Category Archives: Adultery / Sex Outside Marriage

What Is Mardi Gras and Should Christians Celebrate It?

What is Mardi Gras and why do so many Christians celebrate it? I grew up in a Catholic church and never could quite figure out how people could say that Mardi Gras was a “Christian holiday”. People broadly seemed to have accepted the concept that Christ wants us to embrace wild parties, drunkenness, public nudity, gluttony and other sinful behavior as a precursor to a period of repentance which follows. If it is not obvious enough that celebrating Mardi Gras is not a way to edify, honor, or lift up Christ then try a more academic exercise. Where in scripture did Jesus demonstrate or teach that we should sin greatly before a period of repentance? It’s not there. In fact, the opposite.

The call to repentance is real, but not the call to sin before it.

This does not even begin to touch on the focus that Mardi Gras puts on pagan gods associated with parades and other events.

Matthew 4:17

      17From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Romans 6

      1What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? 2May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? 3Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; 7for he who has died is freed from sin.

      8Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. 10For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

      12Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, 13and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

      15What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! 16Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? 17But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, 18and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. 19I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.

      20For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. 22But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. 23For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

We are called to righteousness and not to sin. How then can those in the church widely accept and embrace sin as a “Christian holiday”? The answer is that we have not followed the Lord’s instructions. He commands us not to learn the ways of the pagans and not to celebrate as they do. But all too often our common cultural holidays have been greatly influenced by pagan celebrations. The church has chosen to accept and blend pagan practices alongside or in place of how the Lord wants us to worship Him.

Mardi Gras is a tradition that dates back thousands of years to pagan celebrations of spring and fertility, including the raucous Roman festivals of Saturnalia and Lupercalia.

When Christianity arrived in Rome, religious leaders decided to incorporate these popular local traditions into the new faith, an easier task than abolishing them altogether. As a result, the excess and debauchery of the Mardi Gras season became a prelude to Lent, the 40 days of fasting and penance between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday.

Along with Christianity, Mardi Gras spread from Rome to other European countries, including France, Germany, Spain and England.

http://www.history.com/topics/holidays/mardi-gras

Deuteronomy 12:1-5

   1“These are the statutes and the judgments which you shall carefully observe in the land which the LORD, the God of your fathers, has given you to possess as long as you live on the earth. 2“You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations whom you shall dispossess serve their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. 3“You shall tear down their altars and smash their sacred pillars and burn their Asherim with fire, and you shall cut down the engraved images of their gods and obliterate their name from that place. 4“You shall not act like this toward the LORD your God. 5“But you shall seek the LORD at the place which the LORD your God will choose from all your tribes, to establish His name there for His dwelling, and there you shall come.

In order to choose to follow the Lord His way, which is the only true way to follow Him, then we must turn away from and reject pagan celebrations which have been blended with or replaced God’s instructions for how we are to worship Him and how we are to live. Let us not make excuses, accepting the lifestyle of the pagans as our own, no matter how long the family traditions have been established. When we start making exceptions, we often end up with things like Mardi Gras… many who claim to be Christian accept it and would defend it… but none can justify it based on scripture or God’s word. It has become part of the culture based on a historical choices and family traditions. Let us seek the Lord and the Lord’s way alone to live submitted to Him. Let us not blend with the ways of the pagans but rather turn back to our Lord wholeheartedly and without hesitation.

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Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? Are you living today filled with the peace and joy of truly knowing and following Jesus Christ? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

 

Neither Be Nor Pursue the Harlot

Proverbs 7

The Wiles of the Harlot

1My son, keep my words
And treasure my commandments within you.

      2Keep my commandments and live,
And my teaching as the apple of your eye.

      3Bind them on your fingers;
Write them on the tablet of your heart.

      4Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,”
And call understanding your intimate friend;

      5That they may keep you from an adulteress,
From the foreigner who flatters with her words.

      6For at the window of my house
I looked out through my lattice,

      7And I saw among the naive,
And discerned among the youths
A young man lacking sense,

      8Passing through the street near her corner;
And he takes the way to her house,

      9In the twilight, in the evening,
In the middle of the night and in the darkness.

      10And behold, a woman comes to meet him,
Dressed as a harlot and cunning of heart.

      11She is boisterous and rebellious,
Her feet do not remain at home;

      12She is now in the streets, now in the squares,
And lurks by every corner.

      13So she seizes him and kisses him
And with a brazen face she says to him:

      14“I was due to offer peace offerings;
Today I have paid my vows.

      15“Therefore I have come out to meet you,
To seek your presence earnestly, and I have found you.

      16“I have spread my couch with coverings,
With colored linens of Egypt.

      17“I have sprinkled my bed
With myrrh, aloes and cinnamon.

      18“Come, let us drink our fill of love until morning;
Let us delight ourselves with caresses.

      19“For my husband is not at home,
He has gone on a long journey;

      20He has taken a bag of money with him,
At the full moon he will come home.”

      21With her many persuasions she entices him;
With her flattering lips she seduces him.

      22Suddenly he follows her
As an ox goes to the slaughter,
Or as one in fetters to the discipline of a fool,

      23Until an arrow pierces through his liver;
As a bird hastens to the snare,
So he does not know that it will cost him his life.

      24Now therefore, my sons, listen to me,
And pay attention to the words of my mouth.

      25Do not let your heart turn aside to her ways,
Do not stray into her paths.

      26For many are the victims she has cast down,
And numerous are all her slain.

      27Her house is the way to Sheol,
Descending to the chambers of death.

Timeless Wisdom

Proverbs contains timeless wisdom we should still be teaching our children. Do not become financially responsible for someone else’s debts. Do not be lazy. Plan ahead for your future. Even the ants do that. Do not speak with perverse mouth or speak wicked things. Do not devise evil or stir up strife. In particular, there is much emphasis on avoiding adultery.

Proverbs 6

     Parental Counsel

     1My son, if you have become surety for your neighbor,
Have given a pledge for a stranger,

2If you have been snared with the words of your mouth,
Have been caught with the words of your mouth,

3Do this then, my son, and deliver yourself;
Since you have come into the hand of your neighbor,
Go, humble yourself, and importune your neighbor.

4Give no sleep to your eyes,
Nor slumber to your eyelids;

5Deliver yourself like a gazelle from the hunter’s hand
And like a bird from the hand of the fowler.

6Go to the ant, O sluggard,
Observe her ways and be wise,

7Which, having no chief,
Officer or ruler,

8Prepares her food in the summer
And gathers her provision in the harvest.

9How long will you lie down, O sluggard?
When will you arise from your sleep?

10“A little sleep, a little slumber,
A little folding of the hands to rest”—

11Your poverty will come in like a vagabond
And your need like an armed man.

12A worthless person, a wicked man,
Is the one who walks with a perverse mouth,

13Who winks with his eyes, who signals with his feet,
Who points with his fingers;

14Who with perversity in his heart continually devises evil,
Who spreads strife.

15Therefore his calamity will come suddenly;
Instantly he will be broken and there will be no healing.

16There are six things which the LORD hates,
Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him:

17Haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
And hands that shed innocent blood,

18A heart that devises wicked plans,
Feet that run rapidly to evil,

19A false witness who utters lies,
And one who spreads strife among brothers.

20My son, observe the commandment of your father
And do not forsake the teaching of your mother;

21Bind them continually on your heart;
Tie them around your neck.

22When you walk about, they will guide you;
When you sleep, they will watch over you;
And when you awake, they will talk to you.

23For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching is light;
And reproofs for discipline are the way of life

24To keep you from the evil woman,
From the smooth tongue of the adulteress.

25Do not desire her beauty in your heart,
Nor let her capture you with her eyelids.

26For on account of a harlot one is reduced to a loaf of bread,
And an adulteress hunts for the precious life.

27Can a man take fire in his bosom
And his clothes not be burned?

28Or can a man walk on hot coals
And his feet not be scorched?

29So is the one who goes in to his neighbor’s wife;
Whoever touches her will not go unpunished.

30Men do not despise a thief if he steals
To satisfy himself when he is hungry;

31But when he is found, he must repay sevenfold;
He must give all the substance of his house.

32The one who commits adultery with a woman is lacking sense;
He who would destroy himself does it.

33Wounds and disgrace he will find,
And his reproach will not be blotted out.

34For jealousy enrages a man,
And he will not spare in the day of vengeance.

35He will not accept any ransom,
Nor will he be satisfied though you give many gifts.

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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.

Avoid the Pitfalls of Immorality; Rejoice in the Wife of Your Youth

Sexual immorality is a trap. It promises pleasure and delivers bitter and destructive impact. Sex is to be enjoyed and pleasurable, but it is only intended for a man and his wife. It is not really very complicated, but many fall prey to the trap of seduction and are drawn into destructive immorality.

Proverbs 5

Pitfalls of Immorality

1My son, give attention to my wisdom,
Incline your ear to my understanding;

      2That you may observe discretion
And your lips may reserve knowledge.

      3For the lips of an adulteress drip honey
And smoother than oil is her speech;

      4But in the end she is bitter as wormwood,
Sharp as a two-edged sword.

      5Her feet go down to death,
Her steps take hold of Sheol.

      6She does not ponder the path of life;
Her ways are unstable, she does not know it.

      7Now then, my sons, listen to me
And do not depart from the words of my mouth.

      8Keep your way far from her
And do not go near the door of her house,

      9Or you will give your vigor to others
And your years to the cruel one;

      10And strangers will be filled with your strength
And your hard-earned goods will go to the house of an alien;

      11And you groan at your final end,
When your flesh and your body are consumed;

      12And you say, “How I have hated instruction!
And my heart spurned reproof!

      13“I have not listened to the voice of my teachers,
Nor inclined my ear to my instructors!

      14“I was almost in utter ruin
In the midst of the assembly and congregation.”

      15Drink water from your own cistern
And fresh water from your own well.

      16Should your springs be dispersed abroad,
Streams of water in the streets?

      17Let them be yours alone
And not for strangers with you.

      18Let your fountain be blessed,
And rejoice in the wife of your youth.

      19As a loving hind and a graceful doe,
Let her breasts satisfy you at all times;
Be exhilarated always with her love.

      20For why should you, my son, be exhilarated with an adulteress
And embrace the bosom of a foreigner?

      21For the ways of a man are before the eyes of the LORD,
And He watches all his paths.

      22His own iniquities will capture the wicked,
And he will be held with the cords of his sin.

      23He will die for lack of instruction,
And in the greatness of his folly he will go astray.

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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.

Hold Fast to the Name of Yeshua and Repent from Following False Teaching

 

In the letters to the seven churches, Yeshua continues to identify Himself as the “One who has the sharp two-edged sword”, which represents the word of YHWH. It is against the word of YHWH that we are judged and encouraged or called to change.

Ephesians 6:17 17Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Hebrews 4:12-13 12For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

We do well to remember it is by the word of YHWH and not by the opinions of men that we are ultimately judged, and remember that not everyone who claims to teach the true word of YHWH is teaching accurately. We are to test it ourselves, not just take a pastor’s word for it.

Revelation 2:12-17

Message to Pergamum

     12“And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write:
The One who has the sharp two-edged sword says this:

      13‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is; and you hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. 14‘But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality. 15‘So you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16‘Therefore repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth. 17‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.’

Pergamum must have been dealing with some serious sin to say it is where Satan’s throne is. Yeshua recognizes and encourages them for holding fast to His name even when faced with persecution and death. Yeshua then also calls them out that false teaching is amongst the church, calling them to repent and turn away from it. Repenting means to turn around, to change behavior to be more like Yeshua, it is not simply to “feel bad” about something or “say you are sorry”.

We can be sure that false teaching remains today in the church encouraging us to sin and live apart from YHWH’s word and in harmony or compromise with the world’s corrupted view.

To those of us who overcome all these challenges, we are encouraged that we will receive hidden manna and a white stone and a new name. I have not studied the symbolism here, but manna is how YHWH provided for His people in the wilderness after the exodus. It is not a stretch to say it represents YHWH’s provision for His people. White represents sin having been cleansed and forgiven. The new name seems to suggest a new beginning, whether in this life or after death. I am sure you can study further and get more thoughts or studied opinions on this symbolism and I would encourage you to do so. If you do, test more than one source to get some diversity of opinion. As we are warned in today’s scripture, there is much false teaching. We must test it for truth and reject what is false.

Let us also not overlook there are negative consequences if we refuse to repent. Yeshua mentions coming quickly to make war against them if they do not repent. Keep in mind, these are people “in the church body” who are teaching false doctrine. They are not just the pagans who happen to live there. There is a mixing and mingling of good and bad that is offensive to YHWH. All too often today, Christians seem to act and teach that Yeshua will not come in judgment against those who are not living in obedience. However, scripture indicates otherwise here (and elsewhere).

I would summarize by saying we are called to hold fast to the name of Yeshua through persecution unto death, and to study, discern, and root out false teaching to ensure we are not following man’s mixed and mingled ways (good mixed with bad).

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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.

Do Not Put Your Children In Higher Priority Than YHWH

1 Samuel 2 is filled with significance. We began 1 Samuel with Hannah praising YHWH for giving her a son as she follows through to dedicate him to the LORD’s service at the temple. Through strong faith she was joyful and trusting in the LORD’s plans for Samuel. She still came to him and provided him new clothes annually and she was blessed with quite a few additional children.

In contrast, we see Eli’s sons committing rebellious and deeply offensive acts before YHWH. Eli rebukes, somewhat lightly, and does not really deal with the situation. At that point, the LORD determines that he is no at fault as well as his sons for not resolving the situation. As the Creator puts it, Eli has put his corrupt sons above YHWH himself. We can read then the repercussions of this in the chapter. They are significant. Though Eli rebuked his sons, he was light and did not stop the offensive behavior. It was not enough. In the end, he did not do his sons any favors either. They would have done better with more consequences from Eli and perhaps had more likelihood to repent.

If there is one message to take from this chapter, and there are actually a handful, let us remember that we are to hold YHWH in higher regard and priority than our children. Of course, we also see the LORD will discipline those of his people who rebel openly against him and defile his name. We do not always see the discipline or identify it as discipline, but all of us face judgment ultimately before him. Many of us also face consequences in our lives as a result of sin and we may not even connect that the sin is the cause. Let us be humble before the LORD, ask him to show us our sin and to help us repent from it.

1 Samuel 2:12-36

The Sin of Eli’s Sons

      12Now the sons of Eli were worthless men; they did not know the LORD 13and the custom of the priests with the people. When any man was offering a sacrifice, the priest’s servant would come while the meat was boiling, with a three-pronged fork in his hand. 14Then he would thrust it into the pan, or kettle, or caldron, or pot; all that the fork brought up the priest would take for himself. Thus they did in Shiloh to all the Israelites who came there. 15Also, before they burned the fat, the priest’s servant would come and say to the man who was sacrificing, “Give the priest meat for roasting, as he will not take boiled meat from you, only raw.” 16If the man said to him, “They must surely burn the fat first, and then take as much as you desire,” then he would say, “No, but you shall give it to me now; and if not, I will take it by force.” 17Thus the sin of the young men was very great before the LORD, for the men despised the offering of the LORD.

Samuel before the LORD as a Boy

      18Now Samuel was ministering before the LORD, as a boy wearing a linen ephod. 19And his mother would make him a little robe and bring it to him from year to year when she would come up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice. 20Then Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife and say, “May the LORD give you children from this woman in place of the one she dedicated to the LORD.” And they went to their own home.

      21The LORD visited Hannah; and she conceived and gave birth to three sons and two daughters. And the boy Samuel grew before the LORD.

Eli Rebukes His Sons

      22Now Eli was very old; and he heard all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who served at the doorway of the tent of meeting. 23He said to them, “Why do you do such things, the evil things that I hear from all these people? 24“No, my sons; for the report is not good which I hear the LORD’S people circulating. 25“If one man sins against another, God will mediate for him; but if a man sins against the LORD, who can intercede for him?” But they would not listen to the voice of their father, for the LORD desired to put them to death.

      26Now the boy Samuel was growing in stature and in favor both with the LORD and with men.

      27Then a man of God came to Eli and said to him, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Did I not indeed reveal Myself to the house of your father when they were in Egypt in bondage to Pharaoh’s house? 28‘Did I not choose them from all the tribes of Israel to be My priests, to go up to My altar, to burn incense, to carry an ephod before Me; and did I not give to the house of your father all the fire offerings of the sons of Israel? 29‘Why do you kick at My sacrifice and at My offering which I have commanded in My dwelling, and honor your sons above Me, by making yourselves fat with the choicest of every offering of My people Israel?’ 30“Therefore the LORD God of Israel declares, ‘I did indeed say that your house and the house of your father should walk before Me forever’; but now the LORD declares, ‘Far be it from Me—for those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me will be lightly esteemed. 31‘Behold, the days are coming when I will break your strength and the strength of your father’s house so that there will not be an old man in your house. 32‘You will see the distress of My dwelling, in spite of all the good that I do for Israel; and an old man will not be in your house forever. 33‘Yet I will not cut off every man of yours from My altar so that your eyes will fail from weeping and your soul grieve, and all the increase of your house will die in the prime of life. 34‘This will be the sign to you which will come concerning your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas: on the same day both of them will die. 35‘But I will raise up for Myself a faithful priest who will do according to what is in My heart and in My soul; and I will build him an enduring house, and he will walk before My anointed always. 36‘Everyone who is left in your house will come and bow down to him for a piece of silver or a loaf of bread and say, “Please assign me to one of the priest’s offices so that I may eat a piece of bread.”’”

When There Was no King In Israel…

We previously explored the language in Judges 17 and 18 about there being no king in Israel. It was associated with idolatry, even amongst a priest, and lawlessness. In Judges 19 we again see this emphasized as we read a story of great lawlessness and conflict, with each man doing what he feels is right in his own eyes.

Many questions could be asked… such as, “Why does a Levite have a concubine?” or “Why did he tolerate her playing a harlot and pursue her?” How about “Why did her father make it so difficult for them to return safely home by constantly imposing on them to stay?”How about “Why was so much wickedness accepted within the tribe of Benjamin?”

We will see more in chapter 20, but for today, just try to absorb and reflect on the lawlessness that takes place when there is no clear government in place to lead or constrain the people. People tend to degrade to doing whatever they feel like that they can get away with. It is a good reminder that human nature is sinful and selfish and not at all righteous and good. Righteousness and goodness come through YHWH and his transforming us to be more like him.

Judges 19

A Levite’s Concubine Degraded

      1Now it came about in those days, when there was no king in Israel, that there was a certain Levite staying in the remote part of the hill country of Ephraim, who took a concubine for himself from Bethlehem in Judah. 2But his concubine played the harlot against him, and she went away from him to her father’s house in Bethlehem in Judah, and was there for a period of four months. 3Then her husband arose and went after her to speak tenderly to her in order to bring her back, taking with him his servant and a pair of donkeys. So she brought him into her father’s house, and when the girl’s father saw him, he was glad to meet him. 4His father-in-law, the girl’s father, detained him; and he remained with him three days. So they ate and drank and lodged there. 5Now on the fourth day they got up early in the morning, and he prepared to go; and the girl’s father said to his son-in-law, “Sustain yourself with a piece of bread, and afterward you may go.” 6So both of them sat down and ate and drank together; and the girl’s father said to the man, “Please be willing to spend the night, and let your heart be merry.” 7Then the man arose to go, but his father-in-law urged him so that he spent the night there again. 8On the fifth day he arose to go early in the morning, and the girl’s father said, “Please sustain yourself, and wait until afternoon”; so both of them ate. 9When the man arose to go along with his concubine and servant, his father-in-law, the girl’s father, said to him, “Behold now, the day has drawn to a close; please spend the night. Lo, the day is coming to an end; spend the night here that your heart may be merry. Then tomorrow you may arise early for your journey so that you may go home.”

      10But the man was not willing to spend the night, so he arose and departed and came to a place opposite Jebus (that is, Jerusalem). And there were with him a pair of saddled donkeys; his concubine also was with him. 11When they were near Jebus, the day was almost gone; and the servant said to his master, “Please come, and let us turn aside into this city of the Jebusites and spend the night in it.” 12However, his master said to him, “We will not turn aside into the city of foreigners who are not of the sons of Israel; but we will go on as far as Gibeah.” 13He said to his servant, “Come and let us approach one of these places; and we will spend the night in Gibeah or Ramah.” 14So they passed along and went their way, and the sun set on them near Gibeah which belongs to Benjamin. 15They turned aside there in order to enter and lodge in Gibeah. When they entered, they sat down in the open square of the city, for no one took them into his house to spend the night.

      16Then behold, an old man was coming out of the field from his work at evening. Now the man was from the hill country of Ephraim, and he was staying in Gibeah, but the men of the place were Benjamites. 17And he lifted up his eyes and saw the traveler in the open square of the city; and the old man said, “Where are you going, and where do you come from?” 18He said to him, “We are passing from Bethlehem in Judah to the remote part of the hill country of Ephraim, for I am from there, and I went to Bethlehem in Judah. But I am now going to my house, and no man will take me into his house. 19“Yet there is both straw and fodder for our donkeys, and also bread and wine for me, your maidservant, and the young man who is with your servants; there is no lack of anything.” 20The old man said, “Peace to you. Only let me take care of all your needs; however, do not spend the night in the open square.” 21So he took him into his house and gave the donkeys fodder, and they washed their feet and ate and drank.

      22While they were celebrating, behold, the men of the city, certain worthless fellows, surrounded the house, pounding the door; and they spoke to the owner of the house, the old man, saying, “Bring out the man who came into your house that we may have relations with him.” 23Then the man, the owner of the house, went out to them and said to them, “No, my fellows, please do not act so wickedly; since this man has come into my house, do not commit this act of folly. 24“Here is my virgin daughter and his concubine. Please let me bring them out that you may ravish them and do to them whatever you wish. But do not commit such an act of folly against this man.” 25But the men would not listen to him. So the man seized his concubine and brought her out to them; and they raped her and abused her all night until morning, then let her go at the approach of dawn. 26As the day began to dawn, the woman came and fell down at the doorway of the man’s house where her master was, until full daylight.

      27When her master arose in the morning and opened the doors of the house and went out to go on his way, then behold, his concubine was lying at the doorway of the house with her hands on the threshold. 28He said to her, “Get up and let us go,” but there was no answer. Then he placed her on the donkey; and the man arose and went to his home. 29When he entered his house, he took a knife and laid hold of his concubine and cut her in twelve pieces, limb by limb, and sent her throughout the territory of Israel. 30All who saw it said, “Nothing like this has ever happened or been seen from the day when the sons of Israel came up from the land of Egypt to this day. Consider it, take counsel and speak up!”

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Samson’s Repeated Poor Judgement Brings Him Down

Samson clearly disregarded much of YHWH’s instructions and did things his own way. YHWH used him as he was “seeking an occasion against the Philistines” (Judges 14:4). We should take care not to assume YHWH approves of all the things which Samson did. We have previously covered some of his prior poor decisions and now in Judges 16 we see again his arrogance and poor judgment when it comes to dealing with Philistine women, including spending time with a harlot). He had every opportunity to see that Delilah was going to betray him, and ignored it. He knew he should not tell her, but eventually caved to stop the whining. He already faced a similar situation previously with his Philistine wife and he apparently did not learn from it.

We see now in chapter 16 that Samson, despite his great strength given to him by YHWH has put himself in a position to be defeated and humiliated.

Judges 16:1-21

Samson’s Weakness

      1Now Samson went to Gaza and saw a harlot there, and went in to her. 2When it was told to the Gazites, saying, “Samson has come here,” they surrounded the place and lay in wait for him all night at the gate of the city. And they kept silent all night, saying, “Let us wait until the morning light, then we will kill him.” 3Now Samson lay until midnight, and at midnight he arose and took hold of the doors of the city gate and the two posts and pulled them up along with the bars; then he put them on his shoulders and carried them up to the top of the mountain which is opposite Hebron.

      4After this it came about that he loved a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. 5The lords of the Philistines came up to her and said to her, “Entice him, and see where his great strength lies and how we may overpower him that we may bind him to afflict him. Then we will each give you eleven hundred pieces of silver.” 6So Delilah said to Samson, “Please tell me where your great strength is and how you may be bound to afflict you.” 7Samson said to her, “If they bind me with seven fresh cords that have not been dried, then I will become weak and be like any other man.” 8Then the lords of the Philistines brought up to her seven fresh cords that had not been dried, and she bound him with them. 9Now she had men lying in wait in an inner room. And she said to him, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” But he snapped the cords as a string of tow snaps when it touches fire. So his strength was not discovered.

      10Then Delilah said to Samson, “Behold, you have deceived me and told me lies; now please tell me how you may be bound.” 11He said to her, “If they bind me tightly with new ropes which have not been used, then I will become weak and be like any other man.” 12So Delilah took new ropes and bound him with them and said to him, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” For the men were lying in wait in the inner room. But he snapped the ropes from his arms like a thread.

      13Then Delilah said to Samson, “Up to now you have deceived me and told me lies; tell me how you may be bound.” And he said to her, “If you weave the seven locks of my hair with the web [and fasten it with a pin, then I will become weak and be like any other man.” 14So while he slept, Delilah took the seven locks of his hair and wove them into the web]. And she fastened it with the pin and said to him, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” But he awoke from his sleep and pulled out the pin of the loom and the web.

Delilah Extracts His Secret

      15Then she said to him, “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when your heart is not with me? You have deceived me these three times and have not told me where your great strength is.” 16It came about when she pressed him daily with her words and urged him, that his soul was annoyed to death. 17So he told her all that was in his heart and said to her, “A razor has never come on my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother’s womb. If I am shaved, then my strength will leave me and I will become weak and be like any other man.”

      18When Delilah saw that he had told her all that was in his heart, she sent and called the lords of the Philistines, saying, “Come up once more, for he has told me all that is in his heart.” Then the lords of the Philistines came up to her and brought the money in their hands. 19She made him sleep on her knees, and called for a man and had him shave off the seven locks of his hair. Then she began to afflict him, and his strength left him. 20She said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” And he awoke from his sleep and said, “I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the LORD had departed from him. 21Then the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes; and they brought him down to Gaza and bound him with bronze chains, and he was a grinder in the prison.

Reflect on the poor choices that Samson made and the consequences he faced as a result. Despite great advantage given by YHWH, he managed to bring himself to ruin. Let us seek to be wise and use the gifts that YHWH gives us to his glory and not just to our own selfish purposes. There is so much more we can learn from studying Samson than just God gave him strength and he killed a lot of Philistines. Sadly, much of what we can learn is related to what we should not do.

Perhaps one simple summary would be that if YHWH puts an anointing on you with some great gift(s), do not think you can rely on that alone and ignore YHWH himself and his instructions.

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The LORD Is My Helper; I Will Not Be Afraid

Good reminders and areas for reflection in the closing of Hebrews.

Hebrews 13

The Changeless Christ

      1Let love of the brethren continue. 2Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. 3Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body. 4Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge. 5Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU,”

6so that we confidently say,
“THE LORD IS MY HELPER, I WILL NOT BE AFRAID.
WHAT WILL MAN DO TO ME?”

      7Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. 8Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. 9Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, through which those who were so occupied were not benefited. 10We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat. 11For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy place by the high priest as an offering for sin, are burned outside the camp. 12Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate. 13So, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach. 14For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come.

God-pleasing Sacrifices

      15Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. 16And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

      17Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.

      18Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a good conscience, desiring to conduct ourselves honorably in all things. 19And I urge you all the more to do this, so that I may be restored to you the sooner.

Benediction

      20Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, 21equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

      22But I urge you, brethren, bear with this word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly. 23Take notice that our brother Timothy has been released, with whom, if he comes soon, I will see you. 24Greet all of your leaders and all the saints. Those from Italy greet you.

      25Grace be with you all.

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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.

What Is Mardi Gras and Should Christians Celebrate It?

What is Mardi Gras and why do so many Christians celebrate it? I grew up in a Catholic church and never could quite figure out how people could say that Mardi Gras was a “Christian holiday”. People broadly seemed to have accepted the concept that Christ wants us to embrace wild parties, drunkenness, public nudity, gluttony and other sinful behavior as a precursor to a period of repentance which follows. If it is not obvious enough that celebrating Mardi Gras is not a way to edify, honor, or lift up Christ then try a more academic exercise. Where in scripture did Jesus demonstrate or teach that we should sin greatly before a period of repentance? It’s not there. In fact, the opposite.

The call to repentance is real, but not the call to sin before it.

This does not even begin to touch on the focus that Mardi Gras puts on pagan gods associated with parades and other events.

Matthew 4:17

      17From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Romans 6

      1What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? 2May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? 3Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; 7for he who has died is freed from sin.

      8Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. 10For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

      12Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, 13and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

      15What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! 16Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? 17But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, 18and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. 19I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.

      20For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. 22But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. 23For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

We are called to righteousness and not to sin. How then can those in the church widely accept and embrace sin as a “Christian holiday”? The answer is that we have not followed the Lord’s instructions. He commands us not to learn the ways of the pagans and not to celebrate as they do. But all too often our common cultural holidays have been greatly influenced by pagan celebrations. The church has chosen to accept and blend pagan practices alongside or in place of how the Lord wants us to worship Him.

Mardi Gras is a tradition that dates back thousands of years to pagan celebrations of spring and fertility, including the raucous Roman festivals of Saturnalia and Lupercalia.

When Christianity arrived in Rome, religious leaders decided to incorporate these popular local traditions into the new faith, an easier task than abolishing them altogether. As a result, the excess and debauchery of the Mardi Gras season became a prelude to Lent, the 40 days of fasting and penance between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday.

Along with Christianity, Mardi Gras spread from Rome to other European countries, including France, Germany, Spain and England.

http://www.history.com/topics/holidays/mardi-gras

Deuteronomy 12:1-5

   1“These are the statutes and the judgments which you shall carefully observe in the land which the LORD, the God of your fathers, has given you to possess as long as you live on the earth. 2“You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations whom you shall dispossess serve their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. 3“You shall tear down their altars and smash their sacred pillars and burn their Asherim with fire, and you shall cut down the engraved images of their gods and obliterate their name from that place. 4“You shall not act like this toward the LORD your God. 5“But you shall seek the LORD at the place which the LORD your God will choose from all your tribes, to establish His name there for His dwelling, and there you shall come.

In order to choose to follow the Lord His way, which is the only true way to follow Him, then we must turn away from and reject pagan celebrations which have been blended with or replaced God’s instructions for how we are to worship Him and how we are to live. Let us not make excuses, accepting the lifestyle of the pagans as our own, no matter how long the family traditions have been established. When we start making exceptions, we often end up with things like Mardi Gras… many who claim to be Christian accept it and would defend it… but none can justify it based on scripture or God’s word. It has become part of the culture based on a historical choices and family traditions. Let us seek the Lord and the Lord’s way alone to live submitted to Him. Let us not blend with the ways of the pagans but rather turn back to our Lord wholeheartedly and without hesitation.

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