Category Archives: Traditions / Holidays

Don’t Be An April Fool

A lot of people start thinking about fooling people as a way of recognizing “April Fool’s Day”. Some find this fun and some do not. I think it provides an opportunity for us to reflect on what God says about being a fool and test ourselves to make sure we are not a fool in His eyes, in April or any other time.
The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds;
There is no one who does good.
7The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;
Fools despise wisdom and instruction.
      13On the lips of the discerning, wisdom is found,
But a rod is for the back of him who lacks understanding.      14Wise men store up knowledge,
But with the mouth of the foolish, ruin is at hand.
    1The wise woman builds her house,

But the foolish tears it down with her own hands.

2He who walks in his uprightness fears the LORD,
But he who is devious in his ways despises Him.

3In the mouth of the foolish is a rod for his back,
But the lips of the wise will protect them.

Proverbs 14:15-18

15The naive believes everything, But the sensible man considers his steps.

16A wise man is cautious and turns away from evil, But a fool is arrogant and careless.

17A quick-tempered man acts foolishly, And a man of evil devices is hated.

18The naive inherit foolishness,
But the sensible are crowned with knowledge.

Proverbs 18:2

2A fool does not delight in understanding, But only in revealing his own mind.

Proverbs 20:3

3Keeping away from strife is an honor for a man, But any fool will quarrel.

Proverbs 20:5

5A plan in the heart of a man is like deep water, But a man of understanding draws it out.

Proverbs 29:11

11A fool always loses his temper, But a wise man holds it back.

Ecclesiastes 4:5

5The fool folds his hands and consumes his own flesh.

Ecclesiastes 7:9

9Do not be eager in your heart to be angry, For anger resides in the bosom of fools.

Titus 3:3-11

1Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, 2to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men. 3For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. 4But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 5He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 8This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men. 9But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. 10Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, 11knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned.

There is much in the Bible to help us understand how to be wise and avoid being foolish. Let us seek not to be fools, no matter what month it is!
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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.

Learn About YHWH’s Appointed Times

As we enter Spring, and the season leading to Passover approaches, I invite each of you to take some time and study the Lord’s appointed times. I have found that studying and participating in these has been very fulfilling and helped to draw me nearer to the Lord and more focused on him. I hope it blesses you as well.

“The Lord’s appointed times are festivals and holy days that commemorate significant times and events in Israel’s history. I had the unique privilege of attending Beth Hallel, a Messianic Jewish congregation, from 1988 through 1994. During these six years I joined with my Messianic Jewish friends in celebrating these holidays. They were a rich experience. In the fall of 1992, I was teaching through the Book of Revelation. As I heard the shofars blowing in the synagogue, I began thinking of the seven trumpet judgments. I asked myself what the association might be between these shofars and the trumpets in Revelation. This paper, in part, is what I discovered.
How do you learn best? Do you prefer to hear a lecture or read a book? Do you get more out of a documentary movie or studying the printed page? Can you learn about something abstractly, or do you need hands-on experience? As with many other things, the Lord has given each of us different learning styles. Therefore, it should not surprise us that the Lord communicates His truth in diverse ways. This is, at its core, what Leviticus 23 and related scriptures have to tell us. We not only have His written word, but we have commemorative holy days to transmit truth to the young and the old, the literate and the illiterate alike. The holy days tell and show the great truths of God’s salvation, His love, and His plans. They contain things to hear, see, taste, build, and do, and they appeal to everybody. They are “holy days,” but that really means that they are holidays.
The celebrations are fun, mostly, but they also teach us about eternal things. From a New Testament perspective, these holidays take on a meaning much richer than the Old Testament saints could have dreamed of. As Paul wrote to the Colossian church:
Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day—things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ (Colossians 2:16-17).
These holidays look back, in time, to miracles that God performed for the world and for the Israelites. They also look forward, in time, to the work of Jesus Christ. Occurring during the spring and fall harvests, they speak of God’s continuous provisions. Together they promise God’s eternal care for His people.
This paper tells the story of these events on three levels. The first level discusses how the holidays have been celebrated through the centuries. The second level discusses the sensory elements and how they teach the truth in non-verbal ways. The third level discusses how Jesus Christ fulfilled or will fulfill the substance of each celebration. “

This message was preached by Don Curtis.

Learn more about the appointed times at Bible.org Leviticus 23. 

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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.

Should A Christian Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?

St. Patrick’s day, like so many celebrations in our culture today, has a blend of Christian roots and pagan traditions all mixed together.

Starting with the name, we should consider St. Patrick. Put aside for a moment the Catholic church’s definition of “saint” and the discussion about it’s inconsistency with the Biblical use of the term saint. By all accounts, Patrick was a missionary to Ireland for Christ who had great impact. He overcame great adversity in His life by turning toward the Lord instead of away from Him during trials and difficulty. St. Patrick’s day is celebrated annually to commemorate Patrick on the anniversary of his death.

To this end it would seem there are some aspects of this holiday that one could certainly focus on that have some merit. However, reflect broadly on how the holiday is actually celebrated. What are the symbols you think of most about St. Patrick’s day today? pinching someone if they are not wearing green, dying a lake green, dying beer green, leprechauns, gold at the end of the rainbow, shamrocks for “luck”? How about the big parade? None of these are Christian in any way or point to Christ or to Patrick’s missionary work. Once again, cultural populism and pagan traditions have overshadowed by far a holiday which men have tried to establish to celebrate God’s work. This is quite common in particular with holidays established by the Catholic church as they have a pattern of allowing pagan traditions into the Christian celebrations to help encourage non believers to participate. With a little easy research this is obvious not only from St. Patrick’s day but also Valentine’s day and especially Christmas and Easter.

God does not want us to worship or celebrate the way the pagans do. If you want to recognize or “celebrate” St. Patrick’s day in a way that honors Christ and our relationship with Him, then I suggest making sure you focus on the missionary work of Patrick and God’s work through Him to reach a lost people and deliberately fade the other traditions to the background.

As always, pray for the Spirit to lead you and then expect His answer and listen for it. And ask yourself in all you do… does this honor Christ or distract from His message?

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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.

 

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.

 

Passover Holds A Place Of Significance In The LORD Eyes

When the LORD led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, He marked the time with miracles, a celebration of Passover, and after they left Egypt, circumcision as a sign of the covenant. Now in Joshua chapter 5, we see some similar emphasis from the LORD. He parts the Jordan river, He Joshua to lead the people in circumcision as a sign of their covenant with YHWH, and again we see Passover as prominent in the timing. It is very appropriate. What a good time to remember being set free from slavery in Egypt… when you are being set free from wandering in the wilderness and finally ready to enter the promised land. Passover was also a foreshadowing of YHWH’s people being set free from slavery to sin by the death and resurrection of Messiah. It is rich with purpose.

All this and an angel comes to bring an important message to Joshua around this same time.

Joshua 5:8-15

     8Now when they had finished circumcising all the nation, they remained in their places in the camp until they were healed. 9Then the LORD said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.” So the name of that place is called Gilgal to this day.

    10While the sons of Israel camped at Gilgal they observed the Passover on the evening of the fourteenth day of the month on the desert plains of Jericho. 11On the day after the Passover, on that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. 12The manna ceased on the day after they had eaten some of the produce of the land, so that the sons of Israel no longer had manna, but they ate some of the yield of the land of Canaan during that year.

      13Now it came about when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand, and Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us or for our adversaries?” 14He said, “No; rather I indeed come now as captain of the host of the LORD.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and bowed down, and said to him, “What has my lord to say to his servant?” 15The captain of the LORD’S host said to Joshua, “Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.

The Moedim, or appointed times, play an important role in YHWH’s relationship with His people. They were designed by YHWH with the intent to help teach future generations of His people about their relationship with Him. When we learn about them and celebrate them, we are in essence learning about and celebrating our relationship with our Creator according to holy days He designed, rather than those created by men.

To learn more:

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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 Love?

What is love? This is a very old question with many answers. Context is important. We may “love pizza”, but that is different than when we say we “love our spouse”. Today, the world even steals the word “love” as a replacement for “sex”, which is completely incorrect. These are certainly not the same meaning. Greek, the language in which the New Testament was largely written, had multiple different words for different types of love. In English, we have one word and we must therefore pay close attention to context.

Many put a lot of time and focus into the highly marketed cultural holiday of Valentines Day. Candy makers will tell you that you must buy chocolates to show you love your spouse. Greeting card makers insist you must “care to send the very best” and thus spend $5 or more on a card, and send one to everyone you know. Flowers are a must, right? But now they even sell gold dipped flowers. Wow. Of course, not to be outdone, Jewelers insist that you are a buffoon if you don’t buy diamonds for that special someone in your life. We do well to remember that this is marketing intended to sell things and get our money. This is not how God tells us to show love to one another.

God calls us to show love to one another daily, not once a year, or on a few annual special occasions!

1 Corinthians 13

The Excellence of Love

      1If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

      4Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

      8Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part; 10but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. 11When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. 12For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. 13But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

If you want to give a gift, and it is wisely within your budget to do so, go ahead. But don’t do so because you “have to” or are “expected to”. These gifts mean little and will ultimately have a very limited impact if you do not show love the way God tells us to. Often times just giving gifts on designated marketing holidays comes to be expected and not appreciated as much. If you choose to give an expensive gift, don’t do it because it is Valentines Day, do so because you want to give a gift and can wisely afford it within your budget. Consider intentionally giving it at some other time besides the widely marketed holidays for an even greater impact.

Warning… if you come to make changes in how you celebrate these marketing holidays, discuss it openly with your spouse ahead of time! Don’t surprise someone by not giving them something they already expect from years of habit.

When you are ready to truly grow in maturity, turn towards God’s definition of love and begin showing it today to those you love. No warning necessary. They will greatly appreciate how you treat them. However, you may consider sharing the scripture with your spouse and helping one another as you both make the effort to shift focus from the world’s definition of love to God’s.

You can also ask yourself, if I am celebrating love, would it not be right to celebrate loving God as well as loving one another? And to come in thanksgiving to Him for all the love He has shown, shows, and will show us? If we are to focus on love in the Biblical sense, Valentines Day just does not match up very well at all. If you explore the origins of this celebration you will find that once again the Catholic church embraced this festival, but it was based first on a pagan celebration. As followers of Christ, we are better off separating from these pagan festivals and loving one another His way instead of man’s way.

World Religion News: Pagan origin of Valentines day

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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.

Do We Compete To Win For Christ?

As the Super Bowl draws near and the national championship for college football has recently completed, it is an interesting time to reflect on what effort and dedication it takes to compete in such a way as to win. Beyond this, it is also a good time to reflect on what we choose to prepare and compete for.

Throughout the world, people enter competitions of all kinds.. sports, crafts, baking, writing… even hot-dog-eating contests. Yes, really. People enthusiastically compete to eat the most hot dogs in a few minutes. No matter what the contest is, those who win had to work hard and dedicate themselves to the competition in order to compete well and win.

Much glory is given to those who win and win consistently. Athletes in particular are raised up by society as having accomplished something meaningful when they compete at a high level of ability. Inevitably, those who reach the highest levels have devoted much of their time and effort to preparation and training. For example, NFL Super Bowl champions did not sit around watching TV on the couch all year, eating whatever junk food they feel like and practicing once in awhile maybe an hour a week. They were working hard to prepare their minds and bodies all year long. Their pursuit of greatness in a particular field becomes a huge part of their personal identity.

It is much the same way for us to succeed in a life spent truly serving God. I do not mean one in which we just go to church once a week, or occasionally open the Bible or help someone. We must train as the athletes do… train to win! Study consistently the word of God in the Bible, pray daily, apply the word of God to our own lives by changing our wrong behaviors and attitudes… even when others might say we are “good enough”. Those who accept man’s definition of “good enough” will never achieve greatness. We must use the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ and the scriptures in the Bible as the standard for what is good enough. We must work hard and dedicate ourselves to keep moving toward that holy example. Do not settle for being “better than most” because “most” fall far short of the standard God calls us to work toward.

Ask how many champions in this world, at any event, attribute their success to a dedication to “sort of work at something when they have time” and a satisfaction with being “better than most”. I tell you none with this attitude have achieved greatness.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27

  24Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. 25Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; 27but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.

Perhaps you should also consider that if you spent more time, energy, and focus pursuing a great Super Bowl party than you have in seeking God over the same period of time… you may want to reconsider your priorities.

Do not get complacent.  Continue to know, love and serve God forever. Obey His commands. Fear Him instead of man. It is a journey where we never reach the final destination in this life, but it transforms us along the way to become more like Jesus Christ and less like our own selfish nature.

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Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? If you die today, do you know for sure that you would be with God in heaven? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Yeshua Loved His Own Who Were In The World

Our heavenly Father chose Yeshua to die for our sins because He loves us. He wants us to be reconciled to Him, but recognizing our sin separates us from His holy presence, there needed to be payment for our sin to cleanse us.

He chose for Yeshua to die at Passover for good reason also. This was not random. All of our Father’s holy days (Leviticus 23) are set out with intent and clear purpose. They may seem unfamiliar to most Christians today but that is because the Christian church has separated from God’s holy days and created their own set of holidays. Passover is a beautiful celebration. It reminds us of our Father leading His people out of slavery in Egypt and again it reminds us of Yeshua setting us free from slavery to sin through His death on the cross. It is clearly an important holy day to our Father for His people to celebrate.

John 13:1-4

The Lord’s Supper

     1Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. 2During supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him, 3Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, 4got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself.

Yeshua “loved His own who were in the world”. This is not the same as saying He loves everyone, including everyone who rejects Him and lives in disobedience. This is upsetting to hear for many, but it is what the scripture says here. John was obviously making a distinction intentionally with regards to what he was saying.  It is not unique in scripture either. Yeshua says clearly elsewhere that the way is narrow and few find it and that many will say they prophesy in His name or cast out demons but He knows them not. You hardly say to someone that you know them not and tell them to be gone if you love them.

Matthew 7:13-14

      13“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14“For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

Matthew 7:21-23

     21“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22“Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23“And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’

Perhaps one verse that is very much overlooked is Matthew 7:23. He did not say to them “Depart from Me, you who did not claim to follow me.” He says “Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness”… these people did claim to follow Him. They did miracles in His name. However, it appears that many who claim Him do not abide in God’s law and instruction. That is not to say the law saves us. It does not. But if we know Him and love Him, we should seek out His instructions and live by them. Rather than being quick to reject this significant verse and quickly move to a comfortable platitude about the law being obsolete and not saving us, I suggest we all pause and reflect on the words of Yeshua very carefully and test if we perhaps have something to learn and change in our lives.

Yeshua still loves HIs own who are in the world. He willingly died for them. Let us do our best to live for Him. Let us pray the Lord helps us to know, love, and serve Him more fully. Let us never grow complacent in our walk with the Lord so that we assume we understand it all and are living it all without any additional need for change to grow closer to Him. We should be constantly growing in our understanding of His word and adjusting our lives to reflect it.

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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.

Should We Keep The Law and God’s Holy Days? or Are They Obsolete?

If we claim to be disciples (e.g. “learners”) of Yeshua, then we must seek to learn His teachings and follow His example and apply that in our lives. We want to learn from Him. It is important to study the Bible and make determinations or judgments about how we are supposed to live. We must challenge what society or even Christian churches broadly teach against God’s word and our own common sense.

Some people try to say that they don’t follow God’s appointed times (God’s holy days listed in Leviticus 23) and God’s laws because Yeshua did so perfectly. Others make the excuse that God’s appointed times and laws are only for the Jewish people, not for gentiles following Christ.

Both excuses are wrong and keep many people from walking with God fully the way He intends for us to do.

If you wanted to become great at something… say golf. You would look at a great golfer and both listen to what he says as well as study what he does. You would not say, Tiger Woods practiced day and night working on his golf swing… so I don’t have to. You would understand that his actions set an example of the behavior you should model. It is obvious that you would consider mimicking the behavior and following the instructions fully or at least as much as you could in order to become a better golfer. It is the same with Christ. Let us listen to His teaching and mimic His actions as close to the way Christ lived His as possible. (Spoiler alert: Christ was judged perfect in obeying the Law perfectly. Christ observed the appointed times such as Passover even when His life was in danger in doing so. Christ did not celebrate other pagan holidays just because others around Him in society may have done so.)

As for the second excuse, please consider the scriptures below just as sample evidence for consideration. There is much more one could pick from. John 12 is laying out Passover festival. In the beginning of the chapter it lays out how Yeshua is going even though He is being targeted to be killed. It was that important.

Remember Yeshua declared Himself that He pleased God and was obedient to His law John 8: 29, 55 and that one could not find fault in His obedience to the Law of Moses John 8:46.We can also observe His actions and confirm. He was called Rabbi and teacher by Jews. He observed the appointed times. He went and often taught at temple on Sabbath, on Saturday)

In John 12:20-26, we see that even gentiles who had come to follow Yeshua had adapted to the Passover and likely other customs that would have been consistent with Yeshua’s example and teaching.

John 12:20-26

Greeks Seek Jesus

     20Now there were some Greeks among those who were going up to worship at the feast; 21these then came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and began to ask him, saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22Philip came and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip came and told Jesus. 23And Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25“He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. 26“If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.

Remember, Christians are not God’s chosen people. God did not create a new chosen people. The Jewish people are God’s chosen people. Gentiles who come to follow Christ do so by joining Him in the way He taught and lived, according to His customs. We don’t make up our own. It was the Roman Empire, not Yahweh that uprooted the church and separated it from it’s Hebrew roots to create the Catholic church, which has been the root for all Christian churches that have formed since. God’s word says that those who follow Him are grafted in to the vine. There is not a new vine which is planted, disregarding the original one. Yeshua is the vine. He did not change His character, Law, or customs just because some Jews have been removed from the vine and gentiles have been grafted in. He, the vine, has remained constant. He is unchanging.

Romans 11:16-24

16If the first piece of dough is holy, the lump is also; and if the root is holy, the branches are too.

      17But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, 18do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you. 19You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” 20Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; 21for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either. 22Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. 23And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. 24For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree?

If that is still not enough, then perhaps we should ask Yeshua Himself if what He taught and how He lived was no longer the right example, if it should change.

Matthew 5:17-20

      17“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18“For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19“Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

      20“For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

That should be very clear. We should not annul even the least of the commandments until heaven and earth pass away. (Spoiler alert: The earth is still here.)

Let’s ask Him again be sure, this time after He had already died and been resurrected to be sure that did not change the answer.

Matthew 28:18-20

18And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Yeshua confirmed again, after resurrection, that the disciples should continue to teach others to observe all that He commanded. None of His teaching changed because of the death and resurrection. All of the teaching and law was always already consistent with the anticipation of resurrection. Pray and give yourself time to consider this teaching. Ask for God’s help. This is difficult for many because of what the Christian church teaches on this topic is so far from what scripture actually says. We have to decide whom we believe… the inspired word of God, unchanging, compiled as the Bible… or the word of men, which we continue to see changing before our very eyes as Sabbath has “disappeared” in teaching throughout the church over the last decades and even now much of the church now teaches that homosexuality is ok and consistent with God’s teaching. Many other such changes have previously been made in the thousands of years since the early church was separated by the Roman Empire from its Hebrew roots, its Biblical roots. We must look to the unchanging Word of God recorded in the Bible and study its proper context to better understand what God actually instructed for us. We must test everything and hold on to what is consistent with the Bible.

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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.

 

 

Spending and Debt – The Christmas Hangover

Sharing this message originally written by our partnership website, GrowGodsMoney.org.

Christmas is over and many of us are back at work. This is a good time to reflect on how we celebrate Christmas and brace for the credit card bills that are coming our way in January.  A good time to reflect on the last few weeks and look ahead with a plan for next Christmas.

Most people in our culture get drawn into the heavy marketing and traditions of the season which tell us that we should buy many things for everyone we know in order to show them that we love them or even care about them. As a result, they are facing heavy credit card debt from well-intended spending. For those who put it on a credit card and can not pay it off right away they will now also pay high interest until it is paid off, increasing the bill for the season.

It goes well beyond the money alone. Gift exchanging actually becomes a stressful distraction from celebrating Christ at Christmas. It can consume even those with the best intent for one whole month out of every year. It centers gift giving and getting as the important part of celebrating instead of Jesus Christ.

While you are experiencing your Christmas financial hangover, please consider a few alternatives or suggestions for next year.

1- Reduce the number of people for whom you buy gifts.

Buying gifts for everyone you know is not necessary. Instead of buying gifts out of obligation for many with whom you are not close, just make a point to be nice to them all year round. Treat them with kindness and sensitivity and they will know you care for them even if you do not give them a gift. If they only like you when they receive a gift, then they are not really your friend anyway. If you are concerned they will buy for you and you will not have something for them, just have a real conversation with them about managing your expenses and budget responsibly and encourage them not to give something to you. If they are not close enough to you to have this conversation, then why are you even exchanging gifts with them? In some cases, it may be very important to someone close to you to exchange gifts… go ahead if you want to.

2- Reduce how much you spend on each person

Contrary to advertising… you do not need to buy a car, a diamond, gold jewelry, expensive electronics, etc. for people just because it is Christmas. If you don’t show them you love them throughout the year, you will not fool them with an expensive gift in December. For those with whom you want to give or exchange presents, you can set a reasonable budget for each person and then stick to it. This helps you set your overall Christmas budget in a predictable instead of impulsive way.

3- Save up your Christmas budget in advance and avoid credit cards you can not pay back before you have to pay interest.

Once you decide who you will get gifts for and how much to spend, you have a good estimate for your budget planning. Now divide by 11 and start saving it each month starting in January and continuing through November. Inevitably you will still have surprise expenses in December from the season’s activities, so you don’t plan on taking money for gifts from that months budget.

4- You can even consider replacing your current gift exchange traditions with a donation to a charity or family in need… someone you can give to in God’s name with no hope of receiving a gift in return. You will spend less money and honor God more.

5- Simply agree not to exchange presents. Enjoy spending time together without the high expense and extra distraction.

If you find yourself condemning me as “Grinch”… I do not mind. You are not alone, but you are in fact also not correct. If Christmas is all about giving and getting gifts as the centerpiece and focus, then it has nothing to do with Jesus Christ and is simply a pagan festival where people want to get a lot of expensive stuff from each other. I wholeheartedly and enthusiastically reject giving (and receiving) gifts on the basis of obligation.

The alternative is to recognize that gifts are intended not as the focus, but as a means of showing those closest to us that we were thinking of them. That does not require spending lots of money, despite what our culture would have us believe. Besides, you can  give gifts to those you love any time during the year… it does not all have to be at Christmas.

Many tell us that giving gifts is a tradition originated to honor God’s gift to us in the birth of Jesus Christ or because of the acts of the real man who came to be known as Saint Nicholas. Though many give with this in mind, the fact is that this is not the accurate origin of gift exchange. In fact gift giving to children in late December did not start with Christian origins, but rather as part of a pagan celebration of the sun god, Saturnalia, in ancient Rome. It is easy to research for yourself… even in Christian history encyclopedias such as by Zondervan.

Let’s explore the gift giving tradition further and test if it is even consistent with celebrating Jesus’ birth according to the principles of the Biblical record of that glorious event. Does this tradition point to or honor God, or is it just a tradition of men and a potential distraction from God?

Mary and Joseph did not get gifts for one another or even for Jesus and they knew who He was and that He would be born soon. The shepherds came to celebrate and honor God. They did what they were commanded by God to do… which did not involve bringing gifts. The wise men did not even come when Jesus was born… contrary to common tradition.  Scripture tells us they came and found Jesus in a house, not a manger. Herod killed all the male children two years and younger… not a week and younger, or even a few months and younger. It was likely they arrived over a year after Jesus was born. When they did come, they brought gifts to honor God. They did not exchange gifts with each other, nor did they expect to receive gifts in return from Joseph and Mary. I should not fail to mention that God came down as Jesus to die for us and while this is a great gift, He expects no gift from us in return.

So if you really want to focus on giving gifts to honor Christian traditions… give in a way that honors God to those who will not be able to give anything in return and convince others to do the same. You will honor God more, find more joy instead of stress, and spend less.

If suggestions number 4-5 seem overwhelming… start with suggestions number 1-3. The less focus you put on gift exchange, the more focus you will find is available to consider God’s gift to us in the person of Jesus Christ. You will have more time and less stress to enjoy the holidays and hopefully next year you will not have the Christmas hangover in January.

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Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? If you die today, do you know for sure that you would be with God in heaven? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.