Luke 13:34 Tough Love

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O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!

Ref: Luke 13:34; Zechariah 2 Chronicles 24:20; Matthew 23:35; Luke 11:51

While the Lord says that he has sent prophet after prophet to lead Israel to repentance time and time again they would not listen and continued in their idolatries.  Jesus has someone specific in mind when he is talking about the prophets they killed.  He has a bold example of the killing of a prophet the exemplifies his meaning. Both Matthew 23 and Luke 11 elaborate on this prophet.  His death is quickly mentioned in 2 Chronicles, almost as an incidental circumstance that many Jews dismissed as a part of their checkered past.  The death of this prophet would seem to be insignificant in Gods plans, however, we see that God did not forget him.  Jesus is giving testimony of what King David wrote, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.” (Psalm 116:15). If not a sparrow falls to the ground without the Almighty God knowing, and the blood of the righteous cry out to God day and night, surely the death of his loved ones echoes through his heart at all times. Here in Luke 13 Jesus tells us that, not only does he remember, but this very generation will be held accountable for the blood, of all the saints, including this one unremembered prophet.

This generation thought of themselves as more enlightened than their predecessors.  They told themselves that they were better then their forefathers, that they would not have killed the prophets of old if they were sent to them.  They are far superior in understanding and more fearful of God then their generations before them. But Jesus says, no.. I have sent you prophets, and you have killed them also.  One such prophet that we know of is John the Baptist who was beheaded.  Jesus also knew that they would soon kill him.  Not only that Jesus knew that they would also kill those who follow after him, in his name.  Here Matthew’s version of this event:

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! (Matthew 23:29-37).

The prophet Zacharias was slain in 2 Chronicles 24:20 because the princes of Judah pleaded with the king to allow them to let them worship other Gods. The king consented and this led them to trespass against God and to violate their covenant relationship with God. The LORD in his mercy sent them prophets to warn them of their trespass and to have them repent and return to him. But they rejected the words of the LORD sent by his prophets.  Then the scripture says, “Now after the death of Jehoiada came the princes of Judah, and made obeisance to the king. Then the king hearkened unto them. And they left the house of the LORD God of their fathers, and served groves and idols: and wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem for this their trespass. Yet he sent prophets to them, to bring them again unto the LORD; and they testified against them: but they would not give ear. And the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, which stood above the people, and said unto them, Thus saith God, Why transgress ye the commandments of the LORD, that ye cannot prosper? because ye have forsaken the LORD, he hath also forsaken you. And they conspired against him, and stoned him with stones at the commandment of the king in the court of the house of the LORD. Thus Joash the king remembered not the kindness which Jehoiada his father had done to him, but slew his son. And when he died, he said, The LORD look upon it, and require it.” (2 Chronicles 24:17-22).

Just six short verses and the fate of the nation was sealed, by their own actions, not Gods.  But did you catch the last verse? It says, “The LORD look upon it, and require it”.  For those who do not understand plain English, it says that the Lord saw this and held them accountable for the death of his servant Zechariah.  Now here in the New Testament passages we read we see that God has not forgotten the death of Zechariah.  We find a truth about God that many want to ignore.  God does remember.  God does hold us accountable. 

We all love to hear about the love of God, but many want to ignore the part where God requires that all sin be accounted for.  The distorted Gospel of Love and Prosperity has mislead millions into a watered down Christianity. Many Christians in western society do not even see the need for Christ to be involved in their salvation.  They believe that God forgives all and that they can do as they please with no fear of death or judgement.  They do not understand that it is the love of God that sent his son, Jesus (Emmanuel – God with us), to come and to sacrifice his life so that we might have eternal life. Might is the operative work that Jesus himself uses, “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” (John 3:17).  That is that salvation is made possible though Jesus Christ, but it is ONLY through him that a man can be saved. (Acts 4:12) Faith in Jesus as the Son of God, and the Lamb of God, who came to sacrifice himself for us, is the only way, by trusting in this grace of God, can a man be saved.  It is FAITH in Jesus.

Unfortunately, many in this world have been so lied to that they don’t even know what they are being saved from of why it is necessary.  They think that just saying they believe in Jesus and getting baptized has saved them.  But this in not according to scripture, they have believed a half-truth.  They do not know that salvation comes by true repentance, and faith. This real repentance and faith in who God is, what his wrath is, and the mercy he has shown in Jesus Christ requires a change in our hearts and in our lives. They do not understand the scriptures that say we have not been delivered from sin, so that we might sin more. That is because the church of the west has failed to keep its own doctrines. We are not so different from the Jews of their time who say that they would not have killed the prophets yet could not see that they are just as guilty.  So, we say, if we were alive when Jesus was here, we would have believed, and changed, and would not have killed him.  We would have listened to God.  Yet here we sit with all out 20/20 hindsight, and yet we still act as if Jesus does not really exist, and we don’t listen to God, and remain in our sin. 

The western church sees confession of Jesus as a means to bind God into their selfish desires.  They wish to remain in their sins, to enjoy the freedom of sinning as they please and require that God just accept them as they are.  If he is loving, then he must accept them and their sin.  Surely, he wants them to be happy.  In addition, since they sometimes show up at church, God is expected to bless them for giving the time of day.  They recite promises of God and expect that he his honor bound to keep them, even though they have not met the scriptural basis for the promised blessing.  In truth, they have not even read, much less studied to see the conditions of the promise.  Yet every man that walks today is an authority on God. 

By way of example, did you listen to what Zechariah told the princes of Judah? “Why transgress ye the commandments of the LORD, that ye cannot prosper? because ye have forsaken the LORD, he hath also forsaken you.” (2 Chronicles 24:20) There it is plain as day. The blessings of the LORD come from obedience to the will of God. God is not a god among many gods.  Jesus is not a way among many ways to God.  The Word of God is not a truth among many truths. God says I am the LORD thy God, there is no other salvation. (Isaiah 43:5; 45:5) Thou shalt have no other Gods. (Hosea 13:4; Exodus 20:2-3) Thou should not make unto the any graven image, or any likeness… not bow down to them. (Exodus 20:4-5)

This is the same thing that every prophet has ever said, this is what Zechariah said, and this is what Jesus said.  God is merciful and loving.  He reaches out in love to be your God.  He rewards those who love him with his loving kindness, his presence, and all the benefits of him being their God. Their only God.  Those who love him and keep his commandments. Those who say they love him and demonstrate their love for him, he will be their God. Those who do not keep his commandment, obviously do not love him.  The LORD does not want lip service. He does not want divided loyalties.  Those who do not follow his commandments with their heart, he will visit their iniquity upon them and their descendants.  That is serious stuff.

Now in this passage, Jesus is talking to the children of Israel. He says, “O Jerusalem”. Jesus is in mourning over the judgement that they have continuously brought upon themselves.  God did not want to pronounce judgement, he desired to protect them from their enemies, and most of all from themselves.  We who have children can certainly understand this dilemma.  Sometimes, you must make the call you dread the most.  Sometimes the only way to teach a child is with tough love.    So if God would not spare the judgement of his own chosen people, the ones he called his first son, then what keeps him from judging his adopted children, or even more so, those who have rejected him? You see the same commandments he gave to Israel are what he gave to us.  That we should love the LORD and love one another.

  • Mark 12:29-31 – And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.
  • John 13:34 – A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
  • John 14:15 – If ye love me, keep my commandments.

You see the things of this world are perishing.  People’s opinions are never important.  Money never lasts.  Values are lost or waisted on things that are destroyed by rust, or moths, or eventually buried in dust.  “And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever. (1 John 2:17) This is not an Old Testament scripture.  It is important to see that the will of the LORD must be adhered to in order to be saved.  You see, in order to know the will of the LORD, you must first acknowledge that God does exist.  Then you have to know that he let us know what his will is.  That means that you have to accept the bible as the Word of God.  In it contains the plan of salvation from cover to cover.  This plan points indirectly and directly to Jesus Christ as the way the LORD desires that men should be saved.  It is his WILL than all should be saved.  But they must come to him though his son, Jesus Christ.  Jesus says if you love me… This means that you have to believe on him, that he first loved you, and that he gave his life for you.  You must believe that he is God and there for LORD.  If he is LORD then you are his servant.  Servants love their LORD and are obedient.  Servant can only serve one LORD.  Jesus says, If you love me… keep my commandments.  Love the LORD your God with everything in you and love one another has he, the LORD, loves us.  How much does he love us?  He loves us enough that he died for us, in our place.  How much should we love God?  How much should we love one another?  We can put aside of selfishness and piety now.  We can just rest in our love and trust of Jesus and love one another because the LORD loves us. 

The Story of Samson

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The ministry of God’s Judgement through Samson (1085-1065 B.C.) is found in the seventh book of the Old Testament.  It is in chapters 13-16 of the book of Judges where we find the story of the last judge of Israel mentioned.  The story of Samson is also the longest narrative of a judge in this epic volume.  It takes place in a time where God had delivered Israel into the hands of the Philistines for 40 years prior to his appointment of Samson to “begin to deliver Israel out of the hands of the Philistines” (Judges 13.5).  The completion of the Deliverance would not be until the reign of King David (2 Samuel 5:17-22). It is like the beginning of our deliverance from death in Jesus Christ.  Jesus began his redemptive work on the cross, but it will not be completed until the final chapters of Revelation when the wrath of God has been poured out, Israel is delivered and after the final judgement, where death and the hell are cast into the Lake of Fire.

This is an interesting position in history to consider for a moment because Samson is from the Israeli tribe of Dan.  When God originally led Israel from Egypt to the Promised Land, God told them to go and conquer the people of the land and take possession.  The tribe of Dan failed to do this in the lands that they were given.  In fact, the land that they were originally given was in possession of the Philistines.  If they would have been in obedience to God, then the oppression and long wars with the Philistines would have been avoided. (Tribe of Dan Facts, History & Descendants | What Happened to the Tribe of Dan?, n.d.)

Samson is the 14th in a long line of Judges covered in the book so named.  In the 13th chapter we see that the birth of Samson was announced to his parents, prior to his being conceived, and that Samson was set aside by the Lord for a specific purpose. The purpose was to be a deliverer for Israel. Because of this, his mother was not to pollute her body with “wine nor strong drink, and eat not any unclean thing” (Judges 13:4).  This would show the importance of how an expectant mother should be careful of what she exposes her yet born baby to while she is pregnant. Anyway, Samson himself was to be a Nazarite his whole life.  The Law of the Nazarite is a very serious and particularly holy law of separation of oneself to the Lord. It is detailed in the book of Numbers 6:1-21 and involves special sacrifices and ceremonies.  In addition, it has a strict code of sanctification that involves abstaining from drinking anything made from the vine, cutting of the hair, and not touching anything that is dead.  You cannot even be in the presence of a dead body, even it by accident.  As we read the story of Samson, we see that he violated every condition of the Nazarite vow.  We see that even though you have strength, it is nothing without fellowship with God, and that God resist the prideful.

While Samson was set to be the example of a righteous deliverer, he failed to live up to the expectations.  Samson breaks vows, marries outside of his people, visits harlots, drinks to drunkenness, engages in vengeance, and is prideful, arrogant, and self-centered.  Yet we also see that God’s will is not thwarted concerning his mission for Samson.  The story of Samson in the bible jumps from his birth to his adulthood.  We find then that he is asking his father to arrange his wedding to a Philistine woman.  Despite the objections of his parents, he persists until his father makes the arrangements.  On the way to the wedding Samson is found to be in a vineyard. There Samson is attacked by a lion and he kills the lion with his bear hands (Judges 14:5-6).  Later as Samson is in route to claim his bride, he sees the carcass of the lion and in it is a honeycomb that bees have built.  Samson takes some of the honey and tastes that it is sweet and then brings some to his mother and father.  Samson does not tell them about the lion, nor about where he got this honey.  Remember the conditions of the Nazarite, he cannot be in the presence of the dead, much less touch a dead animal, especially eat from the cavity of one.  Samson has made himself unclean, and worse he has made his mother and father unclean without telling them.  See how fast our secret sins can affect those we love? 

Samson it seems has desired this wedding to have an opportunity to come up against the Philistines. Now for those who are unaware this is the third mention of Samson being around wine.  First was in the vineyard with the lion, then he passed back through the vineyard, and now at the wedding feast.  Now it does not say that he was doing any drinking, however he at the least is demonstrating a dangerous pattern of exposing himself to the availability to drink.  This pattern would continue and eventual assist in the painful downfall of Sampson. The availability and expectancy to drink is especially assumed at the wedding feast.  These were weeklong feasts where alcohol was consumed liberally.  Remember how Jacob was deceived into consummating a wedding to the wrong girl because he drank to much at his wedding feast (Genesis 29).  It would seem likely that Samson would have drunk wine at such a festive occasion so far from home.  Especially because Samson sought an occasion to start an incident with the Philistines.

However, instead of consulting God, Samson has come up with his own plan on how to start a fight with the Philistines through this marriage. In the process of marrying this Philistine woman, Samson has disregarded the wishes of his father.  Still, he has decided to make a wager with the guests at this wedding party to solve a riddle that they would not be able to solve.  He has decided to use this event with the lion and the honey as the answer to the riddle. “out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness” (Judges 14:14). He knew that they could not possibly know the answer to the riddle, as the lion. He also knew that they would not be willing to pay the debt of the bet. Then when they refused to pay up to their end of the bet, he would have cause against them. 

But the Philistines have told his bride to find the secret to the riddle or they will burn down her father’s house with them in it.  Instead of confiding in Samson, she tricks him into the answer to the riddle and tells the Philistines.  They tell Samson the answer and then Samson must live up to his end of the bet.  His end was to deliver 30 sheets and 30 changes of garments (Judges 14:12).  Samson was angered at the double-cross.  Once again Samson does not consult God. To live up to his debt, Samson goes to another Philistine camp and murders them and takes their belongings and give it to his wedding party and then leaves without taking his bride.  Later Samson cools of and returns to collect his bride, but the father has given her to another man. 

Samson again, fails to consult God. Instead, Samson, in anger, traps 300 foxes and ties firebrands to their tails and sets them free upon the Philistines fields.  The foxes burn up their fields, vineyards, and olive groves (Judges 15:4-5).  This infuriates the Philistines.  The philistines then burn to death Samson’s bride, and her father. Samson avenges himself against the Philistines, without consulting God, by murdering them (Judges 15:7-8).  This leads to the Philistines coming against the Israelites and demanding that they turn over Samson or deal with the consequences.  After some convincing from his brethren, Samson nobly agrees to be bound and handed over to the Philistines in order to protect his people. 

Once in the Philistine encampment the Spirit of the Lord comes upon Samson, and he breaks his bonds and picks up the jawbone of an ass and slain a thousand Philistines (Judges 15:14-19).  This was a good turning point for Samson.  He has waited upon the Lord and the Lord delivered him out of the hands of his enemies.  Samson judged Israel in the days of the Philistines twenty years (Judges 15:20).  But this is not the end of the story on Samson.

Samson falls for another woman who would be his undoing.  The scripture does not say if she is a Philistine, but she is clearly in cohorts with them.  She is offered a large sum of money by the Philistines to gather the secret behind his strength and to report it to them, so they can take him.  Samson’s playing with her is very similar to us when we play with sin.  Samson was with a woman who he should not have been with and played with her on the things that God had given him and what God had forbidden.  That is his exceptional strength was dependent on his obedience to God with his Nazarite vow.  As we have seen Samson violated the first part his commitment (Judges 14:8-9,19; 15:8,15), likely ignored the second, and now he would end up betraying himself into the violation of the final responsibility (16:13-17).  Samson would toy with this gift of God and it would cost him his freedom, and his health, and his relationship with God.  Scripture tells us the Samson “knew not that the LORD had departed from him.” (Judges 16:20).  Samson had crossed the line in his sin and God abandoned him to his sin. (1 Samuel 15:23; 16:14; Romans 1:26; Hebrews 10:26). The result of Samsons life of sin had slowly led him into more and more bondage, until he had become a slave to those who he was sent to conquer.  He had been deceived, weakened, bound, and blinded by his sin both physically and spiritually.  How many Christians today live in poor health, weekend, and blinded physically and spiritually by their disobedience and lack of sanctification? 

Still Samson is seen as an example of faith in the book of Hebrews (Hebrews 11:32).  So then, Samson was redeemed despite his life of prideful disregard for the will of God and the Vow and Calling he had received.  Samson in seeing the error of his ways and the life he waisted had repented and turned to God in faith.  Samson prayed to God for the will of God to be done in him, even though he knew it would cost him his life. Here is yet another parallel we can see in our savior who prayed in the garden for the will of the Father to be done, even though he knew that he would have to die to complete it. God granted Samson his strength one last time and Samson destroyed the Philistine’s temple to Dagon and killed thousands of Philistines in sacrificing himself for Israel.  Samson died a hero, but more importantly he died in faithful obedience to God.

We learn many things from Samson.  We see that sanctification protects us from our own evil desires. We can see that toying with sin leads to sickness, blindness, away from fellowship with God, and eventually death.  Sin always leads to death in the end.  Here is what James writes to us, “Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” (James 1:15).  If we would only listen to the words of wisdom in the epistle of James, and the example of Samson.

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We also see that God will leave us to our sin if we continuously reject him. (Isaiah 59:12) We see that God expects us to honor our vows before him.  We also see that God gives us strengths and abilities that should be used to glorify him, but often we use them to glorify ourselves.  We see that having a great gift from God does not make us godly.  As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13:1 “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.”  It does not matter what our gift is, if we abuse it in self glorification then we have waisted the gift God gave us. Like Samson, his great gift of strength meant nothing until he matched it with obedience in faith in God. God was the deliverer of Israel; Samson was the servant of God in the end.

This gives us hope in Christ.  We who have accepted Christ and yet have squandered the gift of life that he has given us and disobeyed his commandments to be sanctified, sin no more. Perform our duties of spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ; We who have failed to teach and Baptist in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. There is this, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9).  His purposes will be fulfilled, and we can partake if we just humble ourselves and submit to his will.

Are Mormon Doctrines Christian Doctrines?

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If you look at Later Day Saints (Mormon) websites and publications, they clearly state that they are Christians and that they believe in Jesus Christ for salvation.  However, they have many non-Christian doctrines, and even some that refute their own claims of being a Christian religion. Below are some that I found in some quick searched of their material.  Some of these below may seem ridiculous or minuet, however, there is a clear progression that shows the rejection of many Christian doctrines.  It can be easily said that the Mormons might know the name Jesus, but that they fall short on knowing Jesus, and much more so in trusting him for salvation.  On the one hand they say that Jesus is their salvation, but on the other they say that there is no salvation outside of Joseph Smith.  Just that alone would label them a cult, not Christians.  

  1. It is a sin to drink caffeine. “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as it is formally known, determined that a reference to “hot drinks” in religious texts only applied to tea and coffee, not all caffeine products.” (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-41351251)
  2. Baptizing for the dead, you can be baptized for someone who had died and remove their sin
  3. Mormons used to believe that people of color could not be saved because they fell from heaven with Lucifer, changed in 1978.
  4. Believe that they are the real Christians.  The time between Jesus and Joseph Smith was the age of apostacy and so the only true church is the one who follows Joseph Smith’s teachings. (Some believe that Joseph Smith will be a part of the Holy Trinity. 
  5. The Garden of Eden is in Missouri.
  6. Jesus has a goddess as his wife.
  7. Jesus had children with the goddess mother.
  8. Jesus and Satan are brothers.
  9. There is not just one God but many “And they (the Gods) said: Let there be light: and there was light,” (Book of Abraham 4:3)
  10. salvation is attained through obedience to the law and doing good works (Miracle of Forgiveness, Spencer W Kimball, page 206)
  11. There is no salvation without Joseph Smith as a prophet of God (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 1, page 188)
  12. God used to be a man on another planet, (Mormon Doctrine, p. 321; Joseph Smith, Times and Seasons, vol. 5, p. 613-614; Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses, vol. 2, p. 345; Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, vol. 7, p. 333).
  13. God resides near a star called Kolob, (Pearl of Great Price, p. 34-35; Mormon Doctrine, p. 428)
  14. “The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s…” (Doctrines and Covenants 130:22).
  15. God is in the form of a man, (Joseph Smith, Journal of Discourses, vol. 6, p. 3).
  16. “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens!!! . . . We have imagined that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea and take away the veil, so that you may see,” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 345).
  17. After you become a good Mormon, you have the potential of becoming a god, (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 345-347, 354).
  18. There is a mother goddess, (Articles of Faith, by James Talmage, p. 443).
  19. God is married to his goddess wife and has spirit children, (Mormon Doctrine, p. 516).
  20. The Trinity is three separate Gods: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. “That these three are separate individuals, physically distinct from each other, is demonstrated by the accepted records of divine dealings with man,” (Articles of Faith, by James Talmage, p. 35).
  1. “As these sins are the result of individual acts it is just that forgiveness for them should be conditioned on individual compliance with prescribed requirements -‘obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel,’” (Articles of Faith, by James Talmage, p. 79).
  2. “One of the most fallacious doctrines originated by Satan and propounded by man is that man is saved alone by the grace of God; that belief in Jesus Christ alone is all that is needed for salvation,” (Miracle of Forgiveness, Spencer W. Kimball, p. 206).
  3. Good works are necessary for salvation (Articles of Faith, by James Talmage, p. 92).
  4. “We know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do,” (2 Nephi 25:23).
  5. Must be certified as qualified to enter the Mormon Temple. “Every individual who qualifies for a temple recommend is also qualified as a faithful Latter-day Saint. He or she will be a full-tithe payer, will observe the Word of Wisdom, will have good family relationships, and will be a better citizen of the community” (“Opening Remarks,” Ensign (Conference Edition, November 2005, p4)
  6. Joseph Smith received ancient scriptures – previously unknow – from an angel

A short list of scriptures from the King James version on what the scriptures say concerning some of these claims by the Latter-Day Saints.

  • Deuteronomy 6:4-5 – Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
  • Ephesians 4:4-7 – There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.
  • 1 Timothy 2:5 – For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,
  • Isaiah 43:10-11 – Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour.
  • Galatians 1:8-9 – But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
  • Ephesians 2:8-9 – For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

There are many more scriptures that we could bring to bear upon the false doctrines of the Mormon Church, but these are clear enough to point out that their doctrines are different than the doctrines taught in the Holy Bible.  This is because their cannon of scripture is different then all other “Christian” religions. The Mormons has redefined what it means to have a cannon.  Their cannon it 2 fold, it is expanded (in comparison to other Christian religions) and it is “open”. “The first is that compared to the rest of the Christian world, ours is an expanded canon. In addition to the Bible, we accept as canonical three other books of holy scripture—the Book of Mormon (531 pages), the Doctrine and Covenants (294 pages), and the Pearl of Great Price (61 pages).” (https://rsc.byu.edu/historicity-latter-day-saint-scriptures/latter-day-saint-concept-canon).  An open cannon means that is it open to new revelation, interpretations, and additions, as is needed. 

This information will undoubtedly make its way into a class on cults that I will develop, but lately I see a bunch of people trying to unify Christianity with Mormonism.  I believe that you should search the scriptures yourself and do your own investigation into what the scriptures say, what the Mormon doctrines say, and see if they line up.  What I have provided in this short and insufficient paper is a starting point for your own prayerful investigation. I repeat the words of the Apostle Paul, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14).

In the Beginning

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“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” – Genesis 1:1

This is a simple statement.  Yet this statement is all inclusive and it assumes one key element.  It is all inclusive in that it includes Space, Matter, Time, and Scientific Laws.  The phrase, “in the beginning” implies that there is the start of a time frame.  Time has a starting point in the initial creation of the heaven and the earth.  Note also that heaven, at this point, is singular. This would also mean that these, the heaven and the earth are somehow contained in something. 

When I teach a class on Genesis 1:1 I often draw a cube on the whiteboard and explain that this is very similar to the aquarium that someone would put into their home.  In order to set up an environment to keep fish in, one must first have the space to put everything into. In this manner is how we can see that a container is necessary for God to put the heaven and the earth into. We also know that the universe runs in set patterns and dependencies.  Everything has its place and function.  There are scientific principles and laws of nature that govern how things interact within the universe. By way of example, we have the Law of Gravity, the Laws of Physics, and such things as these. We also have quantitative Scientific laws like mathematics, chemistry, and engineering. All of these things existed from “in the beginning”.  

To have intelligent conversations on any subject, certain things must be agreed upon as a starting point. This first verse of Genesis is assumptive that we can agree that God exists. Therefore, it does not explain the existence of God, or where he came from. It does not do so, because the purpose of the story being relayed is not to explain the existence of God.  It is given us the explanation of our existence. So, it only tells us that God it is who created.  God created everything.  Knowledge of God is assumed, even if we do not know who he is.  God himself is taken as a literal, legitimate individual.  What we learn is that it is God who had the ability to create things. Scripture says that a fool says that there is no God (Psalm 14:1). 

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The assumption is that any intelligent person in their right mind should know that there must be a God.  The understanding that the universe could not have come into existence by itself is something that anyone who has intellect, should know. Therefore, the notion that the universe suddenly created itself, or that it somehow was always in existence is for the weak minded and unlearned.  All that one has to do is to look and see how everything in this universe breaks down, wears out, and degrades over time, if it does not have something else to maintain it, or to act upon it for its restoration or betterment.  Nothing in nature ever evolves into a higher lifeform. The necessity of God for creation and maintenance is plain to see throughout the universe. It is a universal law.

The Jewish and Christian beliefs of God creating everything from nothing is not shared with any other belief system in the world.  This is referred to in the Latin, “creatio ex nihilo” (creation from nothing) and has been a long-held belief in Christianity dating back the beginnings of the Church.  The idea that God is so absolute in his power that he can cause something to be in existence from nothing is what makes the Judeo-Christian God unique from all other God’s and belief systems in history.  This ability makes him the only creator in existence. 

Some other Creation Stories:

  • Greek Mythology – In the beginning was chaos.  This is not a creation from nothing.
  • Norse Mythology- In the beginning was a chasm. This is not a creation from nothing.
  • Rig Veda (an ancient Sanskrit writing) – There was the “first fashioner” he created Earth and Sky, but before him there were cosmic waters. This is not a creation from nothing.
  • Chinese Mythology- Heaven and earth were in a state of chaos or cosmic egg for 18,000 years and it broke apart and formed the heaven and the earth. This is not a creation from nothing.
  • Mesopotamian Mythology- the Earth was made from the killing and dividing of another god. 
  • Egyptian Mythology has three different creation myths.  The predominant one has two gander producing eggs that are the sun and the earth.  This is not a creation from nothing.
  • Zoroastrian Mythology- creation was made after a cosmic war between “lies” and “truth”.  Truth won and created the earth, then tried to destroy it, but cosmic man thwarted the plan by returning to earth as a plant stalk and repopulating the earth with vegetation. From the stalks we then see the produce of the first man and woman.  This is not a creation of everything from nothing.
  • Hindu and Buddhist see the universe as eternal with no beginning or end, it has always existed
  • Scientology from what I can see of it seeks to claim that it is the oldest of creation beliefs and that the cosmic lifeforce may have initiated a spark on non-active substances and then created all things. This still is not a creation from nothing.

Now I know that these are extremely abridged versions of these beliefs.  But I only have them here to show you that Judaism and Christianity are not the only cultures who believe in a creation event that is not some string of cosmic accidents that somehow led to men being formed.  Instead, in these we see that generally all cultures in history have believed that there was an actual creation event in antiquity, and that one or two gods or entities are responsible for this spectacular one-time experience in cosmic history.  The purpose of Genesis 1:1 is to introduce God (the I AM) as the ONE who is the actual creator.  This is where Judaism and Christianity differ from all other people, religions, philosophies, and theories that have ever populated the earth. We believe, according to scripture, that God is the one who created all things from nothing.  That means that there was absolutely nothing when God created everything. God is the point of origin for all things we know. This means that everything we have ever seen, touched, smelled, and felt comes from God who created all things:

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  • Psalm 90:2 – Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.
  • Colossians 1:16-17 – For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.
  • John 1:1-4 – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
  • Revelations 4:11 – Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

Therefore, having read these verses, we can see, with just a quick glance, that God existed before the creation.  There is only one God and he created everything.  All powers and authorities within this creation are subject to his creation authority.  We can also see that everything was created for his own pleasure, not ours.

Yet there is another theology out there that rejects this whole premise of a God, or even an unnamed divine essence that created everything.  They reject all matters of faith in the claims of science.  This theology is known as Atheistic Humanism. They are armed with what they call scientific evidence that destroy the faith-based creation of Christianity.  They attempt to remove God from the creation event.  In doing so they are attempting to remove his authority over them.  The approach is simple, their claim is that someone who could believe in an invisible God to create everything and to just take it on faith is unhealthy thinking and ludicrous.  However, when you get to investigating what Atheists accept (believe) as truth, you will find that it also takes a great amount of faith.  Lee Strobel who has become famous for switching his stance from atheism to Christianity tweeted, “To continue in atheism, I would need to believe that nothing produces everything, non-life produces life, randomness produces fine-tuning, chaos produces information, unconsciousness produces consciousness, and non-reason produces reason. I simply didn’t have that much faith.”[1]

I like you have known quite a few individuals, some friends, some family, who have looked down their nose at me for believing in Jesus Christ, and for taking the Word of God at face value.  Yet this statement made by Mr. Strobel is one that I have heard from many people who used to be atheist.  At some point their mind realizes that everything they believe to be true is just that… it is a belief and when confronted with the lack of real evidence to support their rational mind, they concede that this belief takes just as much faith as believing in Jesus and the Word of God.  Then they begin to ask questions.  They begin to want real answers.  In finding no answers anywhere else then turn back to that ignorant Christian, and to what God says.  They begin to examine the Word of God and for the first time they begin to see what God has been telling all of us.

Isaiah 45:11 – Thus saith the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker, Ask me of things to come concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hands command ye me.

The Lord is not hiding in the darkness and hoping to not be seen.  Instead, he is putting out an invitation to all men.  To seek him out.  He says to ask about the work of his hands.  The entirety of creation speaks to his glorious work. (Psalm 19:1-7; Romans 1:20) God wants us to know that he is the creator.  That is why Genesis 1:1 starts with “In the beginning God Created the heaven and the earth.”. Later the gospel of John tells us that in the beginning was the word and that all things were made by him. (John 1:1-3) The very word of God is tied to his being the creator.  “By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.” (Psalm 33:6) God’s revelation of himself in the first verse of Genesis, and the steps that he took to create everything, is his guarantee of his word.  It is given to us so that we can have confidence in everything else that is revealed in the scriptures.  The first sentence in Genesis is the foundation of all Jewish and Christian faith.  God exists.  God created everything.  God is all powerful.  God has all authority.  The word of God is trustworthy.  Psalm 148:8 says, “Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.”  What a strong foundation for faith and hope.  If he created all things, then he can make you a new creation in Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

God tells us that we can ask him about his works.  He tells us that the heavens declare his majesty.  Everyday we can look up to the skies and see proof of the work of his hands.  The creation shows knowledge.  No matter what language you speak or education level you reach, God’s creation is speaking to you about the God who created all things, including you. 

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The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun, Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race. His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof. The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. (Psalm 19:1-7)

It is amazing to me that this verse speaks of the cycles of nature and the manner in which the sun circles the earth.  This reveals from the very beginning that people of faith have always know the earth was circular, well if they read anyways.  Approximately 150 B.C. the ancient Greeks made a globe to represent the earth.  It is believed that Moses wrote the Pentateuch (1st five books of the Old Testament) around 1445 B.C. I make this point to show you that men and women of faith do not need to fear what science says.  Instead, we should run to science and get involved and ensure that the science being performed is in fact science.  Just because someone claims a theory, that does not make the theory true.  The book. “On the Origin of Species” published in 1859 which is used to promote the theory of Evolution has yet to be proven with the principles of the scientific method.  Yet it is taught as an indisputable fact.  Now this undisputable fact is not just one set of facts or a unified theory either.  Darwin had four principles to his theory. Enst Mayr writes saying that Darwin had five theories of evolution. [2] Within each of these theories there are many more theories that have changed over time. Other theories on the origins of like include:

  • The Big Bang
  • The Electric Spark
  • Extra-terrestrial Origen (Panspermia)
  • Spontaneous Origin
  • Biochemical Evolution
  • Community Clay

These are just a few of the many that Humanistic Theology seeks to use in their running away from the truth. When you look at these theories (fancy ford for “belief”) you will see some very big leaps taken on speculation. Talk about “faith”.  It is a tragic comedy that those who believe in a constantly changing and scientifically unsupported theory are calling those who believe in an unchanging biblical view of creation to be fools. We see the proper demonstration of the pot calling the kettle black. 

Christians have been told that they are stupid and ignorant to believe in the Bible when science so clearly disproves it.  I would say yes, Christians have been stupid and ignorant, but not because of science disproving the Bible.  Because science has not disproved the Bible, instead the deeper the science and the more serious the scholar and the archeologist looks, they find that the Bible is validated by the scientific studies performed.

Therefore, we have been stupid for trusting the wrong source for our information.  Trusting in the religion of humanism and being willfully ignorant to the fact that lies are we listening to are well within the scope of words among prideful, self-seeking men.  Especially those who hate and reject God and are willing to go to any length to discredit his word.  We are ignorant of what science truly says concerning creation, the flood, and the events we now see unfolding as we come to the end of the age.  Just as the Word of God revealed the beginning it revealed the end also.  God is the one constant from the beginning to the end.  It is his design, his plan, and it is for his purposes.

No, the Christian does not need to fear science.  The Christian should seek out honest science and seek out the truth of God revealed in the Holy Bible.  God has never said that we should bury our heads in the sand.  Instead, he says to think, gain wisdom, seek knowledge, get understanding.  “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.” (Proverbs 4:7) God does not want us to be ignorant of his creation.  Creation teaches us about God. Good science that follows the principles of science and discovery teaches us about this creation that God has made.  In this proper study we can find out so much about God and his handywork.  We can see how much love he has poured into the universe, the earth, and into men and women like you and me. 

There is an importance in what we discover in scripture and in science.  We find that we can trust the scriptures as passed given and preserved by God as they have been passed down from one Godly man to the next generation.  There are clear points in scripture where the author has put their own pen to the page and those are noted in the passages.  But the events that happen in the first chapters of Genesis, especially “in the beginning”, could have only been know by God.  It is God himself who passed these events to Adam.  We must therefore take what we have been given by God as the very Word of God and accept the truth of what it says.  We must take the text of the Creation as literal events and not try to bend them or twist them in order to make them fit into the theories of men.  I repeat the warning of Paul the Apostle, “Let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightiest be justified in thy sayings, and mightiest overcome when thou art judged.” (Romans 3:4). If we cannot believe that God performed creation that way that scripture tell us that he did, then we cannot believe anything else that the scripture states about God, Sin, or Salvation in Jesus Christ. 

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Therefore, humanistic theology tries so hard to discredit the first 11 Chapters of Genesis, especially the creation.  If it did not happen the way it is recorded, then everything else is subject to ridicule and reinterpretation.  This is the same approach that the serpent took with Eve in the Garden of Eden when he asked, “Yeah, hath God said…?” (Genesis 3:1).  I encourage you to put away the fables of men, and to study the scriptures and the science for yourself.  There are plenty of resources available today for you to look at the science that disproves the theories of men.  You will find that the only reason you are having problems is because of your own ignorance and unfounded fear of the evidence concerning creation.  Evidence that supports a short earth.  Evidence that supports a catastrophic flood.  Evidence that proves that man was a purposeful and fully functional creation, unique from anything else on the earth.  Man was not the biproduct of an accident that took billions of years to form, instead he was a thought out, purposefully engineered creation by a God who loves and cares for him, and for you as a unique and designated offspring of that life.  Adam was designed for a purpose, and so are you. 

Strobel, L. (2017, Dec 12). @LeeStrobel Tweet.


[1] (Strobel, 2017) Tweet from Lee Strobel Dec 24,2017@11:22AM

[2] (Gruyter)

Bibliography

Gruyter, W. d. (n.d.). https://www.degruyter.com/document/doi/10.1515/9781400854714.755/pdf. (D. Gruyter, Ed.) Retrieved Apr 21, 2022, from https://www.degruyter.com/: https://www.degruyter.com/document/doi/10.1515/9781400854714.755/pdf

My Church is Bigger Than Yours… Na Na Nah Boo Boo

I hope that title caught your attention. In all honesty, I can probably say that my church is not as large as yours is. However, this title is a little funny look at the way we sometimes compare ourselves to one another. We often get caught up on how big a church is.  Many like to boast that they go to such and such church, “You know the big one on the corner of such and such“.  With so no lack of pride we will tell of the great sanctuary and the stain glass windows. Or maybe we will point out the multiple classrooms, the coffee shop or the bookstore. There is nothing wrong with this.  Unless we put our measure of success upon how big our church is.  Different size churches can have great success in their place in God’s plan. The apostle Paul wrote, “And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.” (1 Corinthians 12:5).

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In truth most churches in the world have less than 100 people on their rolls.  The bulk of  churches of the world are small to medium congregations that vary from 5-250 active members (I specify active because active members are the only ones who contribute to the mission of the church – don’t fool yourself).  The major growths in Christianity around the world are brought from small churches that grow into medium churches or who plant other small churches.  These churches are different in their purpose and design than larger churches. They have their own positive and negative attributes.

Small churches (less than 100) have high levels of member commitment.  The members are also more consistent in their tithes and offerings, and volunteer work.  They have less of a staff and therefore dedicate more of their budget to missionary work.  They will likely have a bi-vocational pastor, and because of their small size, he will be easily available to the membership.  The membership is likely to be aware of the burden on the clergy and are more likely to assist the pastor with his duties and donate food and clothing to him and his family to ease his financial burdens.  There is a genuine care in the membership for one another.  Evidence of this is that these churches are likely to have a food closet that is open to any members of the local church. Membership in these churches are generally aligned from family and close friendships, and an occasionally new comer who was invited to attend and then joined the church.

Their Achilles heel of an older small church is that they are likely to have a good portion of their budget tied up in building maintenance.  They are also likely to have most of their membership in being 65 or older.  They are also likely to have no children.  As a general rule their membership is not seeking to increase membership.  If this is the case for a small church, then they are a dead church. Unless a change is brought in their evangelism they will no longer exist.   For the majority of small churches who are active in evangelism, they will soon grow either in church planting other churches and missionary work, or they will increase in size and take other responsibilities and outreached in the community. 

Medium sized churches of congregations of 101-250 active members are more likely to open their buildings up for use to outside organizations that serve a service to the community.  Those may be the scouts, a food bank, a day care center, a meeting place for AA or NA meetings and such.  They are likely to have a free library available to members instead of a bookstore or a coffee shop.  Their main interests are likely to see the membership grow through discipleship classes, small group studies, consistent Wednesday evening Bible studies, Tuesday evening prayer meetings and these things.  They will have active committees to care for different needs of the church, its membership, and the outreach programs.  They are likely to have a lively children’s ministry, and may even have a certified school for certain age ranges. 

As you can see there is a great service that the small and medium churches perform to the growth of Christianity, missions, and in service to the community. So if you’re in a small church, don’t sweat it.  Enjoy the fellowship, get involved with the mission, and share the name of Jesus!   

Is Tithing Different Than Other Commandments?

Many Christians seem to think that we are set free from sin because of Grace, but we must absolutely pay tithes or suffer consequences from God.  They seem to think that if they become a believer and then commit a sin afterward that the Lord will forgive if they confess and then they move on with no other consequences.  The exception to this is tithing.  They believe that because tithing was instituted prior to the Law of Moses that the Lord handles that sin of disobedience differently and will curse them with failing to obey that commandment. They receive this belief because many preachers teach that very doctrine. 

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These teach that God had instituted tithing before he instituted the Law and so the act of tithing is separate from the Law and Grace issues of salvation and obedience.  But is this a true doctrine that is supported by the scripture?  Did God only institute tithing before the Law and so separate the lack of tithing from other sins?  Does God hold you accountable because Jesus fulfilled the Law?  If Jesus only fulfilled the Law and somehow the command to tithe is exempt, did he save anyone from condemnation? I move that God did not only institute tithing prior to the Law and so is expected with believers under grace, but that he also instituted the general law of righteousness and expects believers to adhere to those also.  For now let us look at the tithe doctrine.

Where do we get this doctrine?  Well, there is a story way back in Genesis that predates Moses and the giving of the Law in Exodus. This story involves Abram (Abraham) and Lot. When Abram was living in the plain of Mamre, which is in Hebron (modern day location is in the West Bank). In this story his nephew Lot and he had separated because of issues with their herdsmen and the resources available to feed their flocks.  Lot went towards Sodom and Abram to Hebron.  Sometime after there arose a war between the kings of the region, and Lot got swept up in the ones who were taken as slaves and pillage from several of the nearby kingdoms.  Just on a short side note.  This might serve as a good lesson on being to close to the world.  Ok, back to the main topic of this writing.   

When Abram heard wind of it, he took his men and “smote” the enemies and brought back all those who were captured and all of the things that were pillaged. When this occurred there was a king that came to honor Abram for his righteousness and obvious blessings of the Lord.  The name of this king was Melchizedek.  He was the king of Salem (Peace).  He brought bread and wine as a gift to Abram.  Abram in return gave him a 10th of everything he had to show honor to God’s king and priest, and to give thanks for the blessing God gave him.  This is affirmed by the writer of Hebrews, see Genesis 14:20 and Hebrews 7:2, in the King James Version, for comparison.

Genesis 14:20 – And blessed be the most-high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.

Hebrews 7:2 – To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace;

Now a little more on Melchizedek and Salem. Melchizedek (Melchisidech) was a king and priest to El ‘Elyon (Hebrew for “God Most High”), of Canaanite origin. The name Melchizedek is an old Canaanite name meaning “My King Is [the god] Sedek”, or “My King Is Righteousness”.  Salem is believed to be Jerusalem in later texts.  The name Salem means “complete or perfect peace”.  You can probably see where the writer in Hebrews was headed.  Jesus is considered by the writer of Hebrews to be a king and priest after the order of Melchisidech.  This then shows that with Christ there is a change in the priest hood. The priesthood of Melchizedek was changed to the Levitical priesthood under the Law of Moses.  Now the priesthood in the manner of Melchizedek could pick up under Grace.  This would show that tithes were expected prior to the Law, and now after the Law. 

Further we see that Jacob also offered tithes to God.  Now this tithe was a promise to be faithful to God because God was faithful to Jacob.  It is put a little differently, however, it can still be seen of the giving of 10% of everything that God had given Jacob.

Genesis 28:20-22 – And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God: And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.

Once more we see that the tithing of Jacob was prior to the Law given in Exodus.  One could even make the argument that the requirement of tithes for Israel comes from the vow that Jacob made to God, that he would give the place Bethel as a temple and he would give a tenth of all he had from the Lord back to the Lord as gratitude. 

Here next we can see the command and the purpose of the tithe. 

  • Leviticus 27:30 – Tithe is declared the Lord’s
  • Numbers 18:21 – God says tithes are for the support of his priests
  • Malachi 3:8 – God says that to not tithe is robbing him
  • Haggai 2:8 – any treasure we have belongs to God
  • Deuteronomy 12:11-14 – bring all sacrifices, offerings, and tithes to the house of God

We an see that before the Law, Abram honored God by giving to his servant priest because of the priestly duties of king Melchizedek and in honor of what God had given Abram.  We also see that Jacob, who is Israel, performed an oath before the Lord to place a temple and to tithe.  Under the Law we see that the reasoning that God applies. The Hebrews in their exhale seem t have forgotten the vow and the reasoning of the tithe, so God reminds them in the Law. The tithes are a thanks offering to God for what he has given.  Since God does not need what is made by man, the tithes are used to support the priest in their duties and the maintenance of the temple.  In this tithe offering to God the priests gain the ability to concentrate on their priestly duties.  In the modern-day church this is reflected in church practice of paying a pastor, providing a parsonage, or giving a love offering to an evangelist, or charity to a missionary.  We are commanded to care for our clergy. 

1 Corinthians 9:9-14 – don’t muzzle an ox, he needs to eat while working

Luke 10:7 – ministers should eat what is given them by their hosts

Philippians 4:16-19 – shows Paul giving thanks for provisions given to him by the church

There is therefore a clear precedence for the continuation of tithing.  Now, if we cannot under grace ignore such a decree of God that he finds pleasing, how can we then ignore other items that please him?  Did you just get a confused look on your brain? 

Remember the premise.  Many Christians believe that Grace covers us from sins like lies, murder, sexual immorality and such.  They believe this because scripture does tell us this. “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” (Romans 6:14).  That is straight from the Apostle Paul.  In this chapter of Romans, Paul goes at length to explain how it is that we are dead to sin, all is forgiven, and we are not held accountable to the Law unto death anymore.  Well, those who believe on Jesus the Son of God as both Savior and LORD, and I mean the only LORD who is God, they are saved -and only those. The Apostle of Christ even explains how when we sin, it is not really us who have been redeemed, but this flesh that is still holding us.  Paul tells us that we can rejoice because we are no longer slaves to sin, we can choose who we submit to, we do not have to submit to our flesh and transgress…  Uh oh.  That means that since we have been set free from sin, we should be servants not to sin, but to righteousness.  That means we are now set free to choose to be morally upright like Jesus our Master. 

So how does all of this relate?  Well first let us see the truth.  This does not only apply to the Law of Moses, but to the Law AND the prophets… the entirety of scripture.  Jesus said,

“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.  For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:17-20) 

Now without getting too theological, there are those who will say that Jesus was talking to the Jews.  I will agree with that.  There is evidence that God deals with different people in different manners depending on his purposes.  He is God and I must concede this point, much as I treat my children different according to age, maturity, trust worthiness, and so forth.  I think it reasonable that God knows that people are different and must be dealt with by different methods.  Keeping in mind the truth of the Gospel that anyone who truly believes and submits to Jesus as the Son of God who is both savior and Lord of their life is saved, Jew first then Gentile.  However, it still appears that Jesus is referring to his kingdom, that would mean that it covers his servants, wether under the Law or Grace.  Jesus expects that you will still be righteous in heart and actions.  We call this sanctification.

That aside, is there precedence on other sins other than the lack of giving tithes that God has revealed prior to the Law of Moses?  Yes, there is.  He is a short list (that means not all inclusive).

  • Genesis 3:1-20 – Fall of Adom and Eve = lies, deceit, covetousness, not trusting the Word of God, disobedience; false god; idolatry; lust; covetousness; unrepentance      
  • Genesis 4:5 – Cain and Able = Disobedience, False Worship, Vanity, Pride
  • Genesis 6:5-7 – Cain and Able = wickedness evil imaginations, lust
  • Genesis 6:9 – Cain and Able = Lies; unrepentance
  • Genesis 6:8-10 – Cain and Able = Murder (killing); lack of honor for parents
  • Genesis 6:11, 13 – Noah and the Flood = violence; disobedience; unrepentance
  • Genesis 9:5-6 God holds murderers accountable to death
  • Genesis 9:21-25 – Drunkenness; disrespect to parents
  • Genesis 11:1-9 – Babel= False gods, idolatry, pride, disobedience
  • Genesis 19:1-38 Sodom and Gomorrah; sexual immorality, violence, idolatry, disobedience, lack of fear of the Lord, unrepentance  

All the above are just a small portion of the things that man did that God disapproved of prior to the Law of Moses.  Tithing is not mentioned in any of the things that resulted in punishment in these texts. However, if we hold that the reason, we must tithe is because that it was demanded prior to the Law of Moses then we must also be in compliance with these other items that are identified prior to the Law. So, either grace covers all our sins or it does not.  Don’t worry, it does cover all sin and no works are necessary (Romans 11:6).

Do we then have an excuse to refrain from tithing? Paul says, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?” (Romans 6:1) That seems like a valid argument.  Paul is quick to answer.  “God forbid”.  If we are truly dead to sin, then we cannot, and must not sin just because our sins have been forgiven.  Instead, we should live a new life.  A life of love and gratitude towards God.  Our lives and everything in them are a gift of what God has already given.  Out tithe is then an offering of thanksgiving for what God has already done.  Not for what he might bless us with.  Certainly not an obligation under or outside of the Law.  Indeed, our tithe is no longer a tithe, but 100% of all we are and posses.   

If we see the tithe as an offering to God, as the ancient Hebrews saw all their sacrifices, then this is a different issue all together.  The Hebrews viewed all their possessions as actually belonging to God.  Without the blessings of God, then they would have nothing at all.  Therefore, they gave God back the best portion of what he had given them.  The tithe was not only in money, but in grain, livestock, currency, etc. The motivation was not for the blessings but rather, it was to be pleasing to God.  God had already given the blessings.  This tithe was simply a show of respect and gratitude in honor of God’s provisions. It is a reasonable service.  This it the same thing that Paul says concerning our sacrifice of love towards God and one another.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Romans 12:1-2)

Here, Paul says that Jesus Christ has given us life.  How do we just give 10% of life back to Christ?  We do not.  We must give all that he has given us.  For if we are truly dead to sin, then we died.  The only life we have now, is in Christ.  That means 100% is now our offering.  The first fruits of life is love.  We must give love back to God.  We do this by presenting not part, but all of our lives as a living sacrifice, sanctified – set apart for him in Jesus Christ.  He has become not only our savior, but our Lord.  Not just Lord but the one and only LORD. 

With this mindset the heart is freed to give.  This is just one part of what Paul was trying to explain.  Since we have been set free from the penalty, we are now free to love God of our own choosing.  We can now give not only our tithes, but so much more.  We can not only chose obedience in tithes but in not bearing false witness, no gossiping, no showing respect to some people and disrespect to others, no murders, no abortions, no sexual immorality, etc.

We know that God is not trying to steal from us, nor is he trying to keep us from good things.  But we are simply allowing God’s plan to work.  What plan?  His plan of redemption. The furtherance of the gospel is supported with your sanctification and your giving. The tithe is for the maintenance and care of the temple (church), and the food and caring of the priests (clergy) so that they can perform their duties before God and man.  It is reasonable that we should care for these things before God.  It should be understandable that we are the manner in which God cares for his servants. 

Many times, I receive calls from people who desire to take from the church, and even expect that the church should give to them.  However, if the storehouse of the Lord is empty because his people have neglected to fill it, then the Lord will not be pleased, and the outreach cannot be sustained.  Without the tithing the building falls in disrepair, and the pastor must make choices between service to the Lord of feeding of his family.  From the unbeliever, seeing a church in disrepair, or clergy that are starving and in debt or working two jobs is a sign on unbelief from the congregation.  Who would want to believe a God who cannot take care of his own clergy and temple?

Look at Malachi chapter one.  The Lord says that bringing second best is a show of disrespect.  Giving with bitterness in your heart of contempt from feeling like your have been forced or coerced to give is not love, and neither is giving in expectant of blessings in return.  He says that you profane the altar of the Lord when you hold back from him.  I often have eyebrows raised when I tell those in attendance that if they cannot give their tithes with a happy heart then they should not give at all. The altar of mercy is desecrated by complacency.  Even with that stern rebuke the Lord is still merciful.  Even though we should not expect a blessing in return for tithing, the Lord will bless you for giving joyfully. 

“Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, Smith. The LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” (Malachi 3:10)

Therefore, we cannot say that tithing is different than any other commandment under the Law.  We cannot say that tithing is not covered under Grace.  We can say that obedience in tithing, like obedience in not committing other sins, brings blessing that are inclusive of Gods good nature.  For the Lord says, “Hear, O my son, and receive my sayings; and the years of they life shat be many.” (Proverbs 4:10)  So then should we not tithe?  No, rather we should tithe, but for the correct reason. 

Luke 13:6-9 Dung Up Your Roots

6 He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none.

7 Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?

8 And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it:

9 And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.

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This passage is a call to repentance.  It is not only to the sinner, but to those who think that they are holier than others.  If you look into the text preceding this parable, we see Jesus is responding to a common belief that has somehow tricked down through the ages.  The question is do people suffer as a punishment from God for sin?  More specifically do people die as judgement from God for sin?  IN the case of the Jews, they wondered if the Gentiles would receive a greater punishment because their sins were worse than the Jews? Jesus, tells them that those who had suffered, referencing the verses before, were not any worse a sinner than those of whom he was talking to.  Then he tells them directly that their fate is the same, unless they repent.  Then he illustrates his reasoning with this parable in Luke 13:6-9.

In this illustration, we see the owner of the fig tree who is talking with his servant about the tree.  The tree was planted with the owner hoping to have the fruits that it would yield.  He probably imagined like many of us would, that the tree would be a big and strong tree with many fruits.  He may have imagined that he could one day lay under the shade of the tree and reach up and take a fig and enjoy the sweet delights of his investment.  Maybe he could share some with neighbors, or make delicate cakes or jams with the honey like figs.  He could gain joy from showing his tree off to his friends and telling them how it was just a twig when he had first planted it. 

But today, was one more day among many where he had walked out to the tree and it sat there, fruitless.  Most fig trees take three to five years to start ripening fruit.  We should assume that because the master was the owner of the vineyard, that he had already considered this. He waited until the customary time that they tree should be producing the fruit he so loved to eat.  The story even tells us that it had been three years. So, year after year this owner waited in patient hope that the tree would start new stem growth and produce ripe figs in due season.  Finally, the day has come.  The owner can no longer justify to himself the need to let the plant continue to waist valuable soil in his fields.  He calls his servant, “Cut it down and burn it.” He says with a sad and frustrated heart.  So many hopes for the little tree were now gone.  It was time to make room for another tree that would hopefully bear some fruit. 

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The servant, however, pleads on behalf of the tree.  Please! Let me ease the ground surrounding the roots of the tree.  Let me then put dung on the roots.  Let me soften the soil and put in some fertilizer and give it another season to have a chance to mature and to be pleasing to you.  Then if it bears fruit, we can continue to care for it and rejoice over the tree.  But, if it does not then we know we tried everything and gave it every opportunity to produce good fruit and I will remove it from the field.  The master then relents and continues in patience as the servant begins his tasks of breaking up the ground and seeding the dung about the roots of the tree, then I would imagine the faithful servant waters the soil and undoubtedly prays for good fruit in due season. 

There are some things to learn about God in this parable.  Some spiritual truths lay hidden in the telling of this story by Jesus.  It is an example of the expectations, judgement, and patience of God the Father.  We can see the interceding of the servant.  Much like the intercession of Jesus Christ, our great high priest before the mercy seat of God.  I think it such an amazing thing that God has taken the time to give us his reasoning as to why he does some of the things he does.  Surely if God has taken to time to give the why behind the what, we should sit up and listen. 

Expectations of God

Here in this analogy given by Jesus, we see a very reasonable expectation.  The owner of their vineyard expects his fig tree to give him good fruits.  He expects figs to come from his fig tree. Now we can understand that likely Jesus was talking to Israel who had been planted in the promised land and was expected to be God’s people.  As God’s chosen, they were to be an example to the nations of how to worship God.  Israel was to expound upon the nations of the world that Jehovah was the only God.  They were expected to bear fruit for him. 

In like manner we as the Church are expected to show forth fruits in showing that Jesus is the only name by which a man can be saved from their condemnation. (John 3:15-19) But not just any fruits.  We are expected to produce good fruits.  Fruits worthy of repentance (Matthew 3:8). The fig tree was expected to produce figs.  We are expected to produce fruits according to our kind also. (2 Corinthians 9:10) The Apostle Paul confirmed this to the Romans saying, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”(Romans 12:1) Here we see that Paul explains that if you believe in God, then it is reasonable that you should do what he expects, that is to produce good fruit.  In the following verses in Romans 12 we see that this good fruit of self-sacrifice includes: non-conformity to the world, transformation by renewing of the mind, being an example of what is good and acceptable to God, being humble, and walking in faith. Sounds like the same things that God expected of Israel.  Listen this is not to be saved, but to those who have been redeemed.  It is a reasonable expectation for them,… for us,… the redeemed of the Lord.

In Matthew 7:16-20, Jesus tells us exactly what is expected.  He says, “Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” The apostle Paul tells us the manner and reason for our salvation.

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10)

The problem with the fig tree is that it was producing no fruits at all.  They were neither good nor bad, they were nonexistent.  By their fruits you shall know them… A fig tree that does not produce figs is a dead fig tree.  James writes, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”(James 2:26) Now take a look at what Jesus said, “every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.” A dead tree does not bring forth good fruit. A dead tree is good for nothing and is cut down and burned.

Judgement of God

In the Gospel According to Matthew we see just how sudden and final this judgement is by an example that Jesus makes of an actual fig tree.  Here is that telling. And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away. (Matthew 21:19) The master came to the tree, expecting to find the good fruit that he desired.  In finding no fruit, the tree was judged to be just as bad as a tree that brought forth bad fruit.  The lack of fruit condemned the tree.  Jesus just said since you will not bear fruit, I have not need for you to take up space in the field.  How many ministers have stopped producing fruit by being complacent in their Sunday schools, and pulpits?  How many churches had failed to produce fruit after years of neglect in their neighborhoods?  How many of us who claim to believe in Jesus have never labored to produce the fruits of righteousness in our lives?  We have failed to tell family members.  We live in complacency.  We tell ourselves that everyone knows that we are Christians and if they want Jesus they will come and ask.  We ignore the commandment to preach, teach, and to baptize in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. (Matthew 28:19-20) We know what is good and acceptable to God.  Shall we not be judged? James tells us, “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” (James 4:17).  If then, what we fail to do is sin to us, are we not like the fig tree? Have we not behaved like Israel? Are we not in error of our reasonable sacrifice?  No wonder so many churches are dying.  Think not that even though we are forgiven of sin, that we should not be held accountable for our deeds, or lack thereof.

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Romans 2:6-10 – Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile:

Was not the Lord talking to the church when he said, “Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” (Revelation 2:5)? But even so in this statement we see the patience of our God.  He says to remember, to repent, to do the first works… or else!  He will come and remove thy candlestick.  The master of the vineyard said, cut the unfruitful tree down.  It serves no one any good.  Judgement came to the unfruitful tree, and to Israel, and to the unfruitful church.

Patience of God

We however are blessed.  Like to good master who waited patiently for many years for the fig tree to mature our Father waits patiently for us.  He is not hasty to be angry with us (Ecclesiastes 7:9). He forbears us with love.  He is long suffering towards us. The psalmist writes, “But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.” (Psalms 86:15) This truth is echoed throughout scripture.

  • 1 Peter 3:20 – Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.
  • 2 Peter 3:15 – And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;
  • 2 Peter 3:9 – The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
  • Numbers 14:18 – The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.
  • Exodus 34:6 –  And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,

So, in here we see all kinds of examples of the patience of the Lord.  We even learn that the longsuffering of our Lord is what gives us our salvation.  This gospel of Grace through Faith is the result of God patiently suffering for us to redeem us at the proper time.  The perfect example of this is how Jesus prayed for Jerusalem when he spoke, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matthew 23:37). Yet there is even a limit to the patience of God.  Just as the master prepared to lay the axe to the fig tree, so to we see the chilling statement the Jesus added after his plea to Israel. “Behold you house is left to you desolate.” (Matthew 23:38)

Provision of Christ

Like the servant of the master who breaks up the ground and fertilizes the roots with dung, Jesus intercedes for both Jew and Gentile.  For the scriptures do say this concerning the work of God towards us who believe on the name of Jesus.

Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.  And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27) So here we have the servant dunging up the roots.  We are weak in our flesh, yet the Spirit strengthens us in our hope of what we cannot see.  The Spirit intercedes for us with prayers that cannot be understood, nor voiced by the lips of men.  It is the Spirit that lives in us that knows our every weakness and what is necessary for us to grow in our faith.  He cries out to God the Father to ask for the things we need to remain faithful.  The we see here also that Christ himself intercedes for us in Romans 8:34. The Word of God says that who can condemn us?  Surely it is not the one who died in our place and who rose again.  The very one who sits at the right hand of honor and authority of God the Father does not seek to judge us.  Instead, he also intercedes for us before the Father.  The scars from his wounded hands, feet and side are a constant witness to the Father of the atonement that he has made by his own blood.  Why then would he commend his anger towards us, of whom, he has cleansed?  So we have no fear of eternal condemnation.  Our salvation is intact in whom we have trusted, in Jesus Christ the Son of God who is the Lamb who was slain for our sin. 

Knowing this then are we ok to become complacent at our good fruit?  No we are should be ashamed at such an attitude of complacency.  Once again, I defer to the Apostle Paul on this matter.

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What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:1-4)

We are now dead to the old world and to the old ways of living in the world.  We have become strangers in strange land.  Our soul existence is in Jesus Christ.  We cannot be charged with sin, and yet we cannot return to our old land, as Israel tried to do when delivered from the bondage of Egypt.  We have been delivered from the slavery of sin and death and must now press on the promised land of the Kingdom of God.  With so great a provision made for us, that we are now new creations in Christ and called the sons of God, how can we not seek to be fruitful in good works?

John 6:28-29 – Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.

This is what makes us to be fruitful.  We believe in Jesus Christ.  We walk in faith looking forward to the completion of our redemption.  We walk in the boldness of being the children of God through Jesus Christ.  We put away the shameful behaviors because they no longer define us. Remember James told us that faith without works is dead.  So then work out your faith.  Not for salvation, but because you believe that you are already dead to sin, and alive in Christ.  If you are alive in Christ then you are free to bear the fruits of righteousness today. So dung up your roots and be fruitful. Pray and study that you may be encouraged and your faith may be increased, for faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. Go get your shovel.

Pagan Christmas – Who Cares?

There are those who try to discredit Christmas as a Christian holiday because some aspects of the modern celebration are imported from pagan holidays that existed prior to Christianity. Even the Puritans had the celebration of Christmas outlawed for several years. The reason was because they thought that the Christmas celebration borrowed to much from pagan religions and was therefore no longer Christian. They considered that this made it ungodly to celebrate Christmas, for fear that they would be guilty of actually be worshiping a false god. That is a strawman argument. 

Cultures all over the world and in different time periods have always had an impact on other cultures when they came into contact.  Even the dominant cultures have been affected by those of whom they have conquered and absorbed customs and even beliefs. Rome was undoubtedly influenced by the many cultures that it met with, including the Christian culture.  In return, ancient Rome has had a great impact on the whole world. This impact has reached all the way into modern societies, and with it has come it’s version of Christianity.  As the Roman Empire flourished it affected, art, architecture, language, and even legal systems and military strategies.  With this came the other influences that came from the pagan societies that impacted ancient Rome. The catalyst for this particular season of joy is the winter solstice.

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The winter solstice was celebrated by many ancient cultures including the Celts, Romans, and Druids. They would celebrate winter solstice (or the shortest day of the year) in December.  With this celebration and Christmas being adopted during the same timeframe we will see many similarities between the pagan traditions of Rome and that of Christmas.

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The winter solstice was extremely important to the agricultural life of the pagan.  This solstice marked the end of the long harvest season and gave a momentary rest from the harvest labors and the planting season ahead.  It also marked the onset of winter. Long hard days surviving the isolation and scarcity of food and interaction lay ahead. The celebration was a chance to celebrate and enjoy the company of family and friends and wish them well through the winter.  The Roman celebration was referred to as Saturnalia.

Saturnalia was dedicated to the Roman god Saturn.  Saturn is like the Greek god Cronus. The Roman and Greek gods have been so interlaced that many confuse them for being the same gods.  This is an example of the cultural influences that occurred over time. This festival’s influence is still felt throughout the modern world.  While the Winter solstice is generally the 22 of December, the Roman’s celebration was originally on the 17th of December. 

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Saturnalia was the most popular festival in Rome and lasted for seven days.  It was originally celebrated for one day and was eventually extended to seven days. With the extension of the celebration, we can see how this is like our Christmas to New Year celebration in the United States. All work and businesses were suspended, and slaves were temporarily free during this time. In fact, the roles of master and slave were temporarily reversed.  Slaves were allowed to order their masters around, within reason of course. The end of the festival culminated with the giving of a gift, presents like candles, fruit, or statuettes were primary gifts.  The gift was usually given from one person to another, and were meant as a means of obtaining favor from the god Saturn  

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Another cultural influence on Christmas came from the Roman honoring of Saturn with mistletoe. To appease Saturn, they would perform fertility rites beneath branches of mistletoe.  Other pagan cultures used mistletoe as a sacred plant and associated it with a stay of hostilities or a truce, much like we see the use of a white flag.  Enemies would meet under a mistletoe as a sign of truce. Along with that the Romans would exchange wreaths made of holy as a sign of good luck and well wishes.  Ornaments in the forms of idols also decorated the exterior of the Roman homes during this celebration. This custom was also seen in the Germanic areas where they would decorate trees in honor of Odin during the winter solstice.  This custom of ornaments and lights on the Christmas tree was undoubtedly adopted from their influence.

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It is no wonder that when Rome took over Christianity and converted their holidays into Christian holidays that they would take the traditions they used to and apply them into the official state religious celebration of Christmas. However, this does not take away from the current or Christian meaning for celebrating Christmas.  The pagan meanings and worship of false gods have long lost their meaning and have been overtaken by either Christendom or commercialism.  Frankly I am more concerned with the commercialism as this does specifically go against Christian values. However, this does not diminish Christians who celebrate Christmas, nor does it mandate that the holiday be renamed from “Merry Christmas” to “Happy Holidays” to be inclusive or more historically accurate. 

Christians do not lose their Christianity just because the Romans (Catholic Church) have incorporated aspects of pagan traditions into the holiday.  Christians actually celebrate the arrival of God in the flesh, the birth of Jesus Christ, his death, burial, and resurrection through out the year, every Sunday.  In addition, having a special day to celebrate his birthday is a great remembrance of this miracle event, when God became his own creation.  It does not even really matter if it is on his actual birthday.  I am sure that God appreciates the time of remembrance and celebration for his amazing gift to mankind.  In addition, this gives us a venue to invite pagans and atheist into our homes and churches, our Christian culture. We have an opportunity to let them experience the grace of God the Father in Jesus Christ, God the Son, and to experience the presence of God the Holy Spirit in the heart of the believer.  Christians should celebrate Christmas with all humility and generosity that they can. We need not be ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Who cares if they unsuccessfully tried to discredit our celebration?  We celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Let them see Jesus!   

Is this “The Greatest Story Ever Told”?

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I heard this on the radio this morning.  The host said, “What if I told you a story about someone who could heal all your hurts.”  Then they went on to say, “well it is not a story”.  It is the greatest story ever told.  They went on to explain that Jesus came to heal all of their hurts.  Then they just said that we should have joy over that. It was not a bad thing to say at the first hearing.  I assumed that their reference was to the movie, “The Greatest Story Ever Told” that was released in 1965 by directory George Stevens.  This is a movie adaptation of the biblical telling of Jesus of Nazareth, from his birth to his ascension, after his resurrection from the crucifixion.  Or maybe it was referring to the Gather song, “It’s Still the Greatest Story Ever Told” which sings of the coming of the messiah as the baby Jesus, and how God became his own flesh and blood creation out of love for mankind.  Now, this is the greatest story ever told.  It also happens to be true.  God became man.  The Creator became his own creation to reveal his love of his to his creation. But to say that Jesus came to heal your hurts is the greatest story is a sweet little lie, or at the minimum a very incorrect statement, and no where near the truth.

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You see, since the ancient of times, we have had great men of renown (Genesis 6:4).  We have had wise men, like Solomon to give us sage advice and provide a model of sound judgement.  Men like his father King David to show us how to protect the weak and provide for one another have been around since the beginning.  We have even had men who have walked and talked to God, men like Enoch, Job, Noah, Moses and Abraham.  We even have references to peoples hurts and sicknesses being healed in the Old and the New Testament, without it being a miracle.  The author of the Gospel of Luke and Acts was a physician himself.  God, from his throne was already reaching out to his people and healing their lands, their health, and giving them protection from their enemies.  Jesus did not need to come here for any of that kind of stuff.  Jesus did not come here for that kind of stuff.  Did Jesus heal?  Yes, he did.  Did he come here to heal, yes, but not superficially.  Does he care for you and your problems? Yes, he does.  But that is not the reason why him coming is, “The Greatest Story Ever Told”.  You see we can already do all of these things for one another, if we so chose to do.

We can provide emotional support and care.  We can provide medical treatment, and life saving measures.  We can prolong life beyond what would have been.  We can deter the effects of many diseases and even put many in remission.  We can provide food and clothing to the orphans and widows.  We can encourage one another when going through rough patches.  But what we cannot do, is restore our relationship to God.  We cannot raise ourselves from spiritual death, and make ourselves holy before God. This is what makes “The Greatest Story Ever Told”.  God sent his only Son to restore our relationship to himself.  Only God can give life.  Only God can sustain life.  Therefore, only God and bring us back to life.

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In the beginning God created man with his own hands, and gave him life.  Genesis 1:26-27 – And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. Genesis 2:7 – And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. Here we see the special relationship that God and man had from the very beginning.  God created man with a special vision and purpose in mind.  He created man as a model after himself and man was to be the caretaker of creation.  He was God’s representative on earth.  God planned him out, formed him with his own hands from the earth.  This shows man’s relationship to God and to his creation. The God breathed life into man.  God gave man life in an intimate and direct manner.  Then man became a living soul.  Man from the very beginning was flesh, spirit, and soul.  Man was alive and if you were to continue reading in Genesis you would see that he was in fellowship with God.  He walked and talked to God with no mediator in between, no fear. 

Then a horrible event took place.  Man was deceived by an enemy of God, who was once one of God’s chief angels.  This fallen angel wanted to God.  So he used cunning words to deceive the woman and the man that God was unfair and unjust.  This deceptive picture of God caused man to question God’s word and authority.  This led to the first sin of disobedience against God.  Because man’s image of God had been distorted by what they were told about God, they believed incorrectly, and sinned.  This is the same reason that I am writing this today.  This false image of who Jesus is and why he came is a deception that must be confronted, lest anyone come to Jesus for the wrong reasons, and miss out on the real reason he came.  Did Jesus heal people of their hurts, diseases, and deliver them from devils?  Yes, he did.  However, those were just signs to prove his authority for why he really came.  The reason he came is so much more important than just physical healing or food for your stomach.  He came to give you life, life that you have never had before.  He came to deliver you out of the hands of death.

You see sin, brought death.  Not just spiritually, but physical death also.  Diseases, famine, pestilence, injustice, mental illness, and far more are all brought about by sin.  These are not brought about by God, but by our fallen condition, caused by sin.  We have never known a day without sin, since the fall of mankind in the beginning.  This is part of the reason we cannot redeem ourselves.  We do not even have an idea of what true justice, or righteousness looks like.  But God does.  He above all knows the cost that sin has had upon us, his special creation.  Therefore, Jesus came to make us his righteousness.  He was sent by the Father because someone had to die for the sin that we were trapped in.  It had to be someone who had never sinned, nor was a receiver of the curse of sin through the bloodline of Adam. 

Romans 6:23 – For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.  This is the statement made by God through the apostle Paul. The only payment for sin is death.  That is the only reward that sin ever brings – eternal death.  But God gives eternal life through Jesus Christ.  The apostle John recorded the words of Jesus as this, For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16) So, let us take a moment to reflect on these two statements made by God.  Sin, of which we are all guilty of by inheritance, action, or omission is punishable by death.  There is no alternative to this debt.  Unless the debt is paid for us. 

Now, here comes the Creator.  He loves us so much, that he created us with a special purpose and in an intimate manner and remembers the intimacy we once had.  He desires to have this intimacy once again with his creation (you and me) so much that he decides to pay the death penalty for us.  He does this though sacrificing his own son, Jesus Christ. Since Jesus died in our place, anyone who believes and accepts this payment of our death debt through the death of Jesus can be saved based on that belief. Now we who believe are brought from death to life.  We are not just spared death and given a life, but we are given eternal life.

So what is eternal life? Jesus put it like this, And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. (John 17:3) Eternal life is the restoration of the creation to the Creator.  We once again are able to walk in fellowship with God.  Remember, he is the source of life.  Life emanates from him.  Without him there is no life. We are tied into the source of life for eternity because he is eternal.  He does not change, nor die, and neither do we.  We have eternal life through Jesus Christ unto God the Father, sealed by the Holy Spirit.

What is the difference in what you believe? He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. (John 3:36) You see we must have a clear understanding of who Jesus is and why he came.  He came to do far more that just heal our hurts.  He came to restore our relationship to God himself.  He came to deliver us from death and from the wrath of God.  Those who reject him, or who do not believe on him, are already under the wrath of God.  Deliverance from the wrath of God comes in this way…

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That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (Romans 10:9-10)

Believe that Jesus is the Son of God. Believe that he was sent by God the Father to redeem you.  Believe that Jesus did everything necessary to redeem you though his death, burial, and resurrection.  Believe from the heart is not a feeling, but a choice to fully believe this as the truth.  Belief on Jesus is what makes you righteous before God, and confession of this faith in Jesus Christ is what ties this belief to your acceptance of salvation.  This is because it is prof of your belief.  Not for God, but for yourself and for those who need to hear the truth.  God Saves… this is “The Greatest Story Ever Told”.  It is the story of how God loved you so much that he sent his son Jesus Christ to die for you, so that you could live with him.  God has done for you what you could not do.  He saved you from wrath, and death.  He gave you eternal life. 

A Letter for My Son – Proverbs 3:1-7

A Letter for My Son

My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments:

A father tries his best to pass on knowledge and life skills to his son. He tries to give him all the good things that he has learned and instructs his son on the pit falls of life.  He warns him of the dangers that certain things possess. A father strives to pass on more than knowledge.  He instructs in principles for the living of a successful life.  When these principles are adhered to, they guide the listener through proper decision making when the father is no longer present to turn to. These principles of life become the everlasting wisdom of the father in the heart of his son. 

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The father also establishes clear cut rights and wrongs in actions and thinking.  These are things that must be black and white, absolute right and wrong, unbendable truths.  An example, A man should never strike a lady. Another example of such would be, A man should never take advantage of the week or elderly.  Another one from times past would be in the saying, “For God and Country”. Thus establishing the two things that a man must be loyal to.  I would add to it in this order, “For God, Family, and Country”. These are things that a man should always know are wrong and never accept any excuse to violate.  Nor should he respect or accept that any man should be allowed to violate these rules of manhood.  Therefore, these rules that the father teaches his son should never be violated by his son.  This passage of a clear line that should never be crossed is the single most important thing a father teaches a young man of integrity.  A man’s word used to be his bond, that was because fathers used to teach and model this rule of integrity.  A man who does not honor his word, has no integrity.  The end never justifies the means.  Instead, the means is what makes the end justified or not.  So we see the law and the commandment of the father.  They are principles and standards for how a good and godly man will act.  A man who can be respected by man, beast, and God.

The father’s warning is simple.  Don’t forget what I have taught you.  Then he adds one more piece of sage advice. He says, “let”- “let thine heart”.  Many men know what is right to do, and yet they do it not.  Many of men know in their heart of hearts that what they desire to do is ludicrous, and wrong; yet they do it anyway. Therefore, the wise father tells his son that it is not enough just to know what is right and wrong, but you must live it correctly.  Knowledge of right and wrong must be evidenced in you very heart.  You must allow your heart to do the right things.  It is a choice to follow good advice or to ignore it.  You can choose to live by the good principles and truthful commandments of your father or you can disregard them.  So this good father tells his son, let your hear desire to do what you now is correct.  A man should always desire to do what is good and have the backbone to abstain from what is foolish.  If he does not, then he is not a man, but a child.  For a child cannot stand on his own, as a man must. This father’s will is for his son to stand… stand for what is good and just.  He desires for his son to not walk in shame before other men, nor before his God. Then he encourages his son.

For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee. The things that you have learned from me, my law and my commandments; these principles and standards of conduct, will lead to success.  They will give you a long life, you will live longer if you do not take another man’s wife, for example.  Another such example is that incurable diseases come from acts of sexual immorality.  These diseases lead to a shortened, and painful life with ruined relationships, loneliness, and anger.  Keeping your life simple and clear of ungodly desires with give you a life the is happy, healthy, and peace will follow you, all the days of your life.  They will add to the quality of your life and the life of your family.  Prosperity comes in times of peace.  We can see how this leads to prosperity.  Then he tells him about another principle for this successful life.  Something we men all too often forget.

Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart:  Many men are taught how to be tough.  We are taught how to stand up and to be strong, to hide our emotions and never show weakness.  We often misinterpret these teachings.  You see being strong and containing our emotions does have some benefit in lead and motivating others.  It does also instill in us an attitude to never quit doing what is right in the face of opposition.  Endurance in the faith is a godly quality.  But when we pervert it in our hears to become cold and brutal, ignoring the pleas of others, that is wrong.   Many young men today use the “respect” issue as a means to justify the using of fear and intimidation to demand respect of others. Fear is not respect.

In reality these brutish men have done nothing to deserve respect. Imposing your will on others through fear and intimidation is nothing to respect. Instead they bring shame to their families. It is the tool of the week in heart and cowardice, especially of, those who have no respect for themselves in seeking to hide their own frailties and shortcomings. A frightened adolescent who is afraid to be a real man and open his heart to the care of others. Hardheartedness is never approved of by God.  Instead, the father tells his son to always be merciful and to always seek the truth.  This is proper in judgement. 

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Someone who cannot invoke judgement and give a reward and punishment cannot show mercy.  Now you may empathize with someone and feel sorry for them.  However, you are in no position to be merciful to them.  You can plead for mercy for them to the one who can show mercy, but you cannot provide mercy.  A father can show mercy to his children.  A judge can show mercy to a criminal.  A king can show mercy to whom he governs over.  Here the father tells his son that a good man shows mercy and upholds the truth.  He holds himself accountable.  Mercy and truth should be a part of who he is as a man of integrity.

You see he says to put them about they neck and to write them on his heart.  This causes a man to examine himself and to keep himself in check.  I have a necklace that I wear every hour of every day.  It has an anchor pendant on the chain.  I wear this for a two-fold remembrance.  The first is to remind me of the calling of the gospel of Jesus Christ upon my life.  If reminds me that he said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19).  The second is that it reminds me of my dad, who was seaman, and an avid fisherman. 

Now, when I look in the mirror every morning the two things, I am reminded of are the commandments of my God. “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40) and the promise to be a fisher of men.  Then I am also reminded of the many things my dad had taught me about the way a man should act and feel.  You see in looking at this necklace that I put about my neck, I am reminded of proper priorities in my life. 

In putting the things into my heart, this is a purposeful consideration and a constant meditating on the things I have been taught, by God through scripture and through the law and commandments of my dad, in every situation that comes up in my day.  I am forced to examine my thoughts, and the desires of my heart when I look in the mirror and consider the teachings I have received from childhood.  Because I have chosen to let my heart accept the truth, I know in my heart what is good and godly and what is not.  By choosing to do what is good and godly I choose to live at peace with man and with God in mercy and truth.  This brings the peace.

This peace is not just from men, but in living a righteous, faithful life before God, so God and I are at peace with one another.  So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man. Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.  The law and the commandments given to a son, by a God fearing father are the passing down of the keys to success and happiness in life.  They are the means of having a successful relationship with God, family, and country (men).  The advice that is passed on?  Son, always trust God.  Son, always seek the truth (God). Son, always love God.  Son, always be kind and merciful.  He says this in another way.  Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.  What then is a wise man, my son?  A wise man is one who knows his limitations, understands the fear of the LORD (Jehovah), and goes in the exact opposite direction from evil and even the very appearance of it. My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments: for length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee. 

Love Dad…