What’s Wrong!

dying-uncle-sam

And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. (Genesis 12:3)

            Recently, shortly after the New Year’s celebrations ended, I was listening to my favorite cable news channel, and I heard one of the news anchors, a lady as I recall, lament, “What’s wrong with our country!”  The outcry was in response to the shooting at the Ft. Lauderdale Airport in Florida.

            These days many echo the same lament as our nation morphs from a nation of laws to a nation of lawlessness. One could point to our outgoing President dragging our country into the gutter, but, in truth, the decline began more than half a century ago. However, except for those living in ignorant bliss, it is obvious to the observant that the degeneration has markedly accelerated over the past eight years. My good friend and author, DiAne Gates, details the decline in her recent blog post: “A SYMPHONY OF DECEPTION.”

            What’s wrong with our country! Lawmakers carelessly vomit out laws aimed at curbing the anarchy of the lawless while, wittingly or unwittingly, denying the God-given freedoms of honest, law-abiding citizens. In the meantime, the “moral majority” celebrates victory for their part in replacing one narcissist with another in hopes of turning the nation around. I voted for Donald Trump, and I thank God that he won the presidential election rather than Hillary Clinton; but I am under no delusion that he is the salve to heal our wounds.

            Our nation is sick. That is obvious to anyone having a sense of awareness, and no one has the solution. Anyone familiar with troubleshooting techniques knows that before finding a solution to a problem, one must clearly understand the cause of the problem. What is wrong with our country? The cause and the solution are simple, but the implementation is hard.

            Both the cause and the solution are contained in the verse above. The promise given to Abram (Abraham) is generally understood to apply to the nation of Israel. That is indisputable (except by those with a perverted understanding of Scripture). After Abram arrived in the land of Canaan, God expanded on His promise. “And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him” (Genesis 12:7, emphasis mine). God amplified His promise after Abram and Lot separated. “For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever” (Genesis 13:15, emphasis mine). If God’s Word is true, then the promise is irrevocable. The modern nation of Israel occupies only a fraction of the land given to them through Abraham by God. It matters not what the United Nations or the United States say about it, and it belongs to them forever! There you have the source of the problem to the Middle East.

            So, what has that to do with America? Perhaps you missed it. Note that the promise was directed to Abraham’s “seed.” That “seed” certainly applies to Israel, but “the seed” is much more than that. The Apostle Paul made the case that the “seed” applies to Christ more so than it does to Israel. “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ” (Galatians 3:16, emphasis mine). Paul bases his argument on Hebrew grammar, which records the “seed” as singular, not “seeds” as plural. The promise made was to Christ, i.e., Messiah, who would come as a descendant of Abraham.

            You still wonder what that has to do with America and the solution to America’s problem. The answer is in our leading verse. “And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 12:3, emphasis mine). Look first at the last half of the verse: “in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” That is the promise of Messiah, our Savior. Through His death, burial and resurrection, Jesus made the way for all nations to be blessed, if they will accept and submit to Him. He is that Seed of Abraham. Contained in the first half of the verse is the cause and solution to our national problem. God said, “I will bless them that bless Thee, and curse him that curseth Thee.” The emphasis serves to highlight the object of the blessing or curse.

            In its infancy, our nation blessed and honored our God, our Savior. At its founding, God took center stage and our lawmakers unashamedly proclaimed that we are a Christian nation. Oh! How God blessed our beginnings! Why? Because our nation blessed Him. Can the same be said today? Not hardly! Today we, as a nation, curse Christ and cast Him out of every area of public life. Then we wonder, what’s wrong with our country? As a nation, we have called what is good evil, and what is evil, we call good. The solution is equally simple. Stop cursing God, and start blessing Him again. Can it be done? I don’t know, but I do know this, “as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15).

2 Comments

Filed under Apologetics, Christianity, Current Events, Politics, Random Musings, Salvation

A New Thing

2017-future-road

Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43:18-19)

Whew! Got by that one! We dodged a bullet in 2016! While I remain skeptical of a Donald Trump presidency, I believe God granted us a reprieve by saving us from Hillary Clinton. Even so, the current administration continues to do its best to inflict as much damage to this nation, while in the death throes of its waning days.

Who knows what lies ahead in 2017? The stock market has taken an upward turn with the prospect of “President” Donald Trump. If he follows through on half of his promises, there is hope for better days ahead. However, the best of intentions must still deal with reality, and the reality is that we live in a very unstable and volatile world. The future is future. We can look to the past. We exist in the present, but the future is opaque at best, and dark and obscure for the most part. We cannot know what will come to pass. We can plan and hope for the best, but there is no guarantee of a calamity-free future. We can sound the waters, but sometimes there are hidden shoals that can sink our ship.

When navigating unfamiliar waters, an experienced pilot can help the captain guide the ship through safe waterways. A wise captain will turn the ship over to the pilot who knows the way. William Ernest Henley said, “I am the captain of my soul.” That foolish boast failed to avert his bout with tuberculosis, and did not stay the death angel when Henley succumbed to the disease at the age of 53.

We cannot know what 2017 will bring, nor can we avert the adversities that may come upon us. Like Henley, we may prefer to “captain” our own soul, but if we are wise, we will turn the helm over to The Pilot that knows the way. “Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure” (Isaiah 46:9-10, emphasis mine).

No matter what 2017 may bring, God promises to give us “a new thing” and to “make a way in the wilderness, and in rivers in the desert.” If God is your Pilot, you will do fine!

Happy New Year!

4 Comments

Filed under Christianity, Holidays, New Year's Day, Politics, Theology

Jesus’ Birthday

DF-09134 Nativity , May 18, 2006 Photo by Jaimie Trueblood/newline.wireimage.com To license this image (9139053), contact NewLine: U.S. +1-212-686-8900 / U.K. +44-207 659 2815 / Australia +61-2-8262-9222 / Japan: +81-3-5464-7020 +1 212-686-8901 (fax) info@wireimage.com (e-mail) NewLine.wireimage.com (web site)

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:7)

In 1992, Carol Cymbala published a song, which brings a tear to my eyes when I hear the sweet, tender voice of a child sing, “Happy Birthday, Jesus.” The words are simple and true, and when intoned by a puerile melody, they grip the heart and focus the mind on the real meaning of Christmas.

happy-b-day-jesus

Everyone, I assume, knows that Jesus was not born on December 25. The Bible does not give us a date. Was it Kislev 25, the first day of Chanukah? If that were the case, the date on the western calendar would fluctuate within the months of mid-November to mid-December. Luke recorded the events around the time of His birth thus providing an approximate year for Jesus’ arrival to earth. Augustus was emperor of Rome, and he issued an order for a census “that all the world should be taxed” (Luke 2:1), and “Cyrenius was governor of Syria” (Luke 2:2).

From Matthew’s account, we know that Herod the Great was “king” in Judah (Matthew 2:1). If secular history records accurately (and the record is dubious[1]), Herod the Great died in 4 B.C. Matthew reports that Herod, upon hearing of Jesus’ birth and not receiving word from the magi, ordered all the babies in Bethlehem, two years and under, slaughtered (Matthew 2:16). After the magi left, an angel warned Joseph to take the family and flee to Egypt, and Matthew says that they remained there until after the death of Herod. Given that we have no record of the time that elapsed between the family’s flight into Egypt and the death of Herod, Jesus’ birth could have occurred in 6 B.C. or earlier. That creates other chronological problems that distract from the point I am trying to make. (I find it strangely humorous that Jesus would be born “Before Christ.”)

The “time” of year also presents a problem. Luke records that “shepherds [were] abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night” (Luke 2:8). Late December would not be a good time for shepherds to be out in the field by night. It gets cold in Jerusalem/Bethlehem in December at night! Some attempt to rationalize December 25 by suggesting that it may have been the actual time of the conception, making the delivery sometime around mid-September to mid-October, the Jewish month of Tishri. That is certainly plausible. Some suggest the conception may have been in the Jewish month of Tishri (September-October), and the birth in the Jewish month of Tammuz (June-July), and that the magi arrived on December 25, after the family had moved into a house as recorded by Matthew 2:11. That is also feasible.

Who cares! The point is that the Creator God took human form and presented Himself to His creation as fully one of them – Son of God, Son of Man; fully God, fully man. He came to us because that was the ONLY way He could save us from our sins. God took extreme measures[2] to rescue His fallen creation. That is worthy of commemoration and celebration.

December 25 seems to be a fitting time in other respects. During this time, Chanukah, the “Festival of Lights,” is celebrated. By this time, the winter solstice is past and the days start getting longer. The prophet exhorts, “Arise, shine; for thy light [speaking of Jesus] is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising” (Isaiah 60:1-3). Jesus also said, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12, emphasis mine). With all the talk about “light,” December 25 makes as much sense as any other day to celebrate Jesus’ birthday.  Happy Birthday, Jesus!

Notes:


[1] It is very probable, and more in line with the biblical account that Herod died in 1 B.C. http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/people-cultures-in-the-bible/jesus-historical-jesus/herods-death-jesus-birth-and-a-lunar-eclipse/

[2] “Extreme Measures” https://erniecarrasco.com/2016/12/11/extreme-measures/

Leave a comment

Filed under Apologetics, Bible, Christianity, Christmas, Evangelism, Gospel, Holidays, Religion, Salvation

Happy Chanukah!

Hanukkah

In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.   (John 1:4-5)

Today, December 24, 2016, begins the Jewish Festival of Lights otherwise known as Chanukah (pronounced (with a guttural “H”) hah-noo-kah). The festival is observed for eight days, and while it is not one of the “Feasts of the Lord” (Leviticus 23) nor is it recorded anywhere in the Old Testament, it is nonetheless an important commemoration of God’s provision. Most Gentiles are vaguely aware of the celebration in that it takes place around Christmastime, but besides that, they really do not know much about it.

Chanukah originated in the second century B.C. during the “silent” period of the Bible – between the Old and New Testaments. It came about as a result of a Jewish rebellion against the Greek (Syrian) ruler Antiochus IV Epiphanes for his desecration of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem in 168 B.C. This act was prehistorically recorded by the prophet Daniel: “Then shall he return into his land with great riches; and his heart shall be against the holy covenant; and he shall do exploits, and return to his own land … And arms shall stand on his part, and they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate.” (Daniel 11:28, 31, emphasis mine). Antiochus IV defiled the temple by erecting a statue of Zeus in the sanctuary and sacrificing a pig on the altar. This incited the Maccabean Revolt, and, as prophesied by Daniel: “the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits. And they that understand among the people shall instruct many: yet they shall fall by the sword, and by flame, by captivity, and by spoil, many days” (Daniel 11:32-33, emphasis mine).  Two years later, 164 B.C. the Jews managed to expel the Syrians out of Jerusalem and take back their temple.

With the Greeks out of the way, the Temple had to be cleansed and rededicated. Part of the consecration required that the menorah, the “candlestick” or “lampstand,” that stood on the south wall of the Holy Place (Exodus 26:35), remain constantly lighted (Exodus 27:20). The problem was that there was only enough pure oil, i.e. oil that was undefiled, to last for only one day. So, they lit the menorah, and miraculously, the lamp continued to burn for eight days until sufficient oil was produced to replenish the supply from then on. And so, the Temple was dedicated. “Chanukah” means “dedication.”

Jesus celebrated Chanukah. We see in John’s Gospel “And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon’s porch” (John 10:22-23, emphasis mine). Just before this, He made the claim “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12, emphasis mine). This He said after forgiving the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11). Not long after, He healed a man who was blind from birth (John 9) saying, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:5, emphasis mine). That light would soon be extinguished, but not for long. In the spring following that Chanukah, Jesus would be nailed to a cross, and for three long days the world would be without the Light. The Sunday before His crucifixion, Jesus prepared His disciples (and us), “Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth. While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light” (John 12:35-36).

The menorah in the Temple was permanently extinguished in 70 A.D. when the Romans razed Jerusalem. Now it is only remembered on Chanukah. The Light of the World was temporarily extinguished, but He rose again, and His glory fills the heavenly Temple. Yet on Earth, His light still shines in those who are “the children of light.” “[Y]e are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11, emphasis mine). Since you are “sanctified,” that means you are “dedicated,” and Jesus said, “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid … Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14, 16, emphasis mine). So, shine!

Happy Chanukah!

4 Comments

Filed under Christianity, Christmas, Evangelism, Gospel, Religion

Bethlehem

But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. (Micah 5:2)

Bethlehem. The name means “house of bread” and Ephratah means “fruitfulness.” The additional moniker served to distinguish this town from another of the same name in Zebulun (Joshua 19:15). By worldly standards, Bethlehem was a humble and insignificant little hamlet, a home to wheat and sheep farmers. Bethlehem is first mentioned in Genesis 39:19 as the burial place of Jacob’s beloved Rachel. One of Israel’s judges, Ibzan hailed from Bethlehem (Judges 12:8-10). Ruth, the Moabitess, met and married Boaz in Bethlehem and became the great-grandmother of King David (Ruth 4:17-22). Thus Bethlehem gained acclaim as “The City of David,” yet it remained “little among the thousands of Judah.”

Out of the little town of Bethlehem the prophet proclaimed would come forth He “that is to be ruler in Israel.” God promised David, “thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever” (2 Samuel 7:16). That promise was repeated for David’s son, Solomon, with the condition that he continue in that pattern modeled by his father (2 Chronicles 7:17-19), but beginning with Solomon, that condition was unmet until at last Jeconiah (a.k.a. Jehoiachin and Coniah) caused the Lord to curse Solomon’s line saying “Write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah” (Jeremiah 22:30). Joseph, Jesus’ adoptive father, was from this cursed line (Matthew 1:11). But in this, God did not fail in His promise to David, for Mary too was of “the house and lineage of David” through another branch that did not include any of Solomon’s descendants (Luke 3:23-31). Her line was free of the curse, establishing Jesus’ right to the throne both legally and by inheritance.

So it was that in the “House of Bread” the Bread of Life (John 6:48) came into the world – He “whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting,” i.e. He is eternal. He said, “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). He also compared Himself to the vine and His followers as the branches. “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5). Bethlehem Ephratah – the Fruitful House of Bread – birthplace of the Fruitful Bread of Life.

2 Comments

Filed under Apologetics, Christianity, Christmas, Gospel, Religion, Salvation, Theology

Extreme Measures

nativity-scene

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

The baby in the feeding trough, surrounded by smelly farm animals and adored by a small crowd including a soft-faced young mother, strong bewildered father, common shepherds and majestic kings makes for a sweet, albeit often overlooked, tableau. If noticed at all, its significance evaporates in clouds of sentimentality. How precious!

Do you not see! The Creator of heaven and earth reduced to a helpless, needy, human infant boy. The Owner and Master of all Creation presented to the world through the birth canal of a young virgin girl. The conception itself made an object of ridicule and shame; conceived outside the “knowledge” of a poor carpenter willing to accept the ridicule of the town’s people, and adopt someone else’s child. The engineer and designer of a finely tuned universe born in a dirty cave allotted to animals rather than a fine palace suitable for the King of the Universe. Rather than a reception by kings, dignitaries, and nobles, the first to greet Him were the low-class, detestable shepherds that kept the sheep for the Temple sacrifices.

This was “God With Us,” Emmanuel. God wrapped up in human flesh. Who could conceive of such a thing! The Jews expected a Messiah to turn Israel into a superpower; but Messiah was a man, not God in the flesh even though Isaiah had predicted, “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). “And he shall pass through Judah; he shall overflow and go over, he shall reach even to the neck; and the stretching out of his wings shall fill the breadth of thy land, O Immanuel” (Isaiah 8:8).

No religion in the world envisions a god condescending to the level of mankind. The Greek gods occasionally mated with humans to produce demigods, yet they remained aloof from humanity. Islam has a god that demands absolute submission of his creation and even perfection (if that were possible) is subject to rejection according to his whim. Eastern religions like Buddhism and Hinduism picture god as some nebulous ether of which all the universe is made and of which we are all part, and the human must achieve an unknowable level of perfection in order to be joined to that undefinable “oneness.”

Only the Bible – both Old and New Testaments – brings the Creator down to the lowest level of humankind in order to elevate humanity to a place near equal to God Himself. (The created thing can NEVER be equal to its creator.) The thought is incomprehensible. The method seems too extreme. If God is so great – omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, etc. – could He not come up with a more sensible plan? Surely, some kind of merit system to earn a place at His side would be more appropriate. At least, that is what every other world religion offers. Man must do certain things – pray five times a day while facing Mecca, crawl ten miles over sharp rocks to light a candle for a saint, disassociate oneself from all worldly things, etc. – to appease the gods. However, that is not what the God of the Bible does (or did). He took extreme measures to rescue His fallen creation.

Man severed the intimate bond he had with his Creator at the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:6-7). Love is an act of the will. It is always an act of the will. It cannot be imposed. It cannot be coerced. It must be offered and accepted freely and willingly, otherwise it is not love. Therefore, God placed only one stipulation on the man He created. “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die (Genesis 2:16-17, emphasis mine). The man chose wrongly, and all of mankind, along with the whole of creation, suffered the curse of that choice. God introduced temporary measures to cover for human shortcomings – He shed the blood of innocent animals to cover (atone) their nakedness (Genesis 3:21), He accepted the sacrifice of innocent animals for the sins of man (Genesis 4:4; 8:20-21), and He institutionalized the sacrificial system shedding innocent animal blood to atone for sins (Exodus 12) – but this was insufficient. “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4). Animals, while innocent of any wrongdoing, are not responsible for the fall of man. The sentence for the infraction was death for the guilty party – the man. Therefore, the only reasonable and adequate sacrifice must be that of an innocent man, but there are none. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

What then! God took extreme measures to resolve the problem. God, Himself, put on human flesh. Through an act possible only for the omniscient, omnipotent, Creator God created a single-cell human zygote, in the pure virgin womb of a young Jewish maiden that developed as a normal human embryo. “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law” (Galatians 4:4). God was born like any normal human baby. “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). “Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:5-8, emphasis mine).

Only the blood of a perfectly sinless, innocent man could suffice to pay the “wages of sin” (Romans 6:23). God took extreme measures to buy back His fallen creation. There was no other way to solve the sin problem. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6, emphasis mine).

The next time you view a nativity scene, look beyond the sweet baby in the manger and see the cross. Two trees still grow in God’s garden, the Tree of Life, i.e. the Cross of Christ, and the worldly tree of man’s perverted “knowledge of good and evil.” One tree gives eternal life, the other eternal death, i.e. eternal separation from the Creator. The choice is yours.

1 Comment

Filed under Christianity, Christmas, Evangelism, Gospel, Holidays, Religion, Salvation, Theology

WHERE IS THE LAMB?

The reflection shining in the night sky above the tree tops was nothing short of a thousand-watts of brilliance. I crossed the little bridge and rounded the curve where acres of pastureland opened …

Source: WHERE IS THE LAMB?

Comments Off on WHERE IS THE LAMB?

Filed under Christmas, Holidays