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.


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.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Relationship between Spiritual and Physical Fitness

In a recent article on maintaining good spiritual health, we drew many parallels between physical and spiritual activities. In reality, the two realms are inter-related and can greatly affect each other. Paul tells Timothy that “while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1Tim 4:8 ESV). Paul is not denying the benefits of physical training as some have proposed. The Greek word for “training” is gymnasia (often translated “exercise”) from which we get “gymnasium”. The Greek translated “of some” (pros oligon) can also mean little, small or brief (as in time). The Greek (pros panta) translated “in every way” literally means “for everything” or “for always”, so in context, Paul is likely saying that exercise is beneficial for this brief lifetime, but spiritual training is much better since it has value for both this earthly life and for our eternal life.

Studies (and personal experiences) have shown that physical fitness (exercise and proper diet) contributes to increased discipline, mental alertness, better sleep, better memory retention, higher energy levels, lower rates of depression, decreased illness, increased production and many other general health benefits that can favorably affect our spiritual training. Likewise, a healthy spiritual life leads to a clear conscience (less stress) that generally benefits our physical lives.

Stress can negatively affect both our physical and spiritual well-being. In the physical realm, it can be caused by such things as financial problems, marital issues, job demands, illness, or numerous other situations. In the spiritual realm, stress is almost always caused by guilt, brought on initially by unconfessed sin. At times, guilt can even hang on long after we've repented and been forgiven, but we must learn to trust God and let it go.

This is not to say that all guilt is necessarily bad. Good guilt serves as an early warning system spiritually, just as does pain or discomfort to us physically. When we experience pain (or other abnormal symptoms) in our physical body, it alerts us that something is wrong. Depending on the severity, we may need to seek professional medical help to remedy the problem. If we continue to ignore them, much more serious problems would likely occur. Similarly, when we experience spiritual problems, the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin (makes us feel guilty over our sin) so that we can turn to the Great Physician, confess our sin, and remedy our spiritual problem. If we continually ignore the conviction of the Spirit, our conscience can become seared and much bigger spiritual problems will develop.

Preferably however, we should not wait for a symptom to manifest itself. For this reason, many people have regular examinations by their doctor to discover and address any concealed physical issues before they develop into real problems. Spiritually, we should take the attitude of King David the Psalmist who wrote “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life” (Ps 139:23-24 - NLT). When the Spirit’s “examination” turns up any spiritual problems, we should immediately confess and repent. Failure to do so will lead to diminished fellowship with God and even hinder our prayers (Ps 66:18). In almost all physical or spiritual cases, the earlier we detect any abnormalities, the easier the treatment and recovery.

In the end, whether physically or spiritually, we should do everything for the glory of God.

Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin (Ps 32:5). If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1Jn 1:9). So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God (1Cor 10:31).

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Presidents Day - Our Biblical Foundations

Each February, we set aside a holiday that began as a celebration of George Washington’s Birthday, but later became popularly known as Presidents Day. Unfortunately, the philosophy and resulting policies of our current president has consistently been diagrammatically opposed to biblical principles and out-right hostile toward most Christian beliefs and freedoms. Historically however, this has rarely been the case.

Only a small percentage of our presidents have been evangelical Christians, but until the past 50 years or so, virtually all recognized the providential hand of God in the establishment of our nation, and the abundant contributions that Christianity has made throughout our nation’s history. Even in the last five decades, the majority have either been supportive of Christianity and religious freedoms, or at least remained relatively neutral.

To illustrate, we’ve assembled a small sampling of quotes by a number of US presidents on the subject of God, the Bible, and our country’s Christian foundation. As we read these, let’s pray for another great revival in America.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

41 Years of Legalized Killings in America

As another Sanctity of Life Month passes, we have some good news to share. Public opinion is slowly turning against abortion as polls indicate almost 60% of the population now consider themselves pro-life. Much of this is due to increased awareness of the unsanitary conditions, corrupt practices, and criminal activities commonly found at many of these clinics. A recent report from Operation Rescue indicates that 87 surgical abortion clinics halted abortions in 2013. In addition,
The total number of surgical abortion clinics left in the U.S. is now 582. This represents an impressive 12% net decrease in surgical abortion clinics in 2013 alone, and a 73% drop from a high in 1991 of 2,176... Planned Parenthood clinics account for 29.55% of all active surgical abortion clinics (172 of 582) and 93% of all clinics that offer the abortion pill only. Each year, Planned Parenthood is responsible for about a third of all abortions done in the U.S.
Our state of Texas led the nation with 11 closings, primarily due to the passing of a new law that required abortionists to maintain local hospital privileges. Pennsylvania and Maryland also enacted new safety rules for clinics. According to the Americans United for Life 2013 Life List, over 60 pro-life laws were passed last year.

Yet, less encouraging facts remind us that the fight is far from over. Even though reported abortions by Planned Parenthood fell 2% from the previous year, the organization still accounted for 327,166 abortions last year, or about 900 of the over 3000 babies that are murdered on an average day. PP also continues to receive over 500 million dollars a year (about 45% of its income) from Obama and his fellow Dems. In addition, most of their atrocities are covered up by their supporters in the media. So we must be ever vigilant in continuing to educate the general public of the truth.

To that end, we'd like to share a video produced by the Texas Alliance for Life. This must-see pro-life video provides an excellent concise history of legalized abortion in America since 1073, interspersed with a few personal testimonies.

Please pray that we'll be the generation to end the abortion holocaust.