Thursday, August 6, 2015

Lessons for America from Israel’s Monarchy

I believe that one of the most important sections on our website is our Introductions of the Books of the Bible. Actually, we hope that each is a little more than just an introduction. For each book (and each section), we attempt to offer information on the author, his purpose, major themes, theological teachings, and key verses. We include a brief survey of the book, historical background info, and a timeline of the people and events. Finally, we also discuss some interpretation challenges, present some hints to aid in properly interpreting the book, and attempt to answer some of the common questions that often puzzle readers.

Like many other sections on our website, our Bible Book Intros are still in progress. When we began the section, our original goal was to finish by the end of 2012. It didn’t take long for us to realize how short-sighted we were in setting this goal. We certainly underestimated the lack of available time due to other projects, the extra details the we would include in the intros, and the number of spin-off articles each intro would produce. That said, we are re-doubling our efforts to complete this section (but not setting a new deadline).

We’re pleased to announce that we’ve recently completed the Book of the Kings, originally one volume entitled Melakim (Hebrew for “kings”). The translators of the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew OT in the second or third century BC) divided it into two books called the “Third and Fourth Book of Kingdoms” (Samuel was designated the “First and Second Book of Kingdoms”). Together, these four books provided a complete history of the transition and the monarchy of Israel. We followed the later division of First Kings and Second Kings.

In writing these, I couldn’t help but notice (as with the other historical books of the Bible) that, even though cultures continue to change, overall human nature remains basically the same. One aspect that particularly stands out is our failure to learn from our pasts. This includes both our personal and historical pasts. The Israelites who were living during the monarchy had the book of Moses that taught the lessons of the Flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, the Exodus, the desert wanderings and other events. They should have also been familiar with the conquest and the repeating cycles of the judges. Throughout their own period of the monarchy, there were people and leaders who were repentant and faithful to God’s Word and thus enjoyed periods of God’s covenant blessings while others suffered the curses for disobedience, yet their pattern of returning to destructive behavior never ceased.

Likewise, as a whole in modern day America, we often follow the same patterns even though we have much more historical data available, including hindsight of the events concerning the fate of the Israelites. We also have the lessons of Rome and their self-destruction caused by elimination of the middle class, breakdown of the traditional family, high taxation, and other moral and economic issues (most economic crisis are caused by moral crisis). We also have the lessons of the millions upon millions of people killed by communistic and socialistic regimes.

A few weeks ago, we witnessed the Greeks celebrating in the street after following their far-left politicians’ advice to vote down responsible economic measures. Like much of America, the people were celebrating the fact that they were going bankrupt, but didn’t care as long as someone else bails them out with no resulting consequences. On the plus side, some parts of Europe are now learning some lessons from history and are subsequently making some attempts to change. At the same time, America has become the dumping ground of centuries of failed European political and economic ideas (ironically in the name of progress and going “forward”). We now witness America rushing ahead toward moral and economic bankruptcy. In the past month the US Supreme Court has flushed what was left of the Constitution (we’ll have more to say on this in future posts), and like Greece, people party while going broke.

So, how can America be fixed? Most moral issues can be fixed by repentance and a return to the Biblical foundations on which our country was founded. Similarly, most economic problems can be greatly improved by restoring the Christian work ethic (Pr 21:25, Th 3:6-12, 1Tim 5:8). The American Revolution was a direct result of the First Great Awakening. Our country today is barely surviving on the remnants of the Second Great Awakening, and is fast becoming post-Christian America. This second national revival however, also led to the sending of numerous missionaries to foreign nations around the globe. Perhaps, some of these countries in which Christianity is exploding will return the favor by sending missionaries here. Given America’s current deteriorating condition, I believe we need a Third Great Awakening. Since only God can send revival, this will require repentance and prayer by His people (2Chr 7:14). Unfortunately, like Israel, we tend to turn to God only as a last resort, so things may need to get even worse before this happens. I pray that I am wrong and that the church will arise and fulfill her calling. In order to effectively change laws, we must first change hearts. We should continue working through political and social channels but ultimately, our hope must be in the Lord.

The Lord foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations. Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord... From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind; from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth — he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do. No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength... But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine. We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you. (Ps 33:10-22)

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Logic of the Cross

Like clockwork every Easter, we see stories from various TV shows and magazines attempting to discredit the Bible account of Jesus’ death and/or resurrection. Never mind that these stories have been debunked over and over by the evidence, the media continues to pull them out, re-warm them over and breathlessly promotes them as new scientific discoveries that supposedly signals the death knell for Christianity.

Since the Cross is a central foundation of Christianity, it is also a prime target of those who attempt to discredit the Faith. There have been many excellent books written over the years greatly detailing the evidence for the resurrection. Indeed, the evidence supporting the Biblical accounts of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection is much stronger than many of the other historical events that we take for granted. Therefore, even though we have a historically based article in progress, we decided to examine the Cross from a logical viewpoint based upon 1 Corinthians 1:18.

The preaching of the cross is, I know, nonsense to those who are involved in this dying world, but to us who are being saved from that death, it is nothing less than the power of God (Phillips NT).
The first thing Paul notes is that the message of the Cross, that is Jesus dying for the sins of all who would believe in Him as Lord and Savior so that we might be forgiven and spend eternity with Him in Heaven (Jn 3:16, 17:24) is foolishness to those unbelievers dying in their sins. But even though it is considered foolish or even absurd to this group of people, let’s examine the message to determine if it actually makes sense.

I think we can all agree that most people have a built-in conscience that can tell right from wrong, justice from injustice, and good from evil. Even though postmodern thinking has blurred many of the lines of separation between good and evil, most would agree that evil should be punished while good should be rewarded. Most civilized people would not want an evil person to go unpunished so that he would feel free to continue to steal, murder etc.

The cross is God’s rightful and just punishment for the evil (sin) among mankind. Every person has sinned (lied, stolen, lusted, coveted etc) in attitude, thought or deed, and as a result, is deserving of death (Rm 3:23, 6:23). Furthermore, there is no forgiveness of our sins without the shedding of lifeblood (Heb 9:22). In the OT, the priests made continual animal sacrifices as a temporary covering of sin, but these sacrifices could not remove the stain of sin. But the Christ, being the God-Man, voluntarily sacrificed Himself once for all the sins (past present and future) of all those who would believe in Him (Heb 10:11-14). In fact, Jesus was the only perfect sacrifice that had the infinite value required to satisfy God’s righteous wrath against sin and pay the penalty to restore our relationship and judicial status (we are credited with living a perfect life and fulfilling the law – Rm 8:4) before God the Father. There was no other way for us to be reconciled with a Holy God. Thus, the events of the cross were entirely logical.

Of course, only those who believe (trust in, rely on) the work of Christ will be saved (Jn 3:16, Ac 4:12). Those who reject Jesus as Lord and Savior are already condemned (Jn 3:18) and the message of the cross remains illogical. For a more detailed discussion on our topic and subject verse (1Cor 1:18), including its context within Scripture (1Cor 1:18 – 2:5), the historical context of the Jews and Greeks, and Godly vs human wisdom, see The Cross - Foolishness or the Power of God?

Before we end this post, I’d like to address a couple of questions that some may be asking. The first, typical asked by unbelievers and even by some new believers is, “Why couldn’t God just forgive and forget? Why do we have to be perfect to get into heaven? Couldn’t God lower His standard just a bit or grade on the curve?” The thinking here is that, if God is good and He is a God of love, couldn’t He at least ignore the minor stuff.

To answer these questions, we must understand the simplicity of God. By simplicity, we don’t mean that God is a simple God. God is undeniably beyond our comprehensive understanding. By “divine simplicity”, we’re merely referring to His unity of being (or unity of His nature or character), primarily with respect to His attributes. God’s attributes are irreducible in that we can’t separate them or temporarily take one away. We can distinguish between them, but they always work together. Therefore God, whose eyes are too pure to even look upon evil, can’t tolerate sin (Hab 1:13) because His Holiness, Truth and Justice won’t allow it. However, because His Love is also working, He provided a substitute, His own Son. Thus, He is able to punish wrongdoing while still saving those who believe without compromising His Holiness.

The second question that might be asked by anyone is, “Why would God sacrifice His only Son for me?” I must admit that, on the surface, this seems very illogical. I certainly would not allow either of my sons to be sacrificed for anyone. The only rational explanation for God’s actions according to His eternal plan is His great love for each of us (Rm 5:7-8). It has often been said that neither the Roman soldiers nor the nails could have kept Jesus on the cross since He had legions of angels at His disposal (Mt 26:52-54). He voluntarily laid down His life (Jn 10:17-18) and the only thing holding Him to the cross was His great love for us. In light of what He did, shouldn’t we live for Him?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Ain’t Wasting Time No More

Gregg Allman Last Sunday morning, the sunshine felt like rain.
The week before, they all seemed the same.
With the help of God and true friends, I've come to realize,
I still have two strong legs, and even wings to fly.

So I, ain't a-wastin time no more.
Cause time rolls by like hurricanes.
Runnin' after the subway train.
Don't forget the pourin' rain.
- Gregg Allman

A few months ago, I was challenged by my good friend Stacy on Facebook to share a Bible verse that has a special meaning to me. The biggest challenge turned out to be narrowing my choice to a single verse. I finally chose Joel 2:25 because, as I’ve gotten older and my time on earth is getting shorter, I’ve begun to reflect more and more on the value and proper use of time. This verse, in which God is speaking to the Israelites, reads:

'I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten - the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm - my great army that I sent among you (Joel 2:25).
For years, I pondered how God could restore the time out of my life that the locust ate (time I had wasted for selfish reasons). I've now come to the conclusion that the various implications of this verse can only be fully appreciated later in life. As I started entering my response to Stacy it quickly became apparent that it would be too long for Facebook, and that I needed to do a blog post. As I was writing this post, I decided that I needed a full article on the main website to do justice to the subject. After researching the first article, I then decided to write two additional articles and modified this blog post to introduce them.

The first article, entitled The Days the Locusts Ate, is my primary response to Stacy's challenge. I explore the original context of the verse and its meaning for Christians today. I also explain how God can restore lost time in our lives - time that we thought was gone forever.

While Joel 2:25 speaks of God taking the initiative to restore lost time, there is a NT verse in which the Apostle Paul exhorts us to make good use of the time that God has graciously allotted to us.

Be very careful, then, how you live - not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is (Eph 5:15-17).
I must admit that I have a lot of work to do in allowing God to use my time efficiently for His glory (the irony is not lost that it took several months to budget the time required for writing these articles), but I’m making an honest attempt to improve. As a start, I originally wrote this blog post from the Atlanta airport during a layover from Florida to Dallas.

To expand on the above NT verses from Ephesians, I added the Redeeming the Time article in which we explore the meaning of time, its theological basis, and why we should properly redeem the time to make the most of our opportunities. We also mention several pitfalls to avoid that rob us of time, and offer practical Biblical suggestions for wise use of our time.

Finally, in Jigsaw Puzzles and Roadmaps, we provide a couple of illustrations that contrasts how we understand and interrelate the events of our lives with God’s understanding according to his divine purposes. Abraham had to wait 25 years for the child of promise (Isaac). Our friend Stacy prayed Psalms 113:9 for years in her longing to become a mother. Now she is blessed with two wonderful boys. We’ll never completely understand all the details of why certain things happen (or don't happen) this side of heaven, but we can be confident that God’s timing is perfect as He works out everything for the good of those who love Him (Rom 8:28), even if it doesn’t make sense to us at the time.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Family Chain

Between ice storms this week, my brothers and I made a quick trip to West Texas where our family bid a temporary goodbye to our uncle Magel. He was a great family man who is much loved by his surviving wife of over 50 years, and by his son, daughters and many grand-kids. I had not seen many of them for decades, and others I actually met for the first time. He left a great legacy by faithfully passing on his Christian values to his family.

A few years ago, I wrote an article on the differing attitudes toward death of Christians as opposed to that of non-believers. It was certainly difficult to temporarily lose Magel, but was made somewhat easier by the fact that we are assured of seeing him again one day. We only buried Magel’s earthly body. His spirit is still alive in the presence of our Lord as he awaits his final resurrected body.

In the funeral program, the family included a poem written by Ron Tranmer who has published numerous encouraging and inspirational poems for many occasions. I’d like to share this poetry for all those who are missing family members and are looking forward to being together again.

Broken Chain
(revised version)

We little knew that day
God would call your name.
In life we loved you dearly.
In death we do the same.

It broke our hearts to lose you
but you didn’t go alone,
for a part of us went with you
the day God called you home.

We’re left with loving memories
of the time we had with you,
and feel your love around us
in everything we do.

Our family chain is broken
and our lives are not the same,
But as God calls us one by one
the chain will link again.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Light and Darkness on Presidents Day

The holiday popularly known as Presidents Day began as a celebration of George Washington’s Birthday, but with the Washington-Lincoln Recognition Act of 2001 (HR 420), we recognize all the presidents who have led our nation throughout our history. Unfortunately, we currently have an empty chair in the White House, so in this post, we’re once again forced to look to the past.

This year, we’ve chosen to highlight a portion of a speech by President Dwight D Eisenhower from October 24, 1954 marking the 75th Anniversary of the Incandescent Lamp. Text from the speech is courtesy of our friend, Bill Federer’s American Minute.

“IN GOD WE TRUST.” Often have we heard the words of this wonderful American motto. Let us make sure that familiarity has not made them meaningless for us. We carry the torch of freedom as a sacred trust for all mankind. We do not believe that God intended the light that He created to be put out by men.
The term “light” is used in many contexts in the Bible, beginning with the ordinary physical sense. Light was the first thing God created after the heavens and earth (Gn 1:3). Yet, its primary use is in the figurative, allegorical or metaphorical senses to portray spiritual realities. The late Dr Henry Morris, who established the Institute for Creation Research, notes

Light is the most fundamental and important form of energy, and energy includes every phenomenon in the physical universe. It is appropriate for John to affirm that God is light, because everything created must reflect the character of its Creator. The term “light,” therefore, has come to be applied not only to light in the physical sense, but also to that which is true in the intellectual realm, and holy in the moral realm as well. In addition, the term is often used in opposition to dark or darkness as symbolizing good and evil. We see this in the Apostle John’s application to God Himself, “This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 Jn 1:5).
Light is used to express knowledge, The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2Cor 4:4, see also Job 12:22 and Ps 119:130). Light and dark are also used to express morality or lack of, as illustrated by the Prophet Isaiah, Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness (Is 5:20). Light can even symbolize eternal life itself. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (Jn 8:12).

It is easy to see that, while much of the church sleeps and even looks to the government to assume part of her responsibilities, our country's “leaders” continue their quest to eliminate the spiritual light from our nation, replacing it with their own fundamental change. We could even say that our physical light is being dimmed as well. Radical environmental policies are condemning many to sickness or even death by depriving the poor of basic needs such as inexpensive utilities necessary for healthy food and clean water. Thus, please pray that God would again shed His Light on our once great nation. We should, like Job, long for the days when God watched over us; when His lamp shone on our head and by His light, we walked confidently through the darkness (Job 29:2-3).

Returning to Eisenhower’s speech, the former president also addressed the relation between faith and freedom:

Atheism substitutes men for the Supreme Creator and this leads inevitably to domination and dictatorship. But we believe - and it is because we believe that God intends all men to be free and equal that we demand free government.

Our Government is servant, not master, our chosen representatives are our equals, not our czars or commissars. We must jealously guard our foundation in faith.

For on it rests the ability of the American individual to live and thrive in this blessed land - and to be able to help other less fortunate people to achieve freedom and individual opportunity. These we take for granted, but to others they are often only a wistful dream.

Today, we see that Eisenhower’s prophetical words have been ignored or forgotten. As the current administration continues to drive God from our country, it is inevitable that American’s freedoms are also sliding away.

Still, we can be confident that God is in control. He makes nations great, and destroys them; he enlarges nations, and disperses them (Job 12:23). Therefore, we must also continue to pray that God will turn the hearts of our nation back to Him, with the assurance that He alone controls the course of world events (Dan 2:21).

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Spiritual State of the Union 2015

We recently witnessed B Hussein Obama’s State of the Union speech. For those who missed it, we’ll provide a brief paraphrase of what he said (and didn’t say):
The economy is booming and unemployment continues to drop (since we no longer consider those who’ve given up finding work, or who’ve taken part time jobs as unemployed – not to mention the fact that we have a record 92 million not in the workforce). I promise to veto any legislation that would cut Obamacare and thus deprive anyone of insurance coverage (even though Obamacare itself resulted in millions of people losing their insurance coverage with which they were well pleased). The deficit is shrinking (pay no attention to that pesky 18 trillion debt thingy, or the fact that I’ve added more debt than all other presidents combined). Russia and Al Qaeda are no longer a threat and we’ve stopped the (non-Islamic) Islamic State (even though IS has doubled their territory since US airstrikes began). In short, everything is rainbows and unicorns (are you going to believe what you see in the real world, or what I tell you?).
This post however, is not about the make-believe world in BHO’s imagination, but about the spiritual state of our union. As we move into 2015, we could acknowledge the erosion of morality in many areas but for the sake of brevity, we’ll only mention three.

Decreased freedom of religion - Never before in our history has the federal government taken such an active role in attacking the God-given rights of people of faith. Many, including those serving as chaplains in our military, are denied the right to pray in the name of Jesus. In some public organizations, God's name can't even be mentioned, unless it's used as an expression of profanity. Doctors and nurses are being forced to assist in abortions or risk losing their jobs. Religious organizations are being threatened with fines for not providing abortion-inducing drugs to their employees. Barriers that protect children from pornography are being systematically removed, but the children are “protected” from bringing a Bible to school. Parents rights are being stripped away by those who believe instilling them with Christian values is equivalent to child abuse.

Cheapening of Human Life - Approximately 4000 babies continue to be murdered each day while Planned Parenthood receives over 500 million dollars a year in government grants, almost half of its overall revenue. We’re now seeing a renewed push for assisted suicide or “death with dignity” as promoted by the media.

As the population continues to age and with over 62 million potential workers killed by abortionists, the ratio of workers to retirees has shrunk from 34-1 to about 2-1. So, something must be done about these old folks that will be increasing seen as a drain on society. This is where the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) comes in. I detailed this board three years ago in one of our most-read articles called ObamaCare Death Panels Coming in 2014. The IPAB will determine which patients will get (or not get) certain medical treatments based upon their estimate of the patient’s value to society. If the needed treatment is more expensive than the board's estimate of the patient’s worth (never mind the patient’s worth to his or her family or friends), the patient is out of luck. Members of the panel will be appointed by Obama, not elected, and I can pretty much guarantee that it will be comprised of accountants and lawyers instead of doctors since all decisions will be based strictly on monetary issues; although in swing states, whether or not the patient is a regular supporter of the democratic party could also be a determining factor. There is no oversight or appeals, so any IPAB decision is final.

Finally, and most importantly, we come to

Compromise in the Church - A few weeks ago, I heard the story of a church that was going up in flames. The townsfolk were running with their buckets of water in an attempt to extinguish the flames. It seemed like the entire town pitched in, including several known atheists. As they ran toward the church with their water buckets, one of the church deacons couldn't resist yelling at the group, “Wow, I’ve never seen atheists running to church before”. One of the atheists yelled back without breaking stride, “I’ve never seen a church on fire before”.

The lesson in the story is that, when a church is on fire spiritually, outsiders take notice. Now, there are some local churches across the country that are on fire, but for the most part, the Church as a whole has lost much of her influence over society in America. Call it weariness, discouragement, lack of faith, apathy or a host of other factors, but our modern culture has infiltrated and compromised the church rather than the church transforming the culture by boldly proclaiming the truth and fulfilling the great commission to make disciples.

We’re quick to blame the organizer-in-chief currently occupying the Oval Office for much of the nation’s spiritual problems. Granted, the current president and his administration are one of the most anti-biblical and anti-Christian in our history. BHO still refuses to acknowledge any terrorism committed by radical Muslims; yet at the Nation Prayer Breakfast last week, he was quick to assert that the Crusades, Inquisition, Jim Crow laws and slavery were all carried out “in the name of Christ”, failing to mention the minor detail that much of the Crusades were to defend Christian lands against Islamic aggression.

Still, we should not expect anything different from non-Christians. In Scripture, we constantly read of God taking vengeance on godless nations who were practicing similar abominations that are regularly occurring in America today, but when it came to judging His people of Israel, He often began in the sanctuary (Ez 9, 1Pe 4:17). Even so, He has also given us the promise that, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land (2Chr 7:14). Notice that this verse doesn’t say that “if the politicians”, or “if Hollywood”, or “if the abortionists” will get right with God, but “if my people”. So, God is looking to the Church House rather than the White House for leadership on spiritual issues. The spiritual state of the Church will determine the spiritual state of the union.

As believers, we know that God is sovereign over both humans (Ac 17:25-26) and the nations (Job 12:23, Ps 66:7, Jer 27:1-11, Ezk 29:13-16 and many more). In addition, we have been given a prophetic view of things to come in the Scriptures. We have assurances for our future and know that our Lord’s power and grace is the same yesterday, today and forever. Therefore, the church has no excuse for her impotence. With much prayer for revival, we must awaken and confidently go about doing His work until He returns.

Monday, December 8, 2014

God with Us – Not Just for Christmas

During the holiday season near the end of each year, I always seem to be a step behind. This year followed the same familiar pattern. I begin with good intentions, but due to an overly full work schedule, I don’t complete and upload the Thanksgiving or Christmas articles as planned. I then promise myself to get an earlier start and finish them for next year’s postings, but the cycle repeats.

Yet, as I prepared to shift my emphasis from Thanksgiving to Christmas, I kept reflecting on the many connections between the two holidays (the word holiday derives from “holy days”). Many secular sources recognize Christmas and Easter as Christian holidays, but very few do so with Thanksgiving. Indeed, many Christians are not aware of the true basis of the American celebration, which led to my decision to finish and upload the Biblical Roots of Thanksgiving article a few days late. Even though it was late, the message is timeless.

In the article, we noted that America’s modern Thanksgiving is derived from the Pilgrim celebrations in the early 1620s. In addition, we demonstrated that the Pilgrims based their celebrations in many respects on the Hebrew Biblical festival of Sukkot (Booths, or Tabernacles).

I used to think that it might be better if Thanksgiving and Christmas were not so close together on our calendar. In many aspects, the Christmas season begins weeks or even months before Thanksgiving, so we have a tendency to downplay the latter, even fast-forwarding through Thanksgiving to get to Black Friday (that now appears to start prior to Thanksgiving also). From a work standpoint, it would be nice to spread out our time off rather than rush through the hustle and bustle at the end of the year, then not have another holiday (unless one works for the government) until Memorial Day in late May.

Yet, from a spiritual point of view, it makes perfect sense that the two holidays occur only a few weeks apart. Both are days of thanksgiving and celebrations of pure joy. In general, we celebrate and give thanks for God’s physical protection and provision at Thanksgiving, and for God’s eternal spiritual protection and provision at Christmas.

At Christmas, we celebrate the Incarnation of the Christ (or Messiah). We get the word “incarnation” from the Latin (incarnatio) translations of “became flesh” in John 1:14, beginning about 300AD. The Incarnation is the act of grace whereby the Christ voluntarily assumed a human body and nature in union with His Diving Person, and became the God-Man. This was predicted about 700 years earlier by the Hebrew Prophet Isaiah (Is 7:14) as confirmed by the Apostle Matthew in his account of Jesus’ birth, All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” - which means, “God with us” (Mt 1:22-23).

Yet, the holiday of Thanksgiving also has its “God with us” connection via its linkage with Sukkot. In fact, we can even say that this is the prevalent underlying theme of the true past, present and future meaning of Sukkot.

Of course, God has always been “with us” in one sense or another. All three members of the Godhead were present and involved in the Creation (Gen 1:1-2, Jn 1:1-3). God walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (Gen 3:8) and spoke multiple times with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He even wrestled with Jacob (Gen 32:22-32) before changing his name to Israel (struggles with God). A few centuries later, He appeared as a burning bush and called Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egyptian slavery (Ex 3).

After God brought His people out of Egypt, the Israelites spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness. The festival of Sukkot (Hebrew for “booths”) commemorates this time during which God protected and provided for them as they lived in temporary dwellings (Lev 23:33-43). In building the Sukkah (booth – singular form of Sukkot) as part of the Jewish celebration today, the covering should be sparse enough to see any clouds or stars in the sky. This is a reminder of God’s guidance in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire at night (Ex 13:21-22, 40:36-38) on their way to the Promised Land.

Moving forward about 1400 years from the wilderness wanderings, we arrive at the time of the aforementioned Incarnation of Jesus, where the meanings of Christmas and Thanksgiving / Sukkot intersect in the fullness of time (Gal 4:4-5). The eternal, incomprehensible God of the Universe took on a human nature and physically dwelt (or tabernacled) with us (Jn 1:14).

After Jesus’ ascension back to heaven, the Holy Spirit came to dwell in the believers at Pentecost (Ac 2:14) as Jesus had promised before His death and resurrection (Jn 14:15-18, 16:7). Christians continue to experience God’s divine presence through the indwelling Holy Spirit today (Rom 8:9-16, Eph 1:13-14).

Finally, we look forward to the New Heaven and the New Earth (Rev 21:1-4) when God will also dwell (or tabernacle) with us. Cognates of the same Greek verb “skēnoō” (to live, dwell or tabernacle) are used in both John 1:14 (indicative aorist active) and in Rev 21:3 (indicative future active). Just as Jesus physically dwelt with us, all believers will actually find ourselves before the Coram Deo (face or presence of God). The Apostle John wrote of this day, See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! …Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is (1Jn 3:1-2).

So, let us carry the spirit of Thanksgiving with us through the Christmas season. During Christmas, we thank God for the greatest gift ever given, the life of His Son so that we can be adopted into His family and be co-heirs to a Kingdom. Yet, while we’re looking forward to the future with eager expectation, let us also continue to thank Him for His provision and protection in this life. Actually, the spirit of Christmas and Thanksgiving should not be limited to a day or a season, but should be an attitude, indeed even a lifestyle. In all circumstances, we can give thanks that, because of His great love for us, He is always with us… always has been… always will be.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Biblical Roots of our American Thanksgiving

This week, many people are celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday with friends and family. Yet, with Christmas decorations filling many retail stores for the past weeks or even months, Black Friday beginning earlier each year (even at the first of the week at some shops), the resulting shoppers brawls, and the general hustle and bustle, it’s relatively easy to overlook our Thanksgiving holiday. By doing this however, we make light of an important holiday that has its roots in the Bible.

As many of our readers are aware, the secular revisionist historians have been very busy in their attempt to scrub any references to God and Christianity from our society, and the Biblical connections to Thanksgiving are no exception. Thus we decided to write this article about some of the beliefs and events that helped establish the holiday.

We begin with the many directives throughout the Bible to give thanks or to have a thankful heart (eg Eph 5:20, 1Th 5:18). Although the Book of the Psalms is permeated with expressions and exhortations of thanksgiving, only the 100th Psalm carries the subtitle “A Psalm for Giving Thanks”. Many Bible readers treat these subtitles as supplementary to the Bible text, as if later added by a scribe. These subtitles however, are found in the oldest known Hebrew manuscripts, so should be accredited the same level of inspiration and authority as the other text. Psalms 100 reads:

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
Worship the LORD with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the LORD is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.
The observance of our American Thanksgiving can be traced back to the celebrations by the Pilgrims as an expression of thanksgiving to God for their survival in the early 1620s. Most secular historians claim that the Pilgrims were expressing thanks to the American Indians, but a brief examination of Pilgrim history will show otherwise.

Read the entire Biblical Roots of Thanksgiving article that includes a brief history of Christianity in England, the Biblical basis for the Pilgrim celebrations, England’s Thanksgiving celebrations, the connection of our American Thanksgiving with the Hebrew festival of Sukkot, the “God with us” connection, and more. The complete article will be uploaded and linked later today or tomorrow. Thank you.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veterans Day 2014

In appreciation of veterans who have, and who are, bravely defending our freedom.

THANK YOU!!!

God Bless our Veterans!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Remembering our Heroes on Memorial Day 2014

Although we should honor our brave troops every day, today is set aside to remember and say a special “thank you” to those who paid the ultimate price for those freedoms that we too often take for granted. No mere words can adequately express our gratitude, particularly the empty words of our current commander-in-chief. Still, we offer an excerpt from the remarks given at the 1982 Memorial Day Ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery by a great leader who truly honored and cared about our nation and our troops.
In America's cities and towns today, flags will be placed on graves in cemeteries; public officials will speak of the sacrifice and the valor of those whose memory we honor.

In 1863, when he dedicated a small cemetery in Pennsylvania marking a terrible collision between the armies of North and South, Abraham Lincoln noted the swift obscurity of such speeches. Well, we know now that Lincoln was wrong about that particular occasion. His remarks commemorating those who gave their “last full measure of devotion” were long remembered. But since that moment at Gettysburg, few other such addresses have become part of our national heritage -- not because of the inadequacy of the speakers, but because of the inadequacy of words.

I have no illusions about what little I can add now to the silent testimony of those who gave their lives willingly for their country. Words are even more feeble on this Memorial Day, for the sight before us is that of a strong and good nation that stands in silence and remembers those who were loved and who, in return, loved their countrymen enough to die for them.

Yet, we must try to honor them -- not for their sakes alone, but for our own. And if words cannot repay the debt we owe these men, surely with our actions we must strive to keep faith with them and with the vision that led them to battle and to final sacrifice…

The willingness of some to give their lives so that others might live never fails to evoke in us a sense of wonder and mystery. One gets that feeling here on this hallowed ground, and I have known that same poignant feeling as I looked out across the rows of white crosses and Stars of David in Europe, in the Philippines, and the military cemeteries here in our own land. Each one marks the resting place of an American hero and, in my lifetime, the heroes of World War I, the Doughboys, the GI's of World War II or Korea or Vietnam. They span several generations of young Americans, all different and yet all alike, like the markers above their resting places, all alike in a truly meaningful way.

Winston Churchill said of those he knew in World War II, they seemed to be the only young men who could laugh and fight at the same time. A great general in that war called them our secret weapon, “just the best darn kids in the world”. Each died for a cause he considered more important than his own life. Well, they didn't volunteer to die; they volunteered to defend values for which men have always been willing to die if need be, the values which make up what we call civilization. And how they must have wished, in all the ugliness that war brings, that no other generation of young men to follow would have to undergo that same experience.

As we honor their memory today, let us pledge that their lives, their sacrifices, their valor shall be justified and remembered for as long as God gives life to this nation. And let us also pledge to do our utmost to carry out what must have been their wish: that no other generation of young men will every have to share their experiences and repeat their sacrifice.

Earlier today, with the music that we have heard and that of our National Anthem -- I can't claim to know the words of all the national anthems in the world, but I don't know of any other that ends with a question and a challenge as ours does: Does that flag still wave o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave? That is what we must all ask.

Thank you.

- President Ronald Reagan, May 31, 1982, speaking after he placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

For a brief history of Memorial Day, and drawings in honor of those who gave their lives for our nation, see our Memorial Day 2014 Tribute on our main website. May God Bless all our Veterans and their families.