Hanukkah is not the “Jewish Christmas,” but a celebration of God’s provision for his people and a call to resist the allure of assimilating into a faithless culture. As a Christian pastor, I am well aware that the best person to offer a brief overview of the history and meaning of Hanukkah isn’t me… so please watch this instead.
I get asked by multiple people every year, “What do you think about Hanukkah? As Christians, what should we think about it?” Continue reading →
I love getting questions from readers. Here’s the latest question I’ve received (you can submit your questions HERE
There are many times in Scripture where Paul specifically seems to give conflicting advice. One that always gets me:
1 Corinthians 9:22 – “To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.”
In Acts 21:17-26, Paul goes and joins the four men in their purification rites, so people can see his still observes the old Jewish customs, even though he doesn’t think they’re necessary. This is kind of all the same strain.
Romans 12:2 – “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
If I’m allowed to re-ask the question, I’d put it this way: Is Paul a ministry hypocrite who tells one group one thing and then another group another thing? Let’s look at these individually and then tie them together…
One of my favorite types of posts to write are responses to questions that readers have submitted. If you have a question or suggestion for a future article, please visit here to Ask a Question. Here’s the question for today:
“I came across a passage that I think is really important in the Bible and once again, I wish I knew what it meant. Col 4:6 – let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt. I have heard various interpretations of what that means and I still can’t say I really get it or remember. Yet it’s obviously so important, giving instructions on how we should behave with non- believers.”
The short answer is this: Salt was a preservative that kept meat from going rancid. In the same way, because Christians have received the grace of God through Jesus Christ, our words should be marked by graciousness and a life-giving spirit. Continue reading →
Here is a question I was recently asked by a teenager in my ministry (many of the most difficult theological questions I’ve been asked came from Middle Schooler students). Since it’s such a good question, I can only assume many other would benefit from looking to Scripture for an answer. Here’s the question:
Does God love everyone, or only “his children?”
Christianity is built on the announcement of grace: that by the life, death, resurrection, and coming return of Jesus Christ our freedom from sin and death has been secured, and that our only hope comes by trusting in God’s provision rather than in our own good works. The gospel proclaims salvation as a free gift of faith. It is a message of the love of God for sinners, and yet it also implies that not all will be saved. The gospel is good news because there is bad news: we are all sinners who have heaped up judgment on ourselves. God is not fair – and that’s a good thing… because if God was fair, we’d all receive judgment for our sin.
With this in mind, the above question is perfectly natural because it seems like God must love Christians and hate “sinners.” But is this what the Bible teaches?
As other wealthier Christians were selling their land and donating the money to the church, Ananias and Sapphira saw their opportunity. They wanted to be a power couple in the early life of the church, and this would be how to get there. Perhaps their faith in Christ started off with better motives and they lost their way, but it seems their involvement in the church had become about themselves – not about God, and not about serving others. In the end, they were judged and put to death by God for their deceptive godliness.
This is a Reader Question. You can submit your question by clicking the image above.
I am convinced every church has modern-day Ananias and Sapphiras. Their example reminds us that God cares about motives. It is good to give generously of your time, money, and talents in order to build up the church. However, it is evil to give those things because you want to be seen doing them. The Christian is called to self-forgetfulness, not self-promotion.
Christmas is coming soon, but why do we celebrate Jesus’ birth on December 25th? The Bible makes absolutely no reference to any date, and gives barely any information that could even hint at which season Jesus was born. So how did the Church land on December 25th as our celebration of Christ’s birth? The early evidence shows that it wasn’t until the late 2nd Century until people even started trying to figure out what date Jesus was born. Some Early Church leaders actually argued against trying to determine a date for Jesus’ birthday. Instead, the emphasis was on Jesus’ death and on the specific days and events leading up to his crucifixion and resurrection (since those details are given in Scripture). Since there is so little information about Jesus’ birth, the Early Church was always content to simply emphasize the virgin birth without knowing when exactly Jesus was born.
Interestingly, the “12 Days of Christmas” comes from a disagreement regarding when Christmas should be celebrated.
“The modern Armenian church continues to celebrate Christmas on January 6; for most Christians, however, December 25 would prevail, while January 6 eventually came to be known as the Feast of the Epiphany, commemorating the arrival of the magi in Bethlehem. The period between became the holiday season later known as the 12 days of Christmas.” Andrew McGowan
By the 300’s there were Christian groups regularly celebrating Christ’s birth on December 25th. Before then, the Christians either didn’t care to know Jesus’ birthday or they were still trying to come to agreement.
My son is the only person in his school who doesn’t have an “Elf on the Shelf.” Well, not really. But if you heard him talk, that’s what you’d believe. By now he’s accepted that it’s just not going to happen in our home, but for the first years of elementary school he felt like everyone else had one.
Wikipedia describes the Elf on the Shelf book and accompanying figurine like this,
The story describes how Santa’s “scout Elves” hide in people’s homes to watch over events. Once everyone goes to bed, the scout elf flies back to the North Pole to report to Santa the activities, good and bad, that have taken place throughout the day. Before the family wakes up each morning, the scout elf flies back from the North Pole and hides. By hiding in a new spot each morning around the house, the scout elf and the family play an on-going game of hide and seek.
The book tells how the magic might disappear if the scout elf is touched, so the rule for The Elf on the Shelf states, “There’s only one rule that you have to follow, so I will come back and be here tomorrow: Please do not touch me. My magic might go, and Santa won’t hear all I’ve seen or I know.” Although families are told not to touch their scout elf, they can speak to it and tell it all their Christmas wishes so that it can report back to Santa accurately.
The story ends on Christmas Day with the elf leaving to stay with Santa for the rest of the year until the following Christmas season.
This has become an incredibly popular addition to the Christmas season. Hiding the elf can be fun for parents and fun for kids. It can also be another way for parents to leverage the “magic” of Christmas into having well-behaved children for the month of December.
Is the elf evil? no. Will I stop being friends with you if you have an elf? Maybe. Ok, no I won’t. But I don’t recommend it, especially for those who are Christians and celebrate Advent as the season of anticipation of Christ’s return as we remember his birth.
There are two main reasons my family has not and will not purchase (or accept one if given as a gift) an Elf on the Shelf.