Putting Christ back into Christmas

Putting Christ back into Christmas is not as simple as getting our neighbors to agree to say “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays.”

No, it is a daily spiritual discipline: speaking the truth about the incarnate Savior; abstaining from the addictions of materialism, anxiety, family squabbles and a critical spirit, in fact, all the variations of being unloving; and above all, anticipating his Advents, first in Bethlehem and second on the Mount of Olives, as our King.

Advertisements

The Emperor Constantine the Great – a villain or a hero, or something in-between?

Download the article as a pdf: Shogren_The Emperor Constantine the Great – a villain or a hero, or something in-between

To many, the Emperor Constantine was a saint: in the Orthodox church he is one of the “Equal-to-Apostles” (isapóstolos) a title given to people (such as Patrick, Cyril the evangelist of Russia and others) who were especially effective in establishing the gospel.

constantine

To others, Constantine is Great was a tool of evil, a corrupter of the church.

The attacks against Constantine come from several quarters. Some Messianic believers imagine that he turned the church into a Gentile movement. Others charge him with introducing pagan practices into the church. Seventh-Day Adventists credit him (or some pope) with changing the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday.[1] Jehovah’s Witnesses think he turned Jesus into God, made the cross a symbol of Christianity, and established Easter and Christmas. All of these parties tend to gang up and use the same materials as the basis for their attacks – for example, many anti-Constantine groups hale back to Babylon Mystery Religion – Ancient and Modern, by Ralph Woodrow (1966). And they and Woodrow borrow much of their “information” from Alexander Hislop’s The Two Babylons (1858), another sketchy attempt to connect Catholicism with Babylonian religion.[2] More on this later.

9781578989003_p0_v1_s260x420

Who was Constantine? (more…)

Did a NASA supercomputer prove the Bible?

download

NASA proved the Lost Day of Joshua, using a supercomputer! This story surfaces once in a while, and the internet only serves to give it more “credibility” by making it come at the reader from a hundred directions:

So, what happened is, NASA scientists fed all the data of history into a big computer program, and it turned out that there was a day missing. It turns out that NASA proved that the earth stood still for Joshua, and also that a sundial went backwards during the reign of Hezekiah, as recounted in Isaiah 38.

Although the story was long ago discredited, it has arisen again on Facebook. This blogger states it as a fact (click HERE). He implies that NASA covered it up, but provides no evidence. My friend Robert Newman – who has a PhD in astrophysics from Cornell – has a full, detailed study on this rumor and many other articles on the Bible and science (click HERE). He shows that the tale has been circulating since 1890. To repeat, this is not some random idea that I heard from a friend of a friend, you can contact Dr. Newman and ask him for yourself.

DO YOU WANT TO READ ABOUT OTHER CIRCULATING MYTHS? click HERE.

FOR SOME EXCELLENT, WELL-FOUNDED STUDIES
OF THE BIBLE AND SCIENCE, go to http://www.ibri.org

I love God’s Word (and believe in the book of Joshua!), and therefore react when I read long-discredited stories. In fact Stephen Jay Gould, an atheist opponent of our faith, uses the NASA story as an example of how Christians will believe anything we’re told. Let’s look sharp when we hear rumors, and look them up before passing them along! The easiest way to do so is to google something like “Joshua missing day hoax” – if it’s a hoax, you will soon find out.

“Did a NASA supercomputer prove the Bible?” by Gary Shogren, PhD in New Testament, Professor at Seminario ESEPA, San Jose, Costa Rica

New Year’s Resolutions or New Covenant Miracles? [Studies in the New Covenant]

"Okay, this time for sure!"

“Okay, this time for sure!”

For many years, I made no New Year’s resolutions. My reasoning:

  • Why make a big deal just because the planet has revolved around the sun to an arbitrary point in space?
  • Why try to be a better persons on this one day when I should be doing it all the time?
  • Are resolutions relevant to me, since I don’t need to quit smoking, drinking or gambling?

I’ve come to think differently, having taken another look at the Bible and paid closer attention to human behavior. For the past 5 years or so, I have made a single New Year’s Resolution on December 31.

The Word reveals to us that there are two methods for making resolutions (more…)

May Christians create holidays such as Christmas?

May Christians create holidays? The Bible gives us precedent to say Yes.

First, God’s people have always celebrated holidays that are not mandated in the Bible. To name three, the feast of Purim was established in the 400s BC, when Esther and Mordecai saved the Jews from slaughter. The name Purim is the Hebrew form of a pagan, Babylonian word for “lots”. The feast began when “the Jews of the villages who dwelt in the unwalled towns celebrated the fourteenth day of the month of Adar with gladness and feasting, as a holiday, and for sending presents to one another.” Crucially for us, nowhere does God mandate it as a holy day, as he did Passover or Pentecost – it was a human decision.

Second, the Jews invented the holiday of Chanukah or Hanukkah (more…)

Early Frost: A tale of Christmas in Rhode Island

A special story for the season!

It is a scientific fact: the winters of one’s child years are much colder, darker, snowier and more perilous than the winters served to these same people as adults. Nor is this natural law any respecter of generation. Old-timer, post-war, boomer, post-boomer: each child in every era survives to see winter eventually lose its icy chokehold, become indifferent to the point where the Ice Age rolls back. With added years the terror of wolves prowling the suburbs melts into slush and seeps away. Fellow adults begin to step outside, hatless and scarfless. Those cars that still bobble away the spark of combustion are themselves culpable, their onboard computers stripped of the defense of blaming the environment.

(more…)

Brace yourself – it’s Christmas Season!

Advent season starts this Sunday. Like many Christians, I’ll be following a plan of Bible readings and prayers in preparation for Christmas and in anticipation of the Second Coming.

I don’t forsee being stressed; in fact, I plan not to be stressed.

I don’t want to gloat or anything, but we have a low-stress Christmas. On Black Friday I watch people on TV, whacking each other with sale items at Big Box stores; I work hard not to roll my eyes.

I hear people talk about Keeping Christ in Christmas, but their actions speak louder than their words. (more…)

‘Twas the Day after Christmas (Luke 2:8-20) – Part II

In the first part of this blog, we saw how the shepherds heard the angels’ message, saw the Christ child and went out to proclaim what they had seen. We too should pass on the entire gospel message, not just parts of it. But there is a second application for the Christian, one that pushes us past superficial application of Luke’s gospel:

 II. We should tell the message in a way that will be understood

In this case, we will not simply imitate what the shepherds did, but will honor their spirit and intention. Please notice that the shepherds were Jewish, and the people they told about Jesus would also have been Jewish. In fact, the angel spoke in terms that a Jewish person would have understood, using words like city of David, a Savior, Christ, the Lord, “Glory to God in the highest”.

Let’s play a game of “what if.” As far as we know, the shepherds did not speak to non-Jews, that is, gentiles. If the gentiles had heard the same message in the same language they would have understood it very differently than the Jews did. For example, “Savior” was one of the titles used by the Roman emperor – Caesar Augustus was “Savior” of the world, the one who brought it peace. “Christ” means “the Anointed One,” that is, a royal figure. The pagans also applied the terms “lord” and “god” to their idols. This means that if gentiles had accidently heard their message, they would not have heard it the way it was intended. To them it would have come across as badly distorted: “A new king has been born, he is a divine offspring of the Greek god Zeus, may Zeus be highly praised!”

If you and I are not speaking to people just like us, with our background, they will likely misunderstand us. Whose job is it to make him- or herself understood? One fundamental rule of communication is that it is the speaker, the person who is trying to communicate a message, who is responsible to make the message understandable. One of the things we do when someone doesn’t speak English is we speak louder, under the assumption that the message will get through with higher volume. Christians do the same thing, with equally poor results. (more…)

‘Twas the Day after Christmas (Luke 2:8-20) – Part I

Burned into our memory is the fact that the shepherds saw the angels, went to Bethlehem and worshiped the baby Jesus. All the Nativity displays end that way, with the shepherds fixed in place. But in fact, Christmas day was the very beginning of the shepherds’ story, since they rushed right out and began to tell others what they had seen.

We read Luke’s gospel and see what the shepherds did – but what do we do to wrap up the Christmas season?

  • We measure the diagonal on the wide-screen TVs,
  • We rush out to spend our Christmas money.
  • We Facebook our friends about going on diets to work off the eggnog.
  • We return the gifts we didn’t like, plot to regift others in 2012, or wonder whether we should wait two years to regift, to make sure memories will have faded.
  • We haul the tree to the curb, because they won’t let you burn it.
  • We buy the discount wrapping paper and ribbon and store them away until next time.

The shepherds’ spiritual career began on Christmas. (more…)

Will the real Santa Claus please stand up!

St. Nicholas was a historical person! He was a pastor in Turkey in the 4th century. According to legend, there was a poor man in his parish who had three daughters, and he had no money to get them husbands. There was a danger that the girls would be sold into prostitution. Nicholas quietly raised money and divided the coins into bags. He went by the poor man’s house by night and tossed the bags through the window, so the girls could have a dowry, get married and escape slavery.

For his generosity, the church designated him as SAINT Nicholas; the Dutch shortened his name to Santa Claus, who comes around to give gifts to all good children.

St. Nicholas, follower of Christ and a man who gave gifts to the desperately needy, not to people who already had more stuff than they needed – a fine example to us all this Christmas.

“Will the real Santa Clause please stand up!” by Gary Shogren, PhD in New Testament Exegesis, professor at Seminario ESEPA, San José, Costa Rica