Archive for December, 2014

Today’s guest blogger is my wife Kim, who discusses how the words “Christmas” and “Arabia” could once be used in the same sentence when she lived in the Middle East more than 40 years ago.  This post has become a Christmas tradition on this blog.  Ah, the magic and romance of the desert …

It seems so long ago.  The years were 1965-1970.  It was Christmas in Saudi Arabia, where my parents were missionaries to the Bedouin people in the desert.

We lived about 100 miles from the now beautiful, modern city of Dubai.

Dubai, May 2011

49 years ago, we traveled by open land rover on non-existing roads surrounded by sand dunes.  It took about 10 hours to travel 100 miles.

Several years ago, I went back to visit where I lived.  I took a taxi to the hospital where we used to work and it only took 1 hour and 15 minutes.  What a difference!

When the Arabs asked me why I was visiting, I told them, “I lived here 46 years ago.”  With amazement, they said, “There was nothing here.”  I said, “You are exactly right.”

In Front of Oasis Hospital, Where Her Father Worked in the 1960s

In Front of Oasis Hospital, Where Her Father Worked in the 1960s

Every year at Christmas time, my brothers, sisters and I came home from boarding school, either in Pakistan or India.  It was only at Christmas time that I saw my parents each year.  I counted every day for months when it was time to go home.  Home was where we had no homework and no strict schedules for two months.

We would get together with friends on the compound.  We hiked, cooked, played games, played tricks on each other, and saw our pets (cats, dogs, gazelles, goats, a donkey, a fox, and a hedgehog).

Sometimes we slept outside up on high beds to keep snakes and scorpions away.  We would wake up in the morning hearing camels eating our dried palm leaf fence.

Life was simple.  We would run around without shoes, help in the hospital, read books, listen to good music, and sit around and just talk.  I loved the simplicity.

When it came to getting a Christmas tree, we were creative.  We chose a thorn bush and brought it home to decorate.  We had fun adorning the tree with popcorn.  We wanted more decorations so we took Kotex and tore it apart to make snow with cotton.  I wasn’t sure my mom was very happy with us.

We learned to make taffy, pulling and pulling until we had a sweet, sticky treat.

But my best memory was camping in the desert.  I remember always having a sinus infection but I was determined to go – so I bundled up and went camping.  Being in the desert at night under a clear sky, you could see every star.  You could see the campfire for miles.  You were surrounded by sand dunes and the sound of nothing.  It was peaceful and quiet.

It must have been how the shepherds, Joseph, and Mary felt when Jesus was born.

Our Christmas service was held outside at night.  The glowing of candles and far off lights made the desert romantic and magical.  I was asked to play the organ and everyone from the compound came and sang Christmas carols.  This was my gift to Jesus.

Oh, the simplicity of Christmas!

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Alex Trebek was not happy.

The thirty-year host of the TV game show Jeopardy was hosting Kids Week on the program during the first week in December.

One of the contestants ended up $1400 in the red, and according to show rules, she couldn’t compete in Final Jeopardy.

Trebek said to the girl: “We have bad news for you, because you’re in a negative situation, it means you won’t be around for Final Jeopardy, but you’ll automatically pick up $1000 for a third place finish.”

The girl was visibly upset and ran backstage.

The girl’s mother later wrote a letter to Sony, the show’s producers: “If he had taken the time, he would have known, like you do, that my daughter is not a sore loser, and does not become emotional solely over losing a game,” she wrote. “She was upset about not being able to completely play the game to the end… I don’t think I’ll ever forgive him for that.”

Trebek was accused of not making a credible effort to make the girl feel better and was asked to re-tape the moment right before the girl became upset and ran backstage.

Pastors go through this stuff all the time.

During my first pastorate, I was reading William Manchester’s biography of General Douglas MacArthur called American Caesar.  I discovered that I knew next to nothing about MacArthur or his accomplishments … like writing Japan’s constitution after World War 2 ended.

During one sermon, I selected an illustration from the book, a story where the Americans won and the Japanese lost.

A young couple attended our church.  The wife was Caucasian … and her husband looked Caucasian.

His wife later told me that he was part Japanese, part Caucasian … and that because of my story, he probably wouldn’t be coming back to the church.

How could I know that he was part Japanese … and how could I know that my story might offend him?

From the beginning of my pastoral ministry, I wrote out my sermons word for word, and then discarded my manuscript as much as I could.

I realize this style isn’t in fashion nowadays because congregations expect their pastors to speak without notes.

But one reason I chose to write out my messages was because I had time to think through how to say what I wanted to say so I would offend the fewest possible people.

But just like Alex Trebek, a pastor never knows when he’s going to say something offensive … or who is going to be offended.

My wife runs a preschool in our home with about 25 kids attending at various times.  She can say the exact same thing in the same way to 24 kids and they’ll comply, but the 25th child will burst into tears.

Should she then aim her directives toward the 24 kids or the one kid who is overly sensitive?

And should a pastor speak to the congregation as a whole or change his language so some people won’t be offended?

I once heard Bill Hybels from Willow Creek Church say that about 15% of his congregation might be classified as dysfunctional, while the other 85% were pretty healthy people.  (This was at least twenty years ago, so the percentage of dysfunctional people might be higher now.)  Hybels believed that a pastor should direct his message toward the 85% and direct the 15% toward counseling.

How does that sound to you?

Pastors have two choices when it comes to preaching: they can speak in a politically and emotionally correct way … in which case they won’t say much at all … or they can be themselves before God and just let it fly.

But it’s not just up to the pastor, but up to the church board as well.

If the church board backs the pastor’s right to say whatever he wants before God … even if some don’t always agree with him … that pastor’s ministry can flourish.

But if the board demands that the pastor speak in such a way that he doesn’t offend the wrong people … that pastor’s ministry may not succeed because he’ll always wonder if he’s offending somebody by what he says.

During my last ministry, I said something in a message that really upset one couple.  They complained to the church board and wanted my head.

The board chairman listened to a recording of my message, felt I didn’t say anything wrong, and told the couple just that.

They didn’t stop their crusade against me until they left the church … livid … but I felt supported, and free to continue to say whatever God wanted me to say.

In the end, Alex Trebek wrote the following words to the show’s producers: “If you all think I should retape the opening, I will.  But I want to say that for 30 years I’ve defended our show against attacks inside and out.  But it doesn’t seem to operate both ways.  When I’m vilified, corporate (and certainly legal) always seems to say ‘don’t say anything and it’ll blow over,’ and I’m not feeling support from the producers, and that disappoints the _______ out of me.”

As a former pastor for 36 years, I understand where the Jeopardy host is coming from.

When you’re attacked, if you sense support from those you account to, you’ll forge ahead with greater confidence and boldness.

But if those you account to collapse on you when you’re attacked, your morale will plunge, and you’ll start looking for a way out … which is why Alex Trebek ended his statement by saying, “Maybe it’s time for me to move on.”

My favorite verse on preaching is John 1:17: “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

Fundamentalists focus on speaking the truth … but often without grace.

Liberals focus on speaking with grace … but usually have little to say.

But biblical pastors prioritize truth in content … and grace in presentation.

And those are the ministries that make it to Final Jeopardy.




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I once sat in the office of a Christian leader who viewed himself as being extremely important and powerful.  Arrogance oozed from every pore.

During our conversation, he took a stack of letters and began to sign them.  I felt worthless in his eyes … and tried to leave as soon as possible.

For some reason, I wasn’t surprised when I later heard that his wife divorced him.

Another time, my wife and I were invited to the home of some casual friends so we could spend an evening with their new minister.

The night with the pastor was a disaster.

All he did was talk about himself.  He showed zero interest in me or my wife.  He was on stage, delivering a soliloquy, and we were expected to listen and applaud.

Many, if not most, Christian leaders know how to treat people well.  It’s a crucial part of their calling and position.

But, sad to say, this isn’t true of every Christian leader.

Let me share five ways that Christian leaders treat people well:

First, Christian leaders show a genuine interest in others.

When leaders are talking to others, they look at them … listen carefully to them … and seek to understand where they’re coming from.

I recently met a pastor right after a church service.  I told him that I knew a friend of his, and he immediately took out his business card, wrote his phone number on it, asked me to call him, and engaged in several minutes of conversation.

He made me feel important.

His church is healthy and growing, even though it’s in a city corner.

When a Christian leader shows an interest in others, they tend to reciprocate.

Second, Christian leaders demonstrate concern for everybody.

I once knew a Christian leader who prided himself on ministering to wealthy people.  He surrounded himself with people with money … but had little time for people who were poor.

His bias toward the wealthy was noticed and commented upon by others.  If you had money, the pastor would try and befriend you.  If you didn’t … forget it.

But Jesus noticed everybody and anybody around him.  While he paid attention to wealthy people like Nicodemus and Zacchaeus, he also had time for lepers, the blind, and the lame.

A loving leader shows Jesus’ concern for widows … those without jobs … kids in the youth group … those who are “odd” … and those who feel lonely.

I’m not saying that a leader has to spend an equal amount of time with everyone, but that it’s important to treat everybody well.

Third, Christian leaders learn as many names as they can.

During my teens, I attended a medium-sized church.  I listened to my pastor preach twice every Sunday and became a member.

My senior year in high school, I became president of the youth group, and then went to a Christian college.

And every Sunday as I shook the pastor’s hand at the door, he would say the same thing to me:

“Hi, guy.”

It bothered me that my pastor didn’t know my name.  Maybe he did, and forgot it after every sermon … but I’m not so sure.

It’s not easy to do – and a pictorial directory helps – but Christian leaders need to learn people’s names

I once heard Rick Warren say that he knew the names of the first 3,000 people who attended Saddleback Church … and that included children and youth.

Dr. Charles Feinberg, who taught at my seminary for many years, had an incredible ability to remember names.  The last time I saw him, he asked about my wife by name, even though he had never met her personally.  I understand that Jerry Falwell acted the same way.

You have to be relaxed to remember names.  Leaders who are experiencing stress can’t remember their own names, much less anyone else’s!

Fourth, Christian leaders should always correct people in person.

Several months ago, I met a pastor who told me he was fired … via email.  The church board that fired him were obviously COWARDS.

Leaders who treat people well don’t document dissatisfaction with those they are trying to correct via email or letters.  (The revelation of emails from current SONY executives should make this obvious.)

When leaders need to have a tough conversation, they make the time to speak face-to-face with the person whose performance they’re unhappy with.

When I was a pastor, and I was unhappy with something a staff member or volunteer did, I did my best to speak with them with dignity and respect … which meant loving them enough to speak with them directly and personally.

And if a leader can’t or won’t do that, in my view, then they shouldn’t be a leader at all.

Case in point: one could argue that Mars Hill Church in Seattle … which hosted 14,000 people per weekend last January … is dissolving by January 1, 2015 because Pastor Mark did not treat the people around him well.

When a leader who claims to be serving Christ treats people like dirt, that leader is not only sowing the seeds of his own demise, but may very well be sowing the seeds of his church’s destruction as well.

Finally, Christian leaders take their promises seriously.

When they say they’ll return a phone call, they call you.

When they say they’ll meet you for lunch, they meet you.

When they say they’ll pray for you, they pray for you.

When they say they’ll send you a book, they send it.

I understand emergencies.  I understand forgetfulness.  I understand pressure, and exhaustion, and a full schedule.

But Christian leaders need to be people of their word.

Those whose word is good often lead thriving congregations.

Those whose word doesn’t count don’t tend to have much impact.

Tonight I’m going to play Santa Claus for some preschoolers.  (They all know me, so I hope nobody figures out who Santa is.)

With each child, I’m going to ask them their name … ask them what they want for Christmas … try and understand their desires … and not overpromise anything.

I’ve seen a lot of Santas in my time, and I haven’t seen a “bad Santa” yet.

Let’s pray that Jesus’ leaders take a cue from Santa and treat people well.









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There is an assumption among many Christians that when a pastor … staff member … board member … or churchgoer remains perpetually hurt about something, this is an indication that that person is bitter.

And as long as they’re bitter, we’re told, they can’t be right with God, they’re automatically divisive, and good Christians should avoid them until they repent.

As proof, Christians like to quote Hebrews 12:15, which says, “See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”

The phrase “no bitter root” is translated “root of bitterness” in other translations.

I’ve met bitter Christians, and you probably have as well … and we’ve all been bitter in our own lives at times.

But I believe there is a difference between Christians who are bitter and Christians who have been wounded, and that most Christians make the mistake of identifying the two.

So let me share with you three contrasts between bitter and wounded Christians:

First, a bitter Christian stays that way over the years, while a wounded believer gradually begins to heal.

Let’s say that I’ve been a volunteer at my church for years, and one Sunday, my supervisor (also a volunteer) tells me in front of others, “I’m making some changes in this ministry, and you’re out.  That’s it.”

How would you feel?

Angry?  Probably.  Hurt?  Definitely.

Would you stay in the church?  Maybe … or maybe not.

Most likely, you’d be bitter initially.  You wouldn’t feel like forgiving the supervisor, or supporting the church’s capital campaign financially.

In fact, you might even feel like getting even with the supervisor, like writing him a nasty letter, or putting some derogatory comments on Facebook, or blasting him to your friends.

Many Christians feel bitter when they are mistreated by another believer … and we have to allow them to feel this way.

But in most cases, that initial bitterness will probably subside over time … and may very well change into woundedness.

Second, a bitter Christian focuses on the injustice, while the wounded believer focuses on God’s sovereignty.

If I’m a bitter Christian, I’ll say to myself, “I was doing such a great job at my church!  I was there all the time … really cared about people … and this is the thanks I get?”

And I’ll say that Sunday after Sunday after Sunday.

I’ll keep recalling the words of the supervisor and ruminating about the way I felt on that Sunday so long ago … and I won’t be able to put it out of my mind.

For the bitter Christian, yesterday’s injustices are just as fresh today as the day they occurred.

But the wounded Christian says, “Yes, I was hurt, and had every right to be.  My supervisor handled matters poorly, demeaning and devaluing me.  But although I couldn’t see it at the time, God used that incident to let me know that I was overloaded and overwhelmed in my life, and that I needed to spend more time with the Lord and with my family.”

Focus on the injustice, and you’ll stay bitter.  Focus on God’s good plan, and your bitterness will subside … but not necessarily your woundedness.

Third, the bitter Christian won’t forgive his assailant, while the wounded believer will.

We Christians spend a lot of time excusing people who have hurt us.  We don’t want to admit that someone has penetrated our emotional defenses enough to harm us.

The only way to handle some situations is to say, “So-and-So really hurt me … and maybe they meant to hurt me.  What they did was inexcusable … and very, very wrong.”

We only need to forgive those who have wronged us.  There’s no need to forgive anybody who hurt us without wronging us.

The bitter Christian holds on to his or her anger because it makes them feel alive … and more powerful than their attacker.

And the bitter Christian continues to hope that something awful happens to the person who hurt them.

The wounded Christian eventually forgives the person who hurt them … and lets the bitterness go … because they know that ongoing bitterness will destroy them, much less their relationships with others.

Several days ago, I was listening to the great Irish vocalist Mary Black sing a song from her CD Mary Black Live called “The Poison Tree.”  Black and Marcia Howard rewrote some of poet William Blake’s original lyrics and they deeply moved me:

I was angry with my friend
I told him so and my wrath did end
I was angry with my foe
Told him not and my wrath did grow

And I watered it in fears
Night and morning with my tears
And I sunned it with smiles
And with soft deceitful wiles

And it grew both day and night
Till it bore an apple bright
And my foe beheld it shine
And he knew that it was mine

Was a poison tree
Beware of a Poison Tree
Poison Tree
Growing inside of me

And into my garden stole
When the night had veiled the pole
In the morning glad I see
My foe outstretched
Beneath that tree

Was a Poison Tree
Beware of a Poison Tree
Poison Tree
Growing inside of me

Poison Tree
Beware of a Poison Tree
Poison Tree

What happened to you
And me

I don’t want a poison tree growing inside of me … and my guess is that you don’t, either.

And the only way to stop the poison tree is to forgive those who have hurt us.

But even after we forgive, we may still feel wounded … but being wounded does not mean that we are still bitter.

Over the past five years, I have lost many things I once held as precious: a career, a job, a house, Christian friends, and so much more.

Those losses have created wounds that won’t easily go away.  How could they?

But I don’t wish any harm on those who hurt me.  I don’t wish … or plot … that they will lose their careers, or houses, or friends.

I’m not bitter.

I am wounded.

There’s a difference.

And I’m trying to take those wounds to prevent and resolve conflicts in churches … especially those that involve pastors.

I guess, in the words of Henri Nouwen, I am a wounded healer.

And that’s the best thing to do with our wounds: heal others.







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Thirty some years ago, I attended an all-day seminar taught by H. Norman Wright designed to help pastors give, score, and interpret the Taylor Johnson Temperament Analysis “test.”

The test measured nine character traits like depression/lightheartedness, sympathy/indifference, and discipline/impulsiveness.

Mr. Wright said that one trait was the most important one on the test – objective/subjective – because it provided a prism through which to view the other traits.

When a person is objective, they are able to look at life events and interpret them accurately.

When a person is subjective, they look at life events and interpret them inaccurately.

The same events can happen to the same people at the same time, but the way they interpret those events determines how emotionally healthy they are.

Here’s an example:

Let’s say that you receive your bank statement and you notice a charge you’ve never seen before.

The objective person might say, “Hmm.  I wonder what that charge is for.  I’ll need to ask the next time I go to the bank.”

The subjective person might say, “Oh, no!  Another unauthorized charge!  My bank is ripping me off!  It’s time to find a new bank!”

My wife runs a preschool in our home, and I see this trait demonstrated in some of the children.

If she has to correct one child, the child will immediately do what she says without batting an eye.

But if she has to correct another child, he or she will start crying uncontrollably.

Same teacher … same words … same attitude … varying responses.

The same traits are seen in pastors … staff members … church leaders … and regular attendees.

Let’s say that a pastor receives an anonymous letter in the mail.  (I’ve received a few of those in my time.)

The best thing to do with an anonymous letter is throw it in the trash without reading it.

You can’t answer it … weigh the criticisms … or respond to it because you don’t know who sent it.

So the objective pastor says to his office manager, “The letter is unsigned.  It’s not worth reading.  Please shred it … now!”

But the subjective pastor might say, “Uh oh.  These criticisms and threats worry me.  This person claims that he’s going to leave the church unless we change the music to his liking … and that he’s going to take as many people out of the church as he can.  I wonder who this is … and if I’ll have a job in six months!”

Then he proceeds to call the associate pastor … board chairman … and his wife, scared to death his career is over.

Or take the board member who meets with the pastor about the church’s finances.  While the board member is worried that the church might not meet the budget for that fiscal year, the pastor doesn’t seem all that worried.

In fact, the pastor tells the board member, “I remember a time like this in my first church.  We were much further behind budget than we are right now, but God brought us through with flying colors.  It always pays to trust Him.”

But the board member focuses on the idea that the pastor let his first church get behind budget … wonders if he’s doing the same thing now … and begins to doubt that his pastor can pull the church through its donation crisis.

Then there’s the regular attendee who visited the pastor one day for marriage counseling two years ago.  The pastor is now doing a series on marriage, and makes a strong statement about what Scripture says about how wives should treat their husbands.

She becomes convinced that the pastor is preaching directly at her, so she tells five of her friends that she doesn’t like the pastor and wishes he would leave.

Church conflicts sometimes start when individual believers misinterpret the statements … actions … and motives of others, especially church leaders.

I hate to say this, but most pastors fall into the subjective camp.  It’s wonderful that pastors are sensitive to the needs and struggles of others … but not so wonderful when pastors become hypersensitive to everything that is said to them or about them.

Pastors do need to be on their guard … after all, it’s the job of a shepherd to protect his flock from wolves … but sometimes pastors – especially if they’ve been wounded in the past – find opposition where it doesn’t exist.

This is why it’s crucial for a subjective pastor to surround himself with a few staff/board members who are much more objective.

I’ve been blessed to serve with a few board chairmen who could tell me:

“Hey, Jim, you’re worrying about something that isn’t really a big deal.  Don’t give it another thought.  I’ll take care of it.”

“She’s spoken with me, and her real concern is that her son stays in the youth group.  Address that problem, and she’ll be fine.”

“I agree with you.  I don’t think Bart is doing a good job as a staff member, so we need to find a way to ease him out in the next few months.”

When I used to give the Taylor Johnson test, I was surprised at how many people fell into the strongly subjective category … and I was alarmed to discover that was my bent as well.

There’s nothing wrong with being this way … it just leads to a lot of drama for those who know and love you.  (Jesus’ disciple Peter was definitely more subjective than objective!)

I don’t think we should expect subjective pastors to suddenly become more objective … it would probably take three lifetimes to pull that off … but it’s smart for pastors to identify and recruit several people as advisers who see people … and church life … in more objective terms.  (Brit Hume, the political commentator on Fox News, strikes me as an objective person who would make a great pastoral consultant … and he is a believer.)

When subjective leaders become anxious … the objective leader calls for calm.

When subjective leaders avoid their critics … the objective leader prefers engagement.

When subjective leaders grow pessimistic … the objective leader remains realistic.

When subjective leaders want to quit … the objective leader counsels perseverance.

If a church is filled with objective leaders, it might not have much heart.  But if a church is filled with subjective leaders, then their changing feelings might make things chaotic.

The body of Christ needs both objective and subjective leaders.

Which one are you?









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Have you ever wondered how Jesus handled family get-togethers at Christmas?

You say, “Wait a minute, Jim.  There’s nothing in the New Testament about Jesus getting together for Christmas with His parents and relatives.  I’ve read the New Testament and it’s not there!”

And you’d be right.  Jesus and His family didn’t celebrate Christmas per se.

But in another sense, they did.

Let me share with you five truisms about the way that Jesus dealt with family gatherings:

First, Jesus had an unusual family.

Think about this: Jesus’ biological father wasn’t Joseph or even God the Father but the Holy Spirit.  This means that Jesus’ real father was someone He didn’t see on earth until His baptism at age thirty when the Spirit appeared like a dove.  (I wonder if Jesus said to Himself, “That’s the Spirit” or “That’s my biological father” when He saw the dove.)

I’m not sure when Jesus learned the truth about His “father of origin” but this could make a boy feel either special or strange.  To the people in His hometown of Nazareth, Jesus was just an ordinary boy who lacked any special wisdom or powers (Matthew 13:55-56).

If you think you have an unusual family – especially during the Christmas season – don’t sweat it.  You’re in excellent company.

Second, Jesus had half-brothers and sisters.

Matthew tells us that Jesus was Mary’s firstborn child (Luke 2:7) and that Jesus had four half-brothers and at least two half-sisters (Matthew 13:55-56).  So Joseph and Mary had at least seven children, but while Mary was the biological mother of all seven, Joseph was the biological father of only six, Jesus excluded.

So Jesus knows what it’s like to live with brothers or sisters who have different parents, and He knows what it’s like to be a part of a large family.  And when those nine people sat around the table to eat, there had to be some friction at times.

If you have step-siblings or half-siblings -and you don’t understand them, and they don’t understand you – relax.  Jesus gets it.  But you may be surprised to learn that:

Third, Jesus celebrated holidays with His family.

In Jesus’ day, the Jews celebrated three holidays: Pentecost, Tabernacles, and Passover.  As each feast drew near, Jewish families from all over the ancient world formed caravans and streamed into Jerusalem, especially for Passover.

Dr. Luke tells us in Luke 2:41-52 that when Jesus was twelve, His family traveled from Nazareth to Jerusalem for the Passover Feast.  On the way home, Jesus vanished, and His parents felt that sense of panic when a parent misplaces a child. (Of course, in their case, it was even worse because they had lost the Messiah!)

Speaking of Joseph and Mary, Luke writes, “Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day.  Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends” (Luke 2:44).  They expected to find Jesus hanging out with “relatives and friends” at this Passover celebration, so He probably spent time with them at other Passovers and other holidays as well.  You say, “Yes, Jim, but they didn’t celebrate Christmas together.”

Or did they?  Most likely:

Fourth, Jesus may have celebrated His birthday with family.

As far as I can tell, there is only one birthday mentioned in the New Testament, and that’s the birthday of the wicked King Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great who was king when Jesus was born.

Matthew 14:6 refers to Herod’s birthday and how the king ended up giving the head of John the Baptist on a platter to Salome, a young woman who danced in the king’s presence.

However, kings weren’t the only people who celebrated birthdays in ancient times. If Jesus’ family celebrated His birthday in some fashion every year – and they had to mark His age so they undoubtedly knew the date – family and friends may have been invited over, just like we do in our day.

Today we refer to Christmas as Jesus’ birthday.  Back then, Jesus’ birthday wasn’t called Christmas, but I’m sure family gathered together to celebrate His birth, which means they celebrated Christmas without knowing it.

Can you imagine celebrating Christmas with Jesus right there in the room?

When our kids were small, a man in our church named Earl loaned me his video camera.  Earl received the camera as a gift and didn’t know what to do with it, so he asked if I wanted to use it.  Video cameras used to be fairly large and used VHS tapes.

I captured our daughter Sarah’s seventh birthday on video, and whenever our family wants a laugh, we play the tape back.

Since I believe that God videotaped all the important events of the Bible – and even some of the ones not mentioned – it is possible that someday, we’ll be able to watch one of Jesus’ birthday parties, kind of like a pre-Christmas Christmas.

Finally, Jesus’ family thought He was crazy.

When I was in seminary, I took a class in counseling, and our professor told us that Jesus was the only normal person who ever lived.  That means that Jesus is the norm for human living.  He lived the way God intended us to live.  Since He’s the norm, the more we’re like Him, the more normal we are, and the less we’re like Him, the less normal we are.

However, our family members are usually convinced that they are normal and that everyone else in the family is abnormal.  This even happened in Jesus’ family.

Mark tells us about a time early in Jesus’ ministry when He was working non-stop.  He wasn’t eating or sleeping and it concerned Jesus’ family to the point they concluded, “He is out of his mind” (Mark 3:21).

When Mary and His brothers arrived to take Him back home, Jesus resisted them, claiming that He was now the leader of a new spiritual family.  Jesus’ family thought He was crazy, but He implies here that they were the ones who lacked an understanding of spiritual reality.

As you celebrate Christmas this month, remember that Jesus Himself had an unusual family, had half-brothers and sisters, celebrated holidays with His family, probably celebrated His own birthday with loved ones, and had a family who on one occasion thought that He was the abnormal One.

If Jesus could survive family during the holidays, so can you!


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