Thanksgiving and Christmas: A Fight For Peace

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Tonight I circled up the family.  All nine of us.  I reminded everyone that this was the beginning of the holiday season.  Tomorrow we would celebrate Thanksgiving with a huge turkey and all the trimmings.  Family would be joining us and memories would be made.

They listened intently to me as I went on to tell them about how we would have to FIGHT FOR PEACE these next few days.  I told them that peace doesn’t just happen, it is something that is fought for.

I led us all in prayer and asked God to give us the strength to fight for peace these next few days.

It was really a great family moment.  They were tracking with me.  They were REALLY WITH ME.

I said Amen…and everyone went their separate ways.

Not kidding, 30 seconds later…there was a blow up between two of my kids, fighting over who was going to sit in the recliner.  MY RECLINER.

And I broke up the argument by yelling from the kitchen…

“IT’S MY RECLINER AND NO ONE IS SITTING IN IT EXCEPT FOR ME!”

Talk about a win.

But instantly, I turned to my wife Mel and said: “We are OPPOSED in this!”

“Here we are TRYING TO HONOR GOD with how we treat each other and it was blown to pieces in two minutes time!”

And so here I am…sitting at my computer.  Not because I’ve figured this out, but because I haven’t.

See, the holidays, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas, are that time of year when OUR EXPECTATIONS AND OUR REALITY are often far apart.

We envision our home filled with the warmth of The Wonderful Life and the humor of Christmas Vacation.

And when our expectations aren’t met, our tempers flare, careless words are spewed, doors are slammed and tears are shed.

 

So how do we do this?  How do we fight for peace?

I can say that we have seen some success over the years.  It’s obviously not perfect, as indicated by the events I referenced from tonight.

My wife brought me this verse the other day.  Romans 12:9-10

 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 

It was the last part of verse 10 that jumped off the page at us.

OUTDO one another in showing honor.

What incredible imagery there.  Can you imagine OUTDOING your family members in showing honor?

That is hard when what we really want is to OUTDO them in a shouting match.

Those words OUTDO ONE ANOTHER could also be translated PREFER ONE ANOTHER

Here’s what I know about me.

I don’t like to PREFER ANYONE OVER MYSELF.

I prefer to prefer me.

But can you imagine…how much more PEACEFUL our lives would be if we consistently preferred others over ourselves?

What we have found over the years of navigating the holidays is that it never gets easier.

The stress is always there and our expectations are always high.

But…we come into this season with boundaries.

We declare on SPECIAL DAYS like Thanksgiving and Christmas, that they will be “fight free zones”

We will prefer one another by avoiding landmines in conversations that WE KNOW WILL BLOW UP WHEN WE STEP ON THEM.

We prefer one another by LETTING UNDERHANDED COMMENTS GO WITHOUT A SNARKY RESPONSE.

We prefer one another by asking ourselves: IS THIS REALLY WORTH IT?

Is it worth RUINING THE ENTIRE HOLIDAY in order to get the last word in?

As parents, we prefer the kids over ourselves.

It’s easiest to take our stress and frustration out on our spouse because they are the other adult in the house

What we don’t realize is that WHEN WE RAISE THE TEMPERATURE in our home because we are FIGHTING WITH OUR SPOUSE.

The kids won’t remember the Thanksgiving Meal.

They won’t remember decorating the tree.

They won’t remember making cookies together.

They’ll only remember that mom and dad always fought on holidays. 

And somewhere in there, we put up the tree, made a turkey and burned some cookies.

 

So as parents, we ask ourselves

What are the memories we want our kids to have?

I know the thought of “making memories” isn’t real spiritual sounding…

But what I do know is that our memories often shape our viewpoints and our viewpoints shape our actions

And honestly, if our home is not a place of peace…why would our kids ever want to come back to visit after they move out?

And if we can’t figure out how to be at peace with each other when only our kids are in the mix…

How will we ever be at peace when our kids marry and bring OTHER PEOPLE into our family.

So tomorrow…we will FIGHT FOR PEACE.

And as one of my favorite preachers Voddie Baucham always says:

“Better today than yesterday.  Better tomorrow than today.”

 Fight for peace.

 

 

 

 

 

Tres Dias (That Secret Thing)

I wanted to sit down and write my assessment of Tres Dias as a pastor who has recently attended the weekend.

I have been a pastor on staff at churches ranging in size from 3500 to 50 and am currently lead pastor and church planter at Grand Central Church in Conroe TX.

The reason I write is because like many para-church organizations, Tres Dias can be a thorn in the side of pastors as they wrestle with something unfamiliar.

As pastors, we are typically inundated with “great ideas” from people…and most of the time, they are.  We just have to choose what is BEST for our people, not just GOOD for them.

Because many of my flock at Grand Central are invested in and radical advocates for Tres Dias, I felt it important to attend.  People in my church and outside my church were asking me to speak on the validity of the organization and especially the implementation of their weekend events.

I had nothing to go on.  I had many friends who spoke highly of it, but no clergy that I could talk to about its credibility.   So the best I could tell potential attendees was;

 

“I don’t know a lot about it, but I can tell you this…the most committed, all-in, warm and hospitable servants at our church have been through it.  If the organization is known by its fruit, then I like what I see.”

 

To me, that wasn’t good enough.  If I am shepherd of my flock, then I can’t readily protect them from the enemy if I don’t know what it is they are encountering.  I can’t whole-heartedly applaud and endorse a ministry I have no experience with.  So I signed up to attend.

In 20 years of ministry, there is not a camp, retreat or creative experience that I haven’t already participated in, witnessed or orchestrated.  In addition, the appearance of secrecy around Tres Dias only made me that much more cynical and resistant.  So I went in with one eye open. 

After 72 hours of being ministered to by the body of Christ and seeing His hands and feet at work, I was blown away by what God is doing through this ministry.

We as pastors stand up every week and try to inspire our flock to do what is being done with great vigor by the ministry of Tres Dias.  I listened intently for theological errors and bad philosophy…but couldn’t find any.

I do want to take a moment to address the appearance of secrecy that many pastors and leaders hang up on.  Here’s what I would say…it’s no different than a sermon illustration.  Pastors wouldn’t want someone to shout out the PUNCHLINE of their sermon illustration before they were done telling the story.  It would ruin the impact.

The appearance of secrecy around Tres Dias is merely to protect some of the surprise creative elements of the weekend. 

Honestly, in the age of social media where we find out the winners of the Olympic games before we’ve even watched the event, it is harder and harder to bring an element of heart-warming surprise and wonder without someone already knowing what you are doing.

 

(Some theological troll just tripped up on the fact that I said “heart-warming”)   ;)

 

Anyhow, I believe in the mission and vision of Tres Dias.  It exists to serve the body of Christ and the local church.  The whole-hearted, invested servants that they send back to the church is something most pastors dream of.  It’s for the newest believer in Christ or the most mature of our faith.

And here’s the deal…they aren’t trying to steal people from the church.  The consistent theme was: 

“We are not a church…what you are learning and seeing here should be TAKEN BACK TO YOUR CHURCH.  In fact, go ask your PASTOR how you can serve him!”

I will encourage my flock to be a part of this ministry because it empowers them to come back to their local church and LIVE OUT their faith. 

I will encourage pastors to go through and see what their people are experiencing and who knows, maybe God could speak something fresh to a pastor like He did to me.  Tres Dias is a tool that could be wisely used by churches of any size and I highly recommend!