Sunday, December 2, 2018

The Answer is 42!

Because I think the Father often uses the foolish things of the Earth to teach us, I decided to explore the Bible and find verses or chapters that contained ‘forty-two.’   Why 42?  In the book The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, forty-Two was the “Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything.”  The book made the number 42 famous.   There has been a lot of speculation about what the author meant by this arbitrary number.  None of those include seeing a connection with the Bible, but I was curious!  The answer may be 42!!
There were several instances where I found insight from doing this exploration!  I was amazed!  I suggest you see for yourself.  I especially liked what I found in Psalms 42 and Chapter 42 in Isaiah!  I think they will bless you.  In addition to those, I found many ways to associate this number with the Bible.  It presents several interesting rabbit trails!
For this article, I am going to explore a couple of those rabbit trails.   Could Forty-Two lead to anything other than Psalm 42 and Isaiah 42?  As in most things that grab my attention, this excursion into ‘what if…’ yielded some surprising things to think upon.  Is it a ‘message from God?’  Perhaps!  I didn’t hear a voice from heaven, but a message was found all the same!

NOTHING BUT A FLASK OF OIL

I am not usually a big fan of plucking out single verses to make a point.  However, it is interesting to contemplate what a verse might lead us to understand.  Take the following ‘4:2’ verse:
2Ki 4:2 Elisha responded, “What shall I do for you? Tell me what you have in your house?” She replied, “Your servant has nothing in the entire house except for a flask of oil.”
The widow owed a debt she could not repay and a flask of oil was all she had!  The prophet told her to send her sons to collect all the pots and vessels they could find.  Then she was to shut the door behind her and her sons and was blessed with a miracle when the oil in a single flask was multiplied to fill all the pots!   With it she was able to save her children from slavery.  The oil saved and sustained her!
What has this to do with 42?  Hang in there!  Let’s explore the meaning behind a flask of oil and how it might connect to other verses with the numbers 4 and 2.  Along the way you may understand why I believe a flask of oil is all we need!

WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF OIL?

Oil is often mentioned in the Bible.  During the rededication of the Temple (see Hanukkah article) it is traditionally believed that a single cruse of olive oil lasted for eight days to enable the Temple to be cleansed and sanctified again after it was defiled by paganism.   Oil shows up again and is of vital importance in the parable of the Ten Virgins!  Only five of them had sufficient oil when the Bridegroom came.
When I looked up ‘oil’ in my e-Sword, there were well over 200 matches for the word!  The first mention is in Genesis following Jacob’s vision of the ‘ladder”:
Gen 28:17 And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”
Gen 28:18 So early in the morning Jacob took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it.
Gen 28:19 He called the name of that place Bethel (House of God)
The oil has something to do with making things holy or set-apart.  The oil was used to anoint the stone that Jacob had put at his head; the stone at the gate of heaven!   Later verses show oil is used to anoint altars, kings and priests.  In addition to anointing, oil is used to light the lamps of the Menorah.
Exo_27:20  “You shall command the people of Israel that they bring to you pure beaten olive oil for the light, that a lamp may regularly be set up to burn.
Exo_40:9  “Then you shall take the anointing oil and ANOINT THE TABERNACLE and all that is in it, and consecrate it and all its furniture, so that it MAY BECOME HOLY.
The apostles performed miracles with anointing oil.   Oil is also a symbol for the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit helps us learn to walk as Yeshua walked.  With the help of the Holy Spirit we may become holy!
Lamps?  Light?  Oil?  What does it all mean?
Olive oil is used to fuel the light of an oil lamp.  Where do we find an allusion to a lamp?
Pro 6:20 Keep your father’s commands, my son, and never forsake your mother’s rules,
Pro 6:21 by binding them to your heart continually, fastening them around your neck.
Pro 6:22 During your travels wisdom will lead you; she will watch over you while you rest; and when you are startled from your sleep she will commune with you.
Pro 6:23 Because THE COMMAND IS A LAMP AND THE LAW A LIGHT,
What is it that makes the light shine?  In a Lamp it is the olive oil.  If the Commands are a Lamp, and the Law is a Light, then the Oil that keeps the lamp burning is that which enables the light (law) to be seen.   Still confused?

Connect the dots!

Let’s look at the symbolism, allegorical meanings and plain explanations given to us in the Bible.  Come along and follow the train of thought.
What is the fuel that enables us to follow the Law?  What animates our desire to walk as Yeshua walked?  We are told to be born again, and that is associated with the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Only the Holy Spirit can draw us into a desire to follow YHVH.  It is the Holy Spirit that animates our walk in the way.
The oil used in the Temple Menorah was the oil pressed from olives.  Israel is described as the Olive Tree.  Yeshua is the Root and also the Branch (Netzer) of the Olive Tree.  All of the life of the tree comes from the root, and it is manifested in the olives and the oil pressed from them.  One olive grove was frequented by Yeshua!  “… it was in the Garden of Gethsemane (Gat Shemen in Hebrew, literally, the place of the “olive press”), where Yeshua spent much of His time in Jerusalem with His disciples.” 1
To what end did Yeshua pray in the Garden of Gethsemane before his crucifixion?  Was it to fill up his oil (Holy Spirit) in the ‘olive press’ so that he could remain strong for the physical trial before him?  Was it to demonstrate how we are to keep our own oil tanks filled?  He promised his disciples he would send them His Spirit.
Joh_14:26  But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
Mar_1:8  I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.
What’s the Fruit of the Spirit?
Yeshua told us he would send us a helper so that we could walk in all His ways.   He sent us the fruit of the spirit (olive oil) to help us walk in his footsteps.  Only those who have a lamp filled with the Holy Spirit can be a light to the nations.   The Holy Spirit enables us to follow the law.  It is manifested in what we Do.
In the parable of the Ten Virgins some were foolish and had not stored up oil for their lamps.  In other words, they held onto the commandments but didn’t do them!  They carried the lamp, but they didn’t utilize it as a light.  No oil, no Light.  No Holy Spirit, no Law-keeping.
Act_5:32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
Psa_32:8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
Go Buy a Clue
The foolish virgins didn’t have light because their lamps were not filled.  When they asked the wise to share their oil with them, they were told to go and buy their own.   In today’s vernacular they said, “Go buy a clue.”
What were they told to ‘buy?’  They needed Oil (the Holy Spirit)!  Can you ‘buy’ the Holy Spirit?  Isn’t the Holy Spirit the spirit of truth? (John 14:17, 15:26, 16:13).  We find an answer in Proverbs!
Pro 23:23 Buy truth, and do not sell it; buy wisdom, instruction, and understanding.
So, it sounds like if we will ‘buy’ oil for our lamps, we must find the store where we can find wisdom, instruction and understanding.  Where is the most likely place to purchase these tools for Truth?
It is clear that our ‘store’ is found in the Bible.  Truth comes with wisdom, instruction and understanding.  Some assembly is required!  We must put forth some effort to make it whole.  If we are to buy a clue, we need to take the gift of His spirit, and spend some time in understanding how to operate with it!  We need to read, study, pray, praise, seek His face, and learn what it is He needs us to know.  That hasn’t changed.

LEARN RIGHTEOUSNESS!

What is the point of buying truth?  Isn’t it to learn from His Word and to teach others?
Deu_4:10  how on the day that you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, the LORD said to me, ‘Gather the people to me, that I may let them HEAR MY WORDS, so that they may LEARN to fear me all the days that they live on the earth, and that they may TEACH THEIR CHILDREN so.’
Deu_5:1  And Moses summoned all Israel and said to them, “Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the rules that I speak in your hearing today, and you shall LEARN them and be careful to DO them.
Isa_26:9 My soul yearns for you in the night; my spirit within me earnestly seeks you. For when your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.
Isaiah said that when His judgments (commandments) are in the earth, all the world would Learn Righteousness!  He wants the whole Lamp Lighted!  It requires a flask of oil.   A flask that will be multiplied until the entire household is saved!  (see 2 Kings 4)
Act_1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

IS IT ENOUGH?

Will a single flask of oil be enough?  More and more I understand that we are filled only to the amount we seek Him.   Do we only want a day’s supply of oil, or do we want enough to light the entire Lamp?  If Yeshua needed to top up his supply of the Holy Spirit before he was tried, what makes us think we don’t have to?  Do we only want to burn a single light (keep one or two instructions) or do we want to fill up His entire Lamp (Keep all the commandments!) and light up the nations!?
Will we be found with our oil lamps filled?  How can the Light shine in the darkness if we fail?
May we all learn His Commandments (Lamp) and be guided by the Holy Spirit (oil) to Do them as a light to the end of the earth!

IS THE ANSWER 42?

Daniel 4:2  It gives me great pleasure to tell about the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me.
Psalms 119:42  Then I can answer the one who insults me, for I place my trust in your word
Deuteronomy 4:2 Do not add or subtract a thing to what I’m commanding you. Observe the commands of the LORD your God.
Proverbs 4:2 I give you sound teaching, so do not abandon my instruction.
Mic 4:2  Many nations will approach and say, ‘Come, let’s go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the Temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us about his ways, and we will walk according to his directions.’ Indeed, the Law will proceed from Zion, and the message of the LORD from Jerusalem.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Guard Your Gates


This is an article that I don’t really want to write.  I don’t even want to think about it, and perhaps that is the whole problem.  Nobody does! If I were to phrase this as a riddle it would be: What do millions of people think about and explore every day, but never in the context of sin?  This is a sin that flies under the radar.  It is hidden, personal, and therefore, taboo to discuss or admit guilt.  And those who do admit to participation in this sin relegate it to a ‘victimless crime;’ or 'it hurts no one.'  “Everybody does it.”  Really?  We are instructed in scripture to guard our gates.  That means everything we touch, consume, hear, speak and see is a gateway to our body, heart and mind: in other words, our temple.  There are many avenues I could address with regard to guarding our gates, but this article will deal with pornography.  



Does the Bible say anything on this topic?  


SO, WHAT HAS THIS GOT TO DO WITH ME? 

A few days ago, I was trying to look up something on my phone through the internet.  My phone is small, I was a passenger in a moving car, and my screen was difficult to read.  So, these being the conditions, I accidentally touched the wrong thing on a side-bar.  Instead of finding the definition of the term I was looking up, I wound up with a hard-core pornography site on my phone.  Not only was it disgusting and absolutely opposite from what I was seeking to find, it turned itself into my ‘home’ page!  When I tried to sweep it away it opened yet another porn site!  The second one was even worse as it was targeted specifically to TEENS!  To say I was horrified is an understatement. 

I was not only horrified, I was angry.  Here were images that I didn’t want to see, from a site I didn’t seek out and that I stumbled on unintentionally, and that was designed in such a way that it was difficult to remove! The predatory nature of this incident was just horrible! 

I just wanted it gone!  I didn’t want to look at it while I tried to remove it either!  I couldn’t help but think how easy it must be for our children to accidentally find this kind of trash!  And, when I saw the linked one was billed as the ‘best Teen site in HD’ I lost it.

WHAT DOES THIS SAY ABOUT OUR SOCIETY?

Today the porn industry brings in well over $12 Billion dollars a year (these figures are from 2004, so these figures have exploded exponentially).  The porn industry is sustained, in part, by sex trafficking (slavery and kidnapping that are condemned in Torah)!  It is largely a part of our society that gets little overt attention.  On the contrary, it is mostly hidden in the cloak of darkness.  It is the dirty little secret that everyone knows about and few condemn lest they be called a prude or intolerant. 

Not many feminists decry the exploitation and objectification of women (or men for that matter) into purely sexual objects.   There is little discussion from the clergy about this either.  This is probably a reflection of the wide-spread nature of pornography.  Users cross all ages, ethnic, economic, and social lines, and it is just as prevalent within the religious community as otherwise.

 So how did we get here? Only 40 years ago Elvis Presley made rock history with a few well-placed pelvic thrusts, and Marilyn Monroe shocked our sexual sensibilities with modest bathing suits and demure glances. Now Carmen Electra’s stripper workouts are a staple of household aerobics, and 12 percent of the worldwide web is devoted to pornographic sites. Pornography is in our living rooms, on our computers and television screens, and buried deep in the experiences of our spouses, children, and siblings. And, by all accounts, it’s here to stay.” - See more at: http://www.salvomag.com/new/articles/salvo2/2coleman.php#sthash.5ud3l02j.dpuf

This article is not going to give you all the facts and figures.  For that I recommend reading the article on Salvo sited above for more information.  To say the statistics are horrifying is an understatement.  The most awful is this: “The average child is 11 years old at the time of his or her first exposure. Twenty percent of all children have been sexually solicited on the web; more than 90 percent of 8 to 16-year-olds have viewed pornography online, and 80 percent of 15 to 17-year-olds have had multiple exposures to hardcore pornography.”

Yeshua said, “but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Mat 18:6 )

So, even if we don’t participate in this industry by indulging in it, we are complicit when we sweep it under the rug and say nothing!

ISN’T THIS JUST A PERSONAL THING?

The effects on society are profound.  It is not just a personal vice or a harmless addiction.  It exploits children, women and men, and irreparably damages the most basic foundations of our society: fidelity, morality and the sanctity of marriage.  It glorifies sex without relationship, and to those addicted by this, there is an ever-expanding need for ever more deviant behaviors to watch to achieve the desired sense of excitement.  It destroys marriages, relationships, childhood innocence, distorts sexual expectation and satisfaction between partners, and feeds the already damaged among us to transform fantasies into horrific acts of child molestation, rape and murder. 

Side effects of our acceptance and participation in pornography are wide-spread.  We are all reaping the fields of the seed sown by this world-wide and insidious preoccupation with sex, and much of that is deviant sex at that. Pornography diminishes any sense of modesty.   It contributes to the sexualization of our children. We are all desensitized to its filthiness as it is commonplace in films which allude to or depict infidelity, meaningless sex, homosexuality, sadomasochism and worse.  It is creeping into our television programs as well.  R-rated movies are equivalent to what used to be labeled as X-rated in the past. 

The slippery slope is well greased, and one wonders where the bottom can be found.

WHAT DOES SCRIPTURE HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THIS?

The 7th Commandment is the prohibition against adultery.

Exo 20:14 Thou shalt not commit adultery.

Yeshua made it clear as he explained the heart connection in Torah.  He said, “You know the commandment which says, "Be faithful in marriage. But I tell you that if you look at another woman and want her, you are already unfaithful in your thoughts.” (Mat 5:27-28 )

Pornography meets the requirement of transgressing this instruction.  It is sin.

BUT, WHAT IF I AM UNMARRIED?!  HOW CAN IT BE ADULTERY THEN?



Paul spoke about the works of the flesh. 



God wants you to be holy, so don't be immoral in matters of sex.

Respect and honor your wife.

Don't be a slave of your desires or live like people who don't know God.

You must not cheat any of the Lord's followers in matters of sex. Remember, we warned you that he punishes everyone who does such things.

God didn't choose you to be filthy, but to be pure.

So if you don't obey these rules, you are not really disobeying us. You are disobeying God, who gives you his Holy Spirit. (1Th 4:3-8)



Now the works of the flesh are clearly revealed, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lustfulness, (Gal 5:19)

Don't be controlled by your body. Kill every desire for the wrong kind of sex. Don't be immoral or indecent or have evil thoughts. Don't be greedy, which is the same as worshiping idols.

God is angry with people who disobey him by doing these things.  (Col 3:5-6)



And our Father said this through his prophet, Isaiah:



I spread out my hands all the day to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices; a people who provoke me to my face continually, sacrificing in gardens and making offerings on bricks; who sit in tombs, and spend the night in secret places; who eat pig's flesh, and broth of tainted meat is in their vessels; who say, "Keep to yourself, do not come near me, for I am too holy for you." These are a smoke in my nostrils, a fire that burns all the day. (Isa 65:2-5)



WHAT ARE WE SUPPOSED TO DO?



Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. (Eph 5:11)



The Council in Jerusalem addressed sexual matters that are found in Leviticus 17 & 18.  See the article Letter to the Gentiles for more detail.  If we wish to be in covenant with our Creator, we must clean our house!

Scripture is clear.  We are not to be double-minded.  Water that is pure and undefiled cannot exist with that which is not.  Darkness has no part in Light.  The addiction and acceptance of pornography is against everything that Torah teaches us. 

It must grieve the Father that we choose to pollute our temple by letting this inside our gates.  YHVH is all about life, honor and the marriage covenant he designed.  Anything that diminishes that has to be examined and expunged from our life.  Will the Spirit of Holiness abide with filth and worldly lusts?

Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. (Heb 13:4)

Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.  (1Co 6:18-21)

Religion that pleases God the Father must be pure and spotless. You must help needy orphans and widows and not let this world make you evil. (Jas 1:27)

Finally, my friends, keep your minds on whatever is true, pure, right, holy, friendly, and proper. Don't ever stop thinking about what is truly worthwhile and worthy of praise. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.  (Php 4:8 and Rom13:14)

 


Sunday, May 20, 2018

Royal Wedding


This week the world tuned in to watch a modern fairytale come to life.  All eyes were on Harry and Meghan as they held a royal wedding at Windsor Castle.  In the aftermath, and even before the day was over, every petty and sarcastic comment to express how much ‘no one cares’ was made.  What is it about us that we cannot celebrate with anyone who doesn’t walk in the same social sphere as we do?


This article will not bash the royal family, Harry and Meghan, or the spectacular wedding day they enjoyed.  In point of fact, I shared their happiness as did a huge number of British citizens who camped out for days to get a glimpse of the royal pageantry.

You can pat yourself on the back at how much you don’t care and make disparaging remarks over any number of things about it.  But, who are you to rain on their wedding day?

Can we not see this as a delightful metaphor for all of us?  What value may we place on a fairytale?  Just as Yeshua (Jesus) taught in parables, might we try and see beyond the envy and holier-than-thou attitudes that animate the snarky and disparaging comments leveled at the entire event?  Can we see this as a parable, a metaphor, for what we all carry in our hearts?  Can we not believe they are entering a marriage based on love? 

Just because their wedding was beyond what we common folk have, does that mean it was trivial to them?  They are just human beings like ourselves. So-what that they happen to have an enormous wealth and privilege that we, in America, find hard to grasp!  Can we really justify our disdain because we can’t relate to it?

Or can we?

How many people flooded Chicago when the Cubs won the pennant?  Did people gather to celebrate the inauguration of a President?  Do people tune in to the Academy Awards, or get excited for the premier of the next Star Wars movie or the like?  How about American Idol?  The Super Bowl? Miss America? Pick your event that touches your heart.  You know you have your favorites, so why lift your nose that the ‘Royals’ are unworthy of your interest?

What satisfies your personal fairytale?  Is it the rags to riches, pauper to king theme that beckons to your spirit?  Is it overcoming life-threatening events?  Or are only Royal Weddings relegated to ‘fairytales?’

Speaking of fairytales, what is it about a fairytale that resonates with us?  I know, our current culture vilifies the stories like Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty.  God forbid we should tell our daughters and sons that there is such a thing as true love, or happy-ever-after!  Maybe we should just crush their dreams of an ideal because it doesn’t reflect real life. 

I have news for you.  The princess thing is not going away.  Just look at how Disney has capitalized on this.  How many little girls are fascinated with being a princess?  I dare say it would take a conscious decision on the part of the parents to discourage this fantasy.  And why should we, really?

What does the fairytale tell us?  A person who is enslaved (Cinderella), hated without cause or due to envy (Sleeping Beauty) or dead (Snow White), can be rescued by ‘true love.’  We all bought into that phrase when we fell in love with the Princess Bride…why do we begrudge anyone from that in real life?

Most fairytales tell us that the noble and selfless Prince falls in love with the young maiden that will become his bride.  He will rescue her and carry her off on his white stallion to live forever in his kingdom.

Does this sound at all familiar to you?  Is it simply a fairytale, or is it telling the story that resonates within all of us?

Those of us who are seeking the Kingdom of God view the whole thing in a similar, if not identical, fashion. 

We who are lost, broken, dead in our sins, asleep, or slaves to sin, yearn for the perfect Prince (of Peace) to rescue us from our circumstances.  We even picture him on a white steed (see Revelation), coming in power to vanquish the enemies of life eternal; to remove the forces of darkness that prevent us from living in and with Him!  His perfect love will give us the happily-ever-after of eternal life in His Kingdom.  Who doesn’t long for that, ye that call yourselves ‘believers?’

So many of the events that occupy our attention fall in one or more facets of the perfect fairytale.  You can figure it out.  What was the 108 year drought before the Cubs won the pennant?  (Sounds like echoes of Rip Van Winkle to me.)  How about American Idol? The Prince and the Pauper? Rags to Riches?  A nobody becomes famous!  A commoner joins the royal family.

So many parallels that you really must suppress the ideal from your lexicon to call it a fairytale.  And how many of the things Americans are consumed with focus on love and marriage?

It used to be that little girls sought a man that would fulfill her desire to be loved and cared for.  It used to be that love was the goal instead of hooking up until the next new thing comes along. 

It used to be that we were happy for people who were in love and  marry each other in front of God and everybody.  Why should we NOT be excited for the institution of marriage, even if it is done in a lavish fashion few of us can hope to enjoy?

I don’t know if Harry and Meghan will live happily ever after, but I sure hope they do!  And I tuned in for their wedding!  It was a lovely affair that expressed love, culture, tradition and celebration.  It was fun to see marriage treated with respect and elevated as an event worthy of interest. 

When is it horrible when people come together to share and celebrate with two people who are in love and choose to vow a covenant between them until death? 

As the minister that spoke at their wedding said, “Two people fell in love, and we all showed up.”  I prefer to show up for love and commitment, regardless of the magnitude of the event.

Congratulations and best wishes, Harry and Meghan.




Sunday, December 24, 2017

Christmas? Bah Humbug!

I find myself in agreement with Scrooge!  You all know the story of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.  It is a classic that has been made into innumerable plays, staged readings, movies and cartoons to retell the wonderful story of how an old miser like Scrooge could find generosity and forgiveness by embracing the Christmas spirit.  Before his conversion his curmudgeonly retort to all who espoused Merry Christmas was, “Bah! Humbug!”

After some study, I now think that Scrooge was on to something!  He certainly needed a change of heart, but he was right about Christmas being a humbug!  Why do I say I agree with Scrooge?



I looked up the definition of Humbug. 

Here it is from the Merriam-Webster Online dictionary:

humbug

noun hum·bug  : language or behavior that is false or meant to deceive people : someone or something that is not honest or true : a hard peppermint candy

Full Definition of HUMBUG

1 a :  something designed to deceive and mislead

b :  a willfully false, deceptive, or insincere person

2 :  an attitude or spirit of pretense and deception

3 :  Nonsense, drivel

Hmmmm.  Am I saying that everyone who celebrates Christmas is ‘willfully false, deceptive and insincere?’  Not exactly.  I believe that the majority of Christians are sincere in their wish to ‘keep Christ in Christmas,’ and have no intention to deceive or pretend the holiday is anything other than a celebration of the birth of our Savior.  They would be, and are, offended to have their celebration characterized as nonsense or drivel.

But, and this is the hard part for almost everyone to swallow: What if the concept of Christmas is offensive to the Father?  What if Christmas itself is humbug?

If you are still reading this, I guess you are willing to explore the possibility that Christmas might not be based in Biblical instructions.  I am hoping you are looking for me to explain what I mean so that you can make an assessment of whether I am sincere, or a humbug.

Everyone can point to the lovely Charlie Brown Christmas cartoon where Linus reads the recounting of Jesus’ birth from the book of Luke.  “That is what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown;” and, for many, that is enough.  It is a justification for all that Christmas has become.  The fact of Jesus’ birth, the shepherds abiding in the fields by night, and the singing of the heavenly hosts is familiar, inspiring and gives us all that warm fuzzy feeling.  Christmas is the memorial of this event that brought Peace on Earth and Goodwill to Men, isn’t it?

We are all drawn in by our memories of movies and Christmas stories.  Films like It’s A Wonderful Life, White Christmas and many others are perennial favorites that show the spirit of Christmas as a generous and loving heart for our fellow man.  But, no story other than A Christmas Carol concentrates on the Spirits that animate our love-affair with all things Christmas.

So why did Scrooge call Christmas a humbug?

Scrooge was a bitter and disillusioned man.  His spirit was so darkened that he couldn’t accept that people might actually have love and goodwill in their heart, and certainly that these feelings were not the result of Christmastime.  Until he was visited by four spirits (Marley, and the Spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Future) he was unable to recognize that his misery was the result of his own heart and behavior.  He became a miser that worshipped money and it cost him the love of his life.  To him, all of the good cheer and love others portrayed was a deception.  It was, indeed, a humbug.  A spirit of deception, insincerity and dishonesty.

Let’s look again at the definition of Humbug.  It is “language or behavior that is false or meant to deceive people, someone or something that is not honest or true, or a hard peppermint candy.”

Now, let’s look at the other definitions.  “Someone or something that is not honest or true.”  Christmas celebrations probably fall into this category.  If we are honest, we must conclude that Christmas and its attendant trappings of trees, holly, mistletoe, Santa and reindeer etc., are all based on myths or ancient pagan practices.  A quick search on the internet yields an abundance of evidence that places all of these things we associate with Christmas as pagan symbols and celebratory customs that we have ‘Christianized.”  They are found nowhere in the Scriptures.  The reason all of these pagan practices were adopted by the Christian church may sound okay to you, but it flies directly in the face of what the Father asked of us.

He said, “Do not learn the ways of the heathens and say you do them unto me, it is an abomination!” (Deu 18:9, Jer 10:2)

You will not find in the Bible, including the New Testament, an instruction to celebrate the birth of our Messiah.  None of the apostles observed Christmas, and for centuries it wasn’t even on the radar screen!  In fact, it was well into the 1800’s before it was even legal for Americans to erect a Christmas Tree because our founding fathers (you know, those folks who fled England because of religious persecution) understood that it was a pagan practice!

So, aside from the traditions that have been co-opted from pagan celebrations (which surely we could conclude fits the definition of a deception), the dark under-belly of Christmas is also a deception.

Why do I say that?

Sadly, the ‘most wonderful time of the year’ is not for many people. It is well-reported that there is a spike in suicides during the Christmas season.  The expectation and hype associated with this holiday results in further alienating those who are alone, mentally unstable, or are experiencing a down-turn in their lives. When the magic of Christmas fails to materialize, many cannot cope with the disappointment.

Another deception is our ability to ‘rational-lies’ to our children.  We tell them fantastic tales of flying reindeer, Santa and elves that bring good girls and boys the desires of their heart, and elves on shelves that watch everything they do and say in the run up to Christmas morning.  We think we are creating a spirit of ‘magic’ when in fact we are just lying to our children and setting them up for disappointment and disillusionment when the truth comes out.                                                                                          
                                                
                                          Deception! 

On every level!  We all want to embrace the thought of ‘good will and peace on earth.’   And many actually attain a level of that, until the post-Christmas crash and bills for how much we over-spent in the ‘spirit’ of generosity arrive in the mail.  We have substituted honest emotions of love and goodwill for Black Friday fist-fights over material goods.  We feel pressured to purchase gifts for everyone we see lest we fail to embody the Christmas spirit.  We strive for and expect the ‘Christmas spirit’ during December, and fall back into our everyday mode the rest of the year!  If it is from the heart, it should be apparent all year round, don’t you think?

If you really examine the theme of It’s a Wonderful Life, it really isn’t about Christmas at all.  Although it is a holiday classic and the climax occurs on Christmas Eve, the real story is the culmination of a life well-lived.  George Bailey is a man of integrity.  He honors his father and mother by giving up his dream to leave Bedford Falls in order to handle his father’s business.  He lives his life with a heart to help others, and because of that, this honest, hard-working man is rescued by his community in his hour of need.  Incidentally, his rescue from his own suicide was the result of a prayer for help, but it is easy to gloss over that and hang the entire ending on the ‘Christmas Spirit.’  It makes for a nice setting, but the story could have been told without Christmas in the picture and the result would have been the same.

Now I guess I have ruined your favorite Christmas movie.  It shouldn’t have.  It is still one of my favorite ones too, but I can see it as a reward of a life well-lived and an answer to prayer.  The setting is irrelevant although the snow is nice, and the winter-time ties it all up in a neat bow.  It wasn’t Christmas that caused the happy ending, it was love.

       SHAMELESS PLUG: for more on It's a Wonderful Life go here

So, now that Christmas can be properly characterized as humbug (deception), what should we do with that information?

What if we love the Father enough to search out the truth?  What if we discover that He instituted Feasts that He does want us to observe?  What if we understand that Leviticus 23 is for all mankind, and not just for the ‘Jews?’  What if we realize that celebrating Christmas that began as a pagan festival is no different than the Israelites who built the golden calf and declared it a feast to YHVH?

What if we rightly call Christmas a Humbug?