"It is not good for a man to have zeal without knowledge, nor be hasty and miss the way." Proverbs 19:2
OK. I assume that there are a few types of people who may be reading this.
Maybe you don't really believe in God or aren't really sure if He even exists. I have been there. If so, Christmas time is more of an American tradition that is loosely lumped into "The Holidays". You mail your annual cards, bake your cookies, put up a tree, hang stockings, have your shopping list to check off, and are looking forward to time off from work. Even if you don't believe in Jesus exactly, what harm can come from a holiday with Peace at the very center? If this is you, the rest of this posting may be a bit deep, so If I lose your interest here in a few paragraphs, let me say "Merry Christmas", and encourage you that God exists, Jesus' birth was the fulfillment of prophecy, and he is indeed the messiah. Go grab a bible, go to http://www.torahclass.com/ and start to figure out who he really is.
Maybe you are passionate about your Christian Religion and adamantly defend Christmas as the birth of the Lord, and actually take a stand against the expression "Happy Holidays". Holidays? This is Christmas, thank you very much. What part of CHRISTMAS do you not understand? Kwanza, Hanukkah, Ramadan... please. Happy Winter? Now you're killing me. Jesus is the reason for the season! Put the Christ back in CHRISTmas. Get that manger scene back on the courthouse lawn. We are Christian Nation for God's sake! Until recently, I've been there, too.
Maybe you're Jewish and find Christmas a somewhat annoying encroachment into your life. Sorry about that. Seriously. That's not right.
Or, maybe you want to take your experience with God deeper. You recognize the biblical challenge to "worship Him in spirit and in TRUTH". Since this is my position, I wanted to make this post not just another diatribe on the "myths of Christmas tradition", or clever trivia about how many wise-men there really were, but a deeper discussion about how to worship Him in general, and how we are to live our lives daily...not just one day in December.
Bear with this brief bunny trail first... let me introduce a concept that was recently introduced to me, THEOPHOSTICS. This is Latin for "God's Light". Theophostic prayer is when God (via the Holy Spirit) leads a person to certain harmful events in their past, and shines the light of truth on them to begin to undo the damage caused by a lie buried in that event. For example, if your mother constantly called you a "loser" growing up, as an adult your may find yourself believing that lie and (subconsciously) behaving like a loser and being miserable. Conversely, you may spend your life (subconsciously) proving to your mother you are not a loser, and become rich and successful (but miserable-- since your motivation was based on a lie). Theopositics prayer would be "shining God's light of truth" on that childhood experience, and recognizing that truth in your spirit (not just mentally acknowledging it). This type of ministry, if applied correctly, is biblical and effective.
This is exactly what the entire Body of Messiah needs to do-- be bathed in the light of God's Truth, recognize the many, many errors of our ways based in lies planted early in the history of our faith. Planted purposely by Satan in the garden, planted by misled but well-intentioned Jewish rabbi's, by passionate early "church fathers" under pressure from the State, by various denominational leaders and reformers who invariably grabbed hold of one Truth or another and built an entire new Church around it. "The truth shall set you free". As we dispel one lie after another, we as a body will be progressively more and more free. Just like turning on a light in a dark room, it may hurt our eyes momentarily, but we finally will know what room we have been standing in, and we'll stop walking into walls.
If you don't think you are standing in a dark room, consider the words of Yahshua, from John 9:39-41: Then Yahshua said, "I have come into this world to judge it, so that those who are blind may see and so that those who see may become blind." Some of the Pharisees who were near him overheard this and asked him, "We aren't blind, too, are we?" Yahshua told them, "If you were blind, you would not have any sin. But now that you insist, 'We see,' your sin still exists."
First lets shine some light on an important pattern God (YHVH) began in the Garden. When the rules of life in paradise were explained to Adam and Eve, they were not given the choice of three trees: Life, Good, and Evil. There were two trees: the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. One tree was authorized - the pure tree - The Tree of Life. Eat from this tree and continue with abundant everlasting life. The unauthorized tree was a mixture of Good and Evil. Eat from the mixture tree, and you will get ALL MIXED UP. I would imagine that the fruit of this tree sure looked tasty, since Satan's sales pitch was pretty weak. Never-the-less, eating from the mixed fruit caused a cascade of confusion, lies, and death. Our God is not a God of Confusion, nor is He a God who finds the mixing of good and evil acceptable. The term "wicked" comes from the idea of twisting things together (like a candle wick).
Next let's move way into the future, to the Golden Calf Incident from Exodus 32. The Hebrews have just been delivered from their captivity in Egypt by the mighty hand of YHVH, and are at the base of Mt. Sinai ready to receive instructions. Everyone at this point is a true believer in the awesome power of this newly discovered God, and is in complete fear of who He might be and what He might ask of them as a people. From the top of the fiery mountain comes His voice-- asking them if they will accept his offer to be their God, and to follow his instructions. This is the alter call of alter calls. This is the groom asking the bride, "do you"? And the people unanimously say "we do". YHVH says "so do I", and the marriage is complete. The wedding vows are called the Ten Commandments, the first 2 of which read as follows:
1) Do not have any other gods before me.
2) You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God...
Seems pretty clear. What groom wouldn't expect these vows from his bride. I am your only husband-- don't MIX your love for me or the way you express it with the way you used to love your prior God's in Egypt.
Anyway, on the honeymoon, while Moses was climbing the mountain to pick up a written copy of the marriage licence, the body of YHVH's new "bride" was getting restless. Idols were how they had worshipped for 500 years in Egypt. This is what they knew, this was what they understood. No idols? Their new husband must have meant no idols to OTHER gods! So they crafted a golden calf, called it YHVH, and had a huge party to celebrate their wedding. They mixed the pagan ways that were normal to them with the true ways of God.
Moses comes humming and skipping his way down the mountain, only to interrupt their little party. He smashes the marriage vows (he had anger issues, remember). God tells Moses to offer a second chance to his people (God's grace alive and well in the Old Testament): Choose to honor the commandments and side with YHVH, or stick with their pagan traditions and die by the sword. Moses and his fellow Levites slew 3,000 of thier own family members that day. They just could not leave the lies of their past ways behind, and honor YHVH in the way he has always required. A pure relationship based on Truth as defined by HIM, not on our man made traditions and delusions, nor on simply what feels good to us.
Yahshua himself referenced this event in the Gospel of Matthew ."Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it." (Matthew 10:34-39 NASB).
Not too many Christmas cards reference that verse for some reason.
"If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:26). Again, not exactly a Hallmark sentiment.
Here's a different angle from Mathew 23:6-12 (parantheses are mine) "They (religous leaders) love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation 'Rabbi.' (teacher). As for you (my true diciples), do not be called 'Rabbi.' (or Pastor or Pope or Minister). You have but one teacher (YHVH), and you are all brothers. Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven. Do not be called 'Master'; you have but one master, the Messiah. The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
Yahshua's point is that we each individually have to follow him and his truth, leaving behind the traditions and teachings of our parents, relatives, teachers, pastors and cultures IF they contradict the spirit of YHVH, and his commandments. Obviously Yahshua did not advocate killing your family, or hating your parents, nor learning from someone who more mature in their walk. But just like on the Hebrew's wedding day, we all have to make that choice. Can we humble ourselves enough examine our traditions and leave them behind if they don't line up with YHVH's commandments?
Back to Theopositcs: let his light shine: "Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. John 8:12 (KJV) Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world; he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.... Now there is a real Christmas message... a light shining in the darkness. The problem is... Yahshua said this while celebrating Hannukah (the Feast of Dedication). As I shall now attempt to illuminate, Hannukah is not simply a Jewish tradtion. Yahshua himself filled this celebration with deep meaning for his followers, too.
The Hannukah basics are taken from the historical books of Maccabees 1, and Maccabees 2. Some modern bible translations still have these books intact, and for hundreds of years after Yahshua, these books were still considered part of the Old Testament. Even today, the history and dates in these books are not in dispute. I highly recommend reading them for yourself, since my Cliff Notes below are clearly pathetic.
After the death of Alexander the Great (who was a freind to the Jews), the Greek kingdom was divided up, and Antiochus IV Epiphanes was given control over the Holy Land. In 165 BC, he began a full assault on the scriptual way of life of the Jews in Judea. If the Sabbath was kept (commandment number 4) the observer was killed. If a baby was found to be circumcised, it was strangled and hung around the mothers neck. Jews were forced to eat pork at sword point. Another descicration took place when Antiochus killed a pig on YHVH's holy altar in the temple, and spashed it's blood on all of the holy furniture (mennorah, alter of incence, table of shew bread, laver, all of it). He then took a large statue Zeus, of the chief god of Greece at the time (with Antiochus' own face on it) and erected it on the altar itself. Epiphanes (a title he gave himself) means GOD MANIFEST. This horrific event (prophesied in Daniel Chapter 8) occured on DECEMBER 25th, the traditional birthday of Zeus, Jupiter, Mithras, and practically every other "God above all Gods" from all of the "Mystery Religions" of pagan cultures past.
Unfortunatly, most Jews at the time were more than willing to bend or forget the commandments, and bow their knees to the Greek King and were eager to assimilate into the Greek culture. However, as he always does, YHVH rose up a passionate leader, Judah Maccabee (meaning "Hammer") who was able to defeat not only the Greek army, but the (former)members of his own family in order to cleanse the temple and purge the pagan ways from the True ways. Go Judah, with your bad self, and your awesome God. The war took 3 years, and all of the holy furniture needed to be recrafted, and sanctified. The 25th of the Hebrew month of Kislev (corresponding to December) was chosen to remember this victory and re-dedication, and has become known as the 8 day festival of Hannukah, less than 200 years before Yahshua was born.
(Note that there is exactly ZERO historical or scriptural evidence of any miracle regarding oil lasting 8 days. The tradition of the 9 branch menorah is simply a well meaning Judaic tradition that we as a family choose to leave out, so as not to distract from the true miracles at work here.)
Yahshua himself risked his life (prematurely) by making the trek to Jerusalem for Hanukkah in order to make two important points. This is the time and place where he declared "I and the Father are one." He was the real Epiphanes, standing in the Temple in the flesh. Secondly while bathed in the light of temple lamp stands several stories tall, he declared that "HE was the light of the world"--restoring the sight to the spiritually blind. What does this mean for us? Humble and examine yourself for area's of your life that have become twisted. How about your family? Have their expectations of your life and their religious traditions superseded the Truth of Scripture? Have you ever examined the source of your denomination's doctrines, or have you called someone else "Teacher" besides Yahshua? What about your culture's traditions? Have you eagerly swallowed them hook, line, and sinker without even thinking? Hanukkah is about this rededication of yourself to the Truth, and a purging of your holy temple of all things "unclean".
As for Christmas, there is one more interesting connection to Hanukkah. If you study the Torah, all of YHVH's appointed feasts are prophetic shadow pictures pointing to the life of Yahshua. Passover, for example, looks back at YHVH's delivering his people from Egypt, and forward to Yahshua delivering his people from Sin. Pentecost (known in the Torah as Shavout) looks back at the wedding of the people to YHVH at Mt. Sinai (remember the 3,000 that turned away) and looks forward to the wedding of the Holy Spirit to those who believe (and the 3,000 that were saved that day). Likewise Hanukkah, albeit not a Feast commanded in the Torah, looks back a at pure temple in which YHVH was willing to dwell, and forward to the conception of Yahshua, in Mary (a pure, righteous and obedient "temple").
Ironically, the Hebrews start counting the years of someone's life at conception (how's that for pro-life) so Yahshua's real "birthday" fell on or about December 25th after all. The idea of celebrating a God's birthday is seriously not biblical, so don't pull out your Happy Birthday Jesus cake's just yet. Incidentally, 9 months from Hanukkah falls the Feast of Tabernacles, which looks back at YHVH leaving Heaven to dwell with man in the tabernacle, and looks forward to the day he would "tabernacle amongst us" in human flesh.
It was centuries after the Ressurection that the idea of twisting the birthday of the now Roman Sun God with the birthday of Yahshua came about. Just like in the time of Hanukkah, the Emperor issued a decree, and the red and green colors and ribbons of Saturnalia became the colors of Christmas (not called Christmas for another 500 years still to come). Later, the pagan fertility god custom of bringing evergreen trees and wreaths into the house were twisted in.
Even later, Santa Claus, a magical elf (hello?) was twisted in. Throw in the fact that the worlds ecomony would crash (even faster) if we suddenly decided to love one another instead of go shopping during this time of year.
Isn't Hanukkah sounding more "Christian" by the second? If you celebrate Christmas this year, spend some time looking at these scriptures. Challange your family with this fanatical rant and check it against history and the Word. Encourage your Jewish brothers and sisters this time of year as they too gather to remember thier redediction to the One True God, whether they recognize the Messiah yet or not.
As for Kwanza and Ramadan---you're on your own.
I remember a few years ago, when we began to be convicted of our idolotry, Pamela and I decided not to "do" a Christmas tree. On my way home from work, I suddenly was overwhelmed with this guilty feeling about depriving my children. I snuck off to the nursery, and bought the Charlie Browniest tree that was left and tied it to the roof of my car. I ran to Walmart, and bought balls and lights (at full price since it was still 5 hours till Christmas). Everythng was hidden in the garage until after everyone went to sleep. When the kids got up, everything was all ready. I remember my 5 year old son saying with wonder, "Dad. It really is Christmas!". Score one for Dad. Woo Hooo. Actually... not. I had just experienced the "Christmas Spirit", and not in the way that most people desire. The reality of it came later; I was like an alcholic on a bender, sharing a swig with my boy.
Jeremiah 10:2-4: "Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not."
Ephesians 5: 5-16 "Be sure of this, that no immoral or impure or greedy person, that is, an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Messiah and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty arguments, for because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the disobedient. So do not be associated with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth. Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; rather expose them, for it is shameful even to mention the things done by them in secret; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore, it says: "Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Messiah will give you light."
We must watch carefully then how we live, not as foolish persons but as wise, making the most of the opportunity, because the days are evil. Be sure of this, that no immoral or impure or greedy person, that is, an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Messiah and of God.
Welcome to Home Shalom!
Welcome to Home Shalom and Shalom Farm. We pray your visit here be blessed. We are learning to walk in the Ways (Torah) of our Father YHWH and follow Y'shua, His Messiah until He returns to "set things straight". We call it a "Messi-Life". Our walk is neither tidy nor perfect, but it is filled with passion, devotion and desire to serve our King. We are learning to be humble servants, and to be good stewards of the things that He has entrusted to us: His Word, our marriage, our children, our family, our community, our health, and our farm. Hitch your horse and stay a while--our door is always open!