Paganism and the Church (part two)

Paganism and the Church (part two)

So comes our descent into the grand tradition of Christmas. The “holy” days or holidays as we know them. Full of culture, family, celebration, gifts, decorations, food, food, and more food. It’s a merry time, had by many. It brings out goodwill in the masses, a charity of heart to our neighbors. What could possibly be vile or evil in such a time as this? Indeed, Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus, the Messiah. Who came that we might have life and that to the full. (John 10:10)

What traditions within our celebration of Christmas were first observed within pagan festivals? Specifically, Saturnalia, Yule, and Egyptian beliefs. As well as similarity in the dates of the observance of the celebrations. Although, in the case of the Egyptian festivals, dates are not easily acquired because their calendar is, well, a wreck. Therefore in this instance, we will take the similarities of the festival and relate it the best we can. i do find it interesting that Satan is talked about as disguising himself as an angel of light, and each of these pagan traditions involves a sun god.

For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.” 1 Corinthians 11:13-15

In Ezekiel, we read a depiction of  Satan and his desire to rise to the place of God. He wanted to be above all the angels. Yes, we can see that Satan is an egomaniac, and any worship of him that he can generate, even indirectly, is to him a win. It is probably one of the many reason’s, not that any are needed, for God’s decree that we are not to worship him like the nations worship their pagan false gods. We are not to intermix worship practices but are told to eliminate them from our lives completely.

So this week, let’s look at some of the history of these festivals and our observance of Christmas, and you can decide which is right and how best to honor God. After all, it is you that will have to stand before Him one day and give an account, ignorance will not be an excuse, at least not anymore. For instance, although the early church did not have a specific day to honor the birth of Christ, we have a general understanding that it was still significant in the history and telling of Jesus as we read in the Gospels of Mathew, Luke, and referenced in John. At some point in the first century around the time of Telesphorus, believed to be the second Bishop of Rome began a set-aside time to honor Jesus’ birth called, “The Nativity of our Lord and Saviour.” It’s worth noting that at this time, the Nativity, was recognized in September along with the Feast of Trumpets.

In fact, for 300 years the Nativity was celebrated on many days depending on where one was in the world. The recognition of December 25, as Jesus’ birthday, was a move by the Roman Emperor and self-proclaimed Bishop of Rome Constantine. His desire was unity among the Christians and the pagans, as well as perhaps making Christianity more palatable for the pagans to convert. Saturnalia was a celebration of the sun god. It was celebrated from December 17th through the 24th. Part of the celebration included lighting bonfires in honor of the sun and with the idea of helping it defeat the darkness. When the days would begin to get longer generally recognizable around the 23rd. Although this date could be as late as the 26th. Later in 274 A.D. under the Roman Emporer, Aurelian proclaimed the date as “Natalis Solis Invicti,” the festival of the birth of the invincible sun and set the date as December 25th. In 320 A.D., Pope Julius I specified the 25th of December as the official date of the birth of Jesus Christ.

Yule dates back to as early as the 4th century A.D. It would later become known as Christmastide. Yule was a 12-day festival that landed between mid-November and early January. Interesting to note that January 7th, which often ended Yule is for many the day they observe the Nativity or Christmas day to this day (a few exceptions observe the 6th). Coptic Orthodox located in Eygpt and the Middle East as well as Central and Eastern Europe. Although there are many reasons it is notable to say that during this time, two calendar systems were in use, the Julian calendar that pre-dates the Gregorian calendar, which is commonly observed today. What is Yule, well they were original celebrations of the Wild Hunt, the god Odin, and the pagan Anglo-Saxon Mōdraniht.

Again the Egyptians worshipped many gods, including a sun god. However, their calendar was so confusing they didn’t even know how it worked resetting it often. So i will only state here that as we look at the traditions of these festivals more in-depth and begin to recognize how the church co-opted many of the pagan practices in their Christmas celebrations we will see Egyptian influence.

Let me close this entry with this, i am not in any way discouraging the celebration of the birth of Jesus. It is clear that the early church remembered the Nativity. However, it is my goal to get us to think critically and honestly as we walk this narrow road together worshiping the One True God, as He desires, and not as the pagans do.

“. . . take care that you be not ensnared to follow them after they have been destroyed before you and that you do not inquire about their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods?–that I also may do the same.’ You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the Lord hates they have done for their gods . . .” Deuteronomy 12:30-31 (in part)

For more you can listen to my podcast cjwillpodcastit on most platforms.

You are loved,

cj

i am becoming one of “those” . . .

i am becoming one of “those” . . .

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:23-24

This passage from Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well is highly regarded as justification for Christians to say, “I am doing this in worship of the Father, the other things don’t mean anything. I love God.” or some variation of the same. But, i ask you what Jesus was referring too here? It was customary for Jews to travel to Jerusalem to worship on particular feasts, Passover, Weeks, and Tabernacles. There are seven Hebraic Feasts; i say Hebraic lightly i will get to that in a bit.

Jesus, in His referring to worshiping in spirit and truth, was prophetic, in that He was the Messiah, and therefore He is the feasts. Thus, the location of worship was shifting from a physical place to a spiritual place . . . One primary reason is that Jerusalem was in the hands of the Romans and would soon destroy the Temple, the reason for the pilgrimage. He, in no way, was saying, anything goes, instead expressing a more personal focus because the relationship was about to become intimate.

Let’s take a look at each of the three pilgrimage feasts. First, Passover, they would come to present their sacrifice to the priests, and the Passover lamb would be sacrificed. It was to commemorate or remember the Exodus from Egypt, where those who had the blood on the doorpost were passed over by the angel of death. The final plague before Pharoah would let the people go. John the Baptist proclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” This was Jesus, the Lamb of God. In observing Passover in real-time, in that year, Jesus, as the Lamb, fulfilled the Feast. We should honor it today as a remembrance of our Passover Lamb, who takes away our sin.

Second, The Feast of Weeks occurs seven weeks or 50 days after the Sabbath of Passover. The interesting thing about this feast, it is a remembrance of the receiving of the law, and with the law comes the knowledge of sin. Its institution was to celebrate the ripening of the wheat harvest. Which is even more interesting! Think of it, Jesus said, “the harvest is plentiful, the workers are few, pray that the Lord of the harvest would send workers.” (Luke 10:2) Here is the cool thing, just as they received the law on Mt Sinai accompanied by smoke, fire, and clouds; so on the day of Pentecost 50 days from the Sabbath of Passover the disciples were gathered, and tongues of fire with a rushing wind came as they received the law written on their hearts as the Holy Spirit was given. We are the workers in the field that God has given.

Third, Tabernacles, this feast was in remembrance of the Hebrew nations wandering in the desert living in temporary shelters. They would again make their pilgrimage to Jerusalem and worship there. Looking to the future, it is symbolic of the return of the King and Jesus ruling and reigning among His people as we tabernacle together with the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Here’s a cool fact, the Feast of Tabernacles was open to all people and nations to come and be with the Lord. Reminds me of the Sabbath day and the Day of Atonement, another feast in which it is stated that even the foreigner within your gates should do no work. As Jesus declared, “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath,” so we should consider the Sabbath God made for us, to rest and reflect on the goodness of our Lord.

Each of the other feasts is equally significant, and in Leviticus, we read that they are not Hebraic but rather God’s feasts.

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, These are the appointed feasts of the Lord that you shall proclaim as holy convocations; they are My appointed feasts.‘” Leviticus 23:1-2

But we don’t really celebrate these feasts, we pass them off as being strictly Hebraic. However, that isn’t even implied in Scripture, for it is Israel who was to be God’s mouthpiece to the world. And as the writer of Hebrews tells us, we are all grafted in together as one people before God. Again here in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” The intention of the feasts, most certainly the final one known as the Feast of Tabernacles, is to unify us in the worship of God. To draw our attention to the Most High.

If God, so intently, marked out His desired Feasts, for His people to honor Him. He was even reminding them that these were forever feasts, being both remembrance and prophetic. If Jesus observed the Feasts and the early church followed the Feasts, i feel it right to do so now.

Now let me ask you; if you were one of the first century Christians, and as such, you, as they did, observe the Feasts with both the remembrance factor and the prophetic one in mind. Looking back and looking ahead, would you allow for a mingling of pagan cultural practices to interfere with those feasts? Would you desire to take on the worship of pagan gods to enhance the worship of God? i hope that your answer is NO WAY! It certainly is God’s answer:

You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the Lord hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughter in the fire to their gods. Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it.” Deuteronomy 12:31-32

Now, therefore, fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:14-15

(Note, read all of 1 Corinthians 10) “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” . . . “Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than He?” 1 Corinthians 10:14 & 22

We are to flee anything evil. We are not to intermingle pagan worship with the worship of God. These things have not changed, and yet we do. The majority of Christians in the west and some beyond do. Christmas and Easter both have their origins in paganism. These have been central holidays within the church for centuries. Why did the church allow this to happen? How did they not see? Why am i just now waking up to the truth? This isn’t an undue hardship or yoke, this is central to the Worship of God. i am not talking diets or fabrics or circumcision, i am speaking to what the Lord desires and what we were ultimately created for . . . Worship. If you think it is evil to worship the Lord, then don’t, as Joshua said.

Now to Halloween, i once thought it was actually the one rooted most in the faith with All Saints Day, but i was wrong there too. It is ripe with its roots in paganism, and there is no redeeming it, nor should we try. There is no need for an alternative either, for we have seven feasts to the Lord, and each one is a party, a grand celebration! We are called to be different, to come out of the culture and be the Kingdom here and now. When Jesus said we were to Worship in Spirit and in Truth, i am certain He didn’t include pagan rituals in there regardless of your “intent.”

In my next few postings, i will be touching on Halloween and its true origins and then Christmas in the same way. i hope to show why i am choosing to walk away from these traditions. i will also write again about Easter, although i have already done that if you go back in my history of posts. This is a massive step for me, it hasn’t been easy, but it is right. i am becoming one of “those” Christians, and it is not a burden placed on me . . . It is actually a point of self-denial to put away the ways of the world that i might honor the Lord. To love Him with my whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. Yes, i am becoming one of those Christians, the one i should have been from the beginning. And you should too!

You are loved,

cj

Advent (week 2) Peace

Advent (week 2) Peace

13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joesph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and His mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy Him.” 14 And he rose and took the child and His mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophets, “Out of Egypt I called my Son.” Matthew 2:13-15 ESV

Peace, each Christmas we look at the Advent, and we talk about peace. We know Jesus as Prince of Peace, yet, as we look at the story of His birth, peace is not the first thing that comes to mind. Joseph and Mary in order to comply with the senses travel to Bethlehem for the census. Mary is well into her pregnancy, and as they arrive, inevitably delayed by slow travel of a pregnant woman on foot or even a donkey, there is no room for them in the inn.  The Inn Keeper not being without heart things of the best he can do, a stable will have to do. Giving birth in a stable is probably far from what some would say is peaceful. Shepherds approach after being surprised in the field by angels. Certainly, brought some trepidation to the new parents. This scene does not have the earmarks of peace.

In the passage at the top, we read that Herod wanted to have the baby of this poor couple killed. So, in a flight for their lives, they head to Egypt in the dark of night. Hardly, peaceful! In fact, it wasn’t peaceful at all for the boys left behind. Many children were killed. Matthew 2:16-18 tells the story: “Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted because they are no more.‘” i do not see peace here either.

As Jesus grew up, under the radar for most of His life, we see relative peace. However, from the start of His earthly ministry, we don’t see peace. We see great things, don’t misunderstand me, but we do not see true, lasting peace. Here is why, Jesus, Himself said, “I did not come to bring peace but a sword.” This statement seems to go against His nature until you dive into it and see what is meant. True and lasting peace is from the Father and will not be present until Jesus’ earthly Kingdom is set. If we read in Revelation, we will see that even after the Millenial Reign of Jesus there is a time that Satan is loosed again and will deceive many, before being ultimately and forever defeated.  (See Revelation 20:7-10)

So, again, this peace is a peace of mind and heart in a world that is fraught with sin and deception from the chief liar, Satan. We find peace in Christ when we give our lives over to Him. He is the author and perfector of our faith. He is the Everlasting, the Alpha and Omega, He is the only One, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Although, the world decay around us, we have hope and we have peace that Jesus has overcome already, and our victory is in Him, Jesus our Lord!

You are loved,

cj

Advent (introduction)

Advent (introduction)

It’s the 2018 Advent season. Traditionally, over the next few weeks, the topics are Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love.  Each one leading to the Advent of the birth of Jesus. Over the next several weeks we will take each one of these leading to Christmas. Advent is one of my favorite times of the Church year and not just because of Christmas. It’s an amazing reminder of the Hope we have in Jesus, the Peace we have in Jesus, the Joy we have in Jesus and the Love we experience in Jesus.

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).

Immanuel translated is God with us. This baby, the son of a young Jewish couple Mary and Joseph was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s Prophecy. Joseph was called to be a stepdad to the King of kings, as a stepdad, i know the challenges and the joys of being in that role, but i can’t even imagine the immense pressure of having to raise the Lord of lords. Being a part of training up this Child in the way He ought to go. Although we see Jesus growing in both wisdom and influence and not a whole lot of parental direction it is safe to assume that His parents were active in His upbringing. Their faithfulness to the role of parenthood ensured a Hope that would not disappoint, Peace beyond understanding, Joy unspeakable, and Love unconditional would be available for all who would receive Him.

In this weeks reading look at the Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love in these words. Also, look at the faithfulness and care His parents took to ensure He was safe and warm. Their first challenge was His birth, yet the scene broke through with a blessed Hope!

The Birth of Jesus Christ

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed,[b] who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.[c]

The Shepherds and the Angels

And in the same region, there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
    and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”[d]

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

21 And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. Luke 2:1-21 ESV

You are loved,

cj

Christian (part four)

Christian (part four)

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” Romans 12:12-13

Regardless of what you are facing in life, there is always and i mean always, a reason to rejoice in hope. Hope is the sustaining force. In 1 Corinthians 13:13 it is one of the abiding principles, faith, hope, and love. Hope in tomorrow, hope in knowing that God is faithful. Hope will get you through tribulations in your life, it does require though, that you be constant in prayer. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 “Pray without ceasing” the word here is “adialeiptos” which actually means, constantly recurring. This is fascinating because of the legal definition of constantly recurring includes, “connected,” we are to be connected in prayer.

The one thing people facing depression, who are considering suicide, say about their outlook on life is, they feel hopeless. Hope is a powerful thing. The super successful, who fail time and time again before achieving that thing that made them successful, all say, “never give up hope.” Hope is a powerful thing. Paul writes to Titus, “. . . waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ . . .” This is the hope we long for it is the sustaining hope of every generation of the Way. We are a generation of the Way, therefore, our hope must be in the appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. We can rejoice that our hope has overcome the world.

Tribulations of every sort come at us daily. Temptations, persecution, deaths, sickness, hate, and the list continues. Some tribulations on a scale may appear harsher than others given everyone’s pain threshold whether that pain is figurative or actual physical pain. We are all wired differently, however, the one thing that ties us together in dealing with tribulation is the same. We need each other, we are connected, those of us of the Way. In each of these instances, we are called to be patient. Some very dear to me teens lost their dad recently, incredibly sad. It was unexpected, one minute he’s home with them and the next he isn’t. Their struggle in tribulation right now is so very real. It will be their patience during these very dark days that will help them wade through the emotional rollercoaster of grief. They will need to stay connected to those of the Way and continue steadfastly in their hope.

Prayer connects us. It connects us of the Way with each other and connects us with Jesus our Lord. The translation to pray without ceasing isn’t wrong, we are to pray continually in thought, in heart, in spirit, in word. It is that conduit that connects us to the Father and it is the tie that binds us together one with another as we seek the Father together. It is for all things, every situation, every circumstance, every every, Jesus taught us to pray this way . . . Matthew 6:9-13

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil.

As we join together those of us of the Way our bond becomes stronger. It then allows us to tend to the needs of the saints as well as the ability to be hospitable. “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” This is our duty as members of the Way.

you are loved,

cj

Jude (Part 1)

Jude (Part 1)

Let me start here: if you have not read Jude (an introduction), stop now and go read it . . . it will make more sense that way. However, as a reminder to those who did read it let me refresh your memory. Jude is one of four brothers of Jesus and at some point led the Church in Jerusalem. He came to faith after Jesus’ resurrection. This same Jude then pens this letter and it is powerful! As a call to repentance, as a reminder of judgment, and as a warning to stay alert as we contend for the faith.

He doesn’t waste time with small talk, antidotes, or gibber, he is very matter-of-fact. In the verses, we will look at this week, we will see his heart, and his understanding as the brother of Jesus and leader of the Church. Let’s look at verse 5, “Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe.” Here is an interesting point, there are a couple manuscripts out there as well as a few versions of the Bible that use “Jesus” in place of “the Lord”. Could these early manuscripts be more accurate to Jude’s point? i think so. Jude had come to an understanding of who Jesus was and was not ashamed of it.

We love grace, i love grace. We preach grace, i preach grace, and it is glorious! However, we mustn’t lose sight of Jesus. Jesus, actively a part of the Old Testament, who is the same yesterday, today and forever, saves us by His cross. He leads us free from the chains of sin, out of bondage and into freedom. As the Israelites out of Egypt and still, subsequently (lit. the second time) He destroys those who did not believe. Folks, there is judgment. There is a hell and it has been preached since the formation of the Church. Do not be led astray. We must continue to contend for the faith in a world that would pervert the grace of God, even some in the Church.

Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that [e]the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, [f]subsequently destroyed those who did not believe. And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day, just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after [g]strange flesh, are exhibited as an [h]example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire. (NASB)

Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved[c] a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day— just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire,[d] serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. (ESV)

Pray with me for insight, for understanding, for fresh revelation into God’s Word. Let the Spirit of God speak to our hearts through these words written by Jude inspired by the Spirit. May we grow in wisdom and faith, as we seek to walk humbly with Jesus, contending for the faith. Until next week . . .

you are loved,

cj

Praise the Lord!

Praise the Lord!

The shortest chapter in the Bible is Psalm 117, it is just two verses. Yet these two verses are immensely profound in their simplicity. You want to boil things down to the minimum and just look at the core of human existence? Then here you go:

“Praise the Lord, all you nations! Worship Him, all you peoples! Because God’s faithful love towards us is strong, the Lord’s faithfulness lasts forever! Praise the Lord!”

It doesn’t get much simpler than this, Praise the Lord. Worship Him. Because, He is faithful. His love is strong towards us and He is forever faithful. Thus, we should, Praise the Lord! No matter what you are facing, no matter what difficulties or trials befall you, Praise the Lord! In the good and in the bad, Praise the Lord! In the sun and in the rain, Praise the Lord! In life and in death, Praise the Lord! In sickness and in health, Praise the Lord! In the hardest of times and in the best of times, Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!

Praise the Lord,

you are loved,

cj