claim to be Believers, followers of Christ - all awaiting Christmas mornings arrival to give gifts of all kinds. I wonder, as children gather beside the tree, what will unfold before their eyes as the paper and bows are tossed about? I’m talking to you, self-proclaimed follower of Christ. I’m talking to you, Christian parent, what world are you unveiling to your children?

I will preface all that I will say with this – my wife and I have no children. But you know what we do have? The Spirit of the LORD living within us – flourishing. He has called us to holiness, out of this world and all of its desires. We live lives that consist of even fussing at each other frequently about the realities of living a life worthy of Christ’s sacrifice. We will accept no substitutes and tolerate nothing that opposes the furthering of holiness and righteousness before the LORD. With that being said, if we had children, we know, without one doubt or question, he/she would be raised quite differently than the majority of the children we encounter. Yes, it would be difficult. Yes, it would make waves. Yes, it would be hard to explain to the child at times. But, above all else, I’m confident to say that we would value holiness and correct approaches in regard to worldly things, according to the Word of God. It is far more important to value righteousness than to be accepted and approved in the eyes of men.

Now, back to my questions -I ask you brother, sister in the LORD, what will your son, your daughter be unwrapping this year? Will it be something that draws them deeper into the world? Will it be something that will consume even more of their time that is already spent on earthly things? Will it be something that caters to a new level of their flesh? Will it further the advancement of the Kingdom of God in their lives? Will it assist in establishing holiness and purity before the LORD? Will it root them deeper in the realities of the Word of God?

I can already hear many of you asking, “Well what are they supposed to do? Stay holed up in their room reading the Bible all day?” For starters, I’m not some legalistic anti-fun kind of guy. I’m not saying to have Bible Study for three hours every night, I’m saying do you sit down with your spouse and discuss the spiritual issues that face you and your family? Example: You’re at the mall and you see the latest thing that every child on the planet would love to have. Your coworkers son is getting one this year - you’ve even heard them bragging about splurging on it for their child. You look at your spouse and say, “Well, you know, we can afford it this year. Why not? His feelings will be hurt if he doesn’t get one and all of his friends do. Let’s do it – he’ll love it.” Where does one stop and look deeper? Where do the heads of the Christian families stop and assess the spiritual side to this? Do they ask questions like “What is at the heart of this gift? What is it saying spiritually? Does it have any ‘hidden agenda’ that I should take the time to look into?” Does anyone do this???

Let’s get real specific , shall we? Rock Band – innocent fun for kids, right? After all, it’s just good fun! Is it? Oh, so it’s OK I guess to have your entire family play along to AC/DC’s songs about hell (among other things)? That stupid Walmart commercial that brags about how “Rock Band brought my family together for the first time” makes me want to throw up! What about its predecessor, Guitar Hero? Of course it’s harmless – it’s just a fake guitar and some cool technology! Really? I played it about a year ago… for about five minutes and turned it off. It was one of the most demonic things I’ve ever seen in mainstream “entertainment” – I didn’t even want it in my house. I can hear many of you moan and groan already! “Ohhhh come on now, you MUST be kidding, right?” Not in the slightest! If you think that “selling your soul to the devil” to become a “rock god” is all in good fun, then I dare say you even know the definition of holiness. I don’t know which is worse, those who don’t even know about the underlying themes or those who know and just don’t care. To all who are reading this who claim to be in Christ, I dare say you have any intimacy with the LORD if you take part in this kind of stuff and are OK with it. Is this tough love? You’d better believe it is! But if you know the LORD and walk according to the Spirit that indwells you, these things are seen as plain as day!

How about another hot holiday gift that is reportedly flying off the shelves this year - the book Twilight will be unwrapped by many a teen within the next few days. Of course it’s already all over the place due to the blockbuster movie, but now the book sales are skyrocketing. Christian parents who are giving your child books for Christmas – have you read them from cover to cover? Do you know what will be going into your child for the rest of their days? Perhaps an excerpt from a mainstream review of the book Twilight might help make my point. “Although Bella was inexplicably attracted to him even when she thought Edward drank human blood, she is much relieved to learn that his family chooses to abstain from drinking human blood, and drink animal blood instead. Edward reveals that he initially avoided Bella because the scent of her blood was so desirable. Over time, Edward and Bella fall in love. While there is no sexual activity portrayed in the book, it really does ooze with a kind of teen sexuality. The book is, at its heart, the story of a young girl’s sexual awakening. The most explicit sexuality is found in a brief discussion between Edward and Bella where they talk about whether they desire one another in that way and whether Bella has ever been with another boy. The quiet sensuality is far more pervasive and, I would suggest, far more powerful. There is scene after scene where Edward and Bella gently stroke one another, softly and slowly running their hands over each other’s bodies, exploring, pressing their heads against each other’s chests to hear their hearts pounding, feeling electric shocks as their fingers touch flesh, twisting and cavorting with their lips on one another’s faces and necks.”

So “Christian” parents, when your child unwraps this book Christmas morning, be sure to remember that this is what you’re choosing to give to your impressionable child that you are attempting to raise up in the LORD. What is my point of including this? You are responsible – you are their covering. You are the head under Christ and you will be held accountable - know what it is you are giving your children!

This could go on for days – Wii’s that people will literally kill another person over… HD TV’s that cost thousands… gadgets to meet every gluttonish need… designer clothes... bigger! Better! More, more, more! All for what? Call me a prude. Call me over-zealous. Call me boring - I just really don’t even care anymore. I am finally becoming willing to be mocked by all, if that’s what it takes to declare the need for holiness and righteousness in this age.

So, Christian, what will you do? Are you in love with the ways of this world? Are you hot, cold or are you riding the fence of mediocrity? Do you even know, according the the Word of God? It is time for real Believers to be Ambassadors for Christ. It is time for those who profess with their mouths to know God to establsih His presence above all else via a lifestyle of holiness. I am growing more and more weary of so-called Christians living EXACTLY like the world. If you want to live as the world, then go ahead, but stop dragging Christ into it by saying you are His representative on this earth! World, you can have your temporal garbage, I’m not interested.

Presents versus Presence... who wins in your household?

“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.’” 1 Peter 1:14-16


Anonymous said...

Both my sons and I are going to airbrush at a nearby ministry that will be giving toys to children in need. We will be airbrushing t-shirts for them at no charge. It was my son's idea. It is an honor to give back to God the talent He has given to us. We are exchanging small gifts. Gifts are given because we honor and love people. Gifts were given to Christ, expensive gifts I might add. Jesus can be celebrated, and should be celebrated everyday.

Anonymous said...

Wow - that Twilight stuff is scary - I had no idea. You're right, we are responsible for what we allow our children to hear and see. Even as Christian adults in general, we're the ones who should exercise spiritual maturity and know what we're endorsing by the way we live our lives. Good check Joel - thanks.


NINA said...

Every year on Christmas Eve our family has a tradition. We give Jesus a gift. The kids love it. Someone may offer up a watch and say that they are gonna give Jesus more time. Someone may offer their talent, like sing a song, poetry etc. My son knows that Jesus was not born on December 25, but this is the time that people choose to celebrate his birth. The funny part about it is that my son brought it to my attention one year. He said "if it is Jesus Birthday why do we get the presents?" ("And a little child shall lead them.") I felt like a fool.Therefore he knows not to expect a lot of gifts. I always save the gift giving for January 27th which is my son's birthday. My family gives him gifts and I used to, but then I realized one year when I did not go out of my way for presents and decorating because I could not afford it that the season was not peaceful to me.I would stress myself out trying to meet someone else's standard. At first I was devastated because of my finances, but it turned out to be one of my best Christmas' and my son loved it.We did quality things together and I was expecting him to have a fit. He didn't. It was as if he did not notice it. And so the tradition began. I think sometimes as parents we can make a bigger deal out of things that it is.If it is Jesus Birthday why should I go broke buying other people's gifts anyway. I celebrate my son on his birthday and when he accomplishes something great like honor roll.(which happens alot by the way(smile))Besides, by then all the prices have dropped!! LOL My sister calls me the Grinch and my mom calls me selfish. But nobody will call me broke!!Cuz it ain't happening!!

Joel Spencer said...

Anonymous: Great ideas! May we be found all year through giving of ourselves in such a manner - giving our best!

Mark: Good point regarding spiritual maturity. It is up to us to set the goldy example in our everyday lives.

Joel Spencer said...

Nina: You referred to your son asking, "If it's Jesus' birthday why do we get the presents?" may just the be the BEST question I've ever heard regarding this season!

Is it not the epitome of mankind? We have made absolutely EVERYTHING about us. I don't think I mentioned this last month, but I found that the original Thanksgiving celebrations were fasts, not feasts. The settlers took on others traditions and began to indulge in gluttonish self... and here we are today, doing the exact same thing!

May your sons questions resound to the depths of us as we go through the rest of our days.

Anonymous said...

I see the point of your blog. I am sure that mature believers can discern a video game where you sell your soul to the devil.

Now i know that isn't "good" and there are evil things int he world.
As for our kids, i don't know i don't have any and so i am unqualified. But i feel certain that if you instill in your children the attitude of serving others. That serving others is very important. Weather it be volunteering or having the kid pick out the toys for donations.
I think that showing our youth the power of sowing good things without expectation of reaping anything is what we are lacking as a society.

My parents didn't show me that per say. But my mom did show me that i shouldn't rely on the world. As an adult i rely on God to give me what i need. I have also learned the humbleness serving others gives you. I am not saying we should all give our money to the poor. All live in boxes or anything. Serving can be anything from leveraging our talents to help shine a light to Jesus.
Doing what we have been given talents to Glorify him is true serving, and a true servant attitude.

The more you are given the more responisibility you have to do the most. But if you have little and don't try to use what God gave you why should you recieve more.

I know i went on some sort of a rant. But i think that this world needs to understand that serving people, without our own interests in mind is a great way to change the "being of the world" mantality.

Merry Christmas

Anonymous said...

"He has called us to holiness, out of this world and all of its desires. We live lives that consist of even fussing at each other frequently about the realities of living a life worthy of Christ’s sacrifice. We will accept no substitutes and tolerate nothing that opposes the furthering of holiness and righteousness before the LORD... It is far more important to value righteousness than to be accepted and approved in the eyes of men."

Joel, again what a wonderful post. We are definitely on the same journey, being called to a life of holiness!!! Earlier this year Father told me not to buy presents, and I told everyone I wouldn't be buying, nor did we want to receive any. Having made this decision we now find ourselves in the financial position where my husband has been reduced from a 5 day week to a 4 day week and no way would we be getting into debt just to buy presents anyway.

I wont compromise my relationship with Father for anything. Yes it does mean denying myself, but isn't that what Jesus told us to do. More and more things that I used to be ok with have now been taken away - the road gets narrower the further on we go, but I wouldn't have it any other way.


Mike and Barb said...

My family and I do not celebrate the pagan holiday. God has spoken in his word exactly how he feels about pagan worship (even if your intensions are good) and therefore my children know the truth and we teach them from those lessons. Its a hot button issue when bringing this up. We are not to be like the world. Christmas is pagan to the core. It is not about Christ. Christ was never in Christmas and tradition has taught us wrong. Its hard to believe but if you do the research and pray I assure you God will lead you to truth. As far as your message Joel, I think it was a powerful one. It needs to be heard. I had no idea about the Twilight book either but I agree Scary and sadly many will buy their children the book and not even be aware of the content just like the Harry Potter books,movies,etc to name another. I am so glad to see others stand up and make a stand against these things. Thanks for the blog Joel. May God Bless You In Your Studies and Walk.

Joel Spencer said...

the hoov<: I'm with ya. YOu brought up and entirely new topic, but I'm with you nonetheless! :)

Valerie: I like the way you think. Perhaps my wife and I could fly out to Ireland and hang out. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us here.

Mike and Barb: While you're definitely farther down the road than me regarding Christmas, I can surely see where you're coming from. It is just like most every other facet of Christianity - it is something done but nobody really even knows why. That's why we choose to praise the name of Emmanuel daily - He has become our entire lives!

As always, thansk for your input!

Brian said...

Thanks for blogging for the glory of Christ.

grace and peace,

Anonymous said...

Hubby and I determined before we had children that we would not do Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy routine - why? Because if we did we would at one time have to tell our child we lied to them about all of it. We felt it would cause the child to think we had made up everything regarding Jesus too - so we stuck to what was real. We were and are careful as to what we've bought and watched (and there are still things I deeply regret opening doors to). Presence or presents - I choose Him.


Anonymous said...

I know the purpose of the blog wasnt' to "expose" anything, but I cannot believe that is what all of this Twilight stuff is all about. I'm appalled to know of how many of my Christian friends children have got this book this year. Why do we even bother calling ourselves Christians is we live just like the world?

Convicted and irritated...


Joel Spencer said...

Brian: Thanks for your interest and input!

Lillium: I'm with you! May compromise at ANY level be tolerated no longer within the Body.

Connie: It is time to live lives worthy of the name of Christ. As I just stated, no compromises! Each one opens greater doors to deceit.

Yvonne said...

Wow! I'm impressed! : ) and double smiles...