And God * said, ​”because you are free,​ it is ok to do as the pagans do!” (*never)

And God * said, ​”because you are free,​ it is ok to do as the pagans do!” (*never)

This is me wading into the muck of a cultural tradition steeped in paganism. The question, should Christians celebrate Halloween? The answer, first, let me ask you a question. If Jesus were alive today, would He attend a pagan festival, dressed as a zombie? No, given the many times in Scripture, we are told not to do as the pagans. Would He attend the festival to preach to the attendees? Unlikely, perhaps He would stand outside of it preaching? Maybe. We don’t know because there isn’t a pagan festival written in the New Testament, so what we have is Jesus’ words regarding worship and the Old Testament. So when in doubt, search the Scriptures and seek the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Let me tackle the idea that we are not to put on others our own convictions, which, i hear often. The verse most widely used is found in Galatians 5:1 — “For freedom, Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Another prominent verse is 1 Corinthians 6:12 — “‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be dominated by anything.‘” We could also look at Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 here, but we will touch on those in a bit. Our freedom gives us, well, freedom. But, not license to sin by committing idolatry. i have been reading and studying Halloween for some time now, and these are the things that i have learned.

  1. It dates back to a Celtic festival known as Samhain. In which the Celts believed that a portal between worlds, life, and death, was opened. They would dress up in costume to ward off evil spirits.
  2. The Celts date back to 1800 B.C. However, The existence of the Celts was first documented in the seventh or eighth century B.C. The Roman Empire, which ruled much of southern Europe at that time, referred to the Celts as “Galli,” meaning barbarians.
  3. In the early Church, roughly the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints; soon, All Saints Day incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was known as All Hallows Eve and later Halloween.
  4. It was believed that if the church incorporated some of these traditions, it would make it easier for pagans to convert to Christianity.

There is so much more i could write regarding the traditions and origins of those traditions but suffice it to say all of them are pagan. Therefore, they should be avoided. Look at this passage in Deuteronomy 6:13-15 we read:

“It is the Lord your God, you shall fear. Him you shall serve, and by His name, you shall swear. You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you, for the Lord your God in your midst is a jealous God, lest the anger of the Lord your God be kindled against you, and He destroy you from off the face of the earth.”

In 1 Thessalonians 5:21-23, we have Paul instructing the Thessalonians to avoid evil.

“but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely . . .”

Two things here stand out. First, abstain from EVERY form of EVIL. Would you say that Halloween in its former and present state is filled with evil? i know i sure do! Second, “sanctify you,” sanctify means to set apart from. As Christians, we are to be different than the world not blend in so well that no can tell the difference. Let me share a few more verses just to add some perspective for our thought.

“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” Colossians 2:8

“for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” Ephesians 5:8-11

“He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?” Matthew 15:3

We could discuss here the eating of meat that had been sacrificed to idols, but i will just add this . . . The intent here is to not be a stumbling block to others by our understanding.  So let me pose the question, are you confident in your celebration of a clearly pagan festival isn’t laying a stumbling block for your neighbor? That is the test! Let me end this with a passage from Ezekiel and really, the reason i am writing was inspired here.

“If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die for his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.” Ezekiel 3:18-19

Can you warn someone of wickedness, evil, and idolatry, and still keep the same festival you are warning them about? No, you cannot. So, therefore, in my humble opinion we as Christians should not partake of the pagan festival known as Halloween regardless of its human tradition. Let me add, this was a natural conclusion, but a difficult decision. Why? Because i love tradition and i grew up on Halloween. i even helped my sister put on a haunted trail for a park she worked for not many years ago. However, my conviction over this grows more and more every day as i see the day of the Lords return getting ever closer. We must wake up and proclaim the truth!

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

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

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

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

In our weakness, standing in Your strength, Thy Kingdom Come

In our weakness, standing in Your strength, Thy Kingdom Come

Weakness, who would admit to it? We are taught from the beginning, strength wins. Survival of the fittest. There is quote after quote about the need to be strong and independent. Even in the Church, we have quotes such as, “God helps those that help themselves.” None of them truly helpful, and rarely actually Biblical. Oh sure, some are really great. They are motivators for us to press on in difficult times. They encourage us at times even give us a new perspective on life and ourselves. i recently read a men’s devotional in which it talked about our need to be physically fit, strong even. Although it made some very valid points, i think it was leaning too hard on our strength and how God wants to use our strength.

In reality, God wants to use our weaknesses. In order for that to happen, we must embrace our weakness, understand it and live in a place that allows God to use our weaknesses to His glory. We need to realize that we are made perfect in weakness. We need to humble ourselves even in areas of strength and rely on God’s strength. Will He use our strengths? Absolutely! But when we become dependent on our own ability, we will soon lose perspective and reliance on God and His strength. In Everything, we need to seek the Lord, His will, His strength, His leading and in the end His glory not our own.

This is not a popular message by any stretch of the imagination. Many will disagree. However, i would just point back to the fact that God uses our strengths, yes He does…i contend, however, that He uses our weakness more, in fact, He desires to use our weakness more than our strength. That is a very comforting thought if you think about it honestly. It is the Apostle Paul who wrote in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NLT)

9 “Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.”

Let’s look at this passage in the Message in a fuller context looking at verses 7-10:

7-10 “Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first, I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,

My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.

Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.

Here in 1 Corinthians 1:27 Paul says, “Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful.” (NLT) Yes, He has given us gifts, and talents, but often the gift and the talent for particular missions are found in the weakest of men (and women). God’s Kingdom is built on His strength, His Kingdom has come. Jesus said, “12 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.” (John 14:12 NASB) and, “Then I will ask the Father to send you the Holy Spirit who will help you and always be with you.” (John 14:16 CEV)

Let me point to this, in conclusion, the final verse of Psalm 27 (NASB read the whole chapter by clicking the link)…Be strong yes, as you wait on the Lord.

Wait for the Lord;
Be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the Lord.”

Embrace your weakness.

You are loved,

cj