Category Archives: Spiritual Warfare

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

What Are the Seventy Weeks of Daniel?

The “seventy weeks” prophecy is one of the most significant and detailed Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament. It is found in Daniel 9. The chapter begins with Daniel praying for Israel, acknowledging the nation’s sins against God and asking for God’s mercy. As Daniel prayed, the angel Gabriel appeared to him and gave him a vision of Israel’s future.

The Divisions of the 70 Weeks

In verse 24, Gabriel says, “Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city.” Almost all commentators agree that the seventy “sevens” should be understood as seventy “weeks” of years, in other words, a period of 490 years. These verses provide a sort of “clock” that gives an idea of when the Messiah would come and some of the events that would accompany His appearance.

The prophecy goes on to divide the 490 years into three smaller units: one of 49 years, one of 434 years, and one 7 years. The final “week” of 7 years is further divided in half. Verse 25 says, “From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’” Seven “sevens” is 49 years, and sixty-two “sevens” is another 434 years:

49 years + 434 years = 483 years

The Purpose of the 70 Weeks
The prophecy contains a statement concerning God’s six-fold purpose in bringing these events to pass. Verse 24 says this purpose is 1) “to finish transgression,” 2) “to put an end to sin,” 3) “to atone for wickedness,” 4) “to bring in everlasting righteousness,” 5) “to seal up vision and prophecy,” and 6) “to anoint the most holy.”

Notice that these results concern the total eradication of sin and the establishing of righteousness. The prophecy of the 70 weeks summarizes what happens before Jesus sets up His millennial kingdom. Of special note is the third in the list of results: “to atone for wickedness.” Jesus accomplished the atonement for sin by His death on the cross (Romans 3:25Hebrews 2:17).

The Fulfillment of the 70 Weeks
Gabriel said the prophetic clock would start at the time that a decree was issued to rebuild Jerusalem. From the date of that decree to the time of the Messiah would be 483 years. We know from history that the command to “restore and rebuild Jerusalem” was given by King Artaxerxes of Persia c. 445 B.C. (see Nehemiah 2:1-8).

The first unit of 49 years (seven “sevens”) covers the time that it took to rebuild Jerusalem, “with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble” (Daniel 9:25). This rebuilding is chronicled in the book of Nehemiah.

Using the Jewish custom of a 360-day year, 483 years after 445 B.C. places us at A.D. 30, which would coincide with Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-9). The prophecy in Daniel 9 specifies that after the completion of the 483 years, “the Anointed One will be cut off” (verse 26). This was fulfilled when Jesus was crucified.

Daniel 9:26 continues with a prediction that, after the Messiah is killed, “the people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary.” This was fulfilled with the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. The “ruler who will come” is a reference to the Antichrist, who, it seems, will have some connection with Rome, since it was the Romans who destroyed Jerusalem.

The Final Week of the 70 Weeks
Of the 70 “sevens,” 69 have been fulfilled in history. This leaves one more “seven” yet to be fulfilled. Most scholars believe that we are now living in a huge gap between the 69th week and the 70th week. The prophetic clock has been paused, as it were. The final “seven” of Daniel is what we usually call the tribulation period.

Daniel’s prophecy reveals some of the actions of the Antichrist, the “ruler who will come.” Verse 27 says, “He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’” However, “in the middle of the ‘seven,’ . . . he will set up an abomination that causes desolation” in the temple. Jesus warned of this event in Matthew 24:15. After the Antichrist breaks the covenant with Israel, a time of “great tribulation” begins (Matthew 24:21, NKJV).

Daniel also predicts that the Antichrist will face judgment. He only rules “until the end that is decreed is poured out on him” (Daniel 9:27). God will only allow evil to go so far, and the judgment the Antichrist will face has already been planned out.

Conclusion
The prophecy of the 70 weeks is complex and amazingly detailed, and much has been written about it. Of course, there are various interpretations, but what we have presented here is the dispensational, premillennial view. One thing is certain: God has a time table, and He is keeping things on schedule. He knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10), and we should always be looking for the triumphant return of our Lord (Revelation 22:7).

Recommended Resource: Daniel: The John Walvoord Prophecy Commentary by Walvoord & Dyer

Related Topics:

What are the seventy sevens in Daniel 9:24-27?

What is going to happen according to end times prophecy?

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.

——————————————————————-

The Ideal Woman

Let us examine the portrait of an ideal woman designed by God and revealed some 3,000 years ago in Solomon’s book of Proverbs.

It seems that women are very much in the news these days:

  • Leading marches in order to demonstrate their political power and influence.
  • Standing up to and denouncing predators and abusers.
  • Championing the rights of woman to compete fairly in every area of business, politics, sports, entertainment, etc.

On the face of it, it would be hard to find fault with any of these individual initiatives and objectives. Women’s vote should be considered crucial by politicians and women should be judged on their skills and training and not their gender when it comes to employment and opportunity for advancement in any area of endeavor. And we, as a society, should never enable, ignore or defend predators or abusers, no matter how rich or famous or talented they are.

All these issues are logical and just but I can’t help but think that the ultimate goal of these and other movements headed up by women is to erase any difference there may exist between the sexes.

I would go one step further and suggest that there may be some that are hoping that the women’s movement will ultimately lead to a society where women dominate men. I have no idea of exactly how this would work but I am fairly confident that if dominance is the goal, women will eventually be guilted of the same kind of cruel and unjust actions that abusive men have made who sought the same kind of power.

In today’s society it seems that men are encouraged to become more like women and women are demanding to be treated more like men. In addition to this, young people are told that they can explore every shade of gender identity until they find a sexual personification that they feel comfortable with. And we wonder why, according to Psychology Today, the suicide rate among young adults (millennials) has tripled since the 1950’s. And suicide is the second most cause of death among college students.

In answer to this worrying trend and confusion over what is male and female the Bible makes a clear and defining statement: “God created man in His own image, male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27). There are only two sexes, they are different and they are meant to be different. As the French say concerning men and women, “vivre la différence!” (long live the difference).

Since I began this lesson referring mainly to women, I’d like to focus on the female gender in defining some of the important characteristics that defines, not just a women, but what defines a Godly women. You see, there is nothing wrong with a women who desires political and economic opportunity, and refuses to be victimized by some abuser. These are all well and good – it’s just that these goals belong to the world and are appreciated only here below.

What I desire for women is that they aim higher, for goals that are above, that belong to the Kingdom of God, not the kingdom of darkness here below. For this reason, I’d like to share with you the portrait of an ideal woman designed by God and revealed some 3,000 years ago in Solomon’s book of Proverbs. In this passage, Solomon indicates some of the qualities possessed by the ideal women who is pleasing to God.

Description of an Ideal Woman – Proverbs 31:10-31

At the end of the book of Proverbs there is a beautiful acrostic poem extolling the virtues of the ideal woman. Acrostic poems are those where each line of poetry begins with subsequent letters of the alphabet. In this poem the writer begins his description by saying one thing about the virtuous woman – She is rare.

10 A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.

Not every woman is like this, he says; just like not every piece of jewelry is precious – pearls are precious because they are rare and hard to find (all jewelry shines but not all are valuable).

A virtuous woman (inner strength) is hard to find, even harder to find than precious Jewels.

What makes her so valuable? – vs.11-12

11 Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.
12 She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.

The writer summarizes her value in describing her relationship to her husband – she is trustworthy. The author tells us that the innate quality that this woman possesses is her trustworthiness. Not just to her husband but as an essential quality that she has as a person (with or without a husband, she is trustworthy).

When you have found a woman like this, you have found a precious stone.

Outward Signs of Inward Qualities – vs. 13-24

In the following verses the author goes on to describe the outward signs that reveal that precious inward quality of trustworthiness.

 She is a good manager and hard worker

13 She selects wool and flax
and works with eager hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from afar.
15 She gets up while it is still night;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her female servants.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.
18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night.
19 In her hand she holds the distaff
and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
20 She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy.
21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes coverings for her bed;
she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
And supplies belts to the tradesmen.

The author gives several examples of her hard work and good management.

  • 13 – Cheerful in her work. She doesn’t complain or see her work as a burden.
  • 14 – She uses imagination in preparing food and is a wise shopper, careful with her money.
  • 15 – Manages her responsibilities well in her home. She is “on top” of the situation concerning her affairs.
  • 16; 24 – She has good business sense and knows how to turn a profit. Without sacrificing her home, she is able to use her business talents to the advantage of her home. She doesn’t ruin her home with outside work She builds it up.
  • 17-19 – She is not afraid of hard work and does not waste her time at home. This is a woman who knows the difference between leisure and laziness. She demonstrates that a well-managed home is a profitable enterprise. She understands that “time” is “money” even for the woman who is at home and uses her time at home profitably. A well-managed home is like a second income.
  • 21-23 – By her work at home she contributes to her family’s and her husband’s reputation in the community. Her children are clean, well fed and mannered, as is her husband and this is a reflection of their home, of which she is the manager.

If marriage is a partnership the woman that the author describes here is a good partner to have. So in describing the outward signs that point to the inward quality of the ideal woman the author begins by describing the things that make her a good manger and hard worker.

Good Character and Reputation – vs. 25-27

25 Strength and dignity are her clothing,
And she smiles at the future.
26 She opens her mouth in wisdom,
And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
27 She looks well to the ways of her household,
And does not eat the bread of idleness.

The second outward sign that reveals this trustworthiness is her good character and reputation within her community. Says 4 things about her character:

  • 25 – Kind and generous. James tells us that benevolence to the poor and homeless is the sign of true piety (James 1: 27). She is truly a spiritual woman with a Godly character. She has confidence. She is not afraid of the future (near or far) because her faith and good works cover her with honor and power. She is a person who is at ease in her conscience because her heart and hands are busy doing what is right. She is not guilt ridden or depressed because she is busy giving herself away to others she loves.
  • 26 – She is wise. Her tongue is not for gossip but rather for edification. This is one of my own mother’s qualities and one I have also found in my wife. Both never use their words to destroy always to build others up beginning with myself and our children and then others. This is wisdom from above and the woman of the poem demonstrates that she has this.
  • 27 – She is concerned, but her first and primary concern is her home and family. It is not that she isn’t concerned with the problems of her society (She does help the poor etc.) but the concerns of her home are first. When we take care of our own home first there are usually less problems in the world. She is aware of the needs of her family and the community and concerned about fulfilling them using all of her skills and qualities refined through years of service and practice.

Paul says in I Corinthians 11:3 that the man is the head of woman and consequently the head of the home but Lemuel, the writer of this material, balances out this picture by showing us that the woman is the heart of the home. When the head and the heart are in union with Christ as the Lord of the home, what a wonderful place that home is.

The Rewards of the Ideal Woman – vs. 28-31

In the last few verses the author describes the rewards awaiting such a person and clear signs that she is a virtuous woman. She has this trustworthiness demonstrated by Good stewardship of her home and a Godly character and these bring her rewards:

  1. Her family praises her

28 Her children rise up and bless her;
Her husband also, and he praises her, saying:
29 “Many daughters have done nobly,
But you excel them all.”

Her children are thankful that they have a mother like her – what a reward for a mother, grateful children. Her husband sees her as the best of all women. Suggest his absolute fidelity and devotion.

  1. Her community praises her

Her neighbors, friends and community see her as a woman of value and character.

In the end the author summarizes the true essence of the value of this person.

30 Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain,
But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.
31 Give her the product of her hands,
And let her works praise her in the gates.

Her motivating factors are not beauty or charm (social acclaim) She is a person that fears (respects /obeys) the Lord – this is what motivates her. Her desire to work well, to serve others, to develop a good character are inspired by her basic faith and desire to obey God, who wants all of his daughters to become women of value.

Summary

Notice some of the things that were not mentioned here:

  1. Her looks (skin, hair, weight, height, figure)
  2. Her independence (Not even a question for her)
  3. Her knowledge / education

These were not mentioned not because they are not in themselves important but rather because they did not make her more valuable one way or another.

Notice however what was mentioned as important:

  1. Her work concerning her responsibility towards her husband, family, community (N.T. times = church)
  2. Her attitude of kindness and wisdom
  3. Her confidence and lack of guilt
  4. Her reward of praise from the three groups that she serves: Family / Community

And of course God Himself praises her because she serves Him and He wrote this poem in her honor.

Exhortation

We have extremes in recognizing woman in or society. Either we have a day that honors only those women that have children (Mother’s Day) or the various organizations that promote those women who see themselves as feminists.

I want to encourage those women who work hard in raising children but I want to include all those women who are striving to become women of valor in our society, regardless of their status. – and who are these women in our day?

Women who are resisting the pressure from the Media and society to work only on the outward beauty but through patient obedience to Jesus Christ are creating a beautiful inward person.

Women who, in a thousand ways, every day serve their husbands and / or families, church and school and community and do so with a smile, sincerity and diligence.

Women whose strongest desire is not to be free and independent but rather desire to be useful, kind, and generous to those who are in need.

Women who are keeping themselves pure and ready for the return of Jesus Christ.

For these women, whether they are married or widowed or single; with or without children – I pray that God will bless you as true women of valor. I also pray that as the precious jewels that you are, you will shine forth among all others and receive the reward of praise that you so richly deserve.

Invitation

For those women who want to become the virtuous women spoken of here:

First step is to give your life to Jesus in repentance and baptism. In so doing you become pure again, no matter what you’ve done and special in Gods sight.

If you’ve gone away from Him and not been the kind of woman God wants you to be, repent and come back to him for forgiveness and restoration.

Proverbs 31 Woman (3).jpg

Deception, Idolatry and The Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot)

In keeping the Feast of Tabernacles in a central location enables us to realize that we are involved in something larger than our own salvation- part of a universal and eternal mission, giving us unity toward God’s purpose. Jeroboam, motivated by political ambition and self-centered fear, incrementally and surreptitiously established a more convenient idolatrous festival, replacing the Levites, and establishing new centers of worship in order to prevent his people from keeping the legitimate Feast of Tabernacles in Judah. The modern parallel seems quite clear.

I Timothy 4:1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons.

Let me change just a few words so it will clarify it and maybe a few minutes later, it will mean a little bit more to you.

I Timothy 4:1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will abandon, or some will withdraw, or some will apostatize from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons.

The ones who are going to depart are not necessarily the ones who are doing the preaching—they’ve already departed. Paul is talking about something that was in progress or was shortly to begin taking place. The ones who are going to depart are the ones who are going to be misled, not the heretical teachers.

Let’s think about this in the context of our time, in terms of deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons. If by chance you were somehow invited to attend a séance in which the leader called out for the spirits of those who were dead to arise and speak, I am pretty sure such a thing would not take you in. You wouldn’t have any trouble at all identifying such a practice as being evil and demonic.

We’re also pretty much aware that Ouija boards, black magic, sorcery, and like things lead to very dreadful spiritual consequences. We also know that compared to the vast majority of people, there are very few victims of these overt hoaxes of Satan the Devil.

We’re not deceived at all when we’re passing a Catholic Church, by seeing the statuary, the crucifixes, and even though we know that other people are bowing down before these things and they put their superstitious trust into these representations of these people that they believe are alive—we wouldn’t be taken in by something like that. But we do need to consider that Satan is the author of both overt and covert deceptions.

There was a time when these deceptions that are so obvious to you and me that we wouldn’t be taken in by them were they not overt but covert, where he was moving inch by inch to take people in and take them away from the path toward God’s kingdom.

I don’t think we can come up with any exact ratio, but I am pretty sure that for every person deceived by Satanism and astrology there must be hundreds of people covertly deceived by false doctrines.

Christ warned us in John 8:44 that Satan is a liar and he is the father of lies; that he has been lying from the beginning and he speaks what is natural to him; that lies come out of him just as easily, just as naturally as truth comes out of God.

You might recall from Colossians 2, that if you read the entire chapter you would have found that Paul, in the very last verse of chapter 2, said that this philosophy that he was talking about had a show of wisdom, but that this philosophy, this show of wisdom, included the worship of angels—demons. He also showed (in that very same chapter) that the taproot of that philosophy went straight back into what has been translated as the elemental or the rudimentary elements of the world. You can see that modern Protestant commentaries admit that that is demonic and is not something that is hidden.

Colossians 2:23 (NKJV)

23 These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.

So here is a philosophy that had a show of wisdom, but yet its taproot was in demonism. The important thing to you and me is that the apostle Paul was writing to a Christian church, converted people having God’s Spirit, and they were being taken in by this philosophy that had a show of wisdom. What were they doing? They were departing; they were abandoning; they were apostatizing from the faith that had been delivered to them.

You ought to be able to see my point—that this is something of concern for you and me. Just because this happened back in the first century A.D. indicates that it ought to be able to happen now. We too can be taken in by something that has a show of wisdom.

Consider this proposition—that the best liars are those who speak things that are almost true. Satan is described as being the most subtle beast of all. Surely he presents assertions that sound true and can only be found false when somebody honestly evaluates what he says in the light of God’s truth. Somebody not equipped to be able to identify the real, absolute truth from God’s Word is very likely going to be taken in by the things that he says.

The Feast of Tabernacles of 1992 is history and is going to go down in our record as one of the best that we have ever had. But before it is put completely on the back burner, let us all reflect on something concerning the Feast. I want to help you understand, through an illustration I am going to give, how false doctrine is injected into the church.

One of the things that I admire about God is that He is so logical. That doesn’t mean that I always understand His logic. I didn’t always understand my parent’s logic when I was a child, whenever they would either permit or deny something I requested of them. Sometimes they would say yes and sometimes they would say no, but as I have aged, I have come to understand that their much broader and more general experiences that life gave to them gave them perceptions and insights into things that I simply could not grasp as a child.

I am sure that this same principle is at work in regard to our relationship with God—that I don’t always understand why He does or He doesn’t do something. I don’t understand why at times He heals and at other times He doesn’t heal. I don’t understand why at times some people are prospered and others are not.

Yet on the other hand, as I grow, my understanding increases and I begin to see reasons, to get perceptions on why a healing does not occur or why prosperity does not occur. Each piece of knowledge begins to fit beautifully into the overall picture.

There is no doubt that the Bible presents God as Creator and Ruler of His creation. Can you imagine a manufacturer, a creator—one who manages and governs his company, his corporation, his creation—without laws or policies to govern his operation? We would never think of that in human terms. No corporate president could operate that way. He would say that’s stupid. And yet, we know there are many people who are deceived into somehow thinking that God as Creator and Ruler doesn’t require obedience to law by many or all of His people.

In like manner, every manufacturer has a plan to carry out his purpose. God also has a plan to carry out His purpose—that is the very purpose for which He created everything. In addition to this, the whole creation screams at us that God is organized.

In an article written by Wernher von Braun, the German rocket scientist, he states that he did not give his loyalty to any particular religious group, yet he confessed to all the world that his studies of the laws of nature and the universe led him to the conclusion that there absolutely had to be a Creator, because everything was so organized, that something that just randomly happened could not have occurred. That impressed him.

I have read that Albert Einstein said virtually the same thing. Though he did not give his allegiance to any particular group, yet he was so impressed by the organization of the creation that he had to come to the conclusion that indeed there was a Creator.

God is organized. Doesn’t that give weight to believing that God has a purpose for what He created and He has a plan by which He is working that purpose out; that He is organized; that things are moving toward a conclusion that He has designed?

Every government, every nation, every team, and yes, even families have to have plans; a framework within which to work; budgets to give control over financial resources. So does God.

This is important to you and me in relation to the Holy Days, because the Holy Days are the framework of God’s plan. They give us insight into the direction toward which everything in history is moving and they give shape and form, not only to your life annually, but also shape and form to your entire life once the Holy Days become a part of your knowledge and you begin to operate according to them.

Anyone who has been in the church of God is going to have to agree that his year is organized around the Holy Days; that what anyone of us does in the way of planning for a year, usually the first thing we will mark down is when the Holy Days are. For a week, it automatically comes to our mind that the Sabbath is going to come up and our plans have to include thinking about the Sabbath. The Holy Days are important in order to structure our life for a year and also to instruct the entirety of our life.

What if Satan moved to destroy the unity of the Holy Days? What would happen? People would very quickly lose their direction. That is exactly what has happened! During the first century, one of the first things Satan began to do was to remove the authority of the weekly Sabbath.

As he did that, he also began removing the authority of the Holy Days and he destroyed the direction of the Christian church.

It didn’t happen all at once. It happened over quite a number of decades because he knows the general framework of time and he knew that he had plenty of time to work with, at least plenty of time in terms of human life. Do you think Satan would be so stupid as to cause something to occur for the removal of the weekly Sabbath or the removal of the Holy Days that was so abrupt that anybody would catch on to it right away?

No, he would move covertly, inch-by-inch, maybe millimeter-by-millimeter, so that people could slowly adjust to the idea of getting along without (or undermining) the authority of the laws of God.

Zechariah 14:16-19 (NKJV)

16 And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. 17 And it shall be that whichever of the families of the earth do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, on them there will be no rain.18 If the family of Egypt will not come up and enter in, they shall have no rain; they shall receive the plague with which the Lord strikes the nations who do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. 19 This shall be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the nations that do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.

What we are looking at is a prophecy that pertains to the period of time after the return of Jesus Christ. That’s what Zechariah 14 is all about—the period of time after the return of Jesus Christ. People are going to be required to keep the Feast of Tabernacles and it will not just be the people of Israel.

Every nation on the face of the earth is going to be required to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. Why? Because the Feast of Tabernacles is an integral and perhaps, for the period of time we are talking about, the most important feast of all.

Why keep the Feast of Tabernacles in a central location? There are two overall purposes:

Number one: in keeping it at a central location it enables us to better realize that we are part of something bigger than just our own personal salvation. The Feast has the effect of developing within us a sense of mission. Even though we seem (personally) ineffectual, insignificant, and puny whenever we’re confronted by each day’s challenges and events, the Feast helps us to realize that we are part of something that is big and eternal.

Big—it portrays the salvation of all of mankind that comes after the first resurrection. That is multiple billions of people big! When we keep the Feast now in this age of God’s church, it connects us to them and it connects us to each other.

People come from Washington. People come from Oregon. People come from California. People come from Chicago, but we all come together and we begin to realize that we’re part of something that is universal and eternal.

So we see here that all nations are going to worship the Lord and it shows us its worldwide purpose. There is one more thing and that is that it also tends to show that there is order to life and that the events of history are moving toward a well-designed conclusion. We see in the Feast of Tabernacles the whole world coming to conversion.

Number two: it has the effect of unifying us to God’s purpose. The Feast was designed by God to give us a sense of unity with each other as we sit and learn together, and as we fellowship with  people who are of the same mind, that maybe live thousands of miles away and whom we do not see except maybe from year-to-year. We begin to have family feelings toward those people. It is a family; it is God’s family.

The world has absolutely nothing like the Feast of Tabernacles. It has conventions, but it doesn’t have a religious convention anything at all like the Feast of Tabernacles on an annual basis.

They all can see this. They don’t keep it, but they can see the principle that is involved with God’s Holy Days and the Feast of Tabernacles. They say that Zechariah is saying that the Feast of Tabernacles will be the external bond of unity among all the nations after Christ returns.

The internal bond is God’s Spirit. The external bond will be the Feast of Tabernacles. Think of that in relation to us and the importance of keeping the Feast of Tabernacles. If you wanted to destroy the unity of God’s people, if you wanted to destroy their knowledge of the purpose that God is working out and the plan by which He is working that purpose out, don’t you think that you would take aim at the Feast of Tabernacles? That would be very high on your hit list if you wanted to get rid of this church of God.

History shows us (the history that is recorded in the Bible, as well as secular history) that Judah lasted a great deal longer (after the division of Israel and Judah) than Israel. The Jews had their times of sliding away, but they revived again and again.

Have you noticed in your reading of II Kings and II Chronicles that almost every time they had a revival there was a Holy Day involved? Frequently, it was the Feast of Tabernacles. A second one would be the Passover/Days of Unleavened Bread area.

To help set the stage look at II Kings 10. The story here is about God’s destruction of the house of Ahab and Jezebel, and He used Jehu in doing this.

2 Kings 10:11 (NKJV)

11 So Jehu killed all who remained of the house of Ahab in Jezreel, and all his great men and his close acquaintances and his priests, until he left him none remaining.

2 Kings 10:31 (NKJV)

31 But Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of the Lord God of Israel with all his heart; for he did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam, who had made Israel sin.

Jehu had a wonderful opportunity. God gave him the opportunity to lead a revival of the truth of God in Israel after one of the worst reigns of the worst king (possibly) that the nations of Israel ever saw—Ahab and his wife Jezebel. But we see here that he didn’t take advantage of it and instead he walked in the sins of Jeroboam.

Who was Jeroboam and what did he do? In order to find out, we’re going to have to go back into I Kings, all the way back to the end of the reign of Solomon and get a running start on what occurred.

1 Kings 11:4-6 (NKJV)

For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord, and did not fully follow the Lord, as did his father David.

Notice that this occurred when he was old and that his heart went not fully after the Lord. He did go after the Lord, but he did it in a haphazard way. His downfall began with laxity toward being careful about keeping God’s commands regarding idolatry. Laxity is the first stage of lawlessness. The more lax he became, the more double-minded he became.

A double minded person loses his grip. Can you understand that? Just think of grasping something with your hand. If you’re not really sure what you want to hang onto and your mind is playing back and forth between two different things, your grip is going to loosen on one or the other, because you’re going to want to let go of the one and maybe get the other. Your grip is going to loosen. I’m talking about a mental grip, but I think we get the idea.

Solomon gradually came to the place where he was not really hanging onto anything, but he was straddling between choices, gradually becoming more and more unstable, unsettled, and even deceitful until he became completely reintegrated into the world. He began to be moved almost entirely by human nature once again.

Why is the first commandment listed first? The reason is it is the most important of all the commandments. God wanted to draw special attention to it because it is the one that is also most easily broken.

Do you realize that five commandments bear directly on idolatry? Numbers one, two, three, four, and ten. The tenth one brings you right back around to the first. That’s why the Bible describes them as a chain. Covetousness is idolatry. That’s the way the apostle Paul wrote it.

1 Kings 11:9-11 (NKJV)

So the Lord became angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned from the Lord God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, 10 and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods; but he did not keep what the Lord had commanded. 11 Therefore the Lord said to Solomon, “Because you have done this, and have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to your servant.”

You can see from these three verses that idolatry came to the place where it dominated Solomon’s relationship with God. Also, this verse begins to lead into Jeroboam. You ought to be able to begin to see from what I have said so far; that what Jeroboam did had something to do with the Holy Days and also with idolatry.

Notice also in verse 11, where God says, “Because you have done this and have not kept My covenant and My statutes.” The Holy Days are statutes. Tell me something: Could Solomon be keeping the Holy Days of God and worshipping Milcom and Chemosh? Wouldn’t they have holy days? Something very wrong was being done here.

1 Kings 11:26 (NKJV)

26 Then Solomon’s servant, Jeroboam the son of Nebat, an Ephraimite from Zereda, whose mother’s name was Zeruah, a widow, also rebelled against the king.

1 Kings 11:28 (NKJV)

28 The man Jeroboam was a mighty man of valor; and Solomon, seeing that the young man was industrious, made him the officer over all the labor force of the house of Joseph.

We begin to see something taking shape. This is like a flashback to what occurred in verses 9-12—that Jeroboam was somebody who came to Solomon’s attention and he promoted Jeroboam. Jeroboam became renowned within the kingdom.

 I ings 11:29-31, 34-35, 37-38 

 1 Kings 11:29-38 (NKJV)

29 Now it happened at that time, when Jeroboam went out of Jerusalem, that the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite met him on the way; and he had clothed himself with a new garment, and the two were alone in the field. 30 Then Ahijah took hold of the new garment that was on him, and tore it into twelve pieces. 31 And he said to Jeroboam, “Take for yourself ten pieces, for thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: ‘Behold, I will tear the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon and will give ten tribes to you 32 (but he shall have one tribe for the sake of My servant David, and for the sake of Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel), 33 because they have[a] forsaken Me, and worshiped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of the Moabites, and Milcom the god of the people of Ammon, and have not walked in My ways to do what is right in My eyes and keep My statutes and My judgments, as did his father David. 34 However I will not take the whole kingdom out of his hand, because I have made him ruler all the days of his life for the sake of My servant David, whom I chose because he kept My commandments and My statutes. 35 But I will take the kingdom out of his son’s hand and give it to you—ten tribes. 36 And to his son I will give one tribe, that My servant David may always have a lamp before Me in Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen for Myself, to put My name there. 37 So I will take you, and you shall reign over all your heart desires, and you shall be king over Israel. 38 Then it shall be, if you heed all that I command you, walk in My ways, and do what is right in My sight, to keep My statutes and My commandments, as My servant David did, then I will be with you and build for you an enduring house, as I built for David, and will give Israel to you.

 Footnotes:

a. 1 Kings 11:33 Following Masoretic Text and Targum; Septuagint, Syriac, and Vulgate read he has.

Solomon died and his son, Rehoboam, came on the scene as the king. The people of Israel are complaining to Rehoboam because of the heavy taxation under Solomon. They’re asking him for relief. “Give us a break and we’ll be your servant.”

 I Kings 12:4-8, 10-11 

 1 Kings 12:4-8 (NKJV)

“Your father made our yoke heavy; now therefore, lighten the burdensome service of your father, and his heavy yoke which he put on us, and we will serve you.”

 So he said to them, “Depart for three days, then come back to me.” And the people departed.

Then King Rehoboam consulted the elders who stood before his father Solomon while he still lived, and he said, “How do you advise me to answer these people?”

And they spoke to him, saying, “If you will be a servant to these people today, and serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever.”

But he rejected the advice which the elders had given him, and consulted the young men who had grown up with him, who stood before him.

1 Kings 12:10-11 (NKJV)

10 Then the young men who had grown up with him spoke to him, saying, “Thus you should speak to this people who have spoken to you, saying, ‘Your father made our yoke heavy, but you make it lighter on us’—thus you shall say to them: ‘My little finger shall be thicker than my father’s waist! 11 And now, whereas my father put a heavy yoke on you, I will add to your yoke; my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scourges!’”[a]

 Footnotes:

a. 1 Kings 12:11 Literally scorpions

The stage is set for a secession to occur. A civil war is on the horizon because Rehoboam rejected the advice and gave Israel an ultimatum—either you accept the terms that I give to you, or else.

Jeroboam and Israel rejected what Rehoboam offered to them and it says in verse 16:

1 Kings 12:16-17 (NKJV)

16 Now when all Israel saw that the king did not listen to them, the people answered the king, saying:

 “What share have we in David?
We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse.
To your tents, O Israel!
Now, see to your own house, O David!”

So Israel departed to their tents. 17 But Rehoboam reigned over the children of Israel who dwelt in the cities of Judah.

Israel returned to their tents and Jeroboam became their king. When he took over he enacted certain measures that were designed to accomplish something. So what we see happening here is how false doctrine is introduced and eventually becomes established as orthodoxy, because the true doctrine eventually becomes forgotten because of a lack of practice.

 1 Kings 12:26-27 (NKJV)

26 And Jeroboam said in his heart, “Now the kingdom may return to the house of David:

27 If these people go up to offer sacrifices in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will turn back to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah, and they will kill me and go back to Rehoboam king of Judah.”

It’s a real fear that the man had. But what he did was motivated by a selfish regard for his own life and his own position as king, and a disregard of the promise that God had made to him. God had already told him, “You obey Me, and I will establish you as king.

Obviously, Jeroboam was not walking by faith, because he was more concerned about the people leaving him, because down in Jerusalem was the temple; down in Jerusalem was the brazen altar where the sacrifices were made; down in Jerusalem was the central spot of the worship of God.

What could he do to keep the people from going down to Jerusalem and having their loyalty shifted back to King Rehoboam through religion? Jeroboam was no dummy when it came to political things. He was politically astute. He was a real man of the world. He was pragmatic; he was a very clear practitioner of situational ethics.

 1 Kings 12:28-33 (NKJV)

28 Therefore the king asked advice, made two calves of gold, and said to the people, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, O Israel, which brought you up from the land of Egypt!” 29 And he set up one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. 30 Now this thing became a sin, for the people went to worship before the one as far as Dan. 31 He made shrines[a] on the high places, and made priests from every class of people, who were not of the sons of Levi.

 32 Jeroboam ordained a feast on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, like the feast that wasin Judah, and offered sacrifices on the altar. So he did at Bethel, sacrificing to the calves that he had made. And at Bethel he installed the priests of the high places which he had made.33 So he made offerings on the altar which he had made at Bethel on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, in the month which he had devised in his own heart. And he ordained a feast for the children of Israel, and offered sacrifices on the altar and burned incense.

 Footnotes: 

a. 1 Kings 12:31 Literally a house

Now what did he do? Let’s clarify. First of all, he established new centers of worship—Bethel in the south of Israel and Dan in the north. Two, he replaced the God-ordained Levites with men of other tribes as the nation’s spiritual leaders. Three, he did away with the Feast of Tabernacles and he substituted another feast of his own devising.

Don’t get the idea that all of this was done in the blink of an eye. Sometimes the Bible fools us that way because the history that is written is written in such a way to conserve a great deal of space. It appears to us as though Jeroboam just snapped his fingers and issued orders of all these things to be done at once. But the Bible does not say that. These things could have taken months; they could have taken years to evolve into practices that became orthodoxy.

“It is too much for you to go to Jerusalem.” Notice this appeal, because here is how idolatry gets started. Make it easier, more convenient, for the people.

Don’t we always have a tendency to attempt to make things easier for ourselves in worshipping God, in obedience to God? But the strange thing is we don’t make it easier. It only appears easier for the short period of time. All of history that is written in the Bible screams that God’s way is the easy way, but it is something that has to be viewed over a lifetime, over longer periods of time than we like to think.

We have the tendency to make things easier for the immediate moment, forgetting about the long-term effect of what we are going to do. Jesus said to take My yoke upon you for it’s easier, it’s lighter than the way of this world. There is a way that seems right unto men but the end thereof is the way of death.

But the way idolatry gets started is the thought; “I will make it easier, more convenient on myself.” So what did Jeroboam do? He cleverly gave the people something that would satisfy their itching ears—convenience.

Ok now, ask yourself this question: In what way is our twentieth century, western culture superior to what these people (we might say) in biblical times were living in? I think the reality is the that the only way it is better is in material comforts and conveniences. To us, convenience equals progress. That is a carnal, human way to think. But even physically in this nation and in other nations, we are gradually being led to see from what we are doing to the environment that material progress begets problems that are devastating in their effects in terms of water pollution, soil pollution, air pollution, and on and on it goes. All of this is being done in the name of progress, i.e., convenience. Convenience is not progress in terms of obedience and character building as it relates to God.

But Jeroboam appealed to their carnality—let’s make it easier. Undoubtedly, traveling to Jerusalem from Samaria or from Dan—way up on the extreme north end of the nation—was not all that convenient. Jerusalem was not just around the corner to those people who were confined to walking, riding a donkey, or maybe riding in a cart. It would take them days, not hours, to get to a service that was being held at the Temple.

There is a clear lesson here: that is that sacrificing (that would take place at the Temple) is not convenient.

Jeroboam knew what he was doing. As I stated earlier, he was astute in terms of a politician. He knew what he was doing when he did this.

During my research, I came across a book – the Story of Civilization, Volume 1, entitled “Our Oriental Heritage.” It’s by Will and Ariel Durant. This comes from chapter 12, page 308. The chapter is about Judah.

Next to the promulgation of the Book of the Law, the building of the Temple was the most important event in the epic of the Jews history.

This, of course, is just one historian’s conclusion, that the second most important thing that ever happened to Israel, once they were called out of Egypt, was the building of the Temple. Do you think Jeroboam was dumb?

Durant goes on: It not only gave Yahweh a home, but it gave Judea a spiritual center and capital, a vehicle of tradition, a memory to serve as a pillar of fire through the centuries of wandering over the earth, and it played its part in lifting the Hebrew religion from a primitive polytheism to a faith intense and intolerant; but nonetheless, one of the creative creeds in history.

Jeroboam was not dumb. He knew how important that Temple was. So, the first thing he did was come up with what appeared to be (and indeed was, as history shows) an appeal to convenience. “Oh, it’s too far to go to Jerusalem. Take it easy. God is the God of all the earth. God is everywhere. You can talk to God, worship God, pray to God, sacrifice to God anywhere you want.” It sounds logical, carnally.

The second thing he did was he connected what he was instituting to something already somewhat popular, and also this thing had a connection to Israel’s ancient history. Again, very astute.Jeroboam disconnected the people from their immediate headquarters, and in so doing he (at least somewhat) discredited the previous administration—their roots, one might say. It made it seem as though he was saving them from the deviations of Solomon. Remember, his motivation was to establish himself as king. He was making it more convenient. He was liberalizing. He was the friend of the people.

In order to help himself, he did not entirely disconnect them from their history and traditions. This made the changes seem that much more acceptable. “Oh, our ancestors did that. All the people of the land are already doing this.” What he did was he reached back into the history of Israel to some things they might connect to.

In Genesis 28 is the story of Jacob fleeing for his life whenever he stole the birthright away from Esau. He hightailed it out of there at the urging of his mother who conspired with him.

Genesis 28:10 (NKJV)

10 Now Jacob went out from Beersheba and went toward Haran.

Genesis 28:12 (NKJV)

12 Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.

It really made an impact on Jacob’s mind. Then, God spoke to him and He said in verse15:

 Genesis 28:15, 19

 Genesis 28:15 (NKJV)

15 Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you.”

Genesis 28:19 (NKJV)

19 And he called the name of that place Bethel;[a] but the name of that city had been Luz previously.

 Footnotes:

a. Genesis 28:19 Literally House of God

Jacob was the father of the Israelite people. Jacob had a life changing experience with God at Bethel. From that time on, Bethel became a place of special regard, an honor, an awe and respect to the people who were descended from Jacob. Jacob passed the knowledge of that on to his children, who in turn passed the knowledge of that on to their children.

So Bethel was almost like a holy place, because God Himself had actually been there. Of all the places in the nation of Israel, that was one place that they could say that God had actually been there. It was a place of special regard to them.

You can begin to see why Jeroboam, astute politician that he was, reached back into the past and said we’re going to set up an altar (which there had never been) at Bethel. “Our father Jacob was there.” Sounds good. Sounds logical. Why didn’t somebody think of that before? New knowledge; new doctrine; God is revealing things to us.

Does God change His mind about things like that? He said to go to Jerusalem not to Bethel. But the people bought it! And Jeroboam did the same thing with Dan.

In Judges 17—a man named Micah hires himself a Levite to be his own personal priest. In the course of this Levite’s service to Micah, the Danites come through the area and they steal this Levite away. Micah wasn’t going to fight against six hundred armed men, so they took his teacher (his father as he called him, the Levite) and they took his idols and statues that were there, and they took this Levite to Dan—the city that was named after their father.

 Judges 18:30 (NKJV)

30 Then the children of Dan set up for themselves the carved image; and Jonathan the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh,[a] and his sons were priests to the tribe of Dan until the day of the captivity of the land.

 Footnotes:

a. Judges 18:30 Septuagint and Vulgate read

It says Manasseh in most Bibles, but if you will look in your margin it says Moses. The Jews were ashamed that a grandson of Moses would be caught up in something like this and so they changed it.

What bigger name was there in Israel’s history than Moses? Do you see why he picked Dan? Do you think Jeroboam was dumb? “Hey, Moses’ grandson had set up an altar there. This is a holy place. There isn’t any place in the nation, except maybe Bethel, that can even begin to approach, in terms of holiness, in terms of religious value, the city of Dan. Let’s set up an altar there too. Doesn’t that sound good? After all we need to honor Moses. What greater honor could there be than we establish an altar, a place to make sacrifice? All the time we go there to honor God, we’ll also remember Moses as well.”

You can come up with all kinds of arguments in terms of carnal, logical arguments. He could have never done this unless the people were agreeable to it. But you see, little by little, using arguments that were very close in some areas to truth and people wanting something convenient in terms of a religion, because God requires an awful lot of us to go all the way down to Jerusalem. He’s the God of the whole earth. We can do it just as well here. Inch-by-inch, millimeter-by-millimeter they were weaned away from the truth of God.

Remember the scripture in Jeremiah 5? God said to Jeremiah, “Go out and see if you can find one person in the whole city of Jerusalem who is seeking truth and if you can find one person, I will spare the whole city.” Jeremiah could not find one person and God said at the end of the chapter the reason this happens is that the people love to be lied to!

That sounds almost impossible, but I’m not going to argue with God. If He said they love to be lied to, then they must love to be lied to.

Do people today love to be lied to? America is about to celebrate Halloween on October 31, 2016. Do people love to be lied to about Halloween? They show by their actions they love to be lied to, because people know better than that. They know it came out of paganism. But they love to have it so because it’s part of tradition. If we stop doing those things we cause problems in the family.

Jeroboam didn’t stop there. He went on to the golden calf. Did you notice what he said? “This be your god O Israel.” He quoted Exodus 32—lies in the name of scripture. See how he was connecting it to their history? Jacob, Moses, the golden calf. It seemed so logical to do something like that.

Exodus 32:4 (NKJV)

And he received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molded calf.

 Then they said, “This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!”

We find in the golden calf incident in Exodus 32 that those people were motivated by their impatience. People were no different then. They said they didn’t know where Moses went. He’s been up there so long and they wanted to do something, so they immediately reverted to the things they had learned in Egypt. Their impatience for the return of their leader led them back to the things that they had done. Carnal thinking—“These be your gods O Israel.”

Now tell me something: Were the bulk of the Israelites in the golden calf incident revolted by what they saw? They loved it—the lie. Their own experience told them it was not the golden calf who devastated Egypt; it was not the golden calf that had split the Red Sea; it was not the golden calf that was in the cloud and the pillar of fire; it was not the golden calf that brought the water out of the rock; it was not the golden calf who brought the manna every morning—they loved to be lied to because it was convenient, and it was inconvenient to change their mind and their lives. That would cause trouble.

I mentioned Halloween. I cut this article out of the Charlotte Observer dated Thursday, October 29, two days before Halloween 2015. The writer of the article is a man named Alan Norwood and it begins this way:

When the Reverend John Alexander was with a congregation in another town, a woman would visit every year and complain that Halloween was demonic, Satanic, and otherwise anti-Christian. The lady came by and gave me down in the country,” said Alexander, Pastor of Charlotte’s Sharon Presbyterian Church. “She visited all churches. We passed it off as her annual crusade.”

Well, it kept her out of trouble on Halloween.” That’s what the preacher said.

“Well I hope so [said the writer of the article], “but I hope she didn’t ruin the occasion for the little ones. A grownup who would steal the smile from a five year old Ninja Turtle at a carnival in a church basement is one curmudgeonly grump.”

Now you know why Christ was killed—because He told people the truth. When people are confronted by truth that they recognize, they are at a crossroads.

A little further in the article, the Observer gets letters each year saying that Halloween is anti-Christian. This is not something that is hidden in a corner.

We received a few this year, although they haven’t been published in deference to readers who want to comment on the important elections. The letters typically say that Halloween was born in pagan festivals. Seven of thirty-three Halloween festivals lifted in a calendar in some editions of the Wednesday paper were being sponsored by churches and two more were being sponsored by YMCA’s. Alexander said he never has heard of anyone complain about the annual Halloween festival at the Sharon Presbyterian Church.

People love it.

“It was established,” he said, “before I came. It is seen as nothing more than fellowship—an alternative to knocking on doors to trick or treat.”

Further on in the article, another pastor reports that it’s nothing more than good fellowship.

Another pastor says, “I don’t believe Halloween is Satanic. I believe it is a Christian feast. It comes from All Hallows Eve—the eve of the feast of all saints. Children will hear that. They’ll also hear that the pumpkin is a gift of the harvest and the candle inside is a reminder that the light of Christ should shine from their faces.”

Do you know what the lesson of the golden calf is? It is in there for one major reason and that is to show us very clearly that we cannot take anything at all from paganism and use it in the worship of God. God will not accept it because it is misleading in terms of His purpose, and He doesn’t want anybody deviating because it’s going to destroy them!

“It doesn’t mean a thing,” people say. Exodus 32God’s truth disagrees.

The Pressure to Succeed

So how do I start this story? My heart is racing. I am getting heartburn. I’m not shaking outside, but inside I could make a milkshake. I’m nervous. My mind is going a million miles an hour, yet I am lacking as to what to put down on paper. I feel hot and my palms are sweaty.

I want to write something that will be of help to others, but what do I say? How do I explain my life of failures because I am a people pleaser that wants to be accepted and liked for who I am as well as what I am able to accomplish? If you were to look at my résumé, you would probably shake your head and throw it into the trashcan. More jobs than one should have because I “wasn’t perfect enough to accomplish what was expected of me”, so I gave up.

Failures! The story of my life. My dad was a good man with an extremely high IQ. The one thing you didn’t do with my dad was to pick an argument with him. You would lose every time. You had better have your ducks in a row or face rejection and disappointment because you couldn’t meet his standards. And they were high. If I got a B, he would want to know why I didn’t get an A. If I got an A, why didn’t I work hard enough to get an A+? A “perfectionist” at heart and that’s what was expected of me.

I got through college on my dad’s tailcoats because he spent almost a life time working the stock market. And yes, he wanted me to follow in his footsteps. But that wasn’t me. I loved the fine arts – classical music, dance, art, drawing. I was not and probably never will be business oriented even though at one time my wife and I ran an accounting and tax business. I started college taking courses for a business degree, changed to the fine arts, failed there and went back to the business administration side with a degree in public administration, recreation as a field. Great. NO JOBS were there, so I went into retail.

The gist of all this is the fact that it was the beginning of a very long journey trying to discover who I was and where I belonged. And yes, I’m still running the gauntlet with no success. Why you ask. Because I fear walking out my front door just to go to McDonald’s to get some milkshakes for me, my wife and step-daughter.

I feel safe inside, to a point. It’s like my safe haven where no harm or faulty expectations or demands can get to me. It’s my fortress, my bastion where I can hide from those with needs and wants I can’t fulfill because their expectations are too high. It’s my blanket that keeps the anxiety and frustrations at bay. Sounds ridiculous you say.

Yes, it does. But how do I explain to you the real feelings that are going on inside me? How do I explain something I don’t really understand the whys and hows of? What is anxiety? What is fear? Where does it come from and why can’t I gain control of it to stop it from controlling me and ruining my life? I am taking medications for depression, anxiety, glaucoma, A fib, cholesterol, restless leg syndrome. I’ve seen therapists, psychiatrists, counselors, etc., but they haven’t really done me any good. I am now fully retired and am taking care (am a caregiver) for my wife who has a degenerative/debilitating back disease and my step-daughter who has Down Syndrome, an aortic heart valve and is on blood thinners, and is diabetic.

They need me and there is no escape. I don’t want to run away because they are me and I am them. But the demands are endless; I can’t and won’t walk away from them. God gave me this responsibility for a reason and I have to believe that He will guide me and keep me strong so I can do what is necessary in caring for them.

Believe it or not, I do love life. The struggle, like all who are in the same boat as I am as far as feelings of anxiety and depression, is to find a balance in life where I can cope and heal from these perplexities. One thing I can say that may hopefully resound in your minds and mine – NEVER GIVE UP!!!

Below you will see four sets of verses from the bible. They are in the New King James Version and the New International Version (in case the New King James Version is confusing to some of you). Both Timothy and Paul are trying to tell us not to give up. We are in a race. A race for peace of mind and a fulfilled and happy life. A race that will take everything we have to run and win. A race in which the winners get to hang on to life, not lose it.

Dare to read them and dare to take them to heart. Know that we are not the only ones to have gone through what we are currently experiencing. History attests to that. The bible if full of desperate, anxious, fearful individuals whom God has used mightily. The point is you and I need to find a positive way to deal with what we are experiencing and not to give up just because we think what we are doing is not working. It is, just not as fast as maybe you or I would like it to.

1 Timothy 6:12 (NKJV)

12 Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

1 Timothy 6:12 (NIV)

12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

__________

 2 Timothy 4:7-8 (NKJV)

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.

2 Timothy 4:7-8 (NIV)

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

__________

 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (NKJV)

Striving for a Crown

24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. 25 And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. 26 Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. 27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (NIV)

The Need for Self-Discipline

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

__________

2 Timothy 2:10 (NKJV)

10 Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.

2 Timothy 2:10 (NIV)

10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.

I can’t give up because God won’t let me. Otherwise I would have been dead a long time ago. So don’t you give up either. Let’s together help one another find that balance in life that will help keep us going no matter what we are experiencing at the time. No, it won’t be easy, but know you are not alone. God is there and I am there if you need a shoulder to lean on. I may need one too and it helps to know that there is one I can rely on.

Life's Images

Spiritual Warfare

 

There are two primary errors when it comes to spiritual warfare—over-emphasis and under-emphasis. Some blame every sin, every conflict, and every problem on demons that need to be cast out. Others completely ignore the spiritual realm and the fact that the Bible tells us our battle is against spiritual powers. The key to successful spiritual warfare is finding the biblical balance. Jesus sometimes cast demons out of people; other times He healed people with no mention of the demonic. The apostle Paul instructs Christians to wage war against the sin in themselves (Romans 6) and warns us to oppose the schemes of the devil (Ephesians 6:10–18).

Ephesians 6:10–12 says, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” This text teaches some crucial truths: we can only stand strong in the Lord’s power, it is God’s armor that protects us, and our battle is ultimately against spiritual forces of evil in the world.

Ephesians 6:13–18 is a description of the spiritual armor God gives us. We are to stand firm with the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit, and by praying in the Spirit. What do these pieces of spiritual armor represent in spiritual warfare? We are to know the truth, believe the truth, and speak the truth. We are to rest in the fact that we are declared righteous because of Christ’s sacrifice for us. We are to proclaim the gospel no matter how much resistance we face. We are not to waver in our faith, trusting God’s promises no matter how strongly we are attacked. Our ultimate defense is the assurance we have of our salvation, an assurance that no spiritual force can take away. Our offensive weapon is the Word of God, not our own opinions and feelings. And we are to pray in the power and will of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus is our ultimate example of resisting temptation in spiritual warfare. Observe how Jesus handled direct attacks from Satan when He was tempted in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1–11). Each temptation was combatted with the words “it is written.” The Word of the living God is the most powerful weapon against the temptations of the devil. “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11).

A word of caution concerning spiritual warfare is in order. Nowhere in Scripture are we instructed to cast out demons or even to speak to them. The name of Jesus is not a magic incantation that causes demons to flee from before us. The seven sons of Sceva are an example of what can happen when people presume an authority they have not been given (Acts 19:13–16). Even Michael the archangel did not rebuke Satan in his own power but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” (Jude 1:9). When we start talking to the devil, we run the risk of being led astray as Eve was (Genesis 3:1–7). Our focus should be on God, not demons; we speak to Him, not them.

What are the keys to success in spiritual warfare? We rely on God’s power, not our own. We put on the whole armor of God. We draw on the power of Scripture—the Word of God is the Spirit’s sword. We pray in perseverance and holiness, making our appeal to God. We stand firm (Ephesians 6:13–14); we submit to God; we resist the devil’s work (James 4:7), knowing that the Lord of hosts is our protector. “Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress; I will never be shaken” (Psalm 62:2).

The Full Armor of God

The phrase “full armor of God” comes from Ephesians 6:13-17: “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

Ephesians 6:12 clearly indicates that the conflict with Satan is spiritual, and therefore no tangible weapons can be effectively employed against him and his minions. We are not given a list of specific tactics Satan will use. However, the passage is quite clear that when we follow all the instructions faithfully, we will be able to stand, and we will have victory regardless of Satan’s strategy.

The first element of our armor is truth (verse 14). This is easy to understand, since Satan is said to be the “father of lies” (John 8:44). Deception is high on the list of things God considers to be an abomination. A “lying tongue” is one of the things He describes as “detestable to Him” (Proverbs 6:16-17). We are therefore exhorted to put on truth for our own sanctification and deliverance, as well as for the benefit of those to whom we witness.

Also in verse 14, we are told to put on the breastplate of righteousness. A breastplate shielded a warrior’s vital organs from blows that would otherwise be fatal. This righteousness is not works of righteousness done by men. Rather, this is the righteousness of Christ, imputed by God and received by faith, which guards our hearts against the accusations and charges of Satan and secures our innermost being from his attacks.

Verse 15 speaks of the preparation of the feet for spiritual conflict. In warfare, sometimes an enemy places dangerous obstacles in the path of advancing soldiers. The idea of the preparation of the gospel of peace as footwear suggests what we need to advance into Satan’s territory, aware that there will be traps, with the message of grace so essential to winning souls to Christ. Satan has many obstacles placed in the path to halt the propagation of the gospel.

The shield of faith spoken of in verse 16 makes Satan’s sowing of doubt about the faithfulness of God and His Word ineffective. Our faith—of which Christ is “the author and perfecter” (Hebrews 12:2)— is like a golden shield, precious, solid, and substantial.

The helmet of salvation in verse 17 is protection for the head, keeping viable a critical part of the body. We could say that our way of thinking needs preservation. The head is the seat of the mind, which, when it has laid hold of the sure gospel hope of eternal life, will not receive false doctrine or give way to Satan’s temptations. The unsaved person has no hope of warding off the blows of false doctrine because he is without the helmet of salvation and his mind is incapable of discerning between spiritual truth and spiritual deception.

Verse 17 interprets itself as to the meaning of the sword of the Spirit—it is the Word of God. While all the other pieces of spiritual armor are defensive in nature, the sword of the Spirit is the only offensive weapon in the armor of God. It speaks of the holiness and power of the Word of God. A greater spiritual weapon is not conceivable. In Jesus’ temptations in the desert, the Word of God was always His overpowering response to Satan. What a blessing that the same Word is available to us!

In verse 18, we are told to pray in the Spirit (that is, with the mind of Christ, with His heart and His priorities) in addition to wearing the full armor of God. We cannot neglect prayer, as it is the means by which we draw spiritual strength from God. Without prayer, without reliance upon God, our efforts at spiritual warfare are empty and futile. The full armor of God—truth, righteousness, the gospel, faith, salvation, the Word of God, and prayer—are the tools God has given us, through which we can be spiritually victorious, overcoming Satan’s attacks and temptations.

The Belt of Truth (Ephesians 6:14)

The belt of truth is the first piece of the “full armor of God” to be listed in Ephesians 6:10–17. The passage begins with the admonition from the apostle Paul to “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.” This is the key to understanding the armor of God. All the pieces of the armor belong to Him and come from Him. Truth, righteousness, the gospel, faith, and salvation—all are gifts of God to His people for their defense. All except “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” (verse 17) are defensive in nature. All are designed to help us “stand against the schemes of the devil” (verse 11). The belt of truth is the first part of the armor listed because, without truth, we are lost, and the schemes of the devil will surely overpower us.

It is fitting that the belt of truth is the first piece of the whole armor of God. Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), and it is only through Him that we come to God. Therefore, truth is of the utmost importance in the life of a Christian. Without truth, the rest of the armor would be of no use to us because we would not have the Spirit of truth (John 15:26).

In referring to the whole armor of God, Paul invokes the image of a soldier ready for battle. The belt of a Roman soldier in Paul’s day was not a simple leather strap such as we wear today. It was a thick, heavy leather and metal band with a protective piece hanging down from the front of it. The belt held the soldier’s sword and other weapons. The belt of truth of the spiritual armor holds the sword of the Spirit, linking truth and the Word of God (John 17:17). The Word of God is truth.

Depending on the translation of Ephesians 6:14, we are to fasten the belt of truth around us (ISV), buckle the belt around our waists (NIV), gird our waists with truth (NKJV), or gird our loins with truth (NASB). No matter the wording, we are to actively lay hold of the truth and use it. The belt of truth is a crucial piece of defensive armor guarding our inmost being in the battle against the lies and deceptions of the enemy. Without an understanding of truth, we are left vulnerable to being “carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (Ephesians 4:14). The belt of truth protects us and prepares us for the battle that is part of every Christian’s life.

The Breastplate of Righteousness (Ephesians 6:14)

Ephesians 6:11 exhorts believers to “put on the whole armor of God” in order to stand firm against the attacks of our enemy, Satan (2 Corinthians 10:4; Ephesians 6:12). Verses 14 through 17 say, “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

The imagery is of an armed Roman or Israelite soldier, prepared for battle. A typical armed soldier wore a breastplate made of bronze or chain mail. It covered the vital organs, namely, the heart, and was fitted with loops or buckles that attached it to a thick belt. If the belt was loosened, the breastplate slipped right off.

When Paul compares the armor of God with military gear, each piece represents a part of God’s strength that He extends to us when we become His children. The breastplate of righteousness refers to the righteousness purchased for us by Jesus at the cross (2 Corinthians 5:21). At salvation, a “breastplate” is issued to each repentant sinner. It is specially designed by God to protect our heart and soul from evil and deception. Our own righteous acts are no match for Satan’s attacks (Isaiah 64:6). The breastplate of righteousness has Christ’s name stamped on it, as though He said, “Your righteousness isn’t sufficient to protect you. Wear mine.”

We are instructed to “put on” this armor, which implies that we do not automatically wear it all the time. Putting on the armor of God requires a decision on our part. To put on the breastplate of righteousness, we must first have the belt of truth firmly in place. Without truth, our righteousness will be based upon our own attempts to impress God. This leads to legalism or self-condemnation (Romans 8:1). We choose instead to acknowledge that, apart from Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5). We see ourselves as “in Christ” and that, regardless of our failures, His righteousness has been credited to our account.

We “put it on” by seeking God and His righteousness above everything else (Matthew 6:33). We make Him and His ways our dwelling place (Psalm 91:1). We delight in His commands and desire for His ways to become our ways (Psalm 37:4; 119:24, 111; Isaiah 61:10). When God reveals an area of change to us, we obey and allow Him to work in us. At the point where we say “no” to God, we open a little crack in the armor where Satan’s arrows can get through (Ephesians 6:16).

As we wear Christ’s breastplate of righteousness, we begin to develop a purity of heart that translates into actions. Wearing this breastplate creates a lifestyle of putting into practice what we believe in our hearts. As our lives become conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29), our choices become more righteous, and these godly choices also protect us from further temptation and deception (Proverbs 8:20; Psalm 23:3).

When armor is abused or worn incorrectly, it can malfunction. Likewise, there are several factors that can interfere with the effectiveness of our spiritual breastplate. Carelessness (1 Peter 5:8), unbelief (Hebrews 3:12), abusing grace (Romans 6:1–2), or disobedience (1 John 3:4; Hebrews 4:6) can hinder our ability to stand firm and defeat the enemy in our lives. When we tolerate sin, refuse to forgive (2 Corinthians 2:10–11), rely on personal righteousness (Titus 3:5), or allow earthly concerns to crowd out time for an intimate relationship with God, we, in effect, take off the breastplate of righteousness, minimizing its power to protect us.

We need our breastplate of righteousness in place in order to gain the victory specified in 2 Corinthians 10:15: “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” When we quickly reject heretical ideas, idolatry, and the “counsel of the ungodly” (Psalm 1:1) and instead “keep our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2), we keep our breastplate securely fastened.

The Gospel of Peace (Ephesians 6:15)

Ephesians 6:11–17 instructs believers in Christ to “put on the whole armor of God as a defense against Satan’s attacks. This armor includes the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit. Verse 15 says, “And with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.” The New Living Translation words it this way: “For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared.” The gospel of peace is the message that Jesus gave to those who trust in Him (John 14:27; Romans 10:15). It comes with the assurance from God that we are His children and nothing can snatch us out of His hands (John 10:29; 1 John 5:13). It outlines clearly what is required to become a child of God (1 Corinthians 15:1–6; John 1:12; Romans 10:8–10). Any other message is a false gospel.

The word readiness implies constant vigilance. A victorious soldier had to be prepared for battle. He had to have studied his enemy’s strategy, be confident in his own strategy, and have his feet firmly planted so that he could hold his ground when the attacks came. A soldier’s battle shoes were studded with nails or spikes, like cleats, to help him keep his balance in combat. He knew that, if he lost his footing and went down, it wouldn’t matter how great the rest of his armor was; the enemy had him. When we are ready with the gospel of peace, we live with the understanding that we are continually under attack from Satan. Second Timothy 4:2 says to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season.”

The “peace shoes” that God supplies His soldiers have two purposes: defensive and offensive. In order to defend ourselves against the “flaming arrows of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:16), we must have confidence of our position in Christ. We must stand firm in the truth of God’s Word, regardless of how terrifying the circumstances may be (1 John 5:14). We must understand grace without abusing it (Romans 6:1–6), remember that our position in Christ is not based on our own abilities or worthiness (Titus 3:5), and keep our belt of truth and breastplate of righteousness securely fastened (2 Timothy 1:12).

When Satan attacks with a flaming missile of doubt, such as “If God really loved you, He wouldn’t have let this happen,” we dig our peace shoes into the turf of God’s Word and reply, “It is written: All things work together for the good to them who love God and are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). When Satan stabs from behind with “Remember what you did?” we dig in more deeply and reply, “It is written: If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

In addition to standing our ground, shoes are also for moving. God expects us to go on the offensive and take the gospel of peace to others. First Peter 3:14 says, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” Sharing our faith is one of the best ways to maintain our own sure footing. God knows that, when we are active in speaking of Him to others, we not only charge into Satan’s territory, but we dig our shoes more deeply into truth and will be much harder to dislodge. When we have “studied to show ourselves approved unto God” (2 Timothy 2:15), we are ready to stand firm in the gospel of peace no matter what the enemy brings against us (2 Thessalonians 2:15).

The Shield of Faith (Ephesians 6:16)

The shield of faith is part of the armor of God described in Ephesians 6:10–17. After summarizing the gospel and giving the Ephesians various instructions, Paul concludes his missive to them saying, in part, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6:10–11). About the shield, Paul writes, “In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (verse 16). The ESV puts it this way: “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.”

The Roman shield of the time was called a scutum. This type of shield was as large as a door and would cover the warrior entirely. Such a shield was not just defensive but could also be used to push opponents. When fighting as a group, a phalanx of soldiers could position their shields so as to form an enclosure around themselves, called a testudo (“tortoise”). This was especially helpful to protect against arrows launched from the walls of cities they were attacking. Shields, often made of wood and then covered in hide, when wet, could extinguish flaming arrows.

Clearly, a shield is vitally important to a soldier. It provides a blanket of protection. It is meant to be taken up in all circumstances. It is the first barrier against the enemy’s attack. Often, shields were painted with identifying marks; a Christian who takes up the shield of faith identifies himself as a foot soldier who serves the Commander of the Lord’s army (see Joshua 5:14).

Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Verse 6 stresses the importance of faith: “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” Satan’s attacks can sometimes cause us to doubt God. Faith prompts us to believe God. We give in to temptation when we believe what it has to offer is better than what God has promised. Faith reminds us that, though fulfillment of God’s promise may not be readily visible to us, God is true to His Word. When Satan attempts to plague us with doubt or entice us with instant gratification, faith recognizes the deceptiveness of his tactics and quickly extinguishes the arrows. When Satan accuses us, faith chooses to believe that Jesus has redeemed us and that there is no more condemnation (Romans 8:1, 34; Revelation 12:10–12).

Faith is one of the greatest gifts (1 Corinthians 13:13), and it is the means by which we receive grace and come into right relationship with God (Ephesians 2:8–9). It is because we have been justified through faith that we belong to God and have peace with Him (Romans 5:1). Faith is the doorway to hope in God (Romans 5:2). Because we have faith in God, our suffering need not faze us; in fact, we can persevere under it (Romans 5:3–5). The things Satan attempts to use to discourage us can actually become tools in the hands of God.

All believers have this promise: “Everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4). Faith is a protective barrier between us and the schemes of Satan. When we believe God and take Him at His word, we remain grounded in truth, the lies of the enemy lose their power, and we become overcomers. In that way, faith is our shield.

The Helmet of Salvation (Ephesians 6:17)

Ephesians 6:17 instructs us to put on the whole armor of God and to “take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” When a soldier suited up for battle, the helmet was the last piece of armor to go on. It was the final act of readiness in preparation for combat. A helmet was vital for survival, protecting the brain, the command station for the rest of the body. If the head was badly damaged, the rest of the armor would be of little use.

The assurance of salvation is our impenetrable defense against anything the enemy throws at us. Jesus said, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). The idea in this verse is that, as we prepare for Satan’s attacks, we must grab that helmet and buckle it on tightly. Salvation is not limited to a one-time act of the past or even a future hope. God’s salvation is an ongoing, eternal state that His children enjoy in the present. It is daily protection and deliverance from our sin nature and Satan’s schemes.

Because of the power of the cross, our enemy no longer has any hold on us (Romans 6:10; 8:2; 1 Corinthians 1:18). He knows that, but he also knows that most of God’s children do not know that—or, at least, they do not live as if they know. We must learn to keep our helmets buckled so that his fiery missiles do not lodge in our thoughts and set us on fire. Through this helmet of salvation, we can “destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

There are several actions a believer can take to keep this helmet fastened and functioning:

1. Renew our minds. Our minds are battlefields. The outcomes of those battles determine the course of our lives. Romans 12:1–2 instructs us to renew our minds by allowing the truth of God’s Word to wipe out anything contrary to it. Old ideas, opinions, and worldviews must be replaced. We must allow God’s truth to continually wash away the world’s filth, lies, and confusion from our minds and adopt God’s perspective.

2. Reject doubts that arise from circumstances. Human beings are sensory creatures. What we cannot fathom with our five senses, we tend to disregard. If we allow them to, circumstances may convince us that God does not really love us or that His Word is not true. It is impossible to have faith and doubt at the same time. God rewards our faith. With the helmet of salvation firmly in place, we can choose to believe what appears impossible (Hebrews 11:6; 1 Peter 1:8–9).

3. Keep an eternal perspective. When life crashes in around us, we must remember to look up. Our salvation is the most precious gift we have received. Keeping our eyes on that can help us weather life’s storms. We can choose to live our lives by the motto “If it doesn’t have eternal significance, it’s not important” (see Matthew 6:20; 1 Corinthians 3:11–13).

4. Remember that victory is already accomplished. When we consider ourselves “dead to sin but alive to God” (Romans 6:11), we eliminate many of the opportunities Satan uses to entrap us. When choosing sin is no longer an option for us because we recognize ourselves to be “new creatures” (2 Corinthians 5:17; 1 John 3:9), we effectively cut off many avenues of failure.

5. Find all our hope in Him. Psalm 73:25 says, “Whom have I in heaven but You? Besides you, I desire nothing on earth.” Our helmet is most effective when we treasure what it represents. The salvation Jesus purchased for us cannot share the place of importance in our hearts with earthly things. When pleasing the Lord is our supreme delight, we eliminate many of Satan’s lures and render his evil suggestions powerless.

As we wear the helmet of salvation every day, our minds become more insulated against the suggestions, desires, and traps the enemy lays for us. We choose to guard our minds from excessive worldly influence and instead think on things that honor Christ (Philippians 4:8). In doing so, we wear our salvation as a protective helmet that will “guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7; Isaiah 26:3; 1 Peter 1:5).

The Sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17)

The phrase “sword of the Spirit” is found only once in Scripture, in Ephesians 6:17. The sword is one of the pieces of spiritual armor Paul tells the Ephesian Christians to put on as part of the “full armor of God” that will enable us to stand our ground against evil (Ephesians 6:13).

The sword is both an offensive and defensive weapon used by soldiers or warriors. In this case it is a weapon belonging to the Holy Spirit. Swords were used to protect oneself from harm or to attack the enemy to overcome or kill him. In both cases it was necessary for a soldier to get rigid training on the proper use of the sword to get maximum protection. All Christian soldiers need the same rigid training to know how to properly handle the Sword of the Spirit, “which is the word of God.” The sword that Paul refers to here is the Holy Scriptures. We know from 2 Timothy 3:16–17 that the word of God is from the Holy Spirit and written by men. Since every Christian is on the spiritual battle with the satanic and evil forces of this world, we need to know how to handle the Word properly. Only then will it be an effective defense against evil, but it will also be an offensive weapon we use to “demolish strongholds” of error and falsehood (2 Corinthians 10:4–5).

God refers to His Word as a sword in Hebrews 4:12. Here the Word is described as living and active and sharper than a double-edged sword. The Roman sword was commonly made in this manner. The fact that it had two edges made it easier to penetrate, as well as to cut in every way. The idea is that of piercing, or penetrating; the Word of God reaches the “heart,” the very center of action, and lays open the motives and feelings of those it touches.

The purpose of the sword of the Spirit—the Bible—is to make us strong and able to withstand the evil onslaughts of Satan, our enemy (Psalm 119:11, 33–40, 99–105). The Holy Spirit uses the power of the Word to save souls and then to give them spiritual strength to be mature soldiers for the Lord in fighting this corrupt and evil world we live in. The more we know and understand the Word of God, the more useful we will be in doing the will of God and the more effective we will be in standing against the enemy of our souls.

Praying in the Spirit (Ephesians 6:18)

Praying in the Spirit is mentioned three times in Scripture. First Corinthians 14:15 says, “So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind.” Ephesians 6:18 says, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” Jude 20 says, “But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.” So, what exactly does it mean to pray in the Spirit?

The Greek word translated “pray in” can have several different meanings. It can mean “by means of,” “with the help of,” “in the sphere of,” and “in connection to.” Praying in the Spirit does not refer to the words we are saying. Rather, it refers to how we are praying. Praying in the Spirit is praying according to the Spirit’s leading. It is praying for things the Spirit leads us to pray for. Romans 8:26 tells us, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.”

Some, based on 1 Corinthians 14:15, equate praying in the Spirit with praying in tongues. Discussing the gift of tongues, Paul mentions “pray with my spirit.” First Corinthians 14:14 states that when a person prays in tongues, he does not know what he is saying, since it is spoken in a language he does not know. Further, no one else can understand what is being said, unless there is an interpreter (1 Corinthians 14:27-28). In Ephesians 6:18, Paul instructs us to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” How are we to pray with all kinds of prayers and requests and pray for the saints, if no one, including the person praying, understands what is being said? Therefore, praying in the Spirit should be understood as praying in the power of the Spirit, by the leading of the Spirit, and according to His will, not as praying in tongues.