Too Distracted

Like clockwork, when I take my dog, Ossie, out to do his business, he has to run through the checklist of dealing with every single distraction that comes his way … the sounds of distant sirens, dog’s barking, hawk’s screeching, leaves rustling, frog’s croaking, cars on the road, neighborhood voices, etc … the sights of birds in the yard, cats sitting on our patio, limbs swaying in the wind, random pinecones, water flowing in the ditch, etc … the smells of other animals who’ve walked through the yard … the feel of wet grass, sweet gum balls, stray limbs, branches, or vines, etc. All I want him to do is go potty, but all he wants to do is worry about everything else. Even after sitting inside for hours, obviously needing to relieve himself, he gets overwhelmed and consumed with other things and is so easily diverted from the purpose of our trip outside.

Sounds a lot like me when I’m trying to focus on Jesus! I know my need, I know I’ve been occupied with other things for a while and desperately need to taste of Him, I know there are potential distractions and say “nothing will get in my way this time,” I know my spiritual health depends on my spending intimate time with Him, but I still get sidetracked and diverted from my purpose by even the slightest thing. “I forgot to send that email … I need to get the clothes out of the dryer … when is that basketball game coming on tonight? … I really need to work on that lesson … I wonder how my friend’s son is doing? … hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow … I think my clothes smell like the restaurant … I should probably be reading my Bible and praying … I can’t remember what I did with that receipt … that’s an interesting bird … I need to start exercising more … I can’t believe Anita’s co-worker said that … hope Seth remembers to take the trash can to the street today … yeah, I should be reading the Bible and praying right now … I think this might be a good sermon topic one day … what was that noise? … why do kids leave empty bowls and cups around the house? … that picture on the wall is crooked … wow, look at the time, I need to go or else I’ll be late … I’ll read the Bible and spend time with the Lord later on.” I really do act like my dog.

One of the first things we deal with in our Evangelize Today training is how to deal with all the background noise of life. And while I’m beginning to get a little recognition and a few pats on the back for having some success in the world of evangelism, I know my greatest struggle is still just being able to enjoy intimacy with Christ. In our evangelism training we say our goal is to “listen to hear” the unbeliever, but how effectively can I listen to and hear them when I have such a hard time hearing the Lord and resting in the joyful confidence of Him hearing and intimately knowing me?

There just aren’t any secret shortcuts that bypass the importance and need of spending time alone with the Lord. But there’s no need to live in fear or guilt. First, thank the Lord for bringing certain things to your mind (friends, needs, duties, responsibilities, projects, events, etc.) and acknowledge that it is a work of the Holy Spirit. He is prompting you to trust Him more, to acknowledge that all the matters of life (large or small, public or private, significant or seemingly meaningless, purposeful or random) are under His providential guiding hand. Sure, we absolutely need times when we should be very intentional and focused with our prayers, but don’t neglect to be thankful for those times when the Lord is taking you on what seems like a random journey. And secondly, find ways and times to read God’s Word and delight in the Gospel. The more you taste of it, the more you’ll desire it. And like high quality headphones, the Gospel will cancel out most of the background noise of life that hinders our focus on Him.

Bombarded by Temptation

You’re probably like me and often get annoyed at the never-ending stream of emails that flood your inbox, advertisements for various products or services you never asked for, seeking to lure you in to their world. I sort of understand how it works … if I ever buy tickets to a music or sporting event online then all of a sudden I’ll be offered opportunities to purchase tickets for musicians or sports of which I’ve never heard. If I purchase clothing, even browse for clothing online, then all of a sudden my purchase options are greatly multiplied with things I would never consider. The Christian online universe is no better! If I even indicate a remote interest in a Christian event, conference, book, course, etc. then I’ll be overwhelmed with information about a myriad of other Christian stuff that I have no interest in whatsoever.

As you might expect, I will at times be captivated by some flashy ad, the newest product, the latest book, the lowered price, the life-changing conference, the best service, etc. and will then actually follow up and open the email, perhaps even make a purchase. Yes, I realize this only perpetuates the situation and only invites more such unsolicited emails … but … I mean … you know … it’s not like I’m emptying my savings account, or causing my children to go hungry, or causing someone else to make a purchase.

All this sounds a lot like how sin works. Sin is unsolicited … although we do pursue sin by nature, we don’t typically go around shopping for a particular sin to commit. Sin is relentless … the inbox of my heart gets flooded with sinful temptations every single day, throughout the day. Sin is packaged very attractively … been this way since the Garden where Eve found the fruit to be good for food, beautiful, and desirable to make one wise. Sin is packaged with other sin … showing interest in one sin opens the door for other sins to gain access into your life. Sin is deceptive … we can justify a sin by thinking it’s not the worst thing in the world or that it’s not really hurting anyone else.

Temptations are going to come our way. But how do we avoid the situation where we’re giving in to every one we see? We need to remember 1 Corinthians 10:13 - “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” Great verse, worthy of memorization. But don’t forget to read the verses that follow: “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry ….” Paul goes on to explain how, even through the sacrament, we deepen and strengthen our participation in Christ, in the benefits of the cross, in our fellowship with Him.

Where is the strength to fight against temptation? It’s not in yourself. God doesn’t merely flash a sign to you in the midst of temptation and give you a hint about an escape route you can pursue in your own strength. Rather, in and through Jesus Christ, He has defeated sin and gives us the opportunity, through Word and Sacrament, in faith clinging to the power of the cross and resurrection, to enjoy His strength as we encounter sin. Jesus is that way of escape!

A Very Ordinary Game

Is anyone else glad that the Super Bowl is over? Yes, it wasn’t the most exciting game of the season, but the reason I’m so very glad it’s over is because of the relentless hype and promotion over the past couple of weeks. Commentators, analysts, prognosticators, announcers, coaches, players, entertainers, musicians, friends, grandmothers, veterinarians, etc. all had to give their “expert” opinion about the upcoming game. Detailed analysis was given to every player, every coach, every matchup, every potential situation, and even every halftime show participant. Will the seasoned veteran have the advantage over the young guy? Will the exciting new coach be able to put together a game plan to defeat the old guy? Will the stout defensive line be able to hold the opponents running game in check and pressure the quarterback? Will the superstar quarterback again do spectacular things on the biggest sporting stage in the world? The hype builds and builds and builds and expectations tend to skyrocket.

After two weeks of the drudgery of wading through all this the game was finally played, and it just wasn’t that exciting. It turned out to be just another ordinary game, filled with some great plays, some poor plays, some shrewd decisions, some stupid decisions, some nail-biting situations, and some situations that caused many of us to doze off. The MVP of the game turned out to be the most ordinary guy of all - wide receiver Julian Edelman. Check out his impressive resume: no scholarship offers out of high school, quarterback at Kent State, 1 catch in college for 11 yards, did not get invited to the NFL combine after graduating college, a 7th-round NFL pick. Nothing impressive at all about this guy … except that he has become superstar Tom Brady’s security blanket, a clutch part of the New England Patriot’s dynasty, a 3 time Super Bowl champion, and now an MVP of the Super Bowl. Not bad for an undersized nobody from a town of only 6000 in California, who’s father is a mechanic, and who tore up his knee a couple of years ago.

Many Christians I encounter these days want life to be a constant Super Bowl experience … full of hype, excitement, over-analysis, high expectations, and lots of social-media coverage. But typically, the real MVP’s of God’s Kingdom are the weak, obscure, least desired, outcasts, marginalized, unexpected, servants. It’s a hard lesson to learn, but one we must learn if we want to be great in God’s Kingdom.

A Missed Forecast

The recent prediction of 2-3 inches of snow and freezing conditions that would create havoc on the roads turned out to be wrong. Many schools, businesses, daycares, churches, etc. closed all over the Birmingham area due to the forecast. Anita got a message from her boss on Sunday evening to come to work the next prepared to stay for 3 days! But, as we experienced, it was a major non-event. Lots of folks got really upset … you should go check out the mean tweets directed at James Spann, calling him all sorts of names, labeling him as incompetent, blaming him for loss of business and income, holding him responsible for disappointing children, and all sorts of other such wild stuff. Never mind the fact that it actually did snow in a few places and the forecast itself said not all places would get snow. But still, for the most part, it was a missed forecast and wrong prediction.

But would we prefer meteorologists not give us sufficient warnings of what could occur? Would we rather just go back to the days when the weather person was literally just for show, someone pretty to look at, only able to say what had already happened or what the current temperature or rainfall was? I believe anyone around B’ham who endured the 13 inches of snow back in March 1993 would rather be overly cautious. I suspect anyone who spent the night in their car, stuck on a B’ham road in the 2014 Snowpocalypse, would appreciate ample warning and be thankful for the extreme forecasts.

Every few years we get someone who proclaims with great certainty that Jesus is returning on a certain date. They point to world events, hidden Bible codes, prophecies, etc. Though these folks have obviously been wrong every time, they keep the predictions coming. Even a few nights ago I had a couple of men try to convince me about how current world events proves that Jesus is coming back in our lifetime.

Though I don’t buy into any of these claims about Jesus’ second coming, I do believe He is coming, and will come again soon … just as the New Testament writers believed He would return soon, even during their lifetime. “Soon” could be another 2000 years or more, but in the eternal scheme of things that’s soon!

I truly have no idea when He is coming but I do know the Scripture tells us to be ready.

Mark 13:32-33 - “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not now when the time will come.”

Jesus may not come today, but I am to be ready. The second coming may be years in the future, but I’m to be on guard and keep awake. My preparation and readiness for His return may cost me financially, may mean I get a little disappointed, may mean I’m viewed as an incompetent Christian fanatic, but nonetheless I’m to live each and every day looking for my Savior to come back and make all things right!! I’m actually hoping He comes today.

Mark 13:37 - Stay awake

Appearance is Deceptive

As you’ve likely noticed, the church office area and several classrooms have beautiful new flooring. It’s really nice and thanks must go out to our deacons who orchestrated the deal. In order for the flooring to be installed in my office they had to remove all the furniture … ALL the furniture, including bookcases full of books. So, it was up to me to pack them up in boxes and try to keep them organized as best I could.

As I started this task I noticed that there were many, many books that were absolutely useless; books I hadn’t looked at in 20 years; books I would have no intention of looking at in the next 20 years. So the dumpster behind the church became my friend for several hours one day as I threw away between 100-200 books. I know what you’re thinking … “Burt, why didn’t you give them to someone, or allow folks to look through them, or donate them to a thrift store?” Because these were the books that not only I didn’t want, I didn’t want anyone to have to weed through the mess of interpretation, controversy, or confusion that most of them would involve. But fear not, as I’m going through the boxes and selectively unpacking them, I’m now setting aside probably another 100-200 books that I will make available to others.

It’s not that I don’t value books anymore, rather I just don’t value the appearance of having so many books. I suspect most all of us want to be thought of as smart, wise, knowledgeable, and well-prepared for whatever we do. I certainly enjoyed it as people would come into my office, see the enormous accumulation of books, and make positive comments and expressions. But I’m admitting that many of those books were nothing more than decorations on the shelves to give the appearance of a well-read, thoughtful, knowledgeable, theologically astute, wise pastor. Of course, those of you who know me well know none of that is true, but it was fun to play the game!

If I’m honest, there are several areas in my life where the appearance is somewhat deceptive. I’ve always been told what a great faith I have … maybe, but I wrestle with fear all the time. I’ve been told what a wonderful marriage and family they see in the Boykin home … I guess we’re okay, and though my wife is absolutely wonderful, marriage is hard; and while I think all my boys are incredible, it’s not because they have such a good dad. I’ve been told I’ve modeled the Christian life well … hmmm, if you only knew the secret sins tucked away down in the hidden places in my heart. This list could go on and on and on.

A couple of points I need to make. Though appearances are deceptive, the Lord knows the real me in absolute detail and HE LOVES ME ANYWAY. This Gospel truth is what keeps me going in the face of sometimes feeling like a fraud. Second truth, I don’t think I’m the only one who realizes this about themselves. We all wrestle with this feeling. The church must be a place where it’s safe to be exposed, where our identity isn’t in appearance but rather in who we are in Christ, where forgiveness and grace characterizes everything we do, every relationship, every conversation, and every activity.

By the way, I have some books you’re welcome to come pick through!

Desensitized and Unaware

A few days ago Anita asked me if I noticed an ammonia smell in the laundry room. I told her I hadn’t, but that with my cold I really can’t smell much of anything. So we let it slide. She mentioned it again the next day and my response was the same. I did mention that I had used some ammonia for some cleaning a few days prior so she figured the smell must be from the rags I used and probably not yet washed. Well, this morning she again mentioned this ammonia smell and my response was exactly the same. Not only am I congested and can’t smell anything, our house has historically had all sorts of smells that sort of run together, creating a constant strange scent. So even if I didn’t have a cold, I seriously doubt I would have noticed the smell. Turns out, the jug of ammonia I used the other day apparently had a tiny crack in it and, sure enough, probably a quart or so of it had leaked out onto the storage cart and eventually on the floor.

How in the world can someone not immediately notice the strong smell of ammonia and fix the problem before it gets so bad? It’s actually fairly simple. First of all, the drip was small and slow. Had the jug emptied all at once it would have been very noticeable, but the tiny leak only gave a whiff of something wrong, and a whiff is fairly easy to explain away. Secondly, as I mentioned, we’ve become rather desensitized to all the smells in our house … boys, animals, fireplace, dirty clothes, food, etc. It’s just too hard to explore the reason for every smell so you just sort of accept it and move along in spite of it. And thirdly, I really do have the issue of sickness and major congestion to contend with. It hinders me from being aware of the various smells around me, both good scents and bad odors.

It hit me that this is very much a description of my life! I find myself going through a world full of good and bad to which I’ve become desensitized. I have a hard time noticing the nasty sin in my life - which often starts as just a tiny “drip” of a problem. And though I know sin is present, everything just sort of runs together and it’s too hard to explore the reason behind the sins. And, of course, the indwelling sin problem of my heart is a major issue that literally prevents me from even noticing certain sins. But it’s not only my sin I fail to notice … I fail to notice what God is doing … I fail to notice the majesty of God’s grace in life situations … I fail to observe the beauty of the image of God in others … I fail to see His good providence in everyday affairs … I fail to rejoice in the love He extends to me throughout each and every day.

Yep, my heart is hardened and unable to “smell” anything. Jeremiah 17:9 nails it - “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” So the hope of the Gospel is NOT that we’ll just make our hearts better, but rather that the Lord actually gives us new hearts, living hearts, hearts that CAN be aware and sensitive to the world around us. Ezekiel says it well in 36:26 - “I will give you a new heart, and new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” The theme of Christianity is never “let’s just do better” but rather “death and resurrection”, the old is gone and the new has come. So today let’s behold the One, Jesus, to whom we’re united to by faith. Let’s set our gaze on Him who lived the life we should have lived, who died the death we should have died, and who rose from the dead to secure for us new life!

The Agony of Defeat

Many in my generation grew up watching ABC’s Wide World of Sports. Each week the show started with Jim McKay’s narration over a montage of various video clips from various sports. Jim’s most famous phrase from the show’s opening was, “the thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat.” Coinciding with the audio phrase “agony of defeat” was a video clip of Yugoslavian ski jumper, Vinko Bogataj, loosing his balance toward the end of the inrun, tumbling, flipping, and ending with a spectacular crash through a light retaining fence near spectators. Most everyone in my generation has that image and phrase fixed in our minds.

This past Monday night Alabama’s football team experienced the agony of defeat … an image that also may stick in the minds of many a fan. Tuesday morning I had a couple of out-of-state friends text or email to ask if I was doing much grief counseling that day! I honestly saw most of my Alabama fan friends handle it fairly well … not too much mourning, grieving, excuse-making, or complaining. But I did notice a common theme from several of them. It was the idea that it’s actually good for Alabama to lose a game like that … that the humbling effect of the loss would prove to ultimately be a good thing.

While I absolutely agree that the character development of young men on the team is far more important that wins or losses, I also know that this comment is made only half seriously. It’s a way to help soothe the pain of losing. I say this, not to enter into a debate about college football, but rather to show the parallel of how we as Christians think about losing, pain, suffering, the agony of defeat. I suggest the average Alabama fan may be okay with losing an occasional national championship game but likely expects to be there again and win it all next year. I suggest the average Christian may be okay with experiencing some occasional suffering but likely expects God to make it soon go away, not have to experience that agony again, and start living in victory. If losing a national championship game builds character, then wouldn’t an entire losing season build even more character? If occasional suffering on the part of an American Christian builds character, then wouldn’t it be better for us to experience the intense persecution that fellow believers face in much of the world?

This is in no way an indictment of Alabama fans … every fan of every team is guilty of the same thing. Sure, I want the players on my team to have and build character, but I also want them to win! It’s just a game and we need to keep that in perspective. But I am trying to seriously address the mindset of Christians when it comes to adversity and loss. I suspect this is why the prosperity gospel message is so popular and well-received … you don’t have to factor in suffering and persecution. But authentic Christianity is full of pain, suffering, opposition, agony, loss, and trouble. Most Christians throughout history and around the world today have barely even been able to field a team, much less make it to the national championship game. The only “victory” they know is the abundance of grace they receive while in the midst of suffering.

I certainly don’t want and I’m not suggesting we ask God for more adversity. But if it does come our way, in large or small doses, we can be certain God is working to build our character and make us more like Jesus. Let’s fix our gaze on Jesus rather than desired outcomes and enjoy the abundance of grace He gives.

Exposing the Sin

As wonderful as it is to see all the Christmas decorations go up, it’s equally wonderful to put them all away and get the house back in some semblance of order. As we were storing boxes of decorations back in the attic during one of the recent rainy days, I happened to notice a section of wet wood. The water is likely coming in along an area that may require some roof repair work. Needless to say this didn’t bring immediate joy to my heart! I don’t think there’s any rotten wood yet but had I not gone up there when I did and not seen the problem until next year, it could / would have been a much more serious situation. So although my immediate reaction was disgust, it soon changed to thanksgiving!

As we begin this new year of 2019 let’s take the time to explore those parts of our hearts and lives that don’t typically get much exposure. Ask the Lord to graciously press into those secret, hidden places and allow us to see any problem, sin, iniquity, idolatry, pride, etc. that needs to be addressed before it’s allowed to deteriorate into something even worse than it is. Let’s make sure we’re making use of the ordinary means by which this grace of God is given - worship, reading/study of God’s Word, sacraments, prayer, fellowship. The immediate emotion to having our sin exposed is horror … but our ultimate response will be one of thanksgiving. May 2019 be a year of repentance and faith!

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! - Psalm 139:23-24

A Christmas Blessing

I noticed something the other day while eating lunch at Guadalajara. Three men were checking out up at the front counter and engaging in conversation with one of the employees … nothing unusual so far. Then I noticed one of them pull something out and hand it to the worker behind the counter … again, nothing too strange. But then this man motioned to the worker to kiss whatever it was he had handed to him. The employee, as requested, kissed it and handed it to another employee who also kissed it. It was evident that the three men at the counter were greatly pleased by this activity.

I suspected these men were Catholic and after they cleared out, I asked the Guadalajara employees what I just witnessed. They confirmed that these men were Catholic …. in fact, a couple of them were priests. One of the priests years ago had apparently met Mother Theresa and had a few strands of her hair in small plastic bag, approximately the size of a sugar packet. He had instructed the Guad workers to kiss it in order to receive a blessing.

I’m not Catholic, certainly not an expert on Catholicism, and in no way want to demean those who are Catholic, but I feel pretty confident in saying that kissing a bag containing a few strands of someone’s hair will not bring a true blessing, even if the hair belongs to Mother Theresa. There are many attributes of Mother Theresa that I would love to see displayed in my own life but I don’t believe that’s going to happen by kissing her hair.

So how are we to think about God’s blessings? A few years ago social media seemed to be obsessed with the hashtag #blessed. Home decor stores are full of items to purchase that announce to anyone entering our homes we are “blessed.” It’s not uncommon to greet someone, ask how they are doing, and get the answer “blessed.” So exactly what does it mean to be blessed? How do we get a blessing? I suspect we all would agree that the source of blessing is God Himself. But our questions tend to revolve around the substance of blessing … what exactly are we getting when we get a blessing? I contend the substance of blessing is the exact same as the source of blessing, God Himself. A true blessing isn’t merely getting good things from God, it’s actually getting more of God. I’m as guilty as anyone I know in misunderstanding the nature of God’s blessings. I constantly long for things from God rather than long for more of Him. Nancy Guthrie says,

“Since more of God himself is the substance of blessing, whenever we ask him to bless us, we’re essentially inviting him to pervade all of the ordinary aspects of our lives. When we ask him to bless our plans, we’re inviting him into them, inviting him to even disrupt or change them, believing that his plans are always better than ours. In asking for his blessing we’re confessing that the outcome of our lives will not be the sum of our grand efforts or accomplishments. Instead, anything and everything good that emerges from our lives will be a result of his sovereign presence in it.”

Am I ready for God to bless me with more of Himself? This opens the door for potential suffering, pain, loss, sacrifice, and failure. This means I must learn, like Paul, the secret of being content in any and every circumstance. This means I must live by faith, trusting in the glorious truth that I am already blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3).

It’s pretty clear that blessing comes by faith, not by jumping through the right hoop. In many ways it would be preferable to be able to kiss someone’s hair, have an evangelist lay hands on me, send a check to a particular ministry, have gold dust fall from the ceiling during worship (an actual claim of recent years), or any other such way to receive something good from God. But the real blessing is to taste of the goodness of the Lord.

So my prayer for you this Christmas is that you would be blessed! And while I do hope you get some good stuff as gifts, my real desire is that all of us get a bit more of Jesus. He is our true Christmas blessing!

He Needs My Help

Last night I was driving to the store listening to the radio and heard an ad to promote a Toys for Tots campaign somewhere in the B’ham area. It was a rather typical promotion, asking for people to contribute to the cause of helping disadvantaged kids get presents for Christmas … certainly not a bad program. But at the end of the ad was the statement, “Santa needs your help.” My first impulse and response was, “No he doesn’t, he’s Santa.” Of course, after pondering it for a few more seconds I remembered Santa isn’t real … duh! But initially, I literally was dumbfounded that the advertisement would say something so dumb. Yep, I’m a pastor, believe in the Bible and everything, and I still had an initial shock hearing that Santa doesn’t need my help. I mean, who wants to believe in a Santa that needs our help?

But, of course, when it comes to our belief about God we’re not so opposed to believing He needs our help. I would even go far to say that the default view of God in the USA is that He does require our help, that we actually do contribute to our own salvation, that God is a “gentleman” and would not do anything without our invitation, permission, and cooperation. We’ve been told it’s dangerous to believe in a God who does as He pleases, who doesn’t need anything from us, who is completely sovereign and independent.

But consider God’s Word as He speaks about this very matter.

Acts 17:24-25 - The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.

Psalm 115:3 - Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.

Psalm 135:6 - Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.

These verses give us confidence that God is sovereign, omnipotent, self-sufficient, eternal, infinite, lacking nothing, and doesn’t need our help.

Does this really matter? Who cares what we think about God as long as we’re trying to do the right thing. A.W. Tozer in The Knowledge of the Holy says it well -

What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.

The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God. Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God.

For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like.

We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God. This is true not only of the individual Christian, but of the company of Christians that composes the Church. Always the most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God.But the same Bible also reminds us that we’re to be obedient and have the privilege to participate in HIs glorious, purposeful, and redemptive plan. It’s not that God needs my help, but that He graciously involves us in His work.

A God who needs me, who lacks something apart from me, that His glory hinges on me, who is dependent on me, isn’t really much of a God. But I sure do need Him, truly lack everything apart from Him, and am completely dependent on Him. So while it’s perfectly acceptable to be Santa’s helper over the next few weeks, let’s not think or live as if God is somehow lacking unless we help Him.