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I like to read, a lot. I wasn’t always this way though. My parents are both vivacious readers, reading several books a week coupled with their favorite magazines. Growing up we watched very little television. I’m glad this was the case. However, while growing up I hated it. I thought it was so boring to sit and read and I didn’t see the enjoyment in it that my mother and father did. However, as I’ve gotten older I’ve learned to love reading.

USA Today recently ran an article about Bible reading plans and resolutions. The truth is that we live in a post-book society. Podcasts, e-books, and books on tape/cd are slowly but surely replacing printed books. Many Christian literature companies have exploited this trend by providing the Bible on cd and in other electronic formats. Either way, we Christians admit that the Bible is big. It’s a somewhat daunting task to read through the entire Bible. There are parts of the Bible that assume we have knowledge about certain customs, cultures, and history that we may not have. There are prophecies that are hard to understand on first glance. However, this is not sufficient enough reason or excuse to not read the Bible. There is no other book you’ll ever pick up that is as important as the Bible.

So, why not read the Bible through in 2010. You can Google reading plans and find several different formats. Some read straight through from Genesis to Revelation, some combine Old Testament readings with New Testament readings and Psalms. I prefer the latter approach, where I’m reading the Old Testament, Psalms/Proverbs, and the New Testament all at once. I find that this helps me to read something “fresh” every day. Whatever works for you is the route you should pursue but for goodness sake, pursue one! Our society, including Christians, are very biblically illiterate. This is a shame. You want to grow closer to your God? Read his word, it’s a gift and not a right.

There are many worthwhile holidays: MLK Jr. Day, Independence Day, Veteran’s Day, Hanukkah, Love your pastor day (I made that one up but dang it, it should be a holiday!), etc., and yet, it’s Christmas that year after year keeps its luster. While we’ve done our best to rape it of all religious meaning and exploit it for our commercial advantage, there’s still the element of Christmas that seldom makes the news: worship. All around the world people gathered on Christmas Eve and Christmas day and worshiped. Some came in massive crowds, some simply sat around their Christmas tree with the family and read the Christmas story. This is what’s charming about Christmas. I can go on a spending spree any day of the year (assuming I have the money), what I don’t get to do all year is worship with my family and community and celebrate the birth of the Christ-child. Or do I?

As a pastor, I intentionally exploit the Christmas cheer that comes with the season. The good mood that my church family and community seems to settle into this time of year, gives me the perfect opportunity to challenge them to do something for the poor and destitute. I try to challenge them all year long, but Christmas affords me ample opportunity to drive the point home. Christ was born poor, lived poor, worked among the poor, and died poor. He had no place to be born and no place to be buried. Christ taught extensively about the poor. There has to be some reason for all of this…perhaps we are to be cognizant of the poor and actively help them with our resources. Going to the poor and reading Scripture to them is a nice sentiment but does nothing for their growling stomach. No one wants to listen to someone who doesn’t care for their physical needs. So…what’s so charming about Christmas? The fact that we’re reminded that in the midst of a consumer driven society, we don’t have to spend our money on things. The fact that while all others may use this day for family fellowship (and this is certainly appropriate), we can also spend time with the family we’ve never met at our local soup kitchen, help center, etc. I only say this because I truly believe that it’s exactly how Jesus would spend this holiday, if his birthday had been a celebration when he were living.

I hate cliché Christian slogans. “1 Cross + 3 Nails=4given”. Ugh, corny alert! “My God is a Jewish carpenter.” Really? If you’re referring to Jesus that doesn’t quite cut it. But there is one phrase I find myself using quite often, “We serve a big God.” I always assume people know what I mean by that, but I thought I would share some thoughts on that statement. In Matthew 28:18-20, the climax of the entire gospel, Jesus says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”

That’s a big statement to make, but Scripture backs him up. Our view of God is utterly too small. The “God is my buddy” theology that most of us carry around just doesn’t cut it, and honestly, does thinking of God as just another buddy make you feel better? I don’t need another buddy, I need a God who is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. (Omni means “all”). Scriptures claim that God is the overseer of the entire cosmos from Big Bang to the Big Shrink. Next time you start to feel like you serve an impotent God, remember that you’re talking about the one who put the entire cosmos into motion and makes blood flow from your heart to your brain which fires synapses which give off neurological commands that make you breath, this isn’t a small feat by a small God, this is everything and it comes from a Big God.

Martin Luther, the great Protestant Reformer, had what he called a theologia crucis, or “theology of the cross”. Luther claimed that God can best be understood and experienced in those things that seem utterly natural or even mundane. It’s often difficult to look around us and see dirty dishes that need to be washed, housework that needs to be completed, and a mounting pile of work that needs to be finished and think, “Thank you God for being here with me.” In fact, God becomes the furthest thing from our conscience. But our thinking is flawed. Consider this fact, Jesus chose to reveal his glory not in earthly kingdoms, wealth, or power, but in a foolish, disgraceful cross. As Jesus hung bleeding, half naked from that cross, enduring ridicule, cursing, and slander…he was beautiful and omnipotent.

Look at the dirt that gathers under your fingernails when you work outside or even in your home. Our fingernails give us better grip, power, and can be used as tools. They serve a purpose. God gave us fingernails because he loves us (see if that will preach). So when we’re working with our hands and they become messy, we can see the intricacy of God’s creation. The same God that created the universe and sustains the heavens also gave me fingernails so I can open a Coca Cola, scratch an itch, or dig in the dirt. Thank you God for the dirt under my fingernails.

Hi friends. Blogging is a medium of communication that allows a person to put his or her thoughts on the world wide web. Like all of you, I often have ideas pop up in my head. Some are great, some are terrible. Nevertheless, I want to share them with you and I want to hear what’s going on in your head. I’m a pastor. One aspect of pastoring is articulating the endless mysteries and intricacies of Almighty God to people in a manner that’s accessible and applicable. Not an easy task. But I hope that this blog helps with the process. So welcome! Make yourself at home and leave a comment.