Tag Archives: Faith

Hand Washing to limit the spread of COVID-19

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

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

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

Coronavirus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Twelve Apostles

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

Sending Out the Twelve

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

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

Footnotes:

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

b. Matthew 10:4 NU Cananaean

c. Matthew 10:7 has drawn near

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

e. Matthew 10:8 M omits raise the dead

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

John the Baptist Beheaded

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

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

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

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

Feeding the Five Thousand

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

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

Sending Out the Twelve

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

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

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

John the Baptist Beheaded

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

15 Others said, “It is Elijah.”

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

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

Footnotes:

a. Mark 6:11 NU whatever place

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

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

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

Feeding the Five Thousand

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

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

Footnotes:

a. Mark 6:33 NU, M they

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

Coronavirus (3)

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

Revelation 11 New King James Version (NKJV)

The Two Witnesses

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

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

The Witnesses Killed

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

The Witnesses Resurrected

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

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

Seventh Trumpet: The Kingdom Proclaimed

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

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

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

Footnotes:

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

b. Revelation 11:4 NU, M Lord

c. Revelation 11:8 NU, M their

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

e. Revelation 11:12 I

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

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

h. Revelation 11:18 anger

i. Revelation 11:19 the covenant of the Lord

Revelation 16 New King James Version (NKJV)

The Seven Bowls

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

First Bowl: Loathsome Sores

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

Second Bowl: The Sea Turns to Blood

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

Third Bowl: The Waters Turn to Blood

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

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

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

Fourth Bowl: Men Are Scorched

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

Fifth Bowl: Darkness and Pain

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

Sixth Bowl: Euphrates Dried Up

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

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

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

Seventh Bowl: The Earth Utterly Shaken

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

Footnotes:

a. Revelation 16:1 NU, M seven bowls

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

c. Revelation 16:5 NU, M omit O Lord

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

e. Revelation 16:6 NU, M omit For

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

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

h. Revelation 16:16 Mount Megiddo; M Megiddo

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

          Isaiah 53:5 New King James Version (NKJV)

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

Footnotes:

a. Isaiah 53:5 Or pierced through

b. Isaiah 53:5 crushed

c. Isaiah 53:5 Blows that cut in

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

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

Hebrews 9:28 New King James Version (NKJV)

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

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

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

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

Footnotes:

a. Ephesians 4:12 building up

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

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

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

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

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

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

John 9:22 New King James Version (NKJV)

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

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

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

Footnotes:

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

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

The Heritage of the Righteous and the Calamity of the Wicked

A Psalm of David.

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

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

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

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

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

Footnotes:

a. Psalm 37:9 destroyed

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

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

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

Footnotes:

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

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

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

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

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

Footnotes:

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

Luke 12:32 New King James Version (NKJV)

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

Jude 24 New King James Version (NKJV)

Glory to God

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

Footnotes:

a. Jude 1:24 them

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

          Psalm 23:4 New King James Version (NKJV)

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

Psalm 121 New King James Version (NKJV)

God the Help of Those Who Seek Him

A Song of Ascents.

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

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

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

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

Footnotes:

a. Psalm 121:3 slip

b. Psalm 121:5 protector

c. Psalm 121:7 keep

d. Psalm 121:8 keep

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

Simply Sharing Jesus

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

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

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

LAYING the GROUNDWORK

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

Know your role

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

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

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

Christ Crucified

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

Footnotes:

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

Know your opportunity

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

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

Know your audience

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

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

WHAT do I DO?

Live a godly life.

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

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

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

Pray for open hearts and open doors.

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

Speak.

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

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

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

Israel Rejects the Gospel

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

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

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

• What was life like before you accepted Christ?

• How did you receive Christ?

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

• How has life changed since you accepted Christ?

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

The GOSPEL in 4 SIMPLE STEPS

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

1. God’s plan—peace and life.

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

2. Our problem—separation from God.                        

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

3. God’s remedy—the cross.

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

4. Our response—receive Christ.

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

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

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

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

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

FOLLOW-UP

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

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

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

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

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

Our Inheritance Through Christ’s Blood

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

Footnotes:

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

The Salvation Poem

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

The Greatest Gift

Greatest-Gift

God is a giver, not a taker. Throughout Scripture, we find evidence of His great generosity towards His creation. From the beginning of time as we know it, when He called forth Creation — when He gave existence to things that had never before existed — we can see the true heart of God. He literally gave of Himself to make each one of us. “The Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7).

The very nature of God is to give, to create, and to bless His creation. Unfortunately, many of us are so self-absorbed and greedy for gain that we do not even have the eyes to see the countless gifts that God has already worked into our lives. Yet, God wants us to be givers too. He created us to be like Him – to pour of ourselves into other people, and to reciprocate His love for us. God created us with the power to be able to give back to Him! When I really stop and think about this, it truly amazes me – that God – the sum of ALL good things, who holds ALL power and authority, would humble Himself in this way.

He didn’t make himself entirely independent of His creation, or set Himself up as a mere casual observer of humankind, though He certainly had the power to do so. Instead, He allowed Himself to love us to the point where our returned love would be a blessing to Him. Each one of us, little and insignificant as we are, has been given the profound gift of the ability to bring joy to the heart of God. It is extremely humbling to me, when I stop and consider that God has thus set the laws of His creation into motion. That the One who is Love personified, would actually be blessed by the love that I could offer Him. This is the greatest gift of all, and it is given to every human being who has ever lived or will live–the ability to give of ourselves to God and to each other. Without this gift, life would be very empty indeed.

Bible Says Christmas Is Time of Blessing

In the mad rush of the holiday season, the true meaning of giving is often forgotten. What is meant to be a time of blessing and joy becomes instead, a time of stress and depression. Recently, as I was praying for the church and the nations of the world, a great sorrow began to rise up inside of me. God has placed so many gifts within His church. Each member of the Body of Christ has been given strategic giftings and a unique place that none other can fulfill in quite the same way. Yet, so many are not moving into their rightful place. They are afraid to use their gifts, or they think their gifts are insignificant. Many are secretly hurt and angry at God because they feel they haven’t been given anything remarkable. They mistake God’s anointing and talent in certain individuals as a sign of God’s approval of those people, and they assume their “lack” is a sign that God doesn’t love them as much as He loves others…that God is somehow “prouder” of other people than He is of them. Because of this fear and resentment, they are crippled in taking their proper place in God’s kingdom, falling short of the gift they were created to be.

Others are busily using their gifts, and by their own efforts are successful in the eyes of the world. Maybe they have a thriving ministry. Maybe they are making good money. Maybe they have the respect and admiration of those around them. This doesn’t necessarily mean, however, that their actions are a blessing to the heart of God, or that they are even obeying what God has told them to do. Ecclesiastes 4:4 says, “4 Again, I saw that for all toil and every skillful work a man is envied by his neighbor. This also is vanity and grasping for the wind.” Many are so busy creating their own kingdoms, that the kingdom of God suffers a great lack. Their pride and busy occupations have blocked the measure of their true worth in God’s kingdom.

19 “For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.” (Romans 8:19-22). There is so much work to be done, and so few who are willing to do it. John 4:35-36 says, “Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! 36 And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together.” God intends both the sower and the reaper to share the same joy of the harvest. There should be no competition among God’s faithful servants, no jostling each other for the “prime” positions, no envy or personal ambition. If we truly love the Lord, our only goal should be to bless Him, to serve Him, and to advance His kingdom.

As I was praying, I saw a vision of the Lord, manifested in the person of someone I love very much. In the vision, I saw this person laying in bed, exhausted after a hard day’s work. The Lord said to me “What do you think she would like right now? How could you bless her?” I could instantly see that a cup of hot tea and a home-cooked meal would be just as much, if not more of a blessing to her than whatever big, distant work I could conjure up to show her my love. Immediately, I could see what God was trying to show me. We are created like Him. If we appreciate a “small” gift given in love more than the fanfare of a “big” gift given in insincerity, how much more does God?

As the vision continued, I could see Jesus sitting alone by a road with people running up and down it. They were all very busy. Some were stopping and chatting with Him for a moment here and there, but as I overheard their conversations, they were mostly to inform Jesus of what they wanted from Him, or what they were going to do for Him. One man in particular ran up to Him. “Oh, Jesus, I’m so excited,” he cried. “I’m off to tell the world all about you!” Quickly he ran off before Jesus could say anything at all. My heart broke, as I saw Him there, sitting by Himself. Yes, He wanted to bless those people with things beyond their wildest imagination. Yes, He wanted them to find fulfillment in serving Him. But what He really wanted most of all was for those people to come and sit with Him and talk awhile…to hold His hand and look deep into His eyes…to share their dreams and sorrows, and to hear His joys and sorrows…to let Him simply give His love to them. In all their mad rush to give and get, they missed the greatest treasure of all, sitting right in front of them.

So much of what we do for God is with mixed motives for our own personal fulfillment. We all want to have a purpose and reason for living. We all hope that if we were to die tomorrow, we would leave a legacy of some kind behind us. Yet for most of us, this becomes the end to which we live. Sadly, when we make anything other than God our reason for living, that thing will become an idol in our lives. Even if it is a good thing, like a ministry or a mate, it can still never fulfill us because it wasn’t designed to. It simply can’t! It doesn’t even have the ability to fulfill. In fact, those idols will begin to work against us, and cause us to suffer spiritual barrenness. They will put us on a treadmill until we become broken-hearted and exhausted trying to keep it all alive. On the other hand, if we receive them simply as the gifts they are and continue to love God first in our lives, we will be given the ability to enjoy them, for this too is a gift. Ecclesiastes. 3:13 says, “13… and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor—it is the gift of God.” The key is simply too: “33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33).

When all is said and done, only those things which were done “as unto the Lord” will count for anything. In God’s eyes, there are no “big” or “small” things done for His Kingdom. All He asks of us is to obey Him in what He tells us to do. Let us follow through and obey Him, whether His commands seem great or small. After all, it is Jesus we are talking about here! The One who left His home in glory to bleed and die a humiliating and painful death for each one of us – the One who made Himself vulnerable to us, by giving us the ability to bless Him or hurt Him. As we obey Him, we bring such joy to His heart! Then His joy, which is a strength to the spirit of man, becomes our joy as well. God is not impressed, nor is He blessed by the best of our works done in self. He is only impressed by the attitude of our hearts.

As we look around the world this holiday season, let us stop and consider Who’s birthday we are celebrating. Let us not forget to offer sincere thanks to our precious, precious Lord for His many blessings in our lives. And let us show our thankfulness by our actions! Let us offer the same mercy that God has given us to those around us. Let us press deeper into the heart of God, that we may have something to offer this world besides the same old cycle of greed, pride and rebellion. Let us not be ashamed to become the servant of all, showing our love for God by laying down our rights, our plans, our time and money for the sake of others. Let us demonstrate our love to God by giving Him the very things we are afraid to lay down, trusting that He has the best plan for our lives and would never use or abuse us. Let us truly fulfill the greatest commandment, which is to “Love the Lord our God with all our mind, soul, and strength; and to love our neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27). Each of us is destined to make a profound difference in the world. Let us not fall short of our destinies! Let us give the greatest Christmas gift that we have been afforded to give; one that we can give year-round – to bless the heart of God!

If you do not know God the way you want to, you can receive the gift of knowing Him right now. Simply pray to Him from your heart and ask Him to forgive you for your sins and turning your back on Him. Romans 10:9: “8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Ask Him to come into your life and make you a new person, born of His spirit. You can give to Him a gift He considers more dear than anything else in the world – yourself. In return, you will receive eternal life with Him, which begins the moment you are born again. May God bless all of you richly as you seek to give unto Him your all.

If you just prayed to ask God into your heart, or you would like to know more about becoming a Christian, please visit the link on becoming born again.

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?

MY THOUGHTS OF YOU — keithgarrettpoetry

MY THOUGHTS OF YOU The hours that I spend alone are lonely, It is true but they are always bearable because I think of you. They can not be the same as when I look into your eyes, And yet they help to lift my soul and brighten all the skies. There is no thought […]

via MY THOUGHTS OF YOU — keithgarrettpoetry

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

Giving Thanks for Every Name of God

It’s easier for me to be thankful for some of God’s names and attributes more than others. It’s effortless for me to rejoice in God’s attributes of love and faithfulness. I savor His forgiveness and provision. It’s easy for me to be thankful He is my Savior and Healer.

However, I don’t delight as easily in some of God’s other characteristics. How can I understand a God whose nature is incomprehensible? Where is the joy in descriptions of God the Father as a Consuming Fire and Jesus as a Man of Sorrows? And I struggle to be thankful that God is a holy and jealous God.

All That He Is

But being selective about which names and attributes we praise God for produces a problem. In effect, we create our own god by worshiping the attributes we want Him to have instead of worshiping all that He is.

For example, some focus only on God’s characteristics of love and mercy. They don’t want to think about His holiness, righteousness, and judgment. Problem is, they end up with an anything-goes god who tolerates sin.

Others may focus on God’s holiness and judgment to the exclusion of all His other characteristics. They create a fire-and-brimstone god who is unloving, unmerciful, and uncompassionate.

God is love and He is holy. He is merciful and He is just. He is righteous and He is compassionate. He is all these things and more. To truly know Him, we must learn all that He is—not just a few characteristics that appeal to who we want Him to be.

Think of the facets of a diamond that combine to reflect its brilliance. The names and attributes of God combine in a similar way to reveal the transcendence of His nature and the glory of His ways.

So, let’s spend a few minutes addressing several names and attributes that don’t seem to generate as much of our attention . . .

“I AM”

I decided to look in my Bible for every place where God says “I AM.” Before I show you what I found, I want to warn you that it’s a long and impressive list. If you’re like me, you have a tendency to gloss over information when it comes to you in bulk, but let me encourage you to take your time. Read and re-read. Think about all the things God says about himself with the simple introduction, “I AM.”

I AM . . . your shield (Gen. 15:1-3).
I AM . . . God Almighty (Gen. 17:135:11).
I AM . . . compassionate (Ex. 22:27).
I AM . . . holy (Lev. 11:44).
I AM . . . your portion and your inheritance (Num. 18:20).
I AM . . . your salvation (Ps. 35:3).
I AM . . . with you (Isa. 41:1043:5Jer. 1:19,15:20Hag. 1:132:4Matt. 28:20).
I AM . . . the Lord, besides me there is no salvation (Isa. 43:11).
I AM . . . the first and the last (Isa. 44:6Rev. 1:17).
I AM . . . he who comforts (Isa. 5:12).
I AM . . . merciful (Jer. 3:12).
I AM . . . a father (Jer. 31:9).
I AM . . . their inheritance (Ezek. 44:28).
I AM . . . gentle and lowly of heart (Matt. 11:29).
I AM . . . the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob (Matt. 22:32).
I AM . . . the Christ (Mark 14:61-63).
I AM . . . the bread of life (John 6:48).
I AM . . . the light of the world (John 8:12).
I AM . . . not of this world (John 8:24).
I AM . . . the Good Shepherd (John 10:1).
I AM . . . the door (John 10:9).
I AM . . . the son of God (John 10:36).
I AM . . . the resurrection and the life (John 11:25).
I AM . . . teacher and lord (John 13:13).
I AM . . . the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:1).
I AM . . . the true vine (John 15:1).
I AM . . . the Alpha and Omega (Rev. 1:8).
I AM . . . alive forevermore (Rev. 1:18).
I AM . . . coming soon (Rev. 3:11).
I AM . . . the bright morning star (Rev. 22:16).
I AM . . . the LORD your God (this one is stated so many times throughout the Bible that I lost count).

An impressive list, isn’t it?

God called Moses to go to Egypt and demand that Pharaoh release God’s people from slavery. Moses wrestles with the idea of such a monumental task and finally asks, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” (Ex. 3:13).

Before Moses goes to the most powerful man in the world, he wants to know the name of the God who sends him. Seems reasonable to me.

God answers Moses’ question this way, “I AM WHO I AM” (Ex. 3:14).

Then, He repeats Himself, but doesn’t offer Moses much clarity.

“And he said, ‘Say this to the people of Israel, I AM has sent me to you'” (Ex. 3:14).

There isn’t an English teacher in the world that wouldn’t mark all over that sentence with her red pen.

Imagine the same sentence in a different context. You are introduced to a new visitor at church. You say, “Hi, my name is Erin. What’s your name?”

“I am . . . ” is their reply.

I am who? I am what? Simply leaving it at “I am” seems like bad grammar and bad manners.

But that’s what God said when Moses asked His name.

“I AM WHO I AM.” “I AM has sent me.”

Don’t you imagine that Moses was perched on the very edge of his seat? Waiting for more information. He knew he would be pressed by Pharaoh and by the people he was called to free for more information. I am who? I am what? But “I AM” seemed to be all the information God was going to give at that moment.

Fortunately for all of us, it’s not all He ever said on the subject.

So why didn’t God just dictate it to Moses so that Moses could pass it along to Pharaoh?

Why leave the dots unconnected?

Because we learn the names of God best when we see for ourselves who He is, not when we simply hear about Him.

The answer to Moses’ question, “What is his name?” would be given to Pharaoh soon enough. The purpose of the plagues God sent upon Egypt was to put the power and character of God on full display.

Sooner or later, we all mumble Moses’ question under our breath, “Who are you, God?” We follow it up with “How will you prove who you are in my life?” We’ve got the benefit of a hard copy of His answer in the Word. From Genesis to Revelation the Lord speaks often of who He is. But the proof is also in the pudding, isn’t it? If you will take a minute to reflect on your own life you will see that His descriptions of Himself are spot on. I know He’s been everything on that list in my own life (compassionate, salvation, merciful . . . ) Who has He been in yours?

Certainly, the qualities of God are vast and impressive, but they become even more so when we get serious about who we really are.

Who are you?

It’s a simple question that almost always has a complex answer. If I asked you, “Who are you?” I bet you’d start with the good stuff (we all do). You might tell me about your beautiful family or your great job or all the ways you volunteer in your church or community. We like to polish our identity up to a high shine, but that’s not the whole story is it?

David has a way of writing with a brand of brutal honesty that I am drawn to in the Psalms. He finishes the sentence I am . . . in a way that checks my spirit. Here’s what he wrote.

I am . . . fleeting (Ps. 39:4).
I am . . . poor and needy (Ps. 86:1109:22).
I am . . . languishing (Ps. 6:2).
I am . . . lonely and afflicted (Ps. 25:16).
I am . . . afraid (Ps. 56:3).
I am . . . afflicted and in pain (Ps. 69:29).
I am . . . helpless (Ps. 88:15).

Are you ready for a confession? I am all of those things, too. As important as my life seems to me, the Bible describes it like a vapor (James 4:14). That’s what David meant when he called himself “fleeting.” I often find myself needy, lonely, afraid, and in pain, just like David did. I am helpless in the face of most of the problems I face. I can’t change my own heart, mold myself into Christ’s image, or keep all that scares me at bay.

While the news about who we are at our core is bad, the news about who God is couldn’t get any better.

And that’s not the worst of it. In Psalm 51:4, David described a personal attribute that I’d like to gloss over.

I am a sinner

Paul answered the “I am . . .” question by describing himself as the foremost of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15). Some days it feels like I’m giving him a run for his money.

When we line the reality of who we are with the beauty of who God is, our heart can choose from one of two options.

  1. We can wilt under the weight of our failings, and settle in with the feeling that we will never measure up.
  2. We can let the beauty of the gospel—that a God so big and powerful and good would extend grace and love toward us despite the fact that we are so desperately undeserving—make up for our slack. We can spend our days in gratitude instead of defeat because God is big, and we are small, and He loves us anyway.

From time to time it does us good to peel back the good stuff of who we are and smell the gunk underneath. But don’t dwell there. While the news about who we are at our core is bad, the news about who God is even better.

In light of what God’s done for you, how would you finish the sentence “I am . . .”?

Leave a comment below.

Race, The Cross, & Christianity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ephesians 2:14-16 (NKJV)

Christ Our Peace

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

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

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

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