Today is Cyber Monday. Cyber Monday is the Monday after Black Friday, and Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving that marks the beginning of the madness of Christmas shopping. Cyber Monday is the largest day of ordering on line for the holidays.
Can you see a pattern? Both of these days are about SHOPPING. Our over-heated consumerism has turned Christmas into a mall marathon! And at the end of this marathon of madness we are exhausted and broke. No wonder January is known as the most depressing month of the year!
It doesn’t have to be this way. We can get off the treadmill. We don’t have to get sucked into this vortex of confusion and disappointment. Okay, how? First, focus on the central meaning of Christmas—the birth of Jesus. The main thing of Christmas is to experience the birth of Christ in your life—period! Nothing is more important than that! No gift—no matter how cool—can replace the significance of His presence in your life. So, can we agree to actually enjoy the holidays? Enjoy your friends and your family. Laugh and catch up on all of the stories. But focus on Jesus—His birth is what gives meaning to the rest of the year.
As I have said many times before, “The good news of Christianity is not that we can get to God, but that in Christ Jesus, God has come to us.”
God engages us. He initiates this divine encounter where He, in a myriad of ways, reveals Himself to us. We live our lives in response to God’s revelation of Himself and thus, we live our lives in worship. Worship—our response to encountering God—drives every aspect of our lives.
Our families are placed under His lordship. Every aspect of our lives reflects the worship of God. Even discipleship—or perhaps, especially discipleship—reflects worship.
Worship makes us curious.
When Moses saw the burning bush he went over to the bush to see just what was going on. Paul tells us he spent three years in Arabia struggling after his conversion. The divine encounter drives us to know more about this God who has confronted us with His love. We open our Bibles and retrace the story of God and His world. We read the stories of people just like us who have been caught up in the revelation of God’s Being.
I know some people who consider Bible study to be boring and tedious.Because for them, Bible study is about information, not a Person. To open the Bible is to pull up close to a conversation between God and His people. As we follow this conversation, we observe more about God, ourselves and the world we live in. That, of course, is exciting and that drives us back to worship—which then, drives us back to discipleship.
Our worship drives us even higher. Our discipleship drives us even deeper. Such is the vastness of our God. He is beyond our knowing, and this means we are continually discovering something new about Him. This alone keeps our discipleship constantly fresh and exciting.
Every story begins the same way—God shows up. Abraham, Hagar, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Hannah, David, Solomon, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Daniel, Jeremiah, Mary, Peter, John, James, Paul and all the rest—their stories all begin with some kind of divine encounter, with some moment that begins with “And the Lord appeared.”
Everything that is an act of faith is done in reaction and response to God’s appearance to us. God initiated the relationship with us and we respond. Even when we find ourselves searching for God it is only because He has created a hunger in us that only He can fill.
When God appears to us, our story begins. He does not come to us just to sit with us, but to call us to a journey. The closer we follow, the more we understand. The more we understand, the more we worship. The more we worship the closer we follow. Worship puts God in the center of our lives and the gravity of His glory holds everything else in its rightful orbit.
Some critics accuse Christianity of being an escapist religion. We get so “heavenly minded” that we are of no “earthly good.” I guess there is some validity to their criticism. Sometimes we can become irrelevant to the world around us, arguing the minutia of our theology. And sometimes our longing for heaven allows us to overlook the needs around us.
But honestly, that is a shallow understanding of Jesus’ teachings. The great commandment—love God, love others, love yourself—has in it an implicit command to love those around you. In fact, you really can’t love God without loving others. The fullness of God can’t be contained in a single life. As the love of God flows into us it will continue to fill us until it runs through us.
In a most telling moment, Peter wanted James, John and Jesus to stay on the mountain after the transfiguration. But Jesus sent them down from the mountain back to the valley where the people were. Waiting on them was a desperate father crying, “Help my unbelief” and his demon possessed son.
Ecstatic worship experiences are good, and they can serve as defining moments of life. However, we serve a God who moves. Jesus, His Son, is just like the Father. He never lets you stay in one place too long. You have to go back. Sheep get lost. The enemy attacks. If you follow Jesus, He will always call you back.