Which is your favorite gift under the tree?
We all have that one gift. The one we have been eyeing that has our name on it. Be it big with a red bow, or small with sparkly paper, there is usually a single gift that stands out above the others. We don’t know why. It just speaks to us. Then the day comes when we open it and get to see what we have been dreaming of.
Jesus is the greatest gift from God. The only gift that came to us willingly and because He loves us. He’s not under a tree, He’s near our hearts, knocking and waiting for the door on them to be open. He’s the only gift that so many ignore and refuse to open. He’s the only gift that so many others cherish above all joys, friends, family and even life. Someday He will return and we who love Him will get to see whom we have been dreaming of. He came once to save us from our sins, that was Christmas and Easter. But He is coming again to redeem us from this world, that will be our Revelation.
Hanukkah- Day 5
When the Maccabees recaptured the Temple, through the help of God, they had to fix all that was ruined and cleanse the temple after it had been defiled. They also cleared the temple of the idols of the Syrians. God had commanded in the Torah that the lamp of the Menorah should burn continuously. They wanted to light it, but they found only a single jar of clean oil, and that would only last one day. In faith, they relit the Menorah. They waited for the oil to rin out but day after day it kept burning. It burned for eight days, till they were able to get new oil. That is the miracle of Hanukkah.
It is so easy to believe that the evil in the world has corrupted and destroyed the pure things God put in place. In many ways this is true. Yet, just like in the miracle of the oil, God will make a way for all things that are Holy to be redeemed. That may come in the form of God causing a derelect church to be rebuilt, or a lost soul to find it’s way out of darkness back to Him, or in the form of a small portion of oim being streached for eight days, or something else. One thing we know for sure is that Jesus is coming back one day to redeem all that the devil has tried to destroy. That day will be wonderful for those who have stood with God and followed His laws as best they could. That day will be the worst day possible for those who didn’t stand with God and denied His laws. God will provide for us, as He did for His temple with the oil, and He will redeem us when we come into His kingdom. The devil cannot destroy that which belongs to the King.
Just like in Redwall, our hero here is a warrior named Matthias. He refused to be forced to sacrifice to the idols like others before him, but he also refused to allow himself to be killed. What I have read might have been a more embellished version of what happened, but I have cross-referenced it a few times and this seems to be the way things went down:
A government official demanded Matthias to sacrifice to the Greek idols; instead Matthias took the official’s sword from him and killed him.
Then Matthias cried out in the town with a loud voice, saying: ‘ let anyone who is zealous for the law and supports the Covenant come with me!’ (Maccabees 2:27)
After that he and his son took their people and hid, then they began to do covert Warfare against their enemy. Some have criticized the revolters claiming that the killing of their own people who followed the Greek ways was wrong, however, we forget that the Jewish people who followed the Greek ways had turned against their own people, according to what I have read the Jewish people who fought against the Maccabean Revolt had sided with the Seleucids against their own people and reported to the Greek officials, telling them who in the Jewish community still followed God and didn’t sacrifice to the idols. These people had become traitors to their belief, to their loved ones, and to God. The Maccabee army isn’t a group of people mindlessly killing those who oppose them, The Maccabees were working to take back their homes, their Temple and their rights.
How often, especially these days, do we as followers of Jesus and His Word find ourselves being accused of doing wrong simply for standing up for our own rights and values? How many who claim to be Christians are really serving the enemy in secret? Some days you wonder who you can trust. But one thing is for sure, you can always trust Jesus. As God Jesus is the only one who can save us from what is unseen. The best part about that is the fact that Jesus wants to save us. He didn’t sit with sinners and tax collectors because He liked to keep company with sin, He sat with them so He could tell them the truth about salvation. He never minced His words, you must sacrifice your old self and be born again to enter the kingdom of God. That offends people because it is so hard to do, but that’s the truth of it. Jesus loves you no matter who you are, but even if it breaks His heart He will turn you away at the gate if you refuse to give yourself to Him as God, King, and Lord of your life.
It took one man to say ‘no, I won’t let you cause me to reject God or compromise my Faith, and I am going to fight you for the sake of my people,’ for the Maccabees to make a stand against against the Seleucids. It takes one true Christian to say, ‘no, I won’t let you cause me to reject God or compomise my Faith, and I am going to fight you for the sake of every soul out there.’ Of course we aren’t speaking to a person, we are speaking to the enemy, the devil, telling him that even though he has tricked some brothers and sisters in Christ to betray God we won’t die yet, we will fight him on our knees before God. Pick up your swords and stand for the lost. Stand against the lies. Stand against the tricks. Stand against the twisting of God’s word to mean something other than what God said. Stand between the pages of the Bible by reading it everyday and remembering what God has said and done. Fight back against the darkness. Pray for deliverance. Pray for God’s will to be done. Pray for the protection of the blood of Jesus on your family, friends, church and on yourself, because the enemy is looking for a place to attack. So stand with God, Sword drawn, shield raised, and eyes focused on Jesus.
Hanukkah- Day 3
During the reign of King Antiochus IV epiphanes, a series of persecution of traditional Judaism began. Because Alexander the Great’s Kingdom had become divided it was easy for the Seleucids to attack it and take over. A kingdom divided truly cannot stand.
Now, in my research I have read one person who claimed that the Jewish people were wrong in taking a stand against their persecutors and that they were simply refusing to modernize.
A. The person who said this clearly didn’t read their history.
B. How would you like it if your land was conquered and your ways were being destroyed?
History tells us that the Seleucids tortured to death anyone not willing to sacrifice to their idols. They took over and defiled the Temple of the one true God and killed those who opposed them. When the Jewish people were told to sacrifice to the idols it was an offense against God and their beliefs, but then they were told they had to also eat unclean meat which was an offense to their culture. Refusing to bow to oppression seems to be the staple of being a follower of God. These brave men and women chose death rather than turn away from God and their culture. All willingly gave up their lives. Except for one.
God’s chosen people have suffered so much for so many years. Go through history and you can mark many major world events with a tag that says, ‘Jewish persecution’ either it began or it increased. As a Gentile saved by Jesus’s sacrifice and adopted into His family I do understand this persecution to a point. Not of my culture, but of my religion. I have personally been attacked for just being a Christian, for wearing cross earrings, for softly singing Christian songs while at work, for posting about Jesus on my personal fb page, and yet all my attacks were only words. Words hurt yes, and you never forget them, but I can’t imagine being physically tortured. To be in agony and to still stand and say, “No! I will not bow!” What a mark of true Faith.
You can’t judge people who were attacked and murdered for standing against their enemies, you should applaud them and aim to hold that same standard. Do we love Jesus enough to refuse to defile oursleves before God just so we aren’t attacked by mortal men? Our we so in love with Christ that we are willing to suffer and or die?
Hanukkah- Day 2
Again Jesus watches a candle being lit, the blessings are said and the feasting continues. But what is the history behind it all? Why did this tradition start? Let’s begin with one of my favorite men of action, Alexander the Great. Yep, he’s where this all began. Go figure. I should specify as to not tread on any toes, I like Alexander for his contribution to the equin world, from what we know of horse history we owe a lot to Alexander and his breeding. I also think that if it was ever actually discovered, his Library would be cool. We find Alex doing what he did best, conquering.
Alexander iii of Macedon known as the Alexander Great the Greek General (His Father Phillip of Macedon united much of Greece, he was Macedonian but raised with Greek tutors) took over much of Asia including Palestine, Persia and North Africa. He died just before his 33 birthday (same age as Jesus) in 323 BC. It is said he divided his Kingdom amongst his 4 generals, but it is actually way more complex than him just giving the Kingdoms to 4 generals, with military clashes and political intrigue but 2 or 3 did rise to the top, so to speak. I have also heard that Alexander did not give his kingdom to any of his generals but instead they simply took and battled for his kingdom after he was dead. The latter making a fair amount of sense considering Alexander did have a son who should have inherited his whole Kingdom . Alex was married three times before his death and his last wife he had a son with but the boy was assassinated at the age of 14 . It doesn’t seem his generals had anything to do with that , but who knows ? They easily could have plotted against him . Ptolemy was over Egypt and Seleucus was Syria, Babylon, Persia, and India.
The Ptolemies controlled Palestine from 323 to about 200 BC then the Seleucids took over. (Cleopatra was a Ptolemy) The Ptolemies allowed Jewish religion. The Seleucid Antiochus iii seemed to leave them alone as well, but Antiochus iv known as Epiphanes was very pro Greek culture and started disallowing Jewish religion. Putting Greek friendly Jews in positions of power. Here’s where things really get interesting.
Larry VanBeek, doctor of Theology
Hanukkah- day one
They’re in Bethlehem Jesus sits with his family, as Joseph lights the shamash and recites the Hanukkah blessing:
[ blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has Sanctified us with his Commandments, and commanded us to Kindle the Hanukkah light.]
[ blessed are you, Lord our god, King of the universe, who performed miracles for our forefathers in those days, at this time.]
[ blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion.]
Then Joseph lights the first candle on the menorah. Games of feasting begin. How odd it must have felt to recite the blessings with Jesus sitting there. He would have seen the miracle happen and being part of it, his family were blessing his father and him, what a strange feeling that must have been. I know I feel a little strange doing this. I’m not Jewish. Yet because God has adopted us into his family I take part in his miracles, I count myself as one of his children. Being adopted is an odd feeling, you’re part of the family yet something feels a little different. Jesus wasn’t adopted by Mary but he was by Joseph. I wonder if he felt a little disjointed during family events such as Hanukkah? Or even going to the temple. His family went to worship their God, Jesus went to chat with his dad. How strange that must have been for him and maybe for them.
How about you,? Have you ever considered how amazing it is that God took us into his family?
Recently I realized something that I should have known a long time ago, Jesus probably celebrated hanukkah. Going on this thought I became curious about the holiday/celebration, so I decided to research it. Up came the name Maccabees so I called my dad who is a theologian and has read all those books and got the rundown. It has been argued that the book of The Maccabees should have been added to the Bible for its history and of course for the miracle. It was not added however, so many don’t realize the significance of the books- the eight days of oil Miracle is just a part (a very important part) of the story. Over the next 6 days I want to cover a small section of the amazing true story of Hanukkah. Pronounced with an exaggeration on the ha, try not to soak anyone when you do that😉 I will only do six days because of Christmas.
As Connie Scott sings, I’d rather be in Bethlehem tonight, just to be one of the shepherds, just to hear the angels sing.
I’d rather be close to the baby. Draw me closer to Him. Do we long to be closer to the King? Would we give up our presents and decorations to be in Bethlehem? To be there to see the wonder of wonders? To hear the angels and see the star? Would we want to be shepherds just so we could be amung the few who witnessed the baby in the manger? Do you long to be in Bethlehem tonight?
We say we should love people back into Heaven. Jesus told us to love, has become the motto of our generation. But are we truly loving? When we tell people their sin is okay because Jesus covered it, that’s not love, that’s a lie. Yes Jesus covered our sin on Calvary, but that doesn’t make the sin okay, it means that as the devil stands before God accusing us of our sin Jesus can say, “but I paid that debt.” Does that mean that the devil having the right to accuse us who claim ourselves Deciples greives God any less? No. Not even a little bit. Every sin hurts God even though it’s covered (when we repent) under the cross. Jesus loved us enough to take all our sin onto Himself so we can ne saved. But we don’t love Jesus enough to stop sinning and change. We can’t spit in God’s face by saying sin is okay because of Jesus, that’s not a proper interpretation of the Bible. We are saved because we follow and love Jesus, but if we keep sinning willfully and don’t ever change or repent then we don’t love Jesus and we aren’t deciples. How many times do we nail Jesus back to the cross by telling people their sin is okay and they can keep doing it because Jesus loves them?
It is so easy to shrug off sin. But if we love Jesus we should recoil at sin and pray for God’s protection from the devil. We don’t sin on our own, we sin by letting the devil in. How do we do this? Through what we watch, feel, think, listen to, read. The devil is always waiting for an open door.
Jesus loves us enough to cover our sin. Do we love Him enough to resist our sin?
How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Praise be to you, Lord; teach me your decrees.
People write off our falling away from God and sinning as a product of youth, but that isn’t right. The Bible tells us how to live, if we love God we will live according to His word no matter our age or lack there of. I know so many good strong Christ loving young people. I know even more who have fallen away from God. Why? Because we aren’t taught the Bible like we used to be. Our parents no longer require us to go with them to church. We don’t bother to pray. So, we fall away. So many youth don’t even believe in sin. But sin is real. The devil isn’t a scary bedtime cheracter, he’s a seeking enemy looking to kill your soul. Jesus isn’t just a happy go lucky smiling face on a bilboard. Sin eats away like a virus. The devil corrupts and kills and makes it look like what we are doing isn’t wrong. Jesus is the one true powerful king and God, and the only way to Heaven. Don’t let youth be your excuse. Stick to the narrow path and seek Jesus.