Category Archives: Sins

Hand Washing to limit the spread of COVID-19

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

My fellow beings. I come before you with a heavy heart. Our world is currently embroiled in a deadly battle against an enemy that takes no prisoners. An enemy that has no emotions, no sympathy for human life, serves the social function of designating a particular entity as a threat, thereby invoking an intense emotional response to that entity. An enemy that may also be conceptual; used to describe impersonal phenomena such as a disease, as the object of social anger or repulsion.

The enemy in this case is the Coronavirus. The new virus causes a disease called COVID-19, which stands for coronavirus disease 2019, the year it was discovered. The coronavirus is a respiratory virus first reported in China in December 2019. The illness has since spread around the globe, and the World Health Organization has characterized it as a pandemic. Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that can cause a range of symptoms including a runny nose, cough, sore throat, fever and hard to breathe. Some are mild, such as the common cold, while others are more likely to lead to pneumonia. They’re usually spread through direct contact with an infected person.

Coronavirus

The coronavirus gets its name from the crown-like spikes on its surface, according to the CDC. (Corona is Latin for crown.) Including the newly identified form of the virus, there are a total of seven coronaviruses that can infect humans, the CDC says. Other well-known coronaviruses include SARS and MERS.

Various outbreaks of pandemic diseases, such as Ebola or the coronavirus, have prompted many to ask why God allows—or even causes—pandemic diseases and whether such illnesses are a sign of the end times. The Bible, particularly the Old Testament, describes numerous occasions when God brought plagues and diseases on His people and on His enemies, 14 for at this time I will send all My plagues to your very heart, and on your servants and on your people, that you may know that there is none like Me in all the earth. 16 But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you My power, so that My name may be proclaimed in all the earth. (Exodus 9:1416). He used plagues on Egypt to force Pharaoh to free the Israelites from bondage, while sparing His people from being affected by them (Exodus 12:1315:26), thus indicating His sovereign control over diseases and other afflictions.

Exodus 12:13 The New King James Version (NKJV)

13 Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.

Exodus 15:26 The New King James Version (NKJV)

26 and said, “If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the Lord who heals you.”

God also warned His people of the consequences of disobedience, including plagues, 21 ‘Then, if you walk contrary to Me, and are not willing to obey Me, I will bring on you seven times more plagues, according to your sins.” “25 And I will bring a sword against you that will execute the vengeance of the covenant; when you are gathered together within your cities I will send pestilence among you; and you shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy. (Leviticus 26:2125). On two occasions, God destroyed 14,700 people and 24,000 people for various acts of disobedience, 49 Now those who died in the plague were fourteen thousand seven hundred, besides those who died in the Korah incident. And those who died in the plague were twenty-four thousand. (Numbers 16:49 and 25:9). After giving the Mosaic Law, God commanded the people to obey it or suffer many evils, including something that sounds like Ebola: 22 The Lord will strike you with consumption, with fever, with inflammation, with severe burning fever, with the sword, with scorching, 7 and with mildew; they shall pursue you until you perish. (Deuteronomy 28:22). These are just a few examples of many plagues and diseases God caused.

It’s sometimes hard to imagine our loving and merciful God displaying such wrath and anger toward His people. But God’s punishments always have the goal of repentance and restoration. In 2 Chronicles 7:13–14, God said to Solomon, 13 When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, 14 if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Here we see God using disaster to draw His people to Himself, to bring about repentance and the desire to come to Him as children to their heavenly Father.

Coronavirus (4)In the New Testament, Jesus healed “every disease and every sickness, as well as plagues in the areas He visited, 35 Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.” “10 And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease. (Matthew 9:3510:1Mark 3:10) 10 For He healed many, so that as many as had afflictions pressed about Him to touch Him. Just as God chose to use plagues and disease to show His power to the Israelites, Jesus healed as an exhibition of the same power to verify that He was truly the Son of God. He gave the same healing power to the disciples to verify their ministry, 9 Then He called His twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases.(Luke 9:1).

Matthew 10:1-14 New King James Version (NKJV)

The Twelve Apostles

10 And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease. Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and [a]Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the [b]Cananite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him.

Sending Out the Twelve

These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven [c]is at hand.’ Heal the sick, [d]cleanse the lepers, [e]raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. Provide neither gold nor silver nor copper in your money belts, 10 nor bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor staffs; for a worker is worthy of his food.

11 “Now whatever city or town you enter, inquire who in it is worthy, and stay there till you go out. 12 And when you go into a household, greet it. 13 If the household is worthy, let your peace come upon it. But if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14 And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet.

Footnotes:

a. Matthew 10:3 NU omits Lebbaeus, whose surname was

b. Matthew 10:4 NU Cananaean

c. Matthew 10:7 has drawn near

d. Matthew 10:8 NU raise the dead, cleanse the lepers

e. Matthew 10:8 M omits raise the dead

Matthew 14:1-14 New King James Version (NKJV)

John the Baptist Beheaded

14 At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the report about Jesus and said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead, and therefore these powers are at work in him.” For Herod had laid hold of John and bound him, and put him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife. Because John had said to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” And although he wanted to put him to death, he feared the multitude, because they counted him as a prophet.

But when Herod’s birthday was celebrated, the daughter of Herodias danced before them and pleased Herod. Therefore he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask.

So she, having been prompted by her mother, said, “Give me John the Baptist’s head here on a platter.”

And the king was sorry; nevertheless, because of the oaths and because of those who sat with him, he commanded it to be given to her. 10 So he sent and had John beheaded in prison. 11 And his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. 12 Then his disciples came and took away the body and buried it, and went and told Jesus.

Feeding the Five Thousand

13 When Jesus heard it, He departed from there by boat to a deserted place by Himself. But when the multitudes heard it, they followed Him on foot from the cities. 14 And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick.

Mark 6:7-16 New King James Version (NKJV)

Sending Out the Twelve

And He called the twelve to Himself, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them power over unclean spirits. He commanded them to take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bag, no bread, no copper in their money belts— but to wear sandals, and not to put on two tunics.

10 Also He said to them, “In whatever place you enter a house, stay there till you depart from that place. 11 And [a]whoever will not receive you nor hear you, when you depart from there, shake off the dust under your feet as a testimony against them. [b]Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!”

12 So they went out and preached that people should repent. 13 And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick, and healed them.

John the Baptist Beheaded

14 Now King Herod heard of Him, for His name had become well known. And he said, “John the Baptist is risen from the dead, and therefore these powers are at work in him.”

15 Others said, “It is Elijah.”

And others said, “It is [c]the Prophet, or like one of the prophets.”

16 But when Herod heard, he said, “This is John, whom I beheaded; he has been raised from the dead!”

Footnotes:

a. Mark 6:11 NU whatever place

b. Mark 6:11 NU omits the rest of v. 11.

c. Mark 6:15 NU, M a prophet, like one

Mark 6:30-34 New King James Version (NKJV)

Feeding the Five Thousand

30 Then the apostles gathered to Jesus and told Him all things, both what they had done and what they had taught. 31 And He said to them, “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat. 32 So they departed to a deserted place in the boat by themselves.

33 But [a]the multitudes saw them departing, and many knew Him and ran there on foot from all the cities. They arrived before them and came together to Him. 34 And Jesus, when He came out, saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd. So He began to teach them many things.

Footnotes:

a. Mark 6:33 NU, M they

God still allows sickness for His own purposes, but sometimes disease, even worldwide pandemics, are simply the result of living in a fallen world. There is no way to determine whether or not a pandemic has a specific spiritual cause, but we do know that God has sovereign control over all things, 36 For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:36) and will work all things together for the good of those who know and love Him 28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28).

Coronavirus (3)

The spread of sicknesses such as Ebola and the coronavirus is a foretaste of pandemics that will be part of the end times. Jesus referred to future plagues associated with the last days, 11 And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven. (Luke 21:11). The two witnesses of Revelation 11 will have power “to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want” (Revelation 11:6). Seven angels will wield seven plagues in a series of final, severe judgments described in Revelation 16.

Revelation 11 New King James Version (NKJV)

The Two Witnesses

11 Then I was given a reed like a measuring rod. [a]And the angel stood, saying, “Rise and measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there. But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles. And they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months. And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.”

These are the two olive trees and the two lamp stands standing before the [b]God of the earth. And if anyone wants to harm them, fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies. And if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this manner. These have power to shut heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy; and they have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire.

The Witnesses Killed

When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also [c]our Lord was crucified. Then those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations [d]will see their dead bodies three-and-a-half days, and not allow their dead bodies to be put into graves. 10 And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth.

The Witnesses Resurrected

11 Now after the three-and-a-half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. 12 And [e]they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them. 13 In the same hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. In the earthquake seven thousand people were killed, and the rest were afraid and gave glory to the God of heaven.

14 The second woe is past. Behold, the third woe is coming quickly.

Seventh Trumpet: The Kingdom Proclaimed

15 Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The [f]kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” 16 And the twenty-four elders who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshiped God, 17 saying:

“We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty,
The One who is and who was [g]and who is to come,
Because You have taken Your great power and reigned.
18 The nations were angry, and Your [h]wrath has come,
And the time of the dead, that they should be judged,
And that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints,
And those who fear Your name, small and great,
And should destroy those who destroy the earth.”

19 Then the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of [i]His covenant was seen in His temple. And there were lightnings, noises, thunderings, an earthquake, and great hail.

Footnotes:

a. Revelation 11:1 NU, M omit And the angel stood

b. Revelation 11:4 NU, M Lord

c. Revelation 11:8 NU, M their

d. Revelation 11:9 NU, M see . . . and will not allow

e. Revelation 11:12 I

f. Revelation 11:15 NU, M kingdom . . . has become the kingdom

g. Revelation 11:17 NU, M omit and who is to come

h. Revelation 11:18 anger

i. Revelation 11:19 the covenant of the Lord

Revelation 16 New King James Version (NKJV)

The Seven Bowls

16 Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, “Go and pour out the [a]bowls of the wrath of God on the earth.”

First Bowl: Loathsome Sores

So the first went and poured out his bowl upon the earth, and a [b]foul and loathsome sore came upon the men who had the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image.

Second Bowl: The Sea Turns to Blood

Then the second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it became blood as of a dead man; and every living creature in the sea died.

Third Bowl: The Waters Turn to Blood

Then the third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood. And I heard the angel of the waters saying:

“You are righteous, [c]O Lord,
The One who is and who [d]was and who is to be,
Because You have judged these things.
For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets,
And You have given them blood to drink.
[e]For it is their just due.”

And I heard [f]another from the altar saying, “Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments.”

Fourth Bowl: Men Are Scorched

Then the fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and power was given to him to scorch men with fire. And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give Him glory.

Fifth Bowl: Darkness and Pain

10 Then the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom became full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues because of the pain. 11 They blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and did not repent of their deeds.

Sixth Bowl: Euphrates Dried Up

12 Then the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, so that the way of the kings from the east might be prepared. 13 And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. 14 For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings [g]of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.

15 “Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.”

16 And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, [h]Armageddon.

Seventh Bowl: The Earth Utterly Shaken

17 Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, “It is done!” 18 And there were noises and thunderings and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such a mighty and great earthquake as had not occurred since men were on the earth. 19 Now the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nation’s fell. And great Babylon was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath. 20 Then every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. 21 And great hail from heaven fell upon men, each hailstone about the weight of a talent. Men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, since that plague was exceedingly great.

Footnotes:

a. Revelation 16:1 NU, M seven bowls

b. Revelation 16:2 severe and malignant, bad and evil

c. Revelation 16:5 NU, M omit O Lord

d. Revelation 16:5 NU, M was, the Holy One

e. Revelation 16:6 NU, M omit For

f. Revelation 16:7 NU, M omit another from

g. Revelation 16:14 NU, M omit of the earth and

h. Revelation 16:16 Mount Megiddo; M Megiddo

The appearance of pandemic diseases may or may not be tied to God’s specific judgment of sin. It could also simply be the result of living in a fallen world. Since no one knows the time of Jesus’ return, we must be careful about saying global pandemics are proof that we are living in the end times. For those who do not know Jesus Christ as Savior, disease should be a reminder that life on this earth is tenuous and can be lost at any moment. As bad as pandemics are, hell will be worse. The Christian, however, has the assurance of salvation and the hope of eternity because of the blood of Christ shed on the cross for us (Isaiah 53:52 Corinthians 5:21Hebrews 9:28).

          Isaiah 53:5 New King James Version (NKJV)

But He was wounded[a] for our transgressions,
He was [b]bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes[c] we are healed.

Footnotes:

a. Isaiah 53:5 Or pierced through

b. Isaiah 53:5 crushed

c. Isaiah 53:5 Blows that cut in

2 Corinthians 5:21 New King James Version (NKJV)

21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Hebrews 9:28 New King James Version (NKJV)

28 so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.

How should Christians respond to pandemic diseases? First, do not panic. God is in control. The Bible says the equivalent of “do not fear” over 300 times. Second, be wise. Take reasonable steps to avoid exposure to the disease and to protect and provide for your family. Third, look for opportunities for ministry. Often when people are fearful for their lives, they are more willing to have conversations about eternity. Be bold and compassionate in your sharing of the Gospel, always speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).

Ephesians 4:11-16 New King James Version (NKJV)

11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the [a]edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

Footnotes:

a. Ephesians 4:12 building up

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The Bible’s commands to “fear not” are plentiful and occur in a variety of contexts. As God’s people, we are not to be fearful. We have no reason to live in fear.

The Bible often says things like, “Do not fear, “Do not be afraid, and “Fear not. Of course, these commands do not contradict the command to “fear God” (1 Peter 2:17); 17 Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king. The fear of God keeps us from sin; the fear of man leads to sin, and that is what we are to avoid: 25 The fear of man brings a snare, But whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe. (Proverbs 29:25, NKJV). Also, the biblical command do not fear does not negate the need for prudence and caution in this world. We are not to be cavalier but prayerful in the face of danger.

The fear that the Bible tells us to avoid is concern mixed with anxiety or dread; it is the feeling of alarm we have when we expect trouble or danger. Followers of Christ are not to live in a state of anxiety. We have higher expectations than simply anticipating trouble. In fact, we have the means to rise above fear: For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7).

God’s command to “fear not” is applied in several ways in the Bible. For example, the fear of what other people think should never prevent us from obeying the Lord (see 1 Samuel 15:24John 9:22). We should not fear lacking provision in this world (Luke 12:6–7). We are not to fear the plans of the wicked, even when they rise to power (Psalm 37:1–29–1735–38).

          1 Samuel 15:24 New King James Version (NKJV)

24 Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice.

John 9:22 New King James Version (NKJV)

22 His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had agreed already that if anyone confessed that He was Christ, he would be put out of the synagogue.

Luke 12:6-7 New King James Version (NKJV)

“Are not five sparrows sold for two [a]copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Footnotes:

a. Luke 12:6 Gr. assarion, a coin worth about 1⁄16 of a denarius

Psalm 37:1-2 New King James Version (NKJV)

The Heritage of the Righteous and the Calamity of the Wicked

A Psalm of David.

37      Do not fret because of evildoers,
Nor be envious of the workers of iniquity.
2            For they shall soon be cut down like the grass,
And wither as the green herb.

Psalm 37:9-17 New King James Version (NKJV)

For evildoers shall be [a]cut off;
But those who wait on the Lord,
They shall inherit the earth.
10 For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more;
Indeed, you will look carefully for his place,
But it shall be no more.
11 But the meek shall inherit the earth,
And shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.

12 The wicked plots against the just,
And gnashes at him with his teeth.
13 The Lord laughs at him,
For He sees that his day is coming.
14 The wicked have drawn the sword
And have bent their bow,
To cast down the poor and needy,
To slay those who are of upright conduct.
15 Their sword shall enter their own heart,
And their bows shall be broken.

16 A little that a righteous man has
Is better than the riches of many wicked.
17 For the arms of the wicked shall be broken,
But the Lord upholds the righteous.

Footnotes:

a. Psalm 37:9 destroyed

Psalm 37:35-38 New King James Version (NKJV)

35 I have seen the wicked in great power,
And spreading himself like a native green tree.
36 Yet [a]he passed away, and behold, he was no more;
Indeed I sought him, but he could not be found.

37 Mark the blameless man, and observe the upright;
For the future of that man is peace.
38 But the transgressors shall be destroyed together;
The future of the wicked shall be cut off.

Footnotes:

a. Psalm 37:36 So with MT, LXX, Tg.; Syr., Vg. I passed by

When the Bible tells us, “Do not fear, it means we are not to allow anxiety or fretfulness to rule our lives or take root in our hearts. We are not to be people of panic. We are to be people of faith.

Having been justified by God, we need not fear divine condemnation, There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1). Having been chosen by God, we need not fear His rejection (Ephesians 1:4–6Luke 12:32Jude 1:24).

Ephesians 1:4-6 New King James Version (NKJV)

just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He [a]made us accepted in the Beloved.

Footnotes:

a. Ephesians 1:6 bestowed grace (favor) upon us

Luke 12:32 New King James Version (NKJV)

32 “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

Jude 24 New King James Version (NKJV)

Glory to God

24 Now to Him who is able to keep [a]you from stumbling,
And to present you faultless
Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,

Footnotes:

a. Jude 1:24 them

With Christ as our Shepherd, we need not fear the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23:4). With the Maker of heaven and earth watching over us, we need not fear anything (Psalm 121).

          Psalm 23:4 New King James Version (NKJV)

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

Psalm 121 New King James Version (NKJV)

God the Help of Those Who Seek Him

A Song of Ascents.

121 I will lift up my eyes to the hills—
From whence comes my help?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.

He will not allow your foot to [a]be moved;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel
Shall neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your [b]keeper;
The Lord is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
Nor the moon by night.

The Lord shall [c]preserve you from all evil;
He shall preserve your soul.
The Lord shall preserve[d] your going out and your coming in
From this time forth, and even forevermore.

Footnotes:

a. Psalm 121:3 slip

b. Psalm 121:5 protector

c. Psalm 121:7 keep

d. Psalm 121:8 keep

Psalm 91 speaks of the one who 91 He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.” (verses 1–2). Those who trust in God can live fearlessly: You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, Nor of the arrow that flies by day, Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday. A thousand may fall at your side, And ten thousand at your right hand; But it shall not come near you.” (verses 5–7). There is a direct correlation between faith and the confidence to face the dangers of life: Because you have made the Lordwho is my refuge, Even the Most High, your dwelling place, 10 No evil shall befall you, Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling;” (verses 9–10). We rest in God’s promise: 14 “Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name. 15 He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him.” (verses 14–15).

Bible Prophecy & Trump By James Warden

The world is uneasy at the United States’ election of Donald Trump as its forty-fifth president. One could not help but take notice at his meteoric ascendency to the presidency after publicly breaking every norm and social mores that polite society holds dear. The name “Donald” means “world ruler”, and no he is not the antichrist, but he is a man of destiny. Open a King James Bible and read Daniel chapter 8 with a dictionary and you cannot help but see that he is the prophesied king of the west who “at the time of the end” will fulfill the prophecy in making his nation “very great. (Daniel 8:4) “I saw the ram pushing westward, northward, and southward, so that no animal could withstand him; nor was there any that could deliver from his hand, but he did according to his will and became great.” Televangelists are failing to inform their audiences of this prophecy that once served to predict the rise of Alexander the Great, as a mighty western Grecian king, who would conquer the Mideast; that no one could withstand. He put Europe on the map as a force to be reckoned with. The prophecy states in itself that it will again serve “at the time of the end” to identify a king of the west with the disposition of a “he goat” that no nation will be able to withstand as he makes his nation “very great” prior to the rise of four other nations out of whom the antichrist will rise “in the latter times, whom Daniel calls “the little horn. (Daniel 8:9) “And out of one of them came a little horn which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the Glorious Land.”

Daniel was famous for interpreting “the handwriting on the wall” in the kingdom of Babylon called Iraq today. This is the same Daniel of the lion’s den who wrote of a prophetic vision he had in front of an Iraqi river that was designated for an “appointed time”“the time of the end. His dual purposed vision points out that in the end times a “strong” leader of the west, whom Daniel identified as “king” with the character of a Billy goat will be known for his stubborn personality. The prophet wrote that this king of the west calling him in parable a he goat who will be moved with “choler. Webster’s defines choler as “a ready disposition to irritation. 2) Irascible marked by a hot temper and easily provoked to anger. Oxford dictionary defines “being moved with choler as “a peevish temperament easily provoked to anger. Daniel forecast that “at the time of the end” this king of the west will “be moved with choler with his ire stirred against Persia, called Iran since 1936 (Daniel 8:5). The first portion of Daniel eight is in parable form describing the western leader as launching an air attack as a “he goat” whose “feet touched not the ground” as it tackled “the ram having two horns. (Daniel 8:5) “And as I was considering, suddenly a male goat came from the west, across the surface of the whole earth, without touching the ground; and the goat had a notable horn between his eyes. The parable is revealed later in the chapter describing the “two horns” as the kings of Media and Persia/Iran. Daniel prophesied that “at the time of the end” a king of the west will trample the leaders of Iraq and Iran into the dust (Daniel 8:7) “And I saw him confronting the ram; he was moved with rage against him, attacked the ram, and broke his two horns. There was no power in the ram to withstand him, but he cast him down to the ground and trampled him;”. On September 11, 2001, a king of the west was caught flat-footed when he was reading a children’s book “My Pet Goat” to school kids in Florida, when his nation was air attacked as. Later, this western leader, President George W. Bush under his motto “Stay the course” initiated an unprovoked attack on Iraq in a war named “Iraqi Freedom” leading to its dictator (king according to Daniel) Saddam Hussein being toppled in death in 2003. This was the first stage of Daniel’s prophecy.

Presently, in 2017, this war still endures, because Daniel predicted that the West’s attack near the territory of Media conquered by Alexander the Great must also topple Persia’s Iran’s leader. However, when this he goat king from the west defeats Iran Persia, Daniel writes that his nation will become “very great. When “the king of the West, destroys this second king being Iran’s leader, then his nation will become “very great” according to Daniel 8:4, 4 “I saw the ram pushing westward, northward, and southward, so that no animal could withstand him; nor was there any that could deliver from his hand, but he did according to his will and became great. As the world reels in amazement at the election of Donald Trump, the prophet Daniel wrote regarding kings he was prophesying about and dealing with was 17 ‘This decision is by the decree of the watchers, and the sentence by the word of the holy ones, in order that the living may know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, gives it to whomever He will, and sets over it the lowest of men. (Daniel 4:17) Donald Trump has come to the kingdom for such as time as this.

Simply Sharing Jesus

Before He ascended to Heaven, Jesus gave His followers a basic command for what to do next. These words have served as “marching orders” for generations of Christians: 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. (Matthew 28:19–20 NKJV).

Many of us have taken these simple instructions, known as the Great Commission, and overcomplicated them. We’ve made sharing our faith an intimidating and daunting task. But it doesn’t have to be.

Whether you regularly share your faith with others or have always found reasons not to, this course is designed to get back to basics and ultimately help you simply share Jesus.

LAYING the GROUNDWORK

Maybe you’re afraid to share your faith because you don’t know what to say. Or maybe you’re sharing the Gospel, but you aren’t seeing any results; people aren’t committing their lives to Christ. Are you wondering if you’re doing something wrong?

Know your role

Remember this: You can’t open someone’s heart to the Gospel—only God can, by His Spirit. Our job isn’t to save people. It’s simply to point them to the Truth and let God do the rest.

The Apostle Paul wasn’t eloquent, but God used him because he depended on the Holy Spirit for guidance (see 1 Corinthians 2:1–5). God guided many others in the Bible who felt unqualified, like Moses and Jonah. Often, God does not call the equipped; He equips the called. As Christians, we are all called to share what Christ has done for us. The Great Commission makes that clear. The good news is that we don’t go into it alone. We have this encouragement from Jesus: 11 And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” (Luke 12:11–12 English Standard Version (ESV)).

1 Corinthians 2:1-5 New King James Version (NKJV)

Christ Crucified

2 And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the [a]testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of [b]human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

Footnotes:

    1. 1 Corinthians 2:1 NU mystery
    2. 1 Corinthians 2:4 NU omits human

Know your opportunity

So who should you share this message of hope with? God has placed you in a unique position—your very own mission field! Have you ever heard the expression “Bloom where you’re planted”? That’s what God wants us to do with the Gospel—make the most of our circumstances and reflect His love to everyone around us. You don’t have to be a pastor or missionary to tell people about Jesus, either; just think of all the people around you in need of hope.

Keep your eyes open for people you can talk to and listen for ways you can connect the conversation to Christ. Catch up with a family member by phone or text. Use social media to encourage a friend. Let a co-worker know you are praying for him or her. Take dinner to a neighbor in need. Ask a cashier how his or her day is going and really listen. Be intentional about forming relationships with people around you.

Know your audience

As you share with people, remember who you’re talking to and use language they will understand. The words and phrases you often hear in church might seem like a foreign language to a non-Christian. Avoid clichés and stick with phrases you can explain using Bible verses. Try to keep it simple.

Your friends or loved ones may not tell you they don’t understand, so look for visual clues that say they’re confused. Feel free to ask if they understand what you’re saying.

WHAT do I DO?

Live a godly life.

The Bible teaches that we should “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;” (1 Peter 3:15 NKJV). People seldom come to faith in Christ through arguments and debates. Instead, they are often won by discovering who Jesus Christ really is and the difference He can make in their lives.

One of the best ways to share your faith and point others to Jesus is to live a godly life. Show those close to you that you care—spend time with them, help meet their needs, and offer to listen when they have problems. You might not be able to answer all of their questions, but they can’t deny the reality of what Christ has done in your life. If you find this is hard to do, perhaps God is speaking to you about your own need to walk more closely with Him every day.

Also, make a habit of reading the Bible, praying, and going to church. These things should be done not for attention or for the sake of doing them, but to help you grow in your own faith. Your passion for Christ will help others see that there’s something different about you, and they’ll want to know what it is. You can also reflect Christ through kind words, patience, a gentle temperament, love, and respect. You can be evidence of God’s love to those around you.

Pray for open hearts and open doors.

The most important part of sharing your faith is to pray for those you interact with. If you can’t think of anyone who isn’t a Christian, pray for God to place someone in your life who needs Him. Don’t underestimate the power of prayer. As Billy Graham once said, “Prayer is crucial in evangelism: … No matter how logical our arguments or how fervent our appeals, our words will accomplish nothing unless God’s Spirit prepares the way.” Pray for the opportunity to share, the words to speak, and open hearts for those who hear.

Speak.

Living a godly life is essential for sharing our faith. But people need to hear the Gospel—to hear that God loves them, Christ died for them, and they can have eternal life.

Romans 10:13-14 New King James Version (NKJV)

13 For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Israel Rejects the Gospel

14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?

When you share the Gospel, be ready to also share true stories of God’s power in your own life. No matter how ordinary your life may seem, you have a story to tell, and you never know what it can mean to someone until you share it. Jesus often talked in parables so people could better grasp God’s plans, instructions, and power. In the same way, you can use personal experiences and stories to relate to others and tell them about Christ.

Keep in mind that you may only have a few minutes. Try writing down your story—and focus on a few key points. Then practice telling it so it comes naturally. These questions may help you narrow telling it so it comes naturally. These questions may help you narrow your story down to three minutes or so:

• What was life like before you accepted Christ?

• How did you receive Christ?

What did you hear? How did you respond? Why did you choose to put your trust in Christ? Try to mention a Bible verse or two but be careful not to overwhelm your listener.

• How has life changed since you accepted Christ?

It’s OK if you stumbled or struggled in the past; in fact, your walk with Christ won’t be free from setbacks until you see Him face-to-face in heaven. The important thing is to be honest and relatable. Scripture is filled with stories of God’s people who stumbled along the way, and He still used them in powerful ways.

The GOSPEL in 4 SIMPLE STEPS

The Gospel itself isn’t complicated. When you are explaining the facts, it may help to draw it on paper for your friend. On the top of your page, draw a graphic of God on one side of a chasm and us on the other. As you draw, share Bible verses that explain how the separation took place. Show how the cross bridges the chasm between God and us and how we can cross the bridge through faith in Christ. Talk to your friend about these four simple truths:

1. God’s plan—peace and life.

God loves you and wants you to experience the peace and life He offers. The Bible says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16, NKJV). He has a plan for you.

2. Our problem—separation from God.                        

By nature, we are all separated from God. The Bible says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23, NKJV). He is holy, but we are human and don’t measure up to His perfect standard. We are sinful, and “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23, NKJV).

3. God’s remedy—the cross.

God’s love bridges the separation between you and Him. When Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose from the grave, He paid the penalty for your sins. The Bible says, “‘He himself bore our sins’ in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; ‘by His wounds you have been healed’” (1 Peter 2:24, NIV).

4. Our response—receive Christ.

You cross the bridge into God’s family when you accept Christ’s free gift of salvation. The Bible says, “But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12 English Standard Version (ESV)).

To receive Christ, a person needs to do four things:

  • Admit that you are a sinner and you need the Savior.
  • Be willing to turn from your sins, and ask God to forgive you.
  • Believe that Jesus Christ died for you on the cross and rose from the grave.
  • Invite Jesus Christ to come in and control your life through the Holy Spirit. Romans 10:13 says, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (New International Version (NIV))

Here’s a prayer you can pray to receive Christ:

Dear God, I know that I am a sinner. I want to turn from my sins, and I ask for Your forgiveness. I believe that Jesus Christ is Your Son. I believe He died for my sins and that You raised Him to life. I want Him to come into my heart and to take control of my life. I want to trust Jesus as my Savior and follow Him as my Lord from this day forward. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

FOLLOW-UP

If your friend sincerely prays, he or she now has a new life in Jesus Christ! You will want to share some Bible verses (such as 1 John 5:12–13) to give your friend assurance of his or her new standing before God.

1 John 5:12-13 New King James Version (NKJV)

12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.

Finally, when you help a person in coming to faith in Christ, remember that this individual is a spiritual baby (1 Peter 2:2). In order to grow, an infant needs nurture and care. The same is true spiritually; encourage your friend to begin to read the Bible and pray regularly. Help him or her find a Bible-teaching church in order to have fellowship with other believers in Christ and continue to grow.

1 Peter 2:1-3 New King James Version (NKJV)

Our Inheritance Through Christ’s Blood

2 Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, 2 as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow [a]thereby, 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.

Footnotes:

    1. 1 Peter 2:2 NU adds up to salvation

The Salvation Poem

Jesus, You died upon a cross
And rose again to save the lost
Forgive me now of all my sin
Come be my Savior, Lord, and Friend
Change my life and make it new
And help me, Lord, to live for You

The Plain Truth About Christmas

The Plain Truth About Christmas

I don’t want to seem like a Grinch, but what bothers me about this time of year is how we (the human race) celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Instead of celebrating His birth, we are too busy celebrating a pagan holiday, not the truth.

So, where did we get Christmas? . . . from the Bible, or paganism?

Here are the astonishing facts which may shock you! Test yourself. How much do you know of the origin of the Christmas tree—of “Santa Claus”—of the mistletoe—holly wreath—of the custom of exchanging gifts?

WHEN I was a very little boy, I was taught to hang up my stockings on Christmas eve. When I was awakened the next morning, they were filled with small toys and sacks or little boxes of candy and nuts. And beside the mantle, from which my stockings hung, a Christmas tree has suddenly appeared, decorated with shiny tinsel. And on it hung presents. Other presents for us children were piled on the floor underneath. I was told Santa Claus had come down the chimney during the night and left all these things.

But did I question what my parents told me? Of course not. I accepted it—took it all for granted. Didn’t you?

Stop and think a moment! Very few have ever reflected on why they believe what they do—why they follow the customs they do, or from where those customs came. We were born into a world filled with customs. We grew up accepting them without question.

Why? Sheep instinct? Well, not exactly.

But by nature we do tend to follow the crowd, whether right or wrong. Sheep follow others to the slaughter. Humans ought to check up where they are going.

How—when did Christmas originate?

Does Christmas really celebrate the birthday of Christ? Was Jesus born on December 25th?

Did the original apostles, who knew Jesus personally and were taught by Him, celebrate His birthday on December 25th? Did they celebrate it at all?

If Christmas is the chief of the Christian holidays, why do so many non-Christians observe it? Do you know?

Why do people exchange presents with family members, friends, relatives at Christmas time? Was it because the wise men presented gifts to the Christ-child? The answer may surprise you.

Most people have “supposed” a lot of things about Christmas that are not true. But let’s quit “supposing” and get the facts!

What Encyclopedias Say

The word “Christmas” means “Mass of Christ,” or, as it came to be shortened, “Christ–Mass.” It came to non-Christians and Protestants from the Roman Catholic Church. And where did they get it? NOT from the New Testament—NOT from the Bible—NOT from the original apostles who were personally instructed from Christ—but it gravitated in the fourth century into the Roman Church from paganism.

Since the celebration of Christmas has come to the world from the Roman Catholic Church, and has no authority but that of the Roman Catholic Church, let us examine the Catholic Encyclopedia, 1911 edition, published by that church. Under the heading “Christmas,” you will find:

“Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the Church . . . the first evidence of the feast is from Egypt.” “Pagan customs centering around the January calends gravitated to Christmas.”

And in the same encyclopedia, under the heading “Natal Day,” we find that the early Catholic father, Origen, acknowledged this truth: “. . . In the Scriptures, no one is recorded to have kept a feast or held a great banquet on his birthday. It is only sinners [like Pharaoh and Herod] who make great rejoicings over the day in which they were born into this world” (emphasis mine).

Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1946 edition, has this: “Christmas (i.e., the Mass of Christ). . . . Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the church. . . .” It was not instituted by Christ or the apostles, or by Bible authority. It was picked up afterward from paganism.

The Encyclopedia Americana, 1944 edition, says: “Christmas. . . . It was, according to many authorities, not celebrated in the first centuries of the Christian church, as the Christian usage in general was to celebrate the death of remarkable persons rather than their birth. . . .” (The “Communion,” which is instituted by New Testament Bible authority, is a memorial of the death of Christ.) “. . . A feast was established in memory of this event [Christ’s birth] in the fourth century. In the fifth century the Western Church ordered it to be celebrated forever on the day of the old Roman feast of the birth of Sol, as no certain knowledge of the day of Christ’s birth existed.”

Now notice! These recognized historical authorities show Christmas was not observed by Christians for the first two or three hundred years—a period longer than the entire history of the United States as a nation! It got into the Western, or Roman Church, by the fourth century AD. It was not until the fifth century that the Roman Church ordered it to be celebrated as an official Christian festival!

Jesus Not Born December 25th

Jesus was not even born in the winter season! When the Christ-child was born “8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night,” (Luke 2:8). This could never have occurred in Judaea in the month of December. The shepherds always brought their flocks from the mountainsides and fields and corralled them not later than October 15, to protect them from the cold, rainy season that followed that date. Notice that the Bible itself proves, in Song of Solomon 2:11 and Ezra 10:9, 13, that winter was a rainy season not permitting shepherds to abide in open fields at night.

Song of Solomon 2:11 (NKJV)
11 For lo, the winter is past,
The rain is over and gone.

Ezra 10:9 (NKJV)
9 So all the men of Judah and Benjamin gathered at Jerusalem within three days. It was the ninth month, on the twentieth of the month; and all the people sat in the open square of the house of God, trembling because of this matter and because of heavy rain.

Ezra 10:13 (NKJV)
13 But there are many people; it is the season for heavy rain, and we are not able to stand outside. Nor is this the work of one or two days, for there are many of us who have transgressed in this matter.

“It was ancient custom among Jews of those days to send out their sheep to the fields and deserts about the Passover (early spring), and bring them home at commencement of the first rain,” says the Adam Clarke Commentary (Vol. 5, page 370, New York ed.)

Continuing, this authority states: “During the time they were out, the shepherds watched them night and day. As . . . the first rain began early in the month of Marchesvan, which answers to part of our October and November [begins sometime in October], we find that the sheep were kept out in the open country during the whole summer. And, as these shepherds had not yet brought home their flocks, it is a presumptive argument that October had not yet commenced, and that, consequently, our Lord was not born on the 25th of December, when no flocks were out in the fields; nor could He have been born later than September, as the flocks were still in the fields by night. On this very ground, the nativity in December should be given up. The feeding of the flocks by night in the fields is a chronological fact. . . . See the quotations from the Talmudists in Lightfoot.”

Any encyclopedia, or any other authority, will tell you that Christ was not born on December 25. The Catholic Encyclopedia frankly states this fact.

The exact date of Jesus’ birth is entirely unknown, as all authorities acknowledge—though if I had space in this blog I could show you Scriptures which at least strongly indicate that it was in the early fall—probably September—approximately six months after Passover.

If God had wished us to observe and celebrate Christ’s birthday, He would not have so completely hidden the exact date.

How This Pagan Custom Got into the Church

Then how did this pagan custom creep into the Western Christian world?

The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge explains clearly, in its article on “Christmas”: “How much the date of the festival depended upon the pagan Brumalia (Dec. 25) following the Saturnalia (Dec. 17-24), and celebrating the shortest day in the year and the ‘new sun,’ . . . cannot be accurately determined. The pagan Saturnalia and Brumalia were too deeply entrenched in popular custom to be set aside by Christian influence. . . . The pagan festival with its riot and merrymaking was so popular that Christians were glad of an excuse to continue its celebration with little change in spirit and in manner. Christian preachers of the West and the Near East protested against the unseemly frivolity with which Christ’s birthday was celebrated, while Christians of Mesopotamia accused their Western brethren of idolatry and sun worship for adopting as Christian this pagan festival.”

Remember, the Roman world had been pagan. Prior to the fourth century, Christians were few in number, though increasing, and were persecuted by the government and by pagans. But, with the advent of Constantine as emperor, who made his profession of Christianity in the fourth century, placing Christianity on an equal footing with paganism, people of the Roman world began to accept this now-popular Christianity by the hundreds of thousands.

But remember, these people had grown up in pagan customs, chief of which was this idolatrous festival of December 25th. It was a festival of merrymaking, with its special spirit. They enjoyed it! They didn’t want to give it up! Now this same article in the New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge explains how the recognition by Constantine of Sunday, which had been the day of pagan sun worship, and how the influence of the pagan Manichaeism, which identified the SON of God with the physical SUN, gave these pagans of the fourth century, now turning over wholesale to “Christianity,” their excuse for calling their pagan-festival date of December 25th (birthday of the SUN-god) the birthday of the SON of God.

And that is how “Christmas” became fastened on our Western world! We may call it by another name, but it’s the same old pagan sun-worshipping festival still! The only change is in what we call it! You can call a rabbit a “lion,” but it’s still a rabbit, just the same.

Again from the Encyclopaedia Britannica: “Certain Latins, as early as 354, may have transferred the birthday from January 6th to December 25, which was then a Mithraic feast, the birthday of the unconquered SUN . . . The Syrians and Armenians, who clung to January 6th, accused the Romans of sun worship and idolatry, contending . . . that the feast of December 25th, had been invented by disciples of Cerinthus. . . .”

The Real Origin of Christmas

But if we got Christmas from the Roman Catholics, and they got it from paganism, where did the pagans get it? Where, when, and what was its real origin?

It is a chief custom of the corrupt system denounced all through Bible prophecies and teachings under the name of Babylon. And it started and originated in the original Babylon of ancient Nimrod! Yes, it stems from roots whose beginning was shortly this side of the Flood!

Nimrod, grandson of Ham, son of Noah, was the real founder of the Babylonish system that has gripped the world ever since—the system of organized competition—of man-ruled governments and empires, based upon the competitive and profit-making economic system. Nimrod built the tower of Babel, the original Babylon, ancient Nineveh, many other cities. He organized the world’s first kingdom. The name Nimrod, in Hebrew, is derived from “Marad,” meaning “he rebelled.”

From many ancient writings, considerable is learned of this man, who started the great organized worldly apostasy from God that has dominated this world until now. Nimrod was so evil, it is said he married his own mother, whose name was Semiramis. After Nimrod’s untimely death, his so-called mother-wife, Semiramis, propagated the evil doctrine of the survival of Nimrod as a spirit being. She claimed a full-grown evergreen tree sprang overnight from a dead tree stump, which symbolized the springing forth unto new life of the dead Nimrod. On each anniversary of his birth, she claimed, Nimrod would visit the evergreen tree and leave gifts upon it. December 25th was the birthday of Nimrod. This is the real origin of the Christmas tree.

Through her scheming and designing, Semiramis became the Babylonian “Queen of Heaven,” and Nimrod, under various names, became the “divine son of heaven.” Through the generations, in this idolatrous worship, Nimrod became the false Messiah, son of Baal the Sun-god. In this false Babylonish system, the “Mother and Child,” (Semiramis and Nimrod reborn), became chief objects of worship. This worship of “Mother and Child” spread over the world. The names varied in different countries and languages. In Egypt, it was Isis and Osiris. In Asia, Cybele and Deoius. In Pagan Rome, Fortuna and Jupiterpuer. Even in Greece, China, Japan, Tibet is to be found the counterpart of the Madonna, long before the birth of Christ!

Thus, during the fourth and fifth centuries, when the pagans of the Roman world were “accepting” the new popular “Christianity” by hundreds of thousands, carrying their old pagan customs and beliefs along with them, merely cloaking them with Christian-sounding names, the Madonna and “Mother and Child” idea also became popularized, especially at Christmas time. Every Christmas season you’ll hear sung and chanted dozens of times the hymn “Silent Night, Holy Night,” with its familiar “Mother and Child” theme. We, who have been born in such a babylonish world, reared and steeped in these things all our lives, have been taught to revere these things as holy, and sacred. We never questioned to see where they came from—whether they came from the Bible, or from pagan idolatry!

We are shocked to learn the truth—some, unfortunately, take offense at the plain truth! But God commands His faithful ministers, ” Cry aloud, spare not; Lift up your voice like a trumpet; Tell My people their transgression, And the house of Jacob their sins.” (Isaiah 58:1) Shocking as these facts are, they are the plain facts of history and the Bible!

The real origin of Christmas goes back to the ancient Babylon. It is bound up in the organized apostasy with which Satan has gripped a deceived world these many centuries! In Egypt, it was always believed that the son of Isis (Egyptian name for “Queen of Heaven”) was born December 25th. Paganism celebrated this famous birthday over most of the known world for centuries before the birth of Christ.

December 25th is not the birthday of Jesus the true Christ! The apostles and early
true Church never celebrated Christ’s birthday at any time. There is no command or instruction to celebrate it in the Bible—rather, the celebrating of birthdays is a pagan, not a Christian custom, believe it or not!

Thus the ancient idolatrous “Chaldean Mysteries,” founded by this wife of Nimrod, have been handed down through the pagan religions under new Christian-sounding names.

Origin of Holly Wreath, Mistletoe, Yule Log

Now, where did we get this mistletoe custom? Among the ancient pagans the mistletoe was used at this festival of the winter solstice because it was considered sacred to the sun, because of its supposed miraculous healing power. The pagan custom of kissing under the mistletoe was an early step in the night of revelry and drunken debauchery—celebrating the death of the “old sun” and the birth of the new at the winter solstice. Mistletoe, sacred in pagan festivals, is a PARASITE!

Holly berries were also considered sacred to the sun-god. The Yule log is in reality the “sun log.” “Yule” means “wheel,” a pagan symbol of the sun. Yet today professing Christians speak of the “sacred yule-tide season!”

Even the lighting of fires and candles as a Christmas ceremony is merely a continuation of the pagan custom, encouraging the waning sun-god as he reached the lowest place in the southern skies!

The Encyclopedia Americana says: “The holly, the mistletoe, the Yule log . . . are relics of pre-Christian times.” Of paganism!

The book Answers to Questions, compiled by Frederick J. Haskins, found in public libraries, says: “The use of Christmas wreaths is believed by authorities to be traceable to the pagan customs of decorating buildings and places of worship at the feast which took place at the same time as Christmas. The Christmas tree is from Egypt, and its origin dates from a period long anterior to the Christian Era.”

What About Santa Claus?

Surely dear old Santa Claus is not a creature of pagan birth? But he is, and his real character is not so benevolent and holy as many suppose!

The name “Santa Claus” is a corruption of the name “St. Nicholas,” a Roman Catholic bishop who lived in the 5th century. Look in the Encyclopedia Britannica, volume 19, pages 648-649, where you’ll read: “St. Nicholas, bishop of Myra, a saint honored by the Greeks and Latins on the sixth of December. . . . A legend of his surreptitious bestowal of dowries on the three daughters of an impoverished citizen . . . is said to have originated the old custom of giving presents in secret on the eve of St. Nicholas [Dec. 6], subsequently transferred to Christmas day. Hence the association of Christmas with Santa Claus. . . .”

Through the year, parents punish their children for telling falsehoods. Then, at Christmas time, they themselves tell their little children this “Santa Claus” lie! Is it any wonder many of them, when they grow up and learn the truth, begin to believe God is a myth, too?

Is it Christian to teach children myths and falsehoods? God says 16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:16) It may seem right, and be justified by human reason, but God says “12 There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.” (Proverbs 14:12) “Old Nick” also is a term for the devil! Is there a connection? Satan appears as an “angel of light,” to deceive! (II Corinthians 11:14; Revelation 12:9)

2 Corinthians 11:14 (NKJV)
14 And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.

Revelation 12:9 (NKJV)
9 So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

And so when we examine the facts, we are astonished to learn that the practice of observing Christmas is not, after all, a true Christian practice, but a Pagan custom—one of the ways of Babylon our people have fallen into!

What the Bible Says About the Christmas Tree

But if the Bible is silent about telling us to observe Christmas, or recording any such observance by the apostles or early true Church, it does have something to say about the Christmas tree!

This will come as a real surprise to many. But here it is:

Jeremiah 10:2-6, “2 Thus says the Lord, Do not learn the way of the Gentiles. . . . For the customs of the peoples are futile; . . . For one cuts a tree from the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the ax. They decorate it with silver and gold; they fasten it with nails and hammers so that it will not topple.”

There is a perfect description of the Christmas tree, termed by the Eternal as “the way of the heathen—the custom of the people.” We are commanded not to learn that way or follow it! It is also viewed in this passage as idolatry. The fifth verse shows that these trees cannot speak—cannot walk—must be carried. “Do not be afraid of them, for they [the trees] cannot do evil, nor can they do any good.” They are not gods to be feared. Some people misread this to make it say there is no harm in having a Christmas tree, but that is not what it says.

Is Exchanging Gifts Scriptural?

But when it comes to the most important part of all in this Christmas observance—the Christmas SHOPPING season—the buying and exchanging of gifts—many will exclaim triumphantly, “Well, at least the Bible tells us to do that! Didn’t the wise men give gifts, when Christ was born?”

Again, we are due for some surprises, when we learn the plain truth. First, let’s look at the historic origin of trading gifts back and forth, then see exactly what the Bible does say about it.

From the Bibliotheca Sacra, volume 12, pages 153-155, we quote, “The interchange of
presents between friends is alike characteristic of Christmas and the Saturnalia, and must have been adopted by Christians from the Pagans, as the admonition of Tertullian plainly shows.”

The fact is, this custom fastened upon people of exchanging gifts with friends and relatives at the Christmas season has not a single trace of Christianity about it, strange though that may seem! This does not celebrate Christ’s birthday or honor it or Him! Suppose someone you love has a birthday. You want to honor that person on his or her birthday. Would you lavishly buy gifts for everyone else, trading gifts back and forth with all your other friends and loved ones, but ignore completely any gift for the one whose birthday you are honoring? Rather absurd, when viewed in that light, isn’t it?

Yet this is exactly what people the world over are doing! They honor a day that is not Christ’s birthday by spending every dime they can scrape together in buying presents to trade back and forth among friends and relatives. But I can say by years of experience that when the month of December rolls around, almost all professing Christians forget to give gifts to Christ and His cause almost altogether! December always is the most difficult month to keep Christ’s work from dying! People are too busy trading gifts back and forth among themselves to think of Him and His Work, it seems. Then, in January and even into February it seems they have to catch up from what they spent for Christmas, so they seldom get back to normal in supporting Christ and His Work before March!

Now consider what the Bible says about giving gifts when Christ was born. It is in Matthew 2:1-11. “Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews?’ . . . And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary His mother, and fell down, and worshipped Him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto Him gifts; gold and frankincense, and myrrh.”

Matthew 2:1-11 (NKJV)
Wise Men from the East
2 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”

3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.

5 So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet:

6 ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;
For out of you shall come a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel.’ ”

7 Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”

9 When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was.

10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. 11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Why Gifts Presented to Christ

Notice, they inquired for the child Jesus, who was born KING of the Jews! Now why did they present gifts to Him? Because it was His birthday? Not at all, because they came several days or weeks after the date of His birth! Was it to set an example for us, today, to trade gifts back and forth among ourselves? No, notice carefully! They did not exchange gifts among themselves, but “they presented unto HIM gifts.” They gave their gifts to Christ, not to their friends, relatives, or one another!

Why? Let me quote from the Adam Clarke Commentary, volume 5, page 46: “Verse 11. (They presented unto Him gifts.) The people of the east never approach the presence of kings and great personages, without a present in their hands. The custom is often noticed in the Old Testament, and still prevails in the east, and in some of the newly discovered South Sea Islands.”

There it is! They were not instituting a new Christian custom of exchanging gifts with friends to honor Christ’s birthday. They were following an old and ancient eastern custom of presenting gifts to a king when they come into his presence. They were approaching Him, born KING of the Jews, in person. Therefore custom required they present gifts—even as the Queen of Sheba brought gifts to Solomon—even as many people today take a gift along when they visit the White House for an appointment with the President.

No, the custom of trading GIFTS back and forth does not stem from this scriptural incident at all, but rather, as quoted from history above, it is the continuance of an ancient pagan custom. Instead of honoring Christ, it invariably retards His Work, often sets it back, at the Christmas season every year.

Does It Really Honor Christ?

There are two arguments often used to justify Christmas observance.

1) Many will reason this way: “But, even though the exact date of Jesus’ birth is unknown, should we not select some date to celebrate as His birthday?” The answer is positively NO! Did you not notice the statement quoted from the Catholic Encyclopedia: “Sinners alone, not saints, celebrate their birthdays.” The celebration of birthdays is not a Christian, but a pagan custom, observed by sinners!

2) But, many still reason, “Even so—even though Christmas was a pagan custom, honoring the false sun-god, we don’t observe it to honor the false god, we observe it to honor Christ.”

But how does GOD answer in His Word? “30 Take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them [the pagans in their customs] after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ 31 You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way; for every abomination to the Lord which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.” (Deuteronomy 12:30-31 NKJV).

God says plainly in His Instruction Book to us, that He will not accept that kind of worship, even though intended in His honor. To Him, He says, it is offering what is abominable to Him, and therefore it honors, not Him, but false pagan gods. GOD says we must not worship Him according to the “dictates of our own conscience”—a term we often hear. But Jesus says plainly, “God is a spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). And what is truth? God’s Word—the Holy Bible—said Jesus is truth (John 17:17); and the Bible says God will not accept worship when people take a pagan custom or manner of worship and try to honor Christ with it.

John 17:17 (NKJV)
17 Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.

Again, Jesus said: ” 9 And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matthew 15:9). Christmas observance is a tradition of men, and the commandments of God, as quoted, forbid it. Jesus said, further, ” 9 He said to them, “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition..” (Mark 7:9)

That is precisely what the millions are doing today. They ignore the commandment of God. He commands, regarding taking the customs of the pagans and using them to honor or worship God: ” 31 You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way.” (Deuteronomy 12:31) Still, most people today take that command of God lightly, or as having no validity whatsoever, and follow the tradition of men in observing Christmas.

Make no mistake! God will allow you to defy and disobey Him. He will allow you to follow the crowd and the traditions of men. He will allow you to sin. But He also says there is a day of reckoning coming. As you sow, so shall you reap! Jesus was the living Word of God in Person, and the Bible is the written Word of God. And we shall be judged, for eternity, by these words! They should not be taken lightly or ignored.

We’re in Babylon, and Haven’t Known It

Christmas has become a commercial season. It’s sponsored, kept alive, by the heaviest retail advertising campaigns of the year. You see a masqueraded “Santa Claus” in many stores. Ads keep us deluded and deceived about the “beautiful Christmas spirit.” The newspapers, who sell the ads, print flowery editorials exalting and eulogizing the pagan season, and its “spirit.” A gullible people has become so inoculated, many take offense when told the truth. But the “Christmas spirit” is created each year, not to honor Christ, but to sell merchandise! Like all Satan’s delusions, it appears as an “angel of light,” is made to appear good. Billions of dollars are spent in this merchandising spree every year, while the cause of Christ must suffer! It’s part of the economic system of Babylon!

We have professed to be Christian nations, but we’re in Babylon, as Bible prophecy foretold, and we don’t know it! “Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues.”—now soon to fall—is the warning of  Revelation 18:4.

Revelation 18:4 (NKJV)
4 And I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues.

This year, instead of gift trading, why not put that money into God’s Work?

HO, HO, HO, MERRY CHRISTMAS! Or is It?

Nigeria - Left for DeadNigeria: Left for Dead
8 May 2015
Shot in the face and left for dead for refusing to deny Christ, Habila has made an incredible recovery. His love for his attackers is no less extraordinary. ‘My prayer is that they will know the truth and be saved,’ he says. ‘I love them.’

 

Below you are about to experience the truth concerning Christian persecution and martyrdom around the world including here in the U.S. This is not fiction, but fact from an organization that has supported martyrs and families of martyrs for almost 5 decades.

Voice of the Martyrs Australia was founded in 1969 and is part of a global partnership of independent missions started through the influence of Pastor Richard Wurmbrand.

Richard Wurmbrand was imprisoned and tortured by communist authorities in his native Romania for 14 years, including three years in solitary confinement. He envisioned a ministry that would focus on the persecuted church, raise a voice on its behalf and provide encouragement and assistance to persecuted Christians.

In 1967, Richard wrote Tortured for Christ, a firsthand account of the brutality he and other Christians suffered under communism. It opened the eyes and hearts of Christians in Western countries who had never heard of the terrible persecution happening to believers living in communist nations. He wrote:

“The message I bring from the underground church is:
‘Don’t abandon us! Don’t forget us! Don’t write us off!
Give us the tools we need! We will pay the price for using them!’”

Richard’s call to ‘remember the persecuted’ led to the establishment of an international ministry to persecuted Christians.

Voice of the Martyrs

Voice of the Martyrs

Throughout the world today, millions of Christians are experiencing persecution for the sake of Christ. Pastors are imprisoned or killed for proclaiming the Gospel in their churches and villages. Young people flee for their lives when their families discover they have converted to Christianity. Believers are beaten, tortured, pursued.

They are falsely accused, threatened, abused, starved, maimed and harassed.

Their homes and churches are burnt down, their Bibles and Christian material confiscated, and their businesses destroyed.

They are expelled from school and college, fired from their jobs, treated as criminals and rebels, forbidden to evangelize, and forced to meet and worship in secret.

What is Christian Persecution?

Wherever Christians go, they experience opposition. But in certain countries, this persecution is particularly severe.

Government policy or practice in some nations prevents Christians from obtaining Bibles and meeting together. Anti-Christian laws lead to harassment or imprisonment of believers for their witness.

Christians in other areas are routinely persecuted by family, neighbours or rebel groups despite the protection the government provides.

In countries such as Colombia and Nigeria, civil wars and other conflicts result in Christians facing opposition for their faith.

Hinduism
Majority-Hindu nations enforce anti-conversion laws, attempting to force new Christians to revert to Hinduism. Evangelists who supposedly perform forced conversions to Christianity are prosecuted. Political groups wanting to establish a purely Hindu nation, such as in India or Nepal, sometimes use violent tactics to try to eradicate Christians from the area.

Communism
Communist governments want control. But they can’t control the rapid growth of Christianity in countries like Vietnam and China. Government restrictions make Christian life and ministry very difficult. Pastors and leaders are arrested, interrogated and imprisoned in an attempt to stop the Church.

Islam
According to more radical streams of Islam, apostasy (rejecting your religion) is a crime that demands the death penalty. When a Muslim converts from Islam to Christianity, they bring shame on their family. They are abandoning their heritage, their very identity. Muslim background believers often face harsh opposition from the government, their family and friends.

The Real Reason for Persecution

Persecution should not surprise us. Jesus tells us that persecution from the world is part of what it means to follow Him.

Jesus says: “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you… If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. John 15:18, 20.

Paul writes to Timothy that “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. 2 Timothy 3:12.

Just as Jesus went to the cross, He said, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny
himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the Gospel’s will save it. Mark 8:34-35.

Christians in more hostile nations may live far from us, but as believers we know that we are one with them in Christ’s body. We cannot ignore their suffering. Voice of the Martyrs works to help, love and encourage persecuted Christians in partnership with the church in Australia.

Why are Christians persecuted?

Wherever Christians go, they experience opposition. But in certain countries, this persecution is particularly severe.

Government policy or practice in some nations prevents Christians from obtaining Bibles and meeting together. Anti-Christian laws lead to harassment or imprisonment of believers for their witness.

Christians in other areas are routinely persecuted by family, neighbours or rebel groups despite the protection the government provides.

In countries such as Colombia and Nigeria, civil wars and other conflicts result in Christians facing opposition for their faith.

Hinduism
Majority-Hindu nations enforce anti-conversion laws, attempting to force new Christians to revert to Hinduism. Evangelists who supposedly perform forced conversions to Christianity are prosecuted. Political groups wanting to establish a purely Hindu nation, such as in India or Nepal, sometimes use violent tactics to try to eradicate Christians from the area.

Communism
Communist governments want control. But they can’t control the rapid growth of Christianity in countries like Vietnam and China. Government restrictions make Christian life and ministry very difficult. Pastors and leaders are arrested, interrogated and imprisoned in an attempt to stop the Church.

Islam
According to more radical streams of Islam, apostasy (rejecting your religion) is a crime that demands the death penalty. When a Muslim converts from Islam to Christianity, they bring shame on their family. They are abandoning their heritage, their very identity. Muslim background believers often face harsh opposition from the government, their family and friends.

The Real Reason for Persecution

Persecution should not surprise us. Jesus tells us that persecution from the world is part of what it means to follow Him.

Jesus says: “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you… If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. John 15:18, 20.

Paul writes to Timothy that “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. 2 Timothy 3:12.

Just as Jesus went to the cross, He said, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the Gospel’s will save it. Mark 8:34-35.

Christians in more hostile nations may live far from us, but as believers we know that we are one with them in Christ’s body. We cannot ignore their suffering. Voice of the Martyrs works to help, love and encourage persecuted Christians in partnership with the church in Australia.

GET INVOLVED

“Remember the prisoners as if chained with them, those who are mistreated, since you yourselves are in the body also” Hebrews 13:3.

The Lord’s command to remember those in prison is more than mental recollection – it is a call to prayer and action.

FIVE MAIN AIMS

Our Voice of the Martyrs ministry is based on Hebrews 13:3

1. To encourage and empower Christians to fulfil the Great Commission in areas of the world where they are persecuted for sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
2. To provide practical relief and spiritual support to the families of Christian martyrs.
3. To equip persecuted Christians to love and win to Christ those who are opposed to the Gospel in their part of the world.
4. To undertake projects of encouragement, helping believers rebuild their lives and Christian witness in countries where they have formerly suffered oppression.
5. To promote the fellowship of all believers by informing the world of the faith and courage of persecuted Christians, thereby inspiring believers to a deeper level of commitment to Christ and involvement in His Great Commission.

For further information, contact VOM at or go to their website at: https://vom.com.au/

Contact Voice of the Martyrs Australia

Voice of the Martyrs Australia
PO Box 250
Lawson NSW 2783
p: 02 4759 7000
e: info@vom.com.au

In partnership with Christians throughout Australia, Voice of the Martyrs is working to meet the spiritual and material needs of persecuted Christians.

Get involved with us! Find out how you can keep informed, pray, and write to Christian prisoners in this section.

Subscribe Prayer Write to Prisoners Videos Invite a Speaker Volunteer Donate

Voice of the Martyrs

Who Needs God With Andy Stanley

Who Needs God Episode 1: “Atheist 2.0”

INTRODUCTION

Americans are migrating away from religion, particularly Christianity, at an unprecedented rate. Once upon a time, Americans believed religion offered solutions. Today, religion is viewed by many as the problem.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  1. What kind of faith or religion was a part of your upbringing, if any? What has been your experience as an adult with what you were taught as a child to embrace?
  2. Do you agree with the idea that when we move away from something, we are in essence moving toward something else? If so, when it comes to faith, what do you feel  you are moving away from? And as a result, what do you feel you are moving toward?
  3. Andy stated that just because something is unsettling doesn’t mean it isn’t true. What about Christianity unsettles you the most? What about atheism unsettles you the  most?
  4. Do you believe the process of walking away from faith or religion is more personal or more intellectual? Explain.

BOTTOM LINE

Walking away from something moves us in the direction of something else.

Who Needs God Episode 2: “Gods of the No Testament”

INTRODUCTION

Typically, people who don’t believe in God don’t believe in a particular version of God. But what if they have the wrong version? What if you have the wrong version? If you’ve walked away from faith or religion, it could be that your version of god never existed in the first place.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  1. Where did your view of God originate?
  2. Did you inherit any of the following “growing up gods”? If so, which one(s)?

        Bodyguard god: prevents bad things from happening

On-demand god: honors fair and selfless requests

Boyfriend god: makes its presence known

Guilt god: controls through guilt and fear

Anti-science god: forces trade of the undeniable for the unreliable

Gap god: becomes the explanation for the unexplainable

  1. If at any point in life you decided to walk away from faith or religion, would you say that any of these “growing up gods” contributed to that decision?
  2. To what extent do you associate religion with guilt?
  3. During this episode, Andy said the choice between God and science is a false alternative and that, “If everything were explained and explainable, it would not explain away God.” Do you agree? Why or why not?

BOTTOM LINE

Walking away from a god that never existed doesn’t mean there isn’t one that does.

Who Needs God Episode 3: “The Bible Told Me So”

INTRODUCTION

If the Bible is the foundation of the Christian faith, then as the Bible goes, so goes the legitimacy of Christianity. But what if the Bible shouldn’t hold that much weight in the debate? In this episode, Andy explains that Christianity doesn’t exist because of the Bible any more than you exist because of your birth certificate.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  1. In the stories you’ve heard from others about their decision to walk away from Christianity, or perhaps in your own story, what have been the reasons? Do any of those reasons  stem from what they’ve been told is true about God or the Bible?
  2. Describe one question or concern you have about something you’ve read or heard about in the Bible. Do you believe it must be resolved in order to further consider Christianity?
  3. How do you think 1st, 2nd, and 3rd century Christians managed to endure significant hardship and effect change in the political landscape of their time without access to a  Bible? What do you think inspired or compelled them forward?
  4. If debates about Christianity no longer centered around Is the Bible true? but shifted to Who is Jesus?, how might the conversation change?

BOTTOM LINE

Christianity doesn’t exist because of the Bible; Christianity exists because of something that happened.

Who Needs God Episode 4: “The God of Jesus”

INTRODUCTION

It’s easy to get caught between doubt and despair when we’ve always assumed God to be bodyguard god, on-demand god, guilt god, etc. If God has lost his appeal because we’ve mixed him up with a gaggle of gods that don’t exist, then how can we know what God is really like?

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  1. What is your reaction to the conclusion that Christianity isn’t rooted in blind faith, but in observable evidence? Do you agree with Andy that Christianity never would have made it out of the first century otherwise?
  2. Given the evidence for the viability of Christianity as it’s been presented so far in the series, do you think what Jesus had to say about the nature of God is worth considering?
  3. God is Spirit. In your opinion, is it plausible that God as “spaceless, timeless, and immaterial” could be the “first cause” that science is looking for?
  4. God is Father. Is it difficult for you to view God as a perfect father? Why or why not? What is one thing in your life that could change if God became that personal to you?
  5. God is Love. Much like in Andy’s analogy of shade requiring sun in order to exist, do you agree that evil requires good? If so, does that help to explain how God, in his essence,  could be love, despite the existence of evil in the world? What are the holes in that  idea?

BOTTOM LINE

The God of Jesus is Spirit. The God of Jesus is Father. The God of Jesus is Love.

Who Needs God Episode 5: “In-Justice For All”

INTRODUCTION

We all want to rid the world of injustice. But we can only recognize injustice if we know what justice is to begin with. We don’t always agree about what is just. So, who gets to define justice?

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  1. When have you seen injustice in your world? How did it influence the way you see God?
  2. Do you believe there is an objective standard of “dignity and justice for all”? If so, where do you believe it came from? Do you think it varies from one culture or society to the next?
  3. During the message, Andy said, “When we reject God because of injustice, we don’t solve injustice. We lose the definition.” Do you agree with that statement? Why or why not?
  4. Is it easier to regard pain and suffering in the world as an argument against the existence of God or as a reminder of our need for God? Explain.
  5. Does it make sense why God provided a way to save humanity from its shortcomings instead of choosing to judge humanity for them? Are you glad that God went that route? Why or  why not?

BOTTOM LINE

When we reject God because of injustice in the world, we don’t solve injustice. We lose the definition.

Who Needs God Episode 6: “I Do”

INTRODUCTION

We all want to be masters of our own destinies. We all want to feel in control of our lives. The idea of autonomy is attractive; it makes life feel ordered and predictable. One of the biggest barriers to belief in God’s existence is that we don’t want to need God. But what if autonomy is an illusion?

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  1. Talk about a time when you admitted you were wrong about something. How difficult was it for you to change your mind? What happened to cause that change?
  2. “People almost invariably arrive at their beliefs not on the basis of proof but on the basis of what they find attractive.” Be honest with yourself: how does this quote by Blaise Pascal  apply to your belief in or rejection of the existence of God?
  3. Assume for a moment that God does exist. What is your reaction to that notion, and how does it make you feel? As Andy describes in the episode, can you relate to feeling guilty,  accountable, or wrong?
  4. If unaccountable people make regretful decisions, to whom would you say you are ultimately accountable?
  5. What if the existence of God brings forgiveness, relationship, and truth? What is attractive or unattractive about each of those ideas?

BOTTOM LINE

Humility makes us wiser, smarter, and open to growth. Humility is the way forward.

The Way of the Cross

14-Carl-Heinrich-Bloch_The-Burial-of-Christ

“We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.”

We brought Jesus’ body to a tomb
and I arranged it there myself,
silently weeping, silently rejoicing.
I took one more look at my loving son,                and then walked out.
They closed the tomb
and before I left, I thought,
I knew this had to be…
it had to be for you!
I would wait in faith silently.

Yes, my Lord,
this had to be
because you loved me, and for no other reason.
All you ask is that I live a good life.
You never said such a life would be easy.
I am willing to leave sin behind
and live for you alone,
in my brothers and sisters.

___________________________________

At the cross her station keeping,                                                                                                stood the mournful mother weeping,                                                                                        Close to Jesus to the last.                                                                                                        Through her heart, is sorrow sharing,                                                                                           all His bitter anguish bearing.                                                                                                    Now at length the sword has passed.

The First Station:

 Jesus is condemned to death

(kneel)

All: We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You, because by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world.

(rise)

Reader 1: 14 Now it was the Preparation Day of the Passover, and about the sixth hour. And Pilate said to the Jews, “Behold your King!”

15 But they cried out, “Away with Him, away with HimCrucify Him!”                            Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?”                                                                       The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar!”

16 Then he delivered Him to them to be crucified. Then they took Jesus and led Him away.

John 19:14-16 New King James Version (NKJV)

Jesus: Since we left the Garden last night, I’ve been accused by the scribes and elders. I’ve been brought before the High Priest in an illegal trial. I’ve been dragged to Herod’s palace. I’ve been mocked and spat upon by the soldiers. They want Me to die. Pilate had asked what to do with their king and the crowd answered ‘Crucify Him!’

Reader 2: Christ suffered for me. He gave me an example to follow, so I should do as He did. He did not sin, He never lied, people teased Him but He did not tease them in return.

Prayer: My Jesus, it was not Pilate, but my sins that condemned You to die. Help me to accept my own death at the time and in whatever way it comes.

O, how sad and sore distressed                                                                                                     was that mother, highly blessed,                                                                                                    of the sole Begotten One.

The Second Station:

Jesus takes up His cross.

(kneel)

All: We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You, because by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world.

(rise)

Reader 1: 16 Then he delivered Him to them to be crucified. Then they took Jesus and led Him away. The King on a Cross

17 And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha,

John 19:16-17 New King James Version (NKJV)

Jesus: When he brought Me in front of the crowd, Pilate said: ‘Ecce Homo!’: ‘Look what you have done to this Man!’ But there seems to be another voice speaking as well. The voice seems to say: ‘Look what you have done to this man, to your God.’

Reader 2: Christ carried my sins in His body on the cross. He did this so that I might stop living for sin, and do what is right. I am healed because of His wounds.

Prayer: My beloved Jesus, I thank you for all the things You have planned for me until my death, even those things that will be hard for me. The road is narrow, but I know it leads to heaven and I know You will be with me, as You promised, until the end of time.

Christ above in torment hangs.                                                                                                     She beneath beholds the pangs                                                                                                       of her dying, glorious Son.

The Third Station:

Jesus falls the first time.

(kneel)

All: We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You, because by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world.

(rise)

Reader 1: 51 And suddenly, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword, struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear.

52 But Jesus said to him, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53 Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels? 54 How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?”

Matthew 26:51-54 New King James Version (NKJV)

Jesus: The cross beam is so heavy and painful. Am I so weak from the beatings I received, or is the burden too heavy for me to bear? As I stumble beneath its weight, do you think I might feel an urge to call out to you for help? But I do not call for help, because God’s love for humanity commanded this sacrifice. I obey Him because I, too, love you so dearly.

Reader 2: When I am punished for doing wrong, there is no reason to praise me for bearing the punishment. If  I suffer for doing good, and I am patient, that pleases God.

Prayer: My beloved Jesus, not the weight of the cross, but my sins made You suffer so much pain. And Your love for me gives You the strength to go on.

Is there one who would not weep,                                                                                    ‘whelmed in miseries so deep                                                                                                 Christ’s dear Mother to behold.

The Fourth Station:

Jesus meets His mother.

(kneel)

All: We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You, because by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world.

(rise)

Reader 1: 34 Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against 35 (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

Luke 2:34-35 New King James Version (NKJV)

Jesus: I meet My mother along the way of the cross. I can tell from the look in her eyes that My cross has become her cross. My humiliation becomes her humiliation. Perhaps she remembers the words of Simeon when I was dedicated in the Temple according to the Law.

Reader 2: I see Mary in the midst of the Passion. She was closest to Jesus on earth. How often she must have gone over the events of His life in her thoughts. She felt what Jesus was feeling more than anyone else. It must have been like she was crucified with Him. How much she loves Jesus, and how much she must also love us to observe His pain and torment without protest. I look to her for help to grow closer to Jesus.

Prayer: My most loving Jesus, by the sorrow You experienced in this meeting, grant me the grace of a truly devoted love for Your most holy mother. Allow me to see You through her eyes of love.

Can the human heart refrain                                                                                                      from partaking in her pain–                                                                                                             in that mother’s pain untold?

The Fifth Station:

Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus.

(kneel)

All: We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You, because by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world.

(rise)

Reader 1: 21 Then they compelled a certain man, Simon a Cyrenian, the father of Alexander and Rufus, as he was coming out of the country and passing by, to bear His cross.

Mark 15:21 New King James Version (NKJV)

Jesus: I am getting weaker and weaker, so Simon of Cyrene is pulled out of the crowd to help carry the cross because the soldiers were afraid I would not make it to Calvary. In the confusion, Simon of Cyrene appears at My side as if it were you.

Reader 2: When I see someone who needs help, even if I don’t know them, let me think about what Simon did. His family was rewarded because of what he did. His sons, Rufus and Alexander, knew what their father had done and they believed in Jesus. Later they became leaders in the church.

Prayer: My beloved Jesus, I will not refuse my cross. I will take it and thank You. Give me the strength and compassion to help others in their time of need and bring them to know about Your mercy.

Bruised, derided, cursed, defiled,                                                                                                  she beheld her tender Child                                                                                                             all with bloody scourges rent.

The Sixth Station:

Veronica wipes the face of Jesus.

(kneel)

All: We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You, because by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world.

(rise)

Reader 1: 34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink;I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

Matthew 25:34-40 New King James Version (NKJV)

Jesus: The steep, narrow streets are hot and dusty. The dust kicked up from the street gets in My eyes and nose. I can taste the dirt. But I keep going. A lady pushes past the soldiers and wipes My face with a cold wet towel.

Reader 2: There are times when I am afraid to reach out to others. I do nothing when I should act. I say nothing when I should speak. I need deeper and more courageous faith to trust that God is with me. In fact, Jesus leaves His image on every single act of love like He did for Veronica.

Prayer: My dear Jesus, Your face was lovely before You began this journey, but it no longer appears beautiful just as the beauty of my soul is soiled by my sins.

For the sins of His own nation                                                                                                      saw Him hang in desolation                                                                                                            till His Spirit forth He sent.

The Seventh Station:

Jesus falls the second time.

(kneel)

All: We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You, because by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world.

(rise)

Reader 1: 35 And the people stood looking on. But even the rulers with them sneered, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ, the chosen of God.”

36 The soldiers also mocked Him, coming and offering Him sour wine, 37 and saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself.”

Luke 23:35-37 New King James Version (NKJV)

All those who see Me ridicule Me;
They showed contempt with their mouth, they shake the head, saying,

“He trusted in the Lord, let Him rescue Him;
Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!”

But You are He who took Me out of the womb;
You made Me trust while on My mother’s breasts.

Psalm 22:7-9 New King James Version (NKJV)

Jesus: Since My first fall, I have met some–you, My mother, Simon, and Veronica–who have supported and comforted Me. In spite of their refreshing care, I stumble and the taunts of the crowd start again. But I get up and go on because I love you, and them, so dearly.

Reader 2: If God is with me, then no one can defeat me, no matter how much they tease and make fun of me. Even God’s own Son suffered for me.

Prayer: My most gentle Jesus, how many times You have forgiven me, how many times I have fallen again and begun again offended You? Give me grace so that in all my temptations, I will always turn to You. I love You Jesus with all my heart. I am sorry that I have offended You.

O sweet mother! fount of love,                                                                                                  touch my spirit from above                                                                                                        make my heart with yours accord.

The Eighth Station:

Jesus speaks to the women of Jerusalem.

(kneel)

All: We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You, because by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world.

(rise)

Reader 1: 27 And a great multitude of the people followed Him, and women who also mourned and lamented Him. 28 But Jesus, turning to them, said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.

Luke 23:27-28 New King James Version (NKJV)

Jesus: I see you weeping for Me. Let Me ask you: Do you feel guilty or do you feel pity for Me? What I want is not these, but your heart, your mind, and your life. Show Me your love by loving others more than yourself.

Reader 2: Jesus stopped to comfort others even when He was suffering so much. Could I reach out to someome else even when I am hurting or in trouble? I feel sorry and selfish when I think of the way He loves. I need to pour out my love and be filled with His love.

Prayer: My Jesus, weighed down with sorrows, I weep for the sins which I have committed against You, because of the punishment which I deserve for them, but even more so because of the displeasure they have caused You who has loved me with infinite love.

Make me feel as you have felt                                                                                                    make my soul to glow and melt                                                                                                   with the love of Christ, my Lord.

The Ninth Station:

Jesus falls the third time.

(kneel)

All: We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You, because by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world.

(rise)

Reader 1: 38 Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.”

39 He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.

40 Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? 41 Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Matthew 26:38-41 New King James Version (NKJV)

Jesus: For the third time, I fall to the ground. My sweat, blood and tears blend with the dust of the earth just as they did last night in the Garden of Gethsemani. I know how weak human flesh can be. It takes all of My strength and will to go on, but I do because I love you so very much.

Reader 2: Who is this Who has fallen? I don’t expect God to act this way, but There is so much in Jesus’ life and teachings that is not as I expect God to be. He has chosen to go through it all for me!

Prayer: My Jesus, by the weakness You suffered going to Calvary, give me enough strength to ignore other people’s opinions and my own weaknesses which have led me away from Your friendship.

Holy mother, pierce me through,                                                                                                    in my heart each pain renew                                                                                                            of my Savior crucified.

The Tenth Station:

Jesus is stripped of his clothes.

(kneel)

All: We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You, because by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world.

(rise)

Reader 1: 23 Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments and made four parts, to each soldier a part, and also the tunic. Now the tunic was without seam, woven from the top in one piece. 24 They said therefore among themselves, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be,” that the Scripture might be fulfilled which says:

“They divided My garments among them,
And for My clothing they cast lots.”

Therefore the soldiers did these things.

John 19:23-24 New King James Version (NKJV)

Jesus: The soldiers ripped off the clothes they threw on Me after they beat Me at Pilate’s palace. All My wounds are torn open again. As I hang naked on the cross, little did they know that I was about to perform the greatest miracle of all time–the salvation of the world.

Reader 2: As Jesus is stripped of His clothes, I know I need to always be aware that I must keep my body and soul pure and clean. I must work to stay pure in my thoughts, words, and actions rather than give in to the world’s view of things which encourages vanity and giving in to all our desires no matter how sinful they may be.

Prayer: My innocent Jesus, by the torments You endured by being stripped of Your garments, help me to strip myself of my attachment toward the things of earth so that I may place all my love in You Who are most worthy of my love.

Let me share with you His pain,                                                                                                 Who for all our sins was slain,                                                                                                   Who for me in torments died.

The Eleventh Station:

Jesus is nailed to the cross.

(kneel)

All: We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You, because by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world.

(rise)

Reader 1: 33 And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left. 34 Then Jesus said, “Father,forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”

And they divided His garments and cast lots.

Luke 23:33-34 New King James Version (NKJV)

Jesus: The nails piercing My hands and feet as I hang on the cross become My only means of support. Your hands support Me in this final hour when you reach out to help others and when you forgive those who have hurt you.

Reader 2: I can never doubt Jesus’ great love for me when I see Him crucified. I know He gave His life freely for my salvation. He forgave the soldiers even before they had finished their vile work, and even though they did not ask for it. How much more is He willing to forgive me when I am truly sorry for offending Him?

Prayer: My despised Jesus, nail my heart, mind, and soul to the cross. May I always be there to love You and never leave You again.

Let me mingle tears with thee                                                                                              mourning Him who mourned for me,                                                                                           all the days that I may live.

The Twelfth Station:

Jesus dies on the cross.

(kneel)

All: We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You, because by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world.

(rise)

Reader 1: 33 Now when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

35 Some of those who stood by, when they heard that, said, “Look, He is calling for Elijah!” 36 Then someone ran and filled a sponge full of sour wine, put it on a reed, and offered it to Him to drink, saying, “Let Him alone; let us see if Elijah will come to take Him down.”

37 And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and thus breathed His last.

38 Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39 So when the centurion, who stood opposite Him, saw that He cried out like this and thus breathed His last, he said, “Truly this Man was the Son of God!”

Mark 15:33-39 New King James Version (NKJV)

Jesus: As I hang suspended between heaven and earth My eyes and mind clear for one final look at My creation. I see My Mother; whom I love with a special love. I see the disciple whom I love, I ask you take care of My mother. Recall how I said that anyone who does the will of My Father is mother, and brother, and sister to Me. I see each of you; I love you with an everlasting love. Remember that I love you even to My death on the cross.

Reader 2:  Do you remember to take some time each day to think about what Jesus did for you and to thank Him for His wonderful love? Take some time right now to speak to Jesus in your own words. Tell Him of your love for Him (pause for a few moments) . . . . . .

Prayer: My dying Jesus, I deserve, because of my sins, a terrible death, but Your death is my hope. May I die embracing Your cross, burning with love for You, no matter what it costs.

By the Cross with you to stay,                                                                                                     there with you to weep and pray,                                                                                                this I ask of you to give.

The Thirteenth Station:

Jesus is taken down from the cross.

(kneel)

All: We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You, because by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world.

(rise)

Reader 1: 31 Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. 32 Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who was crucified with Him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. 34 But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. 35 And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe. 36 For these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, “Not one of His bones shall be broken.” 37 And again another Scripture says, “They shall look on Him whom they pierced.”

38 After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus. 39 And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds. 40 Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury.

John 19:31-40 New King James Version (NKJV)

Jesus: I was roughly put on the cross. Now I am gently removed from it and placed, for one last time, in My mother’s arms. Perhaps she thinks of those times when she tenderly held Me as a Baby. Perhaps she thinks about the terrible work of the sins of mankind and of the Trinity’s infinite love for human beings.

Reader 2: If only I can learn to see all the good things about people while they are alive. I need to care for them and see that they are happy while they are alive.

Prayer: Jesus my Redeemer, since You died for me, allow me to love You, for I desire only You and nothing more.

Virgin of all virgins blest!                                                                                                          Listen to my fond request:                                                                                                              Let me share your grief divine.

The Fourteenth Station:

Jesus is laid in the tomb.

(kneel)

All: We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You, because by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world.

(rise)

Reader 1: 57 Now when evening had come, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. 58 This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be given to him. 59 When Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60 and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed.

Matthew 27:57-60 New King James Version (NKJV)

Jesus: At last My place of rest is reached. You have kindly wrapped My body in a cloth and placed it in Joseph’s tomb. But you know this is not the end of the story. I came to bring you hope, not despair.

So, Do not stand at my grave and weep

I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond that glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.

When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.

([(c) Mary Elizabeth Frye])

Reader 2: I cannot bury my hope in Jesus’ grave. No matter how hard things seem to be, they could not be more difficult than what Jesus faced in His life. Despite all His suffering, it came out all right–more than all right: He won the greatest victory ever!

Prayer: Oh, my buried Jesus, I am sad while You are in the tomb, but I know that You have left us with hope.

Christ, when You shall call me hence,                                                                                            be Your mother my defense,                                                                                                            be Your cross my victory.                                                                                                           While my body here decays,                                                                                                        may my soul Your goodness praise                                                                                              safe in heaven eternally.

_____________________________________

Death, be not proud, though the whole world fear you
Mighty and dreadful you may seem
but death, be not proud, for your pride has failed you
You will not kill me.

Though you may dwell in plague and poison,
you’re a slave to fate and desperate men;
So death, if your sleep be the gate to heaven,
Why your confidence—
when you will be no more?
You will be no more, you will be no more;
even death will die.

Death, be not proud.
Even death will die.

([(c) 2014 Audrey Assad])

Amen.

The Fifteenth Station:

The Resurrection.

(kneel)

All: We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You, because by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world.

(rise)

Reader 1: 24 Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’ ”

And they remembered His words. Then they returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.

Luke 24:1-9 New King James Version (NKJV)

Prayer: My risen Jesus, I know that You rose in glory on the third day. I beg You, by Your resurrection that I may rise gloriously to be united with You in heaven; to praise You and love You forever.

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Race, The Cross, & Christianity

This afternoon, my wife and I watched the moving The Help staring Viola Davis as Aibileen Clark, Octavia Spencer as Minny Jackson, and Emma Stone as Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan.

Set in Mississippi during the 1960s, Skeeter (Emma_Stone) is a southern society girl who returns from college determined to become a writer, but turns her friends’ lives — and a Mississippi town — upside down when she decides to interview the black women who have spent their lives taking care of prominent southern families. When she arrives home, she finds that her nanny and family’s maid Constantine Jefferson (played by Cicely Tyson) is gone. Skeeter sees the chance of writing a book about the relationship of the black maids with the Southern society for an editor from New York. First, she convinces Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis) to open her heart to her; then Minny Jackson (Octavia Spencer) is unfairly fired by the arrogant Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard), who is a leader in the racist high society, and Minny decides to tell her stories after finding a job with the outcast Celia Foote (Jessica Chastain). Soon eleven other maids accept to be interviewed by Skeeter that also tells the truth about Constantine. When the book “The Help” is released, Jackson’s high society will never be the same.

Barak Obama, in his new preface to his older book Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, quotes William Faulkner to show that history is never dead. He describes the difference between the time the book was written and the time he was writing the new preface.

The book was published in 1995, “against a backdrop of Silicon Valley and a booming stock market; the collapse of the Berlin Wall; Mandela – in slow, sturdy steps – emerging from prison to lead a country, the signing of peace accords in Oslo.” He observed that there was a rising global optimism as writers announced the end of our fractured history, “the ascendance of free markets, and liberal democracy, the replacement of old hatreds and wars between nations with virtual communities and battles for market shares.”

“And then,” he says, “on September 11, 2001, the world fractures.”

“History returned that day with a vengeance; … in fact, as Faulkner reminds us, the past is never dead and buried – it isn’t even past. This collective history, this past, directly touches our own.”

The United States has been treating evidence of racism, prejudice, and discrimination, and not the causes, since the Civil War. Slavery; “separate but equal”; segregated pools, buses, trains and water fountains; workplace and housing discrimination; and other forms of bias and animosity have served as painful barometers of the nation’s racial health. They have been, however, treated like the pain that accompanies a broken leg. The effort was to treat or reduce the agonizing symptoms of the break rather than fix it.

In our faltering efforts to deal with race in this country, a great deal of time is devoted to responding to symptoms rather than root causes. That may help explain why racism, prejudice, and discrimination keeps being repeated.

The Bible has much to say on racial intolerance in both testaments. The good Samaritan story of Luke 10:25-27 was an attempt by Jesus to expose the wrongful attitude of racial intolerance that existed between the Jews & Samaritans during the time of Jesus. In Matt 28:19 Jesus told his followers to go out and make disciples of all nations and this would include all people groups. Jesus never said to only make disciples of some people groups, he said Òall nations. Also, Paul in Galatians 3:28 condemned racial intolerance in the church. Racial discrimination should not be a part of the true regenerated Christian.

The first thing to understand is that there is only one race—the human race. Caucasians, Africans, Asians, Indians, Arabs, and Jews are not different races. Rather, they are different ethnicities of the human race. All human beings have the same physical characteristics (with minor variations, of course). More importantly, all human beings are equally created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27). God loved the world so much that He sent Jesus to lay down His life for us (John 3:16). The “world” obviously includes all ethnic groups. God does not show partiality or favoritism (Deuteronomy 10:17; Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11; Ephesians 6:9), and neither should we. James 2:4 describes those who discriminate as “judges with evil thoughts.” Instead, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves (James 2:8). In the Old Testament, God divided humanity into two “racial” groups: Jews and Gentiles. God’s intent was for the Jews to be a kingdom of priests, ministering to the Gentile nations. Instead, for the most part, the Jews became proud of their status and despised the Gentiles. Jesus Christ put an end to this, destroying the dividing wall of hostility (Ephesians 2:14-16). All forms of racism, prejudice, and discrimination are affronts to the work of Christ on the cross.

Ephesians 2:14-16 (NKJV)

Christ Our Peace

 14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.

Jesus commands us to love one another as He loves us (John 13:34). If God is impartial and loves us with impartiality, then we need to love others with that same high standard. Jesus teaches in Matthew 25 that whatever we do to the least of His brothers, we do to Him. If we treat a person with contempt, we are mistreating a person created in God’s image; we are hurting somebody whom God loves and for whom Jesus died. Racism, in varying forms and to various degrees, has been a plague on humanity for thousands of years. Brothers and sisters of all ethnicities, this should not be. Victims of racism, prejudice, and discrimination need to forgive. Ephesians 4:32 declares, “32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” Racists may not deserve your forgiveness, but we deserved God’s forgiveness far less. Those who practice racism, prejudice, and discrimination need to stop and repent. “13 And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.” (Romans 6:13). May Galatians 3:28 be completely realized, “28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Unfortunately, humanity has twisted the Bible to try to justify human fears and prejudices. Some consider the “curse of Ham” to be an excuse to hate those of African descent. Others insist that the Jews were responsible for Jesus’ death and deserve our ridicule. Both views are patently false. The Bible tells us that God’s judgment is not based on appearances but what is on the inside (1 Samuel 16:7), and those who do judge according to appearances do so with evil intent (James 2:4). Instead, we are to treat one another with love (James 2:8), regardless of ethnicity (Acts 10:34-35) and social standing (James 2:1-5). Christian love negates all prejudice, and the Bible condemns racism.

A new year will be upon us soon. What will it take to put our racism, prejudices, and discrimination aside and unite as ONE in Christ Jesus?

Protected: Keeping Your Eyes on Jesus

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Overcoming the Sin of Ungratefulness

Complaining has become a way of life for some. Take the frustrated thief on the cross who Christ, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.” Then there was the situation about Martha and Mary. We are going to place these two sisters together because the Bible says “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus” (John 11:5). Martha seemed to have been an anxious and high spirited woman who wanted to be helpful in providing food and comfort for Jesus; while Mary was more concerned with sitting at his feet and learning of him. When Martha complained about Mary not helping, Jesus did not correct her; instead, he said that Mary had chosen the right place at the time. “Only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:42 NKJV).

Nowhere in Scripture is complaining more prominent than the Israelite’s exodus from Egypt. The Lord provided for them: release from bondage; rescue at the Red Sea; bitter water replaced by sweetwater; manna and quail; daily guidance – by day in a pillar of cloud and by night in a pillar of fire; and finally, the Ten Commandments. Despite all this, we see a constant pattern of murmuring from the Israelites.

Complaining (murmuring) is the outward demonstration of a critical spirit. The thoughts and intents of our heart will come out of our mouth (Matthew 15:18 NKJV). A critical spirit fosters bitterness and anger. Others will view a complainer as a malcontent. Nothing is ever enough to him/her. No matter how good or unlikeable something or someone is, the ungrateful person will always find fault.

The Israelites complained three days after receiving the Ten Commandments (Numbers 11:1 NKJV). They were focused on the wilderness rather than the Promised Land. God heard their complaining and sent judgement. How naïve we are to think that God will somehow overlook ungratefulness. Complaining always brings consequences.

Can a complainer change? Can he/she overcome his/her critical spirit? Here are two steps to prayerfully consider:

  1. Renounce Ungratefulness – Call complaining (murmuring) what it is – SIN! No one can do this for you. If you are going to get out of the mental rut you’re in, you must be honest about sin. David said that God desired truth in his inward parts (Psalms 51:16 NKJV). Agreeing with God about sin is the first step toward repentance. Trust God to lift you out of the miry clay of ungratefulness that has engulfed you. When you catch yourself complaining, renounce and repent.
  1. Replace Ungratefulness – It is not enough to just try harder. You must begin practicing gratitude. Thankfulness is the heart attitude that will displace the ungrateful spirit that has tormented you. Let me illustrate: A young lady realized that she wasn’t enjoying life. She described herself as stuck on a treadmill. Her critical spirit was hurting those she loved the most. She was advised to spend time daily reflecting on her blessings. So, she began taking daily photos of things for which she was grateful for. It changed her life. She began noticing little things that she had missed. In the picture where her husband was serving dinner, he put the largest portion on her plate. She had never noticed that! It was his way of preferring her and showing her how much he loved her. Previously, she had found mothering a boring job. To her delight, the photos of her kids revealed them holding out their hands to her, playing and exploring. She began discovering how much joy and wonder there was in her world that she had missed. Ungratefulness had been robbing her of all of these joys.

You may not be able to rake pictures. That’s Okay. Make a list. Start by thanking God and others each day for the blessings they bring into your life.