Friday, December 28, 2012

There is nothing religious about Christmas

Every year I try and remember when I have my first Christmas moment of the season. While there are many meanings, my personal Christmas moment definition is hearing the first Christmas song of the season. I was able to check this off my annual “Bucket List” on Saturday, September 15th at 2:11PM in the local Wal-Mart. While it wasn’t a Thomas Kinkade, Norman Rockwell or Currier & Ives moment, hearing “Silver Bells” as I passed by the shaving cream while carrying some fertilizer from the garden section seemed fitting. This was quickly followed by a deflated snowman that looked more like a pile of dirty clothes on your teenager’s bedroom floor than Christmas. Ah yes, Christmas was in the air.

Unless you were living under a rock, been in a comma or on another planet for the past couple of months, you’ve heard hour upon hour of Christmas music. Whether you went to church or not this season, I know that you heard hundreds of hours of Christmas music in stores, shopping centers, even while pumping gas. Everything from Santa, reindeers, Frosty, sleigh bells, chestnuts, you name it, Christmas music has been in the air. And while the music style is labeled “Christmas,” there is precious little of what’s played in public forums that directly or indirectly points to Christ.

Now some decry this with great gusto and emotion as not “Keeping the Reason for the Season” and “Taking Christ out of Christmas.” Others will say that America is losing its religious roots and foundation. I can understand all this to a point.

But the birth of Jesus, the reason for Christmas, was anything but a “religious” event. Think about it;
  • Mary and Joseph were forced to travel because of someone greedy decision
  • We know of no relatives or friends who were there to greet or help them
  • They were virtually homeless
  • After giving birth to Jesus, Mary put him in a feeding-box
  • They were so destitute that they could only afford the smallest sacrifice payment

When we think about the birth of a baby, there are a whole truckload of things we assume that just were not part of the first Christmas;
  • No doctors, nurses and technicians in clean surgical gowns, face masks and gloves; scrubbing and using antibiotics every time they enter the room
  • No pain or anti-infection fighting medicines
  • No medical technology to speed along a safe delivery
  • No doting grandparents or family
  • No baby showers or friends to support, celebrate and send over meals
  • No immediate posting of pictures on Twitter or Facebook of mother and child
  • No sanitary nursery with plastic cribs behind glass
  • No priest or any religious/spiritual leader

Yes, the birth of Jesus was not religious in any sense of the word. There was no ceremony, no list of the right things to do or say. There were no candles, no alter, no sacred building. It was like so many births in a third-world country; lonely, poor and without outside help.

Yet we remember the birth of this one child from all the rest in history because of who he is – God from eternity past, Jesus is “God with us.” He had to come and rescue us from the deep trouble that we got ourselves into, and could not get ourselves out of. God had to act to restore and renew us and our relationship with God and one another.

There is nothing that we can do to fix ourselves. No self-imposed set of ridged religious to-do’s or soft spiritual sentiments can set things back to the way God made them. We broke ourselves and God so dearly wanted us back that he sent his son.

That’s why there is nothing religious about Christmas. Religion is when we try and fix ourselves. Christmas is all about God paying the price to fix us, making restoration back to being his sons and daughters possible through Jesus.

Blessings – Chet

Chet Gladkowski speaks and writes on topics that touch on culture, life and faith through GLAD Associates. This article is taken from a chapter in his upcoming book.

Thursday, December 13, 2012


Pick up any article on life, sports, business or relationships; listen to talking heads you will inevitably read or hear about the topic of focus. Focus…focus…focus. It’s brought up over and over again. It’s rolling through the media; business and self-help articles are all proclaiming the virtues of focus.

From technology, to self-help, to entertainment, focus is a cornerstone of life that everyone accepts as being critical. Check out these video clips[1] on YouTube that talk about focus. While not agreeing with or necessarily enjoying their language, these clips provide an important sampling of how focus is woven into our culture;

To summarize, focus requires thinking; focus is using our brains.

And when it comes to using our brains in connection with faith, there is a huge disconnect that’s the size of the Grand Canyon. Our culture, friends and the media all define faith as this blind leap into nothingness. Sometimes you might think that having faith is unplugging your brain and leaping over an intellectual cliff. You may have heard this; you may even have said it.

But nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to Jesus. You may be surprised to find out that Jesus and the Bible encourages our focus and thoughtful reflection; he commands us to focus, think and reflect a great deal.

The Bible defines faith[2] with words like;
  • Confidence – like a legal document proving that you own your car or house
  • Assurance – proof based on testing, having seen the results
  • Understand – see with reflection and intelligence

In talking about worry, Jesus directs us to think, focus and use our brains. In contrast to the problems with worry, Jesus says “Consider how the wild flowers grow.[3]” Jesus tells us to look at, think about, chew over, reflect and talk through. And he wants us to do this again and again, spending time as we work it through. He does not tell us to jump off a bridge without a net; he tells us something to think about.

Faith in Jesus, following him and becoming like him requires deep, prolonged and consistent reflection and thinking. After Paul met Jesus in a personal and meaningful way, he went into the Arabian Desert for three years where Jesus personally taught and instructed him. This was no Mr. Spock induced Vulcan Mind Meld or “uploading” programs through The Matrix neck plugs, Neo and Morpheus. No, it is a process that takes time, thinking, rethinking.

I have friends that meet with me for coffee and we talk about life, faith and our questions. They have come to describe this thinking process as a journey, and I can’t think of a better word to describe it. Faith in Jesus is both a one-time event and an ongoing process. We come to Jesus by faith[4] and we walk with Jesus through faith[5].

“A journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step”…Won’t you start your journey with Jesus?

Blessings – Chet 

Chet Gladkowski speaks and writes on topics that touch on culture, life and faith through GLAD Associates. This article is taken from a chapter in his upcoming book.

[1] These clips contain swearing and may not be appropriate for everyone
[2] Hebrews 11:1-3
[3] Matthew 6:28
[4] Ephesians 2:8
[5] Colossians 2:6

Monday, December 3, 2012

“SMART” Gospel – Part 2 of 2

Summary – With the +1 billion proliferation of smartphones and tablets worldwide, the digital gospel horizon is a new and expanding landscape to reach, influence and transform lives through Jesus. While the message of Jesus is the same, smart mobile methodology is transformational, needing a new paradigm on connecting, communicating, disciple making.

As promised in last week’s blog, here are three application themes to pray, chew-on and move forward with.

What I am advocating with every fiber of my being is for individual Christians, churches and organizations to leverage this technology and connect with as many people as possible to spread the good news of Jesus as God, our savior and our only hope. Here are three themes to pray, chew-on and move forward with;

Prayer – This might have caught you a bit off-guard as being the first opportunity, but I really think prayer can be at the core of using smart mobile technology. I’m not just talking about the ubiquitous “Praying” post on Facebook. Writing and sharing individual prayers for people and events can be used by God in profound ways. You would not believe the heartfelt reactions when someone receives a specific prayer, for a specific need at a specific point in time. Whether it’s for physical healing, emotional hurt or other human needs, immediately delivering a specific prayer to those in pain through mobile smart devices can be used of God to touch hearts and meet their deepest needs.

Here’s how it can work: while I was writing this article, a dear friend posted a prayer request on Facebook. A relative was facing life threatening physical problems and asked for prayer. Taking just a few minutes, I wrote out a short five-sentence prayer specifically for him. While I don’t think it was a historic prayer, it meant the world to those in the throes of tragedy.

There is nothing quite as humbling as knowing that someone has gone before the throne of grace on our behalf and delivering that prayer right to that person in the midst of their need. It does not matter if they are a believer or not, in the crucible of pain just about everyone will appreciate your kindness and prayer. And because you took the time to write it out, they can come back to it later on for additional encouragement and strength. Follow-up and relationship building are also natural byproducts of sending a prayer along to someone in need.

Engage – This is getting our proverbial digital hands dirty and hearts involved with our culture through smart mobile technology. This is not in your face political or sports related rhetoric, nor is it forwarding hundreds of polarizing pictures and emails. It is thoughtful and sensitive commenting on articles and opinions published in local and national media. It is to be measured less by volume and more by depth. This can be a great way to influence many on overarching issues facing our culture and lives, talking about faith and Jesus being the most complete solution to our personal brokenness and mankind’s problems.

Since anyone can comment, your influence can be considerable. You would be amazed at who’s reading and its possible impact. Someone I know who regularly and thoughtfully comments on articles was recently contacted by a digital publisher because of their comments. After a few conversations they agreed to be a regular contributor based mainly on their consistent and high quality posts. All media outlets are in desperate need of quality content in this 24-by-7-by-365 demand cycle. If I can have letters to the editor published in USA Today, so can you.

And engagement is not a one-way street, it’s an ongoing conversation that you need to start and nurture. The onus is on us to go[1] not for them to come, so we have to initiate and cultivate the conversations. We cannot think that having a web site is enough. Just like a church building is not enough, we need to reach out digitally and engage those around us. Smart mobile technology gives us a new instrument to meet and converse.

Disciple – Remember the statistics about the growing mobile workforce? Fewer people are going to offices and the trend is rapidly accelerating. Studies are showing that remote employees with higher engagement levels than their in-office counterparts[2]. With the press of demands for our time and attention, we need creative ways to carve out time, energy and opportunities to meet with people that are searching and want to grow spiritually.

While I frequently meet people for breakfast, ice tea/coffee and lunch, making time to personally engage with people is becoming more and more of a logistical and scheduling nightmare. Being able to virtually meet via a webcam never takes the place of face-to-face communication, but it can be a most valuable additional tool.

I’ve looked at many different tools all across the web, and have personally used several that are free or come with a monthly charge. While new tools are constantly being introduced, my favorite is from Zoom Video Communications[3]. It provides a free cloud-based HD video meeting service that allows you to meet with up to 15 people at the same time. was created from the ground-up on a video meeting cloud that provides high grade video, audio and screen sharing. It supports iPad, iPhone, Windows and Mac devices.

Here’s one way that it can work. I use to conduct weekly internet based live Bible studies and it can be very effective. I put together some simple slides to help guide the teaching and conversation. People from all over connect by simply clicking on a “link” posted on Facebook and participate without having to travel. Through a combination of video and screen sharing, the Bible is taught, applied to our lives followed by prayer requests.

I can hear it loud and clear. Before you start backpedaling by saying that you are not a geek and not tech-savvy enough, this Bible study is not attended by a single computer nerd. All are non-technical people, most are home-bound and suffering from a variety of physical issues.

Another way to disciple is through recorded video venues. There are lots of good content already available and we thank God for that. But I would challenge you to sit in front of your webcam and tell your story. No one has walked your road, experienced God’s grace in the same way, have your birth record, your living hope[4].

Remember those internet Bible Studies? I go back and record the video, weave in slides and post them on YouTube, making them available through smart phones, tables and TV’s around the world[5]. This gives participants and others the chance to replay the Bible study at their convenience. People also forward video links to their family and friends, sharing God’s word, becoming “digital tracts.”

Mobile smart devices are expanding at an epidemic pace. That is the potential extent of your voice for Jesus. You don’t need a street corner, microphone or large auditorium. You need to be called and energized by his Holy Spirit to bravely reach out and connect with a culture that increasingly does not know that there is a great and loving God that cares so much for them as his children. He sent Jesus to intervene where we cannot, paying what is totally beyond us, reuniting us with God and renovating our life now and into all eternity.

Johannes Guttenberg, a German blacksmith created leading-edge movable type technology, for the first time allowing mass production of Bibles and information. It was also the genesis of our 21st century knowledge-based economies. He saw a need and was willing to do the unexpected, unusual and risked everything. So, pick up your smart mobile device and go “all in” to reach a lost and dying world.

Blessings – Chet

Chet Gladkowski speaks and writes on topics that touch on culture, life and faith through GLAD Associates. This article is taken from a chapter in his upcoming book.

[1]  Matthew 28:19
[2], Business News, Remote workers more productive than office staff, By Destiny Bennett, September 13, 2012
[4] 1 Peter 1:3-12