This time of the year typically revolves around holiday festivities, joyous family traditions, delicious food, and — of course — classic Christmas movies. The latter is a custom in which I think most American families typically engage during the holidays. For decades we have been under the [false] assumption that this was perfectly acceptable. However, the enlightened progressives are finally here to educate us on our utter stupidity and total ignorance. And I, for one, could not be more grateful.
As you may or may not be aware, The Huffington Post recently made headlines when it sent out a tweet claiming that Director Larry Roemer’s 1964 classic “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” was “seriously problematic” because it features bullying, homophobia, parental verbal abuse, and sexism. You can find a screenshot of the tweet on my official Facebook Page. The publication highlighted one particular comment that read:
“Yearly reminder that #Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a parable on racism & homophobia w/ Santa as a bigoted exploitive prick.”
Another pull-quote comment reads:
“Santa’s operation [in the film] is an HR nightmare and is in serious need of diversity and inclusion training.”
My God. I think these people might finally be on to something for once in their lives. Everything is so clear now. After all, we’ve previously exposed the disgusting classism in “The Grinch” and the despicable, albeit thinly-veiled, racism in Charlie Brown. I see no reason why “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” should not indeed be banned from the airwaves for eternity and all who were involved in the making of the film either arrested and incarcerated or posthumously shamed and disgraced throughout Hollywood.
But this does not go far enough. In order to truly make America great again, President Trump must issue an executive order permanently banning all Christmas and Christmas-related films from the United States of America. Only then will this problem be solved. Please understand that this will include everything from the more obvious “Frosty the Snowman” and “It’s A Wonderful Life” — which are clearly racist, classist, and anti-Christian (Clarence the so-called “angel” is not biblically accurate) — to lesser known classics like “Die Hard” and “Batman Returns,” both of which encourage extreme holiday violence, as if we don’t already see a spike in shoplifting, robberies, muggings, and things of that nature during this time of the year.
Of course, there’s also the negative impact that these Christmas movies have on our kids, as films like “Home Alone” actively promote and endorse childhood rebellion, while others like “Jack Frost” are bound to give them traumatic nightmares of psychopathic talking snowmen that look and sound like Michael Keaton. I could go on and on, but I think I’ve made my point.
Also, this sweeping executive order must naturally include an official governmental Cease And Desist Order for all retailers nationwide that sell merchandise related to any or all Christmas films. Anything from a Grinch sweater to a Rudolph coffee mug has the potential to offend — and possibly kill by way of shock or heart attack — the average and innocent American bystander. I personally know of one family who leisurely strolled into a gift shop at their local mall the other day, only to watch in horror as their elderly grandmother collapsed at the sight of a Snoopy stuffed animal because it was wearing a red Santa Claus hat. This is simply unacceptable in 2018, people. For God's sake, we aren't living in the Dark Ages.
Until Congress recognizes this as a national crisis, more important than even Isis, America will be neither safe nor great. Our only hope is that our leaders come to this realization before it is too late.
I was reflecting recently on the fact that it often seems as if much our work and many of our endeavors in this earthly life are utterly inconsequential, particularly in the grand scheme of things. Indeed, there are many days when it can feel as if God has called us to do work that is of no importance; work that will never bear fruit; work that has no purpose; work that will never amount to anything at all. In these times, it can be easy to grow weary and give up, although we are called to “…not grow weary in doing good.” (2 Thessalonians 3:13; Galatians 6:9)
Of course, as human beings, it’s really only a matter of time before we become exhausted — physically, mentally, and spiritually. We are prone to become frustrated, agitated, and just plan ‘ole stressed-out. In modern ministry terminology, we often refer to it as “burn out.” I’ve seen it happen many times and I’m only 32-years-old. In fact, even now, I still see “burned out” individuals serving on a regular basis, happy and smiling every Sunday, totally unaware that they have fallen victim to this unhealthy phenomenon. But, for better or for worse, they continue to “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus,” (Philippians 3:14) despite the exhaustion; despite the burn out.
Whenever we wonder about the futility of our work — whether it be church ministry, family responsibilities, full-time careers, part-time jobs, or academics — we can be encouraged by remembering that nothing we do is in vain if we “work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men…” (Colossians 3:23-24) God has a history of using seemingly insignificant people and seemingly futile efforts to bring about the most spectacular results.
David was just a kid — the youngest in fact — who tended to his father’s sheep (1 Samuel 16:11) and delivered food to his older brothers who were in the army. (1 Samuel 17:17-18) Not exactly a high-profile career. Although he was a hard worker, he was likely viewed as tiny, puny, unimportant, inconsequential, and altogether unnecessary from the perspective of most men. Perhaps you can relate. And yet, God would use him to not only defeat the giant Goliath and the entire Philistine army, but would also subsequently raise him up to be king of all Israel.
The nameless slave girl found in the story of Naaman’s healing in 2 Kings 5 used her kind words and compassion — even in the midst of her own captivity — to show love to her enemies, thereby initiating the circumstances that would lead to Naaman being healed of his leprosy. Elisha and Naaman are often cast as the heroes, but this seemingly insignificant slave girl is quite the heroine because she followed the command of God (and, later, Jesus) to “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:43-48) She could have chosen to hate Naaman and his men. After all, they were responsible for her enslavement and captivity. Instead, her kindness set in motion one of the greatest miracles in the Old Testament and ignited a revolution, thereby proving once again that God can use anyone to accomplish His plans.
So, while it might be tempting to think of our efforts — and even ourselves — as trivial and insignificant, we can rest in the assurance that God has a unique plan and purpose for everything that we are doing, as long as we continue to do it as unto Him. We don’t have to be Esther or Deborah, or Moses or Elijah, or Peter or Paul, to have an eternal impact during our time here on Earth. We don’t have to compare ourselves to the most successful preachers, teachers, or churches of today’s culture.
Right now you may be having disputes with your boss; disagreements with your pastor; or devoting endless hours every week to tasks and jobs requirements that seem to go nowhere and amount to nothing of consequence; or you might be teaching a student ministry class at your church that descends into rampant chaos before any real scriptural point can be made; or perhaps you can’t find your niche in church ministry and have been left feeling utterly lost and confused about what God wants for your life.
Whatever the case may be, I urge you to plant your feet in the trenches and be encouraged. God still sees your efforts. And He still sees you. And as long as you serve Him and walk uprightly, He promises to withhold no good thing from your life, (Psalm 84:11) even in the midst of the trials, difficulties, anxieties, and frustrations.
I’d say that’s a pretty good deal.
Something rather bizarre happened to me after word slowly seeped out that my childhood epilepsy had returned: I received all sorts of questions, feedback, website suggestions, secondhand medical advice, dietary suggestions, recommendations, and opinions — all centered on or around the topic of seizures. Suddenly, everyone from my friends and family members to the cashier at the local Walmart was an expert on partial-complex epileptic seizures. Everything in my world was — and, in many ways, still is — related to seizures. I essentially live every hour of every day of my life around the possibility of having a seizure; always conscious of what and how I am eating; always burdened and annoyed by the fact that I’m unable to drive; always wondering if my sleep patterns or anxiety side effects will trigger a seizure; always questioning my future career and life plans.
In fact, whenever I leave the house, I wear a medical ID bracelet that bears my name, neurological condition, and important emergency contact information. It’s sort of like an advertisement announcing my disability. I admit I’ve often considered having a custom T-shirt made that reads, “Hi, my name is Josh, and I might act weird or fall over at any point.” Maybe it would go viral and start a trend in seizure swag.
After two neurologists, a neuropsychologist, several medications, prescriptions, and Essential Oils, I managed to encounter some fellow epilepsy fighters who were struggling with similar, and even worse, seizures and accompanying side effects. A common theme I saw in these folks was that much of what they posted to social media, or discussed when they saw me at a restaurant or local venue, was strictly about their condition.
I suppose it’s only natural that human beings indeed initially discuss their commonalities. “Hey! How’s it going? When was your last episode? I had one the other day. How did your appointment go? How’s your eating been? Is the new medicine working? Are you sleeping better?” These questions and topics become the norm after a while. But, for crying out loud, is there nothing better upon which we can converse? I would happily choose discussing the weather over chatting about the last time I chewed up my tongue. And, please note, I say that as someone who utterly detests mundane conversations concerning the weather.
Now, just to clarify, I’m certainly not suggesting there’s anything wrong with finding camaraderie and friendship among folks who are enduring similar struggles. In fact, I think it can be healthy within the proper context and framework. But, what I do not recommend is finding one’s sense of identity and self-worth in anything or anyone other than Christ.
Our deranged culture has so successfully hijacked and mutilated the concept of “identity” that the average American — even the average Christian — no longer understands the meaning of the word. Progressive society would have us believe that anyone can identify as anything and we must all accept it as true and then affirm it as reality, lest we be in danger of bigotry, insensitivity, or offending that particular individual. But, this is total nonsense and utter lunacy.
For believers, our identity is in Christ and Christ alone, as we belong to Him because we were purchased by His blood (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). It would be an insult to our Savior — a slap in His face — to reject such a gift and seek identity elsewhere. It’s really that simple. We are not defined or identified by the handicaps that plague us; we are identified as children of God. (1 John 3:1). The same God whose hands hurled the first stars and planets into the cosmos carefully formed you while you were still in your mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13-14). He carefully crafted and created you exactly the way you are for a precise reason, plan, and purpose (Jeremiah 29:11), handicaps and all.
And, since you are not equal to or defined by your handicaps, you are not limited by them — at least not in the spiritual sense. There may be certain physical, mental, or emotional limitations. That is to be expected. But, in God’s sovereignty and boundless grace, and through your identity in Him, you have limitless possibilities within His will for your life.
Embrace your identity in Him. Then embrace the possibilities for the future.