About this time last year I was teaching a Bible study and at the end of it, a dear old lady in the back raised her hand and asked a question. She said “In the Bible it talks about miracles and healings and supernatural works of God. It also says that God never changes. So, why don’t we see those miracles anymore?” Many in the class were nodding their heads in agreement and waiting eagerly for the answer.
My response was to say that those mighty moves of God still happen everyday, especially in other countries. I tell her about the persecuted Christians in 3rd world jail cells that see Christ literally come to their cells. I told the class about times where, in India, as the funeral procession went past the open air preacher, the deceased sat up, raised to life by the power of God. I told them stories from our dear friends in El Salvador who hold crusades where people are wheeled in but walk out. Where, when the gangs go to drive them out of their barrio, all the guns jam and instead of killing the Christians, the gang members themselves become Christians even though it many times means certain death when they go back to the gang,
I told the class one of my favorite stories of an African preacher who came to our church and said that they live completely by the power of God. That even if a home appliance breaks, they lay hands on it and see it miraculously fixed, to say nothing of the people who are healed miraculously, set free from demons spectacularly and saved dramatically each day.
Then this dear lady had a follow up question… “Then why don’t we see it in our church?”.
That’s really the crux of the issue, isn‘t it? Why is it that what we read and hear about Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit is not, for most, ours in daily experience? And the answer, directly applicable to Christmas, is that we have lost sight of what really matters in this life. We have taken our focus off of God, His Son our Savior and the redemptive work of the Cross and all the Cross means. The Cross of Christ means hope, it means sacrifice, it means love, it means forgiveness, it means salvation, it means forgiveness, it means reconciliation and it means sacrifice - the sacrifice of God in sending His Son to earth on a starry night and the sacrifice we owe in surrendering our lives daily in response.
Each year instead of celebrating a Savior on Christmas, we celebrate what has become a pluralistic “holiday” season. Our Christmas is resplendent with presents and lights and Santa Claus and candy canes and decorated trees. All items that purport to have everything to do with Christmas but nothing much to do with Jesus.
It wasn’t always that way however. In fact rather then being secular items, each of those listed above were in historic practice actually directly tied back to Christ.
The Tree that’s evergreen, decorated with lights (originally candles) and a star? Points to Jesus as everlasting light and life. The upwards direction of the needles pointing to heaven. Capped with a star that remembers the Star of Bethlehem that held vigil over the newborn King. Shining with lights reminding us of God’s light shining in the darkness. You know who invented that tradition? Martin Luther.
The Candy Canes? Shaped in the form of a “J” for Jesus, striped with Red symbolizing the blood of Christ and White symbolizing the purity of new life offered in Him. The flavor? Peppermint, reminiscent of Hyssop, a cleansing, healing herb in the Bible.
The Bells of Christmas? Bells were used by shepherds to call lost sheep back home. Christ is the good shepherd who still pursues the lost sheep to bring them back Home.
The Gift bow? One continuous strand, tied together, as a reminder of what God has called and enabled all mankind to be in Christ.
The Presents? Commemorative of the gifts given Jesus by the Wise Men and demonstrative of the fact that Jesus is the ultimate gift given us by God.
Santa Claus? A real person from the 4th Century AD who was a Turkish Bishop that went around giving presents on Christmas and was especially generous to children.
But today, we’ve forgotten all that. And Jesus? He’s been stripped from our Christmas. We’ve banished Him to the manger as a baby at the local Christmas production. Stripped out of our celebration of Christmas, just as we’ve allowed Christ to be stripped out of our schools, our country and even our personal lives.
And it’s not a Christmas phenomenon, it’s true of Easter, Thanksgiving, Sundays and pretty much every other day too. Then we ask “Why isn’t God moving in our lives?”
Oswald Chambers, one of the finest men of God produced, makes it very clear in just about every book he penned, most notably My Utmost for His Highest that the foremost job of the Christian is to keep our focus on the Cross and Him who hung upon it. In fact a favorite passage is when he says “No Christian has a special work to do. A Christian is called to be Jesus Christ’s own, ‘a servant [who] is not greater than his master’… Our Lord calls us to no special work - He calls us to Himself”.
Chambers goes on to say that in regard to the feebleness of the Church, and it extends to individual Christians as well, that “One reason for the feebleness is that there has not been the focus on the true center of spiritual power. We have not dwelt enough on the tragedy of Calvary or on the meaning of redemption”. The simple fact of the matter is that Christ is to be, and must be, the center of the Christian and all that he does, daily. Christ must be the center of our activities, the center of our focus and the center of our day - not to mention life - or all is weakness, impotence and a sad form of mere existence.
Scripture of course makes this even more clear in Christ’s own charge when He says:
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned." John 15:4-6
Know any withered branches? I think we see them overwhelmingly here in America. We need to focus back on what matters, Jesus Christ, slain, risen and coming again.
This Christmas, don’t let Christ be taken out of your Christmas. Let Him be not just the center of December 25th, but the center of your life. Contemplate for a moment with me the Truth of Scripture; that the eternal God sent His perfect Son to die for you, that you may have eternity with Him. There is no other way. That is what we celebrate this Christmas, the birth of God’s ultimate Gift. It is the reason we live each day, that we may be found to honor, praise and abide with the author of life. Abide with Christ, that He may abide in you.
The measure to which we do that will be evidenced by God’s working in our lives and our churches and our country. We talk about our sacrificing for Christ, forgetting that His was the ultimate sacrifice and it is our pleasure, even duty, to respond with our lives.
May you do that this Christmas, and each day - abide with Christ, keep Him as the center and focus of everything. And may the clear display of Christ in your life be the proof. God has not stopped moving, but by and large we’ve turned our eyes, attentions and finances toward other pursuits. This Christmas represents a great chance to change that in both attitude and action.
Merry Christmas from Ron DiCianni,
all of us here at Tapestry Productions
and the Ron DiCianni Artist’s Circle.
Posted on December 6, 2011 6:36 PM
First off, thank you to all of you who purchased this year using the ONE BIG DISCOUNT! We hope that you purchased something that will change a life forever.
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Posted on December 2, 2011 11:38 AM
I started the day after Thanksgiving. Ending all conversations, emails and phone calls with "Merry Christmas". Not because I'm particularly in the Yuletide spirit but because I truly believe that one of the key ways to reintroduce America to Christ is to prominently bring back those things which unmistakably point to Him.
So far, here's what I've noticed (and this is by no way a scientific poll):
About 25% fire right back at me with "Merry Christmas to you too" and a big ol grin.
About 10% give me a blank stare, dead air, etc. No response, no recognition. I try to pray for these folks as I walk away.
About 15% give me a tolerant smile and say "You have a nice day" or some variant of that.
Now, here are the winners, of the remaining half of the population:
25% look me right back in the eye and say "Happy Holidays". I chuckle and say "Merry Christmas" again with the emphasis on the first syllable of the second word.
The last 25% look at me with a very sad look of gratitude and whisper "thank you, you too". These are ones who work at the mall or places where they are actually forbidden to utter those hallmark words "Merry Christmas".
A few years ago I was buying something at Macy's right before Christmas and as I ended the transaction I said my standard "Merry Christmas". The lady at the cash register actually got tears in her eyes. She said "You're the first person to tell me that". Then she said "Merry Christmas to you, even though I'm not allowed to say it". She went on to tell me that she had been told that Merry Christmas was offensive and any employee caught saying it would be fired.
Think on that for a second. In the United States of America, we have people who are, under threat of losing their job, unable to say Merry Christmas. Not only is it the most universally recognized day in the world but it's also a phrase that contains the name of the Savior of the world.
In 1 Samuel 2:30 we find God saying these powerful words:
Those who honor me I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained.
I've heard preachers and missionaries all over the world say that America is under God's coming judgment for it's failure to honor God. I'm not going to get in to that one way or another right now. What I will say is that we as Christians decry the state of America right now. How we have a president who, for the first time in history skips the National Prayer Breakfast but does attend the Muslim Day of Prayer. How, we have an educational system that refuses to teach even the possibility of a Creator but, with a straight face, asserts that we went from the goo to the zoo to me & you. We have a corporate big business culture where you can have a Harry Potter book on your desk but not a Bible. Is that honoring God or despising God? And we Christians have largely stood idly by while it happens.
But, surely that's just the world... not us Christians! Right?
In fact, we have crosses voluntarily taken out of churches so they don't offend the "seekers". (Look folks, without the Cross let's just pack this whole thing up right now because there is no point).
We have pastors who will voluntarily refrain from praying "in Jesus Name" so they don't offend their hosts at public functions.
Families will take down Christian prints, books, sculptures etc when unsaved family comes over "because we don't want to cause tension".
How can we expect the non-believers to honor and revere God if we don't do it first? Both privately and publicly!
Lets be real about this...
As parents, if the schools suddenly refused to teach math or decided to teach that from now on 2+2 was really going to equal 3, we'd all have a fit. We'd be at the next PTA meeting, we'd petition the superintendent, we'd write to the local paper and we'd demand the firing of whoever came up with such an idiotic decision. But when the schools decided that prayer was out and 'tolerance' was in, we griped a bit but adjusted pretty quick. When they hand out condoms to our kids, show borderline pornographic material as "sex ed" and teach that America was never a Christian nation, we just pat Johnny on the head and say "don't you worry about it... someday they'll get it right".
As consumers, if supermarkets stopped carrying anything "carbonated" because CO2 was bad for the environment, (that means no more Diet Coke, Pepsi, seltzer water, Sierra Mist, Dr Pepper, Mountain Dew, Perrier, Root Beer or 200 other drinks) we'd be up in arms. Writing letters, boycotting, etc. We'd be on national TV decrying the stupidity of "Nanny state" policies that have no grounding in fact. But when stores decided that it was "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas", we were ok with that. When Target decided to kick the Salvation Army Bell Ringers out how many of us complained? When Barnes and Nobels made their Christian Book section combined with the Occult and New Age section how many of us even said anything?
As Americans if tomorrow they passed a law saying that men could only drive on the even days and women on the odd we'd have a mass riot. People would be writing their senators, we'd have protests, stellar examples of civil disobedience. But when the courts rule that no crosses, mangers or Christian displays can be on public land, we shrug our shoulders and say "oh well, we tried". And when those same judges try to rewrite our God granted inalienable rights we're content to let good ol' Jay Sekulow stand up there alone and hope he can pull off a David vs. Goliath (and that's not knocking Jay, he's a great guy who's institute has helped our family many times over the years and I strongly encourage you to support his mission http://aclj.org).
Why is it that, as CHRISTians, we've let God be kicked out of School, we've let the government tell our churches what they can and can't preach and we've let society replace the reason we have such holidays as Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter with reindeers, elves, turkey's and marshmallow bunnies - just to name a few..
And instead of having a fit about it, we not only tolerate it, we shrug our shoulders and then give these people our business, our children & our money anyway!
We've lost ground on so many fronts but here's an easy stand to take...Folks, for the love of God, take CHRISTmas back.
Heck, let's take it all back and be One Nation Under God again. We can get there. But let's start with the opportunity we have right in front of us. Without Christ as Savior and the core of our Christmas, December 25th is merely another day.
Let's take Christmas back. Look people in the eye and sincerely tell them "Merry CHRISTmas" - after all it's why we're all celebrating particular day in December. It's for the one and only reason that:
For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given... [and]... He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 9:6a & Isaiah 53:5)
Art: Heaven's Loss by Ron DiCianni
Posted on November 30, 2011 12:01 PM
For all our customers, blog readers, vendors and the countless viewers that surf this site we want to extend our warm wishes for a very Happy Thanksgiving.
Despite knowing more about Paul's statement in 2nd Corinthians 4:7-9 then we'd like, we recognize that Christians all over the planet face far more struggles and challenges then we can even imagine. And while we may have a passing familiarity with those verses, others are intimately acquainted with it. We're thankful for God's provision, favor, blessing and protection on our mission, company and families here at Tapestry. And we continue to hold fast to the many promises God has given that we have yet to see fulfilled knowing that He Who promised is faithful and will also do more then we can ever imagine.
We're thankful for friends who have made sacrifice after sacrifice to partner with us in the mission that God has given us of Going into the all the World... through Art. Friends like our production manager Heidi, our Sales V.P. Leonard, exceptional vendors like Marvin & Mark all of whom have consistently given more then they've received knowing that their offering is not to us but to the King.
We're thankful to God for a country like America, despite her shortcomings and dangerous direction as of late, she's still the best country on earth and one of the few in which we have the freedom to be Christians without fear of physical reprisal. And we're thankful for those in countries who lack that freedom but still faithfully serve Jesus, each day adding to the list of those who did not count their lives too dear to lay them down for Christ.
We're thankful for missionaries like Don & Terri Triplett who serve God faithfully & sacrificially each day and give us the privilege of seeing a glimpse of God's incredible power and who's ministry spurs us on to try to serve a God far greater then what we can conceive. We're thankful for ministry partners like Pastor Wayne who support us in word, deed, friendship and most importantly prayer.
We're thankful for the customers and supporters who have clearly seen the need for what we do here at Tapestry, namely present the Gospel in visual format. So many of you have sacrificially made purchases knowing that in doing so you were taking a step of faith in proclaiming the Gospel to your home, friends and world. And its amazing to read the boxes (literally) of letters and emails we have received testifying how God used one print sacrificially purchased to radically impact a household or church or office or life.
And above all, we're thankful to God for the provision of His Son, Jesus Christ our Savior. Who was nailed to a tree for our sins, raised to life for our justification and Who, each day, is the reason we get out of bed one more time that we may be found to be His servants, His vessels and somehow to hear those words "Well done MY good and faithful servant".
Happy Thanksgiving from all of our here at Tapestry Productions. God bless!
Posted on November 24, 2011 11:30 AM
The ONE BIG DISCOUNT is going on now!
Every year we offer only ONE BIG DISCOUNT, and this year is no exception. From now until November 30, 2011, you can save 30% on all orders with the discount coupon "big discount."
This is the largest discount that we give out, and it only happens now. We encourage you to use this discount to purchase gifts that truly deliver the message of Christ to your loved ones this Christmas.
As an added bonus to you, we are offering One Framed 18.75" × 24" In The Wilderness print to 1 random purchase during Nov 15-30 who uses the discount. To qualify, make a purchase and use the discount coupon code "bigdiscount" during the checkout process.
Note: Use the discount coupon code “BigDiscount” to save 30% on any order. Enter code during the checkout process. Valid 11/15/11 through 11/30/11. Not valid with any other offer. No minimum order size. Discount does not include shipping costs. Please call 1-877-TAP-PROD for expedited shipping or international orders. Additional fees may apply.
Posted on November 19, 2011 3:41 PM
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