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written by Elder Mike Hosey.
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Jesus Versus Santa: A Comparison

It may not be readily apparent to you, but there are many similarities between Santa Claus, and Jesus.  For instance, both are religious figures — though Santa’s religious origins have long been forgotten as the world has morphed him into a modern secular poster boy for Coca-Cola and western consumerism.


Consider these parallels between the modern Santa, and Jesus, that have been smartly noted by others:


  • Jesus will return like a thief in the night (Matthew 24:43-44). Santa is known for his burglar like sneakiness.
  • No one knows when Jesus will return (Mark 13:32). No one knows when Santa will come down the chimney.
  • Jesus is omniscient (John 1:47-48Acts 1:241 John 3:20). Santa knows every good and bad thing you’ve done in the past year. He also knows when you’re sleeping and when you’re awake!
  • Jesus is the Christ Child (Matthew 1:18). Santa is also known as Kris Kringle, which is believed to be derived from the German dialectical Chriskindl, which means Christ Child.


There are many others, but you get the idea.  Now consider the differences.


  • Santa gives you gifts based on your behavior, But Christ’s gift is by grace, and grace is unmerited favor (Ephesians 2:8).
  • Santa’s gifts last about two weeks. Christ’s gift is eternal (Romans 6:23).
  • Santa is only with us for one day, But Christ lives in us (Galatians 2:20), and is with us eternally (Matthew 28:18-20).
  • Santa responds to earthly desires. Jesus responds to eternal needs (Philippians 4:19).


Of course, there are many more. How many similarities and differences can you think of? Better yet, how can you use the similarities and differences found in the fables of Santa to point to the realities of Christ?

Thanks in All Circumstances

There are many verses in the bible that command us to do pretty radical things.  For one, there’s the command to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44). Another is the command to turn over your uninjured cheek if an evil person slaps you (Matthew

5:39). These kinds of commands are counterintuitive, but most of us have at least some concept regarding their usefulness or morality.


Other commands, however, take a bit of spiritual growth before we begin to see the truth behind them. For instance, consider 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.  We’re told to be thankful in all circumstances.  Read it again. It says all. It also says that to do this is the will of God. Some might interpret this to mean that a person is to be thankful for every circumstance, but as other thinkers have pointed out, it doesn’t say that at all.  Instead, it says to be thankful inall circumstances.


The idea is that we should maintain an attitude of gratitude, and recognize what God has done for us, and what he is doing in us. Even in our darkest hours, we can be thankful that God is shaping us into something greater (Romans 8:28-29Colossians 1:12-14James 1:2-3).  Not having a thankful heart, on the other hand, ultimately leads to a darker heart with darker consequences (Romans 1:12).


It’s truly a radical concept, but one potential reason that God commands us to be thankful in all circumstances is so that like Paul we can be content and realize that Christ gives us power to endure all things (Philippians 4:11-13). And when we are able to endure all things, we become very dangerous to a devil bent on destruction (James 4:7). So do something radical, and always look for things God has done in you, and is doing through you.

Humility and Why It’s Important!

In a portion of Peter’s first letter, he directly addresses the elders of the churches in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia with an unfocused shotgun blast of wisdom (1 Peter 5:1-7).  He challenges them to be good examples. He explains that they should watch over the flock out of desire, and not out of obligation. He advises them to be honest, and eager to serve.  He tells them not to lord their authority over those subject to it.


But in the second part of the passage, he focuses like a laser beam on the concept of humility. In fact, the whole passage seems colored by it more than anything else — perhaps because he mentions the concept four times in the space of two verses (1 Peter 5:5-6). He tells those who are younger to submit to their elders (submission requires humility). He tells everyone to “clothe themselves” with humility.  He reminds them that God opposes the proud but extends grace to the humble. And finally, he commands them to humble themselves beneath the mighty hand of God, so that God can then lift them up.


Why such a focus on the concept?  The answer is in the DNA of humility.  Humility is a modest or low estimate of one’s own importance. When we recognize who God is, we approach a more accurate estimation of our own importance.  It is a lack of humility that causes us to be selfish. It is a lack of humility that causes us not to get along with others. It is a lack of humility that pushes us to do the opposite of everything Peter asks in his shotgun blast of wisdom. But most importantly, it is a lack of humility that can cause us not to go down to the altar, or to refuse to ask for forgiveness, or to refuse forgiveness to someone who asks for it. This lack of humility causes us to ask what others might think.  This, in turn, creates anxiety because we don’t want to be seen as less than what we think we are, or as less than what we think everyone else thinks we are (or should be)! Sometimes when we are suffering with anxiety or worry (not all of the time) we can’t move because we’re worried about status. But if we humble ourselves, and realize there’s someone so much greater than we are that our silly comparisons here on earth are meaningless, then we will submit, cast that anxiety on God, and realize that he truly cares for us.  We will then be appropriately exalted (1 Peter 5:6).

How To Discipline Your Children

Here at Fellowship, we’ve often taught that love is being committed to the well being of another person. Of course the term, “well being,” can mean many different things.  It can mean extending grace to another for whom favor is not deserved. It can mean honoring a promise even when it hurts. It can mean practicing patience for people in a world where time and money are fleeting. It can mean staying in a relationship even when every fiber of your being wants to leave. But for parents, that commitment is colored greatly by the word discipline.


Normally, we think of “discipline” as a punishment that we mete out as a means of making someone behave. That is the wrong way to think of it! By definition, discipline is simply training people to obey rules or a code of behavior. It is a practice, and usually a daily one. Instead of being something that we do to another, it is something we do for another. It is also something that we do out of love — which means, in regards to our children, it is something we do out of a commitment to their well being.  This just happens also to be the example set by God.  He disciplines us because he loves us — because he is committed to our well being — knowing that the end result of it will be holiness (Hebrews 12:5-11). If we do not discipline our children, they will become a trouble for us, as well as a trouble for those around us. But even more importantly, they could miss out in some way on the blessings promised by God.


Here are some quick pointers to help you as parents discipline your child.


Be Consistent: Stick to your guns. Do not discipline one way on one day, and another way on another day. Keep your expectations clear and uniform. Inconsistency is confusing, and will make your children unsure of the rules. It might also encourage them to take chances with your expectations.


Be Unified: If you are in two parent home, have a plan for how you will handle infractions. Never undercut your spouse. It is best for a child to see the two of you as a unified front. Children are little people, and like many people, they will vie for any advantage. Plus, disunity naturally creates inconsistency. If you are a single parent, stress unity with those who help you. Be unified with biblical ideals.

Do Not Discipline in Anger: Your judgement will likely be poor, and you will end up doing something to your child rather than for your child.

Connecting With Your Children

If we are to model for our children the kind of person God wants them to be, then we must learn to connect with them. This is an extremely important concept.  Connection means that a link or a conduit must be built in which love, information, blessing and communication can flow. Without that link, any modeling you present will be less effective than you want it to be. When you establish that link, then your modeling can be maximized. There are a number of ways that this link can be established, but consider these three as highly effective:


TOUCH: Appropriate, nonsexual, loving touch builds bonds. In fact, if we are to follow the model of Jesus, we might want to consider it (Mark 10:13-14Mark 6:56John 13:25). Touch has a way of communicating acceptance.  Just think of what it must have felt like, as well as what was communicated to the prodigal son when his father embraced him after his life of poor choices (Luke 15:20). When sincere, touch affirms and validates love. It establishes a link.


TIME: Connections cannot be realized without spending time. In fact, review the scripture from last week’s Reflections (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). In that passage we’re told that we are to teach our children about God in almost every domain of life.  To be able to do that requires spending time with them in all of those domains. If you plant a garden, but don’t spend time in it, you can expect that weeds will grow.  You can also expect that your connection to that garden, and your dedication to seeing it grow will diminish. Spending time also communicates value, and thereby builds a link.


ENCOURAGEMENT: Connections are also built through words of encouragement. The bible expressly teaches this (1 Thessalonians 5:11Ephesians 4:29Hebrews 10:25). There is clearly good in a good word.  Consider the truth of Proverbs 12:25, and how anxiety burdens a man,but a good word makes him glad.  All of these verses apply to children just as easily as they do to adults. Encouragement builds a link.  And when we model them for our children, they’ll model them for theirs. They’ll also model them for others, and by so doing, we will be advancing the Kingdom of God!

Modeling God

One of the most influential minds in the field of psychology belongs to a man named Albert Bandura. His greatest contribution to the science of psychology lies in the concept  that people learn from observing and imitating the modeling of others. His theory is powerful, useful, and predictive. His most famous experiments, the Bobo Doll experiments, were conducted in the 1960s, and involved children learning aggressive behavior after observing adults do so with a punching bag doll. Bandura found that boys were likely to engage in aggressive behavior when they had observed a male adult doing so. Girls were less likely to do so after observing male adult models, but more likely to do so after observing female adult models. One conclusion we can draw from his experiments is that our children learn how to react to life by watching how we react to life. The more they are like us, for instance, in their gender, the more powerful the effect.


This element of human learning may be one reason God gives the Hebrews a command in Deuteronomy 6:1-3 to teach their children to observe his laws and to fear him.  The payoff, he instructed, would be that things would go well for them in the land, and that they would have long life and prosperity. But it wasn’t just a simple command that he gave them. Instead, he instructed them to carry out the command in a particular way. In Deuteronomy 6:4-9 he tells them to talk to their children about those commands when they are sitting at home, when they walk along the road, when they lie down and when they get up, to tie them as symbols on their hands and foreheads, and to write them on their door frames and gates. In other words, God is telling them that observance of his commands, as well as their relationship with him, should be evident to their children in every interaction they have with their parents.


God knows that modeling is powerful.  In fact, this is evident from Peter’s claim that Christ is our example (1  Peter 2:21-25). Christ is the model that we are to follow in our lives. God became human so that we could identify with him as human, and model our lives after his.


So make an intentional effort to model for your children the kind of person you want them to be when they have fully matured.

Three Ways Satan and his Demons Influence You

Influence is the ability to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something. If you’ve ever played with magnets, you know how this works.  If you bring a magnet close to ferrous metals, those metals will move wherever the magnet influences them to move. They are attracted to the magnets.Satan and his demons are highly interested in the power to influence you. Just like a magnet, they want to effect your character, your development, or your behavior.  They want you to be attracted to them, and to those things which they can use to corrupt you, and drive you away from God.  Consider these three ways in which demons try to corrupt you.


1) They use the world against you:  When Adam and Eve became corrupted and fell because of their sin in chapter 3 of Genesis, they (and we) became part and parcel of a world now ruled by sin. Because of this, men are attracted to the world instead of to God (John 3:19).  Satan is the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4) and he will use this world to keep us from the will of God.  He and his demons will use entertainment, money, music, images, pleasures, relationships, and everything that your fallen flesh desires to lure you from the light (James 1:14). Sometimes this is very subtle — like putting what appear to be harmless distractions in front of you. For instance, you can’t stop looking at your smartphone, so you don’t read your bible. Or you watch the football game instead playing football with your child.  Others are not so subtle, but often very difficult to resist, like lust, pride, greed, or envy.


2)They will get a foothold in your life through sin: In Ephesians 4:25-28, Paul names several sinful behaviors. They range from lying, to stealing, to being angry with someone without resolution before the end of the day. All of these, Paul says, give the devil a foothold. Meaning that he gets his foot between the edge of your door and the jamb of the doorway making it very difficult to close. When you sin, it desensitizes you to the devil’s efforts.  And when you don’t forgive or resolve an anger issue, it gives the devil a playground of bitterness in your life.

3)They will get you to depend on them instead of GodProverbs 3:5-6 tells us to trust in the lord and not our own understanding. And Proverbs 14:12 warns that there is a way that seems right to a person, but instead leads to death. Satan and his demons will trick you with a way that seems right to you if you lean on your own understanding, the understanding of other men, or to the persuasive voices of demons instead of to what God has already said.  Just ask Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:1-6).

Are You Letting Satan’s Nose in your Stuff?

There is a well known ancient Arabic parable about a man, his camel, and a tent.  In the story the man and his camel are traveling in the desert.   The man stops for the night and sets up his tent, then gets in and beds down because the temperature is cold. Shortly, the camel asks to put his snout in the tent because it is so cold outside. The man allows it, but tells the camel he must put just his nose in as the tent is only big enough for one. Soon the camel asks to put his front hooves in. The man, being considerate, reluctantly allows that as well. Finally, the camel asks to put his hind hooves in, arguing that he will freeze and not be able to continue the journey in the morning. As ridiculous as it sounds, the  man allows the camel’s third move. Upon putting his hind hooves into the tent, the camel pulls his whole body in and the man is pushed out of his tent completely. The devil works this way as well. In fact, you probably intuitively understand this.  If you give in to one temptation, then it is easier to give into another. Then, sooner than you’d care to admit, a chain of events has occurred, and you are beholden to sins you never thought you’d agree to.

This is particularly troublesome for someone who doesn’t truly follow Jesus. Consider the boy in Mark 9:14-29. An evil spirit possesses his body, taking such control over it that it prevents him from speaking or hearing. It also throws his body to the ground and into fire trying to harm or kill him.  Thankfully, Jesus casts the demon out and the boy is restored. Why are these stories so troublesome for a non-Christian?  Because of Jesus’ warning in Matthew 12:43-45.  Jesus describes how if demons are cast out of one home, they can return to it.  In that passage he talks about how a single demon is cast from a home.  The home is then cleaned, but when the demon returns and finds the house in order, yet unoccupied, he brings 7 more demons with him and they re-invade the house so that it’s new possession is worse than its first. But if Jesus occupies that house, those demons won’t be able to get in. They may bang on the house, they may sit on the lawn and shout at the windows, but they won’t be able to live in it.

So let the one person live in your house that won’t allow Satan to put his nose in.And if you are already a Christian don’t even let Satan on your lawn unless you want him banging on your door.

Angels and Demons and You

You may not realize it, but if you call yourself Christian, you are in a very real battle. If you do not yet call yourself Christian, then you are the cannon fodder for dark forces engaged in that same battle.  The apostle tells us that the war we are in is not against people. Battles against people are much easier.  Instead, it is against supernatural forces (Ephesians 6:12). Most of the time, you can’t see them, but just like the invisible radiation that rains down on us from space every moment of every day, those forces are very real, and have a measurable impact on the world around us.


This battle began long ago. In fact, it began even before Adam and Eve first walked in the Garden of Eden. Satan was God’s highest angel. He wanted to make himself like God (Isaiah 14:13-14), and in his pride and arrogance attempted to do that very thing. So God cast him from Heaven.  When Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden, Satan wasted no time seducing the first two humans to commit the same sin he did.  “Here, eat this fruit,” he told them, “and you’ll be like God (Genesis 3:4).” This, of course, ruined the human race, but thankfully, God has been redeeming it since then.  This redemption has come at great cost, and in the midst of a great war.


God’s desire is to save every willing human being (2 Peter 3:9). It is Satan’s desire to prevent that willingness (1 Peter 5:8, Luke 22:31).  This war is so real that we are instructed to be like soldiers (2 Timothy 2:3, Philemon 2, Philippians 2:25). We are also taught to put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18).


Putting on this armor is vital to your effectiveness as that Christian soldier. Without it, Demonic forces will launch attacks against you in the dark, and in the light.  They will tempt you, they will oppress you, and if you are not saved, they can possess you. The battle is so fierce, and so serious, that Satan shapes and moves the very social structures of the world and the environments around you to conspire against your faith, and to put the full brunt of his powers against any Godly desires you may have.


But take heart. Christ has overcome that world (John 16:33). And he has already won the war (Colossians 2:15). So be wary of the dangers of war, but know that in the end those who belong to Christ have victory!

Profanity on a Dark Night

Many years ago, when I was still a very young man, I stomped through a lightless night as a soldier doing soldier things. Sometimes soldiers get a little salty with their language. In those days, I was no exception. Apparently, my friends and I did not consider a sentence to be grammatically correct unless it contained a subject, a verb, and at least one profanity. In fact, profanities often replaced subjects, verbs, adjectives, and other more traditional parts of speech.


At the time I considered myself a Christian, but had not given a great deal of thought to how I saw the world around me. On this particular night, my mood was not the best and my colorful grammar was reflecting it. As soldiers are often wont to do, I was complaining.  Someone came up to me in the darkness and started a conversation. The dimness of the night prevented visual recognition, and I responded to the man’s cheerful attempt at engagement with a string of words I would be ashamed to use today. Although I did not recognize his face in the obsidian night, I did, after a few moments, recognize his voice. I had heard it before.


In the chapel.


On Sunday mornings.


From the pulpit.


The point of that story is that we sometimes miss important things because we are not looking for them. In this instance, I was not looking for a world that might be influenced or unduly offended by my use of language, or my Christian representation.  The disciples have a different, but very similar problem in Mark 6:41-52.  They had just witnessed Jesus perform a miracle by feeding thousands of people with just a couple of fish and a few loaves of bread. They were having difficulty wrapping their head around that, and never really understood it (Mark 6:52). Later, when they were in a boat on stormy waters, Jesus walked right past them on the water (Mark 6:49), but they thought he was a ghost.  They didn’t recognize him!  There are probably many reasons for this, but one of them may be that they weren’t looking for him! Thankfully, he got in their boat and calmed their storm.


Is Jesus walking anywhere in your life? Have you looked for him? Are you missing what he’s doing? Are you going to let him in your boat?