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Resting with God: Filling Our Empty Cups

I have never understood the importance of resting in YHVH more than in the past few weeks. It is here, in this place of stillness and rest that He restores my soul; that He refreshes my being.

“YHVH is my Shepherd; I do not lack. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters. He restores my being, He leads me in paths of righteousness.”

Throughout the week, we empty ourselves to our work, family, friends, volunteering activities but on Shabbat YHVH refills our cups. If we never let Him lead us to these still waters and lay in green pastures with Him we miss out on having Him refill our cups. And if we go several weeks without being made whole and rejuvenated, it’s a recipe for disaster.

“When I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil. For You are with me. Your rod and Your staff comfort me.”

If we don’t rest in Him, eventually you reach a point where you can’t go on anymore — and this is not the best plan YHVH has for us. He has so much He wants to bless us with and so much love to fill our cups with. But do we let Him?

What does it mean to rest in Him? It’s not just about not going to work and sitting home and doing nothing all day. Resting in Him means connecting with Him. It means establishing and cultivating your own personal, intimate relationship with YHVH. It means taking time away from work, the stressors of the week, our to-do list and even all our godly work to simply be with Him. If we don’t actually connect with Him, we’re not really being filled by Him. And if we’re not being filled by Him, we will remain empty. When we are empty, we have nothing to give to Him or others.

Unfortunately, I’ve found this out the hard way. Even though I observe Shabbat and take time to read the Torah portion each week and study His word, I wasn’t doing the work to really connect with Him — and that’s the real key to unlocking the mystery of Shabbat.

No other people or religion has anything that compares to the beauty that is Shabbat. It’s called the weekly festival; a special time between YHVH and His people. It is on Shabbat that we are given a gift — the gift of connecting with our God and King in a way not possible during the rest of the week. A time where we can cast our burdens on Him, let go of the cares of this world, and lean completely on the One who holds the universe — and our lives — in His hands. But if we aren’t taking the time or putting forth the effort to connect with Him, then we miss this precious gift from our Father.

I’ve missed the fullness of this gift and have felt the emptiness as a result. But this week, I commit to drawing close to Him and just being with the lover of my soul. What about you? Do you hear Him calling to you? He desires to be with you. He longs to love you and be loved by you.

“You have anointed my head with oil, my cup runs over. Only goodness and loving-commitment follow me all the days of my life. And I shall dwell in the House of YHVH forever!”


 

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2015: A Year in Review

Welcome to 2015. Where man-buns are a thing and more deaths are caused by taking selfies than shark attacks. Deaths by selfies gone wrong: 12. Death by shark attacks: 8. There have been an estimated 105 billion photos taken by Americans this year and 104.9 billion of them were seflies! We have definitely become a more selfish and self-centered generation this year – with the Kardashians leading the charge on this one! Kim Kardashian (in)famously “broke the internet” this year with her butt. [I cannot believe I just wrote that sentence.] But I guess Ariana Grande wanted a piece of the limelight so she took to donut licking to find it. She may have taken it a bit too far when she said she hated America and Americans because her stunt backfired and people began to realize they’d have one less “Problem” without her so she eventually apologized and now all is right with the world.

Yes, 2015 was indeed a busy year. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest stories from this past year.

Politics and the Fight Against Terror
We started off 2015 with the attacks by two brothers with ties to Al-Qaeda, against Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine in Paris who had published cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. They killed 11 people and injured 11 others. A massive manhunt for the two terrorists led to an altercation with police two days later. The terrorists were found hiding in a printworks factory. They emerged from the building firing at police. Both suspects were killed. Meanwhile, two other terrorists with connections to the brothers had taken hostages inside a Jewish supermarket. In total, 17 people were killed in the course of three-days.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed Congress this year in March speaking against the nuclear deal with Iran. President Obama was busy golfing or something and subsequently couldn’t find time to meet with our “strongest ally in the Middle East.”

In May, the U.S. along with several other world leaders struck a nuclear agreement with Iran. Supporters of Israel and common sense all over the world urged their leaders to oppose the deal. In his address to the country, President Obama gave us some information about the really bad deal.

An arms embargo would be in place for 5 years while a ballistic missile embargo would be in place for 8 years. The deal is not contingent on Iran changing its behavior or acting like a civilized nation. We are hoping this deal will lead to future talks in hopes that they will lessen their violence and take a more constructive path — but we’re not betting on it.

It does not give me pause the others in Tehran or Mr. Assad are praising this deal as victory against America. The facts are the facts. I’m not concerned with what others say about it.

We have huge differences with Iran. Israel has significant concerns with regards to its security. Iran has a military, they deny the holocaust, they have called for their destruction and have missiles pointed at [Israel]. For all the objections of Netanyahu and republicans no one has given me an alternative.

24/7 monitoring of the “known” and “declared” facilities. What if they try to develop a covert program? The benefit of sophisticated monitoring throughout the entire process is that it’s hard to create a covert program. But if they are so determined, the IAEA has the authority to declare they want to inspect the suspicious areas. If Iran wants to object to any inspections, we can override that decisions. This is the most vigorous inspection process ever negotiated. The only argument you could make against it is that Iran is no intent that no inspection team would ever be sufficient. At that point, the only alternative is to go to war with Iran.

We didn’t make the release of hostages part of the deal because we didn’t want Iran thinking they could get more out of this deal by using the hostages as leverage. If we had walked away from the negotiating table we’d still be pushing hard to get them out of prison.

There are quite a few sketch details in this nuclear deal with Iran. I’m sure we will hear about this in 2016.

The world was rocked again when terrorists carried out attacks in the capital of France. Terrorists executed at least 158 people in coordinated attacks around Paris. The terrorists were heard shouting “Allahu Akbar” and “this is for Syria” before opening fire. French President Francois Hollande closed the French borders and declared a state of emergency. The terrorists involved were killed.

ISIS took more ground in Syria and Northern Iraq. More people were brutally murdered by the terrorist group which also led to the height of the refugee crisis facing the world. For years, Syrians had been fleeing their country because of the devastating civil war taking place. But now with ISIS being added to the mix, the number of refugees was becoming almost overwhelming. The debate reached its height in America this year after it was discovered that at least one of the terrorists involved in the Paris attacks had snuck in with the Syrian refugees.

While most American were having Turkey for Thanksgiving, so was Russian President Vladmir Putin. After ISIS claimed responsibility for attacks against Russians and around the world, Putin ordered attacks against the terrorist groups and many Americans day-dreamed about impeaching Barack Mom-Jeans Obama and replacing him with Vladmir I-Wrestle-Bears-With-My-Bare-Hands Putin to be our next President.

And just when we all thought the Greek economy couldn’t get any worse, it did. Throughout the year, we’ve watched as the Greek economy collapsed – again…again.

2015 was also the year of Ben Carson and Donald Trump. Both entered the Presidential race this year and both have lead the ratings as the two front-runners in the GOP party. I think this shows that people are ready for some real change – not more politicians promising the world and then delivering none of it. Although, I still think Ted Cruz is the best candidate. Anyhow, this should make for an interesting election this coming year!

Race Issues
After the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody, two weeks of protests erupted in downtown Baltimore. The incident reignited the debate about police brutality and brought the Black Lives Matter movement back to the forefront of American’s minds.

On June 17, a gunman opened fire at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina and killed nine people. In the subsequent investigation, photos of the gunman posing with a Confederate flag emerged which sparked a debate on the Confederate flag. South Carolina representatives voted to remove the Confederate flag.

Rachel Dolezal came under fire this year after city officials investigated her claim that she was African-American only to find out she was actually white. She claimed that she “identified as African-American” because apparently in 2015 we became a society that made it ok to just “feel” whoever we wanted to be. Which leads us to one of the top social stories of the year.

Social Issues
Bruce “Call Me Caitlyn” Jenner made waves in April 2015 when he announced he identified as a woman and would be making the official change from Bruce to Caitlyn.

In a 5-4 decision this June, the Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage was legal in all 50 states. However, many questioned the validity of the ruling and whether or not the Supreme Court, who cannot make laws but only enforce existing laws, had the authority to make such a decision.

Pope Francis made headlines this year when he visited the United States. He also addressed Congress on his September visit – becoming the first Pope ever to do so. In his speech, he advocated on behalf of the poor and Mother Earth and lambasted greed.

On April 25, the world jumped into action after an 8.1 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal and destroyed thousands of homes. The earthquake triggered a massive landslide on Mount Everest and killed approximately 9,000 people.

But the earthquake in Nepal wasn’t the only reason thousands of people died this year. Planned Parenthood earned themselves national criticism when undercover videos revealed the horrifying truth behind Planned Parenthood. While most of us already knew that Planned Parenthood doesn’t actually care for women or children, it seemed their depravation goes even further than any of us thought possible. Planned Parenthood officials were caught on video selling aborted baby parts for thousands of dollars. It seems that their procedures even took special precautions to ensure the parts were as intact as possible to ensure the highest price. Little was done in response to prevent this from happening again and many even bolstered their support for Planned Parenthood in spite of national criticism. Meanwhile, the dentist who killed Cecil the Lion in a small African village drew public outcry and even received death threats while the villagers in Africa went on with their lives as normal.

Meanwhile, college students across America whined that they needed “safe-spaces” on campuses so that no one would feel marginalized or have their feelings hurt. Because 2015 was the year of the cry-baby. In generations before us, young adults fought wars and built a life for themselves and their families but today, they cry for their blankies and safe-spaces. What is America coming to?!

Mass Shootings
Charleston, Oregon, San Bernardino. This year, it seemed as if there were too many mass shootings. It seemed like every day there were alerts of gunmen on a college campus, or walking down the street, or at their job. While the liberal left were crying for their blankies and more gun control (which is obviously the solution), common-sense thinkers recognized that it won’t take more gun control, it will actually take less government intervention to help keep America safe. Bad guys will find a way to murder and kill. The delay in time it takes a police officer to respond to a 911 call could mean the difference between life and death. And that means that if the bad guys are the only ones with guns, there will be no one to protect innocent civilians – especially with the wave of distrust arising against police officers.

Entertainment
Undefeated UFC champion Ronda Rousey was defeated by New Mexico native Holly Holm and Americans across the nation engaged in a throwdown of their own when that stupid dress came on the scene. You know which one I’m talking about. The gold and white one. Or was it the blue and black one? Either way, people almost died over that controversy.

We also saw, or at least learned, about the Gilmore Girls reunion! Fans all over the world pulled out their “Babette Ate Oatmeal” shirts, drank gallons of coffee, and practiced saying “Oy with the poodles” hundreds of times fast in preparation for the big day. We also saw Star Wars make a HUGE comeback this year. In what is the eighth highest-grossing film of all time, Disney takes us to a galaxy set 30 years after Return of the Jedi. I don’t want to spoil anything for those who haven’t seen it yet, but, seriously, SO. MANY. QUESTIONS.

And then there was the sad news that oldest Duggar son Josh, had not only molested some of his younger sisters and family friends growing up but that he had been unfaithful to his wife, Anna, as well.

New Year, New Start
As 2015 comes to a close, its easy to look back at this last year and see only the negative. But in the midst of the bad there are stories of good. Stories of people helping others. Stories of lives being changed forever. Stories that restore our faith in humanity.

I don’t normally make New Year’s resolutions, but just think what would happen in 2016 if we all resolved to be a force for good this year. If we stopped and helped someone in need. If we thought of others first and gave of ourselves. We could be the light in a very dark world. We could give others hope in a world of despair. So let’s charge into 2016 ready to face all the challenges that lay ahead knowing that God is the Light that goes before us!

Be blessed and be a blessing in 2016!

Baby Yeshua in a Manger

The Birth of a Savior: For Unto Us a Son is Given

Many believe the Bible does not say when Yeshua (Jesus) was born and because of this, claim Christmas is as good a time as any to celebrate it. But what if the Bible did spell out when Yeshua was born? What if all it takes is looking at Scripture with an understanding of how YHVH’s system operates, specifically the timeline of His feasts? The following is the Biblical timeline for the birth of our savior.

Let’s read Luke 1 together and I’ll give you some explanation along the way.

There was in the days of Herodes, the sovereign of Judah, a certain priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And it came to be, that while he was serving as priest before Elohim in the order of his division, according to the institute of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to burn incense when he went into the Dwelling Place of YHVH.    Luke 1:5, 8-9

Often times, we gloss right over some very important pieces of information that are critical to our understanding of the Bible simply because we don’t understand its importance! Here, we see that Zechariah is a priest of YHVH in the division of Abijah. According to the pattern that David established through his son Solomon, the priesthood of YHVH was divided into 24 divisions. Each division would come to serve YHVH in the Temple one week twice a year. There were also three times a year when all 24 divisions would serve together because YHVH commanded that on these feasts, all of Israel would gather together: Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot.

There were always priests serving in the Temple because there were continual sacrifices offered to YHVH. Therefore, if each division served two weeks out of the year and there were three weeks that all the priests served together, the entire year was covered (24 x 2 + 3 = ~ 51 weeks). The Biblical calendar, which is centered around the moon not the sun as is our Gregorian calendar, is approximately 11 days shorter than our sun-centered calendars of today. Therefore, this 24 division setup allowed for the Temple service cycle to start with division 1 every single time a Biblical new year began.

1 Chronicles 24 tells us when each of these 24 divisions would serve in the Temple.

And David, with Zadok of the sons of Eleazar, and Aḥimelech of the sons of Ithamar, divided them according to their offices in their service. And there were more leaders found of the sons of Eleazar than of the sons of Ithamar. So they divided the sons of Eleazar into sixteen heads of their fathers’ houses, and the sons of Ithamar into eight heads of their fathers’ houses. And they were divided by lot, one group as another, for there were officials of the set-apart place and officials of Elohim, from the sons of Eleazar and from the sons of Ithamar…the seventh [lot] to Hakkoz, the eighth to Abijah, the ninth to Yeshua, the tenth to Shecaniah. 1 Chronicles 24:3-5,10

This scripture tells us that Zechariah was in the 8th division of the priesthood and would come to serve in the Temple the 8th week of the year. An interesting side note, is that the division of Yeshua would have immediately followed Zechariah’s division in the Temple service. Leviticus 23:5 tells us that Passover occurs in the second week of the first month and verses 15-16 tell us that Shavuot is 7 weeks after Passover. Therefore, the 9th week of the year would be the approximate time of Shavuot (Pentecost) every year. This means that Zechariah would have to work two weeks in a row every year because of his Temple division coinciding with the requirement for all Israel to be in Jerusalem for Shavuot.

Going back to Luke 1:8-9, we see that Zechariah was serving in the Temple and was chosen by the casting of lots to bring incense to the altar of incense. This was a very special job because whoever brought the incense to the altar was allowed to make one personal request of God that was guaranteed to be granted. However, once a priest was given this privilege, he could never have this job again. We see from Luke 1: 13 that Zechariah’s one request was for his barren wife, Elizabeth, to have a child.

But the messenger said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer is heard. And your wife Elizabeth shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.

Luke 1:23-25 tells us that after his time serving in the Temple, Zechariah went home and Elizabeth conceived.

And it came to be, as soon as the days of his service were completed, he went away to his house. And after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived. And she hid herself five months, saying, “YHVH has done this for me, in the days when He looked upon me, to take away my reproach among men.”

Shavuot occurs roughly about the May/June time every year on our calendars. This means that by the time Zechariah finished his division’s Temple service and made the journey home, several weeks had already passed and it was roughly July/August time when Zechariah returned home and John was conceived.

And the messenger answering, said to her, “The Set-apart Spirit shall come upon you, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow you. And for that reason the Set-apart One born of you shall be called: Son of Elohim.

“And see, Elizabeth your relative, she has also conceived a son in her old age. And this is now the sixth month to her who was called barren, And Mary said, “See the female servant of YHVH! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the messenger went away from her.

And Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, and entered into the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And Mary stayed with her about three months, and returned to her home. And the time was filled for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. Luke 1:35-40, 56-57

These above verses tell us that Mary was visited by the angel Gabriel in Elizabeth’s sixth month of pregnancy. Remember, Elizabeth became pregnant roughly in July/August; six months later would be roughly December/January right around the time of Hanukkah — the Feast of Dedication and Lights. What a perfect time for the Light of the World and the Son of God to be conceived!

We then see that Mary stayed with Elizabeth and Zechariah three months and then went home. After this, Elizabeth gave birth to John. If Elizabeth conceived around the time of June/July, then nine months later would be approximately March/April – right around the time of Passover.

Now let’s read the story of the birth of Yeshua from Luke 2.

And it came to be in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus for all the world to be registered. This took place as a first registration while Quirinius was governing Syria. And all were going to be registered, each one to his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth to Judah, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, who was engaged to him – being pregnant. And it came to be, that while they were there, the days were filled for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her first-born Son, and wrapped Him up, and laid Him down in a feeding trough, because there was no room for them in a lodging place.

And in the same country there were shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And look, a messenger of YHVH stood before them, and the esteem of YHVH shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. And the messenger said to them, “Do not be afraid, for look, I bring you good news of great joy which shall be to all people. “Because there was born to you today in the city of David a Savior, who is Messiah, the Master. “And this is the sign to you: You shall find a baby wrapped up, lying in a feeding trough.”

And suddenly there was with the messenger a crowd of the heavenly host praising Elohim and saying, “Esteem to Elohim in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased!”

And it came to be, when the messengers had gone away from them into the heaven, that the shepherds said to each other, “Indeed, let us go to Bethlehem and see this matter that has taken place, which the Master has made known to us.”

And they came in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a feeding trough. And having seen, they made known the matter which was spoken to them concerning the child. And all those who heard marveled at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary kept all these matters, considering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, boasting and praising Elohim for all they had heard and seen, as it was spoken to them.

And when eight days were completed for Him to be circumcised, His Name was called Yeshua, the Name given by the messenger before He was conceived in the womb. And when the days of her cleansing according to the Torah of Moses were completed, they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to YHVH – as it has been written in the Torah of YHVH, “Every male who opens the womb shall be called set-apart to YHVH” and to give an offering according to what is said in the Torah of YHVH, “A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

And see, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and dedicated, looking for the comforting of Israel. And the Set-apart Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Set-apart Spirit that he would not see death before he sees the Messiah of YHVH. And he came in the Spirit into the Set-apart Place. And as the parents brought in the Child Yeshua, to do for Him according to the usual practice of the Torah, then he took Him up in his arms and blessed Elohim and said, “Now let Your servant go in peace, O Master, according to Your word, for my eyes have seen Your deliverance, which You have prepared before the face of all the peoples, a light for the unveiling of the gentiles, and the esteem of Your people Israel.”

And Joseph and His mother were marveling at what was said about Him.

And Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, “See, this One is set for a fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign spoken against – and a sword shall pierce through your own being also – so as to reveal the thoughts of many hearts.”

And there was Ḥannah, a prophetess, a daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, and had lived with a husband seven years from her maidenhood, and she was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not leave the Set-apart Place, but served Elohim with fastings and prayers night and day. And she, coming in at that moment, gave thanks to YHVH, and spoke of Him to all who were waiting for redemption in Jerusalem.

And when they had accomplished all matters according to the Torah of YHVH, they returned to Galilee, to their city Nazareth. And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, being filled with wisdom. And the favor of Elohim was upon Him.

And His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Festival of the Passover. And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the practice of the festival. Luke 2:1-42

These verses are very informative in terms of what the details reveal. For instance, look at how many times the author specifically mentions that Joseph and Mary raised Yeshua according to YHVH’s Torah. They were completely obedient. They did not take part in the mixed worship that some of the other Hellenized Jews had adopted at this time. They remained completely set-apart and holy to YHVH.

Next, let’s talk about the shepherds. Not in Biblical days and not today do shepherds watch over their field by night in the dead of winter! Going back to what we have already learned about Mary’s pregnancy, we know that Mary conceived at Hanukkah (December/January time). Meaning that nine months from then would be September/October – the time of YHVH’s feast of Sukkot!

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with Elohim, and the Word was Elohim. He was in the beginning with Elohim. All came to be through Him, and without Him not even one came to be that came to be.

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from Elohim, whose name was John. This one came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all might believe through him. He was not that Light, but that he might bear witness of that Light. He was the true Light, which enlightens every man, coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came to be through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the authority to become children of Elohim, to those believing in His Name, who were born, not of blood nor of the desire of flesh nor of the desire of man, but of Elohim. And the Word became flesh and pitched His tent among us, and we saw His esteem, esteem as of an only brought-forth of a father, complete in favor and truth. John 1:1-14

These verses tell us that not only were the births and lives of John and Yeshua intertwined from the beginning, but that Yeshua “pitched His tent among us.” Some versions will say “He tabernacled among us.” The word “Sukkot” means tabernacle. It’s the time of year where people build sukkahs or tents/temporary dwellings and live in them for a week to remember how YHVH brought the children of Israel out of Egypt and delivered them from their bondage. This wording did not happen by chance or coincidence. It is a reference to the lost sheep of Israel (who understand His Torah) that Yeshua came to us at Sukkot.

Something else that both Luke 2 and John 1 have in common are two characteristics given to Yeshua. He is called both a Light and a Divider.

…a light for the unveiling of the gentiles, and the esteem of Your people Israel…And Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, “See, this One is set for a fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign spoken against – and a sword shall pierce through your own being also – so as to reveal the thoughts of many hearts.” Luke 2:32,34-35

He was in the world, and the world came to be through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. John 1:10-11

Yeshua is and always has been the Light to those who seek Him and His truth; but He has also been a Divider which tests the hearts of man in order to separate the sheep from the goats.

There are a lot of Christians who, when presented with the facts about the pagan origins of Christmas, say that they are not celebrating Christmas with this intent but, rather, they are celebrating Christmas as the birth of the Savior. They go on to say that since the Bible doesn’t specifically say when exactly Jesus was born why not just celebrate it at Christmas.

But if, after the presentation of the facts, you still won’t change your mind about Christmas then perhaps you should reevaluate why you really celebrate Christmas. Is it really to honor our savior or is it to make yourself feel good? God specifically spells out how much He hates the ways of the nations of the world and goes to great lengths to warn His chosen people against following these ways. Why then, after learning the truth about these abominable traditions that have been passed down and seeing Scriptural evidence that our Savior was not born at Christmas, would you continue to celebrate it? Is it because of the happy, jolly way it makes you feel? Is it that warm, fuzzy feeling you get this time of year? What is more important? The way you feel or the way He feels?

“For unto us a child is born; a son is given.” He gave His very life in spite of His own desires in order to do His Father’s work and save us all from sin. Why then do we insist on corrupting His Holy life with our pagan practices? Why do we insist on putting ourselves and our wants and our desires and what makes us feel good ahead of our Heavenly Father? That is idol worship in its truest, most basic form.

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the authority to become children of Elohim, to those believing in His Name, who were born, not of blood nor of the desire of flesh nor of the desire of man, but of Elohim. John 1:12-13

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. Isaiah 9:6-7

Saturnalia

The Real War on Christmas

Every year right around the time Pumpkin Spice lattes make their return and the leaves start changing colors, we start to hear about how the “war on Christmas” is happening yet again. This year there was a huge fuss from many Christians about Starbucks’ decision to have solid red cups instead of their usual cups depicting scenes of winter and how this was somehow the height of the war on Christmas. The funny thing is, the original cups didn’t actually depict “Christian” or religious scenes. Instead they were pictures of snowflakes and kids sledding and playing in the snow.

I’ve also heard of nativity scenes being banned from public property because of the separation of Church and State and how it’s politically incorrect to say “Merry Christmas” and we should all just say “Happy Holidays” instead. To be honest, I don’t have a problem with the checkout lady at the grocery store wishing me a Merry Christmas because, really, how is she supposed to know I don’t celebrate Christmas? And the nativity scene? I mean, c’mon, people. Get a grip! If you don’t want to look at it, then don’t! Look away. Or act like the mature adult you pretend to be and get over it!

But what I do have a problem with is how in the midst of the “war on Christmas,” the battle cry of the religious is “Jesus is the reason for the season” or “put Christ back in Christmas.” But this simply is not possible.

Christ was never in Christmas. Jesus is not the real reason for the season.

We have taken our Holy Savior and transplanted Him into the abominable practices He hates and detests; we do the very things He abhors in an attempt to worship Him. But even worse, we have believed the lie that He is pleased with this.

We say we want to “put Christ back in Christmas” and that “Jesus is the reason for the season” but the truth is that we cannot take the abominable practices God warned us against and make them something holy. God will never take the abominable practices of idolatry and make them into something holy and pleasing to Him. That’s not how He works. YHVH has never instructed us that these pagan practices were “redeemed” in any way because He has His own ways and Holy days that He established from the beginning of time — and they are found in His Torah. Unfortunately, we have also believed the lie that His Instructions do not apply to us.

However, if we truly want to celebrate the birth of the Messiah as the reason for Christmas, then perhaps the biggest “war on Christmas” is actually Christmas itself.

The First Christmas
Today Christmas is celebrated around the world by Christian and non-Christian alike. Universally, however, it is known as the time to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Families come together. Gifts are given. People are full of the Christmas spirit. It can be a very happy and wonderful time of the year. But that’s not what Christmas always was. As we explore the origins of many of our modern Christmas and Easter traditions, the connection to the pagan practices which God calls an abomination become undeniable.Nimrod in the Vatican

According to the Bible in Genesis 10, Nimrod was the great-grandson of Noah and was called a “mighty hunter before YHVH” and a “mighty one” (a god). In fact, the Vatican proudly displays a statue of Nimrod the great hunter.

The Bible goes on to tell us that Nimrod built the Tower of Babel and that he went to Assyria and founded Nineveh and Babylon. As a reference point, today Assyria would be found in parts of Iran, Syria, Iraq, and Turkey. Nineveh is the modern day city of Mosul in Iraq. It is the oldest and most populated city of the ancient Assyrian Empire. This area has been in the news quite a bit since ISIS invaded Northern Iraq and took complete control of Mosul and other cities as part of their strategy to control the Levant area.

Legend has it that Nimrod married Semiramis, who also went by Isis, Astarte, Ishtar, Aphrodite, Venus, Diana, Asherah or Easter depending on which region of the world you were from. She was often called “the mother of god” and “the queen of heaven.” I will be referring to her as Ishtar for the rest of this article.

After Nimrod was murdered, Ishtar had to find a way to maintain her position as Queen of Babylon…so she concocted a story. After consulting her astrologers, she told the people that after dying at the winter solstice, Nimrod would come back to life again at the time of the spring equinox because he had risen to the sun and was now the sun god Ba’al, meaning “lord” or “husband.”

Ishtar also told the people that she had become the goddess of the moon and sky and that Nimrod had impregnated her through his sun rays and had reincarnated himself as her newborn son Tammuz. Ishtar later married her son Tammuz.

Tammuz was later killed by a wild pig and Ishtar told the people that he had ascended to his father, the sun. Ishtar also claimed that some of his blood had fallen on the stump of an evergreen tree and the stump had grown into a full, new tree overnight. This made the evergreen tree sacred in Babylonian worship.

Ishtar proclaimed that a period of mourning for Tammuz must now occur before the anniversary of his death every year. During this time of mourning, people were to refrain from eating meat, meditate on the mysteries of Baal/Nimrod and Tammuz (the father and son), make the “t” sign of Tammuz in front of their hearts as they worshiped, and they were also to make sacred cakes with the “t” on top. The “t” sign of Tammuz eventually evolved into a cross-like symbol. The aforementioned sacred cakes were the original hot cross buns that are now eaten on Good Friday to mark the end of Lent.

In order to bring Tammuz back from the dead, legend says that Ishtar descended into the underworld and had to pass through the seven gates of Hades. At each gate, Ishtar had to remove one symbol of her power, either clothes or jewelry, until she stood at the last gate completely naked. Once the Queen of Heaven humbled herself before her sister, the Queen of Hades, she was plagued over her entire body. She was then sent back through the gates of Hades, picking up her removed items along the way. The Queen of Hades then told Ishtar that she has succeeded in ransoming her husband/son and that Tammuz could return for six months out of the year to earth but then he must return to Hades for the remaining six months.

Every year, on the first Sunday (sun worship) after the first full moon of the spring equinox, a celebration was made to celebrate Tammuz’s resurrection or rebirth. At this celebration, a pig was eaten to remind them of the pig that had killed Tammuz. The death of Tammuz is usually commemorated at the time of his birth – the winter solstice.

Ezekiel 8 speaks of how Ezekiel was taken to the Temple in Jerusalem and shown the abominations being committed in YHVH’s Holy Temple. One of those abominations is the women “weeping for Tammuz” in Ezekiel 8:14.

And He brought me to the door of the north gate of the House of YHVH, and I saw women sitting there, weeping for TammuzThen He said to me, “Have you seen this, O son of man? You are to see still greater abominations than these.” And He brought me into the inner court of the House of YHVH. And there, at the door of the Temple of YHVH, between the porch and the altar, were about twenty-five men with their backs toward the Temple of YHVH and their faces toward the east, and they were bowing themselves eastward to the sun. And He said to me, “Have you seen, O son of man? Is it a small matter to the house of Judah to do the abominations which they have done here? For they have filled the land with violence, and turn back to provoke Me. And see, they are putting the branch to My nose. Therefore I shall indeed deal in wrath. My eye shall not pardon nor would I spare. And they shall cry in My ears with a loud voice, but I shall not hear them.” – Exekiel 9:14-18

Christmas Trees
Trees and branches became the symbols of Nimrod. Legend has it that when Nimrod was “cut down” or murdered by his enemy, his body was cut into pieces and were sent to different parts of the Babylonian kingdom. The only part of his body which was never found was his penis. So Ishtar did what any loving wife would do and she decided to memorialize his penis by erecting a giant image of it in the shape we now know as an obelisk.

The stump of the evergreen tree, with a snake wrapped around it, Nimrods Treecame to represent Nimrod because he had been “cut down” like a tree. Every year around December 21 on the birthday of Tammuz (Nimrod reincarnated), Ishtar instructed the people that they should go into the forest (the Bible uses the word “groves”) and offer a present to an evergreen tree. They were also instructed to cut down a tree, take it into their homes, and decorate it with gold and silver balls which symbolized Nimrod’s testicles.

The modern day Christmas tree, complete with garland and balls, is a modern depiction of the snake wrapped around the stump and male testicles while the tree itself is a representation of Nimrod’s genitalia. It is not just a pretty decoration for our homes at Christmas time. At its very core the Christmas tree is a pagan sign of idolatry. It is an image that was worshipped and is an abomination to the One True God which we continue to bring into our homes every year.

Why would you want that in your home?

Take a moment to really think about it. What does a Christmas tree have to do with the birth of the Messiah? How does it logically fit into His story? How does it line up with what God tells us in the Bible about bringing these trees into our homes? It just doesn’t fit. It does not line up with the Word of God.

Hear the word which YHVH speaks to you, O house of Israel. Thus said YHVH, “Do not learn the way of the gentiles [pagan nations], and do not be awed by the signs of the heavens, for the gentiles are awed by them. For the prescribed customs of these peoples are worthless, for one cuts a tree from the forest, work for the hands of a craftsman with a cutting tool. They adorn it with silver and gold, they fasten it with nails and hammers so that it does not topple. They are like a rounded post, and they do not speak. They have to be carried, because they do not walk. Do not be afraid of them, for they do no evil, nor is it in them to do any good. There is none like You, O YHVH. You are great, and great is Your Name in might. Who would not fear You, O Sovereign of the nations? For this is Your due, for among all the wise men of the nations, and in all their reigns, there is none like You. They are both brutish and foolish, an instruction of worthlessness is the tree. Silver is beaten into plates; it is brought from Tarshish [in Spain], and gold from Uphaz, the work of the craftsman and of the hands of the smith; draped in blue and purple; all of them are the work of skilled ones. But YHVH is truly Elohim. He is the living Elohim and the everlasting Sovereign.  – Jeremiah 10:1-10

Saturnalia
Until the 4th Century AD, the feast we now know as “Christmas” was celebrated as Saturnalia. It was an ancient Roman festival held on the 17th of December through the 23rd of December to honor the Roman god Saturn or Satur. He is the half-man, half-goat god that was associated with the god Pan, the god of confusion (where we get pandemonium, pandemic, panic, etc.) and thought to be an early depiction of Satan.

Saturn went by many different names in the different regions of the world. Some of the names he is called are Mithra, Krishna (Vishnu), Osiris, Horus, Hercules, Tammuz (Nimrod), Indra, Budda, and Iesus (which later developed into the name “Jesus”).

I would like to point out that no matter which name we use, whether it’s Saturn, Tammuz, Nimrod, Mithra, Pan, Osiris, etc., it’s all the same name for referring to Satan. Satan doesn’t care what name you call him by just as long as you turn your back on the things of God. Compare this to YHVH who does have a very specific way of doing things and does care what name you call Him. There are many roads that lead to death, but only One that leads to life.

Saturn was the Roman god of agriculture who is said to have reigned the world during the Golden Age in which humans enjoyed the bounties of the earth without having to labor for them while they lived in a state of social egalitarianism, or complete equality with one another. The implication here is that there was peace on earth and good will towards all men.

Saturnalia was also described as a festival of light leading into the winter solstice, characterized by abundant candles to symbolize one’s quest for knowledge and truth.

After the public observances of Saturnalia took place, including public sacrifice (of both animals and humans), ceremonies in honor of Saturn, that often included much drinking and revelry, would continue in people’s homes. People would carry on with their drinking and carousing and the wealthier would sacrifice and subsequently eat a suckling pig as an offering to Saturn.

Saturnalia was also a time characterized by role reversal and the freedom for one to disrespect their masters. It was a time where social norms and hierarchies were disregarded and people acted with little regard to one another. Essentially, it was a time of chaos and confusion mixed in with some gift-giving for good measure. This was the precursor to Topsy Turvy Day and the medieval Feast of Fools.

Following Saturnalia, the renewal of light and the coming of the new year was celebrated at dies natalis sol invictus, the “Birthday of the Unconquerable Sun,” on December 25.

Sol Invictus
During Sol Invictus, each Roman community selected a victim whom they forced to indulge in food and other physical pleasures (food, sex, drink, etc.) throughout the week. At the festival’s conclusion on December 25th, Roman authorities believed they were destroying the forces of darkness (now embodied in the victim) by brutally murdering this innocent man or woman and thereby ensuring the gods’ blessing for the coming year’s crops.

In his dialogue entitled “Saturnalia,” the ancient Greek writer, poet and historian Lucian describes how the festival was observed in his time. In addition to human sacrifice, he mentions these customs: widespread intoxication, going from house to house while singing naked (a precursor of modern caroling), rape and other sexual unrestraint, and the consumption of human-shaped biscuits (we call them gingerbread men) in order to mimic human sacrifice.

The Encyclopedia Britannica volume 24 page 231 also tells us that people would give each other gifts, primarily to the children, in the form of dolls which was another representation of human sacrifice to their gods.

They celebrated what they believed was the sun’s return by having orgies, human and animal sacrifices and eating blood pudding which we call Christmas Pudding today.

The festival was characterized by gift-giving, feasting, singing and debauchery, as the priests of Saturn carried wreaths of evergreen boughs in procession throughout the Roman temples. People decorated their homes with green branches, evergreen wreaths, incense, candles, and religious figurines and gave them as gifts to one another. People everywhere stopped work to join in the celebration.

In the 4th Century AD, Emperor Constantine incorporated Saturnalia into his new religion of Christianity and called the new mixed holiday “Christmas.” No such festival acceptable to God exists in the Bible.

Putting Christ Back in Christmas
I know that many of us have been taught that God redeemed these pagan rituals or that since we didn’t know about the pagan roots its ok to continue celebrating them. But the truth is, it’s not. I’ve even heard some people say that the Church didn’t know about these pagan roots or that they didn’t intend to partake in evil practices but there is clear evidence to the contrary. There is substantial evidence that the Church not only knew about these pagan roots but purposely embraced them in order to keep the peace between the different religious groups.

I hope you understand that, even though we have been taught to celebrate Christmas in order to celebrate the birth of our Savior, YHVH never intended us to celebrate Christmas or take part in any of these pagan rituals and celebrations.

Now hear me on this point, I am by no means saying that our Savior did not die on the cross for our sins or that we should not celebrate His birth or resurrection. I am simply trying to say that the way we celebrate these Holy things and the time of year in which we celebrate them is wrong.

I know how hard learning these facts can be. To be honest, there are parts of Christmas that I used to truly enjoy and that I honestly miss. But for me, the most significant action I can take to truly love and worship the One True God is to fully obey Him. It’s not about me or what I want. It’s about Him. Pleasing Him is so much more important than decorating my house, getting presents, listening to Christmas music or doing things that make me feel good. He is the reason for every season and if we truly believe that then our focus should be on obedience to Him and His Word.

So this Christmas season, remember the real reason for the season and take Christ out of Christmas because Christmas is the real war on our Savior.

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Hanukkah: A Line in the Sand

With Hanukkah just a few days away, I couldn’t help but notice some striking similarities between the Maccabees of yesteryear and what we see happening today. The world was shocked a mere three weeks ago with the attacks in Paris where members of ISIS went on a rampage murdering more than 130 innocent people. Even more recently, Americans were again attacked in San Bernardino where 14 people were murdered by Muslim terrorists who had ties to ISIS. What’s even more sad and frustrating is that the attack in San Bernardino could have been prevented.

A neighbor of the terrorists is now coming forward saying that for the past several months he had noticed strange activity at the house but didn’t come forward for fear of retaliation and being accused of racial profiling. He observed packages being delivered in the middle of the night, people coming and going from the house, and several Middle Eastern men moving into the house.

This neighbor was more afraid of offending people and of being politically correct than of stopping evil and saving the lives of 14 murdered people. All it would have taken to possibly avert these terrorists would have been for people to step up and not be afraid to call evil, evil.

But instead, we’re all too afraid of being politically incorrect and offending people that we don’t know right from wrong anymore!

The Maccabees faced a similar situation when the Greeks invaded the Judean region and told the Jews they could no longer worship YHVH.

A Hanukkah History: Antiochus IV Epiphanes
In 200 BC, Antiochus III the Great of Syria defeated the Egyptian Ptolemaic Kingdom and gained the region of Judea as part of its kingdom. Antiochus III wanted to make peace within his new kingdom so he allowed the Jews to continue worshiping as they pleased and to live a life according to Torah.

But in 175 BC, after killing his two nephews who were the legitimate successors of the throne, Antiochus IV Epiphanes took the throne. Antiochus IV Epiphanes’s original name was Mithradates. This is important because if you’ve read my post about the pagan origins of Christmas, you know the name Mithra was another name for Tammuz/Nimrod. Some other names used for him — depending on what region of the world you were from — were Saturn, Krishna (Vishnu), Osiris, Horus, Hercules, Indra, Budda, and Iesus (which later developed into the name “Jesus”). Essentially, Antiochus IV Epiphanes was named after the pagan sun god who was born on December 25, died at the winter solstice (Dec 21) and rose again at the spring equinox.

After assuming the throne, he caught wind of rumors saying he had been killed and a subsequent revolt that was taking place in Jerusalem. He then stormed Jerusalem, quelled the revolt, and subsequently killed 40,000 Jews and sold another 40,000 into slavery as recorded in 2 Maccabees and Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews: Book XII.

In order to strengthen his hold over this region, Antiochus outlawed Jewish traditions and practices and, instead, ordered the worship of Zeus as the supreme god. He then sent his army to enforce this decree. His army profaned YHVH’s Holy Temple by dedicating it to Zeus, bringing obelisks and other abominable objects into the Temple, and pouring the blood of slaughtered pigs in the Temple and the Holy of Holies. According to Josephus, public worship of YHVH, including sacrifices, were shut down for 3½ years because of Antiochus IV’s proclamation.

Given what you just read about Antiochus IV, I hope you recognize him as a type and shadow of the anti-Messiah spoken about in Revelation.

The Maccabees
After Antiochus Epiphanes’ decree spread, a Jewish priest named Mattathias and his five sons Jochanan, Simeon, Eleazar, Jonathan, and Judah led a rebellion against Antiochus. This rebel group became known as the Maccabees or “hammer” in Hebrew.

The Maccabean revolt began when Antiochus’ army ordered that Mattathias sacrifice a pig on the altar of YHVH. When he refused, a fellow priest stepped forward to sacrifice the pig in hopes that the army would then leave them alone. Mattathias, rather than see YHVH’s altar profaned and a priest commit blasphemy, killed the priest and afterwards fled into the wilderness with his sons.

There are conflicting dates given for how long the Maccabean revolt actually lasted. Some believe the revolt lasted 20 years, ending only when the entire Judean region had been reconquered and the Hasmonean Dynasty was established. Others, however, believe the revolt lasted 7 years – the first 3½ years being when the sacrifices were stopped and ending when the city of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple were reclaimed. Hopefully the 7 year timeline is ringing some bells for you.

Rededication of the Temple of YHVH
After several years of living in the wilderness, hiding in caves, and engaging in rebel warfare, the Maccabees emerged victorious. They entered Jerusalem with their hearts full of joy, only to find the Temple of YHVH completely and utterly desecrated.

Pigs had been slaughtered on the altar of YHVH. Pagan asherah poles, obelisks, and a drove of statues had been placed in the Temple. There was fornication and orgies, hundreds of pagan gods being worshiped, and many more blasphemies that had taken place. So in order to restore that ways of YHVH and Temple workings, the Maccabees began the cleansing of the Temple.

Part of Temple protocol is that the light from the menorah must burn continually. Thus, lighting the menorah was one of the first actions the Maccabees took. According to Rabbinic tradition, the Maccabees could only find enough oil to keep the menorah burning for one day, but miraculously the oil lasted for eight days and they were able to cleanse and rededicate the Temple.

A Line in the Sand
I’d like to point out that the miracle of the oil lasting for eight days is part of Rabbinic tradition and not necessarily historical fact. Personally, I think Rabbinic tradition has downplayed the Maccabean revolts and focused on the oil in order to downplay their roots in mixing pagan and holy traditions.

An interesting fact about the Maccabean Revolt: it began as a campaign against other Jews. It began as a reaction to and means of stopping the Hellenization of the Jews that was taking place.

Remember the priest killed by Mattathias which essentially started the entire revolt? He was the embodiment of what was happening at the time — and is still going on today. The vast majority of Jews were content to accept the mixing of the Greek (i.e. pagan or Hellenistic) system with the ways of YHVH as prescribed in the Torah. They didn’t want to offend anyone and they wanted to appease these foreigners in order to keep the peace. That priest was willing to sacrifice a pig, something completely forbidden by YHVH, in order to have “peace” with the nations of the world and to save himself.

Today, things are not much different.

We live in a world where people are afraid to call wrong, wrong. We live in a world where people are afraid to do the right thing because of the vocal few. We are afraid to have beliefs that differ from someone else for fear of offending. We’re afraid to stand for what we believe in for fear of criticism. We are faced with the decision to do what is right or to do what is popular. We can stand for truth or we can stay silent for evil.

I believe that the lives of people like the Maccabees aren’t meant to be simply stories for us. They are meant to be warnings and signals for us. The Word of God tells us that there is nothing new under the sun. The battle for truth and holiness has been fought before, is being fought today, and will be fought in the future. I believe YHVH is drawing a line in the sand between His ways and our ways. The decision each of us has to make for ourselves is on which side of the line we will stand.

We each have a choice to make. Will we stand for His ways? Or will we continue to hold onto our own ways?

The king’s commissioners who were enforcing the apostasy came to the town of Modein for the sacrifices. Many Israelites gathered round them, but Mattathias and his sons drew apart.
The king’s commissioners then addressed Mattathias as follows, ‘You are a respected leader, a great man in this town; you have sons and brothers to support you. Be the first to step forward and conform to the king’s decree, as all the nations have done, and the leaders of Judah and the survivors in Jerusalem; you and your sons shall be reckoned among the Friends of the King, you and your sons will be honoured with gold and silver and many presents.’
Raising his voice, Mattathias retorted, ‘Even if every nation living in the king’s dominions obeys him, each forsaking its ancestral religion to conform to his decrees, I, my sons and my brothers will still follow the covenant of our ancestors. May Heaven preserve us from forsaking the Law and its observances.
As for the king’s orders, we will not follow them: we shall not swerve from our own religion either to right or to left.’ — 1 Maccabees 2:15-22

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A Thanksgiving Proclamation

The following is a guest post from Voice in the Desert contributor Stephanie Stockton. 

Happy Thanksgiving! I have so much to be thankful for. My wonderful husband of almost one year. My family and friends, even though we are far from each other this year. And I’m so thankful to live in America where we have the freedom to worship God and the opportunity to better ourselves.

Let us not forget that Thanksgiving was declared a national holiday by President Abraham Lincoln on October 3, 1863 for the purpose of giving thanks to God and helping to unify our nation. Two things we are again in desperate need of as a nation: God and unity!

Today, enjoy your family and remember to be grateful for all the many blessings of this year!

Proclamation of Thanksgiving

This is the proclamation which set the precedent for America’s national day of Thanksgiving. During his administration, President Lincoln issued many orders similar to this. For example, on November 28, 1861, he ordered government departments closed for a local day of thanksgiving.

Sarah Josepha Hale, a 74-year-old magazine editor, wrote a letter to Lincoln on September 28, 1863, urging him to have the “day of our annual Thanksgiving made a National and fixed Union Festival.” She explained, “You may have observed that, for some years past, there has been an increasing interest felt in our land to have the Thanksgiving held on the same day, in all the States; it now needs National recognition and authoritive fixation, only, to become permanently, an American custom and institution.”

Prior to this, each state scheduled its own Thanksgiving holiday at different times, mainly in New England and other Northern states. President Lincoln responded to Mrs. Hale’s request immediately, unlike several of his predecessors, who ignored her petitions altogether. In her letter to Lincoln she mentioned that she had been advocating a national thanksgiving date for 15 years as the editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book. George Washington was the first president to proclaim a day of thanksgiving, issuing his request on October 3, 1789, exactly 74 years before Lincoln’s.

The document below sets apart the last Thursday of November “as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise.”

According to an April 1, 1864, letter from John Nicolay, one of President Lincoln’s secretaries, this document was written by Secretary of State William Seward, and the original was in his handwriting. On October 3, 1863, fellow Cabinet member Gideon Welles recorded in his diary how he complimented Seward on his work. A year later the manuscript was sold to benefit Union troops.

Washington, D.C.
October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

Continue reading

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Letting Your Walk Talk: Living a Thankful Life

Thanksgiving. A time when we can gather with family and friends and be thankful for the many blessings we have in our lives. But I worry we are losing sight of what it really means to be thankful. In a generation that demands free stuff and feels they are entitled to whatever they want for simply existing, I fear that we have forgotten what it truly means to be thankful for what we have.

Take Keely Mullen, the Million Student March national organizer, who is protesting for free college and debt forgiveness. This is seriously one of the most cringe-worthy interviews I have ever watched. I felt so embarrassed for her. Seriously, watch the video and you’ll understand why. And, yet, I was so frustrated as I watched her struggle to find any real answers to the basic, logistical questions she was being asked. She feels entitled to have other people (the rich 1% that these poor, gullible kids are lied to about) pay for her college and to pay off the debt that she and others have accumulated in student loans. The third demand these protesters want is a $15/hr minimum wage for those working on college campuses. Unfortunately, the math just doesn’t add up.

Right now, if we were to institute a 100% tax on the rich 1% who is “hoarding” all the wealth, we would get roughly $1 trillion. There is currently about $1.3 trillion in student debt across the U.S. that these protesters want erased. The point? Even if we taxed 100% of the 1%’s wealth, it wouldn’t be enough to cover even one of the three areas these protesters want covered by the wealthy. She says that college systems are “unfair” and that there is “injustice” in the system. She was asked very basic questions like “at what point do you earn enough to be considered the 1%?” She had no answer. “What if the wealthy the leave the country? Who will pay for all this free stuff then?” No answer. “Even taxing the 1% at 100% we wouldn’t have enough to keep Medicare afloat for 3 years. How do you propose we pay for all the new stuff you’re asking for?” No answer. “Countries like Greece have also provided the same benefits that you’re demanding and now they’re going broke. Why do you think it will work here?” No answer. “Do you really think colleges won’t jump at the opportunity to raise the cost of tuition and room/board?” Some lame answer about what would happen in an “ideal” world.

It’s extremely frustrating to see the next generation of young people being as selfish and self-centered as they are. The world doesn’t owe us anything. We’ve confused a “right” with a “privilege.” These students are saying that education is a “right.” No, education is a privilege. When we begin to think that we have a “right” to anything and everything we want, we start going down a slippery slope. Suddenly, there’s no need to appreciate what we’re given because it was “owed” to us to begin with. We don’t have to work for anything or strive to be our best because it will all just be handed to us. We hear this and we’re outraged but are we any different than this entitled generation?

How do we show that we’re thankful? How do we show our appreciation?

We need to set the example. We need to first remember what we are thankful for and then show it! We can’t just talk about it. Take care of what God has blessed you with. From your family, friends, home, job, school, and life! Even if everyone else around you is complaining and talking about what they wish they had, make it a point to be thankful and appreciative for what you have been given.

It’s easy to get caught up in the life we want and forget what we already have. I know it’s cliché but life truly is a gift. We can take this gift and make a difference in the world in which we live or we can waste it by complaining and always wanting what we don’t have. There’s nothing wrong with ambition or striving towards the next goal but when your focus is on what you don’t have rather than what you do have, we run the risk of becoming selfish, self-centered, entitled, spoiled brats.

I know in my life, I have so much to be thankful for. I live in a free country, I have food on my table, a safe home to live in, family and friends who love me, and a loving God Who has never left my side. I have an education (for which I worked extremely hard), a job where I can earn money to pay my bills, and a car that, while not the nicest looking, gets me from Point A to be Point B just fine.

We each have things in our own lives for which we are thankful, but there are things that we can all collectively give thanks for too. Like our military. These brave folks selflessly serve their country and its citizens and put their lives on the line so that we can enjoy the freedoms we are privileged to have. Often they aren’t able to be home with their family and friends because of their work and for their sacrifice we should be eternally thankful.

Democracy. I am extremely thankful for democracy. “We the people” can vote to elect the people we choose to run our country instead of just being taken over by some crazy dictator. And while we aren’t always happy with the outcome, we can still find satisfaction in knowing that the citizens chose our leader…even if it was the dumber half of our citizens.

These things just scratch the surface of the things we have to be thankful for. But rather than simply saying we are thankful, we should be showing we are thankful. We should live our lives in a way that our joy and gratitude is evident to all we meet, whether it’s Thanksgiving Day or not.

Thanksgiving is just another day on the calendar if we can’t learn to be thankful for what we have every day of the year. So don’t just say you’re thankful…actually be thankful.

How can you live a thankful life? And no, it does not involve using the hashtag #blessed! Volunteer. Give to others. Put others before yourself. Don’t complain about your job. Don’t lust after what you don’t have. Take care of what you do have. Love those who are in your life.

My high school vice principle had a saying that he would walk around school saying every chance he could. He would say, “Your walk talks, and your talk talks but your walk talks louder than your talk talks.” We all thought it was cheesy, and it was, but it was a good reminder that has stuck with me all these years that the way you live your life speaks louder than how you say you live your live.

So what are you thankful for? And more importantly, how will you show it? Tell us in the comments below! Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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Voice Talk: A Believer’s Response to the Syrian Refugee Crisis

Join me on this edition of Voice Talk as I’m joined by some very special guests to discuss a believer’s response to the Syrian refugee crisis. Leave your thoughts and comments below!

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Standing Firm Against the Rise of Palestinian Violence

Fifteen years ago today, two IDF soldiers, Vadim Nurzhitz and Yossi Avrahami, accidentally passed an Israeli checkpoint and entered Ramallah. They were detained by Palestinian police only to have the police station overrun by an angry mob of Palestinians. What happened next is one of the most horrific acts of violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The soldiers were beaten, stabbed, had their eyes gouged out, and were Ramallah Lynchingdisemboweled. At this point, the Palestinian pictured below appeared at the window and displayed his blood-soaked hands to the crowd which erupted in cheers. The crowd clapped and cheered as one of the soldier’s body was thrown out of the window and stamped on and beaten by the frenzied crowd. The other bid was set on fire. Soon after this, the crowd dragged the two mutilated bodies to Al-Manara Square in the city center as the crowd began an impromptu victory celebration. Palestinian police did not attempt to stop any of this violence but instead joined in the violence.

Fifteen years later, not much has changed. While there is rarely true peace in the Land, there has been a fresh wave of intensified violence from the Palestinians as the result of a call to violence from Hamas and the Palestinian government in the region.

There have been countless stabbings, molotov cocktails, car rampages, beatings, and attacks from the Palestinians against Jews — simply for being Jewish.

How can the world be silent on the wave of terror happening in Israel right now?! The people calling for and committing these acts of terror are sick and evil. How else could you explain murdering people in this manner with no regard for human life? It’s pure evil.

Take the video below, for instance. This Palestinian man uses his car as a weapon and bulldozes Jews walking down the street. Next, he gets out of his car and begins hacking at the people lying on the sidewalk with a butcher’s knife before being stopped by a pedestrian with a gun. Who does this?! How could any sane, good person do these things to another human being for no reason?

And yet, this is what the Jewish people have faced their entire existence. There has always been someone that wanted to destroy and exterminate Israel. And while there is nothing new under the sun, the one thing that has changed is you.

You are alive and here for such a time as this. You may not be able to do anything to change the past but you can surely do something to change the future. It starts with you standing for what is right and not backing down in the face of evil. When someone speaks against Israel, be ready with an answer and stand firm for what you know is true. Pray for Israel and her people’s safety and peace. Get on your face before YHVH and ask Him to protect and comfort His people.

YHVH’s promise to His people is that He will never leave them nor forsake them. He will comfort them from Zion. YHVH will defend and rescue His people! He will not forget them nor let them be destroyed! Try as they might, the enemy will never succeed in destroying God’s people! Remember, we do not fight against flesh and blood and that vengeance is God’s; therefore, prayer is our most powerful weapon right now. We should not be fearful but remember that YHVH will deliver His people from the hand of the enemy!

The time is now. Will you be ready to stand firm? Will you be willing to stand for truth? You can make a difference and you can help change the future. Let’s stand firm with our brother Judah during this time violence.


*WARNING: Some viewers may find the following content disturbing*

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