The Baptist is Coming to Wreck Your Party

ImageChristmas was great. We watched the kids dress up like sheep and tell us about the baby Jesus. We opened presents and drove a long way. Things aren’t perfect but they are pretty good. Time for a New Years party!

So what happens next?

What comes after the baby Jesus?  The answer is John the Baptist.  He lives in the wilderness. He eats bugs. He wears clothes that rub his skin raw and he breaks into beehives with his bare hands. His hair is all matted and he has a crazed look in his eyes. Run!  The Baptist is coming to wreck your party.

Here is the deal.  John the Baptist lived a life that should scare us sober.  He was Jesus’ cousin. An angel told his parents that he should follow certain rules for his entire life, the rules of a Nazirite.  You can find these in Numbers chapter 6.  He couldn’t eat or drink anything made from grapes.  But people drank wine at every meal and ate a lot of raisins.  No parties for John. He could never be near a dead body.  If his mom died he couldn’t go to the funeral.  And he could NEVER cut his hair. Just like Samson.  Samson had long braids.  In John’s case think dreadlocks.

At about 13 he left home and lived in the wilderness.  Hot, desert-ish scrubland. He was alone there for 15 years!  What did he do?  He prayed, listened and looked for God.

Around the age of 30 he began yelling a message from God.  Word spread and thousands of people went to hear him.  He yelled at them and then he baptized them. Jesus came. John screamed something about this guy being a lamb and saving the world.  About four people paid attention.

After that he called the king a godless sinner.  They arrested him and chopped off his head.

What kind of life is this?  No friends. No family.  Virtually no childhood. No job, no parties, basically no food, no stuff, no nothing. An entire life devoted to just one word:  REPENT.

And what does that mean?  It means recognize that something is wrong. The world is not just okay. Your life is not just okay.

We are so used to the things being wrong that we put on a smile and ignore them.  The people John spoke to lived in a world filled with evil, corruption and oppression.  But that is how its always been right?  Can’t do anything about that. Just do your best and enjoy what you can.  John said NO.

It’s the same for us. We are blind to the things we do wrong. We shake our heads at the news every day, but do nothing. And just think of all those family issues you ignored last week. John says NO.

The baby Jesus came to bring peace.  But no one can receive Jesus unless they accept what the Baptist has to say.

 

 

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Stop Putting Dresses on the Heavenly Host

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Most modern translations of the New Testament are excellent.  There are however a few places where you are completely surprised if you read the text in the original Greek.  Several of those places have to do with the Christmas story.  The verses that tell this story are so well known that many translations have chosen to keep old words that most people don’t understand, even if they think they doThe worst offender of all is the first half of Luke chapter two, the story of the Shepherds and the Angels.

The New International Version reads in verses 13 -14: Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

A “heavenly host” appears and they say something that looks like a poem or song lyrics. Notice it doesn’t actually say they sing.

Christmas cards, songs, movies and virtually everyone imagines in this verse a magnificent heavenly choir, arrayed in their glowing robes and singing four part harmony while floating in the sky. That is ABSOLUTELY NOT what Luke is describing.   

The Shepherds are Terrified

The first clue is the reaction of the shepherds to the angel that appears in verse nine. The NIV says ‘they were terrified’.  The old King James calls them ‘sore afraid’.  The Greek literally says, ‘they were terrified with a great terror’.  They aren’t just surprised.  They are scared out of their minds. This is always the reaction when people in the Bible see an angel. Maybe they aren’t so friendly looking?

What exactly is a ‘host’?

Many people would say a host is a large number of people, or angels. But in that case Luke would be repeating himself when he says there was a ‘great company’ of the heavenly host. In fact, the word host has a very specific meaning.

The Greek word translated host is the word stratia. It is where we get our word strategy. It has only one basic meaning in New Testament Greek.  It means AN ARMY. Not a choir. It means soldiers in full battle gear formed up for war.

Battle Cry

If this is an army then why are they singing a song?  The answer is they aren’t. Luke doesn’t say they are singing.  They recite a kind of poem together. Did armies do that?  Yes and they still do. ‘One, Two, Three, Four, I love the Marine Corps!  The angel army is chanting a battle cry.  The battle cry is simple. We can paraphrase it like this, “Glory to God in Heaven.  Peace here on the earth to those who are His friends.  The war is about to end. The Enemy is going to die.”

Why is the war over?  Because a baby is born.  The army marches behind its most powerful weapon, its First Soldier, the death blow to Satan and the enemies of God, the baby of Bethlehem.

Isaac Whiting

Leave me a comment and tell me what you think.

Five Reasons to Take a Day of Rest

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by Isaac Whiting

What is It?

It’s a day of rest or a Sabbath.  I’ve heard people call it a Stop Day. The rules are simple. One day a week we don’t schedule anything. No meetings, no errands, no school, no church, no work.  If someone invites us to dinner… maybe.

On our day of rest we try hard to do nothing. I am not saying we don’t do anything.  I am saying we do nothing. The kids have to fend for themselves in the kitchen.  We put our own dishes in the dishwasher, but slowly.  We read some Bible together and sing songs, but only for a little while. We do whatever we want as long as it is completely unproductive.  If it is on your to-do list or you feel the urge to get it done quickly it is off limits. Oh, and we also stay together.

Now, here are five things this has accomplished in my life.

5) Work Hard Without Being Hopeless

                Life used to seem like an endless stream of work and crises.  Work, get it done, kids yelling, too tired, go to bed, get up and do it again.  Now I know the cycle will end once every week.  When I feel too tired to keep going I know a day of rest is coming.

4) Gives Me Bursts of Power

                This is huge.  Sitting around and doing nothing seems like a waste of time.  But its not! All time is not created equal. We have days where everything clicks.  We have times of day where we can come up with amazing thoughts and solve problems quickly. When I take a day of rest every week I have more of these times and stronger.  How much is that worth?  It’s incalculable.

3) Rest Without Guilt

How else can you get rest without guilt?  Unless you have a day where you are not allowed to get things done you will always feel like you are wasting time.  Rest without guilt is true rest.

 

2) Your Family Will Love It

                If you have a family they will all love your rest day.  My children are more excited about this day than they are about video games, movies and candy. The night before a rest day they go to sleep with smiles on their faces.  How rad is that?

 

1)      You Will Love It

                Finally, you will love it. Taking a day of rest has tons of tangible benefits, but the best reason to do anything is love.  I didn’t love them at first, but now I love them. They are peace and joy and life and fun. What are you working for in your life? 

 

 

Exodus and the Bronze Age Collapse

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This post is not well researched. It is just an idea.

Lately I’ve been listening to a podcast that is helping me tremendously to understand the world of the Old Testament. http://ancientworldpodcast.blogspot.ca/  There it is if you are interested.  It traces the first civilizations from pre-history to 500BC.

Here is the most interesting topic and my thoughts on it so far.

The Bronze Age Collapse was the major event of the 12th century BC.  Nearly every near eastern civilization was destroyed or fell into dark ages for a few hundred years. Some of these civilizations had been around for thousands of years previously. It effectively ended the world dominating power of the Pharaohs in Egypt. Hundreds of major cities were burned and destroyed.  Who caused all this destruction?

The word habiru, which is our word Hebrew, was not applied only to the Israelites.  It referred to marginal groups of people that moved outside the bounds of established empires in the 12th century BC.  These groups lived as brigands and nomads.  Why does the word refer specifically to groups in the 12th century?  Because before that there were no groups like this.  These groups are not just nomads. They are civilized people who LEFT.

That means the Hebrews of the Bible were not the only ones.  

These groups are probably responsible for the Bronze Age Collapse. In the face of political and economic repression large groups of people started leaving civilization.  Once they were outside the empires they banded together, despite being from many different races, and then invaded and destroyed the empires they came from.  It was like the first Arab Spring or like the Occupy Movement on steroids.

The question in my mind is how did something like that get started?  No one had ever heard of something like this before.  Ancient peoples believed that their kings were gods.

 What made so many people all at the same time believe they could defy and defeat the gods?

The best date we have for Moses is in the late 13th century BC.  That means all this craziness happened in the aftermath of the Exodus of Israel.  What if the Exodus is what caused all these people to believe they could challenge the gods? What if the Exodus inspired a century of revolutions that took down the entire ancient world.

Check out ancient world episode 9 for the podcast that got me thinking about this.