Paganism and the Church (הסוף)

Paganism and the Church (הסוף)

i feel the need to end this series for a time. Sadly, paganism and the church is a big deal. It has been a part of the church for hundreds of years, if not tens of hundreds. So much so that the majority in the church are so blind to it that when you even point in its direction, they become defensive and irritable. Precisely the devil’s plan. Just think if he can fool so many with a little levin, just get one of the marks ever so slightly. Those that are not genuine students of the word will be easy targets when the great deception takes place. Let’s be honest most “Christians” are 1-2 Sunday’s a month pew Christians that may have access to a Bible but rarely even crack it at church.

Here’s the problem. The “Stronger” Christians need to be even greater light. Here’s why the great deception that is coming has the potential of even fooling the elect. What does that word “elect” mean? First, here is the passage i am referring to in its context.

23 Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you beforehand. (Matthew 24:23-25)

The word “elect” comes from the word, eklektos, in Greek and in Hebrew, ἐκλεκτός, it means in its root form, select; by implication, favorite:—chosen, elect. There are three groups of people given the title elect, the Hebrew Nation, the Church, and those who come to faith during the Great Tribulation. Each one of these groups is found in this passage in Matthew regarding the end-times. So which one is being referred to here? It is my opinion as i read through this that it is referring to the people of God. Which group are the real people of God? ALL THREE! i have read many different versions, and many commentaries, i have listened to different sermons on this as well. Each one is trying to align it to a particular group of the three named above. There isn’t a true consensus. Therefore, one must draw the conclusion that maybe, just maybe, God didn’t want one drawn at this point. For this particular use of elect. The deception is going to be so great, so believable that those who are of God in those days, if possible, could be fooled. 

It is why we are told to be alert, to study the scriptures, and to not be taken aside by whims and culture. God is a jealous God. He doesn’t want our worship to be two-faced. He doesn’t want our worship to resemble in any way the pagan culture around us. He says it in multiple places, including 1 Corinthians 10:20-22.

20 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. 22 Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?

Oh, i am sure i will hear, this is about food. Look, my friend’s food is the least of our worries. Would you by a ouija board because it is sold in the toy department and just call it a game? Would you decorate your home with Hindu statues because you happen to like elephants or cows? Would you practice pagan worship posses because it is culturally acceptable to do so? Sadly, for many Christians, the answer is yes. Oh, if only we would be so quick to defend the Word of God, rather than to justify the traditions of man. What of God in all of this? What does He think?

12 Take care, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land to which you go, lest it become a snare in your midst. 13 You shall tear down their altars and break their pillars and cut down their Asherim 14 (for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God) – Exodus 34:12-14

i write these things, i share these things, not as condemnation, but as a warning. i desire only the Will of God, Him glorified. i hope that it causes one to pause and think critically of how and why they celebrate and worship. For one day, we will stand before God, and we will give an account of our actions, of our worship, and of our life. i want to be able to stand before Him and say, “As You oh God instructed, i did all i could to proclaim, all that You put on my heart, whether popular or unpopular, i proclaimed. Even still oh’ Lord, Thank You for the grace and mercy in my short-comings.”

You are loved,

cj

Break Time

Break Time

Well, can you believe it?! It is already November. We are a week away from Thanksgiving and the start of what has been the tradition of the Advent season leading up to Christmas. Which is something that we have been talking about as we have looked at paganism and the church.  So the struggle for me is real as i digest all this information and find my center, as well as appropriate Worship of our Lord Jesus in the context of a seemingly pagan holiday.

However, we are budding up against our annual fall/winter vacation week. Therefore i will be taking a break from my regular posting and then upon my return will be talking about how i am handling the Advent this year in the context of the church. We have already scheduled our calendar as far as Advent goes, including each Sunday evening in December. We will, however, be looking at Hanukkah as well this year as it lands on the week of our traditional Christmas. Definitely taking a different spin on our traditional Christmas this year.

We have themed it “Find the Light, the birth of THE King,” as i don’t see why we can’t celebrate that within the proper context and outside of anything pagan. Again, i am just now awakening to this and tearing down the false idols without tearing up the wheat.

“But He said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'” Matthew 13:29-30

i understand that this is taken mostly out of context, i say mostly because it is still useful here as it relates to not being too aggressive as to not lose the weak or shallow-rooted. Yet, until then, as i said earlier, i will be taking a break as i vacation with the family. Although, as any writer knows, sometimes you get hit with something, and you just have to write it down. That may happen, but there will be no posting until the first week in December.

There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from Him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?” Ecclesiastes 2:24-25

You are loved,

cj

Paganism and the Church (part three)

Paganism and the Church (part three)

There is a character who happens to be a wizard named Gandalf the Grey, later becoming Gandalf the White, who appears in the series of writings by J.R.R Tolkien, The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings series.  Gandalf is described to be a long-bearded fellow dressed in grey, later white, and carrying a staff. i was looking at photos today of Odin the Germanic pagan god, and thought, “wow, now there are some similarities here!” Could we begin to draw similarities between everything and in so doing, make everything sacred or everything unholy depending on our take? Yes, we could, and yes, we have, in many instances, on many topics. This is the main reason that i want to be very careful as we tred into custom, tradition, holiday’s, and paganism. i don’t want to lead anyone into confusion or misunderstanding, but in everything, cause you, the reader, to think critically and examine Scripture thoroughly.

Last week we talked about the history and timing of Christmas as it relates to pagan traditions, Saturnalia, Yule, and Egyptian sun god worship. There is a figure that each of these traditions has that have surprising similarities. In fact, build upon each other within the ongoing mixing of many of these celebrations. Most notably or recognizable in our current culture, we know him as Santa Clause. No need to dive into who he is or the tradition surrounding him. However, our present Santa is an evolutionary being, drawn from the mixing of cultures throughout time. Chiefly, Saint Nicholas, Sinterklaas, Father Christmas, Kris Kringle, and Odin.

Is Santa just a fun cultural icon who is only one of many characters within the secularization of the Christmas holiday? Or, is he a well placed pagan influence, put there purposefully by the prince and ruler of this world? Well, i will be the first to admit that i have always looked at Santa as just a fun cultural icon of the secular side of Christmas. i even have a costume, dressing up as Santa, i have placed gifts under the tree.  You could say it has been a tradition also as the kids have gotten older. They certainly know that it is me, they even know what they are getting, nerf guns. It’s the same every year, and everyone opens them at the same time, and then, traditionally, an epic battle ensues. Is this a pagan tradition? Are we worshiping Odin? i can unequivocally say, no, we are not.

However, with that being said, now that i know how this cultural icon has evolved, can i continue with a clear conscience? Can i continue to celebrate the birth of Jesus along the same lines as an ever-evolving holiday tradition we know as “Christmas?” The answer to that is also, no, i can not. If i want to celebrate within culture a holiday tradition i certainly am free to do so. Even still once i cross the line or blur the line of worshiping Jesus, my Lord, and Saviour, and use elements that are known by me and everyone else to have pagan history and influence, i am compelled by what i read in Scripture to stop.

And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that David his father had done. He removed the high places and broke the pillars and cut down the Asherah. And he broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it (it was called Nehushtan). He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him. For he held fast to the Lord. He did not depart from following him, but kept the commandments that the Lord commanded Moses. And the Lord was with him; wherever he went out he prospered. He rebelled against the king of Assyria and would not serve him.” 2 Kings 18:3-7

Notice here that King Hezekiah, to honor God, destroyed all the high places. The “high places” is another term for “holy” sights or places of pagan worship. He broke down the Asherah, again pagan symbols of worship and even the serpent that Moses was instructed by God to make when the children of Israel were being tormented by the serpents in the desert. You see, the Israelites took something God used for good and began to worship it as a god. We can and have done the same thing within the Christian culture. We have taken things God created for our good and have worshiped them instead of God. We need to be as bold as King Hezekiah and begin to tear down those things that we have elevated or given special honor over Jesus in our worship, through worship that is tainted by pagan cultural influences.

Do you have high places that you have built up? Have you set up Asherah poles or other forms of pagan worship within your worship of God? If so, tear them down! And do it now, and do it quickly! God does not want your pagan influenced religion. He wants you to seek Him with your whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. He desires to be worshiped in spirit and in truth, untainted by the world.

You are loved,

cj

Have we wearied the Lord?

Have we wearied the Lord?

“You have wearied the Lord with your words. But you say, ‘How have we wearied Him?’ By saying, ‘Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and He delights in them.’ Or by asking, ‘Where is the God of justice?'” Malachi 2:17

This looks and sounds a lot like what we have today in our culture. It is in fact what is warned about in Isaiah 5:20 That in the last days. . . “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” And not just in the Old Testament writings but also in the New. “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.” 2 Timothy 4:3 And in 2 Peter 2:1 “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.” There are so many more, but i will only add one last warning from Revelation 21:8 “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

Have we as a culture wearied the Lord by watering down His grace because we have removed judgment? Rather than wrestle with challenging topics, we simply say, “God is love.” There is no denying that, seems a legitimate way to end an argument. However, it is a false hope for without judgment, there is no grace, and without repentance, there is no hope for mercy. As history always does, it is repeating itself again. i worry that as a culture, and by that i mean Christian Culture, that we are wearying the Lord with our acceptance of evil as good or just our lack of ability to call evil, evil by saying, “God is love.”

Our battle, as written in Ephesians 6:12 (quoted below in the ESV), is one in which the ruler of this world, Satan, fighting for our heart in an epic spiritual battle that attempts to deceive us into believing the lie, “Did God really say . . .?”

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Awake! God is not mocked! Sanctify yourself and work out your salvation with fear and trembling. You are loved so much that God, through Jesus Christ, made a way for us to enter into the holiness of God; Even still, we are being called to be holy by a holy God.

You are loved,

cj

To Write a Symphony

To Write a Symphony

Johann Sebastian Bach – 1685-1750 – Known as one of the greatest composers of all time drew much of his influence from classic hymns of his day using them to write Cantatas for the Lutheran Church as Thomaskantor in Leipzig. His work, of course, far more reaching than this still drew from his religious roots. As in the case of many great musicians and composers, his work was never truly finished, as displayed in his latter days, he spent most of his time coping, transcribing, expanding or programming music in an older polyphonic style until his death. Great work is never truly finished; there is always room for the master to tweak and expand.

Our life is much like a symphony that the Lord is writing. Each life is unique, gifted, and beautiful in its own way and never truly finished until the day one hears, “well done, good and faithful servant.” For many of us putting on the new self is a one time deal and then we are just marking time. We sit impatiently waiting in the quiet ticking of a hand-less clock, for the Lord’s return. We were not created to sit stagnant in time waiting; rather, we were created for such a time as this! Each day when we wake up, the day is half over. “There was evening, and there was morning . . .” This is how time is recorded in Scripture; Sunset marks the beginning of a new day. While the world sleeps, God is busy laying out His will for us. He has been setting things up and now in the middle of the day asks us to join Him. Our lives are His masterpiece. Until we cross over to the other side, we are a work in progress of the Thomaskantor.

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace,[a] both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:3-11

So, stop thinking you are perfect or that you need to be perfect. Stop thinking there is nothing you can do or there isn’t anything to do. Stop thinking you are useless, or washed up, or worn out.  And start asking the Lord, what are You up to today, Lord? What work do you have for me to do, inwardly and outwardly?

You are loved,

cj

Although everyone is talking, no one is listening.

Although everyone is talking, no one is listening.

Hello, is this thing on? This week we have seen the “Global Climate Strike,” the “UN Climate Summit,” and countless celebrities mumbling; the President had a “Religious Freedom Summit” as well. The conservatives and the liberals are yelling back and forth at each other, pointing fingers of blame and guilt, no trial, no evidence, no reason, no understanding, no . . . Anything. With all this back and forth without discourse, discernment, or simple plain old listening, we are only a divided people that at a distance appear dysfunctional and confused.

It is happening in the church also, constant bickering without understanding. We are being tossed by every wind of change, discontentment, and interpretation, and the devil can’t be any more satisfied. We have been talking about putting on the “new self” the past few weeks, and although this is somewhat in line with that series, this is also a stand-alone topic. Let me share with you the words of Paul to the church in Ephesus.

And He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” Ephesians 4:11-17

We need to heed Pauls words here, as teachers, pastors, evangelists, and the like our responsibility is to equip the saints, the church, for the work of ministry. Sadly i see less and less equipping and more and more dividing, even with talks on unity. Because the unity that is being pushed is a false unity. There is no choice in the matter it is, for the most part, forced and therefore misleading in every way, and temporal at best.

Listen church, our focus needs to be Christ. He is sufficient for all things. Literally, we will lack nothing if we find ourselves in Jesus only. The devil wants us divided on everything so that we hold nothing as truthful. The tone of the discourse in the world is full of hate. Even when it screams peace. The stage is being set for a peacemaker. Hear me now church, the peacemaker the world is about to receive isn’t about peace. It will be a false peace, and it will fool many, even if possible, the elect. Do not be deceived, be watchful, in prayer, and seek Jesus above all else that you might stand against the schemes of the devil.

Putting on the new self requires an open heart and listening ears. It also requires a singular focus on Jesus-Christ, period. Once we take our focus off of the author and perfector of our faith, we begin to lose all perspective. We must be singularly minded in order to be successful in life, ministry, and attaining to true peace. But the world hates us! Jesus said, “as the world hates me, it will also hate you.” Those who are being puppeted by the king of this world cannot stand us, and we do not win by conceding. We love, but we speak the truth, we do for others without expectation, and we live in unity as a body of Christ because in that unity is where the world will recognize Jesus.

You are loved,

cj

Throw it away! Putting on the new self (part three)

Throw it away! Putting on the new self (part three)

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you:” Colossians 3:5 ESV

Put off your old self” Ephesians 4:22 ESV

Our old self was crucified with Him.” Romans 6:6 ESV

Do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance,” 1 Peter 1:14 ESV

What causes you to stumble? What causes you to sin? What causes you to conform to your old self? THROW IT AWAY! Literally, throw it away! What is your struggle? Sometimes we mistake our struggle for our cross to bear when in reality, the only reason we are struggling is that we refuse to throw “it” away and bare ourselves before God. Ask any alcoholic in recovery, in the beginning, at least, they needed to eliminate ALL alcohol from their lives. It wasn’t a matter of just not drinking and having a six-pack in the refrigerator. No, that is a recipe for failure. The same is true for everything that causes us to sin. We must eliminate from our lives completely!

If your sin is porn on your phone, throw it away. Get a cheap phone from WalMart that has only talk and text. Is TV causing you to sin? Get rid of it!  In some cases, IT IS that easy. Is there a friendship that is causing you to sin? End it! This all might seem a bit harsh and out of balance. It is, because of culture. However, we are called to live as citizens of heaven on earth. His Kingdom come, His Will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. i am not making this up, it is as clear as a crisp spring day. Jesus said, “if your right-hand causes you to sin, cut it off. No, He wasn’t being literal. However, He was making this illustration, throw away what causes you to sin.

Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 ESV

“Do so more and more” is an instruction to walk in a manner pleasing to God, not a suggestion. Further, God desires that we are sanctified, which is set-apart, for the cause of Christ. In the world but not of the world, as Ambassadors of our heavenly home, in a broken and fallen world in need of redemption in Jesus alone. He doesn’t leave us helpless to do this on our own, either. He has given us a helper, the Holy Spirit, to enable us, strengthen us, enlighten us, to walk in His truth.

You are loved,

cj