Don’t you think Christmas brings out the best in people? And I’m not talking about people in the mall, or even people in mall traffic, I’m talking about people who take seriously the wisdom that it is better to give, than to receive. It’s refreshing, especially after studying the seven deadly sins for the past six weeks, to witness such widespread generosity. It seems like everywhere I go I see Angel Trees, Toys for Tots boxes, and efforts to support our troops. And you read about professional athletes, like Kurt Warner, who invest not just their money but their time to serve the less fortunate. I am so thankful that there’s something good left in us, despite all the pride, envy, lust, anger, greed, gluttony, and sloth.

Sometimes it seems we witness so much heartache, so much greed, so much anger, so much that is downright evil, that the decent act becomes striking. Were you awestruck on September 12, 2001 to see the depth of character of so many Americans? Or after the Tsunami of 2004? Or after Hurricane Katrina? We may be wholly imperfect beings, but there is a glimmer of something beautiful in each of us.
I’ve often wondered where that goodness comes from. The answer is found in Genesis 1: 27 which tells us that “God created man in his own image.” Each person is an image-bearer of God Almighty. The flicker of that image may sometimes be very dim, but nothing can fully extinguish it. Nothing can change the fact that each man, woman and child were made in the image of God.
Today I celebrate the birth of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He’s my Savior because I know that I could never earn my way to heaven. The very idea, after taking a hard look at my own life through studying the seven deadly sins, is laughable. Earn a place in eternity with a holy, perfect God? Absurd. Presumptuous. Arrogant. No, I need a Savior for sure.
But the birth of Jesus is not just about eternal security, it is about the here and now. It is about being an image-bearer. The life of Jesus–his example of loving unconditionally and yet without compromise–is the goal, and the provision of the Holy Spirit is the way. As followers of Christ we need to take seriously our responsibility as image-bearers and embrace the power through the Holy Spirit to do so.
The Apostle Paul said “you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”
Merry Christmas and may your image-bearing of God Almighty be evident to all in 2009.

Viva La Vida?

So I admit it I’m a Coldplay fan. Worldwide there must be about a half billion of us, but unlike a lot of bands that command such a fanatical following, this British sensation really does make great music. Their rhythms are original and catchy, and I guess maybe their lyrics are good too. I’m just not much of a lyrics person–unless it’s a lyrical disaster akin to Phil Collins’ Groovy Kind of Love, which is too painful to ignore–mostly I don’t even listen to the words. I just hum along or make up my own lyrics, which are sometimes quite similar to the original and sometimes, to the irritation of those around me, rather dissimilar. I know, I know. Poor Will, and he’s such a lyrical purist.

But sometimes I wonder what subliminal messages I’m picking up with all my nonlistening. For example in Coldplay’s recent number one, Viva La Vida, I know they are saying something about Saint Peter, but what? As you may know, the album’s full title is Viva La Vida Or Death and All His Friends. Evidently, the members of the band were going for a sort of bipolar mood, attempting to reflect the ups and downs of life. The upside is the song Viva La Vida, Spanish for long live life, the downside is…well, obviously Death and All His Friends, a ballad about ill-fated love. Life and Death. You can’t be more polarized than that. And even in the life song, the words belie hope: “For some reason I can not explain I know Saint Peter won’t call my name.”

Wow. I guess if one knew Saint Peter wasn’t calling their name, they sure would want to “long live life,” so the album title is certainly apt, but how sad. So much of my purpose, so much of my hope, so much of who I am is derived from this very issue: For many reasons I can explain Saint Peter is calling my name.

Is he calling yours?

This blog is about spurring each other on to greater love and good deeds, but did you know love and good deeds are irrelevant when it comes to eternal life? I mean completely irrelevant. You can no more earn your way to heaven with good deeds, than you can drive there. The only way to heaven is to “confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead.” (Romans 10:9 NIV). It is so simple a child can understand, and by God’s grace, I have two that do. Working your way to salvation is impossible, and God in His mercy, has provided such an easy answer. Unfortuately, some people refuse to accept that it really is that easy. But if God loves you, and He does, why would He want it to be hard?

John 3:16 says whoever believes in Jesus “shall not perish.” Now that’s my kind of Viva La Vida!