When Jesus Caused a Near-Riot at Hanukkah

Hanukkah

Yes, even Jesus attended the Feast of Dedication, otherwise known as Hanukkah.

Hanukkah is a joyful celebration for the Jewish faith commemorating a very important time in their history. The celebration runs for 8 days and is usually celebrated during the same time Christians celebrate Jesus’ birth.

The Background of Hanukkah

Mid-2nd Century BC, the Syrians under Antiochus Epiphanes overtook Jerusalem and forced Greek culture and worship on the inhabitants. Antiochus went so far as to declare the Temple a temple of the false God Zeus. He did the most unthinkable thing in the Jews eyes, he sacrificed a pig on the altar.

In 165 BC a group of rebels headed by Judas Maccabee, won a long battle to regain control of Jerusalem. They rededicated the Temple desecrated by Antiochus and re-established the worship of Yahweh. Judas declared an 8 day celebration of the temple’s rededication. Hanukkah, which means “dedication,” became a yearly celebration of remembrance of that event.

Jesus Celebrates Hanukkah

About midway through John 10:22-39, we read of Jesus attending the Feast of Dedication. As he attended the feast, the Bible says the Jewish leaders surrounded him. They asked him to declare so publicly if he claimed to be the long-awaited Messiah. Jesus countered that he had already declared that truth and proved his claim through several Messianic signs.

Up to that point, Jesus had verifiably performed six of the seven signs John would record in his Gospel  Read More


How YOU Can Help the Stargazers this Christmas

stargazers

I’ll admit it. I’m a little spaced out. I’m one of those stargazers. I love going out at night and looking up at the sky to see the display of God’s glory.

I don’t have an official “bucket list.” But if I did, it would include a visit to some of the “dark-sky” parks in Utah and Idaho. From these locations you can see the night sky without the noise of man-made light pollution.

The First Christmas Stargazers

I guess that is why I have always had an affinity for the Magi in the Christmas story. We know very little about them, but one thing we do know is that they were stargazers.

The Bible does not tell us how many of them came, but that they brought three kinds of gifts. From the number of gifts we have assumed there were three. The expensive nature of the gifts indicates they had access to great wealth.

One night they saw something unusual; something they had not noticed before. Looking back through the lens of Biblical revelation, we know that the Holy Spirit enabled them to see it. Whether or not it had always been there or it appeared that night for the first time, only God knows. But there it was…THE Star. We now call it the Star of Bethlehem.

You probably know the narrative well, so I will not recount it here. If you would like to read it in the Bible, you can find it in Matthew 2:1-12. But this year, God has directed my attention to THE STAR.

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Time Management Done God’s Way

time management

Lately, I’ve read so much about time management that I seem to have no time left to do much else.

I’ve read about taking a few moments at the close of each day to plan the next. Also, I’ve read about the value of planning the next week, month, and even the next year.

I agree wholeheartedly with the writers, and I find I am more effective when I plan. But interruptions occur and often the days do not follow the plans. Other times I am not as diligent and intentional and I waste some of the time I have.

God’s Time Management

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Setting Life Margins Will Help Simplify Life

margins

Without setting margins, my typing would result in a jumbled mess.

In a post last week, I encouraged you to set margins in your daily routine. I think our life margins are more important than our typing margins. Without them, we will make a jumbled mess of our lives.

When writing, margins provide structure and aesthetic coherence. They keep us from scattering words all over the page in rambling fashion. Margins provide the perspective into which we place our thoughts in the medium of words.

The same holds true in life. Margins help us view our lives through the proper perspective. Without margins, our lives tend to make less sense, and more resemble a mass of disjointed coincidences and unrelated circumstances.

Types of Margins

A life margin is intentional time we set aside to rest, reflect, and renew spiritually, mentally, and physically. We need several different types of life margins.

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Encouragement for Days that End in “Why”

why

I’ll go ahead and confess: there are times I ask God “why?”

I know some of you will stop reading right here because you think it wrong to question God. No one has shown me where in the Bible we find that particular prohibition. I have a hunch that it’s not there at all; it’s a man-made adage.

In the Bible, God encourages us to ask Him questions.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” – James 1:5

Not only does God encourage us to ask Him questions, but also promises to answer “without reproach.” That means that He will not scold us for questioning Him.

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A Sunset Drive and Reflections on the Pace of Life

pace

At some point, we have to stop the madness. We have to change the pace.

That truth hit home to me the day after Thanksgiving as we drove home from our family visits.  At first the westward drive home was a challenge with the sun in my eyes.  But as sun met horizon, God allowed me to watch a beautiful sunset and enjoy the most peaceful dusk sky.

Slumbering passengers and sparse traffic provided me the opportunity to ponder the significance of the scene God placed before me.  I found myself longing for the quiet peace of a country evening.  I imagined myself living in a place where I could watch such a scene every night from a back porch.

The Pace of Everyday Life

We live at an unhealthy pace. As I enjoyed the peaceful drive, I couldn’t help but think of the contrast to everyday life. Stress and anxiety plague too many of us.  Many people I know feel an uneasy sense of inadequacy.  

Pass that car. Beat that traffic light. Get the last word. Don’t get even, get ahead. Make the deadline. Do better. Buy this. Win. Achieve. Hurry.  Faster. More. Yes, at some point we have to stop the madness.

Maybe you feel the squeeze too.  Life can make us feel like we’re walking up the stairs and everyone else is riding the escalator.  We long for the peace and serenity of a country sunset, but we live in the blistering pace of high noon.

Letting Go of the Pace

As I soaked in the scene before me, God reminded me of a familiar Bible verse.

Be still and know that I am God.  

I will be exalted among the nations,

I will be exalted in the earth. – Psalm 46:10

“Be still.”  Literally the verb means “relax the hands, let go, stop doing what you are doing.”  Stop the rat race.  Quit trying to be first, better, richer, faster. Chill out.  Change the pace.  

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I Am NOT Thankful for the Early Christmas

early Christmas

Seems like “Christmas” starts earlier every year.

I have seen more pre-Thanksgiving Christmas decorations and sales displays this year than ever before.  I even have neighbors who already have decorations out.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am not a Scrooge.  I LOVE Christmas, but I also love Thanksgiving. This infringement on Thanksgiving concerns me.  It seems we are more interested in getting more stuff than being thankful for the stuff we already have.

How seriously does God take thankfulness?  Romans 1:18-32 provides a list of attitudes and actions that reveal hearts who’ve rejected God.  There in the middle of the list we find this description (emphasis added):

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. – Romans 1:21-23

Sounds pretty serious to me.

Three Ways to Give Thanks

Let me encourage you to hold your horses on Christmas for 4 more days and spend this week in Thanksgiving.  In fact, I challenge you to give thanks THREE WAYS this week.

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We Need Another Reformation 500 Years Later

reformation

Used by permission www.unsplash.com

Tax Reform.  Healthcare Reform. Social Reform.  We hear a lot of call for reformation, these days. None of these are as important as a reformation that took place centuries ago.
Tuesday of this week marks the 500th anniversary of one of the most important protests in history.  On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther –  a German priest and professor – composed a list of 95 complaints against the Church.  He nailed his list to the Wittenburg church door the day before the church celebrated All Saints Day.  His timing guaranteed a wide reading.

Had that happened in a Baptist church, the deacons would’ve fired the pastor for ruining the door.  Just kidding folks.  Sort of.

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How Often Do We Miss the Amazing?

Unless we are willing to divert our attention from the ordinary, we will miss God’s extraordinary.My mind often wanders, but sadly, it seldom wonders. It is amazing how seldom I am amazed.

I fear that slowly we are losing our capacity for amazement.  A couple of reasons contribute to our wondering wandering.  

First, we lead overly busy lives.  We do not slow down enough to notice what is going on around us.  Additionally, media – social and traditional – have over-exposed us to the sensational.  Let’s face it.  Nothing surprises us anymore.

The sad truth is that we miss so much of what God is doing around us.  God is constantly revealing His glory through His activity around us and we are mostly oblivious.  

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God Does Not Waste Our Pain

pain

Sunday marked the 3 year anniversary.  On the afternoon of October 22, 2014, I pondered what had just happened. By God’s grace I defaulted to Scripture.

I had counseled people to turn to God’s Word in their times of greatest need. And then in my time of need, God graciously sent me to His Word. The passage He set before me was 2 Corinthians 1:3-4:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

God reminded me that not only is He an all-knowing God, but He also is a purposeful God. He even finds a purpose for our pain. God comforted me that day with the knowledge that He would use my experience to prepare me to help others who may one day experience the same thing. My hurt was real, and it ran real deep; but God’s grace dives deeper than any depth to which our heart can plunge.

Lessons I Learned from My Pain

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