Category Archives: Holidays

It’s Here Again

Glory ye in his holy name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the LORD. (1 Chronicles 16:10)

Thanksgiving Day came and went. We enjoyed a no muss, no fuss Thanksgiving, just June, me, and our dog pack. We brought the old pre-lit Christmas tree down from the attic and set it up. Another section of lights failed. That makes two sections that need to be filled in. We decided the tree is going to the curb at the end of this season. We will look for a new one at the end of season close-out sales.

June and I spent the day decorating the Christmas tree. The dogs just watched or got in the way. Personally, I don’t think the all trouble is worth the effort. The tree is up for five or six weeks. Few people ever see it other than June, me, and the dogs, and, because both of us work, it’s only seen a couple of hours a day except for weekends. Then at the end of the season, it all has to be disassembled and put back up in the attic again until next year. I just don’t see the point.

We don’t do Black Friday as a rule. However, I needed some plastic putty for a model I’m building and decided to go to Michael’s ™ to hunt for some. June never allows me to go shopping without checking for coupons. She found a Michael’s ™ flyer advertising their Christmas trees for half off, so she decided to accompany me on my quest. We found a perfect replacement for our condemned tree and other small items, but no putty. No worries, Amazon ™ has anything one could want as long as one is willing to wait for delivery.

With our errands done, we prepared to enjoy a nice evening with our very good friends. We played some table games and then enjoyed a non-traditional Thanksgiving meal together. Truth be told, every day should be a day of thanksgiving.

We set aside Saturday to decorate the outside of the house for Christmas. I exercise fairly regularly, but the older I get, the less benefit I seem to get from all the effort. By the end of the day, my back ached, and my feet cried out for mercy. After a quick dinner of leftovers, we worked on completing the inside decorating. Decorating the house for Christmas involves much more than putting up a Christmas tree. June and I have a collection of more than 60 nativities that we like to display. However, before displaying them, we have to make space for them by putting away other knickknacks. This too is a lot of effort considering the limited audience that will enjoy them. The dogs don’t care. Still, the house looks nice, and it feels like Christmas.

I have written much about Christmas. If interested, the reader can find those in the “Categories” column on the right under “Christmas.” The reader will find that I have a low opinion of all the “trappings” of Christmas. I do not care for the commercialization of Christmas. I do not care for the sentimentality attached to Christmas. I do not care for all the hubbub associated with the season. It is doubtful that “the reason for the season” was born in December.

That said, there is much I do like about Christmas. I love the music of Christmas, especially the carols. In my church, the Sunday following Thanksgiving, we start singing the Christmas carols. The carols remind me that the Creator of the universe, the Maker of you and me, lowered Himself to human form and entered His world as a helpless human baby. THAT is awesome! But it did not end there. He grew up and lived among His creation as the only perfect and sinless man to ever walk the face of the earth. Finally, He gave Himself as the only suitable sacrifice to atone for our sins. THAT is amazing! But He did not just die. He conquered death for you and me so that we can live forever with Him.

He ascended into heaven, but He left with the promise to return for those who have trusted Him. The time draws near of His return. When He returns, He will reign as King of Kings and Lord of Lords on earth for 1000 years. People mistake the hymn “Joy to the World” for a Christmas carol describing Jesus first coming, but it is not. The hymn describes His second coming and His future reign on earth. Next time you sing it, pay close attention to the lyrics.

I love what Christmas represents. I believe Jesus was born sometime in September. No one knows for sure. Regardless, it is good to set aside a time to reflect on just what an incredible thing God did to save His creation. He offers His salvation as a gift. However, as with any gift, it must be accepted before it is appropriated. Reader, if this great gift is not yours and you would like to take it as your own, read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

I cannot change the things I do not like about Christmas, and being a Scrooge benefits no one. Therefore, I will try to overlook the Christmas distortions and focus on the awesome and amazing gift of God. He is the reason for the season after all.

Leave a comment

Filed under Christianity, Christmas, Current Events, Gospel, Holidays, Random Musings, Salvation, Second Coming of Christ, Theology

One Was Thankful

And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, (Luke 17:15)

Thanksgiving Day is upon us, and I’m sure most of us have plans for food, family, friends, and fellowship. In today’s culture, Thanksgiving Day is just a good excuse to have a day (or two) off work, indulge in gluttonous behavior, and worship before the luminous god of football followed by the giving of alms to the god of materialism the next day, all the while in complete ignorance of the significance of the day.

As I thought about Thanksgiving coming up, the Lord brought to mind the account of Jesus healing the ten lepers. We read about that in Luke 17:11-19:

And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole. (Luke 17:11-19)

Following the “Transfiguration” (Luke 9:28-36), Jesus “stedfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51). Coming down from Caesarea Philippi, Luke records that Jesus “passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee” (v. 11). He is traveling from the north to the south (toward Jerusalem), which means He must pass through Galilee first before going through Samaria. Why did Luke name Samaria first? I do not know. I could not find one commentator that could tell me, but I suspect the answer is down below. Jesus was on His way to the cross.

As the passage records, ten leprous men met Him, and while remaining at a distance –because their disease was so contagious, they were not allowed to come near other people – they cried out for Jesus to have mercy on them. They addressed Him as “Master” – Greek ἐπιστάτης (epistatēs), from epi, “superimposition, to be over, above,” and histēmi, “to stand” Together the title means “one who stands above” – Master! This is not to be confused with διδάσκαλος (didaskalos) meaning “teacher” (Luke 3:12). Thus, they recognized that Jesus had the power to heal their disease.

When Jesus saw them, “He said unto them, ‘Go show yourselves’” (v.14). Note that Jesus does not touch nor approach them. Why? Jesus had often touched lepers when He healed them, why not today? Jesus was on His way to the Cross. He could not allow Himself to become “unclean.” Note also that His Word was sufficient to heal the lepers – “as they went, they were cleansed.” This healing by His verbal command is a clear demonstration of His deity.

All ten exercised faith in believing His Word that they would be healed, but only one returned to give thanks. “When he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God” (v. 15). “And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan” (v. 16). He did not simply bow in reverence. He completely prostrated himself, flat with his face to the ground. He placed himself at Jesus’ feet. His attitude was one of complete humility, reverence, worship, and gratitude – “and he was a Samaritan.” That this one was a Samaritan may explain why Luke listed Samaria before Galilee. The implication is that the other nine were Jews.

Jesus seems surprised that only this one returned to give thanks. However, knowing that the Lord knows the hearts of all men, His feigned surprise was likely intended to make a point. Jesus said that “[God] is kind to the unthankful and to the evil” (Luke 6:35).

Thankfulness was not particularly characteristic of the Jews. Consider how often they complained after they were freed from Egypt. Think of how soon they fell into idol worship during the time of the Judges. Consider their presumption on God knowing that they were His people. Their lack of gratitude came as no surprise to Jesus. However, the “stranger” recognized his unworthiness and was grateful for the mercy Jesus bestowed on him.

“And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole” (v.19). The Greek word translated “whole” here is σεσωκεν (sesoken), and it means “has saved.” Literally what Jesus said is, “thy faith hath saved thee.” Obedience (which also required faith) had made him “whole,” i.e., healed him. However, his “faith” in recognizing Jesus as “Master” saved him. He was “whole” not only physically, but spiritually.

Does God Expect Us To Be Thankful?

Leviticus 22:29  And when ye will offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving unto the LORD, offer it at your own will.

  1. Not out of obligation
  2. 2 Corinthians 9:7 Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.

1 Chronicles 16:8  Give thanks unto the LORD, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the people.

Can’t do the latter without the former.

1 Chronicles 16:34  O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever.

Psalm 30:4  Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.

Considering God’s holiness and our unworthiness, how can we not be thankful for the love He has shown to us?

Psalm 95:2  Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.

Not “come before His presence with prayer requests.” Prayer requests are fine, but let’s first thank Him.

Psalm 100:4  Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.

“Bless His name,” i.e., “speak well of His name” What are some attributes of God that come to mind?

Colossians 2:6-7  As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:  (7)  Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.

Philippians 4:6  Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

1 Thessalonians 5:18  In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

Consequences of Ingratitude:

Romans 1:21  Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

Ingratitude darkens the heart.

2 Timothy 3:1-2, 7-9  This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.  (2)  For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy … (7) Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. (8)  Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith. (9)  But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was.

Benefits of Thankfulness:

Psalm 140:13  Surely the righteous shall give thanks unto thy name: the upright shall dwell in thy presence.

We are made “righteous” through Christ. Because of that we have His presence within us.

Jeremiah 30:19  And out of them shall proceed thanksgiving and the voice of them that make merry: and I will multiply them, and they shall not be few; I will also glorify them, and they shall not be small.

  1. In context, this is referring to Israel’s return from Babylonian captivity.
  2. However, the principle applies.
  3. God will bless our thankfulness.

2 Corinthians 4:15  For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God.

  1. “redound” Greek περισσεύω (perisseuō)
  2. to superabound (in quantity or quality), be in excess
  3. God’s grace to us “supper-abounds” through thanksgiving.

2 Corinthians 9:11  Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God.

Colossians 3:15  And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.

1 Timothy 4:1-5  Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;  (2)  Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;  (3)  Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.  (4)  For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:  (5)  For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.

Conclusion:

Jesus healed ten lepers. Nine of them were of “the chosen.” Their attitude reflected ingratitude for the marvelous work Jesus performed in their lives – almost as if they believed they were entitled to what they received.

One leper – a “stranger,” a Samaritan, clearly an “outsider” due to both his leprosy and his heritage – recognized his own unworthiness and the greatness of the One who healed him; and he returned to give thanks and worship the God who healed him. And he was saved.  Let us recognize that we are all lepers and give thanks for all He has done for us.

Happy Thanksgiving!

3 Comments

Filed under Apologetics, Christianity, Holidays, Religion, Salvation, Thanksgiving, Theology

O Beautiful!

Mayflower Compact, Signed November 11, 1620

Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance. (Psalm 33:12)

President Obama insulted American Christians when he proclaimed to the world that America was not a Christian nation. He went on to announce that America was just as much of a Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or any other religion of your choice nation. Christians rightly protested (without violence or destruction of public and private property) that America was indeed a Christian nation as enshrined in our founding documents.

Before setting foot on their “promised land” on November 11, 1620, the Pilgrims covenanted together “for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith” to “combine” themselves “together into a civil body politic.” The Mayflower Compact later influenced the freedom pact declaring our nation’s independence on July 4, 1776, assuming “among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them.” The declaration went on to assert, “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, and they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” After a long list of grievances, they made their appeal “to the Supreme Judge of the World” declaring their “firm Reliance on the Protection of divine Providence,” i.e., God.

The reliance on Divine Providence prompted the founders to include in the Bill of Rights of the US Constitution, the First Amendment protecting freedom of religion. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The amendment also guaranteed freedom of speech, freedom of the press and “the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” This First Amendment (and the Second that secures it) is under assault on many fronts. A plain reading of the text makes it clear that the government cannot impose one religion over another. At the same time, the government cannot prohibit the free practice of a citizen’s religion. Conspicuously, no restrictions exist on the exercise of religious practice – no restriction for the free practice in public, public schools, public buildings, public events, or any other such restrictions. However, put up a Nativity Scene in the public square, or the Ten Commandments at the county courthouse or on the wall of a public school, or offer a prayer at the start of a high school sports activity, and the ACLU will be out in full force looking for someone to sue. On what grounds? The ACLU will argue that such religious activity violates the “separation of church and state,” a phrase found nowhere in the Constitution. With the aid of unscrupulous judges, the ACLU intimidates victims without the resources to fight the litigation so that they give up without a fight. Slowly, the ACLU has eroded away the concept of religious liberty.

Now, legislation in various states, California in particular, slowly chips away at what remains of the First Amendment by declaring that any denunciation of sodomites is “hate speech” and therefore illegal. That destroys free speech. It destroys freedom of the press, which might even make the Bible illegal because it has much to say about deviant sex acts. It could follow that the freedom to peaceably assemble in a church that teaches against sodomy will be declared illegal, and forget about petitioning the government over such a grievance. There goes the First Amendment. Without the Second Amendment, which is systematically being picked apart, how can the First Amendment be defended?

Barack Obama was right. Whatever America used to be, it is no longer a Christian nation. I hear many Christians express optimism that we can turn around this nation. Many hope for national revival (2 Chronicles 7:14 – taken way out of context). I must admit, I do not share that optimism. That ship has sailed. America is no longer a Christian nation, and it will never again be a Christian nation. Christians – genuine, born-again, Bible-believing, evangelical Christians – in America are rapidly becoming the “remnant.” We can voice our complaints until our tonsils bleed, and nothing will change, except perhaps for the worst.

I do not mean to be a Gloomy Gus, nor do I want to be a Pollyanna. I want to be realistic, and I want to be biblical. While the Bible teaches that we are to submit to our governing authorities (Romans 13:1-8) and that we should pray our leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-4), we must recognize that our primary citizenship is not of this world, but the kingdom of Jesus Christ. “For our [citizenship] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). In His high priestly prayer, Jesus affirmed, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world” (John 17:16). While America is not “the beautiful,” innocent virgin she once was, we who have placed our trust in Christ, are children of the King, (John 1:12) and citizens of His realm. While we remain and while He delays His return, we must turn our focus and our efforts to His Kingdom. The things of this earth, including America the Beautiful, are passing away (1 John 2:17), but His Kingdom will last forever (Luke 1:33). “When ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it is nigh, even at the doors” (Mark 13:29).

O, Beautiful! I lament your demise, but I rejoice knowing that the Lord will soon return, and He will truly make America great again – better than ever! Not only America, but His reign on earth will make the whole earth better than before. Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

1 Comment

Filed under Apologetics, Christianity, Current Events, End Times, Holidays, Politics, Religion, Second Coming of Christ

Not Here

At the Garden Tomb, Jerusalem, Israel

And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. (Mark 16:6)

Mohammad’s bones lay at rest in the Al-Masjid an-Nabawi (the “Mosque of the Prophet”) in the city of Medina, Saudi Arabia. They cremated Buddha’s body and divided his ashes among several Buddhist temples in Asia. The remains of Confucius reside in a grave in his hometown of Qufu, Shandong Province, China. The remains of these and others are enshrined by the followers of the religions they founded, and the location of their tombs are known. Followers of these various religions can point to the tombs and say, “Here lies so-and-so, founder of religion ‘you-name-it.’”

However, Christians cannot make such claims. Two main sites in Jerusalem vie for the claim of Jesus’ burial place: the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Garden Tomb. The former glitters with gold and looks nothing like a burial place. The latter is located in a quiet garden and is virtually unadorned. It is in a place a short walk from a hillside whose face features two prominent grottos that remarkably resemble two eye sockets of a human skull. Of the two sites, the Garden Tomb seems more likely to be the place where Jesus was laid according to Scripture. “Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid. There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews’ preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand” (John 19:41-42, emphasis mine). The Garden Tomb is very “nigh” to the place of the skull, so it seems more likely the right place.

The Garden Tomb, Jerusalem, Israel

Regardless of one’s preference for one site over the other, the fact remains that both tombs are empty. Those who refuse to believe, continue to fabricate all kinds of conspiracy theories as to what became of Jesus’ body. This has gone on since the empty tomb was first discovered. “Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch [the Roman soldiers assigned to guard the tomb] came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done. And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. And if this come to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day” (Matthew 28:11-15, emphasis mine). All of these conspiracy theories about Jesus’ missing body have been thoroughly debunked.

He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.
(Matthew 28:6)

The truth remains, Jesus’ tomb is empty because He rose from the dead on the third day just as He said, and according to the Scriptures. Furthermore, He is coming again very soon. Jesus said, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:1-3, emphasis mine).

 

4 Comments

Filed under Apologetics, Christianity, Easter, Gospel, Holidays, Religion, Resurrection, Salvation, Second Coming of Christ, Theology

All Things New

And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. (Revelation 21:5)

For me, 2017[1] ends with mixed reviews. Beginning in January, the uncertainty of a Trump presidency offered a sense of cautious optimism. By this time, however, my opinion of President Donald Trump has swung to a strong positive. I still wish he would learn to control what comes out of his mouth. Then again, he is not a “politician,” so he pretty much tells it like it is. I can appreciate that about him. Of course, his lack of political correctness makes his opponents in government and the media dig in their heels even deeper, but with “his pen and his phone,” he managed to undo much of the harm created by the last administration. One has to admire his tenacity! Here are just some of our President’s accomplishments in his first year:

  1. Passing the tax-cut bill (promise kept)
  2. Neil Gorsuch confirmation to the Supreme Court (promise kept)
  3. Roll-back of [many] regulations (promise kept)
  4. Travel Ban [from terrorist spawning countries] (promise kept)
  5. Declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel (promise kept)
  6. Withdrawal from the Paris climate deal (promise kept)
  7. Pulling out of NAFTA (promise kept)
  8. Roll-back of “some” of Obama’s Cuba policies (promise kept)
  9. Moving to repeal Obama’s net neutrality rules
  10. Fighting and further degrading ISIS (promise kept)[2]

In many ways, our nation improved in 2017. Economically, things are looking up. Companies are beginning to employ more workers due to the reduction in regulations and the prospect of corporate tax cuts. AT&T and others gave substantial year-end bonuses to their employees for the first time in many years. America has regained her status as the leader of the free world and earned back the respect lost by the last administration. However, that has also escalated the tensions with hostile nations like Iran, North Korea, China, and Russia. North Korea has grown more volatile since the days of the last administration. We wonder where that will lead in 2018. Even though America has seen many improvements in 2017, the world remains in a state of unrest as wars and rumors of wars continue to escalate.

Twenty-seventeen brought some disappointments for me. Supposedly, 2017 was the 70th Year of Jubilee[3] since God gave the observance to Moses 3500 years ago. The Jewish year was 5777. The number 10 in the Bible represents completeness, as does the number seven. The number three represents completeness also, but it is usually associated with the triune nature of God. Working together, all these numbers made 2017 significant apocalyptically. The 70th Jubilee is 7 x 10, and the Jewish year included three sevens in a row. Along with that, the U.S. experienced a significant total eclipse[4] all across the continent – a sign for Gentile nations. That was followed by “The Revelation 12 Sign,”[5] which took place on September 23.  Twenty-seventeen was also the 70th anniversary of the United Nations recognizing Israel as a sovereign nation and the 50th anniversary of Israel regaining control of their capital city, Jerusalem, in the 1967 Six-day War. All these things together along with our Lord’s words, “This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled” (Matthew 24:34), made 2017 an excellent time for our Lord’s return.

I do and have for many years held the opinion that Jesus will come for His Bride, the Church, on or around the Feast of Trumpets, which in 2017 took place on September 23/24. However, those days came and went, and we are all still here. One adamant YouTube advocate for the Revelation 12 Sign was often unfairly accused of being a “date setter” by more conservative end-times prophecy “experts” for suggesting that the Rapture “might” take place on the 23rd. Sadly, when the event did not take place, the young man stopped producing YouTube messages. I sympathize with his disappointment, but I have no doubt that Jesus will return for His Church at the appropriate time. When He does come, I want Him to find me occupied in my Father’s business.

We still look for Christ’s return with great anticipation. Some suggest that 2018 could be the year that Jesus comes for His Church. These revised predictions find their basis on the 70th anniversary of Israel declaring its independence on May 14, 1948.  That is as good as any other prediction considering the fact that Jesus never gave us a definite time.

The key factor in all end-times prophecy is the Nation of Israel. All end-times prophecy centers around Israel. Following the destruction of Jerusalem and the scattering of the Jews in 70 AD, the Nation of Israel ceased to exist, and for 2000 years, the land remained a barren ruin – a Valley of Dry Bones (Ezekiel 37). Then at the turn of the 20th Century, with the Balfour Declaration of 1917, the prophet’s vision was realized. The bones started coming together and then the sinew, the flesh, and the skin until in 1948 the dry bones stood up – a mighty army. Never in world history has a people been utterly disseminated among other nations and managed to maintain their identity and customs – and this for over 2000 years. Even the Hebrew, once considered a dead language, has revived as the national language of Israel. The Nation of Israel is nothing less than a miracle.

The fig tree symbolizes the Nation of Israel. Jesus alluded to the fig tree in His prophetic discourse.  He said that when you see the fig tree (Israel) put forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. “So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled” (Matthew 24:33-34, emphasis mine). The fig tree has not only budded, but it is now in full-bloom and producing fruit! Jesus guaranteed the truth of His statement. “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Matthew 24:35). Seventy years – threescore and ten (Psalm 90:10) – qualifies as a generation. The time is near!

Frivolous distractions by the “fake news” and the “selective news” media blind us to the “rumors of wars” stirring in the Middle East. The Prophet Ezekiel spoke of the armies of Magog (Russia), Tubal (Turkey), Persia (Iran), and a few others gathering against Israel in the “last days” (Ezekiel 38-39). We see that happening now, but few are paying attention. God is preparing the scene for the coming of our Lord. Perhaps 2018 will be the year. I hope so. Regardless, our Lord is faithful, and Jesus will come soon. Therefore, “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7). We can look forward to the New Year knowing that God has all things well under control. I am excited about whatever He has in store for us!

Happy New Year!

Notes:


[1]  “A New Thing” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/01/01/a-new-thing/

[2]  From The Hill, “Trump’s Top 10 accomplishments of 2017” – http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/366429-trumps-top-10-accomplishments-of-2017

[3]  “Coming Soon!” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/07/09/coming-soon/

[4]  “Now’s A Good Time” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/09/17/nows-a-good-time/

[5]  “Coming Soon!” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2017/07/09/coming-soon/

3 Comments

Filed under Christianity, Current Events, End Times, Holidays, New Year's Day, Politics, Religion, Second Coming of Christ

Heavenly Host

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. (Luke 2:13-14)

It was mid-September.[1] The night was warm, and because the first quarter moon had not yet risen, the night sky was velvet black except for the billions of shimmering jewels strewn across the heavens. Several shepherds gathered around the campfire. Their sheep were all accounted for and safe in the stone sheepfold that had probably been built by King David himself. No one knew that for certain, but the shepherds took pride knowing that their hero king had once kept his sheep in these very hills.

The fire was strategically placed in front of the only entrance to the sheepfold[2] and the shepherds made their beds at the entrance to guard against unwanted intruders.[3] They joked and told stories of the recent events around Jerusalem. The population around Jerusalem always more than doubled around this time of year. It was the Feast of Trumpets, followed by the Day of Atonement and then the jubilant celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles. The law demanded that all Jewish males attend the feast and offer sacrifices at the Temple. The shepherds tended the flocks that would be used for sacrifices there.

However, this year the population grew ten times greater, it seemed. The Roman emperor, Caesar Augustus ordered a census of the population and demanded that everyone return to their ancestral homes to be counted. The shepherds did not have to go far. Their ancestors herded sheep on these hills for centuries, but that was not true for many others It seemed that the whole world had descended upon Jerusalem. Even Bethlehem’s population grew beyond capacity. Out-of-town guests filled every square inch of every home packing people in like clumps of dates on a desert palm.

The shepherds, though, had all the room in the world – fresh late summer breezes, infinite starlit skies spanning the heavens, and room to stretch. The conversation slowly waned until all that could be heard above the whisper of the wind was the occasional bleating of a sheep. Suddenly, an explosion of light brighter than the noonday sun chased away every star in the heavens until only the burst of light remained. Futilely, they shielded their eyes in an effort to identify the source of the light. Vaguely they distinguished the form of a man, but they could not be sure. Gripped with terror, they fell to the ground hiding their faces from the overwhelming radiance.

Then a voice, melodious and soothing in tone like the sound of a spring as it skips its way across its rocky path, stilled their racing hearts. “Fear not,” said the voice. “I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people” (Luke 2:10). The gentle voice eased their fear, and while the light maintained its brilliance, it too seemed warm and comforting. “Good tidings”? With all of the trouble in the world, they could certainly use some good news. The news was not for them alone, but for “all people.” So why were they selected as beneficiaries of this good news? They were ready to hear more.

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger” (Luke 2:11-12). This was indeed good news! Could this be true? Their long-awaited Messiah born in their hometown – in the birthplace of their hero shepherd King David?

This was too good to be true, but it must be true, otherwise why such a dramatic announcement! “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:13-14). As if the brilliance of the one angel were not enough, now the sky was filled with a host – thousands upon thousands – of angles echoing back and forth like clarion trumpets sounding a fanfare of an approaching king. The exhilaration transported the shepherds to the very halls of heaven. Then, just as suddenly as they appeared, they vanished. Temporarily blinded by the luminescence of the angelic host, the shepherds stood there dazed struggling to regather their wits and their night vision.

Slowly the stars reappeared in the blackness of the night. On the eastern horizon, the first quarter moon shown a dim reflective light. What now? “And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger” (Luke 2:15-16). Glory to God on high, indeed! The heavenly hosts were right. Here in such a lowly estate lay the One – the Prince of Peace – for all mankind, even for lowly shepherds.

Notes:


[1]  Jesus may have been born on Feast of Tabernacles in 5 BC. Herod the Great died in 4 BC. In 5 BC, the Feast of Tabernacles took place between September 11 and September18. This is just speculation on my part based on the Apostle John’s account saying that “The Word became flesh and tabernacled among us” (John 1:14). The Gospels give us no hint as to the exact time that Jesus was born, but given that the shepherds were keeping sheep in the fields near Jerusalem suggests that it was for the purpose of the sacrifices offered on the Day of Atonement that precedes the Feast of Tabernacles.

[2]  John 10:1-10

[3]  John 10:9

2 Comments

Filed under Christianity, Christmas, Holidays, Religion

What’s The Rush!

Typical “Las Posadas” Celebration

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. (Luke 2:6)

Many Christmas traditions come from a fundamental misunderstanding or outright ignorance of Scripture. Such is the case of Joseph and Mary finding nowhere to stay in Bethlehem.

One of my favorite recent movies this time of year is The Nativity Story because it portrays a very realistic account of the birth of Christ, but even it resorts to unfounded tradition in its representation of the account. One of the most flagrant is the final tableau depicting the nativity scene complete with shepherds and wise men together on the night of the birth. It makes a pretty scene, but it is scripturally inaccurate.

Another error I discovered just recently is the scene when the Joseph and Mary arrive in Bethlehem. They arrive just when it starts to get dark. Suddenly, Mary starts having contractions and she pleads with Joseph to quickly find a place because the baby is coming. Frantically, Joseph runs from house to house banging on doors and pleading for someone to give them refuge in their desperate hour of need. No one has room to offer. Finally, one man offers a grotto where he shelters his animals. As the saying goes, “any port in a storm.” They take the offer and Mary gives birth to baby Jesus.

This tradition has been played out through the centuries. In Mexico and other Latin American countries, they observe Las Posadas (“the inns”) where a young girl and boy are selected to play the part of Mary and Joseph. They go from house to house in town followed by all the town’s people seeking refuge. Finally, they get to the last house where they are given posada, and the whole town enjoys a time of celebration.

Such traditions are neither good nor bad in themselves except that they have no basis in Scripture. Dr. Luke gives no indication that Joseph and Mary arrived in Bethlehem on the very night that Jesus was born. He does record that “there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7), but he gives a reasonable explanation for this.  Caesar Augustus had issued a census requiring everyone to go to his ancestral home of origin to be counted (Luke 2:1-3). Joseph and Mary both were descendants of King David whose birthplace was Bethlehem. Therefore, they were required to travel from Nazareth, their home, to Bethlehem in order to comply with Caesar’s decree. They arrived in Bethlehem. Visitors from all over Judea and Samaria overran the place so that every house in town was full. Joseph and Mary took the only place available – a shelter for animals.

They made the best of their accommodations. “And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered” (Luke 2:6, emphasis mine). Luke gives no indication that they were in panic mode as tradition has taught. “Silent Night” makes more sense in a setting of peace rather than desperation. Yes, it was a stable, and yes, baby Jesus’ crib was a feeding trough for animals, but God, not desperation was in control.

After the crowd departed and returned to their homes, Joseph and Mary remained in Bethlehem for some time. With the excess population gone, they were able to find suitable lodging in a house. Matthew records that “wise men from the east” (Matthew 2:1) came in search of “he that is born King of the Jews” (Matthew 2:2).  “And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh” (Matthew 2:11, emphasis mine). By this time, Jesus was no longer a “babe” (Luke 2:12) but a “young child” under two years of age (Matthew 2:16).

We often attach too much sentimentality to this event that may obscure of the real wonder of God’s entrance into the world of His creation. God became man, to live as a man – from conception to death – so that He could redeem His fallen creation from the curse of death by His own death, burial, and resurrection. Remove all the fluff from Christmas traditions, and what remains is staggeringly awesome!

Comments Off on What’s The Rush!

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