Bad juju…

When did the church go crazy? I mean, seriously: what happened to teaching from the Bible, and just using God’s word to guide us in our walk with Christ?

 

I have spoken to several people in the last week, who have absolutely no idea how convoluted their theology is. In more than one case, these people were actually claiming the authority to teach the Word. Here are a couple of examples of the kind of statements I heard from these “Christians”:

 

  • –       In a discussion about art and censorship—whether it is appropriate to hang “artwork” with nudity or sexual themes in public buildings (specifically, libraries and city hall)—one person claimed—on “biblical authority”—that Jesus would have condemned censorship, because the Bible doesn’t teach that nudity is sinful, or that sex is something that should be kept private… or, in fact, that sex should even be between a husband and wife exclusively
  • –       A woman who claimed that Jesus changed the Law, and as a result homosexuality is an acceptable lifestyle (I guess someone forgot to tell Paul and Peter)
  • –       A woman who claimed that everyone goes to heaven, regardless of their belief system, because the Bible says that God wants that “none shall perish, but that all shall be saved” (in which case, Jesus would have to feel pretty foolish about that whole “scourged and crucified” bit)
  • –       More than one person who claimed that the entire Christian religion is based on ancient pagan religions (based on the “factual” evidence provided by the History Channel)
  • –       A guy in a discussion forum who claimed that the traditional methods of reading the Bible are outdated and dangerous, because the Scripture doesn’t apply to modern issues; instead, we should take a “broader approach” in interpreting Scripture (or, in other words, we should read the entire Bible as a series of parables and morality plays, and if they don’t “fit” modern circumstances, God expects us to jettison them)

 

Disturbing. I have also—in my constant reading—come across denominations that condone—and in some cases, support—abortion, homosexuality (as opposed to homosexuals; these churches actually condone the lifestyle), sex outside the bonds of marriage, and other clearly non-Christian activities. All in the name of inclusiveness, it would seem.

 

Now, I get it, to a point, I really do. We want that everybody should be saved (the alternative is that we just want everybody to get through the doors of the church long enough to wag the offering plate under their noses, but I’m trying to think the best of people). But are we actually saving people, if we water down the Gospel of Christ and the commands of the Lord just to avoid offending someone’s sensibilities? I gotta say, “no.” Jesus wasn’t one to water down His message; I really don’t think we should be doing Him the disservice of watering it down for Him!

 

No, hard as it can be (and I know that it can be very difficult), the Good News is sometimes—usually—Bad News for people that want to embrace Christ in one arm, and the world in the other. Sometimes, we just want to avoid the “sticky bits;” we can’t do that! Now, when we’re evangelizing, the most important thing is that we present the Gospel: Jesus Christ was born; He lived a perfect and sinless life; He taught that the Kingdom of God could be reached only through faith in the Son; He was tortured, crucified, and died on the cross as propitiation for the sins of all people; and that He rose from the grave on the third day. That is the central message: Jesus died for us, you can have faith in Him, and here’s why.

 

Sometimes questions come up, though. And when those questions do arise, we need to be prepared to answer them with love and compassion, but we need also to answer them honestly and directly. Or, if you’re a complete coward, you can just tell people to read the Gospel of John, and then read 1 Corinthians. 1 Corinthians is a painful wake-up—I know from experience!

 

But to get back to my point: the people I mentioned above actually, wholeheartedly believed what they were saying. I have no doubt that a considerable part of that belief comes from the fact that there are elements of their old, “fleshly” life that are just really, really hard to give up. But somewhere along the line, these folks were just given bad instruction in the faith.

 

This raises a question that has bothered me for a long time, though; instead of trying so hard to get people into church once we have witnessed to them, would it be a better idea to give them some instruction on how to discover more on their own? I was half-joking about John and 1 Corinthians, but the truth is that those two books are probably clearer on the subject of salvation and right living than any other—at least from the point-of-view of a new believer. True, Corinthians might scare off a seeker; there are some pretty tough guidelines in there, and Paul is sometimes not the easiest guy to follow—but is it better for us to have faith in the Spirit to guide that person’s understanding, or to try to get that person into a church right away? Certainly, the ideal would be to do both, but how many times have you invited someone to church, only to have them say, “Um, I’m gonna think about it. No, really, I will! I just need time to figure out if that’s really my thing…”

 

I don’t know; it’s an open question, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter. In the meantime, have a blessed (and safe!) weekend, and a very happy New Year. God bless all the brothers and sisters, and to Him be the Glory!

Merry Christmas

Now the birth of Christ is as follows. When His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her, desired to put her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold, n angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “”Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bear a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save the people from their sins.”

Now all this took place that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, 

“BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD, AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,” which translated means, “GOD WITH US.”

And Joseph arose from his sleep, and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took her as his wife, and kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.

~Matthew 1:18-25

 

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register, along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. And it came about that while they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her first-born son; and she wrapped him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

And in the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields, and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of God shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. And the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths, and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

Glory to God in the highest

“And on earth peace among men with

   “whom He is pleased.”

 

And it came about when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.”

 

And they came in haste and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. And when they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.

 

~Luke 2:4-20

 

Merry Christmas, everyone. Let’s not forget the real reason we celebrate this day. Give Glory to God, thank Him for His Grace and Mercy, and enjoy this day of celebration.

THE MAYAN APOCALIPSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!

Okay, so, according to the Mayans, today was the end of the world.

If that’s true, then I’m in Heaven right now.

If I’m in Heaven right now, I seriously got gypped. This place sucks eggs. My breakfast was burnt, my armpits are somewhat malodorous and there’s nothing good on T.V.

Oh, no. What if I’m in HELL???

Nah, that can’t be right. My feet are cold.

Stupid Mayans. I blame the History Channel for this…

Some thoughts…

“How many observe Christ’s birthday! How few, His precepts!”  ~Benjamin Franklin 

 

 

“Christmas can be celebrated in the school room with pine trees, tinsel and reindeers, but there must be no mention of the man whose birthday is being celebrated. One wonders how a teacher would answer if a student asked why it was called Christmas.”  ~Ronald Reagan 

 

Merry Christmas!

Connecticut

Pray for comfort and healing for the families of all that lost a loved one in Connecticut, today.

Pray for the wounded, that they might heal and be comforted.

Pray for all of the children, that this event not be the defining moment of their lives, but that each of them will be healed spiritually, mentally and emotionally.

Pray for the friends and family of the person who committed this horrific act.

Pray for law enforcement and public safety personnel, as they search for victims and survivors, and a possible second suspect.

And say a prayer of thanks for the level-headed teachers who orchestrated and executed the evacuation of the school, before more lives were lost.

Bethlehem

Bethlehem as it appeared in 1882

Bethlehem as it appeared in 1882

Bethlehem of Judah (to be distinguished from Bethlehem of Galilee) is located approximately 6 miles southwest of Jerusalem, in the southern portion of the Judean Mountains. The name, “Bethlehem,” or in Hebrew, “Bet Lehem,” translates literally to mean, “House of Bread.” It is situated at approximately 2,543 feet above mean sea level.

The climate of Bethlehem is typically Mediterranean, with dry summers with temperatures into the low- to mid-eighties, and cold damp winters, with temperatures getting as low as the mid-thirties. Average annual rainfall is 28 inches.

In 338 C.E., Helena (mother of the Emperor Constantine) had a church built over the grotto that is traditionally held to be the birthplace of Jesus. Christian tradition affirming the site to be the birthplace of Christ goes back to at least the Second Century, when Justin Martyr identified “a cave outside of the town” as the birthplace of Jesus; in the Third Century, Origen of Alexandria claimed that the townspeople had pointed out the specific location of the Nativity.

TSbtfran

Modern view of the grotto traditionally held to be the site of Christ's birth

Modern view of the grotto traditionally held to be the site of Christ’s birth

View of the traditional site within the grotto, where Jesus was born

View of the traditional site within the grotto, where Jesus was born

The town itself was bitterly contested during the period of the Crusades, from its initial capture by Crusaders in 1100, until the final defeat of the Crusaders and their expulsion from Palestine in 1291.

And Rachel died, and was buried in Eph’rath, which is Bethlehem. And Jacob set a pillar upon her grave: that is the pillar of Rachel’s grave unto this day.

Genesis 35:19, 20

As the traditional place of Rachel’s burial (in addition to being the birthplace of Jesus), Bethlehem is also sacred to Jews and Moslems, who make regular pilgrimages to the site of Rachel’s tomb.

In modern times, the traditional claims for Bethlehem of Judah being the place of Christ’s birth has become the subject of scholarly dispute, with some scholars claiming that there is no historical or archaeological case to support the claims. These scholars claim that Scripture is not to be taken literally, but rather that the use of Bethlehem of Judah was used as a sort of literary device in the narrative of Christ’s birth. Others make the claim that the Gospel writers used the location in order to bolster claims of fulfilled prophecy, and yet another school of reasoning holds that Jesus was not born in Bethlehem at all, but rather in Nazareth.

However, most of these scholars disavow any scriptural references that contain supernatural implications, such as fulfilled prophecy; it is also worth noting that other claims made by certain groups of historians could not hold up unless the traditional location of Jesus’s birth is disqualified. For instance, there are claims by many of the biographers of Herod, who state that the “Slaughter of the Innocents”—the massacre of all infant males in Bethlehem at the time of Christ’s birth—never actually happened, which would validate the claim that the Gospel authors resorted to some creative license in their record of the Nativity. Given the insignificance of the town in Herod’s day, the fact that there was no method for news to travel quickly, and the general ruthlessness that characterized the reign of Herod (who murdered three of his own sons in a bid to retain power), these claims are at best speculative, and at worst specious.

Bring on da Christmas!

Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Em-man’u-el, which being interpreted is, God with us.

~Matthew 1:24

 

Starting Thursday, until Christmas Day, I’ll be writing on the history and meaning of Christmas. To be perfectly honest, I had originally planned for today’s blog to cover prophecy related to the birth of Jesus, but after a couple of hours’ research on the thing I realized that I was in theological waters that were way over my head, and I couldn’t find my water wings anywhere!

 

Hopefully, I’ll be able to get some help with that one, but for now, Merry Christmas! That’s right: I said, “Merry Christmas!” We’ll have none of that PC “happy holidays” drivel here, thank you very much.

(As an aside, I’m starting to get a great deal of amusement by seeing if someone winces when I answer “Happy holidays,” with a nice, firm, LOUD “MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!” It’s kinda awesome. Better when they smile, look around to make sure their boss isn’t watching, and say, “Merry Christmas,” in return, though.)