Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas... What if There's More to the Story?

ID-100109865The Woman, the Child and the Dragon~The Adventure Awaits: The Choice is Yours

I never expected to hear a Christmas story that began in the book of revelations. A woman, a baby, and a powerful, murderous dragon lurking, waiting, watching... trembling.


Today my pastor Lance Burch of Reality Church located in LaVista, NE, shares an epic tale of Christmases past and those yet to come. This tale has been unfolding since the beginning of time, and today, you and I have a chance to step into it. To make history. To live big, dragon-slaying lives.


You can listen to this tale in it's entirety here, or you can read a shortened version below.


[soundcloud url="https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/181525613"]


It's one thing to appreciate the drama, risk and adventure of the story. It's another thing entirely to realize you are in the story.


What if our lives are a part of a cosmic conflict that has been raging since the beginning? What if part of the curse is that we don’t even realize that we are players in this epic tale? How much have we been missing out on? What if we are living the small story and ignoring the big story that is going on all around us? Missing adventure?


Revelation 12:17 says, "And the dragon was angry at the woman and declared war against the rest of her children—all who keep God’s commandments and maintain their testimony for Jesus." (NLT).

Jesus swaddled in manger
Satan is doomed but not yet gone. 2,000+ years ago, Jesus, God's Holy, powerful Son, came to the earth in weakness, as a human baby. And yet, this was enough to defeat and crush the dragon and ensure his doom.


Satan is a defeated dragon destined for hell, so he’s thrashing around trying hurt anything he can in the time he has left.


“He is filled with fury, for he knows that his time is short” (Rev. 12:12b).


We look around and he doesn’t seem defeated. We see wars, illness, unfathomable pain and cruelty, all signs of evil. And yet, the Dragon’s power is waning. His time is short. He is going down and he wants to take you with him.


Consider the end of World War II. The time between D-Day and final victory was the most terrible time of the whole war not because Hitler was winning, but because he was doomed.


Satan, our enemy, is angry at "...all who keep God’s commandments and maintain their testimony for Jesus" (Rev. 12:17b).


That’s us.


Upon Christ's birth, the Dragon incited Herod to murder thousands of children in his attempt to annihilate Jesus. This dragon who hates Christmas also hates Christians.


You don’t play patty cakes with demons… you fight. War has come to us. We cannot make peace with the dragon.


The dragon's weapons are insidious and sly.


For the unbelievers, he attempts to blind their eyes so they cannot see the gospel.

For the believers he attempts to make them live the small story. A story of monotony, of selfishness and pettiness. To keep us from the great adventure.

Satan is doomed. He couldn’t prevent the birth of Jesus; he couldn’t overcome Jesus; and now he can’t even get at Jesus. The child born on Christmas reigns from heaven’s throne. Satan can only to take out his frustration somewhere else, on the woman who gave birth to Christ and on the woman’s other children--us.


That's exactly what the dragon is doing. Even this time of year... he wants us to ignore the big story and live small lives around our own narrative. Because the dragon is the small story, he wants us to get wrapped up in the small things. His Schtick is to make small things seem big, trivial things important.


Are you living a small story life, characterized by:

1) Whining – “This stable stinks!”
2) Addiction – “Mmmm... I could really go for a burger!”
ID-1002766773) Drama – “I can NOT believe that innkeeper didn’t let us have a room. He is going to regret that when I post to Yelp! What are these Shepherds doing here!? How embarrassing!?”

The enemy will take full advantage of passive living. Lives will be lulled to sleep. Fear will rule. Anxiety will dictate. Toxic substitutes will be consumed because escape seems the only solution.


Could it be, the reason we buy into the small story is that we think that God is a taking God? That we have this sneaking suspicion that we are missing out?


All small story living is serving the diminutive power of the dragon. And that is Cosmic Treason.


Jesus is inviting us into the sweeping epic of all time... inviting us to play our part in the Big Story! A tale of ultimate evil being defeated by ultimate good is offering us a place of eternal impact.

Adventure awaits... make your choice. 


What do we do – once we realize we are in a war – to fight the dragon? We peel our eyes away from the small story. We ask God to open our eyes to His epic adventure. We abandon the insecure posture of Christians on the defensive about the war on Christmas and begin fighting the dragon on his territory. The territory of the hurting, the abused, the hurting...


“Want to keep Christ in Christmas? Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, forgive the guilty, welcome the unwanted, care for the ill, love your enemies, and do unto others as you would have done unto you.” ~Steve Mariboli

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

What Price Freedom?

7895957150_63c1a4da0b_bAn estimated 36 million people are living in slavery today. That's more than the total number of people taken from Africa to America in the vast trans-Atlantic slave trade between the 17th and 19th centuries. SOURCE: GLOBAL SLAVERY INDEX 2013

That's a shocking statistic.

December 2 is the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery. It marks the date of the adoption by the United Nations Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others on 2 December 1949. It was first observed in 1990.

Slavery today isn't usually people in chains. Now it's sex trafficking, child labour, forced marriage, and the forced recruitment of children for use in armed conflict.

Want some more statistics?

SLAVERY IS ILLEGAL IN ALMOST EVERY NATION ON EARTH, BUT SLAVERY STILL EXISTS EVERYWHERE.


Modern slavery affects people in the world’s richest and the world’s poorest countries, within borders and across borders. Slavery can trap thousands in one place – like mines and factories – or happen at a small scale, where a single girl is trapped in a stranger’s home and forced to work without pay. SOURCE: U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT



THE VICTIMS OF SLAVERY CAN BE AS YOUNG AS FIVE OR SIX YEARS OLD.


Teenagers who reach for a better life can find themselves tricked into accepting the offer of a job far away that turns into the nightmare of slavery. SOURCE: INTERNATIONAL ORGANISATION FOR MIGRATION



7833461936_474218f532_bMODERN SLAVERY GENERATES PROFIT OF OVER US $32 BILLION EVERY YEAR FOR SLAVEHOLDERS.


That's more than the entire output of Iceland, Nicaragua, Rwanda, and Mongolia combined. And it isn’t just a problem in distant, poor countries; nearly half the total, an estimated $15.5 billion, is made in wealthy industrialized countries. SOURCE: INTERNATIONAL LABOR ORGANIZATION



SLAVE LABOR CONTRIBUTES TO THE PRODUCTION OF AT LEAST 122 GOODS FROM 58 COUNTRIES WORLDWIDE.


Official U.S. government research identifies many products – such as diamonds from Africa, bricks from Brazil, and shrimp from Southeast Asia – as products that are commonly produced with slave labor. Around the world, people are forced to work with the threat of violence for little or no pay producing dozens of things we use every day, like soccer balls, flowers, and chocolateSOURCE: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR

What can you do about all this?

  • Become informed. There are dozens of websites.  Here are a few to get you started: www.justiceventures.org   www.walkfree.org  www.fightslaverynow.org

  • Choose products and/or stores to avoid. Learn which brands use slave labor and just don't buy them. Those that don't may be more expensive, but that's because they are paying the workers an actual living wage. Just pick one to start with. Chocolate (ouch!). Coffee. Soccer balls. Sugar. Glass bracelets. T-shirts. See this site for more info.

  • Support fair trade organizations. Here's a good list to start with. Again, these products maybe more expensive, but they are worth it. Teach your children why you can get a scarf at Target for $8, but at one of these places it's $25.

  • Volunteer your time or donate your cash.

At Christmastime, when we celebrate the birth of Jesus, who was born to give us ultimate freedom, it's a fantastic time to contribute to the physical freedom of others.

See more from Carole Towriss.