Thanksgiving When You’re Not Thankful

How do you celebrate a holiday when things are rough? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

A few weeks ago, I did a podcast with the Mentionables and we talked about depression. It was largely about mental illness, but depression came up. I brought up that when the holiday season comes around, for a lot of people, it’s a happy time, but for some people, it can be rough.

For me, Thanksgiving has never really been my favorite holiday. Just picture being socially awkward due to Aspergers and then also because of that, having a dislike for all of the food served there. I know on my end, it’s really hard when people tell me to eat a lot of turkey. Yeah. Sorry. I don’t play that game.

Honestly, looking back, only two Thanksgivings stand out to me with fond memories. The first was in 1998. The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time had just come out. I also had the flu. It wasn’t faked at all. I never faked sickness. I had the flu. I couldn’t be around people at all, so I stayed in my room at home the whole night trying to get through the Forest Temple.

That was an awesome Thanksgiving. It might have been horrible if it had been the Water Temple, but it was the Forest one. That one is not the nightmare the Water one is.

The second one was the first Thanksgiving I had with Allie. We were dating and not even engaged yet and she invited me to be with her family. I’m sure that wasn’t the favorite Thanksgiving of my family since I was away spending it with a girl I was dating, but I remember it fondly.

If the holiday season is here though and you’re not into it because of your own suffering, it’s really understandable. Sometimes, holidays remind us of what is different. It can be really painful seeing other people happy. It can be painful hearing so many people say Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas or Happy Thanksgiving.

We know they mean well. They don’t know what’s going on in your life if they say that. If you’re in that position this year, try to remember that these people really do mean well.

The thing is that you are still supposed to be thankful. A couple of years ago or so, someone told me to be thankful for something when you get to the end of the day. If it has been a horrible day, at least be thankful that the day is over.

Also, remember if this is your first time going through a hard holiday season, you’re not alone. Other people have walked this path before. It could be your first time going through it, but it’s been traveled before. There are plenty of people who have walked down it who could be willing to help you as you walk it.

It’s often said that misery loves company. There’s a reason for that. That misery of other people can remind you that you’re not alone. This is a great benefit of groups like Celebrate Recovery. You can go there and know that you are not alone.

That’s something else to be thankful for then. You’re not truly alone.

If you also know someone going through a rough holiday season or think they could be, reach out to them. Give that waiter at the restaurant an extra tip just in case. Give a great tip to the guy who helps you carry your groceries out to your car. Give your Uber driver or deliverer a little extra.

If these people don’t serve you that way, give them a gift card to a favorite restaurant of theirs. If they have children, get some gifts for the children. Even just putting some money in the mail and having it sent that way could help and if you want to do so anonymously, that’s fine too.

If you’ve got a lot more money, do more. I remember the year someone gave us a Nintendo Switch. I still enjoy it and it gave me a lot of hope. Go and secretly pay someone’s electric bill perhaps or take care of their rent or go by them groceries.

By the way, if you’re a Christian, you’re supposed to show this kind of kindness anyway. If they are fellow believers, they are your brothers and sisters. Would you want your physical family going without over the holidays? Then don’t let it be with your spiritual family either.

Not only that, you will really give them something to be thankful for this year.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Merry Christmas

How shall we spend this day? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I have many Christmas memories. When I was born, I grew up in a mobile home and since that was one story, my sister and I had to wait outside the living room until my parents said it was time to go into the room and each side of the couch had gifts for us. It was there one Christmas I got the original Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Brothers 2, the latter of which my parents worked extensively to find a copy of asking all their friends to be on the lookout.

Eventually, we had our own house built which had two major stories and a garage. Now, my sister and I would wait upstairs until we could come downstairs. That was until 1994 when my sister got married. Most notable there was being given the gift of a car one year, which served me well and I used all through high school.

My first Christmas with Allie was actually where I had proposed to her on Christmas Eve. It was where I picked her up at the airport. If you know me on Facebook, you can read the story there. Now, I have spent a number of Christmases away from my own family.

The first one was an odd one. We spent it with Allie’s family and I just wasn’t in to it. Mike came to me and I hadn’t said anything, but he told me the first Christmas he spent with his in-laws, he was miserable. It was a switch being away, but I got used to it.

Before that, for Christmas Eve regularly in my family, we had two houses we would go to. The first was some friends and this was the first place in person I publicly ever announced my engagement to Allie. The second was my aunt Ruth’s. We would normally spend most of the night up until around midnight going around and opening gifts.

On Christmas Day, we would go over to my grandmother’s for some gifts there as well. Those two traditions have changed. My grandmother died in 2010 and my aunt died just this year. Traditions come and traditions go.

This Christmas? We’re going to the Orthodox Church first and then coming home. Allie is fixing some pumpkin spice bread to take over to her parents. Her hope this year is for a Nintendo Switch Lite from both of our parents. A couple years ago, someone gifted us with a regular Switch and we hope with the new one to be able to play the new Pokemon games together someone else gifted us with.

What has also changed for me is the focus of the holiday. I suppose I was like many other kids growing up. The real joy of the holiday was getting to get the gifts and I was thinking of my Christmas list. Nowadays, I have a hard time thinking of things I want for Christmas. Sometimes, just regular Amazon cards can work. Gifts are still nice, but it’s time with my family, especially my wife, that make the holiday.

I also much more understand the religious significance of the day. I understand more what makes Christianity special and why we celebrate today and what a difference Christ makes in one’s life. Naturally, my favorite memory now from this year is not a gift I got per se, but one that I gave, when I proposed to Allie.

Every year I know I write something on Christmas, but let’s face it. I’m not going to come up with some brand new insight on Christmas no one has ever had for all these centuries of Christianity. The best I can do is tell you a bit about my life with Christianity and what it means and hope it makes you think about what it means to you.

Merry Christmas!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Christmas Eve Thoughts

What does Christmas Eve mean? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

The day before can be a day that really gets you anxious. I took an Ambien the night before my wedding and I think I still got only one hour of sleep. You can see a wedding picture of Allie drinking a five-hour energy in our wedding photos. We can also think about the day before a graduation service or even something like the day before a new movie comes out we want to see or a major sporting event or a book coming out or a game being released or anything like that.

What was it like the night before D-Day? How many soldiers went to sleep quite sure that it was the last time they would ever go to sleep? Many of them were right. The first several that came off of our vehicles were just fodder to shield the ones that came behind. How many were sure they would never see their wives and children again?

And what then was it like the day before Jesus was born? To be sure, we didn’t really know what was happening here, aside from Mary and Joseph. Still, the forces of darkness and the forces of light knew exactly what was happening. On this blog a few times, I have said my favorite account of the Christmas story is actually found in Revelation 12.

We come together and celebrate this time as a happy and joyous time, and we should, but the original wasn’t so. Mary and Joseph were away from home and giving birth in a place where animals ate. Much later, the wise men come and then Herod comes after that wanting to kill all the young boys so he can make sure he has thwarted prophecy and killed the Messiah. (Real good thinking Herod. A God who can see the future would obviously not foresee what you were doing.)

Christmas was really a declaration of war and if that’s the case, then this day is battle preparation. It is getting set for the war. As Christians, we are to believe that there are dark powers out there that want to harm us. We can have different views on how active they are now, but they were certainly very active in the time of Jesus.

Today, the war has been ultimately won, but there are still skirmishes going on and still holdouts to the cause. I often compare it to the Matrix. Often, the ones we are fighting against are also the ones that we are fighting for.

We should celebrate Christmas this year, but let’s not forget everything that happened in the first Christmas. It was a battle. Let’s be prepared for ours today.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Born Divine

What do I think of Robert Miller’s book published by Polebridge Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Miller’s book is a book looking at the birth narratives with an emphasis on the virgin birth (Which I do affirm). It reminds me of what I read in Richard Shenk’s book on the topic that the virgin birth is really a shibboleth. If you want to know someone’s ultimate worldview and how they see Jesus, this is one question to ask. Was Jesus born of a virgin? Larry King was once on David Letterman’s show and asked if he could interview one person past or present who would it be. He immediately answered Jesus Christ. When asked what he would ask he said, “I would ask if He was born of a virgin. For me, the answer would explain all of history.”

So it is in Miller’s book. I certainly agree that most people don’t approach the doctrine of the virgin birth apart from all the others. It is more based on other doctrines. I hold to the resurrection, for instance, and with that, the virgin birth naturally follows. The resurrection shows that Jesus’s claims to be the Son of God and fully God and fully man are true and if so, then the account of the virgin birth fits.

Miller does speak often about how a miracle needs to be public, but I think that misses the point of the virgin birth. The virgin birth was not done as a public sign I think just so much as it was done so that Jesus could not be at all an adopted Son of God. He really is a unique human being with both natures fully in Him. I do not agree either with early church theologians who said it was done this way because sex is something fallen and Jesus didn’t need to come about through that.

Sometimes, Miller gives criticisms of the birth narratives that strike me as weak. Consider that there is often a repeated claim that the angel tells Joseph to return the boy to Israel from Egypt because those who were seeking His life are dead. Miller will tell us there were no those. There was only Herod. I don’t find this convincing at all since when Herod says he wants the child dead, I have no reason to think Herod himself went all around Bethlehem looking for boys and murdering them. Those would refer to soldiers of Herod that were sent to do the job.

Miller also speaks some about how Matthew interpreted prophecy. He gives about a paragraph to how Qumran did the same, but this strikes me as highly insufficient. Why is there no interaction with Jewish exegesis at the time? Why not reference the work of Longenecker that has been done on this topic?

By the way, that brings me to another concern I had. Miller’s bibliography is written on just two pages. I see this as the sound of one hand clapping. Why not look and see what someone like Keener or Witherington has to say in response to some claims? Sure, those two could be wrong, but isn’t it best to interact with them?

Consider as an example his look at the slaughter of the infants. Why should we not consider it? Miller tells us the story can’t stand apart from Matthew’s writing. Since the magi and the star are fictions, so is the slaughter. Also, Jesus would have to be born in Bethlehem, which he was most certainly not. Finally, the story fits perfectly with Jesus being the new Moses.

I find this as somewhat circular. If you don’t see the accounts as historical, they are not historical. Miller does look at the accounts of the magi, but I think there is a lot lacking. Who are they? Where did they come from? These are questions that needed more. I find it odd that when the narratives disagree, there is a problem, but when they agree, such as Jesus being born in Bethlehem, there is still a problem. As for Jesus being the new Moses, if you are a believer in God who is working behind the scenes, this really isn’t a problem.

There is something on history and miracles. He quotes N.T. Wright who talks about people who come with a high view of a closed continuum and everything being in the system so there can be no outside interference. Wright rightly says that this is something we cannot know ahead of time and gives the impression of a mouse sitting up on its hind legs and looking down on the elephant.

Miller says that this sounds open-minded, but it is intending to belittle people with the opposite view and make them look foolish. I find this amusing since this is exactly what is often said about those of us who believe in miracles. I also think Wright is correct. This attitude is right there in many scholars who assume that miracles can’t happen.

Miller replies to this saying that if we want to go the route of openmindedness and say Jesus had no human father, you must be open also to Plato, Pythagoras, Augustus, and others. Why yes indeed! As historians, we must be open! Let’s compare the evidence for them to the evidence for Jesus and see who comes out better!

Miller says we don’t believe in those stories because we don’t believe in those gods anymore, but too many Christians will say their God is real so the story is real. The question I have to ask here is why do we not believe in those gods? We don’t believe in them because they were more glorified superhumans. One God is overall a far better explanation and many of us have arguments that lead us to believe that there is one God, such as the Thomistic arguments that I prefer, though we could happily say that demons could take on the guise of any Greek or Roman god.

Miller also says that belief your God is real is religious and not historical. Sure, but my belief is not outside of history as it is my belief that this God acted in history and that cannot be ruled out at the outset. There is an attempt to compare this to the Muslim denial that Jesus died on the cross based on the Qur’an. I would ask in reply to see what non-Muslim scholars will grant is true in the Qur’an and compare that to non-Christian scholars on the New Testament.

One good benefit of Miller’s book that will be fascinating is that he lists several birth narratives in other works about Jesus outside the New Testament, such as infancy Gospels. These were very interesting to read, but at the same time it is quite astounding to realize how many people treated them as historical in church history.

Overall, I am unpersuaded by the counterarguments. I still hold that Jesus was truly born divine based on the evidence of the New Testament. Rest assured all that I still affirm the virgin birth.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Christmas Is Not For The Deserving

Who is Christmas for? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday, we spent Christmas with my in-laws. We did it then because my brother-in-law is a firefighter who has to work on Christmas Day. While over there, Allie and I started talking about what we got our cat Shiro for Christmas. I joked that he shouldn’t be getting anything because he hasn’t been good enough. Allie said, “Good thing Christmas isn’t for those who deserve it.”

That’s a very simple comment, and I am sure it was said offhand, but it was full of great insight. It’s true. Christmas is not for people that deserve it. Christmas is for those who are very undeserving.

We sometimes miss this. You see, when we give gifts, we usually give gifts to people that we know. We rarely buy gifts for strangers. I think we should consider that more often. Buy a stranger lunch or dinner at a restaurant. Pay someone’s electric bill. Get a jacket for someone who is cold.

When it comes to the first Christmas, the only one who deserved the gifts that were given was the one who was born. Only Jesus deserved the gold, frankincense, and Myrrh. No one else deserved a gift. The shepherds didn’t deserve to hear the message. The wise men didn’t deserve it. Not even Mary and Joseph deserved it.

God gave us all a gift that we didn’t deserve. He gave us the gift of Himself. We should not think that God came because we were worthy. God didn’t look for the best people that He could find. There were none to be found. He didn’t come to the Jews because the Jews were just so awesome and the Romans were just bullies. We know Jesus didn’t care too much for the leaders of the Jews after all.

If Jesus had only come to a people that deserved Him, He would have never come at all. Scripture tells us in Romans that while we were yet enemies, Christ died for us. The point is that if God does good things for us while we are opposed to Him, will He not be that much more willing when we submit to Him?

Why should we give gifts? Because God gave us a gift. We give to show our love just like God gives to show His love.  This is also why we should consider giving gifts to those who don’t deserve it. If you give gifts to those who love you, what benefit is that to you? Even skeptics and pagans are kind to those who are kind to them.

This Christmas, try to love like God, which is what you’re called to do anyway. Show love to those less fortunate than you and even those you do not know. It doesn’t mean be reckless with your money and resources, but it does mean to give generously.

I’ll also be celebrating the gifts that I have been given. We’ve had some people who have been extremely generous with us. Someone gave us a Nintendo Switch, someone else gave us some extra games,  and my in-laws gave me a memory card to download those extra games and a new controller so Allie and I can play together. I will be enjoying these gifts. May I remember those who gave them to me.

And when I celebrate the coming of the Christ, may I remember who gave that gift to me as well.

Merry Christmas.

Even though we don’t deserve it.

Christmas Eve

What’s important about today? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Christmas Eve has always been a special day for me. Growing up, it was the day the extended family all got together. We would often stay up till midnight at my aunt’s house opening gifts with all of the extended family. That no longer goes on and some of the family have died, such as my grandmother and uncle.

Of course, none of this compares to nine years ago. It was on that day on Christmas Eve that I made one of the best decisions of my life. I got down on bended knee to the girl I had been dating and asked her to marry me. As you know, she said yes. The day was spent showing her ring to everyone we met. For some of them, this was the first time they got to meet Allie.

Nowadays, we spend Christmas Eve at different places. One year, we will go to see my family for Christmas. The next year, we will spend it with hers. We alternate Thanksgiving the same way.

Christmas seems like such a happy time. Right? We all get together and celebrate and give out gifts. We celebrate that there is hope in this world.

But Christmas Eve should remind us that Jesus came into this world not because it was full of hope, but because it had no hope. Jesus did not come because the world was such a wonderful place, but because it was such a terrible place. Jesus did not come because men were so wonderful, but because men were so awful.

On Christmas Eve, we should remember that Israel was in a place where there was no light. They were in their land, but under the most powerful empire of all. Rome could have beat Assyria and Babylon multiple times over when both of them were at their prime. How could a tiny nation in the Middle East hope to have any impact?

And yet the hope Israel thought it needed was not the hope it got. This is a mistake that we can often make too. We think that if God wants to come through for us, well, we know the way that He should come through. We know what our true need is. We know what is best. Reality check. We don’t.

Israel thought what was best was a political dynasty set up again. Put a king on the throne here on Earth and have him help defeat the Roman Empire and return Israel to the days of David. That was not what God had in mind. God had something greater in mind and yet, now we see that the Roman Empire is no longer here. It was conquered, but not by the sword, but by the love of Christ. Today, we name our children Peter and Paul and name our dogs Nero and Caesar.

Many of us today are truly in Christmas Eve. We are in a world where there seems to be no hope. We also think that we know what we need and that God will come through or we hope He will come through the way we expect.

Christmas Eve should show us God can blow apart our ideology and theology. No theologian of the time was expecting God to be incarnate as a little baby. He was.

He ended up giving us something better for Christmas than what we were asking. God’s greatest gift was not a dynasty being set up. It was Himself. On Christmas Day, God begins the process of giving Himself to the world.

Maybe it’s time we drop our expectations of what God should do. Just let Him do what He will do. He knows best anyway.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 12/8/2018: Richard Shenk

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

A little over 2,000 years ago, a young Jewish woman was approached by the angel Gabriel and told that she would give birth to a son who would be named Jesus. She was told some of the great wonders about who this child would be. The woman was named Mary. What made the event so interesting was that Mary was a virgin and she conceived while she was a virgin.

So goes the story of the virgin birth, which I do affirm. This is the story that begins the account of Christmas. The story is meant to be good news for the world, but is it really? What makes the virgin birth such a big deal? Is it even an accurate account? Is the virgin birth just God pulling a neat trick to show what He can do? Was it a way to protect Jesus from unnecessary defilement?

To answer these questions, I’m bringing on someone else who also affirms the virgin birth, which I do affirm. He affirms it so much he wrote the book The Virgin Birth of Christ. He will be my guest to discuss how it is that we believe in this doctrine and then more importantly, what a difference it makes. His name is Richard Shenk.

So who is he?

According to his bio:

Wheaton College (BS – Physics-Bible; 1979)
    Engineering-Physicist at Fermi National Accelerator Lab (1979-1986)
Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (MDiv;1984)
    Pastor with Baptist General Conference; Ogallala, NE, 1986-1991); Mundelein, IL, 1992-2007)
    Pastor with Evangelical Free Church; Maple Plain, MN (2007-2018)
University of Wales, Lampeter (PhD; 2008)
    Adjunct Professor, Theology; Bethlehem College & Seminary (2009-2017)
    Assistant Professor, Theology; Bethlehem College & Seminary (2017-present)
Dr. Shenk and I will be starting with a discussion, since this is an apologetics podcast, about the case for the virgin birth, which I do affirm. Isn’t it a mark of incredulity to believe in such a thing? Is this doctrine really a doctrine that divides the lines of battle as it were? Why is it seen as such a shibboleth in the world today?
Then we’ll be discussing reasons given for what a difference it makes that are not really plausible. Was this done to avoid sexual lust conceiving Jesus? Was it done because sin passes down through the paternal line and therefore Jesus needed to not have a human male father to avoid having a sinful nature? What is wrong with these ideas?
We’ll also discuss ideas such as the prophecy of Jeconiah and how he would be childless and what a difference that makes. We’ll discuss why adoption should matter to Christians. We’ll also be talking about how the virgin birth shows that God is active in the world and we’ll discuss how God is going to bring about a new birth for us. The doctrine is far more multi-faceted than is realized.
I hope you’ll be looking for this next episode of the Deeper Waters Podcast. Please also go on iTunes and leave a positive review. You all know by now that I love to see them!
And of course, I affirm the virgin birth.
In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Gift Of Generosity

Does it matter if you’re generous? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Many of you know that my wife and I are poor. I was recently sharing at a men’s group at my church about this. I had said my wife wanted to get a Nintendo Switch, but it costs too much and even too much as a Christmas gift. It couldn’t be done. This was said because we were talking about coveting and wanting things you can’t have.

We’ve had a surprise from that recently. Someone in the group really was alert when I said that and told my wife they were going to buy us one and asked what games we wanted. It’s in our living room right now. We got it yesterday. This same person also has a wife who teaches dance and is willing to get Allie into the class so she can learn it as she wants to lose weight that way.

We have another friend who upon hearing that we were going to be getting the Switch offered to give us a game of our choice. It has been one we have been spending time enjoying. I have been marveling over this lately. Gifts aren’t my love language, but they do mean something to me.

For the Switch, I saw this person in church yesterday with their wife and kids and I talked to him and his wife about what it meant after the service. Here they have Christmas coming up and kids that will be needing to go to college and so many other things, and they went out and did something like this for our Christmas hardly knowing us at all.

We were told that he grew up in a place (I won’t say where, as I want to keep him anonymous) where there was great poverty and his mother had to walk half a mile from the house and half a mile back regularly just to get water to bathe the children. It told me he had seen that poverty and understood what it meant when someone was in that.

Around here, we have someone on the local radio station who has a drive to help out foster kids at Christmas to make sure that they all get gifts for Christmas. It’s a wonderful cause, but here’s the thing. I understand he’s Jewish. While he could be Messianic, if he’s not even a Christian but providing so kids can have a good Christmas, shouldn’t we who are followers of Jesus do that?

Christians are to be generous people. Scripture tells us that the Lord loves a cheerful giver. Don’t you want to be someone the Lord loves? My wife and I don’t have much, but we try to give what we can because we know there are definitely people worse off than we are.

Now this is concerning money, but there are other gifts you can give. You can give the gift of your time. You can give the gift of service. You can give the gift of listening.

You can also give to those who are close to you. Don’t take for granted they know how much you mean to them. They might not. Sometimes someone might be helped if you just pick up the phone and call them and ask how they’re doing. Take them out to lunch or something of that sort. It doesn’t even have to be a fancy place. Some people would be fine just being taken out to fast food just so they could talk to someone.

Gifts like this can give hope. As I thought about this gift this friend had given us, it really made me think there could be more hope than I realized. The church has already been generous to us and maybe there was something more we could do then. Just yesterday I got to teach a class on apologetics and it was such a thrill. Someone said afterward they would like to see a small group started.

Christians are to be giving people because we have been given so much. Hugh Ross has been on my show a number of times and he has said at one point that it has been said that Christians have enough resources to fulfill the Great Commission in five years. I can believe it. Why isn’t it fulfilled? It’s not a priority to us.

Christmas time is here and it is the season of giving. When you’re giving, please also consider with end of the year giving a donation to Deeper Waters. Make your donation through Risen Jesus and let me or my wife know or my in-laws so that we can make sure we will get the donation. It is tax-deductible that way.

Please pause today to consider how you could give to someone. To you, it might be a small thing. To them, it might be everything.

And oh yes, to the two I’ve mentioned about who have been so generous to us….

Thanks. We are blessed to have friends like you.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Ordinary

What can be said? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Every blogger wants to have a successful blog. Every blogger wants to be able to say something that will stick in the minds of his readers. As I drove back this Christmas, I was trying to think of something I could say. Driving for awhile can be quite stressful, and I didn’t really have anything.

You see, I’d like to say that in my life I come across amazing new Biblical insights every day. I don’t. I’d like to say that constant wonders and joys are happening. They’re not. Things can be pretty ordinary, and perhaps that is my misreading things. Chesterton did say that an inconvenience is an adventure wrongly understood.

We were running behind on getting home tonight so we went ahead to the Celebrate Recovery meeting. There, I was with a group of guys sharing their stories. It occurred to me that they’re the same way, especially since we were talking about comparisons tonight. These are ordinary guys living their lives.

And as I thought about it, this is also what happened at Christmas. God did not come to the extraordinary. Look at Luke’s Gospel. He starts off his second chapter talking about government officials and naming them as having a census. Then what is the action all about? This little ordinary guy named Joseph who has a pregnant girl he’s going to marry. Now of course, there is the miracle that this is the case of a virgin birth (Which I do affirm), but looking at them, they weren’t stand-outs. There’s no reason God should have picked them.

Then consider chapter 3. Numerous political figures are described and yet at that time, what stands out? The Word of the Lord came to John the Baptist in the wilderness. God bypassed all of them. Look at his parents in chapter 1. They lived with shame all their lives and then in the end, God reversed that. They were the parents of John the Baptist. We don’t know who their mockers were today, but we know who they were.

Skeptics often ask where God is with this strange idea that if God acts, it must always be a miracle. Why? Does God really care about showing off? Consider Elijah on the run from Jezebel. A lot of people look at the story as if it’s supposed to tell us how to hear God’s voice today. It’s not. That’s a horrid misreading of the text. The point is all these amazing things happen, and God appears in something calm and simple.

And you know, maybe, just maybe, the modus operandi hasn’t changed. Yesterday, I wrote about revolution. No doubt, there will be people who stand up and get recognized in this revolution, but maybe a lot of people will take part in it by being good husbands and wives, or being good parents, or good employees, or something like that, and sharing Christ with the people that they meet. In our day and age, it can be counter-cultural just to live a moral life. Maybe those people will make the difference the most.

Maybe I’m mistaken, but until then, that’s what we’re all told to do. Love our neighbors as ourselves and love God. Those two commandments are enough to keep us busy for the rest of our lives.

Maybe Christmas also is a good time to do that. Maybe Christmas is a time to make sure we let those around us know we love them. We never know if they’ll be there for the next Christmas after all. Love them today.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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