“He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.” (John 10:12)

Many Christians in mainline denominations have expressed righteous sadness and outrage at the sexual crimes within the Catholic Church. And yet refuse to acknowledge the same sin within their own churches and homes. 

And those who speak out about sexual abuse in churches are often shamed in an attempt to quiet them. They may be accused of seeking attention, or of trying to bring down a godly man. They may be told to be quiet or they will be causing shame on the congregation and will cause people to turn away from the church and spend an eternity in hell because of the poor light they’ve portrayed the church in. After all, these abusers don’t just groom victims—they groom congregations and communities, in hopes that the majority will rise up and protect them.

Many church leaders try to deal with sexual abuse “in house” in order to keep their “little secret” from the community because they are more concerned about their reputation in the community than they are for the victims of sexual abuse. Ironically, this is the same method used by almost all pedophiles—Keep it secret, threaten and shame their victims. The result of all of this is that many young people are leaving their churches and even leaving behind their traditional faith.

According to a new study sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources, 10 percent of Protestant churchgoers under 35 have previously left a church because they felt sexual misconduct was not taken seriously.  Among the younger demographic, 9 percent said they have stopped attending a former congregation because they personally did not feel safe from misconduct. 

“I believe the gaps are generational in that the younger generation has had it with fakery, and they are bent toward telling it like it is, whereas older generations grew up with the ‘don’t tell secrets’ unwritten mandate. To be sure, both ages have experienced sexual abuse, but younger believers are more apt to share them,” said Mary DeMuth, a survivor of child sexual abuse and an advocate.

More than 90 percent of church goers said their churches were safe places for children, teens, and adults, and more than 80 percent believed their leaders would not cover up misconduct and would bear the cost of addressing incidents correctly, LifeWay found. 

These findings reveal that congregations assume the best about themselves and assume the best about their leadership. Unfortunately, these churchgoers’ optimistic views do not match up with the reality of a majority of churches. 

In spite of the #metoo movement and so many speaking out and publicly, sharing their own experiences of sexual abuse, major investigations have still uncovered hundreds of victims among Protestant churches, while allegations of abuse among missionary kids and within other evangelical organizations continue to come out. 

In 1 Corinthians 5 the apostle Paul had to deal with a similar problem in a congregation. His advice? “Shouldn’t you rather have been stricken with grief and removed from your fellowship the man who did this?” 

Jesus said that we are the light of the world. This sin needs to be stopped and repented of! Otherwise, our light will be snuffed out. 

It is a sad day indeed when the world tells the Church it needs to repent…and they’re right.

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Bill Cosby, Larry Nassar, Harvey Weinstein and Jeffery Epstein all have inspired the #metoo movement. Many celebrities came forward (and continue to do so) to publicly relate their stories of sexual harassment and sexual assault by powerful men.

Sadly, the public has remained silent when it come to the same thing perpetrated on children.  

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 683,000 children experienced some form of child maltreatment in 2015. Child sexual abuse is just one kind of maltreatment, and it happens with alarming frequency. Because of the stigma associated with child sexual abuse and children’s dependence on their perpetrators, this type of crime often goes unreported. 

Studies by David Finkelhor, Director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center, show that:

  • 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse;
  • Self-report studies show that 20% of adult females and 5-10% of adult males recall a childhood sexual assault or sexual abuse incident;
  • During a one-year period in the U.S., 16% of youth ages 14 to 17 had been sexually victimized;
  • Over the course of their lifetime, 28% of U.S. youth ages 14 to 17 had been sexually victimized;
  • Children are most vulnerable to CSA between the ages of 7 and 13. 

This kind of early childhood trauma has been documented to cause life-long mental and physical health problems for victims well into adulthood. A child who is the victim of prolonged sexual abuse usually develops low self-esteem, a feeling of worthlessness and an abnormal or distorted view of sex. The child may become withdrawn and mistrustful of adults, and can even become suicidal. 

Adult intervention is key to saving children from this kind of abuse and giving them a chance at a healthier, happier outcome. Mandated reporting laws support this type of intervention by requiring certain adults to tell the authorities about suspected child abuse. But there is no federal law requiring mandated reporting except for professionals, (teachers, nurses, doctors) so many instances of child sexual abuse go unreported. 

Researchers have found that people tend not to report abuse when there are no bruises or other physical signs and avoid contacting authorities based on suspicions alone even though mandated reporting laws require them to do so. This has become even more prevalent when the perpetrator is a family member living with the child.

These types of egregious failures happen more frequently in our court system, despite the laws in place to deter them from shirking from their responsibility. 90 percent of those convicted of sexually abusing a child living in their home are allowed to plead guilty to a lesser crime and are sentenced to probation and required to register as a sex offender. 

Many mistakenly believe that the Sex Offender Registration laws (SOR) keep children in their community safer. Nothing could be further from the truth! The SOR law in most states do not place any restrictions on registered sex offenders. None! This means that a convicted child sex offender can visit and/or work in schools, daycares, children museums, and even live with or socialize with vulnerable children. The SOR law can only mandate that the offender register his or her required information at the sheriff’s office within the required time. Some judges even allow the perpetrators to have contact with their victims! Thus, allowing perpetrators to continue their abuse without consequences! 

I have written to the Nebraska governor and over 20 Nebraska state legislators pleading with them to make changes in the SOR law to better protect our children. The very few that responded, (less than 8) told me that there was nothing they could do. Really? The Nebraska Senate website states that a senator is called (among other things) to: 

  • Represent the people and the best interests of his or her legislative district
  • Appropriate funds to protect property and persons 
  • Right injustices involving the public
  • Establish state policy by introducing bills to create new programs, modify existing programs, and repeal laws which are no longer needed 

The health and social impacts of child sexual abuse on a survivor last a lifetime and affect us all socially and financially. Delinquency and crime, often stemming from substance abuse, are more prevalent in adolescents with a history of child sexual abuse. Adults survivors are also more likely to become involved in criminal activity.

Child sexual abuse is costing taxpayers over $200 billion each year! The costs include: 

  • Mental and physical healthcare costs 
  • Criminal justice costs 
  • Child welfare costs 
  • Special education costs 
  • Productivity losses 
  • Academic problems 
  • Teen pregnancy 
  • Sexual behavior problems

I know there are many who would rather I remain silent on this subject—at the very least stop using my religious beliefs as a solution to the problem. But I happen to know that the Bible IS the solution to this problem. But most don’t want to follow it. “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31) 

But I will not go quietly into the night. I will not remain silent without a fight. Just as Tom Petty sang, “You can stand me up at the gates of hell, but I won’t back down.”

 

Why am I so passionate about this? Because child victims of abuse are rarely in a position to advocate for themselves. Since their safety depends on adult intervention, it is absolutely critical that adults stand up and speak out for victims of child sexual abuse, or any type of child abuse—Publicly and loudly. If not, we will all be judged by what we did or did not do to prevent it. 

“But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be thrown into the sea.” (Mark 9:42)

 

Many children today complain about having to do small chores at home. But there was a time in this country when young children were routinely legally forced to work at hard labor right alongside their adult counterparts. During the 1900s children, often as young as 10 years old and younger, were forced into manual labor. They worked not only in industrial settings such as textile factories, but also in coal mines, retail stores, on the streets, and in home-based industries. 

Children from lower class families were frequently employed, whereas the concern about idle youths did not appear to be one shared by the upper classes. Well-to-do fathers in the early 1900s believed that it was their duty to work for their children, plan for them, spend money on them, buy life insurance for their protection, afford them a good education and teach them to be upstanding citizens. But lower income families were forced to use their children to help with the home’s finances without the luxury of saving for their futures. 

By the turn of the 20th century, the labor that the children of the working class performed were varied. In rural areas, young boys, some reportedly under age 14, toiled in mines, sometimes working their fingers literally to the bone, breaking up coal. While young boys in urban areas often earned their living as newspaper carriers known as “Newsies”. In many towns, mills and glass factories regularly employed young girls and boys. 

Although many child laborers, such as the Newsies, worked in plain view of others on city streets, many did not. While their coal-stained faces have now become known through pictures, at the time, the children who worked in mines labored in relative obscurity. Some labored in the mines as “trappers,” others were known as “breaker boys,” and many worked as “helpers.” The trapper’s sole job was to sit all day waiting to open a wooden door to allow the passage of coal cars. These doors, which were part of the mine’s ventilation system, required opening between 12 and 50 times a day. During the rest of the time, the boy sat in dark idleness next to the door. 

Although less monotonous, the job of the breaker boys was likely more dangerous. Their job was to use a coal breaker to separate slate and other impurities from coal before it was shipped. To do so, these boys, some as young as 14, were precariously positioned on wooden benches above a conveyor belt so they could remove the impurities as the coal rushed by.  At times, the dust from the passing coal was so dense that their view would become obscured. Other child coal laborers worked as helpers. Journeymen miners frequently hired their own helpers, and some parents hired their own children to perform this role. These children were not usually employees of the mine but were instead paid out of the wages of the journeymen. And if the child worker did not fulfill his duties well they could expect brutal blows to the head or other physical abuse.

In the early decades of the twentieth century, the numbers of child laborers in the U.S. peaked. Child labor began to decline as the labor and reform movements grew and labor standards in general began improving, increasing the political power of working people and other social reformers to demand legislation regulating child labor. 

But it wasn’t until The Great Depression that political attitudes in the United States changed, especially surrounding child labor. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal” sought to prevent extreme child labor. And almost all of the codes under the National Industrial Recovery Act significantly reduced child labor. Overall, these laws were successful, not only to the generally widespread disapproval towards child labor, but also because many previously unemployed adults became employed once children were limited in the workforce. 

Violations of the child labor laws today continue among the agricultural industry. Despite the existing laws regarding forced child labor, some children are still forced to labor excessive numbers of hours with their migrant parents or hold prohibited jobs. 

There has been discussions for some time now about paying reparations to descendants of slaves. Some refer to the reparations that were paid to the Japanese Americans who were held in the internment camps during WWII as a reason to do the same for descendants of slaves. So along that line of thinking, maybe reparations should be paid to descendants of the children of forced labor too?

In recent years people have discovered a new and even more evil way to exploit children that is also more profitable: Human sex trafficking. Unfortunately, in most cases of child sexual abuse, victims are not treated much differently by the courts today than they were in the 1930s. They are still treated as second class citizens and are not recognized as having any real rights. The courts and lawyers are more concerned with working a plea deal for the abuser than getting justice for the under age plaintiffs.

It is estimated by the CDC that 1 in 6 children will be sexually abused before they turn 18. Most will be sexually abused by someone they know well and trust. Because of the trauma this causes, many survivors of child sexual abuse suffer a life of PTSD, depression, anxiety and are at higher risk for drug and alcohol addiction and other criminal activity. 

Many of these children are taken from their families and placed in foster care where they are abused again. And 90% of those convicted of child sexual abuse will only be sentenced to probation and placing absolutely no restrictions on them. Some judges even allow the perpetrators to have contact with their victim!  

Clearly, the United States still has much to do to eliminate the abuses and violations of vulnerable children. To make matters worse, it seems that our legislators don’t really care about protecting our children. I have written to more than 20 Nebraska legislators asking them to place restrictions on those convicted of child sexual abuse. I also sent a petition to the Nebraska legislators though change.org with over 8,000 supporters. The very few that responded told me that there was nothing they could do. Really? Many legislators are concerned with stopping sex trafficking, but trying to solve sex trafficking without working on the epidemic of child sexual abuse in the home is like having a doctor prescribe cough syrup for someone with lung cancer. 

If half as many people spoke out and organized marches to protest the sex offender registration laws as they do to protest gun control, equal rights and sexual harassment in the work place, maybe our legislators would do something to change it.

One day perpetrators of child sexual abuse will be held accountable for their actions. But so will all the people who refused to speak up for the victims.   

Vince Gill – Forever Changed

There has been a dangerous shift in God’s Church recently that should disturb anyone who profess to be Christians. Those who have believed and followed the teachings of the Bible for years are now refusing to acknowledge sin. 

In fact, I have witnessed many who actually support those who are living a sinful lifestyle—and even question if their actions are sinful even at all! And these are not new converts who are ignorant of the Scriptures. They are people who have lived godly lives for years—and even taught others the Bible truths that they now claim are not relevant anymore! 

Words we hear a lot of Christians use these days is tolerance and love. They are both good words, but we have applied them too often, where they don’t belong. What has been the result? Murders and violence plaguing our schools and cities, physical, emotional and sexual abuse of millions of children, corruption in businesses and politics, human trafficking and genocide. 

Just like much of the evils in the world, it began oh so subtly. First we invited unsaved people to attend our church services. Not only do we invite them to church, but we go out of our way to make them feel welcome and try not to offend or upset them by calling out their sin. Maybe even go the extra step of making the unbeliever part of your church family by allowing them to work in the nursery or teach a Sunday school class. Then before you know it they’re preaching their lies from the pulpit. 

What’s most concerning is that churches today have altered how they conduct Sunday services and how they market to attract unsaved people to an event they weren’t biblically meant to attend in the first place. The unsaved are not ready to experience what churches are supposed to offer. They’re not ready to hear the truth from God’s Word, the Bible. So churches attempt to accommodate them with worldly influences. Many church services today resemble a rock concert atmosphere more than a place of worship and discipleship. God told Peter, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” But churches today have called clean what God has called unclean! 

In being so tolerant toward sin, churches today have become more like those they once preached against. Remember the words of the apostle Paul: “Do not be deceived: Bad company corrupts good character. Sober up as you ought, and stop sinning; for some of you are ignorant of God. I say this to your shame.” (1 Corinthians 15:33-34)

In some things Jesus was the most tolerant, loving man who ever lived, but by today’s standards, Jesus would be considered one of the most intolerant, narrow-minded and unloving people. Many bring up the fact that Jesus dined with drunkards, prostitutes and other sinful people. But they neglect to acknowledge that he was the most intolerant  and narrow-minded when it came to obeying God.

Jesus was tolerant toward the sinner, but intolerant toward the evil that enslaves the sinner. To the woman caught in the act of adultery He said, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” (John 8:11) He forgave her because he loved her, but he condemned her sin because he loathed it with a holy hatred. As Christians, there are certain things that we should be intolerant about too. Jesus was so intolerant toward sin that he turned over the merchant’s and money changer’s tables in the temple and called out the hypocrisy of the priests. And in the end he sacrificed his own life in order to free us from the power of sin. 

The Hebrew and Greek words translated “sin” throughout the Bible revolve largely around two major concepts. The first is that of transgression. To transgress means “to step across” or “to go beyond a set boundary or limit.” Most of the other words translated “sin” in the Bible involve a second concept, “to miss the mark.” 

Both of these concepts translate the idea of failing to measure up to a standard. Academic and athletic courses and tests are graded or judged according to a minimum standard. If we don’t meet that standard, we fail that test or course. 

This is where the biblical definitions of sin become important, because Scriptures define the boundaries and standards God set for us and on how we are to live our lives. The definitions of sin in the Bible are not simply arbitrary dos and don’ts. Instead, they show us the way God lives and the spiritual principles by which He lives—The same standard of conduct He expects His human creations to live by. 

What, then, are the boundaries and standards God has set for us that define sin? The most basic definition of sin is in 1 John 3:4: “Whoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.” Here God defines a boundary for mankind. He says that sin is transgressing His holy, spiritual law (Romans 7:12-14). God’s laws are good. The problem is with us. Breaking that law—crossing that divine boundary, that God has set for us—is sin. 

Just as a good parent shows their love to their children by establishing rules for them, God gave humanity His laws to show us His way of love toward us. Those laws also define how we demonstrate our love to God and our fellowman. (Deuteronomy 30:15-16; Matthew 22:35-40; 1 John 5:3) Sin is in violation of that law of love. God showed us a way to live in peace and harmony with Him and with mankind and defined this way of life by His law. When we violate or transgress that boundary and break God’s law, God defines it as sin. It boils down to whose will is most important in our lives. Is it our will, doing what we want to do? Or is it God’s will, doing what He thinks is most important? 

Revelation chapters 2 & 3 gives us an insight of what Jesus thinks of sin and what happens when God’s people refuse to repent. The question every Christian should ask themselves is, “What church do I belong to?”

The solution for the Church today is simple, but not an easy one. John Bunyan’s classic, “Pilgrim’s Progress” explains the hardships,  trials and temptations the Christian life can be. I have learned that whenever you speak God’s truth to people you will risk being looked at as the enemy. Even from other Christians. But in the end, it will be well worth it.

Some may wonder why I’m so passionate about being an advocate for abused children and survivors of child sexual abuse.

Maybe it’s because I was abused as a child myself—verbally, emotionally, physically and sexually. Maybe it’s because of the trauma I suffered I ended up in the hospital for anemia. Maybe it’s because I became a target for even more abuse and bullying throughout my school years. 

And because I desired so much to be accepted and loved that I suffered many failed relationships and a few failed marriages. But in spite of all this I still tried to serve God the best way he could: Ministering to the homeless, organizing youth events in churches, starting a home Bible study group, using my musical talents to reach others for God. But it seemed that nothing I did worked out.  

To make things worse, Christians ridiculed me for my “new beliefs” while unbelievers accused him of being gay because I didn’t chase after women. But there is one person who truly loves me and continues to believe in me. A few years after reconnecting with a girl I knew from high school, we were married and have been happily married for over 12 years now.

Maybe I became an advocate for abused children because a trusted friend from church ended up sexually abusing my own 13 year old son. Maybe it’s because I reported it to CPS and nothing was done. Or maybe it’s because me and my wife discovered that our own grandchildren were abused as children. Maybe it’s because I have witnessed how perpetrators convicted of child sexual abuse are only sentenced to probation and allowed to have contact with other children.

But even after all I’ve been through, I still refuse to remain silent about those who have experienced childhood sexual abuse. I writes to legislators, asking them to change the sex offender registry laws, I write to judges, asking them not to be so lenient on those convicted of child sexual abuse.  And even though I have not received any positive responses, I am even more determined than ever to be a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves.  

Maybe you feel the same way—That nothing that you have tried has worked out. But Thomas Edison once said, “I didn’t fail. I just found 2,000 ways not to make a lightbulb; I only needed to find one way to make it work.” 

I didn’t fail to serve God. I just found several ways NOT to serve God. I only needed to find that one thing that God wanted me to do. And I think I found it in being a strong advocate for victims and survivors of child abuse like me.  

If you are a survivor of child abuse, maybe you too should consider being an advocate. It will not only help heal those who have survived childhood trauma, it will also help you to heal as well. 

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

One Thing

Shavuot 2019 (pronounced SHävo͞oˈōt) will begin in the evening of Saturday, June 8 and ends in the evening of Monday, June 10. In ancient Israel various herbs and legumes were harvested in spring, but the most important spring crops were cereals—barley and wheat. A spring ritual took particular note of the cereals: Newly harvested grain could not be eaten until the first fruits of grain had been offered on the day after the sabbath of the Festival of Unleavened Bread. (Leviticus 23:9-14) Shavuot, near the end of the grain harvest, included grain and loaf offerings. (verses 16-17) Shavuot was also called “the Feast of Harvest” (Exodus 23:16).

Although Shavuot began as an ancient grain harvest festival, the holiday has been identified since biblical times with the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. It is customary for modern Jews to decorate their homes with greens and fresh flowers on Shavuot as a reminder of the spring harvest and the ancient ritual of bringing the first fruits to the Temple. Many Jews prepare and eat dairy foods (often cheesecake or blintzes) on Shavuot as a reminder of the sweetness of Torah.

Many people stay up all night studying Torah on the evening of Shavuot. This custom evolved from the story that says that when Moses went up Sinai to receive God’s laws many of the Israelites fell asleep and had to be awakened by Moses. As a result, many modern Jews stay up all night to study and celebrate receiving the Torah. Interestingly, when Jesus went away to pray in Gethsemane, his disciples also fell asleep and had to be awakened. So to honor our Messiah we too, may want to stay up at night reading Scripture. 

Traditionally, the Book of Ruth is read during services in synagogues on Shavuot. Ruth was a young Moabite woman who married an Israelite man. The Bible refers to both the Moabites and Ammonites as Lot’s sons, born of incest with his daughters. (Genesis 19:30-38) When Ruth’s husband died, she followed her mother-in-law, Naomi and adopted her Hebrew faith and her people as her own. (Ruth 1:16–17) To feed herself and Naomi, she gleaned in the field of Boaz, a rich man. Boaz is taken with her, and eventually they marry. Among their descendants is the famed King David. Ruth (a non-Jew) should be considered an example for all Christians to accept and obey the Torah as God’s holy instructions, just as the Israelites did at Mt. Sinai. 

In Exodus 19:1 we read that the Israelites came to the foot of Mount Sinai in the third month. The third month after the Exodus is Sivan; since this was also the month of Shavuot, the rabbis deduced that God gave the Torah on Shavuot. Today, it is widely accepted that the Torah was given by God to the Hebrew  people on Shavuot. In this sense, every year on the holiday of Shavuot the Jewish people see themselves as renewing this experience. We too can use Shavuot to renew our acceptance of the Torah and observe all that He commanded. 

We need to understand that although God had given the Torah to the Hebrew people, (Israelites) this also included the mixed multitude that left Egypt with them. (Exodus 12:37-38) It is possible that many of these Egyptians were the offspring of Egyptian task masters who had relations with Hebrew slaves. Just as many of the slaveowners (such as Thomas Jefferson) did in America’s history. The Hebrews of the Exodus did not become Jews until after the kingdom was divided into two, with 10 tribes in the northern kingdom of Israel and two in the southern kingdom of Judah. (1 Kings 12; 2 Chronicles 10) This means that all Jews are Israelites but not all Israelites are Jews.

How does this relate to us as Christians?

The Bible also says: “count fifty days”, which is why, in the New Testament, the name for the holiday is usually translated as “Pentecost”. Shavuot and Pentecost are actually two different names for the same Festival. Therefore, the events of the first two chapters of the book of Acts must be seen against this biblical background. For instance, when in Acts 1:4 Jesus commanded his disciples not to depart from Jerusalem, we would better understand this command if we remember that Shavuot is one of the three Biblical pilgrimage festivals, when all Israelites were expected to be in Jerusalem: “Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God at the place that He will choose: at the festival of unleavened bread, at the festival of weeks, and at the festival of booths.” (Deut. 16:16) Many Jews and non-Jews alike describe these as Jewish only celebrations. But Leviticus 23 makes it plain that these are God’s feast days: “Then the LORD said to Moses, Speak to the Israelites and say to them, ‘These are My appointed feasts, the feasts of the LORD that you will proclaim as sacred assemblies.” (vs. 1 & 2) 

Remember  that mixed multitude that traveled with the Hebrews on their Exodus? Concerning His feast days God proclaimed to them, “This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast.” (Exodus 12:14)  And in case it wasn’t clear enough God also said, “The same law shall apply to both the native and the foreigner who resides among you.” (v. 49)

Preparing for the Holiday

The Bible teaches that the Israelites had three days to prepare to receive the Torah at Mount Sinai. To ready themselves for the momentous occasion, they were instructed to wash their clothes and to stay ritually pure. (Exodus 19:10-11) By recalling those three days, today we can use the three days before Shavuot to prepare ourselves personally and spiritually, as a family, and as a community to re-experience this life-changing event.

Shavuot in the New Testament

In Acts 2 we read, “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.”  (Acts 2:1-3) 

We  have to remember  that the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot) forms the background of this event and that by the first century the festival was already associated with the covenant made with Moses. We would then understand that it was certainly no coincidence that the descending of God’s Spirit is described on the day of Pentecost, and we would be able to see these beautiful and profound parallels between God giving His Torah and giving His Spirit. On both occasions, Shavuot becomes the day when Heaven is opened and God Himself claims His people. 

The “noise like a violent storm” in Acts 2 definitely echoes the thundering and the fire of Exodus 20:18. It seems that Luke consciously builds these parallels and describes the events of Acts 2 in terms of a “second Sinai”, thus, Jesus’ command to the Apostles to wait in Jerusalem might also be understood as a hint that, as God’s Torah was given on Shavuot, God’s Spirit was also given on Shavuot. 

The Christian version of Pentecost

Today, many Christians are taught that Pentecost was the day that the Church was born. But if Pentecost was the birth of the Church, why did Peter not include Gentiles in his message? Why did Peter not mention the cross, salvation through the blood of Christ, or forgiveness of sins based upon the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ? Why did he not offer salvation by faith alone, apart from works? Why did he not say a word about the body of Christ? To press further, why did Peter or any of the Twelve ever mention the body of Christ? 

Because Peter didn’t know anything yet about God’s salvation based upon the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ—salvation by faith alone, or even the significance of the blood of Christ! Peter didn’t even know what Church was let alone the teachings associated with it. Peter only knew God’s prophetic, kingdom program. He only knew the prophecies of the prophets which Jesus had proclaimed throughout his earthly ministry. God had kept this revelation a secret until He revealed it to Paul. (Ephesians 3.1-7) The term ‘Gentiles’ would be better translated ‘Goyim’—meaning non-Jew. Or someone outside the tribe of Judah. (Remember, all Jews are Israelites, but not all Israelites are Jews) The prophets reveal that the Goyim will be blessed through the Jews. (Zechariah 8:23)

The confusion continues

Great confusion has resulted from failure to understand that the events of Shavuot in Acts happened to believing Jews and Israelites—not to the Church. Because the Church did not exist yet! Another area of confusion has been the speaking in tongues. Some denominations and churches teach that believers are supposed to speak in tongues as proof that they “have the Holy Spirit” because that was the evidence experienced by Peter and the other followers in the upper room. Some even claim that a person cannot even be saved until they speak in tongues! 

Lastly, we should note that when one is saved by believing Paul’s gospel (1 Corinthians 15.1-4) he is immediately baptized by God’s Holy Spirit into the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12.12-13). This baptism has no sign—such as speaking in tongues. The gift of tongues all but ceased long ago, and one day will be done away with completely. (1 Corinthians 13.8) But even when they operated in the Church, they were not a sign for believers but for unbelievers. (1 Corinthians 14.22)

The Scriptures indicate clearly that the Church—the body of Christ, did not begin at Pentecost. Pentecost is one of God’s feast days and is still in effect today. God had never revealed or even hinted that His feast days were only for Jews, that they would ever end, or that the Church would replace the Israelites as the new body of Christ. What He had revealed was that Goyim would be blessed through the Jews. The Church was merely the method God used to bring us all—Jew and non-Jew alike, to the knowledge of His saving grace through His son, Yeshua Ha’Mashiach. 

And I long for the day that we will all worship him around the throne of God!

Murders, violence plaguing our schools and cities, physical, emotional and sexual abuse of millions of children, corruption in businesses and politics, human trafficking and genocide. What causes these things? And how do we put and end to it?

The solution is simple, but not so easy. 

The Bible teaches us that if we repent of our wickedness, return to God and obey His commandments, He will bless every aspect of our lives, but if we continue in our wickedness and follow after other gods, all we can expect is more evil in our lives and in the end, destruction. 

“And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God. Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your cattle, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock. Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out. “ (Deuteronomy 28: 1-6) 

“But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you. Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the field. Cursed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Cursed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock. Cursed shall you be when you come in, and cursed shall you be when you go out.” (vs 15-19)

Although many Christians place the blame for all the trouble in the world on unbelievers and the devil, these words were directed at God’s people. They were never directed to those who rejected God and worshipped idols. Read what God told Solomon after he finished building the Temple for God: “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:13-14)

You see, all the problems we see in the world can all be solved if only Christians would repent and turn back to God and obey Him. Even the apostle Paul wrote, “What business of mine is it to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside.” (1 Corinthians 5:12-13) So the Bible makes clear that Christians are not to judge unbelievers, but those who claim to be Christians inside the Church. But to do that we must first understand what it means to be a true Christian.

True Christianity—What is it? 

The basic definition of a Christian is a person who professes belief in Jesus as the Messiah based on the teachings of the Bible. People often consider themselves Christians if they were brought up in a religious family or if they go to church. But does this make someone a true Christian? Keith Green once said, “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian anymore than going to McDonald’s makes you a hamburger.”

The Bible has a lot to say about being a true Christian. The word “Christian” is only used three times in the Bible. In Acts 11:26, the believers of Jesus were first called Christians because their actions resembled Jesus’ behavior. The word is also used in Acts 26:28 and 1 Peter 4:16. 

The Bible teaches that a follower of Christ is one who has been born again. In John 3:3 Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” The term “born again” has been used (and abused) by many in our generations. But it was considered nonsense by the man Jesus was talking to in this passage. Nicodemus asked Jesus, “How can a man be born when he is old?”  What Nicodemus couldn’t know until later on, was that the phrase “born again” literally means born from above. It indicates a change in one’s heart—a spiritual transformation of someone’s life. 

What is the Result? 

A realization of one’s sin. Romans 3:23 says, “For ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” This sin results in death according to Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The death that the apostle Paul is speaking of is not an earthly death but the second death after the Resurrection. The term “second death” appears only in the book of Revelation. It appears four times: Revelation 2:11; 20:6; 20:14-15; and 21:8. Revelation mentions that there is no second death for those who have repented of their sins and surrendered their lives to God. Only those who have rejected God and His gift of salvation through His son, Jesus.

A true Christian has faith in only Jesus

Having faith in Jesus’ death on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins and accepting that salvation is a free gift of God—acknowledging that we can’t do enough good deeds to work our way into heaven. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” We cannot become holy by doing things, helping people, giving money, being kind or polite. We can only become holy by believing in Jesus Christ and letting him take control of our lives.

What are the characteristics of a true Christian? 

A true Christian is a new creation. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” The “old” refers to everything that was part of our old nature—pride, love of sin, negative habits and evil passions. We do not inherit the new nature from our parents, nor can we re-create a new nature for ourselves, no matter how good and moral of a person we are. And it doesn’t mean that God simply cleans up our old nature. He creates in us an entirely new and unique person! 

A true Christian is dead to sin. 

Romans 6:11-12 says, “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.” A Christian may still struggle with temptation to sin, but they repent to God and are forgiven because of the sacrifice that Jesus made. Repentance is not parroting a prayer and asking Jesus to come into your life. And it doesn’t mean that you’re sorry you got caught in the sin. Repentance means that you’re sorry for the sin itself—that your sin hurt God and damaged your relationship with Him. Repentance means that you turn from your old life of sin and surrender every aspect of your life to God—A life no longer ruled by sin. 

A true Christian is conformed to God’s Spirit.

A true Christian allows God’s Holy Spirit to conform them to the image of Christ. Galatians 5:22-23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.The fruit of the Spirit has nothing to do with soul winning, or preaching, or being successful financially, or even discipling others. The fruit of the Spirit has to do with how one lives their life. I have met many who are homeless, who struggle with health issues and have never won anyone to Jesus, and yet lived their lives according to God’s word. And we have all witnessed so-called successful Christian preachers and evangelists who have never displayed any of the fruit of the Spirit in their personal, private and/ or public life. 

A true Christian is called to live a holy life. 

That means not being conformed to the ways of the world. “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:2 NLT) In Ephesians 4:17-32 Paul gives us instructions on how to live our new life in Christ: “…put off your former way of life, your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be renewed in the spirit of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness…Let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building up the one in need and bringing grace to those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” I believe this would apply to our social media posts and Twitter feeds as well.

 A true Christian is to read and obey God’s Word. 

James 1:22 says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” There are many professing Christians today who say, “Because we are now under grace we don’t need to  obey the Old Testament law.”  And, “It’s impossible for us to obey God’s commandments. That’s why Jesus had to die on the cross.” 

But why would God give us commandments that He knew were impossible for us to obey? He wouldn’t. In 1 John 5:3 we read, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome…” And again in 1 John 2:3: “By this we can be sure that we have come to know Him: if we keep His commandments.” When God gave His commandments of blessing and cursing to Moses and to the Hebrew people he said, “…For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off…But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that YOU CAN DO IT.” – Deuteronomy 30:11-14 (Emphasis mine) 

A New Commandment or just the same old one?

Many Christians believe that because Jesus gave us a “new commandment” in John 13:34-35 that he replaced the Old Testament Law. They even give proof by pointing to what Jesus said in Luke 10:27: One day an expert in the law stood up to test Him. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” Jesus replied. “How do you read it?” He answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” “You have answered correctly,” Jesus said. “Do this and you will live.” 

So what was this expert in the Law referring to? Possibly the commandment from Deuteronomy 6:5? “And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” And Leviticus 19:18? “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against any of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.” 

Anyone who thinks that the Old Testament is only about strictly obeying the Law and lacks God’s grace, has not studied the Old Testament. It was out of God’s love for His people that He continued to pour out His grace on them—time and time again. The people would rebel against God and serve idols, then they would bring trouble and destruction on themselves. Then they repented and cried out to God, and God saved them—time and time again. And that is exactly how God expects us to love each other. The same way He loves us.

God’s Laws and His Holy festivals that He commands us to obey are not to keep us under His thumb or hold them over our heads. His commandments are for our own safety. When my children were young they obeyed my rules. Not because they thought I would love them more if they obeyed me, or afraid that if they disobeyed I would love them less. But BECAUSE they loved me they obeyed me. And they knew that my rules would keep them safe. We do not obey God’s commandments because we think God will love us more if we obey, or we’re afraid that God will love us less if we don’t. But BECAUSE we love God we obey His commandments. (1 John 5:3)

Now there will always be sin in the world until Jesus returns and rules on the earth. But the problems plaguing our world today would be greatly reduced if only God’s people would repent of their wickedness and turn again to God and obey only Him. It’s all up to us. 

Listen to what God said: “I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing. So choose life, so that you and your descendants may live, and that you may love the LORD your God, obey Him, and hold fast to Him. For He is your life, and He will prolong your life in the land the LORD swore to give to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20)