Short (I promise) Santa Rant

Annually in December, the war on Xmas, the defamation of Santa and the general degradation of Christian dialogue begins on the twitter and the facebook. Blog posts are published, young (new) believers are educated, and many people are challenged to think about the why of some of their traditions.

This is not a bad thing. New believers who are often weaker have a chance to grow as the result of the discourse. Mature believers are provided an opportunity to learn exercise patience and acquire exhibit rationality.

I want to clarify my stance re: Santa. Although I personally do not celebrate the Santa thing, I am not so blinded by my preference that I do not realize that a Christian family, can do the Santa thing, if they wish – edification value notwithstanding.

But, in order to get around the problem that it is nearly impossible to do Santa as he is commonly practiced without actually telling a lie, it seems to me that people would have to concede that Santa is similar to The Incredible Hulk or Spiderman in the sense that everyone knows he doesn’t really exist, but we still enjoy the story.

So if you read or hear an anti-Santa sentiment, and your response is “he’s no different from anything else in the world in which I can enjoy with thanksgiving in my Christian liberty,” I want to caution you that there are versions of the practice of Santa which I do, in fact, believe are evil.

Here is the litmus test, in my opinion. If you expect everyone else who comes into contact with your children to perpetuate the story that he really does the things the legend would say he does, then I think you are on shaky ground. So if your inquisitive child goes to church tonight (it is Wednesday), and s/he asks the teacher if Santa is REAL and you expect the teacher to say yes or even give some other answer which leaves the truth hidden, then I believe you are sinning. You are asking/expecting a brother or sister to lie, or at the very least violate their own conscience. This is not fair to your brother who is trying not to lie and to tell the truth at all times, including removing lies of omission from his new life in Christ.

If your child directly asks you about Santa, or hears the truth from someone else and you continue to maintain the story that Santa is real – then you’ve called the other person a liar.

Just as if your child asked me if Buddha was worth following or the god of Islam was real or if we really should pray to Mary – I would expect to tell the truth to them in each situation – I also would with Santa. If someone has a problem with me because I told the truth, I reckon I’ll be 100% OK with that – within obvious guidelines of what would be age appropriate. To ask me or another brother to simply “not answer” is illogical. Why should those of us who aren’t part of the deception have to be quiet? That would be as valid as me telling you, “Don’t tell your children about Santa.”

Look, I’m a good Calvinist and I understand that teaching kids about Santa will not make the final difference in whether or not God sovereignly saves them by His effectual grace. But the fact remains that if your child actually feels deceived by you about Santa, that can will have a lasting effect on your relationship. Not a risk I want to take.

I appreciate the wealth of information the internet offers and there are a lot of good people writing about the topic from different perspectives.

So decorate a tree and leave out milk and cookies and make it fun, if you want. Dress like a puritan and sit in a cold house and read Habakkuk if that’s your thing. Take pictures with men in red suits (*I did). I frankly don’t care if you pretend Aquaman brought gifts or Santa or if you simply give your kids gifts. I’d recommend reviewing the real story of St. Nick, if you could. But be careful the message that your child is getting, especially the Santa information which does not come from you.

Finally – here is a post I wrote several years ago concerning the topic. It was actually a letter I wrote to a specific brother who I didn’t know very well. Click Here. It will open in a new tab.

For the record, this particular friend of mine heeded my advice and wrote me back and was very grateful to me for writing him. It wasn’t a matter of conscience to him, he believed what he was doing was error and was glad to correct it!

When does a Fetus become a Human?

What if you found out that a fetus has no heartbeat, doesn’t feel pain, nor even grows until 18 days after conception – would that change the way you believe about abortion?

Would it change the arguments you used against abortion, or how you would intend to persuade people concerning having an abortion?

Would it change which laws you would support?

Think about it.

Now – what if you found out that a fetus has no heartbeat, doesn’t feel pain, nor even grows until 8 months after conception – would that change the way you believe about abortion?

Here is an article I wrote a couple years ago which speaks to this issue.

Can We Put the X Back in Xmas?

This is a repost from 2010, but I always think it is worth revisiting.

I’m sure you’re thinking, what a strange name for a post. You probably think I’m the type of guy who always puts the “Christ” in Christmas. In fact, if I was you, I’d guess that Michael Coughlin is the type of guy who spells the late December holiday, “CHRISTmas.”

Well, sometimes I do spell it CHRISTmas. In fact, I always spell out the word. Here is an interesting video that may help people to understand some things about the name of Christ, particularly in the Greek. There are some people out there who are really judgmental of others who abbreviate Christmas:

It’s always about the heart, isn’t it? My pastor abbreviates “Christmas,” also with Greek letters. He does it for economy. The same reason we type LOL and things like that.

I WILL NOT abbreviate specifically because before I was saved I intentionally wrote XMAS IN ORDER TO exclude Christ from Christmas. Yep. I was “that guy.” I actively enjoyed seeing the letter X replace Christ and I was annoyed and angered by the “put the Christ back in Christmas” people.

So in a sense, it matters NOT how it originated, essentially because all things are lawful…I mean, we can take something that the devil meant for evil and use it for good if we wanted to anyway…

But it does matter why that person or corporation uses the “X.” I do believe if we asked everyone who abbreviates with an X, why they do that…you’d have a nice mixture of responses. And I do believe there would be at least some portion that intentionally excludes Christ and replaces with an “X” out of a sort of malice. It is for these people’s sake, and my own conscience that I don’t put the “X” in Christmas.

I’m sure there’s more that can be said, but there’s my 2 cents. I’m happy to know I can abbreviate and thanks to Mike and my own pastor I am now less ignorant than I was just 1 week ago about the whole deal.

Merry CHRISTmas, everyone. 😉

Also, please check out this post by RC Sproul – so you know it must be good! http://www.ligonier.org/blog/why-is-x-used-when-it-replaces-christ-in-christmas/

He’s Still Redeeming the Lost

In July 2012, I went to lunch with a co-worker named Matt Smith. Since there are 3 Matt Smiths where I work, he is commonly referred to as MS2. The conversation was intentionally spiritual. It got very uncomfortable at times as he explained to me a complete mental understanding of the gospel, even rather deep theology – without a person profession of faith. I tried to be kind, but was very challenging.

Matt Smith knew he needed Jesus, thought he wanted Jesus, but had to admit he simply was not born-again.

I was nearly speechless. What do you tell someone who already knows the gospel? I don’t even remember what I said that day. Probably something along the lines of discussing his pride as a barrier to trusting Christ. I remember feeling good about my response to him at the time, and finding him very likable and approachable.

It is with great pleasure that I announce that today, Matt Smith and I went to lunch and he revealed to me that he had been saved! We don’t actually work together, so this is the first time in 15 months that we were able to do lunch. But on the way to lunch, he told me that he was saved April 28! The Lord has been with Him since then and Matt is continuing to grow in His grace!

Praise God, his wife was saved in February of this year: each of them born again of the Spirit just a few months before the September birth of their first child!

Brothers and sisters, join me in prayer for our newly adopted brother and sister and their baby girl. And praise the Lord Jesus Christ who saves at His Will whomsoever He pleases. May God continue to be merciful to sinners before it is too late.

Hot Dogs, Preaching & Football – A Winning Combo!

Hot Diggity Dog – The Atomic Dog – A jalapeño stuffed, bacon wrapped, all beef hot dog.

One of the greatest benefits of being a part of different outreaches and evangelistic communities is the opportunity to meet really great brothers and sisters. So when I saw the Buffalo Bills were traveling to Cleveland for a TNF (Thursday Night Football) game on the NFL Network, I immediately thought of my brother Jon Speed, an avid Buffalo Bills fan. I was pleased when Jon told me he’d be happy to meet me in Cleveland for fellowship, evangelism and a chance to watch a pro football game together.

With the game set for October 3, Jon and I agreed to meet at a restaurant called ABC The Tavern. We are blessed to live in a country with very little persecution for the faith. While this remains true, I enjoy the gifts and blessings of God as he has provided through the opportunity to enjoy a variety of foods!

Note: Clicking the pictures will open larger versions of them in new tabs.

After a time of sweet fellowship, Jon, his wife Kim and I drove to downtown Cleveland for a couple of hours of ministry. We passed out a few hundred tracts, but eventually decided to move closer to the stadium to see if we could get more of a crowded area than the sparsely busy street corner where we started.

One man asked me what the tract was about. I told him it was a little card that explained how to go to Heaven with Jesus. His immediate reply was grave. I don’t recall what he said, just that he was clearly convicted. I asked him if he knew how to go to Heaven and he recited Romans 10:9 to me and followed that up with, “but I ain’t livin’ it.”

I explained to him that according to scripture a person who is born again will “live it.” This frightened him and he agreed to consider these things.

Soon enough, Jon began to preach from the book of Mark. I had never actually gotten to listen to Jon preach in person before. Out of tracts, I stood by and watched as Jon welcomed people to Cleveland!

You can see the way people were filtered to us in this picture as they walked to the stadium.

The night was filled with many stories. We had haters, encouragers, and folks who ignored us as well. I personally believed there was a large amount of Christians who spoke up to encourage us compared to usual. I preached after reading 1 John. I correctly assessed before I preached that my throat was not wet enough, and I had no water, so that only got worse.

I actually lost my voice BEFORE going into the Browns’ game!

We were encouraged by several Christians who thanked us. One man, named Michael asked for a handful of tracts that he could pass out himself! Praise Jesus. Our singular encounter with security was positive as we were asked to leave an are we didn’t realize was private property. Another group of Christians stopped and encouraged us with kind words, loving gestures and words from scritpure.

I can’t even explain how much this fueled me. If you are a Christian reading this and you ever see open air preachers, please stop and thank them. Don’t be miffed if an open air preacher doesn’t stop to talk to you or thank you, just offer your encouragement. Many times, people yell or say gracious things to me and it doesn’t immediately register. I also am not going to stop my open air sermon when I am interrupted – that happens far too often to pause each time, especially due to the frequency of mocking. But I hear every ‘Amen’ and every ‘thank you’ and every ‘good job’ and those words encourage me in Christ to press on.

Jon’s wife stayed with us the entire time. But she wasn’t idle. She spent her time praying! It was a great comfort to be in the presence of someone praying for our ministry. I wonder how much disaster was avoided thanks to her intercession?

You can see Jon on the right and Kim on the left.

Inside the game, I had a great conversation with the two men next to me, a couple of chemical process engineers from Canada! They each learned the gospel and remained friendly to me, although they enjoyed mocking me a bit. They actually promised to contact me and drive down to a Buckeyes game sometime, we’ll see if that happens.

The ride home was cut in half by a dear friend who offered me a place to sleep, including a snack and a wonderful breakfast to go with the fellowship. God is so kind and gentle to me in so many ways. I hope you will pray for me that I will be loving and faithful to Him if I should face much harder times than I had to face last Thursday.

What’s Your Motivation

I strongly urge anyone who thinks of themselves as a Christian minister or is considering serving Christ to listen to this excerpt from a recent sermon by Tony Miano.

Tony’s honesty and courage in sharing some of the difficulties you will face will serve as a good guide for your decision making. Even if you never plan to open air preach or pastor a church or lead teams of Christians, this 25 minutes could provide insight to you as to how to help and pray for those who labor in these ways.

From the Hospital to the Battlefield.

“Quick, grab all the patients from the hospital and get them out of here. We have a war to fight!”

How would you react to a statement such as this if you were an attending nurse or doctor? Or what would you think if you were a member of the staff who knew the sickness and dis-ease of so many of the folks in your building?

Let me guess. There would be a sense of awe accompanied by disgust. The idea of dragging the sick into battle may not only seem unfair to them, but you would have to agree that it would unfair to the rest of the people in battle.

Imagine a war where you are on a side with people who clearly aren’t prepared for battle. You went through boot camp, years of training and have battle before under a more experienced commander. Now it is your turn. You are the leader and many people’s lives are in your hands. Would you knowingly bring men or women who you know were not equipped to handle the schemes of your enemy? Even little league sports coaches avoid that mistake, do they not?

Yet, that is what many of us do when we go into battle with other Christians – or at least we are expected to. People want to accompany me into battle who are not ready.

How often, dear Christian, have you been so excited that someone wanted to accompany you on your outreach that you allowed them to participate in a way in which they were not ready? But my problem is not so much with the faithful men leading teams. I have found that most teams led by mature men are functioning well and they properly screen participants.

Teams which are led by the immature, well, they are reading this blog anyway, so I can’t help them. If you find yourself leading teams and you realize you probably need leadership yourself, click here and contact me.

I once heard my pastor describe a church as “like a hospital.” I don’t remember exactly what he said, but the gist of the conversation was that there are people of varying levels of sickness and who are more or less recovered from the illness. People will have different levels of strength and need, and some will relapse.

The concern I have is this: I’ve had friends (and myself) who have been criticized for being too critical of others within Christianity. We are “too doctrinal” or focus too much on “holiness” and not enough on “love.” My frustration with this is that just because many of our actions mimic those of some pharisees, that doesn’t necessarily imply that our motivations are the same.

Let me put it to you this way. I know that many people will focus on doctrine and holiness and then you’ll find out later they are really adulterers and idolaters and you can explain away all their teaching as prideful, etc. These people are deserving of condemnation, as would I be if that were the case.

But my point is this: I am not one of those people, by God’s grace. I am a missionary in God’s army and when I go into battle, I am afraid that there are people who think that my attempts to develop others are errant. Out of love for those I exhort, and other faithful brothers and sisters who are going into the battle, I feel a responsibility to only bring people with us into the battle who I can trust can wield the necessary defensive and offensive weapons. We do not need things like friendly fire to hurt us, or mistakes which can be predicted due to lack of proper training.

Here’s my point. If you cannot take criticism when we are in a bible study, or you cannot be corrected when you preach in a church setting or give a devotion, or you refuse to listen to a brother’s exhortation or concern in a one on one setting, then you will not do those things on the battlefield of the war for souls. I love you and I wish the best for you. You may be a dear soldier who is now an amputee, or a baby, still in the neonatal unit.

You may even be someone who would be expected to be more mature by now. Maybe you were in battle before, with a different leader and you think you are quite decorated. But if you belong in the hospital because you are sick or injured, get that fixed before you leave. Get checked out by those who are qualified to evaluate your condition and whose very lives may depend on you someday.

These thoughts were inspired by a recent conversation with a good friend of mine. While we both love and wish to minister to saved sinners in the local church, my intention was simply to point out the necessity of spiritual growth and maturity and to defend the need for discernment (discrimination) in the realm of team building for outreach.