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I hear this a lot these days: “I can love Jesus without going to church.”

I suppose you can. But you won’t get very far.

If you’re one of those people, don’t tune out. There’s something you need to hear.

When I was in college, I saw a tshirt that said, “Jesus is not a religion.” I loved it. I thought it was so perfect. That’s right, Jesus not a religion! What a revolutionary thought!! It was that mindset that set me down the path to the version of Christian “spirituality” I sported for many years.

I loved to say that I loved Jesus, I just wasn’t sure about some of His followers. I loved saying I wasn’t “Christian,” I was “spiritual.” I loved feeling like I was on the fringe. I loved feeling like I was on to something revolutionary.

All I was really on was a watered-down, self-help, “Christianized” version of hedonism. If you’re unfamiliar, hedonism is the religion of self. It is the concept that if it feels good, do it. It is based on the idea that we shouldn’t be discomforted, we shouldn’t have pain, we shouldn’t have to be uncomfortable in life.

Of course, this is a great idea except for the reality that we’re usually discomforted, usually have pain, usually uncomfortable in life. It’s a fact of life. Life stinks. Things are hard. People hurt us. We get sick. We lose things. We lose people. We lose everything. It’s the way of the world. Don’t believe me? Please show me what rock you’re under – I’d love to know what it’s like to live life without problems.

No, life is painful and things happen. But that doesn’t mean we have to live in misery. See, I think the spiritualized version of Jesus was rooted in the right idea. Jesus wants us to live a blessed life. He TELLS us not to worry. He tells us to trust in God and cast our cares at His throne. So shouldn’t that mean that life should be good?

Well, yes and no. You see, the truth is, when you really know what it means to have Jesus in your life, it’s not that you don’t have the problems, it’s that you know the problem-solver. It’s not that you don’t have the pain, it’s that you know the doctor. It’s not that you don’t lose things, it’s that you know the Guy who has (and made) IT ALL. And you trust Him for it. Daily. Hourly. Minute-by-minute you choose to trust. That takes training. That takes discipline – more discipline than I have on my own, I’m afraid. I NEED encouragement to keep that up. I need people around me encouraging me just by the fact that they love Him, too.

The blessed life is NOT void of problems. It’s just a life that trusts those problems to our loving Father.

How can we do that when we’re not learning about Him? How can we trust Him when we’re not getting to know Him more everyday? How can we do that if our preconceived notions aren’t challenged?

I’ve heard people say that they can love God without going to church. Yes, you can. But you won’t get to know Him very well without a little guidance. I’ve heard some say that’s what the Bible is for. That is absolutely right. The Bible is our SOURCE for the voice of God, the truth of who He is, and His Will for our lives.

But I don’t know a single person on planet earth who knows everything there is to know about the Bible perfectly.

I don’t know anyone who has it all figured out. Not a pastor, not a theologian, not even Billy Graham himself. We’re human. We all interpret things erroneously from time to time. We all view the Bible through a bias, whether we admit it not. That’s why we NEED each other. That’s why God DESIGNED us for community. That’s why He CREATED the church.

Iron sharpens iron. It’s that simple. If we become Christian recluses, we are putting ourselves in danger of creating our own religion. We are putting ourselves in the path of the enemy. Without help, without accountability, without the edification of believers around us, we CAN’T GROW IN SPIRIT AND IN TRUTH. Yes, we can grow. Yes, we can love the Lord. But without help, we WILL misinterpret the Lord. We WILL create our own theologies. I see it all the time. Friends, family, acquaintances – all around me, I see people who have formed their own version of Christian “spirituality.” Maybe it’s based around politics. Maybe it’s based around self-help “Oprah-isms.” Maybe it’s based on their pain and hurts. Maybe it’s based on bad theology. Maybe it’s a combination of all of the above. But it’s NOT the heart of the Father. And it’s causing them to wonder why they’re not experiencing that “peace that passes understanding.”

The truth is, the enemy does NOT want us in the House of God. He does NOT want us to experience a community of believers who are all in the same pursuit. He does NOT want us to grow in the Lord. He does NOT want us to be challenged in our faith so that we grow in the knowledge of the Father. He does NOT want us to be encouraged by someone who has been where we’ve been. He does NOT want us to encourage someone else with our story.

All I know is, knowing that the devil doesn’t want those things for me only makes me want them more. And the more I’ve immersed myself in the church, the more blessed I’ve been. I’ve seen Jesus in a friend who opened herself up to tell her story of a wayward sister. I’ve seen Jesus in a pastor as he told his story of a past he regrets. I’ve seen Jesus in an acquaintance as she told her story of redemption with more power in the tips of her fingers than I have in my whole being. I’ve seen Jesus in the broken. I’ve seen Jesus in the joyful. I’ve felt Jesus in the music. I’ve felt Jesus just being in the presence of others who are feeling Him too.

It’s (and I hate to use this word) almost magical, this thing we call church. It’s miraculous. That’s what it is. To be gathered with a body of believers, lifting up the name of Jesus, every knee bowing, every tongue confessing, is a blessing beyond words. And if you’re not there, you’re MISSING IT. Stop robbing yourself. Stop making excuses.

I’ve heard it all.

“I don’t like the way my pastor preaches.”

“I don’t like the worship style.”

“I don’t like that there’s no Sunday School.”

“I don’t like that there is Sunday School.”

“I don’t feel comfortable in crowds.”

“I don’t have time.”

“I’m tired.”

“I don’t like Christians.”

You can make up a thousand excuses to NOT be there. But what’s your excuse for your soul? If you’re as desperate for the Father as I am, if you want His presence, His miracles, His blessings as much as I do, what’s stopping you?

The truth is, no one is stopping you but you.

Go to church. You deserve it!

likeagoodchristian
I used to be a good little Christian. I knew all the Christian-ese. I had a few key scriptures memorized. I did all the things good Christians do – I read my Bible pretty regularly, I went to church every Sunday, I listened to worship music in my spare time, I memorized popular Bible verses. I was really good at acting like a good Christian. And I counted it all as merits in my honor. I was doing a God a favor, I guess.

I used to think that there were levels of Christianity. Growing up in church, I was exposed to all kinds of Christians. The eager new Christians. The complacent Christians who were born into a Christian family. The wise old Christians who mixed scripture and clichés interchangeably. The obligatory Christians who were only there because someone was making them. The on fire Christians that seemed to know a scripture for every occasion. I wanted to be one of those on fire Christians. I wanted to have an answer for everything. I wanted to impress people, and God, with how much I knew.

But the key word was “knew.” I memorized scriptures, I acted the part, to get myself into that “club.” I became someone I thought I was expected to become. And while I know that His Word never goes void, while I know that despite my Pharisee-like behavior, despite my dogmatic religiosity, God was changing me, I wasn’t doing it because I thought I needed to be changed. I was doing it because I wanted to impress.

Pride. I reeked of it.

But then life happened.

There came a point where my rose-colored glasses were smashed by the well-intended and not-so-well-intended. There came a moment of crisis where I stood on the edge of a cliff called religion, looking desperately for the bridge to the other side – to real faith. By the grace of God alone, I found that bridge. He led me there. And I crossed it. Ran across, honestly.

There came a moment where memorizing scripture stopped being cute and started being a necessity. There came a moment where I didn’t want to have a bag of scriptures to throw out to impress, but where I needed droves of scripture to call on for the sake of my bleeding heart. There came a time where I no longer cared to impress and instead began to earnestly seek shelter in the secret place of the Most High. There came a moment where I laid down my crown of religious piety and picked up my cross to bear daily with Christ.

That was the moment I knew real faith. That was the moment I knew that the Bible isn’t something for good Christians to utilize for power or merit, it’s something for desperate, broken, lost, hurting, abandoned, rejected people to cling to as if their lives depend on it, because they do. The Bible isn’t meant for those who already have it together, as I thought I did. It’s for those who know they can’t get it together without Divine intervention.

It was in those moments that worship music stopped being something I critiqued for its musicality on Sunday mornings and started becoming something that brought me into the presence of the Almighty, giving me a taste of His glory, His goodness, His power, His overwhelming love. I will never forget the first time I experienced worship that literally brought me to my knees. I trembled with emotion, with an overwhelming sense of my need for Him. I cried that ugly, snotty, mascara-streaking cry that is neither attractive nor desirable in public places. And I didn’t care for a second. I knew I was smack dab in the middle of the presence of the Creator of the Universe and He wasn’t offended by my snot nose. So I worshipped. Oh how I worshipped.

If you grew up in church like I did, then you probably know how easy it is to make a religious routine. You probably know how simple it is to think you’re impressing God and others with your knowledge of the Bible and church things. But if you’re like me, that knowledge is nothing more than a pride-building lie that spreads its tentacles into every corner of your being, devouring you from the inside out. That knowledge won’t get you very far when you’re hurt, when you’re rejected, when you’re sick, when you’re broken. It might provide fleeting comfort, but if it’s not in your heart, in your gut, deeply rooted, watered daily, and growing, it will be nothing more than that – a fleeting comfort.

But when we take the Word to heart, when we let it be the Bread of life, the Water that quenches, the Breath of God we breathe in daily, we cannot help but rise to new heights of faith, of peace, of comfort, of joy, of Divine grace. That’s what I want. No more head knowledge. Deep, soulish, life-altering, mind-changing, soul-transforming faith. I don’t care about being a good Christian anymore. I care about knowing my Father in a way that drowns out all the rest of the noise the world throws my way. I care about resting in the arms of the One who loves me unconditionally. I desire deeply to press into the mind, the heart, the character of the Creator of the Universe. It is there and there alone I will find my hope.

dangerousbiblegames
It has been fascinating reading the comments you are writing on the posts I’ve made about Phil Robertson and the Duck Dynasty debacle. I love reading all the different perspectives, yes, even the ones I don’t agree with. But I have seen a recurring theme among many of the comments as well as other articles I am reading, whether they are from Christians or non-Christians – and it’s a problem that needs to be addressed.

We play dangerous games when it comes to Christianity. In my view, there are two main games we play that are both destructive and damning. One: we add things to the Bible. Two: we take things away from the Bible.

Whether by falling into one category or both, when we decide to pervert the Bible with our own interpretations, however well-meaning, we are playing with eternal Hell-fire, no pun intended.

What am I talking about, exactly? Let’s break this down.

The Danger of Addition

We’ll start with the category of adding things to the Bible. There are lots of religions out there (of which I will not name here for the simple reason that I don’t have time to list them all) that add things to the Bible. They claim things like, “yes, the Bible is true. So is this (insert random religious text or philosophy here).” Their extra-biblical documents serve as “clarification” for the things of the Bible that are difficult to describe or understand on their own. They are authored by men (as is every book in history except the Bible) and often contemporary writings (by contemporary I mean from the last few centuries). It is from these groups that most of the world’s cults appear. However, you don’t have to be of a cult to add things to the Bible and claim them to be true.

The danger in adding anything to the Bible is that you suddenly blur the lines of Truth. When do you stop? If there are truths that “pair well” with the Bible based on your own opinion, why don’t other “truths” pair with the Bible in my opinion? Why is your opinion higher than mine? Let’s say you’re a scholar. Does that make your opinion higher than mine? Let’s say you’re a very devout, religious person. Does that make your opinion higher than mine? Or higher than someone else’s? Where does it stop? And who’s to say who is right?

The thing about God is that, well, He is GOD. He gets to decide what Truth is. Not me. Not you. Not anyone well “learned” in any specific subject. Because if Truth is up to humans, then there is no such thing as Truth for it is subjective to passing whims, trends, and ideas over the millennia. Truth is either infallible, or it isn’t truth. Therefore ANYTHING outside of the Bible that is paraded as “just as true” as the Bible, is indeed NOT.

The Danger of Subtraction

The other category is of those who would take things away from the Bible. These are the folks who would say that we don’t really know what certain passages mean, or that certain passages are just metaphorical, or that much of the Bible is just folk stories that didn’t really happen. The danger here is similar to the danger of adding things to the Bible. Who am I to say what’s true and what’s not? Sure, I’m a person of intellect. I can read the book of Jonah and come to the conclusion that it seems highly improbable that a man was swallowed by a fish and lived to tell the tale. But who am I to say that it DIDN’T happen either? I wasn’t there. Neither were you. And why couldn’t it have happened? After all, if the God who CREATED THE UNIVERSE wanted me to hang out in the belly of a giant fish for a while to learn my lesson, I’m pretty sure He could get me out alive, too.

Aside from the fact that using the Huffington Post as your authority on the Bible makes about as much sense as using a high school student’s 300 word paper on rocket science as your authority on the science, I decided to click and read.

The danger in cherry-picking what’s true in the Bible is that you fall down a slippery slope where the Bible means one thing to this group and another to that group. The Bible stops being absolute Truth and starts being an ancient self help book that is about as trustworthy to stand on for your life’s problems as Swiss cheese.

Here’s case and point. I read something the other day by a well-meaning friend who was pointing out that we don’t “really know what the Bible means when it talks about [subject intentionally removed†].” This person then provided a link to a Huffington Post article entitled, “What Does the Bible Really Say About [subject intentionally removed]?” Aside from the fact that using the Huffington Post as your authority on the Bible makes about as much sense as using a high school student’s 300 word paper on rocket science as your authority on the science, I decided to click and read. The article cited all of the scriptures on the subject, both Old and New Testament, most of which say things blatant like “IT IS AN ABOMINATION.” Their conclusion? Well, we don’t know if that’s what they REALLY meant.

Really? This is your earth-shattering conclusion about a difficult topic in the Bible? We don’t REALLY know what they meant?

I don’t know about you, but I would not want to bet my eternity on a twenty-first century’s online editorial about the possible nuances of Biblical sentence structure. Seems like a losing proposition.

The Bible, The Whole Bible, and Nothing But the Bible

As for me, I don’t have time to wonder what’s true and what’s not in the Bible. It’s either ALL TRUE, or ALL CRAZY. That’s really the only scenario that makes sense to me. And I don’t want to hear the argument that it’s all in “how you interpret it.” There is no difficulty in interpreting, “[Insert Biblically-cited sin] is an abomination.”

It would seem to me that the only reason to pick and choose what is true in the Bible is to justify our own sins. And it may even be as simple as just choosing to ignore certain parts of the Bible as opposed to redefining them. I know several pastors who were in the depths of an affair still preaching the Word. Did they say that the Bible doesn’t say adultery is sin? Oh no, they instead justified their actions by saying that they were really in love with their mistresses, but not with their wives.

So that makes it all ok, right?

Wrong. I’m not going to pretend to be intellectually on-par with a being who created the universe and orchestrated divine intricacies like photosynthesis and the miracle of conception by saying I know when He was just being metaphorical. Or ironic. Or sentimental. I’m going to play it safe (smart, rather) and assume He meant every word He said. Either that or I’m going to assume He meant none of it. Otherwise, I’m not doing myself or anyone else any favors by claiming to have correctly interpreted the subtle and subversive nuances of the Almighty God. I’ll leave that up to Him.

†If you’re wondering why I removed the subject of discussion, I wanted to make sure this post sticks to the intended purpose: a discussion of Biblical interpretation. I did not want to chase rabbits of the nuances of specific topics of the Bible. (At least not on this post.)

iblamegod
I fear we need to gain a little perspective on the subject of Phil Robertson vs. the entire homosexual community. I’ve heard a lot of people clarify their stance on the subject with phrases along the lines of, “it’s not what he said, it’s how he said it.”

Perhaps we need to have a little reality check. Phil Robertson is an uncouth, backwoods redneck (self-proclaimed). His beard is longer than my hair. His idea of comfortable clothes includes camouflage pants and a camouflage shirt. His idea of Sunday fancies includes camouflage pants and a black shirt. His idea of interior design includes a camouflage recliner to match his camouflage pants. If we were all expecting eloquent prose from the man, then perhaps we all need a gentle little “love slap” in our proverbial faces. Admittedly, his comments were uncouth and graphic. But his comments were also a paraphrasing of the Bible. So let’s all get honest here. We can hide behind the excuse of not liking how he said what he said, but reality is obviously that we just didn’t like what he said.

It has been God’s M.O. from day one to use the unexpected messenger.

And unfortunately, if you don’t like what he said, then you don’t like the Bible. That’s something you need to take up with God Almighty, not Phil Robertson. Or A&E. Or the whole of Christendom.

Yes, Phil Robertson is rough around the edges, to put it nicely. But if I don’t like that style, I don’t have to listen. I don’t have to watch. No one is forcing me to turn on A&E on Wednesday nights with my head in a vice turned towards the television, forcing the crudeness of Duck Dynasty into my sweet, innocent head. I can go watch Here Comes Honey Boo Boo just as easily, and feel great about my much more sensible cable television choice.

But if you think that God can’t use someone like Phil because he’s uncouth and outlandish, you’re sadly mistaken. It has been God’s M.O. from day one to use the unexpected messenger. I don’t have the time to list out all of them (read the Bible for all the details), but I’ll use the example of John the Baptist, for the sake of this argument. (It is Christmastime, after all. And John’s mission was to herald the coming of the Promised One.)

John the Baptist. If you don’t know much about him, you probably at least know that he was dirty. And kind of gross. And lived in the desert eating locusts and honey. He was loud and kind of obnoxious in the face of the status quo. He probably, for all intents and purposes, looked and acted a LOT like Phil Robertson. (Consequently, Phil himself pointed out in his I Am Second† video that he doesn’t look nearly as rough as John the Baptist did. Funny, really.) But God used him nonetheless as a powerful herald to the world of that time that the Kingdom of Heaven was near! His message shook the world from the ground up, so much so, that the king himself (Herod) had him beheaded just to shut him up. (Oh the irony, A&E! Oh the irony!)

If God chose a vagabond like John the Baptist to herald the coming of His Son (you know, the Messiah, SAVIOR OF THE ENTIRE WORLD), why wouldn’t God use Phil Robertson to remind the world that we need him? He uses all kinds of people to spread His message. We are all different, after all. And different styles speak to different people. If you want a squeaky clean, feel good Gospel, tune into Joel Osteen. If you want a passionate, challenging Gospel, tune into T. D. Jakes. If you want a meaty and deep combing through of the Gospel, tune into Robert Morris. If you want a down-to-earth, rough around the edges version of the Gospel, tune into Phil Robertson. God’s in the business of being all things to all people, after all. He meets us where we are; He doesn’t expect us to become something we’re not in order to meet Him.

No, it’s not really Phil the world has a problem with these days. It’s his message. And his message is the Bible. So let’s all stop beating around the bush and be honest – people don’t like to hear that their way of life is a sin. People don’t like to hear that there is only ONE WAY to Heaven through Jesus Christ. People don’t like to hear that “good people” don’t get into heaven. People don’t like to hear that things are an abomination in God’s eyes. People don’t like to hear anything these days that might challenge their comfortable little zone of the world.

No, my friends, it’s not Phil Roberson you have a problem with. It’s God.

Take it up with Him. He can take it, let me assure you. And He would absolutely love to have the conversation with you.

†As an inconsequential side note, it was this I Am Second video that got me started watching Duck Dynasty. Before I saw it, I didn’t have a care in the world to watch the show because I’m not really into uncouth, pointless reality television. Just like you, I have a choice NOT to watch. But once I saw this video, I knew I wanted to know more about this family that would stand so boldly for faith on an otherwise grossly secular network. And God bless them for it!

bibleisforbigots
Wow, the web seems to have blown up in the last 24 hours over the whole A&E Networks vs. Phil Robertson debacle! It seems everyone has a distinct and polarizing opinion on the subject. In case you’re unaware entirely, Phil Robertson, the father of the family starring in the A&E show Duck Dynasty, said (in a nutshell) in an interview with GQ magazine that he believes homosexuality is wrong because the Bible teaches that it’s wrong. And what a hullabaloo that created! People are shouting from their virtual mountain tops on either side of the debate.

“Christians are haters!”

“Stand with Phil!”

“Ban Duck Dynasty because the Robertsons are bigots!”

“Ban A&E for banning Phil!”

Wherever you stand, one thing is clear: the subject of homosexuality in America is touchy, to say the least.

The Bible also teaches other, very clear principles: things like “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31) and “remove the plank from your own eye before you remove the speck from your brother’s” (Matthew 7:5).

But all of this racket has got me thinking. I have many, many homosexual friends. I have steered clear of the topic on this blog until now because I would never, EVER want them to feel hurt by something I might say in the heat of the moment. To be clear, I do believe the Bible’s stand is clear on the subject: it is wrong and a sin. But the Bible also teaches other, very clear principles: things like “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31) and “remove the plank from your own eye before you remove the speck from your brother’s” (Matthew 7:5). All this to say that if you are one of those Christians who claims to believe the whole Bible, then it would behoove you to apply the whole Bible. And what that means, in a very tiny nutshell, is that while sin is sin, the Love of Christ trumps it. And our calling as believers is to stand with truth, preach the Gospel, and LOVE our brothers, our neighbors, our enemies alike, just as Christ loves us.

If we’re incapable of doing both, then we shouldn’t call ourselves followers of Christ.

If we’re going to follow that line of thinking, we would all hate all people, all the time, for no one is perfect, no not one.

But I would daresay that the problem actually lies in a giant, societal assumption about most things Christian these days. There is an underlying message that if you believe something contrary to me, you must hate me. Look around and see if it isn’t so. And unfortunately homosexuality falls square in the middle of that line of thinking.

I would like to propose the idea that we, as humans, are perfectly capable of believing in certain principles and laws of God without hating those who don’t follow them. After all, the Bible also says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). So if we’re going to follow that line of thinking, we would all hate all people, all the time, for no one is perfect, no not one.

I’ll give a simple example. The Bible teaches to “honor your father and mother.” This is both an Old and New Testament principle (Exodus and Ephesians). My children, God bless them, have yet to master the art of honoring me and my husband perfectly all the time. Despite their sweet little faces, they can be real pistols from time to time. And while they fail at this clearly-stated Biblical principle, I don’t fail to love them for it. I haven’t decided to hate my children because they haven’t repented of their sins of dishonor. No, it’s quite the contrary. I love them all the more, because I know that love is the only thing that’s going to teach them that following said principle is even worth it.

And, my friends, the same applies to homosexuality. Do I agree with it? No, I don’t. There, I said it. But do I hate anyone who practices it? Absolutely not!! Absolutely not. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. I love them dearly, because I know that they, just like me, are sinners in need of a Savior. And I don’t ever want any hate I might spew to ever deter them from finding that Truth.

When I read the words of Phil Robertson (all of them, not just the snippets that are being thrown around social media like a hot potato), I don’t see a bit of hate in them. I see a man who, when asked, shared that he agrees with the Bible on the subject of homosexuality. But he went on to say that, “I would never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me. We are all created by the Almighty and like Him, I love all of humanity. We would all be better off if we loved God and loved each other.”

Does that sound like a man of hate? Indeed, it doesn’t. And perhaps we would all be better off if we remembered that just because you believe certain things about the world, about life, about your faith, it does not in any way imply that you hate anyone who doesn’t share those beliefs.

There is a growing intolerance for anything Christian these days. And we Christians would do well to remember that, remain calm, and show love anyway. Otherwise, we will just be joining the squeaky wheels in a useless cycle of name-calling and tantrums. And it won’t get us anywhere.

The majority of the world is a bunch of crazies that need to be locked up.

So what does all of this have to do with Christmas? Everything, actually. The message of Christmas is that God loved us so much that He didn’t want to leave us the way we are. He saw in us something worth saving, worth loving, worthy dying for. So He sent His only son to earth that whoever would believe in Him, would have everlasting life with Him. Wow. Have you ever really thought about that? God. Sent His Son. To DIE. For YOU. So that you don’t have to stay how you are. You can have LIFE in Him. A life everlasting. Whatever our sins are, they are already forgiven by Christ. All we have to do is accept that. If we’ve all sinned, then we all need Christ. So it’s a good thing He came, isn’t it?

I love Christmas because I love Christ. And because I love Christ, I love everyone He loves. I may not like them all the time, but I love them nonetheless. And I’m determined to let everyone know who would listen, that Christ is everything we would ever need, if only we would let Him be. Does that make me an intolerant bigot? If I am, then so is Christ. And if Christ is, then millions, nay billions of those who have followed Him over the millennia were too. And if that’s the case, the majority of the world is a bunch of crazies that need to be locked up. And if that’s the way you feel, you DEFINITELY need Christ this Christmas! 🙂

Let’s all take a moment to remember what Christ did for us, and what we can do for each other in return. And let’s all calm down and stop crucifying anyone who might believe that, stand for it, and apply all that the God of the Bible teaches. Love bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails, after all. (I Corinthians 13:7-8)

secularsanta
It’s that time of year. When elves are being mischievous on shelves. When reindeer are flying around shopping center rooftops. When an old man can somehow see when I’m sleeping. He knows when I’m awake. He knows if I’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness’ sake. (That’s the only reason to be good, after all.)

I don’t ever want my kids to grow up thinking Christmas is all about Santa, or Santa’s birthday (thank you, Bart Simpson).

I know lots of families who wrestle with faith versus culture this time of year. I’ve read many blogs on many different philosophies. “Santa represents the magic of this season. Why would you deny your kids that magic?” Or, “Jesus is all the ‘magic’ we should ever need. How dare we replace Jesus with Santa!”

I’ve thought and prayed a lot about where our family should fall on this apparently polarizing topic (at least for Christians). On one hand, I don’t ever want my kids to grow up thinking Christmas is all about Santa, or Santa’s birthday (thank you, Bart Simpson). But on the other hand, I grew up with Santa but I still knew what Christmas was all about. I think I turned out alright (some of you are shaking your heads in dissent, I’m sure).

So what is the answer? Sure, people will point out that Santa comes from Saint Nicholas, a really nice guy from centuries ago that helped children and gave as a representation of the gift of Christ. Great. And some people would say that anything America associates with Christmas – trees, evergreens, red and green itself – is of pagan origin and should therefore never be in a Christian home. I’ve heard it all, haven’t you?

Their Santa figurines will be kneeling with the wise men at the nativity.

I suppose the answer is the same answer for any Christian in any circumstance, with any topic that is not expressly spelled out in the Bible: let the Holy Spirit lead YOUR family.

For some families, that’s going to mean a strictly orthodox Christmas – the nativity, the advent candles, and absolutely NO Santa whatsoever. For some families, it’s going to be some hybrid of American Christmas tradition and religion. Their Santa figurines will be kneeling with the wise men at the nativity. (The wise men were never at the stable, by the way.) And for some families, it’s going to mean Santa, candy canes, stockings hung by chimneys with care, and perhaps the Christmas candlelight service at church – you know, give Jesus his due respect.

Wherever your family falls this season, just make sure you have prayed about it and let the Lord lead you. If you’re a Christian, that’s your job in all things, after all. And if you decide to incorporate Santa, don’t feel bad about it for one minute. If you decide not to, don’t feel bad about it for one minute, either.

As with most things in life, when put in their proper place and perspective, they can be completely used for the glory of God. After all, if we wanted to strip the church of anything remotely “secular,” we would never sing hymns, for those are mostly composed of the melodies of old bar tunes. And we would never use evergreens at Christmas because those were originally used by pagans to celebrate the winter solstice. We wouldn’t do a lot of things in the church if we avoided anything that was possibly linked to the secular world in some way: technology, air-conditioning, and on and on.

The truth is, it’s easy to become dogmatic when it comes to religion. But at the end of the day, as long as we teach our children that Jesus is the reason for the season, because Christmas is the celebration of His birth (which, consequently, was probably not on December 25th, or even in December for that matter) and the celebration of the beautiful gift God gave us by sending His son to the world to save us – as long as we teach them the truth – the rest is just details.

And to quote my husband, that’s my Christian opinion.

Either way, have yourself a Merry Christmas!