Christmas Is War

What happens at Christmas? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We’re visiting my family in Knoxville which means going to our old church here to hear a sermon and see people we know. We heard a sermon about how some people don’t have joy at Christmas and Christmas is really for them. I thought about that more last night. We often celebrate Christmas as a time of joy and gladness, and we should, but let us never lose sight of the fact that this is not the way Christmas was originally.

I don’t mean by the original usage what the later church did. I mean the real birth of Christ. Let’s go to see what the Bible says was going on. My favorite account of this is not in Matthew or Luke. It’s in Revelation.

Then I witnessed in heaven an event of great significance. I saw a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon beneath her feet, and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant, and she cried out because of her labor pains and the agony of giving birth.

Then I witnessed in heaven another significant event. I saw a large red dragon with seven heads and ten horns, with seven crowns on his heads. His tail swept away one-third of the stars in the sky, and he threw them to the earth. He stood in front of the woman as she was about to give birth, ready to devour her baby as soon as it was born.

She gave birth to a son who was to rule all nations with an iron rod. And her child was snatched away from the dragon and was caught up to God and to his throne. And the woman fled into the wilderness, where God had prepared a place to care for her for 1,260 days.

Then there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon and his angels. And the dragon lost the battle, and he and his angels were forced out of heaven. This great dragon—the ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, the one deceiving the whole world—was thrown down to the earth with all his angels.

Then I heard a loud voice shouting across the heavens,

“It has come at last—
    salvation and power
and the Kingdom of our God,
    and the authority of his Christ.
For the accuser of our brothers and sisters
    has been thrown down to earth—
the one who accuses them
    before our God day and night.
And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb
    and by their testimony.
And they did not love their lives so much
    that they were afraid to die.
Therefore, rejoice, O heavens!
    And you who live in the heavens, rejoice!
But terror will come on the earth and the sea,
    for the devil has come down to you in great anger,
    knowing that he has little time.”

When the dragon realized that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. But she was given two wings like those of a great eagle so she could fly to the place prepared for her in the wilderness. There she would be cared for and protected from the dragon for a time, times, and half a time.

Then the dragon tried to drown the woman with a flood of water that flowed from his mouth. But the earth helped her by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that gushed out from the mouth of the dragon.And the dragon was angry at the woman and declared war against the rest of her children—all who keep God’s commandments and maintain their testimony for Jesus.

Then the dragon took his stand on the shore beside the sea.

This is the world Jesus was born in. The world of Rome was not a friendly place. It was a sexually loose culture where women were seen purely as objects and children could be put to death for most any reason a father wanted. Slavery was seen as normal and it would have been revolutionary to suggest that it should not be. What we consider to be obvious answers to moral questions were not obvious to them. Those of us who are Christians believe also the works of the evil one were there. We can say John was exaggerating in 1 John 5:19, but that exaggeration surely had a point to it.

We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.

We could even ask where would the evil one be wanting to be the most active? It’s not in the areas that have already conquered. It would be going after the areas you still want to control. That would be the land of Israel, the very land Jesus was born in. We know in His ministry He encountered several demon-possessed people.

Jesus came into a world where things were hopeless. The Jews were looking for a promised Messiah and faced against the greatest empire the world had ever seen. Just a couple of centuries earlier, the empire of Carthage had not been able to defeat this force and militarily, Israel could not produce a stronger force. An act of YHWH could overcome, but YHWH had been silent for centuries.

Jesus came into this world. Jesus came into enemy territory as a baby and grew up fighting the enemy head on. This is the story of Christmas. We often think that there are people who are in hopeless situations, but these are the ones that Christmas is for the most. Christmas is not for people who have hope. They do not need hope. It is the hopeless that need hope. It is the hopeless that Christmas is meant to give hope to.

Earlier, I said the moral questions we consider to have obvious answers were not obvious to them. The Christians were the most counter-cultural people back then. They believed that every human being is in the image of God and deserves to be treated like that. They believed that sexual intercourse should be reserved for a husband and a wife only. They believed that the poor should be cared for and provided for.

Today, we Christians still uphold these beliefs and if we do so today, we are still the counter-cultural ones. It is in these times that we still observe Christmas. Every time we celebrate Christmas, we should remember that we are not just having fun and exchanging gifts. We are taking place still in a counter-cultural revolutionary movement. Those who want to be really different and stand against the culture should not be the secularists, but should seek to be Christians. Christians are holding the most radical idea of transformation. We actually believe that Heaven will one day be united to Earth in a sacred marriage.

Today, have fun celebrating Christmas and remember those who cannot. Christmas is for them too. Seek to give hope to someone who has none, for that is the very person that needs hope.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Deeper Waters Podcast 10/14/2017: Clay Jones

What’s coming up? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEVVVVVIIIIIIILLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!

It’s something we often think about. It seems simple on the screen when we see the hero defeating the villains. We don’t worry so much about the problem. We know that our favorite superhero is going to deal with it. Even when we’re on the edge of our seats, we know that the hero will pull this off somehow.

When we look at the real world though, we wonder. Is there really a hero here? Why is all this evil being allowed in the world? It’s something we can accept in the media, but then it hits us. We have someone get abused. Someone gets raped. Murder takes place. Cancer strikes a family. A child dies in a natural disaster. Why?

If we were able to and being good people, we would stop this or do our best to stop it. God is supposed to be all-good and all-powerful. Right? If so, then it doesn’t make any sense does it? Why does God allow evil?

That’s a good question.

To discuss this question, I have decided to have on someone who has spent decades dealing with this. He has looked at evil regularly, including reading about some of the greatest evils that mankind has done in history just to understand the situation. His book is titled Why Does God Allow Evil? and his name is Clay Jones. He’ll be joining me this Saturday.

So who is he?

Clay Jones holds a doctor of ministry degree from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and is an associate professor in the Master of Arts in Christian Apologetics Program at Biola University. Formerly, Clay hosted Contend for Truth, a nationally syndicated call-in, talk-radio program where he debated professors, radio talk show hosts, cultists, religious leaders, and representatives from animal rights, abortion rights, gay rights, and atheist organizations. Clay was the CEO of Simon Greenleaf University (now Trinity Law and Graduate Schools) and was on the pastoral staff of two large churches. Clay is the Chairman of the Board of the university apologetics ministry Ratio Christi, is a contributing writer for the Christian Research Journal and specializes in issues related to why God allows evil. You can read his blog at clayjones.net, find him on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter at ClayBJones. Clay’s has authored Why Does God Allow Evil?: Compelling Answers for Life’s Toughest Questions.

Dr. Jones has a great work on this as he writes with the head of an academic and the heart of a pastor. I also owe him greatly for his own helping me when I had some struggles in this area. Not only that, but his book will help you take a look at yourself and realize the problem of evil is not just something out there, but it is something within.

I hope you’ll be looking forward to the next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast. Please consider going on ITunes and leaving a positive review of the show. Be ready next time when we talk about evil!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Thanks To The Fallen

Are we taking the time to remember today? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I could have done a book plunge today, but I will hold off for tomorrow. Today is Memorial Day after all, and I want to write something to honor those who are no longer here. It’s sad as I think about it that the people I want to honor the most with this post are the ones who cannot read it. Hopefully, those who can read it will live their lives in honor of the ones who can’t.

As I write this, I sit in my apartment without fear of death from opposing forces. I will drive to my in-laws with my wife today and I won’t be worried about driving through enemy territory and having to dodge bullets and such. I will have regular meals today and I will be able to get a hot shower this morning and sleep in a warm bed tonight. I will do all of this with my wife of nearly seven years by my side.

The fallen don’t have that.

They died in fact not sleeping in the beds that I do and woke up every day knowing they could be walking into enemy territory. They didn’t enjoy the meals that I am able to enjoy at home. Some of the men overseas might have had girlfriends that they were writing to back home. They will never get to marry those girlfriends. They will never be husbands or fathers or eventually grandfathers.

Those families will always have an empty chair at Thanksgiving. Christmas will always be a reminder of what was lost. Mother’s Day could be a day of sadness for some Moms as Father’s Day could be for some Dads. Children are supposed to weep at the graves of their parents. It’s not meant to be the other way around.

Why is this? Because there are some wicked people in this world. Because war sadly happens at times. No. I am not a pacifist. At the same time, war is not anything we should celebrate. It is a tragedy that it happens. It is a tragedy that the innocent die because of the sins of the wicked.

My wife has been working lately on being more thankful. On this day, should I not be thankful? Should I not realize that all that I have is a gift. Whenever I kiss my wife, I am doing something that some man will never get a chance to because of his early death. I get to enjoy a meal that they won’t and I get to sleep in a warm bed while they are in the sleep of death.

So if this is what is going on, then why are we celebrating? Why are we having barbecues today and not sitting around in mourning? Why? Because I think the fallen would want us to celebrate. They died so we could be free. They want us to celebrate and appreciate that freedom. Don’t think I say this for some benefit of my own. I don’t really care for food. I don’t eat burgers or hot dogs or any of that stuff. I’m just not a food person.

Still, the best way to honor a gift you have been given many times is to live enjoying it. Here we have been given the gift of freedom. That freedom has come at a price. Just visit a place like Arlington Cemetery and you can see the price of freedom. We should celebrate it, but not take it for granted. Every day we have is a gift. Every moment with our loved ones is a gift. Every blessing we have over here is a gift.

To the mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters and everyone else who has lost someone, my great sympathies for your loss, but also thank you. Thank you for helping produce someone of such a caliber in virtue that they were willing to die for people they would never even know. You have suffered a great loss. Nothing I say here could ever truly make up for your loss. Until eternity, there will always be a hole in your hearts missing that loved one, as it should be. They should never be forgotten.

And to those fighting right now and being in the service, today we honor the fallen, but let it never be that we forget your current sacrifice. I always try to thank a policeman or someone with military experience when I see them. I have the greatest respect for people who have lived their lives willing to take bullets, so the rest of us don’t have to live with that fear. When you in the military go out to fight our battles, remember the fallen and honor them with your service.

Happy Memorial Day everyone. God bless you and God bless our troops and may God honor the fallen.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: One Nation Under God

What do I think of Bruce Ashford and Chris Pappalardo’s book published by B&H Academic? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Two of the things you’re never supposed to discuss at the dinner table are politics and religion. What happens when you bring both of them together? Usually, matters become even more explosive. Some Christians want to avoid politics altogether and think that the Kingdom of God should have nothing to do with the governments of men. Some would prefer to combine the two together and say that we will make the Kingdom of God come on Earth through the government.

Ashford and Pappalardo have problems with both positions. Something interesting about their book is that you will not find hard condemnation of either conservatism or liberalism. You will not find targeting of the Republican party or the Democrat party. You will find discussions of the issues, but the writers leave it to you, the reader, to decide where you will take your stand beyond that.

The book starts with opening sections describing the relationship between Christians and culture. Many views are critiqued and some are settled on. It also talks about not only what the content of our presentation will be in the public square, but also how it is that we will go about presenting our viewpoint in the public square. Make no mistake, the writers definitely think Christians do need to stand up for their position.

When it gets to the issues, there are explanations of what is going on in each of the issues and then there are examples of Christians who are taking a stand on those issues. These are quite helpful as they provide often not just examples of the content but how the writers want to see Christians go about making their case in the public square. The writers then end each section with several recommended books. These are classified in range from beginning level to advanced so that if you don’t know where to go, you can have a general idea.

Issues discussed include topics like abortion, the nature of marriage, the environment, economics, war, race relations, and immigration. The writers again do not side with any one party on these issues explicitly. They do take a stand and often explain where it is that they make their stand, but they also leave a lot left unsaid. After all, this is meant to give you just an introduction to the basic facts and they don’t so much I suspect want to tell you their views, but rather how they think that you should go about coming to your own conclusion.

I do sometimes wish more sources had been given on a topic. One main example is that in the section on the environment, there was no mention of the main Christian response to this, the Cornwall Alliance For The Stewardship of Creation. There were a few other sections where I thought more works could have been added, but what is there is certainly sufficient to get someone started on the path.

This is a good and short book. If you work hard, you could read it in a day, but it will prepare you for when it comes time to vote. The reader will start to have a better grasp on the issues and can further read on the issues that interest them most.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Debunking 9 Truly Evil Things Right Wing Christians Do Part 6

What is a good response to the question of war? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Once again, I hand the blog over to Allie to share one of her notes that she has written. Please enjoy and let me know what you think of her writing.

“We are now at Part 6. Promoting holy war is evil. I’ll go ahead and quote what they say in the article (http://www.alternet.org/belief/9-truly-evil-things-right-wing-christians-do?page=0%2C1):
“What first flipped my bit, what transformed me from an agnostic into an outspoken full-time antagonist of Bible worship was a conversation with my Evangelical relatives about the Iraq war. From the vantage of my relatives and my childhood church “family,” George Bush needed no diplomatic or cultural expertise; he was Born Again. He didn’t need to seek input from his earthly father about the invasion, because he asked his Heavenly Father. Besides, Jesus is coming soon and war in the Middle East is predicted in the Bible. That makes it not only inevitable, but—in a manner of speaking—desirable. Evangelical Christians have spent tens of millions of dollars funding the “return” of Jews to Israel and settlements in the West Bank “as it is written in the scripture”—with the perverse expectation that their presence will one day cause blood to flow in the streets as high as a horse’s bridle.”
So it seems the main thing they’re complaining about is President Bush Jr. and the Iraq war. I don’t think the writer of this article did very much research on this topic honestly and is just complaining on personal issues rather than factual issues. I do agree with the writer that if people are wanting to go to war for the sole purpose of the return of Christ, that is a mistake. First of all, Christ doesn’t need us to fulfill prophecies about himself. A prophecy is going to be fulfilled without us even trying to fulfill it. A prophecy is going to be fulfilled even if we try to prevent it from being fulfilled, especially if it’s about Christ! If you are going to go to war, it needs to be for reasons other than the for the hope of Jesus returning. Think of all the people who are going to be slaughtered because you are trying to bring Jesus back! You can’t bring Jesus back, only God chooses when he returns! Personally, I do believe we should be involved in the Iraqi War, but my reasons are not because I’m trying to bring Christ back, but because Israel is our ally and the terrorists attacked us on 9/11! Terrorists are bullies in a severe way, and I cannot stand bullies. These bullies will not give up until they are either dead or have killed us. Writer (author of the article), you may be willing to give up your freedom if it came down to it, but I’ll fight for my freedom – even if I have to die for it! The same thing applies to the return of the Jews to the West Bank. If you are only returning them for the sole purpose of the return of Jesus, your reasoning is wrong. Personally, I believe they should go there because Jews have the right to Israel as much as Americans have the right to the US and Indians have the right to India and Iranians have the right to Iran. Jews are being persecuted around the globe like Christians and Israel is one of the safest places, believe it or not, for them to be. I just saw something today even that Jews were having to flee from places in France because there were mobs yelling “Gas the Jews!” (http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/07/22/france-jewish-shops-riot_n_5608612.html) Nazism is still around today it seems. So the writer complains we’re spending so much money helping protect the Jewish people. Let me ask you, writer, where do you want the money to go towards? Abortions? Sure, let’s spend more money on more killing! Sounds like a great idea! It’s interesting how so many people are opposed to wars because of all the money that goes into it and all the killing, yet so many people are for abortions. How much money goes into abortions/abortifications and the killing of innocent lives?
Next part will be 7. Abusing and killing queers is evil.”

In Christ,
Nick Peters