Category Archives: Holidays

Another One Gone!

But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year. (Genesis 17:21)

It seems like yesterday that we faced the prospect of 2018, and here we stand on the threshold of 2019. The truth of the adage, “time flies,” manifests itself more conspicuously each year that goes by. It is said that once one reaches middle age (whenever that is), it’s all downhill from there. What is not said is also true. The closer one gets to the bottom of the hill the faster the slide goes. I can confirm that from experience!

As I approach the foot of the hill and the skid velocity increases, it’s the big scenes rushing by that captures my attention. I know what awaits at the bottom of the hill, and it is not the sudden stop that most people would suspect. No. At the bottom of my hill is a beautiful warm eternal ocean, and the events that lead to that peaceful place are the things that capture my attention.

There were several such events in 2018. The nation of Israel celebrated its 70th year as a nation. Students of the Bible recognize the significance of the number 70; 7 represents perfection, and 10 represents completeness. Together (7×10), “it symbolizes perfect spiritual order carried out with all power. It can also represent a period of judgment.”[1] Twenty-eighteen was a Jubilee year for Israel.[2] Not only that, but it was the 70th Jubilee since the Law was given to Moses.

At the celebration of Israel’s “re-birth” day in Jerusalem, the United States, at the direction of our President Donald J. Trump, opened the US Embassy in Jerusalem confirming our country’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

With all of these milestone events converging with other “signs of the times,” I sincerely expected the Rapture to take place sometime around the Jewish New Year – Rosh HaShanah – that transpired between September 10-30. Obviously, because I am still here along with all my brothers and sisters whom the Lord has not taken home, the Rapture did not take place.

End-times prophecy focuses mainly on Israel. While many “signs of the times” have general application like, signs in the sun, moon, and stars,[3] wars and rumors of wars,[4] famines, pestilences, and earthquakes,[5] days like those of Noah,[6] and the general decline in “common” decency,[7] (we see these things occurring all over the world), the true indicator of the proximity of our Lord’s return is the nation of Israel and those things pertaining particularly to her.

The greatest of these signs was Israel’s rebirth as predicted by several of the Major Prophets, but particularly by the Prophet Ezekiel. Ezekiel described the re-gathering of the Jews from the four corners of the globe to their ancient homeland given to them by God. Ezekiel saw a valley full of dry bones come together and rise to be a mighty army.[8] His vision came true on May 14, 1948, and indeed, Israel has become a “mighty army,” who, even for its tiny size, boasts the eighth strongest military in the world. Jesus compared Israel to a fig tree. He said that the generation that sees the fig tree bud would see all these prophecies come to pass.[9]

Ezekiel also prophesied a confederation of nations that would attack Israel from the north.[10] The names of those nations, translated from their ancient biblical names, are Russia, Turkey, and Iran. Twenty-eighteen has seen the strengthening of these nations within the borders of Israel’s northern neighbor, Syria.

Interestingly, Syria is not part of the prophesied coalition. The Prophet Isaiah provides insight as to why Syria is not counted among Israel’s attackers. “The burden of Damascus. Behold, Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap” (Isaiah 17:1, emphasis mine). Damascus, Syria’s capital, is the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world. However, the prophet predicts that it will be a “ruinous heap.” Current pictures of the city suggest that it is almost there. When Damascus is completely destroyed, Syria will functionally cease from being a nation, which explains why she is not mentioned in Ezekiel’s prophecy. The players are in place for the fulfillment of this prophecy.

Very recently, President Trump announced that the US will rapidly pull all of its troops out of Syria within the next few months. Needless to say, this announcement for Israel is cause for grave concern. Without the US in Syria, there is nothing to stop Iran (whose whole purpose in life is to eradicate Israel), Russia, and Turkey from setting up shop in Syria. Who is to stop them? So far, Israel has managed to keep Iran at bay by bombing Iranian military installations in Syria. Russia has “allowed” this probably due to US presence, but with the US pullout, things may change. Iran’s buildup of arms in and around Damascus could bring about the complete destruction of the city by Israel as prophesied by Isaiah and could prompt the invasion of Israel by the coalition. Israel’s misplaced concern about an attack from the north will subside when God comes to her rescue.[11]

For those who are watching and paying attention, 2018 has been an exciting year. When the Rapture did not take place as I anticipated, I was a little disappointed, but not disheartened. Jesus promised, “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 14:2-3, emphasis mine). Jesus will come to Rapture His Bride to keep her from “the hour of temptation.”[12] However, that event is imminent; it could happen at any moment. There are no “signs” to alert us to its proximity. Based on the seven Feasts of the Lord,[13] and knowing that Jesus fulfilled the spring feasts at His first coming, I reasoned that He would fulfill the fall feasts at His Second Coming. That conclusion is still correct. However, His Second Coming takes place at the end of the seven-year Tribulation period.

Some suggest that the Second Coming takes place in two phases. In the first phase, Jesus comes for His church, and we meet Him in the air;[14] He does not come to earth at that time. In the second phase, He returns with His Bride (His “armies”),[15] and the touch of His foot on the Mount of Olives will cause the mountain to split.[16] At that point, He will establish His 1000-year reign on earth.

What I learned in 2018 is that the Feasts of the Lord, like the prophecies of last days, are meant for Israel, not the church. Jesus wants His Bride to be ready at all times, as we learn from the Parable of the Ten Virgins.[17] The Bride Groom may come at any hour when we least expect it. He will not come at the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement or the Feast of Tabernacles. Those feasts are for Israel, not the Church. However, as we discern the signs of the times, and keep an eye on God’s timepiece, Israel, we can be sure that our Bride Groom will come for us very soon. So, be ready. Keep plenty of oil so that your lamp won’t go out. Jesus may come to take us home in 2019 – or not. Regardless, we need to be ready at all times!


[1]  Meaning of Numbers in the Bible: http://www.biblestudy.org/bibleref/meaning-of-numbers-in-bible/70.html

[2]  Leviticus 25:8-13

[3]  Luke 21:25

[4]  Matthew 24:6; Mark 13:7; Luke 21:9

[5]  Matthew 24:7; Mark 13:8; Luke 21:11

[6]  Matthew 24:37; Luke 17:26

[7]  2 Timothy 3:1-7

[8]  Ezekiel 37:1-14

[9]  Matthew 24:32-35

[10]  Ezekiel 38-39

[11]  Ezekiel 38:17-39:4

[12]  Revelation 3:10

[13]  “Rosh HaShanah” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2016/10/03/rosh-hashanah/

[14]  1 Thessalonians 4:17

[15]  Revelation 19:14

[16]  Zechariah 14:4

[17]  Matthew 25:1-13

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Why Christmas?

For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. (John 3:17)

It is said that “familiarity breeds contempt.” One need look no further than the season of Christmas to see the truth of this axiom. Forget about the lost world that has no concept of the true meaning of Christmas. Christians, who should possess at least a rudimentary understanding of the significance of the season, too often get caught up in the madness associated with “the holidays” right along with those who know no better.

In all the cacophony of TV and radio commercials, traffic noise, buzzing shopping malls, clanging Salvation Army bells, and “holiday” music at every turn, does the question even come up? Why Christmas? Why all the fuss? In spite of all the warm sentiments intoned by joyful holiday songs, the season carries with it an increase in stress, depression and even suicide. So much for “Happy Holidays!” Why bother?

Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem, Israel

I remember visiting the Church of the Nativity in Bethlem, Israel last year. We stood for two and a half painful hours on hard, uneven limestone floors waiting to see the supposed place of Jesus’ birth. When we finally crouched through the constricted cave opening, we found a small alcove adorned with a plethora of lighted candles illuminating a gold 14-pointed star in the center of a polished marble floor. A hole in the center of the star marked the very spot where Mary gave birth to the baby Jesus. The garish display rendered the prolonged anticipation anticlimactic. Perhaps in a similar fashion, the significance of Christmas has been long lost to the millennia of ostentatious trappings and traditions we have attached to it.

So, why Christmas? Stop! Silence the noise! Trash the shiny paper and bright bows and ribbons! Douse the twinkling lights! Be still and think!

We, humans, suffer from a terminal condition called death. We inherited this terminal condition from our original parents, Adam and Eve (Genesis 3). They were originally created to live forever, but their disobedience to God’s only command brought upon them the death penalty. Did I mention that they were created to live forever? The death penalty, therefore, comes in two phases: physical death and spiritual death. Because of Adam’s sin, we all die physically. “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). However, the spirit continues through eternity. Spiritual death is eternal separation from the Creator; the Bible calls that the “second death.” “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death” (Revelation 20:14).

Because of Adam’s sin, all humans suffer the same fate. “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12). No one is excluded from the death sentence, and all must pay the price. “For the wages of sin is death …” (Romans 6:23).

However, God made a temporary provision for covering the sins of man. It was the blood sacrifice of an innocent animal, but that was not a permanent fix. “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4). The fact remains that sin is humanity’s problem. Animals do not sin; they are innocent. Therefore, the “wages of sin” must be paid by man, not animals, but that is the problem. No human is innocent, i.e., sinless. “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

The Bible teaches God loves us, even though we are all sinners. However, God is holy and just, and He cannot and will not allow sin to go unpunished. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9, emphasis mine). God does not want us to be eternally separated from Him, but the sin debt must be paid.

Therefore God became a man born of a virgin untouched by any man so that He could be born completely free from the curse of sin. He grew up like any other man but without sin. “For we have not an high priest [Jesus Christ] which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15, emphasis mine). “Let this mind be in you, which was also in 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). “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit” (1 Peter 3:18).

Why Christmas? “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16, emphasis mine). There’s your Christmas present! God became a man to be the perfect sacrifice to pay the wages of sin in our stead so that we will not have to be eternally separated from Him. He offers us our redemption as a gift if we choose to accept it. That’s why Christmas.

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The Bethlehem Star

When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. (Matthew 2:9)

Once more the Christmas season arrived with all the usual pre-season hype of merchants competing for your hard-earned bucks by attempting to convince you that their product will bring you all the love an joy you deserve for “the holidays,” or that their product is the perfect gift to demonstrate your love for a loved one. As Christians, we know, or should know, that the celebration centers around the person of Jesus Christ – God’s gift to us.

Our church choir and orchestra performed our annual Christmas concert last Sunday. It was a program of beautiful Christmas music with a simple skit in the middle to give the choir a break. There was no pageantry; no live angles suspended in midair; no live animals herded down the aisles; no blinding laser lights flashing or smoke machines making fog. No, it was just good music meant to focus our attention on “the Reason for the season.”

This time of year should cause us to reflect on the significance of that incredible event when God came down to take on human flesh in the form of a baby. He came to a poor Nazarene couple. She was a virgin, pregnant out of wedlock.[1] He was a simple carpenter, an honorable man willing to fulfill his vow to his pregnant bride and to raise her child that was not his.[2]

Luke records the circumstances of their arrival to the little village of Bethlehem[3] and the birth of God-made-man in a stable – probably a grotto – meant for sheltering animals. It was a most malapropos place for the birth of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Yet, as Paul puts it, “[He] made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7).

In the fields outside of Bethlehem, shepherds kept the sheep destined for Temple sacrifice. Luke tells of an angel appearing to the shepherds to announce the birth of their Good Shepherd and how an army of angels illuminated the night sky and filled the air with their chorus of praise to God, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14). It must have been a spectacular sight to behold, and yet only shepherds witnessed it. It was their private invitation.

Matthew records a visitation by foreigners – gentiles – of high estate. These were the Magi[4] from somewhere in Mesopotamia, perhaps even from Babylon. They were not invited to the “presentation” as were the shepherds. In fact, they did not arrive until more than a year later. We conclude this by comparing the two accounts. Luke calls the child a “babe” – Greek brephos meaning “infant.”[5] Matthew’s record describes the baby Jesus as a “young child” – Greek paidion meaning a “little one” or “little boy,” perhaps a toddler. We can further infer this because of Herod’s edict to kill all the baby boys in Bethlehem that were two years old and younger.[6] Additionally, the shepherds found the child wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manger,[7] while the Magi found Him in a “house.”[8]

The Magi were not invited. They were looking for Him. Some Bible scholars suggest that these “Wise Men” were of the “School of Daniel,” and were familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures and the prophecies of the coming Messiah. God revealed to Daniel, “Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times” (Daniel 9:25, emphasis mine). “Weeks” are groups of seven years. “Threescore” is sixty (60). Applying simple math, we get (7×7)+(60×7)+(2×7) or 483 years. The Magi were “Wise Men,” and they could do the math. They knew the time was near. Not only that, but they were astronomers who carefully studied the stars, which God created for signs (i.e., a signal, flag, beacon, etc.) and seasons (i.e., appointment or festival).[9]

As the Magi studied the night sky, they observed an unusual pattern in the heavens that alerted them to the birth of a new king. But who was this new king and where was he to be born? They searched the source where all wise men should look; they searched the Scriptures. There, in the Hebrew Book of Numbers, they found this prophecy, “I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth” (Numbers 24:17, emphasis mine). Ah ha! The king (the “Sceptre”) was to come from Jacob, i.e., Judah and a star would “beacon” His arrival. Add to this, Daniel’s prophecy of 483 years suggested that the time was up.

The Magi assembled a caravan and headed west toward the only place where a Jewish king would be born – Jerusalem. When they arrived, they went to the king’s palace – the only suitable place for the birth of a king, “Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him” (Matthew 2:2, emphasis mine). This announcement was unsettling for Herod, but after inquiring of those who should have known, the Wise Men were directed to Bethlehem. “And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet [Micah 5:2], And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel” (Matthew 2:5-6, emphasis mine).

So off they went toward Bethlehem, and something very strange happened. “When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was” (Matthew 2:9, emphasis mine). That last statement has caused much controversy. “Stars” do not behave in that way. All stars rise in the east (because of the earth’s rotation) and set in the west, just like the sun does. Bethlehem is south-southeast of Jerusalem. For the star to go “before them,” it would have to alter its normal course from east to west and travel north to south instead.

For this reason, many have suggested that the star was a comet – “Have you seen what I’ve seen? A star, a star shining in the night with a tail as big as a kite.” However, a comet will not go before you and then stop and hover over a house.

Some have suggested that the star was a conjunction of Jupiter (the King Planet) and Venus (the Mother Planet). Still, others have suggested that it was a conjunction of Jupiter and Regulus (the King Star), which is the major star in the constellation Leo (Jesus is the “Lion of Judah). This conjunction has some possibilities for the star the Magi saw “in the east,” while they were still in Mesopotamia. On September 11 (hmmm, 9-11), 3 BC, Jupiter joined Regulus (chief star in Leo), Royal Planet and Royal Star. The sun was in Virgo (Virgin Constellation), and the New Moon in Royal Constellation Leo (Judah). It was the first day of Jewish New Year – Rosh HaShannah.[10] This conjunction announced the Savior’s Birth.

However, that does not explain the strange movement of the star that led the wise men to Bethlehem. Besides, the conjunction that alerted the Magi would not remain in that configuration for the duration of time that it took them to arrive in Jerusalem. This “Bethlehem Star” must have been something else. Interestingly, there was another phenomena that occurred the following year, December 25, 2 BC. “Jupiter began to move westward, At its stationary point in Virgo Winter Solstace [sic], Daystar in Coma[11] Overhead at Bethlehem at Dawn?” [sic][12] Jesus at this time would have been 15 months old (provided He was born on September 11, 3 BC) – a “young child.” Obviously, this is not the same star the Magi saw originally, and Matthew seems to confirm this. When they arrived in Jerusalem, the Magi announced that they had “seen” (past tense) “His star in the east” (Matthew 2:2, emphasis mine). However, in verse 9, Matthew simply calls it “the star, which they saw in the east.” Perhaps that is a difference without a distinction, but this phenomena, except for the presence of Jupiter, does not seem to shout “King” as clearly. Again, all stars rise in the east, so seeing the star in the east to me merely suggests the direction from which they observed the star rise. That still does not explain the strange movement of the star.

Here is what I think – and I can speculate just as well as the next man. In the evening, as the Magi made their way to Bethlehem, they looked toward the east and observed a bright conjunction of stars – perhaps it was the December 25, 2 BC phenomena. There in the midst of this bright gathering of stars appeared an angel. Angels are sometimes referred to as “stars” in the Bible.[13] As the Magi observed the star, the angel (star) descended from the midst of the stellar conjunction and dropped down into the atmosphere where it could lead the Magi to where Jesus was. In case you are skeptical of my suggestion, let me remind you again of what the shepherds witnessed out in the field. “And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid” (Luke 2:9, emphasis mine). That must have been a pretty dazzling angel!

It might have happened that way, or maybe not. Perhaps it was a one-time, special occasion miracle of God. Whatever it was, the message was clear. “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).

Notes:


[1]  Luke 1:26-38

[2]  Matthew 1:18-25

[3]  Luke 2:1-20

[4]  “Who Were the Magi?” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2014/12/14/who-were-the-magi/

[5]  Luke 2:16

[6]  Matthew 2:16

[7]  Luke 2:12, 16

[8]  Matthew 2:11

[9]  Genesis 1:14

[10]  “Summary of Conjunctions of Planets (“wandering stars”), Constellations and Stars: Meanings, Interpretations, Timetable, Other Astronomical Events Near Time Of Christ’s Birth” – http://www.tccsa.tc/articles/star_dates.html

[11]  Ibid. “The Star in the Head of the Infant in “Coma” visible in daylight for 300 years.”

[12]  Ibid.

[13]  Job 38:7; Revelation 1:20; 6:13;12:4

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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).

 

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