Tuesday, December 25, 2012

"And so this is Christmas..."

We all have our preconceived notion of what Christmas is.
This would probably consist of such things as gifts - receiving and giving -, decorations, red and green and gold, Santa, snow, cold weather, family and traveling, a manger scene, and lots of good food, along with varying family traditions and differing personal perspective. This general ideology has stayed the same for many years, but I believe the heart of America is shifting. In fact, I would look back to a great upheaval a few decades ago, when the revolutionizing angst of the new generation was embodied. Don't get me wrong, we've been slipping and sliding farther and farther away from the truth ever since Adam and Eve took the forbidden fruit, and there have been many backslidden eras before the 60's and 70's brought long, greasy hair and striped bell-bottoms into the mix. But this is where we are today, near 2013 and... well... where that's going. I'm sure each one of us could give a fairly accurate definition of where that is, positives and negatives alike. But I do believe the cultural spit-up we like to gloss over can teach us something. Besides, things rarely get better without other's getting much worse.
  Famed musician John Lennon was the icon of the peace movement, as well as the biggest drug influence over hip teens of the day. I guess you could say, his words were gospel, to many; he really shows us the hippie heart of the time! So examining the words and ideas of his popular songs can be helpful to not only see where many people were in the 60's and 70's, but where we are headed today, or perhaps were we already are. After all, the "liberals of yesterday are the conservatives of today."
So, this Christmas season, what does our secular culture tell us about ourselves?
You can see Lennon's de-
glorification of Christmas in his
album name, "X-mas..."
  Lennon's opening line of Merry Xmas, War is Over is "And so this is Christmas..." Without the foundation of Jesus, what is Christmas? An intellectual like Lennon, however stoned he was, would recognize that a holiday centered on an old myth that makes little sense, and a just-as-likely (to him) folklore of an old fat man carrying presents to everybody in the whole wide world on an air-born sleigh drawn by flying deer is a sad holiday indeed. Sure, it gives the economy a boom with all the gifts being bought, and many people seem happy, but after all is said and done, the tree gets hulled to the curb to die, gifts are broken, as well as some hearts, people are in debt, families separate, and we settle in for another month or two of slush, ice, accidents, runny noses, and frostbite. His logical conclusion? "What have you done? Another year over, and a new one just begun... Lets hope it's a good one, without any fear."   Because without a Savior, that's what there is, holiday or not. Getting older, hoping for good times, and wishing away the war and fear. I applaud him for bringing a sense of unity to the human race, coming out of a time of segregation and prejudice, but for all his love, peace, and hope hype, he was not a happy man. Smart, yes, but knowledge doesn't save. Jesus does. The same Jesus that is the reason for the season, and who we should focus on during the holidays, when so many things vy for our attention. So have a very merry Christmas, and a happy new year. All of you, whether black, white, young, old, weak, or strong. But heed Lennon's warning, and don't lose sight of where hope is really found, and why we celebrate, even after all the twinkling lights are put back in the box.

The Reason for the Season

Monday, December 24, 2012

Herem (mid-term exam for YBI)

 This is a very short essay I wrote as one of my YBI (Youth Bible Institute) mid-term exams. It is far from comprehensive, but it met criteria. I love the Hebrew language, so I thought I'd share on of the Bible's thematic words here on my blog. I hope you like. :)
 Herem is a Hebrew word usually related to purifying and devoting an object or a race. Usually viewed as tyrannical, cruel, and eugenical, I will defend it in its time as a proper and necessary act for the Israelites, knowing that God is perfect and sovereign. This concept actually has use for the Christian today, as will be explained.
 Herem is mostly seen in action in the book of Joshua and Judges, as the Israelites are reclaiming the Promised Land of Canaan, and driving out/destroying the pagan inhabitants along with their culture, religion, and goods.  As stated by God Himself to Moses, and in several other books of the Bible, He is a “jealous God,” and his covenant with his people should be pure and singular *1.  God is a completely blemish-less and pure God, and cannot be tainted, so any relationship must be the same. Even though the Israelites were not a perfect people, He wished to call them out and separate them from worldly evils, and point them to the promised Lamb who would save them from the evil in their own hearts.
 God commanded the Israelites to practice herem on the inhabitants of their new home for two reasons,

1.      To keep the Israelites from the distractions and temptations of sin and the deplorable acts of the pagans living there *2.

2.      To repay and punish the pagans for their abounding sins committed against God and His creation *3.

 God commands them to practice herem as they go into the land, and they obey Him for a while, but their trouble comes not from their enemies, but from within. Here we see that herem is not only practiced against “foreigners,” but anyone who stands in the way of God’s purity.
 A man named Achan took for himself goods devoted to God’s temple, and he is punished by death of stoning.  Later, we see the Israelites fail to completely drive out the inhabitants of the land, and even side with them in some cases. This blatant disobedience may have seemed the easy way out for them at the time, and may have even seemed the kind thing to do, but led to more bloodshed and heartache later on, as it took very little time at all for the Israelites to fall prey to the gods and awful practices of the people. Time after time they broke their covenant with God, until they hardly knew Him.
 It is important to draw the moral of the story for ourselves, and not focus on bloodshed not required of us. The lesson for us to learn is of God’s absolute purity and righteousness, and the dire consequences of not obeying His commands.
 So how can we practice herem today? Killing anyone who may corrupt us is no righteous act, and would leave none of us standing; ridding our lives of anything that temps us is not possible, because even if we seclude ourselves from anything worldly, and have no contact with our fellow man, our temptation comes from within (James 1:14).  Our herem can be to devote our minds and hearts to God. If anything comes between Him and us, it is to be dealt with accordingly.  Making time for personal and group Bible study and prayer at the expense of free-time, or another activity that may have to be cancelled, would be an example.  Going out of your way to share the gospel when you feel led by the Spirit, even if it means you’ll be late, or you’ll feel uncomfortable. Tithing 10% minimum, even when it means going without some things.
 Herem, the act of devotion and purification, is part of every Christian’s daily walk.

Footnotes and references:

*1 - Exodus 20:4-6, 2 Corinthians 11:2

*2 - Leviticus 15:31, Ezra 10:11

*3 - Leviticus 18:24-26, Judges 1:4-7



Saturday, December 1, 2012

Viewing high

6,842 views in the month of October! Thanks for the all-time high!

And speaking of "views"...
"One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple." - Psalm 27:4