Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Hold Fast

“Any of you ready for a “Puritan Christmas”?” Andreas K√∂stenberger asked, in his blog, “A Puritan Christmas”.[1]

Sure, I thought. But, how did the Puritan’s celebrate Christmas? Continuing to read, I was surprised to discover the Puritans did not celebrate Christmas. In fact, in Scotland, from 1580 through 1660, the Puritan’s controlled Parliament actually outlawed Christmas. When the Pilgrims immigrated to the New World, they did the same. Christmas, they had decided, was a pagan corruption of the true birth of our Savior, believing the word holiday, a combination of two words – holy and day – implied one day more holy than the next. “They for whom all days are holy can have no holiday,”[2] became their condescending response to Christmas, “…nicknaming it "Foolstide" and banning their flock from any celebration of it throughout the 17th and 18th centuries.”[3]

Nevertheless, they may have a point.

Consider our western traditions. Even the word, Christmas, was coined by the pagan amalgamated Roman Church, forming it from a combination of two words:  Christ and mass.

Of the mass, “The Council of Trent (1545-63) declared that "The same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross, is present and offered in an unbloody manner" in the Mass.”[4] Although the writer denies this is a continual resacrificing of Jesus, that it is just His sacrifice “presented to us once more,”[5] their doctrine remains, “When the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, Christ is truly present on the altar.”[6] This, he calls a “re-presentation” of the crucifixion.”[7] Not representation or symbolic as I believe Scripture indicates, but a re-presenting of Christ for crucifixion in each and every mass, implying Christ’s “once for all”[8] sacrifice was not enough to save.

And that’s just one problem. The day itself, was the pagan worship of the sun god that predated the birth of Christ. It was celebrated with drunkenness, lewd singing in the streets, and intense revelry, etc. Pagan worship items such as the evergreen tree, red holly berries, mistletoe, etc. have lasted, making their way into our time and traditions. And, let’s not even mention St. Nicholas aka Santa Claus.

So what are we to do now since originally, Jesus was not the reason for the season? Should we abandon our Christmas celebration as the Puritan’s did because of the pagan roots? Or, can we continue, in our little corner of the world, to overhaul this “holiday” by choosing to hold fast to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? To focus on His incarnation and why He came – to die on a cross for our sin. To sing songs worshipping and honoring our Almighty, Triune God for His amazing Gift, while remembering “…the words of the Lord Jesus…’It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ “[9]

I think we can. “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord…who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel… hold fast the pattern of sound words…[and]…hold fast to Him, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul.”[10]

Have a Blessed Christmas and a Happy, Healthy New Year!

[3] ibid
[5] ibid
[6] ibid
[7] ibid
[8] Romans 6:10; Hebrews 7:27; 9:12; 10:10
[9] Acts 20:35
[10] II Timothy 1:8-13; Joshua 22:5

Monday, November 21, 2016

One Blood

“Oh, give THANKS to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.”[1]

Recently, I’ve come to realize I’ve lived a somewhat sheltered life with regards to Thanksgiving. Oh, I’ve learned of our nation’s history and read some of the pilgrim’s writings, yet my research, until now, has been from the settler’s point of view.

Quite by accident, I came across an article from the website: The author, Thomas A. Ferguson, called our white, European American idea of the first Thanksgiving a view “…based on the mythological concept and approach Western minds have when dealing with the various Native Populations.”[2] He paints an extremely condescending and contemptuous picture of the Pilgrims assuring us the Native American does not view this holiday with the same love and fervor we do.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Does God Really See What's Going On?


Sweltering heat; pounding heart; cramping pain in her throat and chest. Feeling as if crushed by a boulder, she gasps for air with lungs that just won’t fill. Lips parched and cracked. Desperate for water. Fleeing. Frightened; yet trudging on. A spring of water in the distance.  If I can make it to the spring, maybe, just maybe.

Ever feel like this? What? Isn’t this is a physical scenario? True. However, anxiety, worry, fear, etc. can cause this type of emotional experience.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Atheist's Solution

Recently I was privileged to watch a pre-release video of “man on the street” interviews entitled, The Atheist Delusion, by Evangelist, Ray Comfort. Then, last week I heard an intriguing comment on the Moody Radio program, In the Market with Janet Parshall. Her “man on the street” interviews, created to segue into the next portion of her show, caught my attention. In one of the interviews a woman made this statement:  “We don’t need religion to know right from wrong or to treat people the way you want to be treated.”

Pondering this remark caused me to ask why. Why do all humans have an innate understanding of right and wrong and desire to be treated fairly? From where did it come? And how do humans measure right from wrong? What standard do we use? And from where did we get that standard? I mean, we have a conscience, but what would have caused a conscience to develop if we are only evolved and not created?

Clearly, the atheist and scoffer have no answers. Yet in arrogance, they consider their intellect superior to believers in Jesus Christ, because, as they say, they do not believe in “myths”.  They feel their belief of no God allows them to live unencumbered by “religion” and in complete control of their lives.

But, atheism is a religion and an intolerant one at that. Religion, along with being a belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods; a particular system of faith and worship; is also a pursuit or interest to which someone ascribes supreme importance.[1] Atheism, of course, is the latter and as such, it’s a religion akin to witchcraft, because their main tenet is control of one’s own life and/or others. This is nothing less than rebellion against God. “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry…”[2]

Still atheism is unlike witchcraft in their condescension of those who feel the need to adhere to any religion’s precepts. And while atheists feel free to live their lives without so-called rules, they are governed by them nonetheless. Humans cannot escape God. They exist because He exists. God is Sovereign over His creation whether they acknowledge Him or not. Deceiving themselves will help only for this world, not the next. “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God..."[3] Sadly, “…they suppress the truth in unrighteousness…and their foolish hearts are darkened.”[4]

C.S. Lewis, in his book, Mere Christianity, calls our innate understanding the Law of Nature or human [sin] nature. He explains, “These, then, are the two points I wanted to make. First, that human beings all over the earth have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way and cannot really get rid of it. Secondly, that they do not in fact behave in that way. They know the Law of Nature; they break it. These two facts are the foundation of all clear thinking about ourselves and the universe we live in.”

The Atheist believes the concept of sin was created by weak people who need religion. Therefore, to them, sin does not exist. Yet, they still strive to be a “good” person and believe immoral acts, like someone cutting in line or encroaching upon their rights, are wrong. They may reject the “sin” label and the Ultimate One sinned against, but because of Adam’s sin,[5] they cannot believe otherwise – it’s innate – because God placed it there.

Morality can be religion-less, but it cannot be God-less, because it originates in God and His Law. This holy, good, and righteous God set the standard by which we measure right from wrong and established this plumb line by who He is.

The atheist has deceived himself. But there is a solution should they wonder:  Relationship, not religion. Our Almighty, Longsuffering God desires relationship even with the atheist and a true heart change, for God grieves when souls perish.[6]

[2] I Samuel 15:23a
[3] I Corinthians 3:19-20
[4] Romans 1:18-21
[5] Romans 5:12
[6] II Peter 3:9

Monday, May 30, 2016

A Mystery Kept Secret - Now Revealed

Do you like mysteries?  I do to a point. As long as the mystery is solved with a happy ending, I enjoy the investigation, search, and resolution. But, without a happy ending, I’m disturbed. This is one reason why TV season finales sometimes make me crazy.

The word mystery, according to the online dictionary, means something that is difficult or impossible to understand or explain. It can also be a novel, play, or movie dealing with a puzzling crime, especially a murder. Obviously, television dramas are the latter.

But, in just living we come upon mysteries – things we can’t explain. Some feel compelled to investigate because they need answers – to find each puzzle piece, assemble them, and solve the mystery. Then we are satisfied and settled.

Still, because of this desire within us to know the complete story, doesn’t it intrigue you when God speaks in the New Testament about a mystery kept secret since the world began?

Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Heart of the Gospel
"Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.[1]

This week commenced with what we know as Palm Sunday, Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. As He rode into the city on the back of a donkey, fulfilling Zachariah’s prophesy, some euphoric townsmen spread their cloaks on the road while others waved palm branches, hailing Him as Messiah, the Prince. When the indignant Pharisees asked Jesus to quiet his disciples He replied, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.”[2] Why? Because, this was the day – the day set forth by Almighty God through the angel Gabriel, concluding the second division of Daniel, the prophet’s seventy weeks.[3]

Yet, Palm Sunday also begins a most solemn time for those who believe. Triumph turned quickly to contempt. Some, who just days before, were caught up in the jubilance crying, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!' Hosanna in the highest,”[4] now shouted, “Crucify Him!”

What happened? Truly, if this account were written by man, the “hero” would have gone on to win over the Pharisee’s, the Sadducee’s, and all the scoffers. But this is not written by man, it’s truth from God Almighty. It was the culmination of the fullness of time,[5] the reason God became flesh and dwelt among us.[6] Jesus Christ, God the Son, was and is the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world[7] for us.

But thankfully, it doesn’t end there. Yes, on the cross Jesus died in our place, canceling the unfavorable record of our sin debt.[8] Yet, three days later He did more. He conquered death for us by rising from the dead. He is alive forevermore![9]

But, did you ever think about what life would be like if Jesus had not risen from the dead?

We would be as the atheist – completely without hope. No heaven, no seeing Jesus when we die, no “…well done, thou good and faithful servant…” There would be no reason to live by God’s Word, for doing good, for being kind, for loving our neighbor and our enemy, or for considering others as better than ourselves.[10] Paul said, “…if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty…And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.”[11]
It seems to me our lives are shaped by Christ’s resurrection, for it is the heart of the gospel. Even non-believers seem to hope in an “afterlife”. Sadly, they are deceived into thinking everyone goes to a better place. Still, just as believers, they hope, because Jesus DID rise from the dead[12] and God has set eternity in our hearts.[13]

So, go out and reach unbelievers with the HEART of the GOSPEL.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.”[14]

[1] Zechariah 9:9
[2] Luke 19:40
[3] Daniel 9:20-27
[4] Matthew 21:9
[5] Galatians 4:4
[6] John 1:1, 14
[7] I Peter 1:18-20; Rev. 13:8
[8] Colossians 2:13-14
[9] Revelation 1:18
[10] Philippians 2:3-4
[11] I Corinthians 15:12-19
[12] I Corinthians 15:20
[13] Ecclesiastes 3:11
[14] I Peter 1:3-4

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