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Santa and the Savior

Santa and the Savior

There seems to be so much talk these days among young parents as to what they should tell their kids about Santa.  I grew up believing, until I had a larger knowledge.  My wife grew up believing and I think she still does!  Our kids came along and we would talk about Santa, make cookies as a family to set out for Santa, and made sure the fireplace was open.  Now we have one who has “matured” and one who is faking it till she makes it.

Every year the kids get up see what is under the tree and from whom.  Every year we sit down on Christmas morning and read the real story of Christmas from Luke 2.  Every year.  We love it.

Some want to get rid of Santa because it “muddies the waters” of Christianity.  How can we believe in Santa and the Savior?  How can we afford to have both in our lives?  How could we ever teach our kids to believe in a myth and then call them to believe in the truth?  Let me share…

  1. Santa is generous. What a beautiful expression.  Here, in our fantasy land and imagination, we find a picture of generosity that will usher in the greatest giver and gift to be given!  Santa is not God.  Santa is not even a god.  He is a transitional element to help the littlest who cannot think abstractly experience giving concretely.
  2. Santa has boundaries.  Everyone knows that Santa knows who is naughty and nice.  Those who want the gifts needs to act properly or risk less gifts.  God initiates the life/death, blessing/cursing in Deuteronomy through Moses.  The people did not earn their covenant, but they did earn their blessings.  You don’t earn your salvation, but you do earn the blessings afterward.  Santa helps us understand the boundaries of real life.
  3. Santa expresses forgiveness. Every child soon realizes that even if they aren’t really that good, Santa comes through.  He forgives and gives gifts to those deserving and undeserving.  Our Heavenly Father has provided forgiveness through Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection for those who are bad and “good”.
  4. Santa expresses kindness.  Nickolas was a kind man.  Spreading love, good-will, and faith is one of the kindest things one can do.  The spirit behind the story reveals character that out culture needs.
  5. Santa is fun. I often wonder why we just can’t have fun and be a follower of Jesus.  I have known many young people who are fun people until they walk through the doors of the church.  Then they take on a different personality.  They become serious and sullen.  Let’s enjoy life!  Santa represents man things, not the least of which is the enjoyment of life.

Today’s media and business culture have taken the spirit and example of Santa and turned it into a cash cow.  Humanity has a way of doing this.  God gave people freedom and they built a tower of pride in Genesis 11.  That doesn’t make the freedom wrong.  God gave Israel a land flowing with milk and honey and they turned it into something wild and chaotic, but that doesn’t make the land wrong.  God gave us the cross and we have made it jewelry and fodder for tattoos, but that does not make the cross wrong.

We have an example in Santa of generosity, accountability, forgiveness and kindness.  We have twisted it, but it doesn’t make Santa wrong.  Santa is not real.  Saint Nick is dead.  Yet, we need Santa.  Our kids need Santa.  Help them to see the good and let that parlay into spiritual guidance and discussions.

Four lessons learned from Chick-fil-A Founder Truett Cathy

Four lessons learned from Chick-fil-A Founder Truett Cathy

Born March 14, 1921, in Eatonton, Ga., Cathy was four when his family moved to Atlanta, where he attended Boys High, now known as Grady High School. In 1946, Cathy relied on a keen business sense, a strong work ethic and a deep Christian faith to build a tiny diner in the Atlanta suburb of Hapeville, Ga. He developed it into Chick-fil-A, which today has the highest same-store sales and is the nation’s largest quick-service chicken restaurant chain based on annual system-wide sales. It was at the original restaurant that Cathy created the sandwich that became the company’s signature item.

Cathy was a devout Southern Baptist who taught Sunday school to 13-year-old boys for more than 50  years. As an extension of the founder’s faith and the clearest example of incorporating biblical principles into the workplace, all Chick-fil-A restaurants—without exception—operate with a “Closed-on-Sunday” policy. Rare within the food service industry, this policy allows employees a day for family, worship, fellowship or rest, and also underscores Cathy’s desire to put principles and people ahead of profits. Chick-fil-A will remain privately held and closed on Sundays.

I ate my first Chick-fil-A sandwich in a mall in Fort Worth Texas.  I had never had anything like it!  Having grown up in the deep south I felt I knew chicken.  This was a good sandwich, and I would return often for more!  During my time at Southwestern Seminary I worked for a free-standing Chick-fil-A in Arlington, Texas.  I loved working for this company, and having Sundays off was incredible.  Over the years, Sunday was always a work day in the food service industry and I appreciated this man’s leadership to close his stores regardless of the penalties charged by mall owners!  I have learned a few lessons from the ways and means of Truett Cathy.

Lesson #1 – Stand Up

Truett Cathy led his company to close on Sundays for worship and family time.  Though the company was fined every Monday morning from mall owners, he still closed the doors on Sunday.  Standing up for what you believe in is novel and necessary in today’s culture.

Lesson #2 – Speak Up

Truett Cathy spoke up about certain ethical and moral issues facing our country today.  I am thankful for a voice that encourages me to speak up for what I believe.  Let us not hide in the shadows whining about the direction of our country.  May we speak up for the beliefs we have.

Lesson #3 – Show Up

WinShape is a foundation to help shape winners in each successive generation.  I appreciate that Cathy had the future in mind as well as the present.  We often talk a lot about social and moral justice.  How often do we actually engage in making that a reality for those victimized?

Lesson #4 – Suit Up

We must motivate ourselves to do our very best, and by our example lead others to their best as well.  Truett Cathy had his head in the game, no doubt.  May we also keep our wits about us and lead by example.  Are you giving your very best?  Suit Up!

“You have to be very careful about what you say. More importantly, you have to be very careful about what you do. You never know how or when you influence people – especially children.” — Truett Cathy



Choose a good reputation over great riches; being held in high esteem is better than silver or gold. — Proverbs 22:1


Three Critical Decisions for Strength and Victory

Three Critical Decisions for Strength and Victory

In his book, You Lost Me, David Kinnaman presents that our youngest generation uses different phrases to describe themselves than do the prior three generations.  The former generations used words like “smarter,” “work ethic,” “values and morals,” “honest” and “respectful.”  Our youngest use these words:  “technology use,” “music and pop culture,” “smarter,” and “clothes.”

Did you see that?

What I am finding also is that many parents of these, in an attempt to stay “cool” and “hip”, are ignoring words like work “ethic,” “values,” “morals,” and “respect” too.  Though it does bother them, their guilt overcomes them, and they strive to be BFF’s with their kids.

What does this have to do with God?

In Rom. 12:1, Paul writes, “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

No doubt he was aware of what God had instructed in the Old Testament in Num. 28-29.  While Jesus established a new covenant, He did not want us to disregard the value of worship and the work it takes to maintain a proper relationship.  Because our youngest (and parents) do not understand work, they want a relationship with God in which they do not really have to do anything.  Here are few observations:

  • People look to get than give.  Many people attend church to get something out of it or God.  Attendance is used as leverage to acquire wants from God.  So many find a church home based on what they, and their kids, can get from the church.  If we all took this approach, there would be no workers/helpers to make this happen.  We are to look to give more than get.  Additionally, if someone does not feel they are getting enough out of this relationship with God, they will find some other god to worship:  work, family, entertainment, and leisure.  Our minds are so befuddled and our hearts so black that we demand everything but give nothing.
  • People engage by convenience not commitment.  If there is nothing on the schedule, families make it to church.  Forget daily reading in the Bible, who has the time?  We are driven toward many things, and God is put on the back burner in order to complete all the other tasks that feel more pressing.
  • Definition of active member has changed. Twenty years ago, an active church member was defined as one who attends three times a week.  Today, it is one who attends three times a month.  For those in church leadership, this does come as a surprise.  We have watched this occur and fretted over it!  While a prevailing thought would be that church attendance does not really matter, I think Scripture would disagree.  Certainly, the relationship is greater than the religion. Yet, the religion is an outpouring of the relationship.  Lack of commitment and a desire to receive mark an immaturity and lostness among our people.

For the believer and the church to be strong, healthy and victorious, here are a few guiding principles from Num. 28-29.

  • Daily is the goal – make time to relate with God rather than relay wants.  Dialogue with Him through prayer and Bible reading.  Every day the Israelites made a sacrifice.  It took time and cost some as well.  Trusting God with some of your best time is a step of faith He will honor.  Who knows? You might find yourself more productive.
  • Decide to be regular – God gave the principle of regularity.  They had daily, weekly, monthly and special times to sacrifice/worship God.  When families are only making it to church three times a month, coupled with an irregular relationship, the unit breaks down, and the individual parts crumble too.  Attend Bible Study and Worship regularly and with a cheerful heart.  Start spending moments each day with God.  Be regular and watch your joy begin to overflow and life to be more satisfying.
  • Determine to be honorable – God gave specific instructions on what and how to give.  The honorable choice was to give the best, the first and do it with joy.  Whether we are discussing our time, our abilities or our money, are you giving your best, your first and doing it with joy?
7 Things Every Boy Needs to Learn to Be a Man

7 Things Every Boy Needs to Learn to Be a Man

Competition is familiar to us all. We compete in sports, for jobs, in elections, and in love.  It appears that everything in life is a competition!  I recently sat down with 4 groups of boys and shared with them how to compete and be successful in school, in romance, and life in general.

Can Do – Far too often kids today are heard saying “I can’t.”  While I believe in teaching a healthy respect for ability, attitude is what makes the difference.  If you keep saying negative things you and everyone else will begin to believe that sentiment.  Hold your head up and stay positive!

Own It – A sign of maturity and social success is being able to take responsibility for one’s actions.  We have been patterned to blame someone or something else for everything bad that happens.  However, we are quick to take credit if it is something for which we might receive praise or an award.  The easy path is to blame others.  The success path is to take ownership of your words and actions.

Mean It – It has been said that, at the end of the day, all a man really has is the value of his word.  If you make a promise, keep it.  If you even hinted that you committed to doing something, then honor your word.  We live in a disposable culture that throws away everything that has a little age, rust, dust, or difficulty.  From toys to tablets and marriages to machinery, we toss it away. Keep your word.  Mean what you say.

Please and Thank You – Where have these phrases gone today?  I hear demands more than requests.  We need to teach one another, and especially our children, that using “please” and “thank you” is NORMAL behavior.  Letting the girls go first.  Holding the door for women.  Showing respect for yourself and others.  These are all a part of social lessons that we are losing.  The cost will be our civilized culture as well.

Engage – I tell my ball players every play to be ready.  Boys need to learn to listen and look others in the eyes.  Just like being focused on the play for personal safety and success, staying engaged in class will reap benefits.  Looking your teacher in the eye will shock them in a good way.  Listening to what your “girlfriend” has to say is a critical skill to master.  I know girls talk A LOT, but this will make such a difference in relationships.

Talk and Tell the Truth – Boys and men tend to shorten up their answers.  Psychologists noted that men use about 12,000 words a day compared to the 24,000+ that women do.  My son, when asked about his day at school, has learned to say more than “Fine.”  Teaching boys to express their thoughts and feelings is not making them girls.  It is making them successful men.  Former generations prided themselves on being able to tell stories – some true and some not.  The point is they could communicate.  In our perverse generation, boys are being molested and bullied.  They are threatened if they talk and tell the truth, they will be harmed further.  Our boys must learn to tell the truth.  They are not “ratting out” their friends.  They are engaging in a timeless honor system of truthfulness.

Eat Right and Exercise – America is one the most obese nations.  America is also one of the highest nations with eating disorders.  Junk food is tempting but should be resisted or at least moderated.  The gaming generation has created a problem with boys who do not “play” actively enough.  Drink water not Soda Pop.  Eat fruit not fruit flavored items.  Go for a run.  DO something.

If boys are going to compete on higher levels than little league, we must teach them how.  Hopefully, this has given you a few ideas.

Noah: A successful ‘unbiblical’ movie

Noah: A successful ‘unbiblical’ movie

I had heard much and read a little about Noah before it debuted this weekend.  One of my church members told me Sunday that it was “different” so I armed myself with the largest Diet Coke they sold and found my seat.

First Look
My initial reaction was a desire to throw my hands up and cry “Foul!” I thought better of it and will simply do so here.

Story line
Last year when I first heard this movie would release it was on the heels of other Bible related press releases.  The biblical account begins here and runs through chapter 10. As far as this movie is concerned, there was a man named Noah who had a family and built a boat.  There was a flood and everyone died except for Noah and his family.  After that the film leaves the Bible and escapes into fantasy.

If one were able to just watch this movie without the Bible in mind it is not a horrible screenplay.  There are masterful effects, great tension and drama, and a cataclysmic end-of-the-world-yet-reborn ending. But this story is too well known.  The director has made it clear his intentions are to explore that which is not presented in Scripture.

Manners and Customs
The appropriate biblical setting would be the stone age.  This movie uses post apocalyptic imagery and tools.  There seems to be no attempt in keeping with Middle Eastern looks.  The people are wearing pants, boots, and jackets which are not period choices.  Basically, this director makes no attempt in accuracy which does not surprise me.  The character Noah uses an elder son style blessing but places it on a female, which would never have happened.

Biblical Accuracy
Very little of this script can be found in Scripture.  While the producers want you to believe it is based on Scripture, I would say very loosely.   Creation is presented accurately. Genealogy is presented accurately.  Noah, his wife and 3 sons is also accurate.  God wanted Noah to build a boat to save his family and the animals from the flood. Fallen angels and giants walking the Earth are transformer-esque rocks.  Fine. I can’t explain it really either. Then the movie takes a distinctly liberal approach in its explanation of things. There is much mysticism and sorcery.  The 3 sons are not married going on the boat and this is a glaring oversight that causes further issues.  The stowaway is complicated because this is the onus for Ham’s rebellious attitude later.  The stress of Noah having to make a choice between love and mercy was never his to make.  God already made this choice. Noah was to be but a willing participant.  Noah’s martyr complex is unfathomable.  Could he have faced depression after hearing the screams?  Sure.  But opting to choose a pathway of infanticide is more than egregious.

Had the names been different there would be little to discuss.  If it had been titled “Madman on the High Seas” that would at least have reduced the expectations.  However, there are enough references to Scripture that the liberalities cannot be overlooked.  The goal seems to have been to make the most unbiblical movie of a biblical event and in that there was success.  Should you watch this movie?  I would wait for a cheap rental and even then be aware that this is not the two-by-two you want it to be and it is not family friendly.  Why pay big money for a bigger letdown?