Rosh Hashanah this year begins at sundown on October 2nd. It is the first of the fall festivals and considered to be the beginning of the lunar new year. The Feast of Tabernacles, or Sukkoth, follows soon after on October 16th.

The idea of using the first day of January to mark the beginning of the new year dates back to time of Julius Caesar—five decades before the birth of Jesus. Even as the Julian calendar spread in popularity, some areas continued to use dates in March and September as New Year’s Day.

It wasn’t until the 1570s that Pope Gregory put the Gregorian calendar into effect, restoring January 1st as the first day of the new year. This change in tradition wasn’t officially implemented by England until 1752.

I think it’s interesting, that January 1st of the Gregorian calendar went into effect as the new year in the1570’s but not officially accepted by England or the American colonies until nearly 200 hundred years later. So up until then, England and the American colonies were counting the new year from March 25th which is more closely aligned to the Hebrew lunar calendar.

Why did the Church stop observing the biblical feasts?

So when did God’s feasts stop being relevant to Christians and why? What happened long after Jesus’ death, Resurrection, the destruction of the Temple or even hundreds of years later that caused believers to abandon these biblical “Feasts of the Lord” in favor of new traditions?

According to Eusebius’ Life of Constantine, Book III chapter 18, the Roman emperor Constantine stated: “Let us then have nothing in common with the detestable Jewish crowd; for we have received from our Saviour a different way.”

Constantine was a worshiper of the sun-god Mithras and December 25th was Mithras’ birthday—that later became adopted as Christmas. A few decades after Christmas was adopted by Rome, the Roman Catholic John Chrysostom preached the following in 387 A.D.: “The festivals of the pitiful and miserable Jews are soon to march upon us one after the other and in quick succession: the feast of Trumpets, the feast of Tabernacles, the fasts. There are many in our ranks who say they think as we do. Yet some of these are going to watch the festivals and others will join the Jews in keeping their feasts and observing their fasts. I wish to drive this perverse custom from the Church right now…If the Jewish ceremonies are venerable and great, ours are lies…Does God hate their festivals and do you share in them?” (John Chrysostom. Homily I Against the Jews I:5;VI:5;VII:2. )

Notice that he did not say this or that festival, but all of them together.

Many Christians pick out Colossians 2:16-18 and mistakingly believe that Paul is telling us not to observe the feasts: Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”

But Paul is not telling us NOT to observe God’s festivals or Sabbaths, he is telling us not to let others JUDGE us when we DO observe them! And who were those Paul was speaking of who would judge them? The legalistic Jews who would impose man-made ordinances and rules on the new Jewish believers. But Paul tells them: “Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!’? These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings.” (Vs. 20-22)

The New Testament Christians kept the Fall Holy Days

The Apostles Paul wrote: “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1) And that included keeping the biblical feast days.

Notice that even after the death and resurrection of Jesus, the importance that the Apostle Paul attached to keeping a Feast in Jerusalem: “I must by all means keep this coming feast in Jerusalem; but I will return again to you, God willing.” (Acts 18:21 KJV)

I find it interesting that many Bible translations today have removed the part of that verse that says, “I must by all means keep this coming feast in Jerusalem.” Compare it to the NIV which reads, “But as he left, he promised, “I will come back if it is God’s will.” Then he set sail from Ephesus.” Why no mention of keeping the feast in Jerusalem?

Feasts of the Lord—Not just Jewish feasts

In Leviticus 23:1-2 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. (Emphasis mine)

Notice that God did not say, “These are Jewish feasts.” But he said, “These are the appointed feasts OF THE LORD.” And “They are MY appointed feasts.”

The Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah) 

And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe a day of solemn rest, a memorial proclaimed with blast of trumpets, a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work, and you shall present a food offering to the Lord.” -Leviticus 23:24-25

The Hebrew word “moed” is commonly translated “feast” or “festival” in the Bible, but it really means “appointment”. God has set a number of “divine appointments” with Him on the yearly calendar. Appointments that Jesus celebrated, that the first Christians celebrated, that foreshadows the return of Jesus for His bride and that the entire planet will celebrate during the 1000 year reign of Jesus on earth.

It is very important for believers to learn about these festivals, because God didn’t just create them for us to have a good time.  All of the festivals are about Jesus, and all of them are highly prophetic.

The Feasts are commanded to be observed forever.

In Zechariah 14:16-19 we read:Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord Almighty, and to celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles. If any of the peoples of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord Almighty, they will have no rain. If the Egyptian people do not go up and take part, they will have no rain. The Lord will bring on them the plague he inflicts on the nations that do not go up to celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles. This will be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the nations that do not go up to celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles.”

In Leviticus 23:41 the word used for “forever” is the Hebrew word, עוֹלָם (`owlam) and means, long duration, antiquity, futurity, everlasting, evermore, perpetual, always, continuous existence, unending, eternity—In other words, FOREVER!

The New Testament Greek word for forever is aion (ahee-ohn’) and means at all times, always, perpetual, continuously, or continuous—In other words, FOREVER!

The account in Zechariah 14 refers to the time AFTER Jesus returns to earth and emphasizes the fact that this Feast is a statute forever. All nations are commanded to observe this Feast in the millennium. Eventually, all nations will come to understand and appreciate God’s commanded Feasts.

Human tradition stops many from observing God’s feasts. Notice some of what Jesus taught about religious people who preferred traditions over the commands of the Bible:

“Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matthew 15:7-9)

Those who have their minds set on earthly things lose sight of the world to come. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. (Phil.3:19) Esau was faithless and willing to give up his inheritance in exchange for the immediate gratification of his earthly hunger. But we do not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

It is very easy to become ensnared by the superficial trappings of worldly comforts so that we fail to realize just how vulnerable and naked we are in this world.

The Sukkah reminds us of our weakness and vulnerability:

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary, troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-5:1)

The Feast of Tabernacles is not just to remind us that the Hebrews lived in booths, but also that God dwelt among his people. They were led by his glorious presence and the tabernacle of the Lord was pitched in the midst of their tents. The Sukkah reminds us that as we live within this mortal, temporary body, God also dwells with us as he leads us by His Spirit to our eternal dwelling.

Only when we put aside this earthly tent and receive our glorified immortal bodies will we rejoice in the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promises, yet we rejoice even now because we have been given the first-fruits of the Spirit guaranteeing our citizenship in the heavenly Jerusalem which is yet to be revealed.

Sadly, most Christians don’t know anything about these amazing festivals even though they are featured very prominently in the Scriptures.

Jesus said, “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Mathew 5:17-19 NLT)

The purpose of God’s law will not be achieved until after the return of Jesus. The only thing Jesus accomplished by his death and resurrection was the forgiveness of our sins and the giving of God’s Spirit. All through the New testament writings we read, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Which commandments? All of them. (John 14:15, 21,23; John 15:10;1 John 2:3; 1 John 5:3; 2 John 1:6)

So should we obey the commandments of God as revealed in the Bible and observe His appointed feasts—as practiced by Jesus and the early Christian Church, or should we replace God’s feasts with the pagan-based holidays of the traditions of men?

As for me, I will reject the traditions of men and let God arise:

“Acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent—both are detestable to the LORD.” (Proverbs 17:15 NLT)

Congressman Major R. Owens at the opening of a field hearing on child sexual abuse in New York on April 20, 1992, stated “Ignoring or mistreating child sexual abuse is tantamount to allowing an untreated cancer to grow in our society.” (http://justiceforchildren.org/about-us/system-is-failing-our-children/)

At that hearing, experts and parents testified concerning the obstacles to addressing and remedying this problem. David Paterson, a state senator from New York, testified that one of every three young girls and one of every five boys become the victims of child sexual abuse and that a high percentage of those most afflicted repeat the cycle.

This federal hearing was convened in response to a state-level investigation conducted by then-Assemblyman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), who concluded that the system has failed miserably to protect sexually abused children. Unfortunately, over 24 years have passed since those hearings, yet, reports of child abuse and neglect nationwide continue to rise.

This increase is the direct result of the failure of our legal system to protect known victims of abuse. This crisis is even more critical as it affects children who are unable to fight for themselves. According to a 2003 National Institute of Justice report, 3 out of 4 adolescents who have been sexually assaulted were victimized by someone they knew well. (page 5)

The courts and the victims

Unfortunately, there are no national statistics on the number of prosecutions for child sexual abuse. It is clear, however, that thousands of criminal cases are filed each year.

In many cases, the strength of the evidence depends on the child’s ability to testify. Children are usually the only eyewitnesses to sexual abuse, and prosecutors are more likely to file criminal charges when they believe children will be effective witnesses. Not surprisingly, age plays a role in prosecutorial decision making. Preschool-age children are sometimes ineffective witnesses, with the tragic consequence that the law is least able to protect the youngest and most vulnerable victims.

Plea Bargaining

Once criminal charges are filed, prosecutors engage in plea bargaining with defense attorneys representing defendants. In many cases, the defendant pleads guilty to a less serious offense than originally charged, or agrees to plead guilty to the original charge in exchange for the prosecutor’s commitment to recommend leniency when the judge pronounces sentence. Approximately 66% of all child sexual abuse charges end in guilty pleas to lesser charges before trial. (http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/ascii/fpcseo06.txt)

Diversion from Prosecution

In some jurisdictions, prosecutors have authority to divert selected defendants away from prosecution for child sexual abuse and into treatment. Criminal proceedings are suspended on the condition of specified obligations by the defendant, often including participation in counseling or treatment. Upon successful completion or compliance with the conditions of diversion, the case is dismissed.

Sentencing and conviction

Although most cases that go to trial end in conviction, as a result of plea bargaining, diversion, and dismissal for other reasons, the number of sex abuse cases that go all the way to trial is very small. Only 10% of all cases filed by prosecutors are ever tried.

Many believe that convicted child molesters often receive long prison terms. However,  many individuals convicted of child sexual abuse do not go to prison. Instead, their punishment consists of a suspended prison sentence and/or probation. The average length of probation for felony convictions is two to three years.

Sex Offender Registration Laws

In large part because of the fear and belief that sex offenders will reoffend, many states require convicted sex offenders to register with local law enforcement agencies and to change their registration when they move. In several cases, sex offenders have successfully challenged the constitutionality of registration laws, arguing that such laws constitute cruel and unusual punishment.

The Sex Offender Registration law (SOR) does not have any restrictions on registered sex offenders. This is a common misperception. The only restrictions placed on a convicted sex offender are done so by the judge as part of the conditions of probation. In most states the SOR does not have the legal jurisdiction to prevent an offender from attending events, limiting employment, restrict an offender from entering any facilities, or refrain from living with or socializing with children or vulnerable persons. The SOR law can only mandate the offender to register his or her required information within the required time. This means that a convicted sex offender has the freedom to frequent, and even work, at or near schools, parks, museums, public pools and day care facilities, unless prohibited by the conditions of their probation!

What Can We Do?

“An urgent need exists for federal action to ensure that laws in our states pertaining to child abuse and neglect, whether physical or sexual, whether family member or stranger, are strengthened to protect children. By aggressively intervening on a timely basis on behalf of the child, and by ensuring that the legal rights of the child are observed in any subsequent judicial proceeding, our government can stop both the actual and systemic abuse of the child.” —Randy Burton, founder and president of the child advocacy organization Justice for Children http://justiceforchildren.org

Thousands of children throughout America suffer sexual abuse each day at the hands of the very people who are supposed to protect and care for them. This has harmful consequences on the physical and emotional development and well-being of children. The police do their job and arrest these criminals, but our laws allow judges to hand down light sentences or probation that allows the perpetrators to re-offend, placing the public at risk. In several states a judge must run for retention in office in the first general election that occurs more than three years after his or her appointment, and every six years thereafter. We can send a strong message in November by voting “NO” to retain these judges.

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 18:10)

There are fewer crimes in society that trigger greater public outrage than sex trafficking of children. Trafficking is a serious problem around the world and in the United States. Yet many of the stereotypes surrounding the issue—and the counter-productive approaches to fixing the problem—make it increasingly difficult to address the real dilemmas and oppression of those children in need of help.

Abused children left unprotected 

While most youth entered ‘the life’ of prostitution between the ages of 11-14, their sexual exploitive situation often began between the ages of 6-10 and documented as sexual child abuse cases, where the perpetrators were often only sentenced to probation! Because of this, child sexual abuse is often not reported. Therefore, the prevalence of child sexual abuse is difficult to determine and is most likely much higher than what current statistics show. Even experts agree that the incidence of child sexual abuse is far greater than what is reported to authorities.

Children are abused, molested or raped in their own homes every day! And even when the perpetrators are arrested and charged, most judges only sentence them to probation! These are crimes that we all can agree are despicable and are deserving of a punishment that matches their deplorable nature. No child should grow up in a state of constant fear, knowing that his or her assailant is no longer behind bars. Yet this is exactly what is happening across the country!

Our criminal justice is deeply flawed.

There is a fundamental perverseness about when a child has to relive the trauma in court of being molested and raped, only to discover that their attacker is set free! Is it any wonder that victims of child sexual abuse are reluctant to report their attacker?

Maybe mandatory minimum sentences are necessary to protect victims of child sexual abuse. Without mandatory minimum sentences in place, child molesters are being released before many of their victims graduate from high school. That is absolutely unacceptable! These traumatized children have already been through enough and deserve the peace of mind that comes from knowing they are free from harm during the remaining years of their childhood.

Opponents of mandatory minimum sentences believe judges should have greater flexibility in determining sentences. But to me, rape and sexual assault of children are the kind of crimes that deserve a harsher sentence than probation.

One of the primary responsibilities of government is to ensure public safety, (Deuteronomy 16:18) particularly when it come to protecting our children. However, throughout all of the political debates, press conferences and political rallies there has not been so much as a blip about protecting children from sexual abuse or getting tougher on the perpetrators of these crimes.

Many politicians speak out against human sex trafficking and propose all kinds of bills to fight against it, but very few (if any) bills are introduced to protect children from perpetrators of child sexual abuse in their own homes.

In 20 recent studies of adult women who were sexually exploited through prostitution, the percentage of those who had been abused as children ranged from 33 percent to 84 percent! Many of the children who are victims of sex trafficking are runaways who were sexually abused at home.

https://aspe.hhs.gov/basic-report/human-trafficking-and-within-united-states-review-literature#Commonalities

So by reaching victims of sexual assault when they’re still young—standing up for them, helping them get therapy, education, housing and job placement—we can help prevent a life of forced prostitution, drug addiction and crime. Because if we wait until they’re in their twenties or thirties it will be much more difficult (if not impossible), to reach them.

As a civilized society, we have a responsibility to do everything we can to deter these crimes of child sexual abuse and to ensure that when they do occur, they are not taken lightly.

As Christians, we have an even higher responsibility: “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 18:10)

Judges and justices in states with retention elections are retained with anywhere from 60 percent to 80 percent of the vote. However, retention elections are sometimes used as opportunities to remove from office judges who have made unpopular rulings.

We can send a strong message in November by supporting candidates who speak out against child sexual abuse, and in states that have retention elections, vote “NO” to retain lenient judges.

https://ballotpedia.org/Retention_election

It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken ones.

“The Eleventh Commandment” by Collin Raye

I normally try to stay away from writing about political matters, but this year’s election has revealed the moral compass of many Americans. (And not in a good way)

The world has witnessed more back-biting, name-calling and violent protesting during this election season than most people can remember.

And sadly, the few candidates who showed high moral standards and common sense were passed over. And now Americans are left with a choice between an angry, insulting, narcissist, who believes that only HE can make America great again, or a woman who has a long history of lies and corruption. But it seems that the American people either have short or selective memories.

Trust is an important part of any good personal or professional relationship. This is especially true when comes to deciding who to choose for the highest office in the country. If past performance is an indicator of future actions, our country is in big trouble.

Donald Trump

Donald Trump is either really sketchy, super savvy—or a little bit of both. Trump has made millions of dollars facilitated by high-profile connections and unprecedented subsidies and tax breaks from the government. The Wall Street Journal published a report claiming that he made millions of dollars endorsing a multilevel marketing firm called ACN. The company has undergone regulatory investigations regarding pyramid scheme allegations in three countries—allegations Trump told WSJ he had never heard of.

He has also gotten into hot water recently over Trump University—now known as the Trump Entrepreneur Initiative. The seminar initiative has him embroiled in two lawsuits in New York and California for misleading people into believing it was an actual university.

Trump’s corporations have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on four separate occasions: the Trump Taj Mahal in 1991, the Trump Plaza Hotel in 1992, Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts in 2004 and Trump Entertainment Resorts in 2009. All of his bankruptcies were tied to casino and hotel properties in Atlantic City. And this is the man that we’re going to trust with our economy?

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton has repeatedly called for a crackdown on all types of trafficking of women and children across international borders. In a 1999 speech she said, “Finally, trafficking of women and children has emerged out of the shadows and into the spotlight. We must prevent it, protect the victims and prosecute the perpetrators to the full extent of the law.”

That same year Human rights investigator and whistleblower Kathryn Bolkovac tried to investigate cases of human sex trafficking in Bosnia—and lost her job. There were many cases, but they were never prosecuted. Young girls from Romania, Ukraine, Moldova and other Eastern European countries were forced into prostitution and used on the UN and military bases as sex-slaves. The cases involved the officers from many foreign countries, including the USA, Pakistan, Germany, Romania, and the Ukraine who worked with local organized criminals. The suspects were immediately removed from the mission or transferred to other missions, but most were never charged under diplomatic immunity. (You can read her story here)

But despite a presidential directive that set a zero tolerance on human trafficking, those working in the sex trade have still been operating with impunity—Some under the cover of the U.S. government!

Just last year a report from the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services indicated that “peacekeepers” working in Haiti were guilty of raping Haitian women at an alarming rate. The report also indicated that a large number of the victims were underage.

According to the report, there were 231 people in Haiti who claimed they were sexually violated by UN peacekeepers, and were forced to perform sexual acts in exchange for food and supplies that were intended as relief packages. (Read more at http://www.thesleuthjournal.com/report-hundreds-of-women-a-children-forced-into-sex-by-united-nations-peacekeepers-video/)

Sex trafficking among the elite

In 2002 Former president Bill Clinton took repeated trips on the ” Lolita Express”—the private passenger jet owned by billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein. Clinton shared Epstein’s plane on at least 11 flights in 2002 and 2003—before any of the allegations against them became public—according to the pilots’ logbooks, which have surfaced in civil litigation surrounding Epstein’s crimes.

Meanwhile, Bill and Hillary Clinton have remained mum about their ties to the Palm Beach pedophile—despite evidence that shows Bill was one of the most famous and frequent passengers

Epstein pleaded guilty in 2008 in Florida to one count of soliciting underage girls for sex (and one count of adult solicitation), for which he only served just over a year in county jail. But he has reportedly settled lawsuits with more than 30 victims since 2008! The youngest alleged victim was only 12 years old at the time of her abuse! (Read more at: http://gawker.com/flight-logs-put-clinton-dershowitz-on-pedophile-billio-1681039971)

And to make matters worse, (If that’s possible) yet another victim filed a suit in New York accusing not only Epstein, but also Donald Trump—of raping her at a series of sex parties when she was only 13! Trump has denied these claims and his reps have said he barely knew Epstein—even though  Epstein had 14 private numbers for Trump and his family in his little black book.

And in spite of these disgusting reports, the American people are more outraged about some lost and leaked e-mails?

When did we lose our moral compass? 

The answer is that the two bedrocks America was founded upon and depended upon are today reviled and attacked as not being relevant to modern society—the Bible and the Constitution.

The Bible is no longer viewed as the truth a vital nation anchors its present and future aspirations upon, but is viewed as the resource of foolish and ignorant people who subscribe to a theology of bigotry and narrow-mindedness.

But if there is no God, there is no absolute truth. And if there is no absolute truth, then our decisions are based upon what feels good to us. We in effect then, contribute to the creation of chaos and disorder—because then there are no behaviors that are too wretched and evil, and nothing is unacceptable.

Consider just a few of what many claim are resources of foolish and ignorant people:

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 7:12)

“Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,’ and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” (Romans 13:8-10)

America’s moral compass is embedded in our Constitution that acknowledges that ALL men (including women and children) are created equal and that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights—among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Having a moral compass means having a sense of what is right and wrong and moving toward that direction or goal. It also means that we do not idly stand by while members of our society are denied those unalienable rights by the government or other powerful groups and cliques who abuse the rights of those who cannot defend themselves.

The Constitution of the United States (and its documents) are the most influential preservers of human rights and critical in setting of limits pursuant to the reach of government. Yet today the Constitution is looked upon as an outdated creation of wealthy, old white men who are no longer relevant today.

America has replaced order and morality with chaos and selfishness. America is no longer a standard to the world that shows forth truth and constitutional justice. Instead, America has become a purveyor of lies, debauchery, betrayal and subjugation. America has lost its standing with the world because America has lost its moral and constitutional standing with its own people.

Regardless of who becomes president in November, the only way I see America returning to the morals and values of the Founding Fathers is that we repent of our wickedness and turn back to God. If not, we will become further entrenched in even more lies, debauchery, betrayal and subjugation—that eventually will lead us to cry out to God for mercy.

Either way, God wins. Maybe that’s what he planned all along.

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 KJV)

I have heard many Christians quote that verse in 2 Timothy when discussing if the Bible is true. Some modern versions even translate that verse as, “All scripture is God breathed…” And yet most Christians today rarely (if ever) have read anything other than the New Testament writings.

We must remember that when the apostle Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy, the only Scripture that was available at the time was the Tanakh; the first Hebrew letter of each of the Masoretic Text’s three traditional subdivisions: Torah (“Teaching”, also known as the Five Books of Moses), Nevi’im (“Prophets”) and Ketuvim (“Writings”) hence the name, TaNaKh. It is also known that the majority of the things that Paul wrote in his letters were taken from the Tanakh, or the Old Testament.

So am I saying that the New Testament writings are not inspired by God? Certainly not. But I don’t believe that the New Testament writings are any more inspired by God than say, the writings of John Bunyan, George Whitfield, Charles Finney, Andrew Murray and so many others.

But for someone to read only the New Testament writings is like reading a Bible commentary without studying the verses themselves. And yet, so many do exactly that when they only rely on pastors to explain snippets of Bible verses from the pulpit on Sunday mornings.

If you ask anyone who knows the story of the great flood, “Did Noah warn the people?” Most people would answer something like, “Yes, he warned them that a flood was coming and preached for them to repent for 100 years but the people didn’t believe him and even laughed at him.” But after searching the Scriptures I could not find anything conclusive which indicates that Noah said anything to anyone about the impending judgement to come. And there’s a good reason why.

In Genesis 6: 2-8 we read: “When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose…”

It goes on to say that the Nephilim (the offspring of the sons of God i.e.; fallen angels) were on the earth in those days and because of this, the wickedness of man became so great that every intention of the thoughts of people’s heart was only evil continually. So much so that God regretted that he had even created man on the earth. So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But verse 9 states that, “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation.”

Many have been taught that Noah was the only person on earth at that time who was without sin, but the Bible states that there in no one who is righteous. (Ecclesiastes 7:20, Psalm 143:2, Romans 3:10) So what could this mean for Noah? Strong’s translates the Hebrew word  for “blameless” (H8549) as: without blemish, perfect, without spot.

The Nephilim were doing such a good job of breeding with humans and creating more Nephilim that the human bloodline was almost completely destroyed. God saw the corruption and knew that the only way to get rid of it was to destroy the earth and everything on it. But then God noticed Noah; a blameless man—a man whose bloodline had not been corrupted by the Nephilim—i.e.; without blemish.

When the door to the Ark was shut, there was probably room for more people. But if everyone else on earth were corrupted by the Nephillim, why would God want Noah to warn them so that they could storm the ark at the last minute? Both 1 Peter 3:20 and Genesis 6:3 indicate that God waited a period of time before judgement, but not that they were warned of the coming judgement. Why? Perhaps God wanted to protect Noah and his family from the wicked people and Nephillim who would no doubt pollute their bloodline. Notice that there was only one door—which was not closed by Noah, but by God. (Genesis 7:16)

Often when preachers teach things about Scripture they make unbiblical assumptions when they try to fill in some gaps and we end up repeating them as truth. I am amazed at how most people today get their ideas about the Bible from movies, TV specials and greeting cards and how little is said about the the importance of the deep study of Scripture.

Some may say, “But I don’t understand a lot of the Bible; so I have to rely on my pastor or other more experienced Bible scholars to explain it to me.” Then you need to repent of your laziness, go out and buy yourself a Strong’s Concordance (or go to one of the many online Bible sites) and set aside some time to really study the Bible.

Noah heard God and believed and obeyed him by faith.The Apostle Paul writes, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Eph. 2:8–9)

This is exactly how Noah was saved. Not because he more righteous spiritually than anyone else, but because he had faith in God. Noah realized that he could only be saved by God’s grace, through faith. Genesis 6:8 tells us that “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” Noah’s salvation, like ours, was by grace. Had Noah not listened and obeyed God through faith, he and his family would have been destroyed with all the rest.

I discovered a great truth in studying the story of Noah and the great flood in Scripture.

Included in God’s instructions for building the ark, God told Noah, “Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch.” (Gen. 6:14) Strong’s translates the Hebrew word for “pitch” as atonement. (H3722)

You see, pitch was used on the ark to prevent anything on the outside (water) from getting into the inside. So Noah and his family were literally protected by the atonement God directed Noah to apply to the ark! And just like Noah and his family were protected by the atonement covering the ark, we too, by faith, are protected by Jesus’ atonement. And by grace through faith in Jesus, when we repent and turn from our sins, Jesus’ atonement prevents anything on the outside (sin, and worldliness) from getting into the inside of us.

We read in Matthew 24:36-39 that Jesus said, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. Just as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.”

As we see what is happening in the world today, can there be any doubt that we are living “as the days of Noah”? But unlike the days of Noah, you don’t have to be left unaware until tit’s too late. Repent, turn from your wickedness and be cleansed and transformed by God’s atonement through his son, Jesus.

This is true for Christians as well as unbelievers. God wants more from you than just your belief in him. He wants you to act on your faith by living it out in every part of your life. That’s the only way you can grow closer to God and let others know that your faith is real, so they’ll be inspired to seek God themselves.

Casting Crowns – Jesus, Friend of Sinners

The Church today needs to follow the advice of this song. Love first and stop judging others who don’t yet know God and the salvation that is available to them through His son, Jesus. We get so caught up in trying to change a person that we sometimes forget why we are here—to show others His love.

“Our country is in trouble, and I don’t have a whole lot of faith in the political parties,” Franklin Graham said in a video posted on his Facebook page this week. He also referenced the tragic events of the past week: “Shootings, riots and protests now claim the headlines about America, and that’s heartbreaking,” he said. “We are in desperate need of Divine intervention. We need healing. Prayer is what can make a difference in America.”

As Christians, we are to be set apart from the world:

”But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)

But lately I have been disappointed to hear such hateful speech and crude joking coming (mostly) from those who profess to be Christians! I have also read similar posts on Face Book and other social media sites.

Sadly, I have heard (and read) more compassionate speech from self proclaimed atheists than I have from confessing Christians. And if the world can see no difference in us and those who don’t believe, what use are we? I pray that Christians everywhere will live and speak as those who represent our Lord.

Not that we should become humorless, straight-faced legalistic people of God or that we should not speak out against injustice when we see it—but we are to do all things in love. Consider what the Bible teaches:

With the tongue we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, this should not be! (James 3: 9-10)

“But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.” (Colossians 3:8)

But among you, as is proper among the saints, there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality or impurity or greed. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk, or crude joking, which are out of character… (Ephesians 5:3-4)

“If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. (James 1:26)

I don’t care whether you’re Catholic, Evangelical, Reformed Christian, Methodist, Mormon, Pentecostal, or Baptist. If you say that you believe in the Bible and profess that you’re a follower of Jesus, then start living like one!

How much sadness God must  feel when he sees his children, who are called by his name, treating each other as if they were mortal enemies—talking trash behind each others’ backs, slandering them on Face Book and silently wishing for their failure. It’s unreal to me.

How do you think you’ll ever be able to convince someone that they should become a Christian if the Christianity they see is judgmental, condemning and negativity towards others? Have you ever considered that you’re actually hurting Christ more than helping him with how you treat other people? Do you think that just showing up on Sunday morning or singing in the choir is going to impress God?

Christ said that you should “let your light so shine” so that others will want come to Him. (Matthew 5: 15-16) Instead…you’re like the basket, extinguishing any light that might be burning faintly within others.

So if you call yourself a Christian, then just start loving others and overlooking their faults. Become ambassadors of mercy instead heavenly bounty hunters and you’ll never have to beg someone to listen to your message about Christ again…They’re already listening.

“Christianity is not about building an absolutely secure little niche in the world where you can live with your perfect little wife and your perfect little children in your beautiful little house where you have no gays or minority groups anywhere near you. Christianity is about learning to love like Jesus loved and Jesus loved the poor and Jesus loved the broken.” ―Rich Mullins

We’ve all seen signs posted in restaurants and shops announcing that management “reserves the right to refuse service.” It’s one of those commonly used legal phrases that most people have a vague understanding of without really knowing what it means. Can a business really refuse service? Who can they refuse it to? More importantly, who can’t they refuse to serve?

Over the last several decades, the civil rights movement in the United States has led to important legal changes guaranteeing the rights of individuals to be free from discrimination based on sex, gender, race, religion, and a number of other factors. The Americans with Disabilities Act also prohibits discrimination in public accommodations, making it illegal to refuse service to individuals who are disabled or handicapped.

Whether you post a sign or not, businesses never have the right to refuse or turn away customers simply because of their race, gender, age, sexual orientation, nationality or religion.

When Can You Refuse Service?

While the right to refuse service is not a get out of jail free card allowing businesses to turn away people they don’t want to serve, there are some valid reasons for asking customers to leave. Individuals or groups who are causing trouble or being disruptive may be asked to leave, while restaurants or other businesses with a capacity limit can turn away customers to prevent this limit from being exceeded.

There are various other examples, but the key thing to note is that declining to serve someone has to be reasonable and justifiable. For example, if there are safety concerns, or someone is harassing your staff members, then a business can refuse service. Likewise, if the way a person is dressed violates health codes, you cannot legally serve them.

In recent months we have seen one particular conflict played out more and more frequently: the clash between businesses’ “right to refuse service,” the religious freedoms of business owners, and anti-discrimination laws protecting gay and lesbian couples.

As same-sex marriage and civil unions have become legal in several states, and recognized by the federal government, several businesses have refused service to homosexuals on the grounds that they don’t agree with or support same-sex marriage.

On one side, business owners claim the right to practice their religion in good conscience. On the other, same-sex couples are protected from discrimination in public accommodations. Liberty of conscience is protected by the First Amendment, but freedom from discrimination is protected by the Civil Rights Act. Like many areas of the law, the issue of discrimination and freedoms is constantly evolving, but the first few decisions in cases involving same-sex couples have found that businesses do not have the right to refuse service to gay or lesbian customers any more than they do to those of certain races or nationalities.

In the end, while individuals might have their own beliefs, places of public accommodation must be open to all patrons who follow reasonable rules. (regarding behavior and dress, for example) But using sexual orientation as a factor in refusing service is simply too arbitrary in today’s world.

For a free society to function, a wide range of speech and behavior has to be tolerated, but that doesn’t mean everyone has to approve of it. For example, I don’t go to nightclubs and bars, but I have many friends who do. While I think that much of today’s rap music is appalling and degrading of women, I cannot stop those who enjoy listening to it. (Except in my home or car)

What would Jesus do?

We have all read the horror stories of Christians being fined or losing their businesses because their “religious beliefs” would not allow them to render services to gay couples.

Unfortunately, when it comes to gay marriage, we have people who seem to be unable to tell the difference between tolerance and approval.

Jesus said, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:1-5)

Jesus was saying that we should not make our beliefs a law to everyone else. We must judge ourselves and our own acts and not pass judgment upon someone rashly. Because we all have secret sins that we protect from the public eye. It’s all matter of perspective. A small speck, when held up close to our eye, becomes a like a log to us, and prevents us from seeing around it. It’s the same speck, just a different perspective.

There were men outside of Jesus’ circle that judged him, calling him a drunkard and a glutton. Others judged him because he was a friend of prostitutes and tax collectors. (Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:36-50) They too, could only see the speck in Jesus’ eye but could not remove the log in their own eye.

The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian Church, “But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5:11-13)

Did you get that? What do we have to do with those we believe are outside the Church? Does refusing to render service from a public business to someone we believe is outside the Church showing the love of Christ? Is refusing to bake a wedding cake or preparing a flower arrangement worth withholding the love of God?

The hypocrisy of religious freedom

Reading the stories of Christian businesses refusing services to gay couples I see dangers of hypocrisy.

Hypocrisy in the florist who refuses to provide a floral arrangement for a gay couple’s wedding, but has no problem selling a flower arrangement to the same gay man, (who is a long time loyal customer) knowing that that same gay man is most likely buying them for his gay partner.

Hypocrisy in the Christian photographer who refuse to take pictures at a gay wedding, but has no problem photographing a straight wedding, even though during the straight wedding there is drunkenness and lewdness of all kinds.

History—both modern and ancient—is tragically full of examples of times and places where religious discrimination has been the source of persecution, death and destruction. And yet, none of those religions have escaped the sad reality that human beings—given the power to do so—will use God as an excuse to inflict pain and suffering on other human beings.

The First Amendment both prevents the government of the United States from favoring one religion over another and protects each and every one of us—as American citizens—to believe whatever we choose—or choose not—to believe about what God thinks, approves of or blesses.

Bottom line is this: The First Amendment protects your rights as an American to the free exercise of your religion. It does not protect your right to use your religion to discriminate against others!

A biblical compromise

Suppose instead of the bakery owner refusing to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple, they went ahead and took the order and after doing an excellent job, placed a well written note with the receipt about their love of God and how they came to believe in Jesus?

Suppose instead of the florist or the photographer refusing to render their services for a gay wedding, they agreed to do the wedding and while they were there, they lovingly shared the love of Jesus with the other guests? Who knows what spiritual seeds could be planted by just loving others the way Jesus loves them.

Jesus gravitated to the dregs of society and spent significant time with those who were considered on the fringe of his culture. Jesus did not place a standard on the kinds of people he would love and care for. In fact, if he did have bias, it was towards those who were ignored, discarded, or undervalued.

While it may be nice to tell others about our hearts for compassion via social platforms like Twitter or Facebook, it’s ultimately our actions that show our love for God. 

Jesus was accused of being a friend of sinners. They called him this because it was true. Jesus himself said that he didn’t come for the spiritually healthy, but for the sick. “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31–32) If Jesus was a friend of sinners, we should be too.

Casting Crowns – Jesus, Friend of Sinners