Why A Memorial Day?

memorialday1Do you know how “Memorial Day” was established?  Do you know its original purpose?  Unfortunately, many view Memorial Day as simply an opportunity to have a three day weekend and go to the lake.  The very purpose has either been forgotten by some or never known by others.  After the Civil War, people in the South created special memorials to remember the southern soldiers who died.  These were referred to as “Confederate Memorial Days.”  In the North it was called “Decoration Day” and most southerners did not recognize this day as it honored northern soldiers who died in the Civil War or as some called it “The War of Northern Aggression.”   It was only after World War II that it became known as Memorial Day and was intended to honor all fallen soldiers who gave their lives for their country.  But this is lost on many today.

Why do we have a memorial day? Why have days to remember? The answer is simple, because we forget. In the Bible there are a number of memorials.  God gave Noah the rainbow as a sign of the covenant that He would never again destroy the world by flood (Genesis 9).  To the children of Israel, God gave the Passover as a reminder of the Tenth Plague upon the land of Egypt, the death of the 1st born (Exodus 12.14). There are other memorials in the Bible, but this Sunday at Ham Lane Church we are going to focus on the most important.  Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper on the night before His death.  The unleavened bread is His body and the fruit of the vine is the blood of the New Covenant (Matthew 26.26-28).  We often refer to this as the Lord’s Supper.  This Supper is something we do so that we do not forget the amazing sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and more importantly to celebrate His resurrection. Paul stated that as often as we drink this cup and eat this bread we proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes (1 Corinthians 11.26).  This morning we celebrate a living memorial in that it looks back at Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins but recognizes the fact that Jesus lives today.  He is in heaven and will return to take the faithful to heaven.  It is important for us not to forget Jesus’ sacrifice, His authority today, and His return in the future.

This memorial is observed by all Christians on the first day of every week (Acts 20.7).  Unlike the Passover which was observed only by the Jews or “Decoration Day” observed only by those in the North; this Supper is recognized by all Christians.  We are unified in proclaiming Jesus’ death and His return.  While there is only one Lord’s Supper, it is commemorated all over the world.

Chad

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Christmas: Myth vs. Fact #3 Jesus’ Birth Date

For many who align themselves as a Christ-follower, Christmas Day, December 25th, is a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.  But is December 25th the actual day that the virgin Mary give birth to the Christ Child?  Some say “yes” and other declare “no.”  The fact is that the Bible does not tell us exactly what date Jesus was born.  And just like bellybuttons, throughout the years everyone has had an opinion as to the date of the birth of Christ.

Speculation as to the time of Jesus’ birth dates back to the 3rd century, when Hyppolytus (ca. 170-236) claimed that Jesus was born on December 25. The earliest mention of some sort of observance on that date is in the Philoclian Calendar, representing Roman practice, of the year 336. Later, John Chrysostom favored the same date of birth. Cyril of Jerusalem (348-386) had access to the original Roman birth census, which also documented that Jesus was born on the 25th of December. The date eventually became the officially recognized date for Christmas in part because it coincided with the pagan festivals celebrating Saturnalia and the winter solstice. The church thereby offered people a Christian alternative to the pagan festivities and eventually reinterpreted many of their symbols and actions in ways acceptable to Christian faith and practice.

December 25 has become more and more acceptable as the birth date of Jesus. However, some argue that the birth occurred in some other season, such as in the fall. Followers of this theory claim that the Judean winters were too cold for shepherds to be watching their flocks by night. History proves otherwise, however, and we have historical evidence that unblemished lambs for the Temple sacrifice were in fact kept in the fields near Bethlehem during the winter months.

Throughout these articles we’ve been talking about fact vs. myth and the fact is that He was born, that He came into the world to atone for our sins, that He was resurrected to eternal life, and that He’s alive today. This is what we should celebrate, as we are told in the Old Testament in such passages as Zechariah 2:10: “’Shout and be glad, O Daughter of Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you,’ declares the LORD.” Further, the angel that announced the birth to the shepherds brought “good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10). Surely here is the cause for celebration every day, not just once a year on December 25.

 

Chad

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Christmas: Myth vs. Fact #2 The Christmas Story

nativity_setThis morning I am continuing my mini-series separating Christmas fact from Christmas myth.  Today, I want us to look at the Scriptures retelling of the Christmas story to get a few facts straight that some traditional telling of the Christmas story misrepresented.  Please understand, I mean for this to be entertaining, educational, and fun.  By no means am I trying to attack our dearly loved traditions behind this wonderful season of Christmas.  However, with that said, there are some aspects in the retelling of the Christmas story that are merely tradition but have been mistaken as Biblical depiction.

Pictures of the nativity show Mary riding a donkey while Joseph leads them. This is speculation as there is no mention of how they traveled in the Biblical accounts.  It is more likely that she traveled in a wagon that was possibly led by a donkey.  Think about it–a woman whose nine months preggers bouncing up and down on a mule for sixty miles. She probably would have rode Joseph to Bethlehem before trying that.  Luke 2:6 indicates that she gave birth “while they were there”. The idea that they rode into town and she gave birth that night was a fictional addition, no doubt for dramatic effect.  In most explanations of the birth night Joseph went from hotel to motel asking the innkeepers for a room. However, in the Bible there is no innkeeper character or recorded dialogue.

It is not likely that the “wise men” or “magi” were “three kings;” this idea came from the carol.  In fact, the only book of the Bible that mentions them, Matthew, simply tells us that there was more than one because Matthew calls them “wise men.”  Although the account does not mention the number of people “they” or “the Magi” refers to, the three gifts they presented have led to the widespread assumption that there were three men.  Speaking of the wise men, the nativity scenes you see this time of year typically shows three wise men visiting the baby Jesus at the manger.  However, Matthew 2:11 gives us a clue that the wise men arrived at a house to see the “young child” Jesus. Matthew 2:16 hints that up to two years could have passed.

Although, the story tellers may have added a few “fictional facts” (is that an oxymoron?) to the story; Matthew and Luke paint the most beautiful Christmas story of all.  They were inspired through the Holy Spirit to share with us today, the amazing story of the birth of God’s only Son, Jesus Christ and how God became Emmanuel (“God with us”).  I want to encourage you during this holiday season, to read again for the first time the Christmas story spoken by the very breath of God Himself (2 Timothy 3:16).  You will find it in Matthew 1:18-2:23 and in Luke chapter 2.

Merry Xmas

Chad

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Christmas Fact vs. Myth #1: Merry Xmas

merry-xmas-graffiti-letter-design

Most everyone enjoys facts and trivia and this is especially true when it comes to beloved traditions such as Christmas.  For example, did you know that on Christmas Day, 1868 President Andrew Johnson granted an unconditional pardon to everyone involved in the Southern rebellion against the United States?  Or that the first Nativity scene was assembled by Saint Francis of Assisi on Christmas Day 1223, in Greccio, Italy.  These are fun facts and neat trivia about our beloved Holiday of Christmas (or at least I think so).  However, Christmas, for the Christ follower, carries a greater significance because it is a celebration of the birth of Christ our Lord and Savior.  Therefore, it can be important to distinguish the facts from the myths about Christmas.  There are many things about Christmas that are believed to be facts when in fact they are myths.  Now, although it carries some importance and can be entertaining to debunk some of the myths about Christmas, it misses the point.  Figuring out what isn’t true about the birth of Christ isn’t nearly as important as figuring out what is.  Nevertheless, over the next few weeks, I’ll be writing about some Christmas balderdash that many have mistaken for fact.  So, I hope you have thick skin and a good sense of humor as it may make you feel like a sucker for believing superfluous elements of the Christmas story.

 

The first one I want to tackle is the notion that writing “Merry Xmas” is an attempt to remove Christ from Christmas.  Now, on the surface, it’s easy to understand why someone would think removing the letters “CHRIST” and replacing them with an “X” could be an attempt to remove Christ from Christmas.  But this is simply not the case.  Unfortunately, there are some Secularist Grinches who have long sought to obscure “the reason for the season.”  However, “Merry Xmas” is not an attempt to remove Christ from Christmas but it is rather a way of abbreviating the Christ in Christmas.  The Greek word (the language in which our New Testament books were originally written) for Christ is “Χριστός.” Notice anything familiar? The first letter is “X,” or chi. Chi is also written as an X in the Roman alphabet. Rather than being an offensive abbreviation for Christmas, or an attempt to remove Christ from Christmas, “Xmas” is actually a quite logical nickname for Christmas.  Since the ‘X’ is not Chi in English, it is easy to understand why we read the word as X-mas and see no connection with Christ.  However, let me assure you that if you sign your Christmas cards this year with a warm and sincere “Merry Xmas,”  you will in no way be leaving out the reason for this great season – Χριστός (Christ) Jesus who came as Emanuel, God with us.

 

A very Merry Xmas to you and yours.

 

Chad

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Transmogrified Through Worship

TransmogrifierOne of my favorite comic strips is Calvin & Hobbes. Calvin is an imaginative, spunky, rambunctious ten-year-old boy whose accomplice in crime is Hobbes, his stuffed tiger. One of my favorite recurring themes in C&H is when Calvin disappears underneath a cardboard box labeled in black magic marker, “The Transmogrifier.” In Calvin’s imagination, the Transmogrifier is a machine that can change him into a dinosaur, or a Calvinosaur, or it can change him into a space man or anything his mind can think up. He disappears underneath the box and Blam! He is instantly changed into his fantasy.

Have you ever wished you could be transformed into someone or something else?  Just step in and step out transformed?  If you have ever wanted to be transformed then I have good news for you.  The worship of the True and Living God is our highest privilege, our greatest duty, and our deepest joy.  God has created us for just this purpose: to worship Him, and to be transformed by Him as we worship.  The Scriptures say, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:1&2, NIV).  As we come before the Lord with our sincere heartfelt worship, we will experience transformation through His power.

When we worship in Spirit and in Truth (John 4:24) God is pleased and we will be encouraged and transformed.  The worship of the True and Living God is the ultimate Transmogrifier!  So, let us worship the Father and be transmogrified!

Chad

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BF2C 2013 @ #HLC

http://youtu.be/SeAhwN31i7A

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A Christian With A Pluralistic Worldview

So, this week in my current class (which is a Ministry Class entitled “Discipleship Making in the Leadership Context) the discussion question was:

 

The worldview held by a leader will provide both context and influence on his/her practice of discipleship. Can a Christian ministry leader hold a pluralistic worldview and still be effective in making Christian disciples? Why or why not?

 

If you are bored, can’t sleep and/or otherwise have no life; Here is how I responded:

 

 “Can a Christian ministry leader hold a pluralistic worldview and still be effective in making Christian disciples?”  This question should prove to provide an interesting discussion and possibly even open the proverbial can of worms.  Preyss (2011) says, everyone has a religious worldview, or an understanding about the fundamental order and makeup of the universe if they believe the One True God or not.   Although I would affirm the proposition that we do exist in a worldwide pluralistic society (especially so in the realm of religion); I am not sure that I would affirm that a “Christian ministry leader” can “hold a pluralistic world view and still be effective in making Christian (or at least not what I believe the Bible to teach that a Christian is) disciples.

 

Silk (2007) basically defined “religious pluralism” as an attitude or policy regarding the diversity of religious belief systems co-existing in society.  In today’s society it has gone beyond just a “co-existence” and the term tolerance gets thrown around much more.  Tolerance today is not the tolerance of our grandparents.  Josh McDowell (1998) saw this pattern over a decade ago in his work “The New Tolerance.”  His basic stance was that the definition of tolerance has changed in America. This new definition has penetrated the culture. Now to disagree with someone else’s view is considered intolerant.  Another term that gets associated with this theme / topic is “moral relativism.”  In our age of “tolerance,” moral relativism is touted as the supreme virtue. Every philosophy, idea, and faith system has equal merit, says the relativist, and is worthy of equal respect. Those who favor one faith system over another or—even worse—claim a knowledge of absolute truth are considered narrow-minded, unenlightened, or even bigoted.

 

I don’t want to seem “narrow-minded” but I cannot imagine how a “Christian ministry leader” could effectively disciple with a “pluralistic worldview.”  For example, the Bible makes the claim that “man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Hebrews 9:27), while some Eastern religions teach reincarnation. So, do we die once or many times? Both teachings cannot be true. The pluralist or relativist essentially redefines truth in order to create a paradoxical world where multiple, contradictory “truths” can co-exist.

 

Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). A Christian has accepted Truth, not just as a concept, but as a Person. This acknowledgment of Truth distances the Christian from the so-called “open-mindedness” of the day. The Christian has publicly acknowledged that Jesus rose from the dead (Romans 10:9-10). If he truly believes in the resurrection, how can he be “open-minded” concerning an unbeliever’s assertion that Jesus never rose again? For a Christian to deny the clear teaching of God’s Word would indeed be a betrayal of God.

 

Now I do believe that as we are attempting to make disciples, when disputing/dialoguing over prominent doctrines does arise, a Christian should exercise restraint and show respect. It is one thing to disagree with a position; it is quite another to disparage a person. We must hold fast to the Truth while showing compassion to those who question it. Like Jesus, we must be full of both grace and truth (John 1:14). Peter strikes a good balance between having the answer and having humility: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).

 

 

 

References

 

McDowell, J. (1998). The New Tolerance. Westmont, IL: Intervarsity Press.

 

Preyss, J. (2011, September 9). BRIEF: A look at religious worldviews. Victoria Advocate (TX).

 

Silk, M. (July 2007), Defining Religious Pluralism in America: A Regional Analysis 612, pp. 64–81

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