Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Corn King

Yesterday's post
on Halloween provoked several thoughts from good friends. Here's one of them that deals with a topic that I actually considered writing about but figured it would be way too long. He does a great job of distilling the arguments.

A number of years ago, my pastor at the time dismissed objections to Halloween on the basis that the dressing up as ghosts and goblins was, in the recent Christian milieu, meant as mockery of the Celtic religion and beliefs. In some sense, this could, however, be taken as a more "scientific" than "Christian" attitude, but could also be perceived as the reasonable attitude of the modern Christian.

The other ideas, related to death, are a couple of quotes from C.S. Lewis, Miracles (NY: Macmillan, 1947):

First, about Christ as the "dying god" of nature religions (including the Celtic): The records, in fact, show us a Person who enacts the part of the dying God, but whose thoughts and words remain quite outside the circle of religious ideas to which the dying God belongs. The very thing which the Nature-religions are all about seems to really have happened once: but it happened in a circle where no trace of Nature-religion was present. (p. 118)

About the Christian doctrine of Death, after talking about religions who believe death to be meaningless because of reincarnation and religions who believe death is critical to escape an illusory life: Christianity countenances neither. Its doctrine [of Death] is subtler. On the one hand Death is the triumph of Satan, the punishment of the Fall, and the last enemy. Christ shed tears at the grave of Lazarus and sweated blood in Gethsemane: the Life of Lives that was in Him detested this penal obscenity not less than we do, but more. On the other hand, only he who loses his life will save it. We are baptized into the death of Christ, and it is the remedy for the Fall. (p. 130.)

While we celebrate the martyrdom of those saints who were persecuted until death, we also see Death less the threat because Jesus has conquered it. It is now the gate through which we must pass on our way to our reward. That does not make it attractive, but it does make it something we can consider without fear, even with a humorous approach, at times. It may be, as Lewis says, the final enemy, but it no longer has the final word.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Get Ready for Halloween

This is Halloween!

As the days grow shorter and the nights feel darker, it is natural to begin thinking of the day when we shut our eyes for the final time on this earth. During autumnal changes, when leaves change colors and fall, we cannot help but consider the brevity of life. We even call the phases of our lives "seasons" in direct comparison to weather patterns.

It is no wonder that Halloween, All Saints Day and All Souls Day should fall one right after the other during the final days of October and first days of November. But what is the significance of these holidays (should we even call them holidays as Christians) and how are they related? I'll give you an abbreviated version of the history.
  • Samhainapprox. 43 CE Gaelic festival celebrated on November first. It marked the end of the harvest and beginning of the darker winter days. It was also their New Year's Day. It was believed that the line between the living and the dead was blurred on the evening before (October 31) and ghosts would roam the streets. History of Halloween
  • All Saints' Dayapprox. 603 CE Pope Boniface IV fixed November 1 as the anniversary to celebrate all saints who had given their lives for the furtherance of the gospel, calling the day "All Hallows Day" and redeem the ongoing festivals by celebrating "All Hallows Eve" the evening before. Hence, the contraction "hallow e'ven"
    Catholic Encyclopedia: All Saints' Day
  • All Souls' Dayapprox. 1048 CE A day set aside to remember all the dead and pray that they safely pass on from purgatory to heaven.
    Catholic Encyclopedia: All Souls' Day

    NOTE: This is a very simplistic statement on purgatory, for clarity, seek someone who knows this process more intimately than I do.

So, Pagans had it first?

Probably. Although, note that the dates I cite are rough estimates on when these holidays/festivals were officially adopted by the celebrants. Common sense and anthropological assessments will tell you that the traditions hearken back much further than that. Undoubtedly, Celtic tribes held harvest festivals before 43 CE (perhaps even while Christ walked this earth), but Samhain as historians note it began around 43 CE with the mixing of Roman and Celtic traditions.

The same is true with All Hallows Day (All Saints' Day) and All Souls' Day. The early church always celebrated their martyrs. The church calendar is littered with Feast Days dedicated to the memory of one faithful servant or another. Therefore, even though 603 CE is pinned as the official organization of this holiday, the traditions surrounding it goes back to the early church.

As for All Souls' Day, Spanish (636 CE) and German (980 CE) traditions well pre-date the official recognition of the holiday in 1048 CE by St. Odilo of Cluny. Therefore, it is firmly entrenched as the last of the traditions to come around.

It should also be noted (as mentioned in the video from that current Halloween practices are completely separate from Samhain. Current, American Halloween traditions are almost all late 19th and early 20th century in origin, peaking sometime in the mid-1900s with the baby-boomers, who today are the generation most nostalgic for the Halloween of their youth. At best, it is a non-religious holiday for most.

Sanctifying the Day

A lot of Christians point to the fact that Halloween (and other holidays) were not Christian inventions and therefore belong to the world. As a result, they should have no place in the Christian life. As a matter of personal choice, I say OK, I respect your stance for you and your family. However, I also ask: Why can't we take a pagan holiday and sanctify it?

Halloween plays on our basest fear: death and the afterlife. People dress up and make light of the greatest equalizer: the grave. Who can truly laugh at the grave harder than the Christian whose God has taken the sting out of death? Halloween is a great opportunity to remember and live in this truth.

Not only that, but we are constantly told to remember our mortality in scripture. Ecclesiastes 7:2 tells us
It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart.
That's why a funeral is better than a party. It leaves us sober-minded, cognizant of the short period of time we have on this earth. James reminds us in James 4:14
Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.
Halloween can be a party, but it can also be an opportunity to reflect on life and death without losing a loved one.

We can insist that we are holier than everybody else by abstaining from this holiday or we can take this opportunity (when mankind naturally considers the life cycle as displayed by nature) to reflect on our lives and make adjustments accordingly. Take some inspiration from the saints that have gone before us.
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. Hebrews 12:1.
Let us go out and live in light of eternity.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

King of Glory: With victory in his fist

The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains,
The world, and those who dwell in it.
For He has founded it upon the seas
And established it upon the rivers.
Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD?
And who may stand in His holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood
And has not sworn deceitfully.
He shall receive a blessing from the LORD
And righteousness from the God of his salvation.
This is the generation of those who seek Him,
Who seek Your face—even Jacob.

Lift up your heads, O gates,
And be lifted up, O ancient doors,
That the King of glory may come in!
Who is the King of glory?
The LORD strong and mighty,
The LORD mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, O gates,
And lift them up, O ancient doors,
That the King of glory may come in!
Who is this King of glory?
The LORD of hosts,
He is the King of glory.

— Psalm 24 NASB

Two Questions

This psalm asks two main questions. First, it asks Who can approach God in His holiness? Is there anyone who can stand in God's presence without fear? The Psalmist answers his own question. If you have clean hands and a pure heart, then you're cool. You can approach God in his holiness without fear of condemnation. On the contrary, once you arrive, you can expect a blessing. 

The second question is Who is this King of Glory? Can anyone truly know God? Sure, he reveals himself to us through his word (specifically, The Word Made Flesh), but by definition there is always more to learn about God. Here, God is revealed as a warrior, He is a conquering Hero. He is willing and ready to destroy his enemy. He is aggressive and glorious. To borrow a thought from C. S. Lewis: our God is good but by no means is he safe. He is wild and he is the king.

He is Active

It is always important to note activity when studying scripture. Notice the contrast in the amount of activity between the first and second half of this Psalm. Notice how there is no activity in the first half when the Psalmist talks of ascending to the holy place. Oh, he describes the perfect person but doesn't say that one exists. He doesn't claim the authority of clean hands and a pure heart. He simply points out that those qualities are needed. His silence screams out the sad reality: nobody is able to ascend to God on their own merit. 

But oh! The King of Glory is active. He descends and enters in through our gates and doors and in doing so lifts them up. He has come to conquer our hearts and receive the hero's spoils. He has come to flex his muscle and bridge the gap between himself and his subjects. He reclaims that which verse one already declares is his own. 

This has already been done through the work of Christ. We can now ask two more questions: Death, where is your sting? and Grave, where is your victory? (1 Corinthians 15:55) We know our King of Glory is clutching the victory in his mighty fist. Soon, we will see Philippians 2:10 come to fruition, when at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Walk Worthy Weekend Recap #WalkWorthyWknd

I attended the Walk Worthy Conference this past weekend at Camp Horizon. I wasn't sure how I wanted to post my recap. Thankfully, Steve (Camp Director & Father-in-law) made the decision for me when he recorded the sessions using Spreaker. You can just listen to the sessions (good stuff) or download them for offline listening/archiving.

Nate Bramsen was the main speaker, so you will see more sessions with him. He is a missionary to Niger. Other sessions include Brian Killins (Colombia), Ken Hardisty (Formerly to the Philippines) and Kim Keating (Currently: Philippines).

Listen below. Note that you can click on the list icon to browse and select other messages.

Holy Things on Facebook

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Friday, October 16, 2015

Weekend Worship: Stars

O Lord, our Lord,
How majestic is Your name in all the earth,
Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens!
From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength
Because of Your adversaries,
To make the enemy and the revengeful cease.

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained;
What is man that You take thought of him,
And the son of man that You care for him?
Yet You have made him a little lower than God,
And You crown him with glory and majesty!

— Psalm 8:1-5, NASB
For this mix, I wanted to consider God's creation and our place within it. The glory of the heavens declare God's majesty. Specifically, most of these songs reference the stars and how insignificant we can feel when looking out at them. Abraham's descendents are likened to the stars and we know that anyone who believes is considered a descendent of Abraham. Did you know that God knows the stars by name (Psalm 147:4)? He cares enough to know you too.

Again, if I missed your favorite song on this topic, leave me a comment. I would love to hear about it!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Faith Implies Doubt

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.

— Proverbs 3:5-6
Faith implies doubt.
If there was no reason to doubt, what place would faith have?

Faith is the act of trusting.
This trust is not in the perfect pathway but the builder of the path.

If faith is the leap, then trust is in the one who will catch you — not in your ability to stick a perfect landing.

If I could stand balanced on my own, why would I lean on God?

Doubt your sense of direction and trust the Cartographer.
Doubt your equilibrium and trust the God of Balance.

Doubt yourself. Trust God.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Weekend Worship: Light

I would like to try and get back into this music thing. Maybe I just won't talk too much and let the music do the talking. This weekend's WW playlist is all about The Light.

In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.
— John 1:4

If I missed your favorite worship song about light, let me know what it is in the comments!

Awl in the Ear, All for the Family

Awl in the Ear, All for the Family. A study on Exodus 21.
“If you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve for six years; but on the seventh he shall go out as a free man without payment. If he comes alone, he shall go out alone; if he is the husband of a wife, then his wife shall go out with him.

If his master gives him a wife, and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall belong to her master, and he shall go out alone.

But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife and my children; I will not go out as a free man,’ then his master shall bring him to God, then he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him permanently."

— Exodus 21:2-6

Lord's Supper Meditation

This passage is fairly commonly referred to during the Lord's Supper, in fact, it was used as a springboard for a devotional on a recent Sunday morning.The brother lead a passionate devotional on the Lord Jesus' devotion to his father as he set his face toward Calvary. This is good. It is a great place to begin. Jesus is the suffering servant of Isaiah 53. He was devoted to the Father and did only the things which pleased him (John 8:29).

According to tradition, the Exodus 21 passage is linked to Psalm 40:6. This Sunday was no exception:
Sacrifice and meal offering You have not desired;
My ears You have opened;
Burnt offering and sin offering You have not required.
Then I said, “Behold, I come;
In the scroll of the book it is written of me.
I delight to do Your will, O my God;
Your Law is within my heart.”

— Psalm 40:6-8
The reference to opening (piercing) ears is clearly a reference to the law of Exodus. The psalmist joins the idea of the devoted slave to a new kind of sacrifice; a sacrifice that does not follow the external tradition of the corporate worship system, but gets at the heart of the matter.

God does not desire little pious displays, what he is after is a Once For All Sacrifice. God wants someone who only does the things which delight him. There is only one man who has ever done that, the Lord Jesus, who was willing to submit to horrible execution on the cross.

A Family Affair

Getting back to the text at hand, notice the motivations involved in the slave's desire to have his ear pierced and therefore forever join himself to his master. The slave must reason within himself:
‘I love my master, my wife and my children; I will not go out as a free man,’
I understand that most of my readers can read. But sometimes details slip by without notice. Here are the terms of the slave's status enumerated:
  • Prerequisite: The slave has already served 6 years for his master.
  • Condition 1: He is unmarried. He may go free.
  • Condition 2: He is married. He and his wife go free. There are no stipulations to his wife's service. It is assumed that the man's service covers the woman's. Suppose she has only served 3 years at the time that her husband is set to go free, she will go with him at that time.
  • Condition 3: If the man has children during his 6-year service, both the wife and children belong to the master. If the man goes free, he must go alone. He loses his family.
  • Recourse: Go free and live in the corresponding condition (single or married) listed above or bind yourself to the master and keep your family.
I understand this changes the narrative of the original meditation. I do not intend to discredit it in any way. There are great things to be said about it. If you have been reading this blog for a while, you know that I am a strong proponent of multiple meanings in any particular text. Every good piece of literature can be interpreted this way, why not scripture so long as you can support the position? Please bear with me and I hope this interpretation makes sense.

I am implying here that the main motivation for the slave is not love for the master, but love for his family. How often do you suppose a slave said, "I love my master, I'm going to bind myself to him for all eternity and give up any chance for freedom." I'm sure it has happened. Perhaps it was common. It seems more likely, from a sociological perspective, that the slave would say, "If I exercise my freedom, I will lose my family. My only choice is to join myself to this master and keep my wife and children."

There's no ignoring the ethical dilemma created by this situation. Only a scoundrel would abandon his family. Binding himself to the master would seem to benefit the master here. However, for the purpose of this post I do not intend to get into that discussion. I shall table it for a later time. Suffice it to say, the emotional pull of this decision is astronomical.

The Metaphor

I believe there is a clear metaphor to be seen here. One that is beautiful and precious and illustrates what Christ has done for mankind.

The Prerequisite

The number 6 is significant in scripture. It is one short of the perfect number 7 and signifies man, because man was created on that day. Yes, the number 6 is significant because God created the world in 6 days (Genesis 1). Regardless of one's interpretation of days, that is the period of time assigned to God's active work on the creation of the universe.

This is the time period of God's service. He worked. We know this because on the 7th day, when everything was completed, he rested. Everything was done. Note also, all subsequent events were supposed to occur during this day. If sin had not entered the world, and man had not fallen, we would have continued in perfect communion with God during this eternal 7th day of perfect rest.

Concerning the 6-days of creation, who is it that does the work? We know that God upholds the universe by the word of his power (Hebrews 1:3). We also know the word was there in the beginning and was the agency which created all things (John 1). Not only that, but this word became flesh and dwelt among us. By this reasoning, we know attribute creation to Jesus &mdash the Son of God. By him all things consist (Colossians 1:17).

The Condition

During this period of labor, God decides to make man. Not only does he create man, he creates man specially. He creates in his own image. There is a special relationship between man and God as a direct result of this special creation. This relationship is commonly described as a father/son relationship in scripture. It is a familial bond. God created man and placed him into the world as a ruler over it. I believe we can see where this metaphor is going at this point.

Man submits himself to Sin.

After the fall of man, man is now subject to a new master. The master is cruel. The master is harsh. The master punishes his subjects mercilessly. The order of the universe is turned on it's head because of sin. Man is no longer master of his domain, he now dominated by Sin and Death.

The Decision

Now God has a decision to make. He spent the 6 days in service. He can now cut loose and go free, but he cannot take his children with him. He must go alone. That is the law.

While deserting his creation was an option for him, it really was no option at all for a loving God. A good Father would not consider abandonment, so he chose the only other option:
He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

— Philippians 2:6-8
Yes, The Lord Jesus was obedient to his Father who commissioned the work of redemption. Yes, in a sense he bore a hole in his ear and devoted his life to Jehovah.

Jesus also submitted himself to death on the cross. More importantly, he submitted to Death and in doing so, defeated it.

Jesus emptied his essence into the form of a person and suffered under the cruel master of Sin, but never succumbed to partake in Sin's fleeting pleasures. He was tested and tried in every way, but resisted the urge to indulge himself in anything unholy.

As a result, we have a man seated in the heavens mediating between God the Father and ourselves (1 Timothy 2:5). Jesus has bridged the gap because he submitted himself to our masters though he was free. He submitted himself to death on the cross and proves it with holes in his hands and feet and head and side.


I apologize for an extra long post. I try to keep my thoughts concise and clean. Forgive me for rambling a bit.

How vast is the love God has for us? We will continually learn new aspects of his grace and mercy for all eternity. I know there are holes in this metaphorical interpretation of the passage of scripture, but my learning is now in part. I look forward to personally inspecting those wounds and crying out to Jesus; for if I cannot articulate myself in the blogosphere, what chance do I have in person?

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Targeting Christians, the New Era

Targeting Christians, the New Era
"These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
— Jesus, John 16:33
This is a post I have been reluctant to write. Too many Sundays I have heard preachers preach about how persecution is coming to the United States of America. "It is inevitable," they would say, "We see it happening — slowly, but surely."

I have been reluctant to write about it because it seemed like a ridiculous notion. How could a country whose basic principle revolves around freedom turn around and persecute one group of people for something they believe? Oh wait, did you forget about the history of racism in this country? I digress...

Here's the thing, I can't ignore it anymore. I cannot rationalize the events that I have seen from afar and the people I have prayed for in their moments of grief and tragedy. There is an undercurrent of resentment and hate that is building up and bubbling over. People are very angry for a lot of different reasons. Emerging is a common target, others in their community who believe in Christ.

This is not an isolated occurrence any longer. It can and has happened anywhere, from the Northeast to the Southwest. The Southeast and the Pacific Northwest are not exempt from this trend. In this article, I will give a rundown of five of these instances from my memory alone. All linked articles were published either by the New York Times or NPR.

Roseburg, Oregon — School Shooting, 2015

This is the most recent tragic school shooting. On Thursday, October 1, a gunman walked onto campus at Umpqua Community College and opened fire. He killed nine before shooting himself. Early reports indicate that his procedure included a question about his victim's religion before determining what kind of gunshot wound they would receive.
Willis, who visited her granddaughter in the hospital, said Friday Boylan told her the shooter was asking students about their faith. "If they said they were Christian, he shot them in the head," Willis said her granddaughter told her.
I understand that these reports are early and may be discredited somewhat. However, the typical smoke/fire relationship indicates that there is likely substance of one kind or another to this story.

Littleton, Colorado — School Shooting, 1999

The infamous Columbine High School Shooting in 1999 is my earliest memory of this kind of tragedy. I know this kind of homeland terrorism has happened as long as humans have had access to weapons, but this is the first time since I reached the age of reasoning that this kind of story made the news. It didn't help that I was slated to begin high school in 2000 after 4 years of homeschool instruction.

The popular story of Cassie Bernal has been debated and likely debunked. However, it appears that the conversation between the gunman and someone did occur. The person was shot for replying affirmatively that they did believe in God. That is persecution. It also qualifies as public intimidation.

Oakland, Oregon — Christian University Shooting, 2012

On April 2, 2012, a gunman (and previous student) entered the campus of Oikos University in Oakland, California and began shooting. He killed seven and wounded three. He was later caught.

While it is unclear what the gunman's motivation was, his target was crystal clear. Oikos University is a Christian university, affiliated with Praise to God Korean Church. While enforcement is impossible, attendees at Christian Universities are typically professing Christians. Connect the dots.

Lancaster, Pennsylvania — Christian School Shooting, 2006

On October 2, 2006, a man decided he would hold up a one-room, Amish Schoolhouse and shoot little girls. This one was personally devastating. My best friend grew up in Lancaster, PA. I visited the area several times. I have great respect for the Amish and their devotion to their faith though I don't agree with their stance towards technology (minor point of dissension).

Although their community was targeted for terrorism, the story of forgiveness that came out of the tragedy is awe-inspiring to say the least. It does not matter that I disagree with their stance on technology when I whole-heartily endorse their stance on forgiveness. This is a community that lives out their genuine faith. I respect them for that.

Charleston, South Carolina — Church Shooting, 2015

On June 17, 2015, a white gunman opened fire inside a black church in Charleston, SC. Nine were killed because they were inside Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church after 9 PM.

Undoubtedly, this mass shooting was motivated by racial prejudice. However, the targets were believers who had gathered together in their house of worship. The one does not discount the other. This a classic scenario of the persecuted church. Could it happen again? Absolutely.


Last year, I was offered a job at Charleston Southern University, a Baptist university in the same city as Emanuel Methodist Episcopal Church. So yes, this hits home. I could have been in that area. The trend is for these shooters to operate out of School Libraries and Churches. As a librarian and a Christian, this could happen to me. I know that sounds really personal and morbid, but it must factor into my thought process.

While it is implausible that the US government will ever officially endorse the persecution of Christians, that doesn't mean it does not happen. It certainly happens every day. Sometimes it becomes violent and deadly. These are just a few examples that have occurred in a 16-year span.

Finally, as Christians, we follow a God who knows the tribulations we are subject to in this world. Guess what, he knows because he was in this world and experienced them. He not only experienced persecution, he overcame it. He is powerful to save us as well. That gives us peace to continue living for him.
Christopher M. Jimenez. Powered by Blogger.

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