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St. Patrick’s Day reflections

 

Today is Saint Patrick ’s Day, and ias such is an excellent day to reflect with gratitude on the role of Ireland and Patrick in spreading the gospel.  Any study of the history of Ireland leads to the role of Patrick and his spreading of the gospel.  He took on the dark paganism of the Island with the truth of the Gospel.

 

Ireland became a place that sent out missionaries to other nations, the chief export you could say was Christianity.  Much of Europe had the Gospel presented to them at the hands and writings of the Irish.  God truly used and blessed the land and the people as God remained central.

 

Today’s Ireland is a much different story.  Many people look to the old Celtic paganism.  Beyond, the paganism though, Ireland has become a point where people are promoting the New World Order and new religious mindset that suggests that what you believe does not really matter, just as long as you work toward the greater good of mankind.  Such thinking is promoted by the likes of U2’s Bono and being born out of the violence that Ireland became mired in for decades.  They have moved from being a launching pad of promoting the true gospel of peace to a launching pad of a false gospel and false peace of tolerance.

 

 

 

 

 

Super Bowl Sunday Reflections

      Today is Super Bowl Sunday. It is the Sunday of the biggest entertainment spectacle of the year in the United States.  The game is one where companies pay the most just to advertise their brand during the game.  Families, friends, churches all get together for the game even if they have only a casual interest in the game.  The game and yes even the commercial’s are enjoyable, but recognize that after tonight it will be over, another Super Bowl come and gone, another winner declared for a year, interesting or horrid commercials talked about for a day or two, and then it is over.

  

    This year, many folks will be seeking to be entertained, for the country is in a dire place.  The economy is shrinking, people are losing jobs, it is a tough, dark world that for all the political promises out there does not appear to have hit the bottom yet.  Many hurting people are out there, getting a temporary distraction by watching the game, perhaps also imbibing in alcohol as a further way to distract and forget about the tough times.

 

    Yet, ultimately, the distractions are just temporary.  The economy will still be in bad shape and getting worse tomorrow.  Political promises will still have an appearance of wisdom but ultimately be about pandering and shoring up power.  The distraction will fade and nothing will be different, other then stories to tell about the football game or the commercials.  The sad thing is, for many people this day is the highlight of the year.  A grand spectacle that last but a moment and is over, that we people with our selfishness, settle for the temporary and constantly look for the next distraction. 

   

   Well, there is a more permanent answer, and it is not a temporary distraction.  Rather, no matter what is going on around you, you can have true and perfect peace which starts with getting right with God.  The only way to get right with God is by surrender of self.  It is accepting the gift if Jesus taking the penalty for all the selfishness.  It is turning all over, and in so doing, true peace will come. 

The Carol of the Bells: A personal meaning and reflection for this Christmas Season

      My wife is a pianist and during the Christmas season she tries to pick a meaningful piano piece to be played during a church service during this holiday season. This season she was drawn to Carol of the Bells.  It is a joyous and pleasing musical piece, but personally not much was known about this piece of music other then it was beautifully performed by Manhiem Steamroller. 

      So exploring the origins, roots, and lyrics of this carol is very interesting.  It has an orgin that is not rooted in the Nativity or Christianity initially. It was based on a tune from an Ukrainian folks song meant for well wishing and ushering in the spring. The original lyrics had a sparrow flying and proclaiming wealth to come and was known primarily as a New Year’s carol.  The lyrics are as follows:

Shchedryk, shchedryk, a shchedrivka [New Year’s carol];
A little swallow flew [into the household]
and started to twitter,
to summon the master:
“Come out, come out, O master [of the household],
look at the sheep pen,
there the ewes are nestling
and the lambkin have been born
Your goods [belongings] are great,
you will have a lot of money, [by selling them]
if not money, then chaff: [from all the grain you will harvest]
you have a dark-eyebrowed wife.”
Shchedryk, shchedryk, a shchedrivka,
A little swallow flew.

       In 1936, Peter Wilhousky composed the lyrics now primarily associated with the tune because the sound reminded him of bells.   The lyrics are as follows:

Hark! How the bells, sweet silver bells,
all seem to say, throw cares away
Christmas is here, bringing good cheer,
to young and old, meek and the bold,
Oh how they pound, raising the sound,
o’er hill and dale, telling their tale,
Gaily they ring, while people sing
songs of good cheer, Christmas is here,
Merry, merry, merry, merry Christmas,
Merry, merry, merry, merry Christmas,
On on they send, on without end,
their joyful tone to every home
Dong Ding dong ding, dong Bong

The carol had alternate Nativity and Christian based lyrics written in 1947 by Minna Louise Hohman. However, the specific inspiration for the lyrics other then the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is not documented or easily located.   The lyrics are as follows:

Ring, Christmas Bells, Merrily ring,
Tell all the world: Jesus is King!
Loudly proclaim with one accord,
The happy tale; Welcome the Lord
Ring, Christmas Bells, Sound far and near,
The birth day of Jesus is here.
Herald the news To old and young,
Tell it to all, In ev’ry tongue.
Ring, Christmas Bells, Toll loud and long,
Your message sweet, Peel and prolong.
Come, all ye people, Join in the singing,
Repeat the story, Told by the ringing,
` Ring, Christmas bells, Throughout the earth
Tell the glad news, Of Jesus birth.
Loudly proclaim With one accord,
The happy tale; Welcome the Lord. (Repeat from Beginning)

Second Ending:

Ring Christmas bells, Merrily ring.
Tell all the world: Jesus is King.

There also exists a fourth set of lyrics, again Nativity and Christian based written in 1972 by an anonymous author. The lyrics are as follows:

Hark! to the bells. Hark! to the bells,
Telling us all Jesus is King!
Strongly they chime, sound with a rhyme.
Christmas is here! Welcome the King.
Hark to the bells, Hark to the bells.
This is the day, day of the King.
Peal out the news o’er hill and dale
And round the town telling the tale.
Hark! to the bells. Hark! to the bells,
Telling us all Jesus is King.
Come, one and all, happily sing.
Songs of good will, O let them sing!
Ring….silv’ry bells.
Sing…..joyous bells!
Strongly they chime, sound with a rhyme
Christmas is here, welcome the King!
Hark! to the bells. Hark! to the bells,
Telling us all, Jesus is King!
Ring! Ring….Bells.

 So in examining the history of this carol, it clearly has as background that is similar to that of the celebration of Christmas.  It starts with non-christian roots, becomes a western anthem celebrating the coming of Christmas, but with secular lyrics that do not point to Jesus, and finally to lyrics that both proclaim and celebrate the birth of Jesus and His coming as King.  So in looking at the history, it is a story of a redeemed song for those who attend to the true Gospel.  For those whose heart is tuned elsewhere, it draws other meaning.  The two versions of lyrics celebrating the birth and the kinghood of Jesus fits perfectly with Jesus first and second coming.  He first came as servant for the purpose of salvation and when he returns, he returns to restore as King.  Both worthy of celebration. 

       One final note of reflection is what are the function of bells generally in a culture.  Bells are usually rung  in most societies as a preciptant to news or a call to action including war.  I find this tune and the cutural function of bells to be appropriate to this carol, which in my mind is about celebrating the blessings that come from Jesus, but in His sacrifice which allows for redemption and in his second coming which will bring ultimate peace and restoration. 

     So given those thoughts, Carol of the Bells has taken on new significance for me. It is no longer just a piece of pleasant, celebratory music played at Christmas time. The song for me points toward what Jesus has done and will do.  It is a reminder that God is good, and worthy to be praised.  God through Jesus has given us a path to true peace and an answer to our selfishness. It is cause for joyous celebration.   So in closing, take a listen to one arrangement of the tune here: Carol of the Bells.

Chanukah/Hanukkah: The Feast of Dedication

Today starts the eight day celebration known as Chanukah/Hanukkah, which is also known as the Feast of Dedication. Most Christians have no idea about the importance or meaning of Chanukah, it is simply the Jewish holiday that lasts eight days, has the toy known as a dreidel as part of the celebration. Some perhaps may understand that the festival in a commemoration of God’s allowing a one day supply of olive oil to last eight days leading up to a victory by the Maccabees and the subsequent temple re-dedication. The temple needed re-dedication after Antiochus IV Epiphanes erected an altar to Zeus and sacrificed a pig in the temple. The festival celebrates God standing up and providing when a group was standing against forces aligning toward compromise with the pagan culture.

In learning more about this holiday, apparently there are ties with Mary conceiving Yeshua during Chanukah, which draws even more meaning to Yeshua being the light of the world. It is also when Yeshua posed the question to his disciples “Who do you say that I am?” So it was clearly a day when Jesus made sure it was fully known to his disciples, that he was in fact Messiah. Yeshua is also on record as declaring himself as Messiah in the temple during the feast of Dedication in John 10:22-40. So clearly, as believers in Yeshua as messiah, Chanukah is significant. Yet, for many of us it is not understood or even appreciated and simply seen as the “Jewish” alternative to Christmas.

Certainly it is worth further study by any Christian to gain better understanding of the provision of God. God clearly will provide as needed when a stand for truth is taken. Yet, not only his provision of when standing for truth, but also the time when Yeshua chose to declare himself as Messiah, both to his disciples and before the temple. Unfortunately, these facts are lost on most of the followers of Messiah because we have lost much over time. So as you take time to think about this Holiday season, take time to learn more about Chanukah and the significance it played in the life of Yeshua. It is only through Yeshua and God’s provision of His sacrifice that cleanses us from the defilement of our selfishness, sin, and compromise. It is only through Yeshua that any light of truth is found amidst the darkness. So, with those thoughts, I wish everyone a Happy Chanukah, for it is the time which Yeshua was conceived and made himself known as Messiah!

Reaction to Mac Hammond’s defense

        In a previous post the situation with the IRS and Pastor Mac Hammond of Living Word Christian Center was discussed.  Since then Pastor Mac Hammond has issued a defense of what is going on with the IRS and the allegations.  Ultimately, through due process, they will be able to have their say and defend themselves against any allegations brought for by the investigation.

     In his defense, Pastor Hammond argues that the audit was only opened for political reasons.  He states an IRS official illegally opened the audit and did so at the behest of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington based on the perceived Michelle Bachmann endorsement.  This article isn’t really getting into delving into those facts.  It is worth pointing out again that Pastor Mac Hammond did state he would “almost welcome an IRS audit.” 

     The main concern is that a good portion of Pastor Mac Hammond’s defense is really a defense of the prosperity gospel.  He points to a national conspiracy to attack ministries involve in what he states has come to be called the “prosperity gospel.”  He even states “the gospel-the good news that God is good and our covenant of blessing will provide increase in every area of our life.”  However, that is NOT the Gospel.  The Gospel is John 3:16 (KJV) For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth him shall have eternal life.

     Pastor Mac Hammond goes on to suggest that what is happening is politically motivated because the “enemies of the gospel” are afraid of wealthy Christians and the influence that they may weild.  He states that to limit the influence of the church, the wealth needs to be limited, and that is done by decreasing the willingness to donate.  Pastor Mac Hammond clearly delineates that “clergy” can and should be wealthy and that the media and enemies of the gospel want to keep them poor, and as such keep the church poor.  Pastor Mac goes on to state that God can do anything and that the only limits on what God can and will do is our faith.  In essence, it reads to me that our faith becomes the means by which to get God to do what we want, which usually is increasing our personal kingdoms such as by wealth. 

   The question again comes down to what Kingdom is really being built.  Do we give our all.  Pastor Mac Hammond in is defense graciously offered to sell all and give it to the church. Great, but until that happens it is just words that can make one look good.  Actions speak louder then words. Now Pastor Mac Hammond indicates he donates a large sum to the church which he indicates is how a person avoids the temptations of lukewarmness and decreased God-depenency.   The generosity is good, and praise God for that. Only God and Pastor Mac Hammond know what is at the core of the giving.  Only God and Pastor Mac Hammond truely know what kingdom he is really serving.  However, the defense Pastor Mac Hammond gives leaves me troubled, regardless of the facts. The defense is all about emphasizing prosperity and the church needs to be prosperous to influence society.

    The church is called to be salt and light to a community. But the influence of salt and light come not from the influence of wealth or from involvement in the political realm.  The influence of the church is in changing hearts and minds and drawing people into surrender to Yeshua.  It is about turning from self. There is a reason Jesus stated that it is hard for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God, yet with God all things are possible.