Author Archives: Glenda Clark

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Poking Sacred Cows: Part Four

Category : Glenda's Soap Box

Remember when I finished the blog entitled, “Poking Sacred Cows, Part Three”, and I said I had a few more sacred cows to poke?  I think it is time to poke one again.

I am choosing, and I hope wisely, to examine a holiday that is probably going to be a little on the ‘close-to-home’ side.  For all the zealous lovers of tradition, it may be time to gird your proverbial loins.  I will surely lose some that have been avid readers of my soapbox blog, but do it I must.

The topic of the blog is going to be the major holiday that Christians celebrate each year in the Spring that begins with the letter "E".   Why would I not just mention the name of the holiday?  It seems like such a harmless word, a word that we have heard spoken every year since we were knee-high to a bullfrog. 

I am glad you asked!  There is some controversy about the meaning of the name of that holiday.  Some say it comes from many different words, one of which is the name of a false god (goddess).  Some people might say this is not the case.  Exodus 23:13 indicates that we should never allow the name of a false god to enter our mouths.  Either way, I am going to err on the side of caution and not use that name.  From this time forth in this blog, that holiday will be referred to as the E-holiday.  That is what my husband and I call it when we are talking together.

Speaking of false goddesses, one particular goddess comes to mind.  She was given different names (one of which is very close phonetically to the E-holiday but begins with an "I") when ancient civilizations (Akkadian, Assyrian and Babylonian) adopted her into their own culture.  What area of life was she said to influence?  Fertility, being preeminent among many.   Without speaking in bad taste, it should be relatively easy to guess how her followers worshipped her.  (There was even another pagan festival nine months later to take care of any 'problems' that were birthed out of the Spring festival.)

It is said by some sources that this entity was celebrated at sunrise at the time of the first full moon after the Spring equinox, on a Sunday.  When is the E-holiday celebrated?  The first full moon after the first day of Spring, on a Sunday.  Strange coincidence?  Maybe.  Maybe not.

What are some common symbols that represent fertility clearly?  Eggs?  Rabbits?  Is any of this sounding familiar?

In the book of Ezekiel 8, it speaks of those that secretly brought idolatry into the very Temple of the LORD, the place where the One True God is worshipped.  Into this holy place, false gods (from the culture of that day) were being worshipped and idolatry was being practiced.  It is one thing to do that in an intentional manner, but even if you do it unknowingly, the result would be the same.

One of the things mentioned specifically is "women were sitting there weeping for Tammuz" in Ezekiel 8:14.  Who was Tammuz, and why was weeping for him so disgusting?  For any who are interested in knowing more, you can simply Google this name and find out more than you ever wanted to know.  If you do, you may recognize one of the names of his mother.

The E-holiday is currently celebrated by contemporary Christianity as the resurrection of Jesus, the Messiah. This tradition is so well established that it is believed to have begun with His resurrection and instituted by His apostles in the 1st Century in commemoration of that event.  But actually, the apostles kept Passover until the mid 2nd Century when a debate broke out about separating Christian celebrations from Jewish ones. 

For some reason around that time, the powers that be thought it would be a great idea to initiate a Christian celebration of the resurrection of Jesus and combine it with the Spring festival the pagans celebrated to welcome Spring and fertility.  It was most likely an early attempt to 'Christianize' a pagan holiday.  Maybe they thought they could infiltrate the pagans while they were worshipping their false gods and stealthily transform it into a celebration that honors the resurrection of the Son of the one true God.

Hundreds of years of history and tradition can reveal how successful that approach has been.  Not very.  We as Christians have (unsuccessfully) tried to incorporate the holy with the unholy, and what we have produced is a bizarre mixture of two things that will not, nor should ever be, combined.

Contrary to popular belief, the holiday that surrounds us with decorated eggs and bunnies (who coincidentally bring the eggs) along with many other unusual rituals was not instituted by God, but it would probably be more correct to say that it has more in common with Babylon.

What exactly does biblical history tell us was one thing that would raise the ire of a holy God?  Idolatry, particularly when people thought it was a good idea to mix together the worship of idols, along with the worship of the one true God.  Syncretism, pure and simple.  And it is ugly and offensive and has been an invitation for judgment on more than one occasion.

In contrast, the celebration of Passover is an entirely different story.   The source of this celebratory meal is God Himself.  It was HIS idea!  Because the Christian church has been almost completely and thoroughly sanitized from all things Jewish, Passover is very foreign to us, which is exceedingly odd to me.  After all, the last meal that Jesus and His disciples shared together before He was crucified, was a Passover meal.  So how foreign should that be?  Jesus was, after all...I don't know an easy way to say this...Jewish!  Is it wisdom to count as precious, what was precious to Him?  And, if He longed to celebrate Passover with His disciples, wouldn't it be reasonable to think that He just might want us to at least understand what Passover is all about?

Or, we can continue in the direction we are going and try to justify why we are hiding brightly-colored eggs for our children to find just days before we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, just because we have done that for generations.

 

 

 

 


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The Inordinate Elevation of Women

Category : Glenda's Soap Box

I am still reeling a bit from the huge Women's March in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, January 21st.   The images I saw on the news covering the event stunned me: what the speakers said, what the women who were interviewed said, the messages on the signs they were carrying- many of the words were both vile and disturbing.  How could this many people be so very deceived actually celebrating things that are shameful and disgusting?

And then, I remembered something that took place two days before.

On Thursday morning, January 19th, I was minding my own business while trying to scrub out the tub and clean the shower walls in our bathroom.  Suddenly I heard three clear words that made absolutely no sense to me, and seemed to come from nowhere.

"Too much estrogen".  Those words came with such clarity that I knew they were important.  To be completely honest, the very first visual image I had connected to the words were meetings at a church where all the people in attendance were female: like women's small group meetings and women's retreats.  Even though I am not a fan of such gatherings, they seem relatively harmless to me.

Later that day, I got a couple more words in addition to the first three.

"Too much estrogen is dangerous."  My mind went directly to the physical reality that inside a woman's body, an excess amount of a particular form of estrogen is not a good thing.  But even in the midst of my pondering, I knew that this information was not about physical estrogen, but it represented a kind of a metaphor for something else that I needed to understand.

The next thing I heard was "estrogen unopposed is not a good thing". 

Wow.  I had some knowledge of that statement in the context of a woman's body.  In order to keep the hormone known as estrogen in the proper levels in the body, it must be opposed (or kept in balance) by two other hormones:  progesterone and testosterone.

In the evening of that same day I was going to be participating in a time of personal prayer in a setting where others would be doing the same thing.  Normally, I would find a private place and begin to pray whatever was on my heart.  I found a comfortable place to sit on the carpet and began to be quiet and listen.  I was not actually surprised when what heard was a continuation of the message I had heard earlier in the day.  I was really pretty curious to understand this unusual concept and know more about why I was receiving it at this time.

Here is what I heard next:
"Too much estrogen can be deadly.  Estrogen unopposed can be very dangerous.  Look at how it works in a body.  There is a delicate balance.  Estrogen in the body is a substance- a hormone- whose purpose is to contribute to the health and well being of the body, but under certain conditions where the levels get too elevated and it can actually sabotage the body.  Estrogen is brought into balance by the correct amounts of other hormones in the body called testosterone (male hormone) and progesterone.  Without the presence of those last two hormones, estrogen actually feeds rebellious cells in secret.  What results from that imbalance is something that grows- empowered and nourished by estrogen- which can then present a real challenge to the overall health of the body."

In addition to this last paragraph, a type of a condition came to my mind.  Prostate cancer.  It is, of course, a condition exclusive to men.  I am just going to give this to you the way I got it.  If, I thought, what I was receiving had any validity, I would find that there was information indicating that the presence of prostate cancer had a connection with "too much estrogen".  I do know for a fact that both men and women have varying amounts of both estrogen and testosterone in their bodies, but what I didn't know is if an abundance of estrogen influences men in a negative way.  This would be my indicator that I was heading in the right direction.  As soon as I returned home, I researched estrogen in relation to prostate cancer.  I found studies that discovered that the presence of "too much estrogen" can be harmful to men and does indeed play a role in that condition.  From that I knew I was tracking on something important.

Long story short- whatever cautionary message I was receiving had the potential to negatively impact not only women, but also men.  Interesting.

"Thanks for the science lesson", some may say, but what in the cat hair does this have to do with anything?  What does the message I received of "too much estrogen" represent and why is it important?   I am glad you asked.

Ok, I am going to narrow the focus on the topic of this blog to a sub-group of people:  believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.  I am not- in this particular blog- going to pursue (although I would certainly love to) what appears to me to be a speeding vehicle in our general society that is careening out of control labeled feminism (which appears to have almost nothing in common with being feminine).  In my day, I have seen a progression from women's rights to radical feminism (which by the way has nothing to do with being radically feminine) to what I now would identify as militant feminism (which is certainly militant).  Here is a direct quote from the Women's March to prove my point- "It is about you going home after today and standing up and fighting in our communities!"  Really?  Sounds pretty militant to me.  But, I digress...

It is my opinion that something of this movement and mindset (which is actually ancient in origin) has both infiltrated and found a comfortable place inside the Church at large.  If you don't believe it, listen for how gingerly any issues relating to women are handled.  (Hell has no fury, yadda, yadda, yadda...)  

"If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody going to be happy."   "Happy wife, happy life."  What these statements imply is that everyone better be really careful how they relate to that explosive woman, tiptoeing around her to make sure she has everything going her way...or else!  That is called control.  Pure and simple.  And, it is ugly.

What does it look like when this is in operation?  The role of men is trivialized.  Whether it is spoken or unspoken, it is understood that women are superior to men.  Women can be inordinately elevated to a level akin to worship (not to be confused with treasured) where men are virtually expected to bow down to them.  Men are treated as incompetent and helpless.  They must be manipulated and dominated (reportedly for their own good) to accomplish what needs to be done even if it has to happen covertly without them even knowing it.  The end supposedly justifies the means.  But, what good can come from any dynamic where men are devalued?  Much like abortion, the last place...the very last place this crazy scenario should ever occur is in the lives of believers.

I don't know of painless way to say this:  wherever a woman is "empowered" to that degree, it opens the door for that woman to be oppressed by the enemy and, for a man in close proximity to be wounded in the process.  The enemy gets a two-for-one shot.  Two victims, no winners.

For the sake of both our men and women in the Church (not to mention our children), we should never, ever tolerate this kind of imbalance in the Body of Christ.  It is deadly!  In Christ, both men and women have their God-given roles, and when they relate to each other in a godly way (balancing each other) they contribute to the overall health of the Body.  But when they don't, a process can be activated that enables some bad things to grow in secret which can seriously threaten the overall health of the Body.

 


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A Culture of Honor

Category : Glenda's Soap Box

"A culture of honor is celebrating who a person is without stumbling over who they're not."

This quote is by Bill Johnson, pastor of Bethel Church in Redding, California.


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An Unspeakable Word

Category : Glenda's Soap Box

"Oh that my head were a spring of water and my eyes were a fountain of tears!  I would weep day and night for the slain of my people."  Jeremiah 9:1

Today is the 44th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, a judicial decision that literally opened a floodgate of evil in our nation.  

How many children have been aborted in America since January 22, 1973?

59,740,106.  59 million plus.

Do we need a perspective to comprehend the magnitude of that number?  If we were to combine the entire (living) population of Canada and Australia, we still would fall short of that number.

How can we repent of an unspeakable tragedy when we cannot - as believers - even mention the word 'abortion' in our churches?

History has not been kind to the Christians attending the churches in Nazi Germany which were located near the railroad tracks where the cattle cars loaded with nameless, faceless people came by.  They found that when the trains passed, those in the church could simply sing their hymns louder so they could drown out the cries of those destined for concentration camps and gas ovens.

If we, as Christians,  do and say nothing about abortion, how different are we from those people in those churches? 

And what will our legacy be?  That we continually closed our ears to the cries of the condemned?  And not only that, but we added insult to injury when we could not even find any tears in our eyes to mourn their loss of these children? 

And what will become of those who remain?  The mothers and fathers, the grandmothers and grandfathers, the brothers and sisters, whose loss is very personal, and for whom tears and mourning are their daily bread?

There is forgiveness and healing for those who realize they have made the wrong choice, and for family members who have suffered the loss, but had no power to choose.  But, where can they go if abortion is an unspeakable word in our churches?  Where is their place of healing and restoration if believers cannot offer that?   Where is their place of refuge and help in their time of need?

How many of our children have to be sacrificed before we wake up?

 


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No Ordinary Life

Category : Glenda's Soap Box

As is my custom, this blog will be a progressive one.  I will be adding to it occasionally a selection of those who did not live ordinary lives.  Why?  Because our standard has been so lowered that we highly esteem nice people who regularly attend church.  Nothing wrong with that, but that can easily be classified as those living ordinary lives.  Let us examine an entirely different group of individual believers whose time on earth was anything but ordinary.  These examples are simply offered in hopes of challenging and encouraging the readers to never, ever be content with an ordinary life.

No Ordinary Life/Example #1:
This young man was born in 1718 in America, and converted in 1739 before entering Yale University (when it was still a Christian university) to study for the ministry.  While there he amassed numerous misdemeanors for intemperate, indiscreet zeal.  His passion for Christ was too much for the system to bear.  Undaunted, he studies privately and was soon appointed as a missionary to the Indians, and was ordained in 1744 and began his work in New Jersey preaching to neighboring tribes with his newly converted Indian interpreter. 

His journals record over 130 converts in a period of only one year in what he called "an amazing work of grace among the Indians".  So anointed was his teaching that culturally distant, potentially hostile tribal villages would weep at his message.  So dramatic were the results of his preaching, that skeptical whites would come to the meetings to mock, only for themselves to get converted.  In village after village the power of God fell, converting the otherwise disinterested, animist Indians. 

In 1745, he traveled on horseback over 3,000 miles to reach Indian tribes in the backwoods of Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New Jersey.  He endured harsh weather, deprivation and personal suffering to share the good news.  He contracted tuberculosis, and still pressed on.

It was a common sight to see this man of God weeping and praying, laying prostrate on the snow-covered forest floor for days at a time.  He was calling out for God's mercy to save the Indians.  Witnesses recounted on more than one occasion that the white ground of freshly fallen snow was stained by the bloody spittle coughed up from his tubercular lungs.

He died at age 29 after only 5 years of ministry, but his example would usher many Native Americans into the Kingdom of God and inspire hundreds of others who would read his journal after his death to become messengers and bearers of the cross of Jesus Christ.

His name?  David Brainerd
(Excerpts taken from an article originally published in Discerning Times in 1985.)

No Ordinary Life/Example #2:
As a young child in Sunday School this woman decided she wanted to become a missionary even before she knew what a missionary was.  But as she grew up, she forgot about her childhood ambition for a while and became a student at the Royal College of Music. 

It was only when she started meeting regularly with other Christians in a friend's home that she thought about being a missionary again.  Then one night, she had a dream.  Here it is in her words...

"I saw a vision of a woman holding her arms out beseechingly as on a refugee poster.  I wondered what she wanted - she looked desperate for something.  Then words moved past like a television credit- WHAT CAN YOU GIVE US?"

After a series of dreams and vivid experiences, she decided to go to Hong Kong.  The trouble was, no one else would agree to go with her.

She applied to every missionary group she could think of, and also to church organizations.  She even contacted the Hong Kong government to see if they could use a musician.  But all doors closed in her face.  They all said "You are too young, you're too inexperienced, you have the wrong qualifications". 

She was about to give up when the vicar of a church she helped told her, against the received wisdom of everything else she had heard, to go to Hong Kong anyway.

In 1966 (at age 22) she gathered up all the money she had and bought a passage on the cheapest boat to Hong Kong she could find.  She only had money for a one-way ticket, so there was no turning back.  She found a job teaching at a primary school in the Walled City.  This was an area where the Hong Kong police had no regular jurisdiction.  It was Hong Kong's most deprived and dangerous area.

She began a pioneering work among the drug addicts and Triad gang members.  She set up the St. Stephen's Society, which continues its work in Hong Kong and south-east Asia today.  This organization has become one of the most successful drug rehabilitation programs in the word, rescuing hundreds of young people from a life of misery on the streets.  It began with her taking individual addicts into her own home and praying them through detox, trusting God to save and heal them.

What is now a powerful outpost of the Kingdom of God is there because one young woman believed the words "Go into all the world and preach the Good News' applied to her.  As a result untold numbers of people know from experience that the gospel of the Good News is true.   Can one single life change a city?  YES!
(Excerpts taken from rejesus.co.uk). 

Her name?  Jackie Pullinger.  If you want to hear her share her testimony, go to http://www.ststephenssociety.com/en/story.php and you can hear it in her own words!

Check back for:  No Ordinary Life/Example #3


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Poking Sacred Cows: Part Three

Category : Glenda's Soap Box

Ok, we take up from where we left off in Part Two, asking the question:  'How did December 25th come to be associated with the birth of Jesus, the Son of God?'. 

According to biblicalarcheology.org, "There is no mention of birth celebrations in the writings of early Christian writers such as Ireaneus (c. 130-200) or Tertillian (c. 160-225).  Origen of Alexandria (c. 165-264) goes so far as to mock Roman celebrations of birth anniversaries, dismissing them as 'pagan' practices- a strong indication that Jesus' birth was not marked with similar festivities at that place and time.  As far as we can tell, Christmas was not celebrated at all at this point." 

And this source goes on to make another important point:  "This (the lack of celebrating the birth anniversary of Jesus) stands in sharp contrast to the very early traditions surrounding Jesus' last days.  Each of the Four Gospels provides detailed information about the time of Jesus' death.  According to John, Jesus is being crucified just as the Passover lambs are being sacrificed."  No coincidence there.

This may seem a bit unrelated, but it makes the point of a sharp contrast between two very important events in the life of Jesus that became celebrations or feasts.  First, His birth.  Second, His death. 

Technically, as the Passover lambs were being slain for sacrifice, the Perfect Passover Lamb was being slain as the sacrifice for the sin of all humanity for the purpose of restoring all who would believe back to fellowship with God, His Father.  Just as it was in the Old Testament, and all through the New Testament (including during the earthly life of Jesus), and is even to this day- Passover has been celebrated by the Jewish people (and some Gentiles).  Why?  Because the celebration of Passover is God's idea.  It found its beginning in God's heart when He asked the children of Israel to remember- in a precise and special manner- the way He delivered them from Egypt.

And so, what is the 'seed' of Passover?  Simply put, it was originally God's idea.  A holy idea to ordain a special day for His people to remember their deliverance from slavery enabling them to lay hold of a new life in the land of promise.  In essence, this particular celebration is godly to its core.

Contrast that, for example with the observance of Christmas, which is an interesting mix of the sacred (an genuine attempt to honor the birth of the Messiah) and the secular (the perpetuation of the myth of Santa, Christmas trees and all manner of other traditions that frankly have pagan origins).  Some might even go as far as to say that it is a blending of the sacred and the profane.  But, alas,- like oil and water- some things cannot be blended together, nor even should they be.

In closing, I will mention a recent news story (12news.com) entitled "The Santa Hating Pastor" that perfectly illustrates the point I am trying to make.  It seems there was a Christian pastor who has been targeting shopping malls saying some things that were causing a ruckus.  What mean and vicious things was he saying to children?  "Santa Claus does not exist."  But, the truth is, he is telling the politically incorrect truth to children and thereby exposing a lie that has been perpetuated by their parents.  I am neither endorsing or condemning this pastor for what he was doing, but what I find most interesting are a couple of quotes from a few people who were asked their opinion regarding this subject, who were- by the way- primarily people who claim to be Christians.

"While (the person giving the opinion) believes Jesus is the center of Christmas, he doesn’t see a child’s belief in Santa as contradicting that."

"I would never want to crush that imagination in kids, to believe in Santa, to believe in miracles and to believe in beautiful things."

"Preaching Jesus, there is no problem with that, but if he wants to take the joy from the kids that’s not good."

"I’m pretty big into Jesus myself but I manage to find room for Santa Claus, too."

So, what we can learn from those quotes is that it is ok to preach Jesus, but not at the expense of risking our children's belief in Santa Claus?  Is it there where you can cross a line in our culture?  The unspoken message is that Jesus and Santa are kind of like peers that are completely and totally compatible.  After all, believing in Santa is just a harmless myth, right?  When our kids get older they will totally understand why we lied to them so we wouldn't "take their joy".  And, who/Who brings real and lasting joy?

Think about it: 
'Who sees you when you are sleeping and knows when you're awake?'
(Only one can.)
'Who knows if you have been good or bad?' 
(One knows what is in your heart.  One does not.)
'Who can do the impossible?'
(One is reported to travel the entire world in one night over multiple time zones to deliver gifts to every child on earth.  One can raise the dead.)
'Who is the giver of gifts?'
(No clarification necessary.)
See what I mean?

If you really think about it- the belief, wonder and respect we perpetuate for Santa is dangerously close to a description in the Old Testament prohibiting the people of God from worshiping idols and attributing to them what they did not possess.  They were, after all, man-made, a little like a tradition of a man that does not exist.  But harmless- right?

Did I really just compare the myth of Santa to a household idol that people kept in their homes in Old Testament days?  What a crazy thought!  It is not like anyone actually has a little statue or likeness of Santa in their homes. 

As I contemplated the quotes from people speaking about the Santa hating pastor- because this is how my mind works- I had an interesting thought.  WWJTBD?  In this particular scenario, 'What would John the Baptist do?'  Rest assured, he would publicly denounce the perpetuation of a myth that takes even the slightest modicum of the focus from and the glory of the One Who proclaimed Himself to be the Way, the Truth and the Life.  He would vocally and with great passion proclaim the truth to any and all who would be within earshot; even, or most especially- to those most vulnerable to deception- the children.

Okay, now that I have given one particular sacred cow a really good poke, I have either thoroughly aggravated you, or I have given you a reason to think about and examine more carefully some of the traditions (in this case those that are connected to Christmas) that someone- even someone you loved dearly- handed down to you.  I have given you a challenge to be intentional in honoring honorable things and to have the courage to be willing to know the truth about those traditions that are not honoring (to people or to God) and to let go of the ones that can only dilute (or pollute) what is pure and precious.

And, to come full circle, we now have a different perspective regarding my grandfather's change of heart (from Part One) when it came to the way we celebrated Christmas in our family back then.  In short, when he did some personal research on the subject, it gave him a stark wake-up call, to which he responded, in the fear of the Lord, by stopping his involvement in some traditions that had been celebrated in his family for generations.  He was willing to examine the roots of them himself.  I have to say that I admire him for his courage.  I understand now a little bit more about the cost of his decision, even among his own family members.

By the way, I still have another sacred cow that really needs poking, but I think I will save that one until a later date.


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Poking Sacred Cows: Part Two

Category : Glenda's Soap Box

Well, if you are returning to read Poking Sacred Cows: Part Two, I know something about you.  You are either here by a complete accident attracted by the odd title of this series of Soap Boxes, you are curious about what I am going to say about Christmas or you are wondering if I (like my grandfather before me) have taken leave of my senses on the very sensitive subject of examining the melting pot of traditions incorporated into this celebration we call Christmas.

Either way, I will proceed.   But, not without explaining it would be best for you not to continue reading this particular series if you have no desire to examine the roots of the celebration of Christmas.  If this subject is, for you, a sacred cow that you don't want anyone to poke, it is best for you to stop reading at this point.  I am not trying to rain on anyone's parade, but I am just presenting some information that can be food for thought for those who might be curious to know more.

Let’s expand on the thought I posed in Poking Sacred Cows: Part One about when the celebration of what we know as Christmas began.  Did the early church believers celebrate the birth of the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ?  In short, the answer is ‘No, they did not’.  Why?  Because in that time of history the only ones who celebrated birth anniversaries (usually of deities) were…wait for it…the pagans.  (Pagans were generally defined as those who worshiped false gods and lived in the darkness of superstition.)  It appears that when they (the aforementioned pagans) wanted to incorporate a celebration for what they considered a monumental event, they did so with large festivals (for one example, Saturnalia).

It is reasonable to assume that those closest to Jesus in the days in which He walked the earth had a good idea of the date of his birth.  There was John, his cousin; and then of course there was Mary, His mother.  I have to believe that at some point the question must have come up, or Mary might have recounted the story of His birth to those closest to her.  But, amazingly enough, that date is not recorded in the Bible.  Curious.  Perhaps that the omission of that was not an accident.

Shockingly enough from some sources I have read, it appears that Jesus was born- not in December- but most likely in September or October during the Feast of Tabernacles.  Even if that were the case, what do you think the chances are that if anyone became aware of that they would change and celebrate it then?  I think pretty much nil, nada, zilch.  Why?  One very powerful word…Tradition. If you don't believe it is all that monumental, try dinging around with the traditions in your family that have been practiced for generations and see what the reaction is.  Likely a very explosive one.  People don’t like people fooling around with their, dare I say it, sacred cows.

Here is an example:  when in the past some people have complained about Christmas trees in public places and they have been removed so as not to offend them.  What resulted is a major dust-up from Christians that get all offended that someone is prohibiting or limiting their Christmas tree tradition.  All of the sudden, it is viewed as a major affront to all Christians.  But, if you really think about it, what connection does a live (or artificial) tree that is decorated with ornamentation have anything whatsoever to do with being a Christian?  Once again, one word…Tradition.  Tradition that has gained strength and momentum from many generations.  An amazing amount of strength.

In the Old Testament, Jeremiah 10 has an interesting perspective on bringing trees into your house and decorating them.

Have you ever thought about why, every single year, there has to be a big promotional campaign to ‘Keep Christ in Christmas’?  For example, ‘Jesus is the Reason for the Season’.  Why would that be continuously necessary for a holiday that bears His title of 'Christ' (the Anointed One) as a part of the name of the holiday?  Isn't it reasonable to believe that this day should be all about Him?  Would to God it would be so that any particular day (in December or September) would be one of undiluted focus on Him and gratitude to His Father for sending Him into our world.

Okay, I am going to try to give this next statement in the most harmless way I know how to do it.  If  Christmas is completely and thoroughly Christian, why is there so much concentrated effort by Christians to redirect the focus back to Jesus from the many cultural symbols and traditions that do not include Him?  Some people would say it is because people have strayed away from the original purpose of the holiday, but- at this point in my life- I am not so sure the answer is that simple.  If we could travel back in time for multiple generations, what would we learn about the origin of this time of year?  What was the original purpose of a celebration on December 25th?  Did it begin as Christmas, or as something else that needed to be repurposed and reinvented with a Christian theme?

Why would that be important for us to know now?  Let me put it this way:  if you want to plant an apple tree, you plant the seed from an apple, right?  But if you plant an apple seed, barring a miracle, you will never, ever go to that tree and find a wonderful fuzzy peach.  Why?  Because, if you trace it back to its core (pardon the pun) you will discover the tree grew from a seed that always produces apples.

So, using that train of thought:  What is the 'seed' (or beginning) of the holiday we have celebrated for generations as Christmas?

Check back later for the next blog in this series:  Poking Sacred Cows: Part Three


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Poking Sacred Cows: Part One

Category : Glenda's Soap Box

You have to be pretty careful when you start poking the proverbial sacred cows that people hold dear.  Just on the front end so I don’t keep you in any suspense, I will let you know that the sacred cow I am fixing to poke is the event known in our culture as ‘Christmas’.  If you are not okay with that, it would be wisdom for you to stop reading now. (As someone in my family would say, ‘Don’t be messing with MY Christmas!’)

If someone had asked me years ago if I knew when the celebration of Christmas had its beginning, I would have probably answered that it was, of course, celebrated by those who were the closest to Jesus when He was on the earth.  Sounds perfectly rational.  They knew Him.  They would certainly have had reason to celebrate when it came to His birth.  They would have even known his mother, Mary.  It would have been reasonable to me at that point to believe He may have even had birthday parties during His lifetime.  But, certainly those closest to him would have honored the day of His coming to Earth after He left for Heaven.

Fast forward to the last couple of years of my life.  I started doing a bit of research to find out how the holiday of Christmas began.  Needless to say, I didn’t find what I thought I would find.

Let me give a bit of background so any who don’t know me will know my history on this issue.  I have always loved Christmas.  Christmas trees twinkling with beautiful lights, fragile Christmas ornaments, homemade decorations (popcorn strands and construction paper chains), brightly wrapped presents, fuzzy stockings, peppermint sticks, glitter on everything, nativity scenes, making Christmas cards, evergreen wreaths, mistletoe, poinsettias, chocolate covered cherries, singing carols, Christmas dinner with family, giving gifts, Santa Claus, Rudolph and the flying sleigh.  The whole tamale.  Loved it. 

One of my fondest memories as a child was visiting my grandparents in Flintville, Tennessee during the Christmas holidays.  Two things stand out for me:  1.  My sweet grandmother, who trekked out on the farmland and personally cut down an aromatic cedar tree with an axe and decorated it with all her old ornaments, tinsel and the light strings with those huge multi-color bulbs, so it would be there when we arrived and; 2.  I was thoroughly convinced back then that the guy in the red suit would NEVER find us in Flintville to deliver our presents!  As my Dad used to say, Flintville was such a small town that the sign before you arrived had both "Welcome" and "Hurry Back" on the same side! 

It got a bit more complex when I committed my life to Jesus in 1974, and it was at that  point where I began (in baby steps) trying to separate the secular aspects from the sacred aspects of Christmas.  I tried and failed continually.  I could never, ever reconcile all of the diverse facets of the holiday that never quite seemed to fit together. My head told me that God must really love this special holiday, but my heart was not so sure.

Allow me to digress to mention a mysterious occurrence that happened when I was a child.  My maternal grandfather, who I loved dearly, and who was possibly the grouchiest person (or so I thought) I had encountered thus far in my short life added a wrench in what I knew to be a totally harmless and wonderful holiday, where both money, candy and presents came my way.  He decided (but never explained why) that certain  traditions of Christmas were ungodly.  He did everything but beg people not to give him any presents.  He was dead serious, apparently feeling the weight of the fear of God on that issue.  He wanted absolutely no involvement in Christmas, save going to his country Methodist church, singing carols and hearing the story of the birth of Jesus retold from the book of Luke.  That was it.  No presents.  No tree.  No decorations.  No Santa.  No reindeer.  Period.  The end.  (We kind of viewed him as a party pooper because we did not understand the 'whys' of his position on Christmas.)

Me and my sister thought he had lost his mind!  After all, who in the right mind would not want to celebrate Christmas? 

Check back for the next blog in this saga entitled- Poking Sacred Cows: Part Two


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We might need an Awakening if…

Category : Glenda's Soap Box

This particular post is going to be continually expanding with more additional entries from time to time.  Presented in the unconventional style of Jeff Foxworthy's "You might be a redneck if..." (but definitely not written as comedy), it is a different way to present some food for thought ideas about our current culture in the church in America.  So, check back to this post every now and then and see what has been added.  These will not be added in the order of their importance, but just as they come to me.

We might need an Awakening if...
we don't believe that God still raises the dead in the name of Jesus.

2.  We might need an Awakening if...
we do not grieve for the babies being sacrificed every day by abortion.

3.  We might need an Awakening if...
we think true repentance can take place without tears.

4.  We might need an Awakening if...
we measure our personal righteousness by the yardstick of our culture.

5.  We might need an Awakening if...
we are easily and continually offended.

6.  We might need an Awakening if...
we have left our first love.

7.  We might need an Awakening if...
we think the Holy Spirit is an ethereal concept and not a real Person.

8.  We might need an Awakening if...
we think our little church and the Kingdom of God are the same thing.

9.  We might need an Awakening if...
what people think about us is more important than what God thinks about us.

10. We might need an Awakening if...
we are embarrassed to talk about the blood of Jesus.

11. We might need an Awakening if...
we are not drastically different from people who don't claim to be believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.

12. We might need an Awakening if...
the way we live our lives does not make other people hungry to know God.

13. We might need an Awakening if...
entertainment is one of our primary priorities.

14. We might need an Awakening if...
in our daily experience miracles are the exception instead of the rule.

15. We might need an Awakening if...
we can count on one hand the number of people who have heard our testimony of when we committed our lives to Jesus.

16. We might need an Awakening if...
we have forgotten how it feels to be completely forgiven and washed "whiter than snow".

17. We might need an Awakening if...
being 'right with God' is a political statement.

18. We might need an Awakening if...
we have ceased to pray for what seems impossible.

19.  We might need an Awakening if...
the only miracles we see are "medical miracles" that are credited to doctors and medicine.


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Martin Luther & John Wesley

Category : Glenda's Soap Box

Martin Luther (1483-1546) was a German professor of theology, a composer, a Augustinian monk and a priest.

Traumatic Event that Gave Luther a Sense of His Destiny in God:
In July of 1505, Luther got caught in a violent thunderstorm, in which a bolt of lightning nearly struck him down. He considered the incident a sign from God and vowed to become a monk if he survived the storm. The storm subsided, Luther emerged unscathed and, true to his promise gave up his studies to become a lawyer and began living the spartan and rigorous life of an Augustinian monk.  His brush with death early on served to convinced him that he had a higher purpose for his life.

REVELATION:  Justification for believers is by faith alone.
"...the just shall live by faith."  Romans 1:7

After receiving this personal revelation, in 1517 Luther penned a document attacking the Catholic church’s corrupt practice of selling “indulgences” to absolve sin. His “95 Theses,” which propounded two central beliefs—that the Bible is the central religious authority and that humans may reach salvation only by their faith and not by their deeds.

In Luther's time, this statement constituted heresy.  The very thought endangered established religious protocol that- when opposed- gained some an invitation to a martyr's death, oddly enough at the hands of the religious leaders of the day.  The power of this revelation would literally, not only change the course of Luther's life, but also change the course of history in the lives of millions of people in many generations.

This revelation also signaled a major shift in Luther's life which placed him in direct opposition to the beliefs and practices of the Church in his day.

REVOLUTION:
On November 9, 1518 the pope condemned Luther’s writings as conflicting with the teachings of the Church. One year later a series of commissions were convened to examine Luther’s teachings. The first papal commission found them to be heretical, but the second merely stated that Luther’s writings were “scandalous and offensive to pious ears.”  In 1520, Luther was given 120 days to recant his words, which of course he did not, and this led to his excommunication from the Catholic church.  A short time later, his writings were burned and he had to go into hiding for a time as he continued writing.  When he returned to Wittenberg, the reform movement, which was begun by his words, had grown far beyond his ability to control.

Some of Luther’s most significant contributions to theological history, however, such as his insistence that as the sole source of religious authority the Bible be translated and made available to everyone, were truly revolutionary in his day. His work translating the Bible into German took 10 years and sparked even more controversy, and gained even more followers.

REFORMATION:
Luther's words effectively fractionalized the Catholic church (which never fully recovered) and sparked the Protestant (Protester's) movement, which was shaped by Luther's radical ideas.  What followed was a religious conflict between Protestants and Catholics which divided Western Europe for over 150 years.

His central teachings, that the Bible is the central source of religious authority and that salvation is reached through faith and not deeds, shaped the core of Protestantism.

REVIVAL: 
When I think of revivals resulting from the Protestant Reformation, I think of the Scottish Reformation for example in the late-1500 to 1600's when Scotland was aflame with the power of God fueled primarily through the Protestant reformers in that country.  Fast forward to the late 1790’s in the frontier of America and you will find descendants of those same Scottish Protestant reformers conducting camp meetings in the Second Great Awakening kindling spiritual fires that literally burned across the new nation.

John Wesley (1703-1791) was a theologian and a priest in the Anglican Church.

Traumatic Event that Gave Wesley a Sense of His Destiny in God:
In 1709, when Wesley was only five years old he was rescued at the last minute from a fire at his families parsonage in Epworth.  (The fire being set by disgruntled townsfolk that did not like Samuel Wesley, John's father.)  Apparently, John had slept through all the commotion of his family running for their lives from the fire that was consuming the structure.  His nursery was directly under the flaming roof.  Long story short, he was rescued from a second story window seconds before the roof collapsed.

Haunted for years by that terrifying experience, Wesley wondered why he had been saved as a “brand plucked from burning.” Years later the answer became evident when the Lord used Wesley to carry the message of reform to England.

REVELATION:  Salvation for believers is by faith alone.
"...by grace as you saved through faith."  Ephesians 2:8-9

Such a simple statement which was given to Wesley by divine inspiration changed the course of his life and deeply impacted the lives of millions of others.  This new revelation that transformed Wesley's life would be such a powerful challenge to the beliefs of his day that he would no longer be welcome to preach inside a church, which in Wesley's time was the only place that any Anglican priest was allowed to preach.

Like Martin Luther, this revelation signaled a major shift in Wesley's life which placed him in direct opposition to the beliefs and practices of the Church of England in his day.

REVOLUTION:
So, what happens when Wesley (because of the radical nature of his revelation) is no longer welcome to preach in a church that has been duly consecrated by a bishop?  He encounters a friend, George Whitefield that is doing the unthinkable.  Field preaching!  Preaching to the unchurched in the open fields!  Whitefield challenges Wesley to consider the possibility and invites him to preach to a crowd of unchurched people outdoors in Kingswood.  Wesley describes the event:  "At four in the afternoon I submitted to be more vile and proclaimed in the highways the glad tidings of salvation to about three hundred people from the appropriate text- 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor'."

Society in his day, particularly religious people, did not appreciate the truth of his message, which brought on what seemed to be continual persecution and opposition.

This story is told regarding the persecution that generally followed his message:
Wesley was riding along a road one day when it dawned on him that three whole days had passed in which he had suffered no persecution. Not a brick or an egg had been thrown at him for three days. Alarmed, he stopped his horse, and exclaimed, “Can it be that I have sinned, and am backslidden?” Slipping from his horse, Wesley went down on his knees and began interceding with God to show him where, if any, there had been a fault. A rough fellow, on the other side of the hedge, hearing the prayer, looked across and recognized the preacher. “I’ll fix that Methodist preacher,” he said, picking up a brick and tossing it over at him. It missed its mark, and fell harmlessly beside John. Whereupon Wesley leaped to his feet joyfully exclaiming, “Thank God, it’s all right. I still have His presence.

REFORMATION:
He rode thousands of miles (250,000 in his lifetime!), preaching as only a man filled with the Holy Spirit can preach, sharing the gospel with all who would listen. One biographer said he acted “as though he were out of breath in pursuit of souls.”

The original traveling preacher (affectionately known as the Horseman of the Lord) was responsible for launching countless enthusiastic circuit riding preachers bearing the gospel (and little else) to the wild frontiers of America!  He did not ask them to do what he had not already done!  His passion for souls was reproduced in them.

The rest is history.  This once proper churchman (who by the way never left the Anglican church, but they left him) became the living embodiment of revolution and most certainly had the world for a parish.  His life's work was, oddly enough, outside of the established church.  That is where he thrived as described in this quote:
It is clear that, the ice once broken, he no longer shivered on the bank, but plunged in, and made a success of field preaching wherever he could find hearers and standing room.

REVIVAL:
Almost everywhere that Wesley preached, people changed for the better. Societies of his converts, known as Methodists, became a national force. It is sometimes conjectured that the Wesleyan revival spared England the kind of bloody revolution that occurred in France.

The revival cut across denominational lines and touched every class of society. England itself was transformed by the revival. In 1928 Archbishop Davidson wrote that "Wesley practically changed the outlook and even the character of the English nation."

It is perhaps no coincidence that the year of his death (1791) signaled the beginning sparks of the wildfire that would become the Second Great Awakening in America, a spiritual event in which his Methodists were among that move of God's most enthusiastic leaders and participants.

 

(Some of the facts in this article were gleaned from history.com, wikipedia.com, christianityhistoryinstitute.org and christianity.com )

 

 

 


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