Category Archives: Faith / Trusting God

What Yeshua Opens, No One Can Shut

In the message to Philadelphia, Yeshua has a different opening and reminds us that what He opens, no one can shut and what He shuts, no one can open. He truly is all powerful. None can stand against Him. Yeshua reinforces that He cares about our deeds, He cares about how we live according to His word, and once again we see that He despises those who claim to follow YHWH but live their own way or blend with others. In this example, He does not like that those who are not living in obedience are calling themselves Jews.

Once again we are reminded to hold fast to what we have in our faith and walk with Yeshua. We are cautioned not to let anyone take our crown. This seems to imply that though we may be in relationship with Yeshua, we can lose that by turning away. It rebuts the “once saved, always saved” teaching, which other scriptures do as well. Yeshua wants us to endure hardship without compromising on His name or our faith to follow Him.

Revelation 3:7-13

Message to Philadelphia

      7“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:
He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says this:

      8‘I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name. 9‘Behold, I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—I will make them come and bow down at your feet, and make them know that I have loved you. 10‘Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. 11‘I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown. 12‘He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name. 13‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Slaying Giants By YHWH’s Power

When we are operating in YHWH’s will and submitting ourselves to Him in our lives, He will help us slay giants that we could not defeat on our own. This does not mean we have to face physical attack by large men. There could be many intimidating situations we face that He can help us through His power. It is important to remember, however, that this is not a license to go pick fights with giants. We want to be fighting only the battles that YHWH wants us to fight. David was fighting for the name (aka reputation) of YHWH and the nation that followed Him. David was not fighting for personal glory, although that came with the victory.

Another aspect I have found very much worth highlighting is that David recognized where YHWH had been acting in His life already and then applied that to future situations. In his case, YHWH had protected him from lion and bear in protecting sheep and David saw this as a clear pattern in which he had faith YHWH would protect him from the Philistine as well. I have witnessed similarly, certain aspects or patterns of my life in which YHWH has chosen to interact to guide my path or just communicate with me. As I see where He has been active in the past, I have increasing faith He will continue in that way in the future. Of course, it will not be in the same way for everyone, so pay attention to where He has moved in your life in the past.

1 Samuel 17

Goliath’s Challenge

      1Now the Philistines gathered their armies for battle; and they were gathered at Socoh which belongs to Judah, and they camped between Socoh and Azekah, in Ephes-dammim. 2Saul and the men of Israel were gathered and camped in the valley of Elah, and drew up in battle array to encounter the Philistines. 3The Philistines stood on the mountain on one side while Israel stood on the mountain on the other side, with the valley between them. 4Then a champion came out from the armies of the Philistines named Goliath, from Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. 5He had a bronze helmet on his head, and he was clothed with scale-armor which weighed five thousand shekels of bronze. 6He also had bronze greaves on his legs and a bronze javelin slung between his shoulders. 7The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and the head of his spear weighed six hundred shekels of iron; his shield-carrier also walked before him. 8He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel and said to them, “Why do you come out to draw up in battle array? Am I not the Philistine and you servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves and let him come down to me. 9“If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will become your servants; but if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall become our servants and serve us.” 10Again the Philistine said, “I defy the ranks of Israel this day; give me a man that we may fight together.” 11When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.

      12Now David was the son of the Ephrathite of Bethlehem in Judah, whose name was Jesse, and he had eight sons. And Jesse was old in the days of Saul, advanced in years among men. 13The three older sons of Jesse had gone after Saul to the battle. And the names of his three sons who went to the battle were Eliab the firstborn, and the second to him Abinadab, and the third Shammah. 14David was the youngest. Now the three oldest followed Saul, 15but David went back and forth from Saul to tend his father’s flock at Bethlehem. 16The Philistine came forward morning and evening for forty days and took his stand.

      17Then Jesse said to David his son, “Take now for your brothers an ephah of this roasted grain and these ten loaves and run to the camp to your brothers. 18“Bring also these ten cuts of cheese to the commander of their thousand, and look into the welfare of your brothers, and bring back news of them. 19“For Saul and they and all the men of Israel are in the valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines.”

David Accepts the Challenge

      20So David arose early in the morning and left the flock with a keeper and took the supplies and went as Jesse had commanded him. And he came to the circle of the camp while the army was going out in battle array shouting the war cry. 21Israel and the Philistines drew up in battle array, army against army. 22Then David left his baggage in the care of the baggage keeper, and ran to the battle line and entered in order to greet his brothers. 23As he was talking with them, behold, the champion, the Philistine from Gath named Goliath, was coming up from the army of the Philistines, and he spoke these same words; and David heard them.

      24When all the men of Israel saw the man, they fled from him and were greatly afraid. 25The men of Israel said, “Have you seen this man who is coming up? Surely he is coming up to defy Israel. And it will be that the king will enrich the man who kills him with great riches and will give him his daughter and make his father’s house free in Israel.”

      26Then David spoke to the men who were standing by him, saying, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should taunt the armies of the living God?” 27The people answered him in accord with this word, saying, “Thus it will be done for the man who kills him.”

      28Now Eliab his oldest brother heard when he spoke to the men; and Eliab’s anger burned against David and he said, “Why have you come down? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your insolence and the wickedness of your heart; for you have come down in order to see the battle.” 29But David said, “What have I done now? Was it not just a question?” 30Then he turned away from him to another and said the same thing; and the people answered the same thing as before.

David Kills Goliath

      31When the words which David spoke were heard, they told them to Saul, and he sent for him. 32David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail on account of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” 33Then Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are but a youth while he has been a warrior from his youth.” 34But David said to Saul, “Your servant was tending his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and took a lamb from the flock, 35I went out after him and attacked him, and rescued it from his mouth; and when he rose up against me, I seized him by his beard and struck him and killed him. 36“Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, since he has taunted the armies of the living God.” 37And David said, “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and may the LORD be with you.” 38Then Saul clothed David with his garments and put a bronze helmet on his head, and he clothed him with armor. 39David girded his sword over his armor and tried to walk, for he had not tested them. So David said to Saul, “I cannot go with these, for I have not tested them.” And David took them off. 40He took his stick in his hand and chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in the shepherd’s bag which he had, even in his pouch, and his sling was in his hand; and he approached the Philistine.

      41Then the Philistine came on and approached David, with the shield-bearer in front of him. 42When the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him; for he was but a youth, and ruddy, with a handsome appearance. 43The Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44The Philistine also said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the sky and the beasts of the field.” 45Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted. 46“This day the LORD will deliver you up into my hands, and I will strike you down and remove your head from you. And I will give the dead bodies of the army of the Philistines this day to the birds of the sky and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 47and that all this assembly may know that the LORD does not deliver by sword or by spear; for the battle is the LORD’S and He will give you into our hands.”

      48Then it happened when the Philistine rose and came and drew near to meet David, that David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. 49And David put his hand into his bag and took from it a stone and slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead. And the stone sank into his forehead, so that he fell on his face to the ground.

      50Thus David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, and he struck the Philistine and killed him; but there was no sword in David’s hand. 51Then David ran and stood over the Philistine and took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him, and cut off his head with it. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled. 52The men of Israel and Judah arose and shouted and pursued the Philistines as far as the valley, and to the gates of Ekron. And the slain Philistines lay along the way to Shaaraim, even to Gath and Ekron. 53The sons of Israel returned from chasing the Philistines and plundered their camps. 54Then David took the Philistine’s head and brought it to Jerusalem, but he put his weapons in his tent.

      55Now when Saul saw David going out against the Philistine, he said to Abner the commander of the army, “Abner, whose son is this young man?” And Abner said, “By your life, O king, I do not know.” 56The king said, “You inquire whose son the youth is.” 57So when David returned from killing the Philistine, Abner took him and brought him before Saul with the Philistine’s head in his hand. 58Saul said to him, “Whose son are you, young man?” And David answered, “I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.”

Don’t let the familiarity of the story hide from you the deep faith and boldness of David or the fact that YHWH can help all of us overcome “giants” in our lives. We should strive to live for the glory and honor of YHWH, as David demonstrated in slaying Goliath.

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Doors of the Bible

Today I want to share an interesting perspective I gained from the Ark Encounter in Kentucky. I am sharing their material, which can be found at arkencounter.com/about/good-news/. I am grateful for the ministry and outreach efforts of that organization. I would encourage you to consider it for future family vacation plans. My family greatly enjoyed it and it supports a ministry that shares the truth of God’s word in a powerful way.

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Why Did God Send the Flood?

The pre-Flood world was exceedingly wicked and filled with violence. The Bible states that all flesh had corrupted its way on the earth. God sent the global Flood to judge the evil world while preserving Noah’s family and representatives of land animals.

The Ark’s Door

One of God’s specific instructions for Noah was to build a door in the side of the Ark. Noah and his family entered this door to be saved from the Flood. Everyone outside of the Ark perished.

What’s Wrong with This World?

God created a perfect world, but our first parents, Adam and Eve, chose to rebel against their holy Creator. Their sin brought suffering and death into creation, and since all people are descendants of Adam, all have inherited a sin nature set against God. Furthermore, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). We live in a fallen, sin-cursed world where men love darkness rather than light.

Will God Judge the World Again?

The Bible states that God will judge this wicked world once again, but this time it will be by fire. In fact, Jesus compared the days of His return to the days of Noah. People were caught unaware by the judgment because they were so focused on the things of this world, such as eating, drinking, and marriage. Similarly, Peter prophesied that skeptics would come in the last days and would mock the biblical teachings of creation, the Flood, and the coming judgment. We see these things happening in our day, and God always keeps His promises—judgment will come.

Another Door

Noah’s family entered the Ark’s door to escape the physical destruction of the Flood. God has provided another “door” to save people from the coming eternal judgment. Jesus Christ said, “I am the door of the sheep” (John 10:7). In that culture the shepherd really was the door to the pen—they would rest in the entryway, ensuring that the sheep would be kept safe. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is the door through which we must enter to be saved from our sin.

The Substitute

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, became a man, lived a sinless life, and then willingly died on the Cross as a substitute. As man’s sin brought death, the Son of God died to redeem man from his sins. Three days later, Jesus rose from the dead, showing that He held power over death and demonstrating God’s acceptance of Christ’s payment for sin.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

Who Needs to Be Saved?

The short answer is “everyone.” Since God is holy and perfect in every way, He must judge sin. As such, each of us deserves to face God’s justice because we have broken His laws. If you stop and examine your own heart, you will recognize times where you have lied, stolen, coveted, and failed to honor God as He deserves. On our own each of us stands condemned to suffer eternally because of our rebellion, and we need someone to save us from God’s wrath.

How Can I Go Through This Door?

We cannot earn God’s forgiveness as manmade religions teach—it is offered freely through the sacrificial death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We receive God’s forgiveness only through faith in what Christ has done. This means that we repent of our sins, trusting in Jesus and believing that He died for our sins and rose from the dead. In faith, we acknowledge our guilt before God and plead with our Creator to forgive us and save us from our sins.

That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)

Have You Entered the Door?

Have you placed your faith in Christ alone to save you from your sins? If not, we urge you to turn from your sins (repent) and call out to God for His merciful forgiveness. Enter the door of salvation today.

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Be Faithful Unto Death so that You Get the Crown of Life

We are continuing to examine and reflect on the letters Yeshua sent through John in Revelation to the seven churches of Asia. They were written for a specific audience long ago, but have broad applicability for us as well. Let us test our walk and our church against these encouragements and rebukes.

Message to Smyrna

      8“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write:
The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life, says this:

      9‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10‘Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. 11‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.’

Once again, Yeshua introduces the letter with a reminder that He is one with the Father, He is the first and the last. Further, He reminds them that He is the one who died and was raised. He is not unaware of the struggles they are experiencing… tribulation, poverty, and false teaching.

Yeshua warns them that they are about to suffer difficulty so that they will be tested. He encourages them to be faithful unto death so that they would receive the crown of life from Yeshua. We should likewise take heed when we experience hardship and testing.

It would appear the second death may appear to those who are cast into hell in separation from YHWH. Those who are faithful in life, will not be hurt by the second death.

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Father Knows Best and He Will Deliver on His Plans

Our Father has His own plans and His own ways of bringing them about. He is far wiser than we are and we often may not fully understand the events taking place and their significance until later, if ever. The Spirit of YHWH came upon David, “mightily”, and departed from Saul. Then, almost as if to allow David to get familiar with the life and ways of a king, YHWH arranges for Him to come into the court of King Saul. What are the odds that shepherd boy would come to Saul’s court if not for the LORD arranging it? None. Likely this helps prepare young David for becoming king in the future by broadening him beyond shepherd life.

Do not miss also that we now see Saul experience the results of his disobedience to YHWH. He said he was sorry, but there are still consequences when we knowingly rebel against our Father, especially when the guidance was very clear and He knows we understood it. Saul even made excuses and tried to say he was doing it for YHWH, rather than genuinely admitting he had sinned.

1 Samuel 16:12-23

David Anointed

     12So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with beautiful eyes and a handsome appearance. And the LORD said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is he.” 13Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon David from that day forward. And Samuel arose and went to Ramah.

      14Now the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD terrorized him. 15Saul’s servants then said to him, “Behold now, an evil spirit from God is terrorizing you. 16“Let our lord now command your servants who are before you. Let them seek a man who is a skillful player on the harp; and it shall come about when the evil spirit from God is on you, that he shall play the harp with his hand, and you will be well.” 17So Saul said to his servants, “Provide for me now a man who can play well and bring him to me.” 18Then one of the young men said, “Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite who is a skillful musician, a mighty man of valor, a warrior, one prudent in speech, and a handsome man; and the LORD is with him.” 19So Saul sent messengers to Jesse and said, “Send me your son David who is with the flock.” 20Jesse took a donkey loaded with bread and a jug of wine and a young goat, and sent them to Saul by David his son. 21Then David came to Saul and attended him; and Saul loved him greatly, and he became his armor bearer. 22Saul sent to Jesse, saying, “Let David now stand before me, for he has found favor in my sight.” 23So it came about whenever the evil spirit from God came to Saul, David would take the harp and play it with his hand; and Saul would be refreshed and be well, and the evil spirit would depart from him.

What may be the most perplexing is that the scripture translation seems to state that “an evil spirit from the LORD terrorized him”. This is the only reference in scripture to an evil spirit from the LORD that I can remember. I am curious to study the translation and see if there are clues there. Did YHWH really put an evil spirit upon Saul? Whether He caused it or allowed it, and the translation clearly indicates He caused it, YHWH used it for His own purpose to bring in David to the court. I can’t help but think there is more to be studied and understood here.

We should trust in our Father. Often events we don’t understand may be orchestrated by Him to accomplish His plans. If we are faithful and submitted to Him, it will be for our good in that we serve His purposes. Let us seek to find joy even when we don’t understand the LORD’s plans.

Let us repent genuinely and quickly if we drift or rebel.

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Sometimes Scripture Brings Questions

Although I turn to scripture for answers and guidance, sometimes I am left with questions not answered. It is an invitation to trust the LORD even when we don’t understand and an invitation to study His word more and prayerfully ask for insight. This should not be an excuse to not trust in YHWH or the Bible.

Jonathan went to battle with the Philistines without YHWH telling him to do so and against tall odds. He had faith in YHWH to deliver victory, but at the same time we are told elsewhere in scripture not to put the LORD to the test, by Yeshua himself (Deuteronomy 6:16 and Luke 4:12). This leaves me with some unanswered questions for how what Jonathan did was not putting YHWH to the test. Jonathan’s faith, however, was real. Think about how much defeat they had suffered at the hands of the Philistines that Jonathan felt confident trusting in the LORD to attack a large group without much support.

I am also a bit confused in that they bring forward the ark without specific guidance from the LORD. I compare this to a bit earlier in 1 Samuel 4 when the Israelites brought the ark into battle and the Philistines captured it. I am left a bit confused about what was different. It may have simply been that YHWH wanted to show the Philistines His power in the events starting in 1 Samuel 4 and recorded over the following chapters. It may also be that he wanted to enact judgment on Eli’s sons. But I admit that I would be a bit hesitant to call the ark to the battlefront again without hearing from the LORD. Yet here it seems to work.

My lack of understanding does not mean that YHWH did not have His reasons or that He is not there. It simply means I do not understand and am invited to pray and read more and trust in Him.

1 Samuel 14:1-23

Jonathan’s Victory

      1Now the day came that Jonathan, the son of Saul, said to the young man who was carrying his armor, “Come and let us cross over to the Philistines’ garrison that is on the other side.” But he did not tell his father. 2Saul was staying in the outskirts of Gibeah under the pomegranate tree which is in Migron. And the people who were with him were about six hundred men, 3and Ahijah, the son of Ahitub, Ichabod’s brother, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eli, the priest of the LORD at Shiloh, was wearing an ephod. And the people did not know that Jonathan had gone. 4Between the passes by which Jonathan sought to cross over to the Philistines’ garrison, there was a sharp crag on the one side and a sharp crag on the other side, and the name of the one was Bozez, and the name of the other Seneh. 5The one crag rose on the north opposite Michmash, and the other on the south opposite Geba.

      6Then Jonathan said to the young man who was carrying his armor, “Come and let us cross over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; perhaps the LORD will work for us, for the LORD is not restrained to save by many or by few.” 7His armor bearer said to him, “Do all that is in your heart; turn yourself, and here I am with you according to your desire.” 8Then Jonathan said, “Behold, we will cross over to the men and reveal ourselves to them. 9“If they say to us, ‘Wait until we come to you’; then we will stand in our place and not go up to them. 10“But if they say, ‘Come up to us,’ then we will go up, for the LORD has given them into our hands; and this shall be the sign to us.” 11When both of them revealed themselves to the garrison of the Philistines, the Philistines said, “Behold, Hebrews are coming out of the holes where they have hidden themselves.” 12So the men of the garrison hailed Jonathan and his armor bearer and said, “Come up to us and we will tell you something.” And Jonathan said to his armor bearer, “Come up after me, for the LORD has given them into the hands of Israel.” 13Then Jonathan climbed up on his hands and feet, with his armor bearer behind him; and they fell before Jonathan, and his armor bearer put some to death after him. 14That first slaughter which Jonathan and his armor bearer made was about twenty men within about half a furrow in an acre of land. 15And there was a trembling in the camp, in the field, and among all the people. Even the garrison and the raiders trembled, and the earth quaked so that it became a great trembling.

      16Now Saul’s watchmen in Gibeah of Benjamin looked, and behold, the multitude melted away; and they went here and there. 17Saul said to the people who were with him, “Number now and see who has gone from us.” And when they had numbered, behold, Jonathan and his armor bearer were not there. 18Then Saul said to Ahijah, “Bring the ark of God here.” For the ark of God was at that time with the sons of Israel. 19While Saul talked to the priest, the commotion in the camp of the Philistines continued and increased; so Saul said to the priest, “Withdraw your hand.” 20Then Saul and all the people who were with him rallied and came to the battle; and behold, every man’s sword was against his fellow, and there was very great confusion. 21Now the Hebrews who were with the Philistines previously, who went up with them all around in the camp, even they also turned to be with the Israelites who were with Saul and Jonathan. 22When all the men of Israel who had hidden themselves in the hill country of Ephraim heard that the Philistines had fled, even they also pursued them closely in the battle. 23So the LORD delivered Israel that day, and the battle spread beyond Beth-aven.

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Christmas on Trial – The Closing Argument

I am sharing an article from LifeHopeandTruth.com. If you really want to test what is pleasing to God in how you approach this holiday, then I encourage you to invest some time to read this article.

Christmas on Trial

Imagine a courtroom where Christmas is on trial, charged with false impersonation of legitimate, godly worship. Both sides have presented their cases. Now it’s the prosecutor’s turn to make his closing argument. It could well go something like this.

By Clyde Kilough

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, you’ve heard the defense supporting the religious practice of celebrating Christmas. I trust you noted it was not a biblical defense, because none exists.

Let’s step away from human reasoning and emotion, and revisit the facts presented to you by history, scholars and God’s Word itself.

You’ll recall that all the expert witnesses—secular historians and theologians alike—attested that modern Christmas practices can be easily traced back to non-Christian origins. Their sources were so numerous that no one bothered to present counterarguments.

Please remember these facts:

    • Christmas is a man-made holiday. The Bible has zero reference to celebrating Jesus’ birth, which was probably in the autumn, not winter. Not until nearly three centuries later, in fact, did a “birthday party for Jesus” make its way into religious observance. Not until A.D. 336 did a Roman calendar officially note celebrating Jesus’ birth on Dec. 25.
    • So how was Dec. 25 selected for this celebration? Pope Julius I decreed it. Why? Because syncretism, the blending of religions, had become a common tool employed by the Roman church for assimilating “heathens” into its fold. Midwinter pagan festivals were immensely popular throughout Europe, so mixing these into the church’s rituals was an easy method to induce nonbelievers to embrace their version of Christianity.
    • What were these festivals? They included:
    • The birthday of the sun god Mithra.
    • Saturnalia, a time of debauchery honoring the Roman god of agriculture, Saturn.
    • Northern European celebrations of the winter solstice glorifying the sun’s return.
    • The Scandinavian Norse religion’s yule celebrations Dec. 21 through January, with its abundant superstitious customs.
    • The German version revering their god Odin. Interestingly, Odin is supposed to have made nighttime flights during which he would watch people and decide who to bless and curse. Hmm. Isn’t that reminiscent of a modern tale of a mythical guy who flies at night, somehow having godlike powers to know “who’s naughty and nice”?

People aren’t easily converted from entrenched popular customs, but church leaders had their methods. Let the people keep their customs, they figured, but simply syncretize them with ours and call them Christian. Instead of celebrating Dies Natalis Solis Invicti—the birthday of the unconquered sun—we’ll say we’re now honoring Jesus, the Son of God.

I remind you of the historian who quoted Augustine of Hippo, a great church influence, as saying in a Christmas sermon, “Let us celebrate this day as a feast not for the sake of this sun, which is beheld by believers as much as ourselves, but for the sake of Him who created the sun.”

If Jesus appeared today, would He okay our worshipping on a holiday borrowed from pagan religions that idolized the sun, moon and rocks?

I’ve barely recapped the historical evidence, but clearly, no one can legitimately argue for any biblical support upholding any aspect of Christmas as a Christian holiday. In fact, virtually all of our Christmas traditions—trees, mistletoe, gift-giving, wreaths, caroling, Santa Claus—sprang from these pagan festivals.

It is the thought that counts!

So, ladies and gentlemen, let’s examine the defense’s arguments in support of observing Christmas today, beginning with the contention that “at the end of the day—so what? It’s the thought that counts!”

Actually, I agree 100 percent! It is the thought that matters—and it’s God’s thought that matters most! God left ample evidence of His thought on this in His Word, the Bible.

I remind you of the religious scholars who admitted that God has always adamantly opposed syncretism, often bemoaning how His people mixed their idolatrous neighbors’ customs with their worship of Him.

When God delivered Israel from Egypt, what did He command? “Do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way.”

What part of “you shall not” is so confusing for us humans?

For emphasis, He added, “Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it.” That’s in Deuteronomy 12:30-32.

So, centuries later, after watching the people continually blend pagan practices into their worship, taking from and adding to everything He’d said, God told them through the prophet Amos, “I hate, I despise your feast days” (Amos 5:21).

Did God use lightly the words hate and despise? If not, why should we assume He feels differently today?

In the same verse He also said, “I take no delight in your solemn assemblies” (Revised Standard Version). Today’s most important “solemn assemblies” are Christmas and Easter, but they are not the holy days God appointed. Even then, God told them, “Take away from Me the noise of your songs” (verse 23). They may be beautiful and catchy songs, but because of what they represent and where they come from, to God they are just noise!

Now, since God says in Malachi 3:6, “I am the Lord, I do not change,” and emphasizes in Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever,” we have to ask, “Has God now changed His mind about such things?” If Jesus appeared today, would He okay our worshipping on a holiday borrowed from pagan religions that idolized the sun, moon and rocks? Because someone mixed it into religion and called it “Christian,” does that mean God sanctioned it?

It is the thought that counts—but what does God think?

But if my heart’s right …

You also heard from a defense witness who reasoned, “I know Christmas’ origins are wrong, but I know in my heart why I go to church at Christmas—it’s to honor Jesus—and I believe it’s what’s in my heart that counts!”

Absolutely—the heart does count! That’s big on God’s list of qualities! But don’t forget what Jesus said about the heart in Mark 7:6-9: “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men.” Jesus doesn’t accept just any worship, even if in our heart we think it’s okay.

Notice, too, He said, “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition.”

Christmas offers a prime example of this. Isn’t God the One who said, “Do not lie”? But what is one of the biggest Christmas traditions people cling to? Lying to kids about Santa Claus! How does that honor Jesus, who commands us not to lie! And don’t forget Easter. How do people lie to their kids that rabbits lay eggs, then trot off to church saying it’s all about worshipping God?

Do we really think we can reject doing what God says, instead borrowing religious practices from pagan religions, and think He’ll be happy about it because we say “my heart’s right”?

Tradition does not trump obedience. If our heart’s right, won’t we be striving to worship God “in spirit and in truth,” as Jesus told the Samaritan woman (John 4:24)?

Saying “Lord, Lord” to no avail

You also heard this line of reasoning from the defense: “Yes, everyone knows the bad side of Christmas—the partying, commercialism, indebtedness, greed and so on—but most people have a very merry Christmas. What’s wrong with families enjoying being together with good food, gifts, pretty music and lights, or helping the needy? There’s far more good than bad, and a lot of it involves good Christian acts!”

Well, of course God loves good things and seeing people happy. But do good deeds justify bad actions? Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 7:21-23: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” Who was He addressing? Religious people proudly pointing out all their good deeds!

“Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”

There is more “Lord, Lord” talk at this time of year than any other, but does it impress God when we persist in lawlessness—doing things He tells us not to do?

We say we’re worshipping the baby Jesus, but we’re not doing what the grown-up Jesus told us to do! If people were really serious about doing God’s will, we’d see real “peace on earth” and “goodwill toward men.” We’d see good deeds all the time, not just during a few days when they get in the “Christmas spirit.”

People of truth?

You also heard the defense try to poke a hole in our case by arguing, “The Jesus I know isn’t so radical about something that brings so much fun and enjoyment to everyone, even the fantasy part for the kids.”

Ladies and gentlemen, this one’s simple. Answer this, please: Would you like it if someone told your kids lies about you and got them to believe it? I don’t think so.

So how do you think God feels when He’s being lied about?

This is so important because of where it comes from. Jesus explained one time—in John 8:44—that the devil “is a liar and the father of it.” The people He was addressing were the religious leaders of the day, and He angered them by saying they were of their father the devil. It doesn’t matter who you are—if you lie, or perpetuate a lie, it’s wrong.

If people claim to follow God, isn’t it logical that He expects them to not lie? Aren’t Christians to be people of truth—telling the truth and practicing the truth?

Sad to say, for thousands of years God has seen people lying about Him, even under the guise of claiming to speak for Him.

Long ago God spoke through Ezekiel words that are just as true today: “Her priests have violated My law and profaned My holy things; they have not distinguished between the holy and unholy, nor have they made known the difference between the unclean and the clean; and they have hidden their eyes from My Sabbaths, so that I am profaned among them. … Her prophets plastered them with untempered mortar, seeing false visions, and divining lies for them, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord God,’ when the Lord had not spoken.” That’s Ezekiel 22:26 and 28.

Putting words in God’s mouth is just a bit presumptuous, wouldn’t you say?

What’s really on trial?

So, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, let me ask you again: Given the weight of evidence, both factual and circumstantial, if Jesus were here today, do you think He would attend Christmas Eve services, or exchange gifts around the Christmas tree? Would He have a “Put Christ back into Christmas” bumper sticker—or would He say He was never in it to begin with?

Would He still stand by His words in Matthew 4:4, that man shall live “by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God”? I ask, can you do that and observe Christmas at the same time?

I rest my case; but as you make your decision, I urge you to remember that it’s not really Christmas that is on trial—we are.

 

Doing What the LORD Commands You Is A Big Deal

Most of us may be tempted to make excuses for Saul in this situation we will read about. We may be tempted to empathize with him. We may say his disobedience was “understandable”. However, we should check ourselves. The LORD says otherwise, and so rather than focus on thinking “God is harsh”, we should know that “God is just” and we should seek to learn from this episode.

Doing what the LORD commands you to do is a big deal, even if you think it will not work. It is a matter of faith in God vs. yourself. Wait on the LORD, even when you may begin to worry that you need to get involved and do it your own way with intent to accomplish what the LORD has called you into.

Another key concept to pay attention to is that the consequences are declared by the LORD through Samuel long before they are enacted in a tangible way in which Saul can see them. Consequences from our Father are not always immediate.

1 Samuel 13

War with the Philistines

      1Saul was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty two years over Israel.

      2Now Saul chose for himself 3,000 men of Israel, of which 2,000 were with Saul in Michmash and in the hill country of Bethel, while 1,000 were with Jonathan at Gibeah of Benjamin. But he sent away the rest of the people, each to his tent. 3Jonathan smote the garrison of the Philistines that was in Geba, and the Philistines heard of it. Then Saul blew the trumpet throughout the land, saying, “Let the Hebrews hear.” 4All Israel heard the news that Saul had smitten the garrison of the Philistines, and also that Israel had become odious to the Philistines. The people were then summoned to Saul at Gilgal.

      5Now the Philistines assembled to fight with Israel, 30,000 chariots and 6,000 horsemen, and people like the sand which is on the seashore in abundance; and they came up and camped in Michmash, east of Beth-aven. 6When the men of Israel saw that they were in a strait (for the people were hard-pressed), then the people hid themselves in caves, in thickets, in cliffs, in cellars, and in pits. 7Also some of the Hebrews crossed the Jordan into the land of Gad and Gilead. But as for Saul, he was still in Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling.

      8Now he waited seven days, according to the appointed time set by Samuel, but Samuel did not come to Gilgal; and the people were scattering from him. 9So Saul said, “Bring to me the burnt offering and the peace offerings.” And he offered the burnt offering. 10As soon as he finished offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him and to greet him. 11But Samuel said, “What have you done?” And Saul said, “Because I saw that the people were scattering from me, and that you did not come within the appointed days, and that the Philistines were assembling at Michmash, 12therefore I said, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not asked the favor of the LORD.’ So I forced myself and offered the burnt offering.” 13Samuel said to Saul, “You have acted foolishly; you have not kept the commandment of the LORD your God, which He commanded you, for now the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. 14“But now your kingdom shall not endure. The LORD has sought out for Himself a man after His own heart, and the LORD has appointed him as ruler over His people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you.”

      15Then Samuel arose and went up from Gilgal to Gibeah of Benjamin. And Saul numbered the people who were present with him, about six hundred men. 16Now Saul and his son Jonathan and the people who were present with them were staying in Geba of Benjamin while the Philistines camped at Michmash. 17And the raiders came from the camp of the Philistines in three companies: one company turned toward Ophrah, to the land of Shual, 18and another company turned toward Beth-horon, and another company turned toward the border which overlooks the valley of Zeboim toward the wilderness.

      19Now no blacksmith could be found in all the land of Israel, for the Philistines said, “Otherwise the Hebrews will make swords or spears.” 20So all Israel went down to the Philistines, each to sharpen his plowshare, his mattock, his axe, and his hoe. 21The charge was two-thirds of a shekel for the plowshares, the mattocks, the forks, and the axes, and to fix the hoes. 22So it came about on the day of battle that neither sword nor spear was found in the hands of any of the people who were with Saul and Jonathan, but they were found with Saul and his son Jonathan. 23And the garrison of the Philistines went out to the pass of Michmash.

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Be Careful What You Ask For, You Might Get It

Sometimes our Father withholds something from us that we ask for and it is a good thing. Sometimes he may give us what we ask for and it is not good. Israel asked for a king. They got one. Samuel makes the case why this was a mistake, but they are stuck with it. They looked at how all the other nations were run and desired to be like them. God’s intent was for them to be special, set apart, his own people. He was to be their king.  Samuel makes it plain… with or without a king, they will do well to obey the LORD and do poorly if they do not.

We do well to remember that we must develop relationship with our Father. Our government can not save us.

1 Samuel 12

Samuel Addresses Israel

     1Then Samuel said to all Israel, “Behold, I have listened to your voice in all that you said to me and I have appointed a king over you. 2“Now, here is the king walking before you, but I am old and gray, and behold my sons are with you. And I have walked before you from my youth even to this day. 3“Here I am; bear witness against me before the LORD and His anointed. Whose ox have I taken, or whose donkey have I taken, or whom have I defrauded? Whom have I oppressed, or from whose hand have I taken a bribe to blind my eyes with it? I will restore it to you.” 4They said, “You have not defrauded us or oppressed us or taken anything from any man’s hand.” 5He said to them, “The LORD is witness against you, and His anointed is witness this day that you have found nothing in my hand.” And they said, “He is witness.”

      6Then Samuel said to the people, “It is the LORD who appointed Moses and Aaron and who brought your fathers up from the land of Egypt. 7“So now, take your stand, that I may plead with you before the LORD concerning all the righteous acts of the LORD which He did for you and your fathers. 8“When Jacob went into Egypt and your fathers cried out to the LORD, then the LORD sent Moses and Aaron who brought your fathers out of Egypt and settled them in this place. 9“But they forgot the LORD their God, so He sold them into the hand of Sisera, captain of the army of Hazor, and into the hand of the Philistines and into the hand of the king of Moab, and they fought against them. 10“They cried out to the LORD and said, ‘We have sinned because we have forsaken the LORD and have served the Baals and the Ashtaroth; but now deliver us from the hands of our enemies, and we will serve You.’ 11“Then the LORD sent Jerubbaal and Bedan and Jephthah and Samuel, and delivered you from the hands of your enemies all around, so that you lived in security.

The King Confirmed

     12“When you saw that Nahash the king of the sons of Ammon came against you, you said to me, ‘No, but a king shall reign over us,’ although the LORD your God was your king. 13“Now therefore, here is the king whom you have chosen, whom you have asked for, and behold, the LORD has set a king over you. 14“If you will fear the LORD and serve Him, and listen to His voice and not rebel against the command of the LORD, then both you and also the king who reigns over you will follow the LORD your God. 15“If you will not listen to the voice of the LORD, but rebel against the command of the LORD, then the hand of the LORD will be against you, as it was against your fathers. 16“Even now, take your stand and see this great thing which the LORD will do before your eyes. 17“Is it not the wheat harvest today? I will call to the LORD, that He may send thunder and rain. Then you will know and see that your wickedness is great which you have done in the sight of the LORD by asking for yourselves a king.” 18So Samuel called to the LORD, and the LORD sent thunder and rain that day; and all the people greatly feared the LORD and Samuel.

      19Then all the people said to Samuel, “Pray for your servants to the LORD your God, so that we may not die, for we have added to all our sins this evil by asking for ourselves a king.” 20Samuel said to the people, “Do not fear. You have committed all this evil, yet do not turn aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart. 21“You must not turn aside, for then you would go after futile things which can not profit or deliver, because they are futile. 22“For the LORD will not abandon His people on account of His great name, because the LORD has been pleased to make you a people for Himself. 23“Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you; but I will instruct you in the good and right way. 24“Only fear the LORD and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you. 25“But if you still do wickedly, both you and your king will be swept away.”

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.