I Samuel–The Bible Project

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75 Years Ago Today…

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Who Was St. Nicholas? By Kevin DeYoung

The unsatisfying answer to the title of this post is that nobody knows for sure. To quote one Nicholas scholar, “We can grant a bishop of that name who had a great impact on his homeland. We can also accept December 6 as the day of his death and burial. These are all the facts we can hold to. Further we cannot go.” (Gustav Anrich, quoted by Charles W. Jones in Saint Nicholas of Bari, Myra, and Manhattan).

According to the best estimates, Nicholas, was born around AD 280 in Patara, in Asia Minor. He later became bishop of Myra in modern-day Turkey. Nicholas, it seems, died about 343 on or near December 6.

There is no record of his existence attested in any document until the 6th century. By that time Nicholas, whoever he had been, was already famous. The emperor Justinian dedicated a church to him in Constantinople. Initially, Nicholas was most well known in the East. But by 900, a Greek wrote, “The West as well as the East acclaims and glorifies him. Wherever there are people, his name is revered and churches are built in his honor. All Christians reverence his memory and call upon his protection.” In 1087, Italian sailors stole his supposed relics and took them from Myra to Bari, Italy. This move greatly increased his popularity in Europe and made Bari one of the most crowded pilgrimage sites. It is said that Nicholas was represented by medieval artists more than any other saint except Mary.

Man and the Myth

Why was Nicholas so famous? It’s impossible to tell fact from fiction, but this is some of the legend of St. Nicholas:

He was reputed to be a wonder-worker who brought children back to life, destroyed pagan temples, saved sailors from death at sea, and as an infant nursed only two days a week and fasted the other five days.

Moving from probable legend to possible history, Nicholas was honored for enduring persecution. It is said that he was imprisoned during the Empire wide persecution under Diocletian and Maximian. Upon his release and return, the people flocked around him. “Nicholas! Confessor! Saint Nicholas has come home!”

Nicholas was also hailed as a defender of orthodoxy. Later sources claim he was in attendance at the council of Nicea. According to tradition, he was a staunch opponent of Arianism. Writing five centuries after his death, one biographer said, “Thanks to the teaching of St. Nicholas, the metropolis of Myra alone was untouched by the filth of the Arian heresy, which it firmly rejected as a death-dealing poison.” Stories of his courage abound, one claiming that Nicholas traveled to Nicea and, upon arrival, promptly slapped Arius in the face. As the story goes, the rest of the council was shocked and appalled, so much so that they were going to remove Nicholas from his bishopric, until Jesus and Mary appeared to defend him. According to the same legend, this apparition changed the minds of the delegates, who quickly recanted of their outrage.

As you might have guessed, Nicholas was also revered for being a generous gift giver. Born into a wealth family, he inherited the fortune when his parents died. Apparently he gave his vast fortune away. The most famous story involved three girls who were so destitute that they were going to be forced into a life of prostitution. But Nicholas threw three bags of gold through the window as dowries for the young woman.

Over time, Saint Nicholas became the patron saint of nations like Russia and Greece, cities like Fribourg and Moscow, and of children, sailors, unmarried girls, merchants, and pawnbrokers (the three gold balls hung outside pawn shops are symbolic of the three bags of gold).

Christmas and St. Nicholas

In honor of St. Nicholas the gift giver, Christians began to celebrate December 6 (his feast day) by giving presents. The tradition developed over time. For good boys and girls, St. Nicholas would come in his red bishop’s robe and fill boots with gifts on the night of December 5. For bad boys and girls St. Nicholas was to be feared. In highly Catholic parts of Europe, St. Nicholas became a deterrent to erring young children. In Germany, he was often accompanied by Knecht Ruprecht (farmhand Rupert) who threatened to eat misbehaving children. In Switzerland, St. Nicholas threatened to put wicked children in a sack and bring them back to the Black Forest. In the Netherlands, St. Nicholas’s helper would tie them in a sack and bring them back to Spain. In parts of Austria, the priest, dressed up in Christmas garb, would visit the homes of naughty children and threaten them with rod-beatings. At least nowadays, he only checks his list!

Not surprisingly, the Reformers were less than friendly towards the traditions that had been built up around the saints. Luther rejected the saints’ days, believing they were built upon legends and superstitions (and a virulent strain of moralism we might add). In Germany, Luther replaced Saint Nicholas’ Day with a different holiday, Christ Child, or Christkindl. Ironically, Kriss Kringle which derived from Luther’s Christ Child holiday, has become just another name for St. Nicholas.

From St. Nicholas to Santa Claus

The cult of St. Nicholas virtually disappeared in Protestant Europe, with the exception of one country: the Netherlands. If you love Christmas with all the trappings of Santa Claus and stockings and presents, thank the Dutch. If you despise all that, try to ignore my last name for the time being. The Puritans had done away with St. Nicholas and banned Christmas altogether. But the Dutch held on to their tradition and brought it with them to the New World. In the Netherlands Sint Nicolaas was contracted to Sinterklaas. According to Dutch tradition, Sinterklaas rides a horse and is accompanied by his helper Zwarte Piet, or Black Pete. Many consider Black Pete a racist stereotype derived from slavery, although others claim he is black because he goes down the chimney and gets a face full of soot.

At any rate, it is easy to see how Sinterklaas evolved in America to Santa Claus. Santa Claus became the Santa we know in the United States only after the poem “Twas the Night Before Christmas” was written in 1823. Possibly the best-known verses ever written by an American, the poem has greatly influenced the tradition of Santa in the English-speaking world and beyond.

Jolly Old St. Nick and Jesus

How should Christians relate to the traditions of Santa Claus? C. S. Lewis embraced them and so included Father Christmas in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Other Christians, fearing syncretism, stay clear of Santa, reindeer, and a tree full of presents. I’ll leave it to you and your family to form you opinions on observing the Christmas holiday (see Rom. 14:1, 5-6).

But if Santa Claus is everywhere already, why not use him to your benefit and talk about the real St. Nicholas? We don’t know a lot about him, but we know he was a real and much-revered person. According to legend—one of those stories that probably isn’t true, but should be—when Nicholas was a little boy, he would get up early to go to church and pray. One morning, the aging priest had a vision that the first one to enter the church the next day should be the new bishop of Myra. When Nicholas was the first to enter, the old priest, obeying the vision, made the young boy bishop right on the spot. But before he consecrated Nicholas, the priest asked him a question. “Who are you, my son?” According to tradition, the child whose legend would one day become Santa Claus replied, “Nicholas the sinner.” Not bad for a little boy.

With what little we know about St. Nicholas, it is safe to say he would not be pleased to know he had eclipsed Christ in the hearts of many as the central figure of Christmas. For the bishop of Myra no doubt knew the angel’s words to Joseph: “Mary will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” So this Christmas, give gifts if you like. We will in our family. Receive them all with thanksgiving. But do not forget what we need most—salvation through substitution. This is one gift the real St. Nicholas would not have overlooked.

 

Kevin DeYoung is senior pastor of University Reformed Church (PCA) in East Lansing, Michigan, near Michigan State University. He and his wife Trisha have six young children. You can follow him on Twitter.

 

 

https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/kevindeyoung/2016/12/06/who-was-st-nicholas-2/?platform=hootsuite

 

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General James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis Email About Being ‘Too Busy To Read’ Is A Must-Read By Geoffrey Ingersoll

Marine General James Mattis AP

In the run up to Marine Gen. James Mattis‘ deployment to Iraq in 2004, a colleague wrote to him asking about the “importance of reading and military history for officers,” many of whom found themselves “too busy to read.”

His response went viral over email.

Security Blog “Strife” out of Kings College in London recently published Mattis’ words with a short description from the person who found it in her email.

Their title for the post:

With Rifle and Bibliography: General Mattis on Professional Reading

[Dear, “Bill”]

The problem with being too busy to read is that you learn by experience (or by your men’s experience), i.e. the hard way. By reading, you learn through others’ experiences, generally a better way to do business, especially in our line of work where the consequences of incompetence are so final for young men.

Thanks to my reading, I have never been caught flat-footed by any situation, never at a loss for how any problem has been addressed (successfully or unsuccessfully) before. It doesn’t give me all the answers, but it lights what is often a dark path ahead.

With [Task Force] 58, I had w/ me Slim’s book, books about the Russian and British experiences in [Afghanistan], and a couple others. Going into Iraq, “The Siege” (about the Brits’ defeat at Al Kut in WW I) was req’d reading for field grade officers. I also had Slim’s book; reviewed T.E. Lawrence’s “Seven Pillars of Wisdom”; a good book about the life of Gertrude Bell (the Brit archaeologist who virtually founded the modern Iraq state in the aftermath of WW I and the fall of the Ottoman empire); and “From Beirut to Jerusalem”. I also went deeply into Liddell Hart’s book on Sherman, and Fuller’s book on Alexander the Great got a lot of my attention (although I never imagined that my HQ would end up only 500 meters from where he lay in state in Babylon).

Ultimately, a real understanding of history means that we face NOTHING new under the sun.

For all the “4th Generation of War” intellectuals running around today saying that the nature of war has fundamentally changed, the tactics are wholly new, etc, I must respectfully say … “Not really”: Alex the Great would not be in the least bit perplexed by the enemy that we face right now in Iraq, and our leaders going into this fight do their troops a disservice by not studying (studying, vice just reading) the men who have gone before us.

We have been fighting on this planet for 5000 years and we should take advantage of their experience. “Winging it” and filling body bags as we sort out what works reminds us of the moral dictates and the cost of incompetence in our profession. As commanders and staff officers, we are coaches and sentries for our units: how can we coach anything if we don’t know a hell of a lot more than just the [Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures]? What happens when you’re on a dynamic battlefield and things are changing faster than higher [Headquarters] can stay abreast? Do you not adapt because you cannot conceptualize faster than the enemy’s adaptation? (Darwin has a pretty good theory about the outcome for those who cannot adapt to changing circumstance — in the information age things can change rather abruptly and at warp speed, especially the moral high ground which our regimented thinkers cede far too quickly in our recent fights.) And how can you be a sentinel and not have your unit caught flat-footed if you don’t know what the warning signs are — that your unit’s preps are not sufficient for the specifics of a tasking that you have not anticipated?

Perhaps if you are in support functions waiting on the warfighters to spell out the specifics of what you are to do, you can avoid the consequences of not reading. Those who must adapt to overcoming an independent enemy’s will are not allowed that luxury.

This is not new to the USMC approach to warfighting — Going into Kuwait 12 years ago, I read (and reread) Rommel’s Papers (remember “Kampstaffel”?), Montgomery’s book (“Eyes Officers”…), “Grant Takes Command” (need for commanders to get along, “commanders’ relationships” being more important than “command relationships”), and some others.

As a result, the enemy has paid when I had the opportunity to go against them, and I believe that many of my young guys lived because I didn’t waste their lives because I didn’t have the vision in my mind of how to destroy the enemy at least cost to our guys and to the innocents on the battlefields.

Hope this answers your question…. I will cc my ADC in the event he can add to this. He is the only officer I know who has read more than I.

Semper Fi, Mattis

 

 

Posted: May 9,2013

http://www.businessinsider.com/viral-james-mattis-email-reading-marines-2013-5

 

 

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Literary Birthday – 30 November – L. M. Montgomery

L. M. Montgomery was born 30 November 1874, and died 24 April 1942

Nine Quotes 

  1. Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?
  2. I am simply a ‘book drunkard.’ Books have the same irresistible temptation for me that liquor has for its devotee. I cannot withstand them.
  3. We should regret our mistakes and learn from them, but never carry them forward into the future with us.
  4. If you can sit in silence with a person for half an hour and yet be entirely comfortable, you and that person can be friends. If you cannot, friends you’ll never be and you need not waste time in trying.
  5. You must pay the penalty of growing-up, Paul. You must leave fairyland behind you.
  6. People laugh at me because I use big words. But if you have big ideas, you have to use big words to express them, haven’t you?
  7. There are so many unpleasant things in the world already that there is no use in imagining any more.
  8. We are never half so interesting when we have learned that language is given us to enable us to conceal our thoughts.
  9. It’s been my experience that you can nearly always enjoy things if you make up your mind firmly that you will.

Montgomery was a Canadian author best known for a series of novels beginning in 1908 with Anne of Green Gables.

Photo

 by Amanda Patterson. Follow her on Pinterest,  Facebook,  Tumblr,  Google+,  LinkedIn, and  Twitter.

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The Truth About Fidel and Raul By Ted Cruz

There is more than enough evidence to judge the Castros’ legacy for what it is: the systematic exploitation and oppression of the Cuban people.

Two decades of “Castro-is-dead” rumors are finally at an end. And the race is on to see which world leader can most fulsomely praise Fidel Castro’s legacy, while delicately averting their eyes from his less savory characteristics. Two duly elected leaders of democracies who should know better, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau and American president Barack Obama, are leading the way. Mr. Trudeau praised Castro as a “legendary revolutionary and orator” who “made significant improvements to the education and health care of his island nation.” Mr. Obama offered his “condolences” to the Cuban people, and blandly suggested that “history will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure.” Now, he added, we can “look to the future.”

 

With all due respect to Mr. Obama, the 60 years Fidel Castro spent systematically exploiting and oppressing the people of Cuba provide more than enough history to pass judgment on both Fidel and, now more importantly, his brother Raul.

 

My own family’s experience is a case in point. My father, Rafael, had been an early supporter of the revolution against Fulgencio Batista — and spent a time in prison getting his teeth kicked in for his efforts. He fled the island, only to return to what he hoped would be a liberated Cuba. Instead, he found a new, even more brutal, form of repression had taken hold. In 1960, he left again, never to return. His sister, my Tia Sonia, bravely joined the resistance to Castro and was jailed and tortured in her turn.

 

The betrayal and violence experienced by my father and aunt were all too typical of the millions of Cubans who have suffered under the Castro regime over the last six decades. This is not the stuff of Cold War history that can be swept under the rug simply because Fidel is dead. Consider, for example, the dissidents Guillermo Fariñas and Elizardo Sanchez, who warned me in the summer of 2013 that the Castros, then on the ropes because of the reduction of Venezuelan patronage, were plotting to cement their hold on power by pretending to liberalize in order to get the American economic embargo lifted. Their model was Vladimir Putin’s consolidation of power in Russia (Sanchez called it “Putinismo”), and their plan was to get the United States to pay for it. It worked. The year after I met with Fariñas and Sanchez, Mr. Obama announced his famous “thaw” with the Castros, and the American dollars started flowing. As we now know, there was no corresponding political liberalization.

 

Last September, Mr. Fariñas concluded his 25th hunger strike against the Castros’ oppression. Then there is the case of the prominent dissident Oswaldo Paya, who in 2012 died in a car crash that is widely believed to have been orchestrated by the Castro regime. His daughter, Rosa Maria, has pressed relentlessly for answers, and thus become a target herself. When, just three years after her father’s death, the United States honored the Castros with a new embassy in Washington, D.C., Rosa Maria tried to attend the related State Department press conference as an accredited journalist. But she was spotted by the Cuban delegation, who demanded that she be removed if she dared ask any questions. The Americans complied, in an act of thuggery more typical of Havana than Washington.

 

Finally, I had the honor last summer to meet with Dr. Oscar Biscet, an early truth-teller about the disgusting practice of post-birth abortions in Cuba who has been repeatedly jailed and tortured for his fearless opposition to the Castros. I asked him, as I had asked Senores Farinas and Sanchez, whether his ability to travel signaled growing freedom on the island. He answered just as they had three years earlier: “No.” In fact, he said, the repression had grown worse since the “thaw” with America. Didn’t we realize, he wondered, that all those American dollars were flowing into the Castros’ pockets, and funding the next generation of their police state? That is the true legacy of Fidel Castro — that he was able to institutionalize his dictatorship so it would survive him.

 

There is a real danger that we will now fall into the trap of thinking Fidel’s death represents material change in Cuba. It does not. The moment to exert maximum pressure would have been eight years ago, when his failing health forced him to pass control to his brother Raul. But, rather than leverage the transition in our favor, the Obama administration decided to start negotiations with Raul in the mistaken belief that he would prove more reasonable than his brother (an unfortunate pattern they repeated with Kim Jong-un, Hassan Rouhani, and Nicolas Maduro). Efforts to be diplomatically polite about Fidel’s death suggest the administration still hopes Raul can be brought round.

 

 

All historical evidence points to the opposite conclusion. Raul is not a “different” Castro. He is his brother’s chosen successor who has spent the last eight years implementing his dynastic plan. Unlike Cuba, however, the United States has an actual democracy, and our recent elections suggest there is significant resistance among the American people to the Obama administration’s policy of appeasement towards hostile dictators. We can — and should — send clear signals that that policy is at an end. Among other things, we should halt the dangerous “security cooperation” we have begun with the Castro regime, which extends to military exercises, counter-narcotics efforts, communications, and navigation — all of which places our sensitive information in the hands of a hostile government that would not hesitate to share it with other enemies from Tehran to Pyongyang. And we should insist that no United States government official attend Castro’s funeral unless and until Raul releases his political prisoners, first and foremost those who have been detained since Fidel’s death. I hope all my colleagues will join me in calling for these alterations.

 

A dictator is dead. But his dark, repressive legacy will not automatically follow him to the grave. Change can come to Cuba, but only if America learns from history and prevents Fidel’s successor from playing the same old tricks.

 

— Ted Cruz represents Texas in the United States Senate.

Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/442485/fidel-castro-dead-ted-cruz-cuban-dictator-oppression-raul

 

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Things I’m Thankful for—Part V

 

 

  1. My sister is here for Thanksgiving.
  2. A dishwasher.
  3. The Dewey Decimators. A Facebook book club.
  4. A puppy who comes when I call him.
  5. A new President whose name isn’t Clinton.
  6. A window in my office.
  7. My mom is doing something she loves—teaching.
  8. My dad’s new job.
  9. Aunt Pat.
  10. Friends who brainstorm with me.
  11. Dark roast coffee.
  12. Leftover Halloween candy.
  13. The First Amendment.
  14. Packages in the mail.
  15. Catching up with old friends.
  16. Trips to California.
  17. All kinds of music…except…well…never mind.
  18. The rule of law.
  19. The Electoral College
  20. My blog followers. I couldn’t do this without you.
  21. A working printer.
  22. YouTube.
  23. Meeting deadlines.
  24. God’s sovereignty and provision.
  25. The men of my church.
  26. Newly discovered authors.
  27. My writing space.
  28. Church History.
  29. Fresh fruit in the morning.
  30. Net Galley.
  31. An almost-finished book. Forty pages to go.
  32. The end of mosquito season. They like me. They really like me.
  33. Down blankets.
  34. Humphrey Bogart movies.
  35. Big screen TV.
  36. Books on writing.
  37. My DVR. I know I have said this before, but I still hate commercials.
  38. Things to look forward too.
  39. Law Enforcement Officers.
  40. Never having to worry where my next meal is coming from.
  41. Sleeping in.
  42. Donuts.
  43. The ability to discern truth.
  44. Coupons and gift certificates.
  45. The future.
  46. That God has a perfect plan and purpose for all those things in my life that don’t make sense.
  47. The Psalms.
  48. God is gentle with me.
  49. Mercy.
  50. Notebooks.

 

 

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