Something to think about

Now that the celebrations are ending I want to ask you to consider the reasons you personally celebrated Christmas. Was it based on your being a Christian? Was it perhaps just a way to have a break and a reunion with your family and friends? Was it just something you’ve always done perhaps because it is tradition?

Shirley Anne

TIME OF THE YEAR
December 24, 2017 by factbasedtruth(.com)
Jesus-Christmas

Merry Christmas! Perhaps the most uttered phrase on one particular day in history. It’s a beautiful time of the year. Snow falling in some places, lights being hung up in most places, and people choosing to be in a more cheerful mood towards one another. All of that combined creates for a touching time period. But in spite of it being touching, I’ll tell you why Christmas is the most awkward time of the year for me.

JESUS IS THE REASON FOR THE SEASON
You’ve probably heard the phrase “Jesus is the reason for the season”. It’s a statement some Christians have used to counter the secular understanding of Christmas being about Santa Claus, reindeers, and presents. Another phrase people sometimes state is “Keep the Christ in Christmas”. That phrase is used to counteract the secular way some choose to say “Merry Christmas” by saying “Merry Xmas”. Just as a side note, it’s actually not secular. According to Greek, the “X” comes from the Greek letter “chi”, first letter of the Greek word which in English means Christ.

Putting that side-note aside, here’s what I want to pose for thought. Is Jesus the reason for the season? Does Christ have anything to do with Christmas?

2 TIMOTHY 3:16-17
Before we get into that question, let’s read 2 Timothy 3:16-17. The verses state, “16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” I think we’d all agree this verse seems to indicate scripture is very important. Not just a guideline, not just a suggestion, but an actual writing of what is correct, right, and Godly. We can perhaps all agree that what is and what is not in these writings should be taken seriously in how we think and act on our faith.

So getting back to our topic, I return to the questions I asked before the last paragraph. In looking to the scripture, which tells us what’s correct, right, and Godly, does Jesus have anything to do with this season? Does Christ have anything to do with Christmas? As far as I’ve read in scripture, the answer is no.

God, Jesus, and the apostles did not instruct to celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25th with the title of the date being Christmas. They never even instructed to celebrate Christ’s birthday in the first place. This tradition was all started by Catholics. For the record, I don’t state that in a derogatory way towards Catholics, I’m just stating the facts.

WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL?
Now some may ask, well what’s the big deal if I put up a tree, put up some lights, buy some presents, and choose to celebrate Jesus in this way? And that’s a very good question to ask. In response to that I would ask, should it not be important to do what God instructs of us to do versus holding to a tradition that was started by humans? Isn’t our faith about not conforming to the pattern of this world as Romans 12:2 expresses?

Jesus himself once stated in Mark 7:6-9, “He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honours me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.’ You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition”. Then he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition!”

Now I know what you might be thinking, and no, I’m not calling anyone a hypocrite, and I know Jesus was directing this to the Pharisees. I’m just pointing out that it mattered to Jesus that people don’t get caught up in keeping human traditions, and should focus on the commands of God. I think we can all agree that what matters to Jesus should matter to us.

It’s not just the son of God who was against unwarranted human invented ways of honouring God, but God himself. Leviticus 10:1-2 states, “Now Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, each took his censer, put fire in it, and laid incense on it; and they offered unholy fire before the Lord, such as he had not commanded them. 2 And fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord.” God killed people for worshiping and honouring Him in a way He didn’t command. I don’t state that to scare anyone, I just state that to point out how important this appears to be to God.

All of this is shown to us in scripture and we haven’t even gotten into evidence that points to Christmas having pagan origins. Do we really want to tie our Jesus to something that’s potentially based on the worship of a pagan god?

SCRIPTURE AS THE FOUNDATION
For me the big thing in all of this is God and His scripture. Do we take what His scripture states as the foundation of everything we think and do that’s right, correct, and Godly… or do we follow human traditions out of fear of not conforming to the culture and out of the phrases, “Well that’s the way we’ve always done things” and “But the Christmas holiday feels so special to me”?

If people just did things the way they’ve always been done or only based on how things feel, all Jews would have kept being Jews, no Gentiles would have become Christians, and Christianity might have never been anything more than a fringe cult.

This time of the year can be awkward as a Christian who doesn’t celebrate Christmas. I have friends who practice Christianity that celebrate the holiday. They enjoy getting to spend time with their families and have years of sentimental memories attached to Christmas. It’s the grand visual of bright lights, white snow, green trees, red decorations, and extra kind nature exhibited, that creates an unfortunately strong emotion fueled attraction that’s difficult to convince people to turn away from.

I’m never offended by anyone who tells me “Merry Christmas”, because I know they mean well. But it’s my hope and prayer that we all think more about how we choose to think and live our faith in the name of Jesus Christ. May we all continue to strive to make scripture the foundation of our faith.

Peace to you all in Christ.

From the author and from Shirley Anne

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Remember?

When Does Worship Become Insincere Ritual? 

Zechariah 7:5-6 New International Version

5 ‘Ask all the people of the land and the priests, “When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months for the past seventy years, was it really for me that you fasted?
6 And when you were eating and drinking, were you not just feasting for yourselves?

Traditions have great value because they preserve the values and teachings of the past. They remind us of things we might otherwise forget. While living in a foreign land, surrounded by a foreign culture and language, the Jews could have easily forgotten the important events of their history. Future generations could have missed out on how significantly God had dealt with their ancestors. But the Jews used rituals and traditions to avoid historical ignorance. They commemorated the past so they would not forget the lessons learned.
Unfortunately, the rituals “fossilized” over time. People drifted into celebrating the form but forgetting the reality behind it. Their fasting appeared meaningful but had no inner substance. When this or something similar happens, a worship activity becomes an empty ritual or, even worse, a ritual with the wrong meaning attached to it. Often this can occur as a slow erosion of values—a process that eventually destroys the good others intended.

Taken from NIV Essentials Study Bible

Do you remember what Christmas is all about? As we approach the ‘Season of good will’ many will simply remember it is a time to indulge, overeat and drink too much because that is what they do every year. No thought is given to the reason the Christmas Day celebration was instituted in the first place. It was instituted in an effort to remind people to remember their Saviour and to discourage them from turning back to paganism. Today there is still a struggle against unbelief and false religion. Christmas is celebrated by Christians throughout the world but also by those who don’t believe and for all the wrong reasons.  

Shirley Anne

Faith to believe

The post is mainly aimed at those who doubt, who do not believe in God or Jesus Christ but it equally applies to believers too. Since becoming a Christian believer myself almost thirty years ago after a lifetime of staunchly adhering to atheism it has always been my passion to introduce others to Christ. Some say that to believe one has to have an inclination that way in the first place and for many I guess that could be true but I also think that many would turn to Christ if they really knew more about him. It is true that a desire to know more and to have an inquiring heart really does help and even Scripture tells us this. God says that those who earnestly seek Him WILL find Him. I always say too that the alternative does not bear thinking about! All I can add is to reach out to God and He will respond……..and He already knows what you will do………..

Shirley Anne

Now That's What I Call Faith
Now That’s What I Call Faith (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

FAITH AND UNBELIEF (Mark 5:24–34)

Faith is different from feelings. Feelings are based on circumstances, and they change like the weather. Faith involves acting, trusting and believing that God is real, at work and working for believers’ good—regardless of what one may happen to feel at the moment. In fact, sometimes faith leads believers in the opposite direction of feelings.

The woman in this passage had been suffering for a long time. As her disorder involved blood, she was perpetually “unclean” (according to Jewish law), and as a result had likely been ostracized by her community. When she heard about the healing power of Jesus, she boldly braved the large crowd and reached out to him in faith. His response: “Daughter, your faith has healed you” (Mk 5:34).

God invites people to faithfully trust him for all of life (Pr 3:5–6). The way of Jesus is the way of trust. All throughout his life on earth, Jesus demonstrated absolute faith in his Father and challenged his followers to exercise the same kind of faith.

For many reasons, people are prone to doubt. Modern western culture is fraught with skepticism. The contemporary search for truth says, “Understand in order to believe.” And against this thinking, Jesus has always maintained, “Believe in order to understand.” In the struggle with doubt and unbelief, Jesus encourages people, “Don’t be afraid; just believe” (Mk 5:36). The way of Jesus is the way of trusting God every day, for this life and the next.

Prayer
Jesus, please don’t let me get distracted by feelings, which can be so fickle. I want to believe in you, trust in you and surrender to you, even when I don’t feel like it. Amen.

Taken from NIV The Jesus Bible

Shirley Anne

Beans at the ready

If there is one thing you could say about beans it is that they really let you know who your friends are! I refer to the following day after eating them of course but we’ll not explore that. It has become somewhat of a small tradition with me that I have beans on toast on Christmas day instead of a roast dinner with turkey (or some other unfortunate bird), roasted potatoes, vegetables and all the trimmings that come with a Christmas dinner.

English: Beans on toast
Beans on toast (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What is so special about a Christmas dinner anyway? Many folk have roasted dinners every week which are not any different from a Christmas dinner. The real difference is probably the company with which the meal is shared, this is what makes it special. For myself I no longer eat Christmas dinner. One reason, probably the main reason is I have no-one with which to share it but there are other reasons too, I don’t really want to stuff myself silly with a large roast dinner. The tendency is to eat far more than we should on such occasions and that habit I am happy to forego. I spend Christmas day, that is the afternoon and early evening alone. E spends the day with her mom and brother and some members of the family. I am never invited just as her sister now isn’t either. This doesn’t bother me and it doesn’t matter as I don’t celebrate the day as they do anyway. So much for the love we are supposed to be showing to others at this and any other time of the year. The secular Christmas should have no meaning to a Christian except maybe to have an opportunity to witness. So as long as I can have my beans on toast, with a fried egg or two on top I am happy. Why did Christmas get hi-jacked by the secular world? They saw it as an opportunity to revel, to party and to have a good time (nothing wrong with all that) but it lacks endurance, it simply doesn’t last and at the end of the day (literally) doesn’t really satisfy completely for if it did there wouldn’t be a reason to do it all over again. Having Jesus as your Saviour however does satisfy because that lasts forever.

Shirley Anne

Divine justice

Divine Justice (Psalm 7:6)

The idea that those who reject God will experience torment for eternity is offensive to many people. It seems like awfully vicious behavior from one who is known as a loving God.

Dr. D. A. Carson, prominent professor and scholar, says, “In the first place, the Bible says that there are different degrees of punishment, so I’m not sure that it’s the same level of intensity for all people.

“In the second place, if God took his hands off this fallen world so that there were no restraint on human wickedness, we would make hell. Thus if you allow a whole lot of sinners to live somewhere in a confined place where they’re not doing damage to anyone but themselves, what do you get but hell? There’s a sense in which they’re doing it to themselves, and it’s what they want because they still don’t repent. One of the things the Bible does insist is that in the end not only will justice be done, but justice will be seen to be done, so that every mouth will be stopped.”

In other words, at the time of judgment there is nobody in the world who will walk away from that experience saying that God had treated them unfairly. Everyone will recognize the fundamental justice in the way God judges them and the world.

“Justice is not always done in this world; we see that every day,” Carson says. “But on the last day it will be done for all to see. And no one will be able to complain by saying, ‘This isn’t fair.’ ”

—Adapted from interview with Dr. D. A. Carson

Taken from The Case for Christ Study Bible

So, there is no escape for believer and unbeliever alike. However, the believer has Christ Jesus as their intercessor, one who stands in the gap between them and God. He has paid the price for the sins for which they deserve punishment. They have placed their trust in him, believed in him and in the One who sent him. They will still be judged but as God’s children, members of His family. How will God judge you?

Shirley Anne

One last chance?

Recently I had the opportunity to view again a movie I chanced upon and watched a few years ago. I enjoyed it then as I did the second time around. The movie had a message in it which made me think it was produced by a Christian or Christians aiming to use it as a witness to the unbeliever who may be watching it. The movie was called ‘Left behind‘ and the leading actor was Nicolas Cage. Perhaps you have seen it too dear reader? I wondered whilst watching it just how many unbelieving hearts were touched by its message enough for them to reconsider their view. The basic theme of the movie centred around these Bible verses:-

Matthew 24:40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left.
Matthew 24:41 Two women will be grinding with a hand-mill; one will be taken and the other left.
Luke 17:34 I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left.
Luke 17:35 Two women will be grinding corn together; one will be taken and the other left.’

In the movie many people and all of the children suddenly disappeared. Clothes were just left where they had stood. Those who were left couldn’t understand what had happened though some began to realise it was a fulfillment of Scripture….the beginning of the end. Nicolas Cage was the pilot of a plane whose co-pilot, some of the crew and passengers suddenly disappeared whilst in flight. Even a pastor of a church had been left behind and we learned why, although he could quote Scripture he admitted to not believing in what he was preaching. I know a few people just like him. One evening while at a ‘Four square gospel‘ businessmen’s dinner one such pastor of a church gave us his testimony explaining how he became a Christian years after he became ordained. For so many years he too had preached The Gospel but had no real belief until one day it dawned upon him. At that point he invited Jesus into his heart and became ‘saved’. The movie didn’t explain what happened to all those who had been left behind but someone realised that the preceding ‘rapture’ marked the beginning of  the tribulation and the suffering of all who were left.

So now will you believe? Now will you take notice? Now will you come to Christ and be saved? The choice is yours. The rapture may indeed come tonight, only God knows.

Shirley Anne

Matthew 13:24–30
In this short story, Jesus tells why God allows evil to continue in the world. According to Jesus, if God uprooted all the evil people (the weeds) now, others (the wheat) might be uprooted along with them.
For now, God’s allowing evil doesn’t mean he condones it. Rather, God is waiting for people to turn to him and accept his leadership in their lives. After all, if tonight at midnight God wiped out all the people who hadn’t yet trusted in him, where would you be in the morning?
Verse 30 gives us an image of the final separation that God will initiate at the end of time. On that day, God wants to gather you, as one of his people, into his heaven. Won’t you accept that gracious offer?
Taken from NIV The NIV Journey Bible

Shirley Anne

Never ending story

No not the movie…..life! Do you ever feel you are on a treadmill going nowhere? Yes you do things, you have a routine, you change your routine as often as you feel but nothing really changes does it? Recently retired and when working having purpose really meant nothing either, it simply meant I had something to occupy my time. I still have things to occupy my time, it is simply a different routine. We set goals in life or just live for the moment or maybe we do both but in the end everything we do eventually leads us to the next for we are never satisfied. It is like food for our souls, it is our thoughts which spurs us on, they are what keep us moving forward and ever seeking something that in fact we seldom find if we are truthful. Life can be very satisfying and rewarding but none of it really lasts. We aim to satisfy our physical needs first and foremost and neglect our spiritual needs though the two are inseparable, at least whilst we live. We are driven by what we think but we can change what we think. If we are comfortable with the changes we continue in them or we can make an attempt to do so but in the end if we are not happy we revert. No matter what we do in life, what choices we make along the way can we really say that we’ve been happy one hundred percent of the time? Our thoughts might tell us otherwise and in reality we know we are never fully happy, never fully satisfied with our lot. So our lives are a never-ending struggle with ourselves and our situations. Some resign themselves to never achieving their hopes and dreams and others think they’ve hit the jackpot when they think they have. It is all an illusion, a passing fancy and we have to make the most of it until we die. How often have you heard the expression ‘Life is for living’? Did it have an effect on your choices thereafter? We can but do nothing else but live out our lives as best we can and be happy and contented. In this world there is nothing else.

Story of My Life (album)
Story of My Life (album) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Ecclesiastes 1

Everything is meaningless

The words of the Teacher, son of David, king of Jerusalem:

‘Meaningless! Meaningless!’
    says the Teacher.
‘Utterly meaningless!
    Everything is meaningless.’

What do people gain from all their labours
    at which they toil under the sun?
Generations come and generations go,
    but the earth remains for ever.
The sun rises and the sun sets,
    and hurries back to where it rises.
The wind blows to the south
    and turns to the north;
round and round it goes,
    ever returning on its course.
All streams flow into the sea,
    yet the sea is never full.
To the place the streams come from,
    there they return again.
All things are wearisome,
    more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing,
    nor the ear its fill of hearing.
What has been will be again,
    what has been done will be done again;
    there is nothing new under the sun.
10 Is there anything of which one can say,
    ‘Look! This is something new’?
It was here already, long ago;
    it was here before our time.
11 No one remembers the former generations,
    and even those yet to come
will not be remembered
    by those who follow them.

It is a never-ending story……..until we die

Shirley Anne

The future……………your future!

 

What is going to happen in the future? (1 Corinthians 15:51–58)
What happens when we die? The New Testament indicates that people experience an “intermediate state,” which refers to a person’s existence between their time of death and the promised resurrection of their new body. Their earthly body goes into the grave; their spirit lives on in one of two places—in God’s presence where they enjoy a time of peace until they receive their resurrected bodies or in a place of torment where they await final judgment. Jesus talked about this vividly in the story about a rich man and Lazarus (not the Lazarus Jesus raised from the dead). Jesus depicted the place of blessedness for the righteous as Abraham’s side and the place of torment for the wicked as Hades. (See Luke 16:19-31.)
The grand promise of God and the ultimate hope for all Christians is the resurrection. Just as Christ was raised from the dead and received an imperishable body, so will all those who believe in Christ. Paul, writing to the church at Corinth, details this major truth.(See 1 Corinthians 15:51-58.)
The event that will trigger this promised resurrection is the Second coming of Christ. Often the Bible refers to the return of Christ as the “day of the Lord.” Paul explains that on the great day of Christ’s return God will resurrect those who have died and then all believers will be brought together and will be with the Lord Jesus forever.
After Jesus returns and we are resurrected into our imperishable bodies, there will be a final judgment by God of every nation. John saw and recorded a vision from God about what will happen at this time of judgment. John wrote down the final movement in God’s grand story—the restoration of what was lost in the beginning. What we read in the opening creation story of Genesis we see again in Revelation—a re-creation—but on a grander scale to accommodate all the people over the centuries who have embraced Christ and received eternal life. (See Revelation 20:11-22:21.)

Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? (John 14:1–2)

I believe (Christians) there is a heaven and a hell and that Jesus will return to judge all people and to establish his eternal kingdom.
What difference does this make in the way I live?
I ask you to prayerfully take a moment to do an inventory of your relationships. How many non-Christians are currently in your circle of influence? And of these non-Christians in your cir­cle, how many are you actively sharing God’s love with?
Taken from NIV Believe

For my non-believing readers: Although you may not believe in God it doesn’t mean He doesn’t exist. For many years I resisted the possibility that there was a God and no matter what people told me I just refused to take it seriously. What did I want with a God? How was it possible for God to be omnipotent and omnipresent? Thinking as a human being who was proud and unyielding and could only see things my way kept me from my Creator. All this time He waited patiently until one day……….I reached out to Him and was welcomed with open arms.

Shirley Anne

Being a Christian

Ephesians 1:4

Paul says that God “chose us in him” to emphasize that salvation depends totally on God. We are not saved because we deserve it, but because God is gracious and freely gives salvation. We did not influence God’s decision to save us; he saved us according to his plan. Thus there is no way to take credit for our salvation or to allow room for pride. The mystery of salvation originated in the timeless mind of God long before we existed. It is hard to understand how God could accept us. But because of Christ, we are holy and blameless in his sight. God chose us, and when we belong to him through Jesus Christ, God looks at us as if we had never sinned. All we can do is express our thanks for his wonderful love.

Taken from NIV Life Application Study Bible

English: Neges Gristnogol Ffair Cricieth - Cri...
Neges Gristnogol Ffair Cricieth – Criccieth Fair Christian Message Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. A message on the Christian bookshop at 813796 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Who else can say that they are loved by God for His Spirit is in them? Our relationship with God is a two-way street, any and every relationship is. God does love you dear reader even if you do not love Him. Having a relationship with your Creator is a truly wonderful thing, better than any other relationship you may have in you life. You may not think you are worthy to have such a relationship or even think it possible but you would be wrong in thinking that. God’s arms are open wide to receive all who would call upon Him and He has made it possible, not you or by anything you do. To have a relationship with God is only possible because of what Jesus has done for you. He took upon Himself the sins of the world, even your sins, so that if you believe in Him and the One who sent Him you will be saved for all eternity and the relationship with God will have begun. Like any relationship it gets better the deeper it gets.

Shirley Anne

Hang on a minute

Again we as a nation were subjected to acts of terrorism by religious fanatics as now eight people have died through their actions with many more having been wounded. The attackers, three of them, were shot and killed by the security services. Their motive? To kill as many unbelievers as they could or simply a retaliatory act as a punishment for the nation having been involved in the fight against religion-based terrorism in foreign parts? It doesn’t matter but what does matter is the fact that innocent people are killed or maimed in the process. What bothers me more is that I believe the atrocities are carried out in the name of a false god. Now hang on a minute, isn’t Allah God? He certainly is not, there is only one true God and He is The Creator, the ‘I Am’, who reveals Himself through His creation and through His Son Jesus Christ, for it is through Jesus that all things that have been made (created) have their being. Now hang on a minute all you believers in Allah who maintain that there was something extra that God did after Jesus’ sacrifice for mankind…………Jesus died that all might be saved and when He took His last breath as a human being He said it Himself…’It is finished’. All that could be done had been done. God (the Godhead, Father, Son and Holy Spirit) had planned it all and there was now nothing more that could be done. Why would God change His mind?

Mohammed (right) and the Angel Gabriel (left) ...
Mohammed (right) and the Angel Gabriel (left) in a building with three domes. Provenance unknown. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Why would the angel Gabriel be sent to give a message to Mohammed to tell him that ‘hang on a minute, God was only kidding when He suffered on The Cross (through Jesus Christ) for all mankind and now you are the true messenger’? The fact is He didn’t. Mohammed is called a prophet by his followers yet he didn’t prophesy anything. He gleaned information from existing texts of both the Old and New Testaments and concocted a ‘holy’ book called the Q’ran. A book filled with good sayings but also filled with untruths. Mohammed himself had lead a rather dubious lifestyle before he ‘got’ religion. He was in fact a military man a  soldier who had been ruthless in killing in his quest for followers and now he was preaching a false religion in the name of his false god Allah. Nothing much changes does it? I am sorry for my Muslim brothers and sisters who have been led up the wrong path, especially those who think that by killing others it will get them into their Paradise. It won’t. If it did then Allah is proven a god of hatred and Christ died for nothing.

English: Resurrection of Christ
Resurrection of Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Praise be to God for Jesus Christ who is the only way anyone can get to Paradise (Heaven). For there is no other name under Heaven by which we must be saved.{Acts 4:12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.’ }. If you haven’t got Jesus therefore you haven’t got anything!

Shirley Anne