Random Ramblings, Ruminations, and Resources

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A couple of months ago, I “beta tested” a new feature here at the blog, which I alliteratively titled Random Ramblings, Ruminations, and Resources. People seemed to like it … or … at least the majority of readers didn’t seem to hate it too much. So I decided to bring it back every once in a while when I’m feelin’ it.

I’m feelin’ it today. So here’s the Christmas/New Year’s edition of Random Ramblings, Ruminations, and Resources.

Christmas Cards

If you don’t follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest you might have been missing the Christmas-themed memes I’ve been posting since Thanksgiving. Here are a few:

Need Gift Ideas?

I was going to do a whole article on this, but I felt like with this article and this one, readers might be getting tired of articles on Christmas shopping. So, let me just recommend three items I’ve personally gotten my hands on recently that would make great gifts for your pastor or the theology nerd in your family.

Herman Who?– This is an awesome little DVD series from Wretched that will teach you all the ins and outs of biblical hermeneutics (the science of interpreting Scripture) in a four- or twelve-week course. Teacher and student guides are included, and right now, they’re also throwing in a copy of It’s Not Greek to Me (an introduction to biblical Greek) for free.

 

Clouds Without Water II– If you’ve never had the privilege of attending a Justin Peters lecture on the New Apostolic Reformation, this DVD set (revised and updated from the original) is the next best thing. You’ll get the history of the NAR, key figures in the movement, an explanation of NAR “theology” and much more. Helpful for any Christian, but, I’m telling you, your pastor needs this in his personal library. And while you’re over there at his online store, pick him up a copy of Do Not Hinder Them, too, especially if you’re Southern Baptist. (Be sure to scroll all the way down the page. Justin has some special deals on combo packages.)

 

ESV Archaeology Study Bible– I got this the other day as an early Christmas present, and I already love it. Tons of articles, study notes, photos, maps, and diagrams pairing the biblical text with what’s been dug up that relates to that text. It’s just fascinating. You can order directly from Crossway, but they’re offering a special deal through ChristianBook.com right now where you can get the hardcover edition for only $24.99! (Word to the wise- go ahead and get a Bible cover for it now if this is going to be someone’s “walking around” Bible.)

Mary Was the First One to Carry the Gospel

(Ugh, that song skeeves me out.)

But Joseph was a close second. Matthew 1:18-20,24-25 tells us:

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit…When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

In Joseph and Mary’s day, a pregnancy outside of wedlock was much scarier than it is today. Old Testament law called for the death penalty for adultery. If Mary had really committed adultery, Joseph would have been well within his rights to haul her out into the public square and cast the first stone.

But notice that verse 19 says Joseph was both “just” and “unwilling to put her to shame.” He had an obligation to the law, but he loved Mary and wanted to show her mercy so that she might live. Joseph’s dilemma shows us, albeit through a glass darkly, where God stands in relation to sinful mankind.

Though Mary only appeared to have sinned, we really have sinned. And the penalty for our sin is death. But God loves us and wants to show us mercy. And just as an innocent Joseph stepped between Mary and the wrath of the Law that might have been carried out against her, taking her as his wife and bearing her shame and scorn upon his own strong shoulders, God sent the sinless Christ to bear our punishment and our shame, taking us as His bride, so that we might live. But it wasn’t a dilemma for God. He had it all planned out from eternity past.

Mary might have been the first one to carry the gospel, but maybe Joseph was the first one to carry it out.

(I can’t take all the credit for this one. My pastor mentioned the idea of Joseph portraying the gospel in his treatment of Mary in his sermon last week and he said he got it from Herschel Hobbs. I can’t find where Dr. Hobbs shared this idea {if you know, fill me in} to cite it or quote him, so I’ve taken his original thought and used it as a springboard for my own observations.)

Reindeer Games

Need a fun game to play at your Christmas party? Give this one from ornamentshop.com a try!

Here are the answers. No cheating or it’s lumps of coal in your stocking this year!

A 2019 Canon Cleanse

My philosophy of Bible study is pretty simple: Christian women need to study the Bible. Not a steady diet of secondhand accounts of what somebody else has studied (or, heaven forbid, what somebody “heard” God say to her) in “canned” studies, but the Bible itself.

The other day, LifeWay Women tweeted out suggestions of canned studies (you guessed it – most of them authored by false teachers) to kick off the New Year with.

I’d like to challenge you to do something different.

Take this next year to set aside all the pre-fab books, workbooks, DVDs, etc. – even those you consider doctrinally sound – and cleanse your heart, mind, and spirit with the washing of the water of the Word. Just you, your Bible, and, if you’re so inclined, some paper to take notes on.

If you’re not sure how to get started, mark your calendar to check in here on January 1. It’s become my New Year’s Day tradition to post an annual round up of scads of Bible reading plans. Some of them are as short as a few days in length, others, as long as a few years. Some will take you through a biblical topic, some, through a certain part or book of the Bible, some through the whole Bible.

Tune out the noise of other people’s thoughts, ideas, and observations, and hear God speak directly to you through His written Word. Don’t watch someone else mine for gold. Grab your pick and your shovel and discover the joy that only comes from finding that gold for yourself!

Who’s up for the challenge?

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Throwback Thursday ~ The Mailbag: Do Nativity Scenes Break the Second Commandment?

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Originally published December 12, 2016mailbag

 

Are nativity scenes, Christmas ornaments, Christmas pageants, and other Christmas items or activities which portray the baby Jesus (with a figurine, a doll, a live baby, pictures, etc.) breaking the second Commandment even though the portrayal of the baby Jesus isn’t being worshiped?

This isn’t a question I actually received from a reader, but an issue I’ve seen raised and discussed among Christian friends, so I thought it would be a good Christmas time question to address here on The Mailbag.

Some of my brothers and sisters in Christ believe that any representation of Jesus – be it in a manger scene, a painting, a movie, pictures of Jesus in children’s Bibles, flannelgraphs, Bible story pictures used for teaching children or on the mission field, etc. – violates the second Commandment…

You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. Exodus 20:4-6

…whether or not that representation of Jesus is being worshiped. It is the mere act of making or displaying the representation which breaks the Commandment.

Since I had not heard of this concept until fairly recently, and because it was coming from doctrinally sound friends I respect, I wanted to take a closer look at the pertinent Scriptures to make sure I wasn’t doing something wrong. I’ve had nativity scenes and children’s Bibles and used flannelgraphs and been in Christmas musicals that depict Jesus all my life and never gave it a second thought. But if having and doing those things conflicts with Scripture, I want to stop.

But, having examined the Scriptures in context, while I respect and admire my friends’ desire to honor the Lord by not using representations of Him, I simply don’t find that the Bible prohibits depicting Jesus in reverent, not-for-the-purpose-of-worship ways. Here’s why:

1. Consider the macro-context of Exodus 20. What was going on in the history and culture of Israel at that time? (If you’re participating in The 10, you probably already know the answer!) God was setting Israel apart from other nations as His own special possession and establishing Israel as a nation. And what was the preeminent characteristic that was to set Israel apart from the pagan nations? Israel was to be a witness to all the nations of the one true God. They were not to worship idols (which, at that time, were generally carved figures of created things). Not instead of God. Not in addition to God. Not at all. The second Commandment is a command not to worship carved figures as idols.

2. Examine the immediate context of Exodus 20:4-6. It follows verses 1-3, which establish the supremacy of God above all other gods, and specifically state that Israel is not to worship any other gods.

3. Take a close look at the content of Exodus 20:4-6. The passage doesn’t say anything about making a representation of God Himself. Jesus had not yet been born when this was written, so this passage could not have been talking about making a representation of Jesus. It talks about making representations of created things in the sky (planets, the sun, etc.), on the earth, and in the water, and worshiping them. And certainly, calling any graven images “God” and worshiping them as God would also be prohibited (Remember the golden calf incidents?)

4. It would seem to me that to be consistent in saying “no representations of Jesus” folks who hold to this belief would also have to say “no representations of anything” because what Exodus 20:4 plainly says is “you shall not make for yourself…any likeness of anything.” No photographs of anything, no drawings, paintings, or sculpture of anything, no Xeroxing anything, nothing. In fact, I think that would be closer to the actual wording of the passage than “no representations of Jesus,” which, again, this passage does not mention.

5. The cross references I found for Exodus 20:4 are Leviticus 26:1, Deuteronomy 27:15, and Psalm 97:7. All of them refer to idol worship.

6. There are at least two occasions in the Old Testament in which God instructs Moses to make a graven figure, and both of these instances are far more conducive to actual worship of the figures than a nativity scene or a Sunday School flannelgraph.

The first instance – just five chapters after the second Commandment – is found in God’s instructions for the Ark of the Covenant. God instructs Moses to have the people make two cherubim (angels) for the mercy seat (lid) of the Ark. They were not to worship the cherubim (or the Ark), but the Ark was the holiest object used in Israel’s worship ceremonies. It would have been easy for the people to cross the line and worship it or the cherubim, yet God commanded the making of these not-for-worship figures to point the people to Him. (And guess what was put into the Ark right underneath those graven figures? The two tablets of the 10 Commandments, including the second Commandment.)

The second instance was when God instructed Moses to make the bronze serpent. Anyone who had been fatally snake-bitten could look up at the serpent and his life would be spared. How much more likely would an Israelite have been to worship the bronze serpent, commissioned by God and instrumental in saving his life than we are to worship a picture of Jesus in a children’s Bible? Jesus Himself said that this graven figure pointed ahead to His death on the cross, using it as an illustration of His crucifixion. Much like a nativity scene is an illustration of His incarnation.

Now, if God Himself commissioned the casting of these figures of created things, not to be worshiped, but as tools to point people to Himself, would it stand to reason that He would prohibit reverent representations of Christ that point to or teach about Him? Comparing the second Commandment with these two instances of graven figures demonstrates to us that God expects His people to be able to distinguish between using objects as tools or illustrations that point to Him and worshiping those objects.


In the end, this issue is an issue of Christian liberty. It is not a sin nor a violation of the second Commandment to use reverent representations of Christ to point people to Him. It is also not a sin to desire to honor the Lord by refraining from using representations of Christ and finding other ways to point people to Him. Whichever side of the issue we come down on, let us make sure we are respectful and loving to those on the other side, not making a law for them where no law exists, nor accusing one side of sin or the other of legalism.

P.S. My friend Pastor Gabe, of When We Understand the Text, does a Q&A episode of his podcast every Friday. He was looking for Christmasy questions to answer, so I sent this question to him last week. Hear his answer here at the 13:36 mark.


If you have a question about: a well known Christian author/leader, a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Imperishable Beauty: Lesson 10- Beautiful Daughterhood

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Ladies- this will be our last lesson for 2018.
We will pick up with lesson 11 in early January.

Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

Read These Selected Scriptures

In lesson 9, we looked at having beautiful feet that take the good news of the gospel to a lost and dying world. Starting with lesson 10, our lessons will be focusing more specifically on God’s unique roles for women, beginning with our role as daughters.

Questions to Consider

1. Before we delve into the Scriptures, take a moment to think about your parents and your role as their daughter. Describe how your relationship functions. Is it loving and healthy, or strained and difficult? Are you a child, adolescent, or adult? Are your parents saved or unsaved? Living or deceased? Present in your life or absent? Caring or abusive? Every relationship is different, so you will need to be careful to wisely apply today’s Scriptures to your relationship with your parents. What can our relationship with our parents teach us about our relationship with God? How does being a godly daughter to your parents reflect being a godly daughter of God?

2. Examine the Exodus, Ephesians, and Colossians passages together. What are the similarities and differences among these verses? What is the main verb in Exodus 20:12? In the Ephesians and Colossians verses? To what group of people are the Ephesians and Colossians verses addressed? The Exodus verse? What is the difference between obeying your parents and honoring your parents? Is there ever an age at which adults no longer have to obey their parents, but continue to honor them? Describe this dynamic with your own parents.

What do these verses say are the consequences of obeying or honoring one’s parents? Be sure to consider the context of what was happening in Israel’s history with regard to the promise attached to Exodus 20:12. How does the Colossians verse best explain the consequences of honoring and obeying one’s parents?

How does God use the parent-child relationship to introduce us to the idea that He is our supreme Father? That we are to honor Him, obey Him, and submit to His authority?

3. Consider how a godly woman might show honor to parents who abused or neglected her. How could she honor them by sharing the gospel with them, praying for them, forgiving them, or blessing them? How can a godly woman honor parents who are deceased or whom she never knew?

4. Examine the John passage. How did Jesus set an example of honoring His mother? Can you think of any other instances from Jesus’ life that show Him honoring His parents? How can you imitate Him with regard to your parents?

5. Consider the Proverbs and 1 Timothy passages together. What do these passages teach us about caring for our parents in their old age? To whom does God reserve the ministry of caring for widows (and, by extension, elderly relatives) in 1 Timothy 5:16? Explain how God has uniquely equipped women to serve their families and their churches this way. Why does God choose to honor women with this special position of ministry instead of men? How can a woman be a daughter to elderly relatives she is caring for even if they are not her parents?

6. Study the Luke and Matthew passages together. Describe how the gospel can cause a rift between a believing daughter/(in-law) and her unsaved parents/(in-law). To Whom are we to give our highest love and loyalty? Why? Explain why Jesus’ remarks in the Matthew and Luke passages do not conflict with the Exodus/Ephesians/Colossians admonitions to honor and obey one’s parents. What are some ways a believing daughter/(in-law) honor her lost parents/(in-law)?

Explain Matthew 19:29 in terms of God blessing Believers with spiritual fathers and mothers, especially when their biological parents are lost. How can we, as godly daughters, honor our spiritual fathers and mothers? How is God a “Father to the fatherless” for those who have unbelieving parents?

7. Summarize, in your own words, a biblical perspective of “daughterhood”. How does obeying, honoring, and submitting to the authority of our parents teach us to obey, honor, and submit to the authority of God? How is being a godly daughter to your parents, those you love like parents, and your spiritual parents, a major component of biblical womanhood?


If you’d like to discuss this lesson with other women who are participating in the study, join our  Imperishable Beauty Bible Study Discussion Group on Facebook.


Homework

Read the book of Ruth and/or Esther, specifically examining their example as daughters. How did Ruth and Esther exemplify godly daughterhood as adults, even though Ruth was Naomi’s daughter-in-law and Esther was Mordecai’s cousin?


Suggested Memory Verse

Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
Exodus 20:12

Favorite Finds ~ December 11, 2018

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Here are a few of my favorite recent online Christmas finds…

Christmas might be the easiest time of the year to get a foot in the door to share the gospel with unsaved friends, loved ones and strangers. That’s why I love this article by Allen Nelson over at Things Above Us called A Christmas Gift for You. You can share it around on your social media pages to help others understand what Christ did to save us. And if you’d like to use it as a devotion at a Christmas party, tuck it into your Christmas cards, use it as a bulletin insert at church, or something like that, you can contact Allen for permission to reprint it.

 

If you love Handel’s Messiah, check out Messiah: The Podcast Series Advent Calendar. “It took George Frideric Handel 24 days to complete the musical score of Messiah – the most famous oratorio ever written. This podcast advent calendar tells all the stories about the people, the places, the music, the drama and the gossip that is connected to the maiden performance in Dublin 275 years ago.” (I think this is more of a history website than a Christian website.)

 

Wonder why some Christmas songs are so ear-catchingly popular? Music nerds can tell you, and here’s one to do just that. Vox gives us Adam Ragusea explaining The Secret Chord that Makes Christmas Music Sound So Christmasy. 

 

And speaking of Christmas music…need some to listen to? Amazon has several Christmas songs and albums you can download for free! (Listen discerningly.) And if you’re shopping at Amazon, be sure to check out Amazon Smile and donate part of your purchase to the Christian ministry, organization, or church of your choice!

 

When Christians think “Christmas” we usually think Luke 2, and maybe Matthew 1-2. But…John? My friend and fellow LSU alum, Nicholas Maricle, shares this lovely article on the Incarnation: John 1, the Word, and Jesus over at his blog Thinking Theologically. Do yourself a favor and give him a follow!

 

Josh Buice has another awesome quiz for us at his blog, Delivered by Grace. Test your knowledge with: Christmas Quiz: How much do you know?

 

And last of all, an early Christmas present for me (thanks to reader and contributor, Laura!). Phil Johnson and Todd Friel discussed part of my article Women and False Teachers: Why Men Don’t Get It, and Why It’s Imperative That They Do on the December 10 episode of the Too Wretched for Radio podcast (around the 15:42 mark). I’ve mentioned that Todd was the first to introduce me to the idea of biblical discernment when I “accidentally stumbled across” the Wretched TV show one night while flipping through the channels. And I listen to Phil often, love his preaching, and have a great deal of respect for him on a number of different levels. So while this brief mention on a podcast that the majority of the world has never heard of wouldn’t mean much to most people, it was a real honor for me.

The Mailbag: Christmas Mythbusters

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mailbag

 

Was Jesus really born in a barn? Did the angels actually sing? How many wise men were there, really?

There are lots of components of the Christmas story that we’ve come to accept as gospel truth, but that the Bible doesn’t actually teach. Here are some great resources to help us better understand the details surrounding the biblical account of the birth of Christ.

Please note, I am not thoroughly familiar with the theology of every site linked below. I have only vetted the specific articles that are linked. I do not endorse anything at the sites below that conflict with my theology as outlined in my “Statement of Faith” and “Welcome” tabs at the top of this page. Please reject any theology you come across at these sites that conflicts with God’s Word.

 

Did Mary ride a donkey to Bethlehem?

The Bible doesn’t tell us, so we don’t know for sure. She could have ridden a donkey. She could have ridden in a cart. She could have walked. All Scripture tells us is that Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem. It doesn’t say how they got there.

 

Was Mary in the throes of labor when she and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem?

It makes for dramatic nativity movies, but it’s very unlikely. God Himself had given Joseph the enormous and grave task of taking care of Mary and Jesus. You’ve seen first time dads and the weight of responsibility they feel to protect and provide for their wives and their own babies. This was God’s Son. Joseph must have been quaking in his sandals to make sure he got everything right. He certainly would not have waited until Mary was near her due date and risked her delivering the baby in the open country on the trip (not to mention outside of Bethlehem, which would have failed to fulfill prophecy).

Luke 2:6 says:

And while they were there [in Bethlehem], the time came for her to give birth.

“While they were there,” not “as soon as they got there.” “The time came,” not “IT’S TIME, JOSEPH! Find me a room NOW!” The phraseology of this verse suggests that Mary and Joseph spent some time in Bethlehem before Jesus was born. Rather than taking Mary to Bethlehem at the last minute, it’s much more likely that Joseph carefully prepared for the trip, made sure to get there with plenty of time to spare, and made arrangements to stay in Bethlehem until the baby was born.

 

Was Jesus born in a barn or stable? And what about that innkeeper?

Luke 2:7 tells us:

And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

To our western minds, an inn is like a hotel – a business that rents rooms to travelers.  But in biblical times, the cultural rules of hospitality dictated that travelers stay with family, friends, or anyone who would extend hospitality to them. Thus, there was no hotel-like “inn” in Bethlehem, and, of course, no innkeeper.

The Greek word kataluma, usually rendered as “inn” in Luke 2:7 is more accurately rendered “guest room” or “upper room” (of a home) – the same sort of “upper room” Jesus used for the Last Supper. One of Joseph’s relatives would have welcomed him and Mary into their home when they got to Bethlehem. But because Bethlehem was packed with visitors arriving for the census, the guest room of the home they stayed in was likely already full. So instead of giving birth in the crowded upper room of the home, Mary moved to the lower room. This lower room would have had space for the animals to be brought in at night, complete with a feed trough (manger), giving her a convenient cradle for the little Lord Jesus to lay down His sweet head. Jesus was not born in the kind of barn or stable we think of in America and usually see in traditional nativity scenes.

Once more: Jesus was not born in a stable by Ian Paul

Born in a Barn (Stable)? at Answers in Genesis

Jesus Was Born in a Barn? at When We Understand the Text

 

Did Jesus cry as a baby?

The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes
But little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes

Until I started researching this article, I didn’t realize that some people think Jesus never cried as a baby because of these two lines from the Christmas carol Away in a Manger.

I don’t think that was the hymnist’s intent. The stanza reads as though, in that particular moment when He woke up, Jesus was content and happy, not that He never ever cried.

Furthermore, we know from Scripture that Jesus was not only fully God, He was also fully human. Human babies cry when they’re hungry or tired or sick or in pain or a thousand other scenarios. That’s how they communicate. Jesus was a real live human baby who cried, nursed, spit up, burped, needed His diaper changed, fell down when He was learning to walk, and had to be potty trained. The only type of crying we know He never did was sinful crying – because He didn’t get His own way, because He was angry and frustrated, etc. – since we know Jesus was without sin.

 

Hark! Did the “herald angels” actually sing?

It’s possible, but we don’t know for sure. We know that the gloria in excelsis deo proclamation was spoken to the shepherds because Luke 2:13-14 says.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

But it also says they were praising God. In the Bible, though praise can be expressed in many ways, singing is one of the most common and natural ways of praising God. So while we know the angels weren’t singing exclusively, there’s no reason they couldn’t have been singing at some point.

Hark! The Herald Angels Said? at Answers in Genesis

Do Angels Sing? at Got Questions

 

How many wise men were there, exactly?

At least two (because the Bible speaks of them in the plural), but possibly a whole passel of them. Our minds are set to “three” because the Bible mentions that they brought three gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh, because of Christmas carols like We Three Kings, and because every nativity set comes equipped with three wise men. But it’s just as possible that two wise men gave three gifts, or that three gifts were given corporately by a larger group of wise men.

We Three Kings at Answers in Genesis

What does the Bible say about the three wise men (Magi)? at Got Questions

How many wise men came after Jesus was born? at CARM

 

Were Anna and Simeon married to each other?

Nope.

The end of Luke 2 tells us the story of Mary and Joseph taking Jesus to the temple to offer the appropriate sacrifice for Him as “the first male to open the womb”. While they’re there, Simeon shows up and prophesies over Jesus and Mary. And “at that very hour” Anna also “began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.” But nowhere does the passage even hint that they were married to each other, or that they even knew one another.

I think a lot of people mentally marry Anna to Simeon because their stories are back to back, because they showed up at the temple at the same time, and because we tend to assume they were both elderly. (Anna was at least 84, but, technically, we’re never told Simeon’s age or that he was elderly.) But verse 37 clearly tells us that Anna “lived as a widow”. She wasn’t married to anyone, including Simeon.

Who was Simeon in the Bible? at Got Questions

Who was Anna the prophetess in the Bible? at Got Questions

 

How many babies were murdered in the slaughter of the innocents?

Matthew 2:16 tells us that an enraged King Herod “sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under” in an attempt to murder Jesus. We tend to think of scores, even hundreds, of babies being murdered in this event which has come to be known as “The Slaughter [or Massacre] of the Innocents.” But as the beloved Christmas carol states, it’s “O little town of Bethlehem”. Bethlehem had a population of approximately 1500. Statistically speaking, scores or hundreds of baby boys age two and under in a population that size would have been impossible. Twelve to fifteen – still a horrifying tragedy- would be more accurate.

Truth or Fiction: Did Herod Really Slaughter Baby Boys in Bethlehem? by Paul Maier

The Slaughter of the Innocents: Historical Fact or Legendary Fiction? at Associates for Biblical Research


(Bonus Resource: Pastor Gabe Hughes over at When We Understand the Text is running a special series this month called 25 Christmas Myths and What the Bible Says.)


There are lots of sentimental and striking details of the Christmas story we’ve come to embrace over the years, but it’s imperative that we get our theology from the Bible, not Christmas carols, traditions, and assumptions. Yet even more important than donkeys and stables and wise men is why Jesus came – to save sinners like you and me.


If you have a question about: a well known Christian author/leader, a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Top 10 Worst Christmas Songs of All Time ~ 2

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There are so many fun and joyful Christmas carols and songs we love to sing at this time of year …. and so many that drive us bonkers! The Top 10 Worst Christmas Songs of All Time has become an annual tradition here on the blog. But every year I get more and more suggestions of songs to add to the list. There sure are a lot of cringey Christmas tunes being crooned out there! You asked for it, so here it is – in no particular order – ten more of my top picks for worst Christmas songs of all time.

1. Please, Daddy, Don’t Get Drunk this Christmas – I can just picture the artistic meetings that took place on this one: “We need a new Christmas song for your next album, John. Any ideas?” “How about a potential domestic violence case set to country music? That’ll fill everybody’s heart with Christmas cheer!” 

 

2. Dominick the Donkey
Dear Italy,
Please stick with what you do best – food.

 

3. Happy X-Mas, War is Over (So This Is Christmas) – Excuse me, but I think you’re looking for Woodstock. Go back several decades and hang a left.

 

4. I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas – Why not? I wanted a monkey for Christmas when I was a kid. I stand in solidarity with this kid and every other kid who wanted a ridiculous animal for Christmas and never got one. (To be honest, I think this song is kinda cute {be sure to catch grown-up Gayla singing it at the end of the video}. I include it on behalf of all my readers who said it’s driving them to the loony bin.)

 

5. Hard Candy Christmas – Maybe I’ll wallpaper my bathroom. Maybe I’ll get a mohawk. Maybe I’ll eat cold Spaghettios right out of the can. MAKE👏UP👏YOUR👏MIND👏

 

6. Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time – There’s good 80’s synthesizer and there’s bad 80’s synthesizer. I’ll let you guess which one earned this song a spot on the list.

 

7. White Winter Hymnal – “It’s lyrically fairly meaningless.” That’s what the songwriter had to say about this song. Dude, lemme ‘splain you something about songwriting. When you have a cool piece of music like this, don’t waste it on meaningless lyrics. Collaborate with a good writer and make it an awesome song with meaning. (Let me also take this opportunity for my annual reminder: Pentatonix is not a Christian group, regardless of the songs they record. According to Pride magazine, “Two of Pentatonix’s members, Scott Hoying and Mitch Grassi, are openly gay, and the group vocally supports the LGBT community.)

 

8. Driving Home for Christmas – This song is the musical equivalent of driving across west Texas. And by that, I mean – monotonous. (Sorry west Texas, but you know it’s true.) At least he didn’t regale us with the number of each mile marker as he passed it. Thank the Lord for small favors.

 

9. I’m Gettin’ Nuttin for Christmas – Quick! Somebody get the rod of correction – this kid is out of control! Cute, but not your best work, Shirl.

 

10. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus – Kid witnesses Mom stepping out on Dad and is traumatized for life. Just one more reason not to lie to your kids about Santa Claus. (Tell them it’s Dad, ladies, and you can kiss him all you want! :0)

 

What do you think? Did your “worst song” make the list?

Throwback Thursday ~ Top 10 Worst Christmas Songs of All Time

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Originally published December 12, 2014christmas 10

For me, part of the reason Christmas is the “most wonderful time of the year” is the music. There are the old favorites as well as some great new songs that have come out over the years. Unfortunately, there are some stinkers out there, too. Everybody has her own taste, so the songs that give you the Christmas crazies are probably different from the ones that get on my nerves, but, here, in no particular order, are my ten picks for the worst Christmas songs of all time.

1. The Christmas Shoes– Hi, we’re going to write a song that’s a blatant attempt at emotional manipulation, and then if you say you don’t like it, people will think you’re heartless. Merry Christmas.

 

2. Last Christmas– Really? We have to listen to co-dependent whining about a break up in a Christmas song? And from Wham?

 

3. Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer– This has such a catchy tune. It’s too bad the family in this song belongs on Jerry Springer.

 

4. Same Old Lang Syne– This is my pick for the absolute worst “Christmas” song (it really has nothing to do with Christmas) of all time. The only good thing I can say about this is, at least the people in the song didn’t actually have an affair. It’s bleak, it’s immoral, it’s depressing, and it’s the same four bars of melody over. and. over. and. over.

 

5. Must Have Been Old Santa Claus– “Happy ho, ho, ho to you.” Four million times. Kill me. Kill me now.

 

6. Baby, It’s Cold Outside– Because nothing says “Merry Christmas” like attempted date rape by a drink drugging letch.

 

7. Santa Baby– They could have named this song “Sugar Daddy” or “Implied Sexual Favors in Exchange for Obscenely Expensive Gifts.” Same thing.

 

8. Mistletoe– I’m just going to make a rule right here, right now: no Christmas songs that force middle-aged people to go to Urban Dictionary to understand the lyrics. My kids had to explain to me what “shawty” means. Apparently, it’s similar to a “bae.”

 

9. Do They Know It’s Christmas?– Stop having Christmasy fun RIGHT NOW. Just STOP IT. Don’t you know there are people starving in Africa, you soulless oaf? And, seriously, who puts the word “doom” in a Christmas song?

 

10. Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s Christmas Canon– It pains me to list this one because I love TSO, I love children’s choirs, I love Pachelbel’s Canon in D, and I love the idea of trying to Christmas it up. But I would rather eat a ten year old fruitcake than listen to this.

 

 Agree? Disagree?
What do you think is the worst Christmas song of all time?

If you love to hate these 10, be sure to stop back by the blog tomorrow for volume 2 of Top 10 Worst Christmas songs of all time!

Imperishable Beauty: Lesson 9- Beautiful Feet (Evangelism)

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Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

Read These Selected Scriptures

Lesson 8 was all about obeying, and being “doers” of, God’s Word. Today, we’re taking a look at one way of “doing” the Word: having beautiful feet that take the good news of the gospel to a lost and dying world.

Questions to Consider

1. What is evangelism? In your own words, give a brief definition of what evangelism involves and why we evangelize. Briefly review lessons 7-8 (links above). Describe how knowing and loving God’s Word (lesson 7) leads to obeying God’s Word (lesson 8), which leads to sharing the gospel with others.

2. If evangelism is sharing the gospel with others, we want to be certain we’re sharing the complete and true gospel. Briefly review my article: Basic Training: The Gospel and the Scriptures it contains.

3. Study the Matthew 28 passage. This passage of Scripture is often called The Great Commission. Break the passage down into three parts, and exposit each part:

The Preamble (18): Describe Jesus’ authority, motivation, and reasons for giving the instructions and promise that follow.

The Prescription (19-20a): What are the four verbs (action words) in this passage that Christ instructs us to do? Explain how Christians in general, and you personally, can carry out each of these actions.

The Promise (20b): What promise does Christ make to us as we carry out The Great Commission? What are some of the things He does not promise us? Explain why His promise to be with us is the perfect promise – the one we need the most – as we share the gospel with others.

4. Examine Acts 1:8 (and read verses 1-7 for context) and Romans 10:13-15. In your own words, set the scene for Jesus speaking the words in Acts 1:8. How is verse 8 an explanation of the word “go” in Jesus’ instructions to the disciples in The Great Commission? Who will empower them to carry out The Great Commission? Relate this empowerment to the authority Jesus spoke of in Matthew 28:18. How are they to make disciples? Think of a witness in a courtroom. How were the disciples witnesses of Christ? Where are they to “go therefore” to find these people to witness Christ to and make into disciples? How does Romans 10:13-15 also explain the “how to” of The Great Commission? Why are the feet of those who bring the gospel “beautiful”?

5. Look at a 1st century map containing Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria. Think about what you know (or search a concordance) about the disciples’ relationship to each of these places. Was Jesus just naming random places for them to go preach the gospel? What was the meaning the disciples would have mentally attached to each of these places that told them about the people they would be reaching in each of these places? Explain the expanding geography of the gospel: Jerusalem→Judea→Samaria→ends of the earth.

How can you make application of both of these points (the meaning of each place and the expanding geography of the gospel) to your own life and to your church? How can you take the gospel to:

“Jerusalem”– The people and physical location closest to you: members of your own household, family, closest friends. Your neighborhood, community, town.

“Judea”– People who aren’t quite as close, literally or figuratively: acquaintances, co-workers, extended family, cashiers/bank tellers/service people/your child’s teacher. People who live in farther away areas of your state or country.

“Samaria”– Remember the Jews’ and Samaritans’ attitudes toward each other? Explain how The Great Commission involves going out of your way to take the gospel, not just to the people you like and have much in common with, but to our enemies, or to people who look, talk, and act differently than we do, and are from different backgrounds and cultures.

“The Ends of the Earth”– How can we reach “the ends of the earth”? Have you ever seriously considered working in full-time, vocational missions, either as a field missionary or on staff with a support organization? Give it some thought. But even if God has not called us to vocational missions, we can still “hold the rope” for those who go. What are some ways you and your church can support missionaries, missions organizations, Bible translators, indigenous pastor training programs, etc.?

6. Study the 2 Corinthians passage. What is the message Christ has entrusted to us? What does it mean that we have been given the ministry of reconciliation, that we are ambassadors for Christ, and that God makes His appeal through us?

7. “Put flesh on” The Great Commission by reading the story of Philip (Acts 8) and/or the story of the woman at the well (John 4, especially v. 28-30, 39-42). What catches your eye about the way s/he shared the good news of Jesus? In what way did s/he set a good example for Christians today of sharing the gospel? What was the effect on the person(s) being shared with? How do these two stories demonstrate that God can use our circumstances, skills, and personalities as tools for sharing the gospel?


If you’d like to discuss this lesson with other women who are participating in the study, join our  Imperishable Beauty Bible Study Discussion Group on Facebook.


Homework

Read one of the articles below, choose one of the resources or practical suggestions for sharing the gospel, and implement it this week.

10 Fun, Practically Effortless, and Free Ways to Do Missions and Evangelism

10 Ways to Share the Gospel During the Holidays

Share the Gospel Like a Twelve Year Old

Street Preaching: A Call to Arms


Suggested Memory Verse

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:18-20

The 25 Churches of Christmas

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This Christmas season, I’d like to offer you an opportunity to help me give our brothers and sisters in Christ a gift – a gift that won’t cost you a dime.

If you’ve followed me for a minute, you know I’m passionate about helping people find doctrinally sound churches to join. And if you’ve ever perused my list of Reader Recommended Churches, you’ve probably noticed that we have tons of listings for churches in some states, only one or two for others, and hardly any for countries outside the U.S.

What I’m hoping to do is add 25 doctrinally sound churches to the list in the states and countries that are lacking. Of course anyone is welcome to recommend a church anywhere, but in order for it to “count” toward The 25 Churches of Christmas, it needs to be a recommendation for a church:

⛪️ in one of our U.S. states that has two or fewer recommendations (currently: Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, West Virginia)

OR

⛪️ a church in any country besides the U.S.

I’ve made the list, you check it twice. If recommendations are naught, be nice and make one! :0) If you have a personal connection to a solid church that’s not on the list, comment below with:

🎄The full, correctly spelled name of the church
🎄The city and state, or city and country it’s located in
🎄The church’s website (please, please, please include this – it saves me a lot of time).

Think we can add 25 churches by Christmas Day? Let’s give it a shot and make it a merry Christmas for our brothers and sisters who are searching for a new church! Thanks for your help! :0)

The Mailbag: My kid knows the truth about Santa. What if he tells his friends who don’t?

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We have raised our five year old to know that Santa Claus isn’t real. Now that he’s getting old enough to have conversations with his little friends, how do we explain to him what to say to them when they talk about believing in Santa? I don’t want him to crush their dreams but I also don’t want to teach him to perpetuate the lie for his friends.

This is a great question, and one my husband and I also had to address with our own children, since we raised them to know that Santa Claus isn’t real.

Before I tackle your question, I’d like to address Christian parents who tell their children Santa Claus is real, that he is the one who brings their presents, etc.:

I’m sure you have the best of intentions and only want to make Christmas fun for your children, but when you tell them these things about Santa Claus, you are lying.

Santa Claus isn’t real. If you tell your children he is, or that he is the one who brings their presents, or that he knows whether they’ve been naughty or nice, you’re lying. The Bible says that lying is a sin, period. There’s no exception for jolly old elves who pass out toys (or for tooth fairies or Easter bunnies, either, for that matter). And not only is lying a sin, it is extraordinarily hypocritical to lie to your children about Santa Claus and then turn around later and punish them when they lie about something. Lying to your children about Santa Claus teaches them that it’s OK to lie (i.e. sin) when you want to or when it would be to your advantage.
Excerpted from: The Mailbag: What should we tell our kids about Santa Claus?

And this reader has raised another ripple effect of your sin of lying. You’ve now put your brothers and sisters in Christ in the difficult position of figuring out how not to blow your cover when their child (who knows the truth) interacts with yours. Do they teach their child to take part in your lie, or do they risk their child telling the truth, disappointing your child and possibly angering you? And think about the pressure on a five year old child to try to keep something like that a secret, knowing someone will be disappointed if he doesn’t. You’ve created a no-win situation for people you are supposed to self-sacrificially love, encourage, and edify.

Our sin always negatively affects others.

We did our best to thread the needle by teaching our children to stay out of it. Every year, we reminded our kids – before family gatherings, play dates, etc. – that some kids believe Santa is real. If a friend inquired, “What did you ask Santa for this year?”, our kids could reply, “I asked my parents for a bike.” If any of their friends asked them if Santa was real, we told our kids to tell their friends to ask their parents.

You might want to give something like that a try, or maybe you can come up with a different solution that’s helpful to the situation. Don’t fret about it, though. Most kids learn the truth about Santa between ages 5 to 10, and most of them learn it from their friends. If you have a friend who freaks out at you because your five year old told the truth about something, it could be time to reevaluate that friendship, or at least the level of intimacy of that friendship. (And if it’s a family member, well…this, too, shall pass.)

However you teach your child to handle the situation, be sure you’re not conveying the idea that we cover up the sin (the lie that Santa is real) of others. We tried to go at it from the angle of our kids telling the other kids, “That’s a topic that should stay between you and your parents.” It’s pretty much the same way we later handled the situation of what to do if your friends ask you where babies come from (“You need to ask your parents about that.”)

Also keep in mind that, even though it may feel like you’re the Grinch if your child spills the beans about Santa, you’re not, despite the fact that others may treat you that way. If you’re humbly doing what is right in God’s eyes and the other person is doing what is wrong, you’re not the problem in that situation.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.