Mourning the 21: Praying for the Thousands (WARNING: Graphic Images)

Mourning the 21: Praying for the Thousands (WARNING: Graphic Images)

BumW-kjIAAAsOzL.jpg-large-e1408927036192Today we mourn the execution of 21 Egyptian Christian brothers killed in Libya by Islamic terrorists. This is only the latest savagery against Christians which includes the crucifixion, dismemberment and torture of men, women and children. Even more, these Muslim extremists are raping women and selling them into slavery.

As reported in just one instance,

kessab-bimbo1“ISIS turned up and said to the children, ‘You say the words that you will follow Mohammed,’ ” White said in video posted on the Christian Broadcasting Network website.
“The children, all under 15, four of them, they said, ‘No, we love Yeshua [Jesus], we have always loved Yeshua.’
“They chopped all their heads off.

Sadly, there are some in the media who still see these terrorists as justified in taking back what they consider “their land.” These pundits are clearly unaware that many these Christian communities have roots that predate Islam by more than 600 years, yet tens of thousands have been killed and even more forced to flee their homes to escape the savage onslaught.

xisis-child-sun-ramadan.jpg.pagespeed.ic_.RPAai2C_C1Please pray that politicians will take action to protect these people from the savagery of these terrorist groups.

Please pray that our brothers and sisters in Christ who are presently under attack will be saved from any further torture and death.

Please pray for these terrorists to be saved from their own evil intent and, just as the Apostle Paul was saved from his own mission to kill Christians, these men too will be redeemed by the cross of Jesus Christ.

Thanksgiving Proclamation 1777 By the Continental Congress

Thanksgiving Proclamation 1777 By the Continental Congress

The First National Thanksgiving Proclamation
IN CONGRESS
November 1, 1777

The committee appointed to prepare a recommendation to the several states, to set apart a day of public thanksgiving, brought in a report; which was taken into consideration, and agreed to as follows:

Forasmuch as it is the indispensable duty of all men to adore the superintending providence of Almighty God; to acknowledge with gratitude their obligation to him for benefits received, and to implore such farther blessings as they stand in need of; and it having pleased him in his abundant mercy not only to continue to us the innumerable bounties of his common providence, but also smile upon us in the prosecution of a just and necessary war, for the defense and establishment of our unalienable rights and liberties; particularly in that he hath been pleased in so great a measure to prosper the means used for the support of our troops and to crown our arms with most signal success:

It is therefore recommended to the legislative or executive powers of these United States, to set apart Thursday, the 18th day of December next, for solemn thanksgiving and praise; that with one heart and one voice the good people may express the grateful feelings of their hearts, and consecrate themselves to the service of their divine benefactor; and that together with their sincere acknowledgments and offerings, they may join the penitent confession of their manifold sins, whereby they had forfeited every favor, and their humble and earnest supplication that it may please God, through the merits of Jesus Christ, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of remembrance; that it may please him graciously to afford his blessings on the governments of these states respectively, and prosper the public council of the whole; to inspire our commanders both by land and sea, and all under them, with that wisdom and fortitude which may render them fit instruments, under the providence of Almighty God, to secure for these United States the greatest of all blessings, independence and peace; that it may please him to prosper the trade and manufactures of the people and the labor of the husbandman, that our land may yield its increase; to take schools and seminaries of education, so necessary for cultivating the principles of true liberty, virtue and piety, under his nurturing hand, and to prosper the means of religion for the promotion and enlargement of that kingdom which consisteth in righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.

And it is further recommended, that servile labor, and such recreation as, though at other times innocent, may be unbecoming the purpose of this appointment, be omitted on so solemn an occasion.

Triumph or Trial?

Triumph or Trial?

I am sitting in a Coffee shop contemplating the coming Palm Sunday… Jesus’ final entry into Jerusalem before his Crucifixion.   Based on his own life experience, Gerald Borchert shares the following observation.

Although many people have traditionally designated this crowded, palm-branch experience as the “triumphal entry,” such a name hardly fits the significance of this event in John. In the strange intersection of events in my life, I was born on Palm Sunday, then in my youth I was confined to an isolation hospital bed memorizing most of the Gospel of John (see my Preface) until I was released for Palm Sunday. And later when I was teaching John in Jerusalem, I watched a shouting match and a fight take place between Christian priests of different traditions in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher on Palm Sunday! The combination of these events in my life has sensitized me to this “Palm Sunday” story in John.

Although the event is recorded in all four Gospels (Matt 21:1–11; Mark 11:1–11; Luke 19:29–44; as well as here in John), the focus of the stories is not the same in all of them. After pondering the story over the years, I find it completely impossible to designate John’s version of the story by the title of the “triumphal entry.” That title may apply to Luke’s account, where Jesus told the Pharisees that if his followers were to be silenced “the stones” would “cry out” (Luke 19:40a, probably citing Hab 2:11). But John’s story is different. It is strategically framed beforehand by the anointing of Jesus for burial (John 12:7) and afterwards both by the recognition that the hour of his glorification had arrived and by the likening of his time to the death of seeds (John 12:23–24). Jesus here was not confused about the significance of this event or by the shouting of the crowd. He knew that the meaning of his entry into Jerusalem was an entry into his death.

Gerald L. Borchert, vol. 25B, John 12-21, electronic ed., Logos Library System; The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003), 39–40.

I encourage everyone to read each of the four Gospel accounts before Sunday morning and prepare your heart to answer these questions:

  1. Is Palm Sunday a story of Triumph or Trial?
  2. How does your understanding of Palm Sunday change your perception of your own life experience?
St Patrick And the Living God

St Patrick And the Living God

Since I was a kid, all my memories of Saint Patrick’s Day have been about normal stuff turned green: green milkshakes at McDonalds, green pancakes for breakfast, green clothes for school, and green beer for adults.

But is eating and drinking green stuff on St. Patrick’s Day all there is to this holiday?

Saint Patrick Then

Saint Patrick was a Christian missionary to Ireland and this day is really a celebration of the Gospel message he proclaimed to a lost nation [read my short history here].  Patrick did more than just preach the Good News of salvation, he also helped transform traditions. The Irish were often thought to be more refined and less idolatrous than those of Gaul and Britain, but St. Patrick’s writings tell a much different story. The 6th century  “Hymn of Fiech,” reminds us.

“Over the tribes of Ireland lay a gloom—

Tribes who worshipped idols;

They believed not in the true God,

Nor in his proper Trinity.”

One of the practices Patrick sought to change was the worship of the sun.  In the “Confessions”, St Patrick we read the following:

A practice connected with the worship of the sun, which still survives in this country, is the lighting of bonfires on the 24th of June; in heathen times these fires were made on the 1st of May, which is called, to the present day, in the Irish language, “the day of Baal’s fire” (La Bealltaine), the sun having been worshipped under the name of Baal. A very ancient notice of this day occurs, in which it is said—“The Druids used to make two goodly [lucky] fires, with great incantations on them, and they were used to bring the cattle between them against the diseases of each year.” The change from May to June is popularly attributed to St. Patrick, and said to have been made in honour of St. John the Baptist. We have in this practice a strange proof of the tenacity with which the rites of superstition retain their hold on the human mind; for at this day, after the lapse of fourteen centuries, the same custom continues, and the same power of preserving the cattle from evil is attributed to it.

Worship of the sun was not their only idolotry. As historian Dr. Lanigan observes, the Irish worshipped pillar stones, or Dallauns, and so the Christian missionaries would carve crosses on these stones to point the superstitious Irish toward the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The following passage outlines how the Irish worshipped Cromm by sacrificing their children to him.

“Magh Sleacht (the plain of slaughter) is so called because the chief of the idols of Ireland was there—namely, Cromm Cruach, and twelve idols of stone standing round it, and its head was of gold; and this was the god of all the people who possessed Ireland before the arrival of St. Patrick: to this they sacrificed the first born of every offspring, and the first born of their own sons. Tighernmhas, the son of Follan King of Ireland, accompanied by the men and women of Ireland, supplicated this idol on Samin’s day [the 1st of November], with such adoration, that they lacerated their elbows by falling and adoring, until they inflicted wounds on their foreheads, and bruised their noses and cheeks even till the blood came; hence it is called Magh Sleacht, or the plain of slaughter.”

Did you catch the name of their god, Cromm?  Does this mean Conan the Barbarian was secretly Irish? But, I digress. What history shows is that in the face of serious idolatry, St. Patrick fought against a corrupt culture with a demonstrable “zeal for God, even for the living God.”

Saint Patrick Now

Today, as we celebrate with our green stuff in hand, Christians in America are faced with our own culture of idolatry.

  • We worship Politicians at the expense of freedom.
  • We worship Women’s Rights at the expense of the unborn.
  • We worship Science at the expense of reason.
  • We worship Nature at the expense of humanity.

But in the face of persecution and ridicule are we, the followers of Jesus, willing to follow the example of St. Patrick; live counter to our culture and demonstrate our “zeal for God, even for the living God?”

FOOTNOTES

1. All quotes in this post are from, Saint Patrick, The Confession of St. Patrick With an Introduction and Notes, trans. Thomas Olden (Dublin; London: James McGlashan; James Nisbet and Co., 1853), 11-13.
Join or Die

Join or Die

In his famous 1754 political cartoon titled “Join or Die”, Ben Franklin enjoined the divided colonies of America to come together and fight their common enemy.

Presbyterians, Baptist, Catholics and even a few Quakers took seriously Franklin’s call to fight for freedom. They put aside generations of religious hatred toward one another and donned the common uniform of the American revolutionary.  Men of every religious stripe chose to fight side-by-side for the cause of freedom.

The willingness of Men to lay aside denominational differences and fight, and die, for a shared cause created one of the greatest nations in the history of mankind.  And while the American Revolution unified a nation, it did not unify the disperate factions of the Church.

My concern is not the existence of denominations because their existence is not the barrier to a Christian union. The problem is the unwillingness to unify around something greater than denominations—the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

As Christians, we do not need to abandon our historical distinctive, but we do need to set aside any tradition that would keep us from joining together with other Christians for the cause of YHWH’s Kingdom.  Ben Franklin’s cartoon has meaning this Memorial day for the Church in American that is slowly fading in size and influence.

Regardless of tradition, the Good News of Jesus Christ must be the rallying cry for every Christian.  We must join or die.

Ephesians 6:12-13 (NIV)
12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
Shhhh… dont tell the ACLU, but “Happy Holy Days”

Shhhh… dont tell the ACLU, but “Happy Holy Days”

What is all the fuss about?  I don’t think there is a “war” on Chistmas, but culture is changing and that is sometimes hard for people to take. Personally, I don’t mind if people say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” because both are references to the religious tradition of Christ’s birth.

As American society trends toward secularization, the meaning behind words, customs and traditions is slowly lost. Shhhh… don’t tell the ACLU or all the public schools banning “Christmas” carols, but the word “Holiday” is from Old English “hāligdæg” and means “Holy Days”.  The word “holiday” commemorates the holy nature of the season and the word “Holiday” has just as much, if not more, religious meaning than the term “Christmas”.

Knowing the meaning of “Holiday” makes the irony of the now ubiquitous seasonal rants by secular-humanists all the more humorous. Take, for example, this ABC article entitled, “Happy Holidays, There Is No God.”  The article mentions one atheist groups endeavor called, the “godless holiday campaign.”

So what this particular group of people is really advertising is a “godless Holy Day campaign.”  Really?… a ‘holy day’ to remember nothing is holy?  Too funny!  And the reporter who titled the article really wrote, “Happy Holy Days, There is No God.”  What does this tell you about the state of journalism?

So the next time an ACLU-intimidated store clerk wishes you a “Happy Holiday”, just smile and rejoice and wish them a “Happy Holiday” in return. Words have meaning and this “Holiday” season is truly a happy celebration of  the most Holy God and the birth of His son Jesus Christ!

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