Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Child Sex Abuse In The Church

Posted: January 3, 2018 in Uncategorized

AP’s annual poll reported that the wave of sexual misconduct allegations that toppled Hollywood power brokers, politicians, media icons and many others was the top news story of 2017. Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, Bill Cosby, gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and recently senate candidate Roy Moore have all been accused of sexually abusing others.

Supreme Court Justice John Roberts recently announced that he had promised “a careful evaluation of the judiciary’s sexual misconduct policies.” He said, “Recent events have illuminated the depth of the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace.” Roberts added, “Events in the past few weeks have made clear that the judicial branch is not immune.”

Last month, distinguished federal appeals court judge Alex Kozinski retired following accusations by women that he had touched them inappropriately, made lewd comments and shown them pornography.

All of this started the “Me Too” movement that grew like a wildfire thanks to social media, talk show hosts and the news media.

I recently watched aghast as a tearful young woman revealed to Megyn Kelly on her talk show how traumatized she was because a man had grabbed he butt years ago. If an adult woman can be traumatized by someone grabbing their butt, how much more will a small child be traumatized by being sexually assaulted by someone they trust?

The Nebraska Inspector General, Julie Rogers discovered that at least 50 Nebraska children in foster care—some as young as four years old—have suffered sexual abuse while in the state’s care. The Inspector General’s Office launched an investigation after getting a stream of reports concerning sexual abuse of children and youth in the welfare and juvenile justice system.

It is clear that child sexual abuse has become an epidemic in our communities. Many organizations work hard to raise awareness to the public and lawmakers about human trafficking and the sex trade, and yet the epidemic of child sexual abuse in the home is underreported or totally ignored by the media and most people.

Pigs in the parlor

Even churches tend to try to sweep this heinous crime under their religious rug. “That’s ridiculous!” Some would say. “Christians don’t engage in child sexual abuse!”

But contrary to popular myth, the majority of perpetrators who sexually abuse children attend church regularly. Statistically, the abuser is well known to the victim 75-95% of the time. Often the abuser is a family member, a trusted family friend or a child care provider. You may be sitting next to a victim or perpetrator of child sexual abuse in church every Sunday and never know it!

Because child sexual abuse is a felony in many locations, pastors, teachers, counselors and other formal caregivers would do well to learn the laws of their locale pertaining to the reporting of suspected abuse. In many states a person is required by law to make a call to Child Protective Services of a reasonable suspicion of child abuse. The person reporting is protected by law, and laws of confidentiality.

So why are churches so reluctant to report it?

Possibly because they worry about the impact of reporting on a church member—the financial implications or causing the church member to leave the congregation. Christians are also more concerned with the image and testimony of their church to the community. At the heart of this struggle is a fear that is rooted in the need to self-protect—the fear of losing the “good reputation”—the fear of losing ministry donors and losing congregation members. And a fear of losing a ministry altogether.

All such fears are usually masked by a rationale that the reporting of child sexual abuse among church members may “damage the reputation of Christ”. This sounds spiritual, but this has nothing to do with Jesus or HIS reputation. It is actually about protecting THIER reputation.

The problem of child sexual abuse is brought to our attention in Leviticus 18 and again in the New Testament. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-6; Galatians 5:19-21) The problem is not new. Nor has it gone away. One in four girls and one in 10 boys will be sexually assaulted by someone they know and trust before they reach 18.

Statistics show that your child or grandchild has at least a 1 in 10 chance that they will be sexually abused in their own home. And if you are a single parent living with someone other than your child’s biological parent, your child is 30 times more likely to be sexually abused in your home than in the home where both biological parents live!

Let’s make sure we all understand one important truth, child sexual abuse is both a sin and a serious crime. Besides biblical and legal grounds for reporting suspected abuse to authorities, there are also practical reasons to do so. Statistics have shown that 70-80% of sexual abuse survivors report excessive drug and alcohol use. Children who are sexually abused are at greater risk to suffer from post-traumatic stress and other anxiety symptoms, depression and suicide attempts. Adolescents with a history of child sexual abuse demonstrate a three to fourfold increase in rates of substance abuse/dependence. Behavioral problems, including physical aggression occur more frequently among sexually abused children and adolescents. (Find more stats at: https://www.d2l.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Statistics_5_Consequences.pdf)

The state government has the authority to remove children from parents who are inflicting (or knowingly allowing) physical and/or emotional harm to children. However, this can’t happen if the authorities are not notified of the suspected maltreatment. Oftentimes, a child’s very survival is dependent upon whether we take the initiative and report. There should be little debate within the Christian community that the protection and survival of children is a God ordained responsibility that we cannot neglect or excuse.

I believe that since so many Christians are victims and offenders, the image and testimony of the church would be greatly enhanced by dealing with the issue openly. The church needs to be involved in prevention of child abuse of any kind. An important first step is for the church to admit that it happens and that it happens among its own members. This will be a vital first step in the process toward getting help and healing for both the victims and their families.

“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)

“And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matthew 18:5-6)

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The exact date of Jesus’ birth is unknown, and the early Christians did not even celebrate Christ’s birth. Birthdays and their celebrations had always been Roman feast days. In about 350 AD, Pope Julius set December 25 as the date of Jesus’ birth to correspond with the pagan Roman feast of Saturnalia, the festival of the Unconquered Sun.Temples were decorated with greenery and candles. There were feasts and parades with special music, and gifts were exchanged with family and friends. Among the British Druids, mistletoe was worshiped, and the Saxons used holly and ivy in their winter religious ceremonies. As Christianity spread throughout Europe, many of these pagan customs and festivities of the winter solstice were absorbed into the celebration of the birth of Jesus.

God gives specific instructions warning us about using pagan practices to worship Him. (the exact thing Christmas does) God warns us not to teach or do any of the detestable things which pagans have done for their gods, “so that we would sin against the LORD your God.” (Deuteronomy 20:18; 12:30-32 )

Jesus also rebuked the religious teachers of his day who had substituted human traditions and teachings for God’s divine truths and commands: “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites . . . ‘in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ . . . All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition.” (Mark 7:6-9)

Jesus’ words in Mark 1:15 come in the form of an urgent command: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

Not only does Jesus come to announce the soon-coming Kingdom of God among humankind, but also to prepare the elect for their spiritual responsibilities within that Kingdom.

Believing in God and Jesus is not enough. Even the devil and his demons believe in God. (James 2:19 ) We must repent and believe. Repentance is a prerequisite for belief.  What is repentance? Its basic meaning is “to change” or “to turn.” Once a person hears the gospel and is convicted that his way of life is wrong, he must change his present behavior and “bear fruits worthy of repentance.” (Matthew 3:8)

Repentance is not merely feeling sorry or remorseful. There is a difference between being sorry for your sin and repenting of it. Many who claim that they are sorry for their sin are merely sorry that they got caught in their sin. Politicians caught in scandals have proven this to be true many times. But true repentance is being so stricken in one’s heart for the sin itself that one seeks the cleansing blood of Jesus and begins to live according to God’s standards—according to God’s law. Remorse without a corresponding change in conduct is not true repentance.

Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (John 14:15; 21; 23) Was Jesus differentiating between his commandments and God’s? I don’t think so. In John 15:10 Jesus said, “If you keep My commandments, you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and remain in His love.” Later, when requested to name the greatest commandments, Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:5, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart. . . . And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself’.” (Matthew 22:36-40) When we put all these things together, repentance is simply living as Jesus did!

Many Christians today claim that because we are but human with a sin nature, we cannot help but sin. But the apostle John wrote, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3)

I believe that what the apostle wrote came from Deuteronomy 30:11-14 which states, “When you obey the voice of the Lord your God, to keep his commandments and his statutes that are written in this Book of the Law, when you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 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.” Why would God tell us that we can obey His commandments if He knew that it was impossible for us to accomplish?

Faith then—true living faith, is trusting God’s Word and practicing it, whether in the face of hardship, sacrifice, the contrary opinions of friends and family, or even death.

While a man cannot earn entrance into God’s Kingdom—that is a gift that God must bestow, (Ephesians 2:8) it is plain from Scripture that willful rebellion against God’s standard of righteousness will keep a person from receiving God’s full blessings and possibly from entering His Kingdom.

James 2:10 warns us that whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all….” Jesus himself also warns, “Whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do likewise will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:19)

The Bible includes a whole list of festivals that God commanded, that Jesus Himself observed and that the apostles and early Church were still keeping decades after Jesus’s death and resurrection. Each one teaches us a vital lesson in what Jesus has done, is doing and will yet do, in carrying out God’s great plan for humankind. God’s feasts mentioned in Leviticus 23 have enormous significance in God’s plan for humanity.  (Notice the Bible calls them God’s feasts—not Jewish feasts)

Christmas, in contrast, teaches us none of this. Because it is a hodgepodge of pagan customs and beliefs thrown together with traditions of men. It only obscures the true purpose of Jesus’ birth on earth and his ultimate return.

God in His Word sets out many choices for us. Will we do things His way or our own? Will we worship Him as He tells us to, or expect Him to honor whatever religious practices we choose regardless of what His Word says?

But no matter what we have done in the past, we can repent and be forgiven and begin to truly follow God’s Word as a new creation.

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away. Behold, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

The Silent Epidemic

Posted: October 29, 2017 in Uncategorized

Drug overdose deaths in 2016 exceeded 59,000, according to preliminary data compiled by The New York Times. It is now considered to be an epidemic by the current administration and many cities are taking steps to curtail its spread.

The sexual harassment in Hollywood, among news anchors and political leaders has also been called a cultural epidemic. https://www.thenation.com/article/sexual-harassment-not-disease-it-surely-epidemic/

But every year more than 3.6 million referrals are made to child protection agencies involving more than 6.6 million children. (Referrals included neglect, physical and sexual abuse) However, studies also indicate significant undercounting of child maltreatment fatalities by state agencies—by 50% or more.

Four to seven children die every day due to child abuse and neglect. Around 80% of child maltreatment fatalities involve at least one parent as perpetrator. In 2014, state agencies found an estimated 702,000 victims of child maltreatment. That’s enough to pack 10 modern football stadiums! And yet, most people remain silent about this epidemic.

Every 8 minutes a child is a victim of sexual abuse. The majority of the victims are between the ages of 7 and 13. Children who do not live with both biological parents have a 30% higher risk of being sexually abused than children who live with both biological parents. In nearly half of child sexual abuse cases that were committed by a step-father or the mother’s live-in boyfriend, 40% of the mothers sided with their child’s abuser rather than their child. Sadly, only 6 out of 1,000 of these perpetrators will end up in jail or prison.

It is time we place as much (if not more) importance and passion on protecting children from neglect and abuse as we do on adults.

“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)

“And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matthew 18:5-6)

Resources and stats:

https://www.childhelp.org/child-abuse-statistics/

https://aspe.hhs.gov/basic-report/male-perpetrators-child-maltreatment-findings-ncands

Many have been commenting on how ugly the 2016 presidential race has become. Many more have become confused over how the most vulgar and the most insincere candidates seem to be leading in the polls.

Everyone seems to be casting the blame for our country’s woes from former President Bush to President Obama. But the real blame belongs to all of us! You see, our leaders are merely mirrors of those they lead. That was how it was for ancient Israel when they cried out for a king in 1 Samuel 8, and how it has been ever since then.

When the Israelites wanted a king like other nations had, they were rejecting their unique, set-apart position as God’s people. The nation whose God was to be the Lord alone was envious of the nations who followed false gods. It is no surprise, I suppose, that the powers of government have always been expanded under this same faulty way of thinking.

God warned Israel that a king would be costly both in goods and in freedom. He told them that they would have to give up their freedom to make your own choices, their land and resources. God also pointed out that there is a point of no return on having a king. There will come a time, God says in vs. 18, when you will “cry out for relief from the king.” But then it will be too late.

Throughout history, the more people moved away from God and his laws, the worse off the people became. It was the same during Israel’s captivity in Babylon. God allowed Israel to be captured and ruled by an evil king because Israel had turned away from God and followed false prophets and evil kings.

It is no different now. And unless we repent of our wickedness and turn back to God and serve him, we too, will find ourselves taken captive by an ungodly government.

We need to pray for America the way the prophet Daniel prayed for captive Israel. A prayer something like this: (Taken from Daniel 9:1-19) “O Lord, our great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments. We have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name.
To you, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us open shame, as at this day, to the men and women of America, and to whole world—those who are near and those who are far away. To us, O Lord, belongs open shame, to our leaders to our fathers and to our father’s fathers, because we have sinned against you. To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, but we have rebelled against you and have not obeyed your Word which you set before us by your servants the prophets. We have all has transgressed your law and turned aside, refusing to obey your voice.

And the curse and oath that are written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out upon us, because we have sinned against you. We have confirmed his words, which he spoke against us and against our rulers who ruled us, by bringing upon us a great calamity. For under the whole heaven there has not been done anything like what has been done against us. As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this calamity has come upon us; yet we have not entreated the favor of the Lord our God, turning from our iniquities and gaining insight by your truth. Therefore, this calamity and has been brought it upon us.

Lord God, you are righteous in all the works that you have done, but we have not obeyed your voice.  O Lord, according to all your righteous acts, let your anger and your wrath turn away from your people because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, because we have become a byword among all who are watching us.

Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his pleas for mercy, and for your own sake O Lord, make your face to shine upon our country, which is desolate. O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive! O Lord, pay attention and act! Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your people who are called by your name. Amen”

A deeper understanding of Daniel’s prayer:

 

Some believe that Christians are not required to observe the feast days because they believe that they were given only to the Jews. And since Jesus fulfilled the Law when he was crucified and rose from the dead, Christian’s today no longer have an obligation to observe the feasts.

The Hebrew word for “feasts” (moadim) literally means “appointed times.” God has carefully planned and orchestrated the timing and sequence of each of the seven feasts to reveal to us a special story. The seven annual feasts of the Lord were spread over seven months of the Jewish calendar, at set times appointed by God.

Although they are still celebrated by observant Jews today, both Jews and non-Jews who have placed their faith in Jesus, our Messiah, demonstrate the work of redemption through God’s Son by observing these special days.

“The feasts of the Lord, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, these are My feasts.” (Leviticus 23:2) Did you notice that God did NOT say to the Jews, “These are YOUR feasts.” He said, “These are MY feasts.”

Yet for most of traditional Christianity, these “feasts of the Lord” are thought to have been kept only by the Jews and are deemed meaningless for Christians. To make things worse, the apostate church of Rome has substituted God’s appointed feasts with pagan based holidays—And Christians all over the world have been led to believe that they are celebrating religious holidays that supposedly center on Jesus Christ!

Did Jesus fulfill ALL the feasts?

The first four of the seven feasts occur during the springtime (Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, and Weeks), and they all have already been fulfilled by Christ in the New Testament.

But the final three holidays (Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and Tabernacles) occur during the fall, all within a short fifteen-day period.

Many Bible scholars and commentators believe that these fall feasts have not yet been fulfilled by Jesus. However, the “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13)

for all true believers in Jesus Christ is that they most assuredly WILL BE fulfilled in the future.

As the four spring feasts were fulfilled literally and right on the actual feast day in connection with Christ’s first coming, I believe that these three fall feasts will likewise be fulfilled literally in connection to the Lord’s second coming.

Why is it important to observe God’s feasts today? In a nutshell, there is prophetic significance of each of the seven Levitical feasts of the Lord:

Passover (Leviticus 23:5)

In the New Testament, the Gospels record that Christ kept the Passover with His disciples several times. On the night before His death, Jesus knew he was fulfilling the symbolism of the Passover lamb by voluntarily giving his life for the sins of the entire world.

Passover points to the Messiah as our Passover lamb whose blood would be shed for our sins. Jesus was crucified on the day of preparation for the Passover at the same hour that the lambs were being slaughtered for the Passover meal that evening. (John 19:14)

“When the hour had come, He sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him. Then He said to them, ‘With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.’” (Luke 22:14-16)

Jesus then instituted the new symbols that represented not the sacrifice of a lamb, but his far greater sacrifice. The Passover symbols would now represent Christ’s complete sacrifice—the unleavened bread representing his sinless body that was beaten for us, and the wine, signifying the lifeblood he would shed to wash away our sins.

From then on, this feast took on a much greater new meaning to the Church. Instead of being abolished, this feast now revealed its true, ultimate meaning. The disciples now realized that the Passover lamb was only a physical forerunner of that perfect sacrifice which was Jesus Christ. And now they would keep this feast with far greater significance and comprehension.

The apostle Paul understood this ancient feast of the Passover had now revealed its true meaning with Christ’s sacrifice. It was part of God’s plan for all of mankind that Jesus would come and sacrifice himself for the sins of the world—and Passover was a prophetic symbol it. So, instead of being obsolete, the Passover was revealed to have a vastly important meaning—Not only for Jews, but also for Christians, with Jesus Christ being at its very center.

The apostle Paul explained this new understanding of the Passover to the Corinthian Church when he instructed them on how to observe it:

“For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ “In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)

So in the New Testament, the Passover becomes an annual reminder and symbol of Christ’s sacrifice for all of us.

Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23:6)

The Feast of Unleavened Bread coincided with Passover and reminds us to rid ourselves of all leaven, symbolic of the sin in our lives. because leaven is a picture of sin in the Bible it also points to the Messiah’s sinless life, making him the perfect sacrifice for our sins. Jesus’ body was in the grave during the first days of this feast, like a kernel of wheat planted and waiting to burst forth as the bread of life. (John 12:24)

First Fruits (Leviticus 23:10)

The Feast of First Fruits was a celebration to thank God for the harvest that He provided. It also points to the Messiah’s resurrection as the first fruits of the righteous. Jesus was resurrected on this very day, which is one of the reasons that Paul refers to him in 1 Corinthians 15:20 as the “first fruits from the dead.”

Feast of Weeks or Pentecost (Leviticus 23:16

Although celebrated by some as the day that God sent down his Holy Spirit to His people, Pentecost was commanded by God as harvest celebration and an obligation to give God our first fruits. The Israelites were also commanded to leave part of their harvest for the poor. (v.22)

Pentecost occurs fifty days after the beginning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread and points to the great harvest of souls for both Jew and Gentile, who would be brought into the kingdom of God during the Church Age. In Acts 2 Peter was merely obeying what God said  in Leviticus 23: 21: “And you shall make a proclamation on the same day. You shall hold a holy convocation.” That is exactly was Peter and the disciples did when the early Church was established and God poured out His Holy Spirit on a crowd of 3,000 Jews, gentiles and proselytes of many nations who gathered there and responded to Peter’s great sermon and his first proclamation of the gospel!

Feast of Trumpets (Leviticus 23:24)

The Feast of Trumpets is the first of the fall feasts—A memorial proclaimed with blast of trumpets, a holy convocation. Much like the prayer and praise gatherings we have in churches. I believe this points to the day when Jesus our Messiah will appear in the heavens as He comes for all true believers—both Jew and Gentile.

Many Christians associate this with the Rapture because of the mentioning of blowing of a loud trumpet in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. But if you read 1 Corinthians 15:52, you will find that Jesus will not come for us until AFTER the last trumpet is sounded. So what happens BEFORE the last of the seven trumpets are sounded? (See Revelation 8) The word “trumpet” is used throughout the Bible to describe what is called a shofar—A ram’s horn that is used for two specific purposes:

1: To assemble the people for worship.

2: To assemble the people for war.

At any rate, this should encourage true believers and warn the apostate and worldly of the judgment and wrath to come.

Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:27

The purpose for The Day of Atonement is a day of repentance.  We are to “afflict our souls” by repentance, contrition, and humiliation for sin, and our bodies by fasting. I believe this prophetically points to the day of the Second Coming of Jesus when he will return to rule on earth. That will be the Day of Atonement for the Jewish remnant when they “look upon Him whom they have pierced,” repent of their sins, and receive him as their Messiah. (Zechariah 12:10 and Romans 11:1-6, 25-36)

Feast of Tabernacles or Booths (Leviticus 23:34)

During the Feast of Tabernacles we are told to live in temporary shelters (or booths) for seven days: “All native-born Israelites are to live in such shelters so your descendants will know that I had the Israelites live in temporary shelters when I brought them out of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” (v. 42-43) The shelter or booth of The Feast of Tabernacles is called a sukkah. These shelters consist of at least three walls and are framed with wood and canvas. The roof or covering is made from cut branches and leaves, placed loosely atop, leaving an open space for the stars to be viewed so that we remember the promise that God made to Abraham, that his descendants would be more numerous than the stars in the sky. (Genesis 15:5; 26:3-5)

I believe that this feast day also points to the Lord’s promise that He will once again “tabernacle” with His people when he returns to reign over all the world. (Micah 4:1-7)

In Zechariah 14:16-19 we read that “everyone who survives of all the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Booths.” and “there shall be the plague with which the Lord afflicts the nations that do not go up to keep the Feast of Booths.” Why would Jesus punish someone who refuses to celebrate something that we are not required to observe?

The apostle Paul clearly understood that these biblical feasts were harbingers of what was to come in God’s master plan of salvation. In a passage frequently misunderstood by many, Paul warned the brethren not to be intimidated by some who were questioning their manner of keeping God’s feasts, as well as the Sabbaths, new moons, and eating and drinking. He said, “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come.” (Colossians 2:16-18)

Paul was not saying that we were no longer required to keep God’s feasts, as some believe. He was combating a group of people who were introducing several strange doctrines, including worshiping angels, (verse 18) and abstaining from wholesome food and drink. (verse 21)

He told the brethren to ignore them and continue observing what he had taught (And Paul certainly taught keeping the Passover and other feasts, as we can see in the New Testament) Regrettably, the Colossians were starting to shy away from observing these feasts. So Paul mentions how important they are, as foreshadowing coming events in God’s plan for mankind.

Now you have a choice to make

As we approach the season of Christmas, I am reminded of when I spent nearly an hour sharing Scripture with a friend of mine of how December 25th could not possibly be Jesus’ birthday, and explaining how traditions of Christmas, ( mistletoe, Christmas wreaths, singing carols and even Christmas trees) are all steeped in pagan worship. But after I finished, she said, “I know that of what you said is true, but we’ve always celebrated Christmas this way and I won’t be changing anything.” I thought to myself, “You just went from ignorance to rebellion.” And as far as I know, she remained true to her word.

Observing God’s commandments and keeping His feasts have nothing to do with salvation. But Jesus said, “If you love me you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) We now have a choice. We can show that we love Jesus by obeying God’s commandments, or we can cast aside God’s will for us and join the pagan celebrations of the world.

You see, I don’t obey God’s commandments so that God will love me more, or because I’m afraid He won’t love me if I don’t—I keep God’s commandments BECAUSE I love Him.

Drew Carey’s amusing rant on the origins of the Christian holidays

With all the numerous and varied “winds of doctrine” that are blowing around us these days, without examining Scriptures to see what is true, (Acts 17:11) many Christians find it difficult to discern the difference between truth and error.

One error frequently taught to unlearned Christians is Replacement Theology—The belief that God rejected Israel and replaced her with the Church. Elements of Replacement Theology can be traced as far back as Marcion (A.D. 160), who carried on a theological crusade to purge the Church of what he perceived to be dangerous Jewish errors and influences. Later, many of these same anti-Judaic sentiments found their way into the thinking (and writings) of the early Church fathers. Irenaeus (c. 180) for instance, wrote, “The Jews have rejected the Son of God and cast Him out of the vineyard when they slew Him. Therefore, God has justly rejected them and has given to the Gentiles outside the vineyard the fruits of its cultivation.” (The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, [1885-1887], Volume 1, p. 493)

Over time, statements like these became the basis for full-blown anti-Semitism in some sectors of Christianity. Anything Jewish was renounced as an attempt to subvert and “Judaize” the Church. The Early Church, which was clearly and undeniably Jewish, was described as “primitive,” unenlightened, and beset by erroneous notions that were carry-overs from ancient Judaism.

Justin Martyr once proclaimed: ”The true spiritual Israel, and descendants of Judah, Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham . . . are we who have been led to God through this crucified Christ.” (Justin Martyr, “The Anti-Nicene Fathers” by A. Roberts and J. Donaldson vol. 1 1885) That erroneous statement was made as Justin Martyr and his Jewish opponent, Trypho, debated about Christianity almost 1,900 years ago. (A.D. 155) Some anti-Semitic Christians had already come to believe that their church had replaced the Jewish people and that the only thing the Jewish nation could look forward to was condemnation.

The dangers of replacement theology

Martin Luther articulated this position when he wrote: “For such ruthless wrath of God is sufficient evidence that they [i.e., the Jewish people] assuredly have erred and gone astray. Even a child can comprehend this. For one dare not regard God as so cruel that he would punish his own people so long, so terrible, so unmercifully … Therefore this work of wrath is proof that the Jews, surely rejected by God, are no longer his people, and neither is he any longer their God.” (“On the Jews and Their Lies,” p. 265) Near the end of his life, Luther said that “synagogues and Jewish schools should be burned to the ground, Jewish people run out of their homes, their prayer books and Talmudic writings burned, and the rabbis forbidden to preach or teach on penalty of death.” (“On the Jews and Their Lies” pp. 268-271) Luther also declared that Jewish people in Germany should be confined to their own homes and neighborhoods—a plan the Nazis implemented literally when they quarantined Jewish families in ghettos in Poland and other places before shipping them to the death camps for extermination.

But what does the Bible say about Replacement Theology?

Romans 11:1-2: I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew.

Isaiah 49:15-16: Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me.

Jeremiah 31:37: Thus says the Lord: “If the heavens above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth below can be explored, then I will cast off all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done, declares the Lord.”

Psalm 94:14: For the Lord will not forsake his people;he will not abandon his heritage;

Romans11: 25-27: Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”;  “and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins.”

Romans 3:3- 6: What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written, “That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged.” But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) By no means! For then how could God judge the world?

The point that Paul was making in Romans 3 was that, despite the fact that some Jews didn’t believe in God, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God in the matter of keeping the promises He made with Israel that are contained in the unconditional covenants that He made with them. Paul states plainly, “By no means!” God is not unrighteous so as to break His word, is He? Absolutely not!

Numbers 23:19: God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?

After reading these verses we must conclude that followers of Jesus could not possibly have replaced Israel as God’s “new” covenant people or “spiritual Israel”. Paul states plainly in Romans 11:1-2, “has God rejected his people? By no means!” Followers of Jesus are people of God, but they have not replaced Israel, which is also a people of God. Since the Day of Pentecost God has been orchestrating his plan to bring Jew and non-Jew together for the benefit of them both, for his own divine purposes, and the glorification of his Name.

The danger of Replacement Theology is that it misrepresents God as one who breaks His promises. If God breaks His promises, then how can we know that God will not find another people to replace the Church for the great sins that she has committed? And if God can break his promises then how is one to know that his salvation is secure? (Which is the whole point of Romans 9-11)

Is there such a thing as Spiritual Israel,” or a Spiritual Jew?Similar to the belief that the Church has replaced Israel as God’s covenant people are the beliefs that the Church is now spiritual Israel and its members are all spiritual Jews. Whatever the reasoning, there is nothing in Scripture that agrees with this.

If you examine all the phrases in the entire Bible in which “spiritual” is used, you will have to come to some obvious conclusions: spiritual gift or spiritual gifts (Romans 1:11; 1 Corinthians 12:1; 1 Corinthians 14:1,12; 1 Timothy 4:14); the Law is spiritual (Romans 7:14); spiritual service of worship (Romans 12:1); spiritual things (Romans 15:27; 1 Corinthians 19:11); spiritual thoughts (1 Corinthians 2:13); spiritual words (1 Corinthians 2:13); he who is spiritual (1 Corinthians 2:15); spiritual men (1 Corinthians 3:1); spiritual food (1 Corinthians 10:3); spiritual rock, spiritual drink (1 Corinthians 10:4); if anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual (1 Corinthians 14:37); spiritual body (1 Corinthians 15:44-46); you who are spiritual (Galatians 6:1); every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3); spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16)); spiritual forces (Ephesians 6:12); spiritual wisdom (Colossians 1:9); spiritual house (1 Peter 2:5).

Notice that:
1. “Spiritual” is never used in conjunction with one’s race.
2. “Spiritual” is never used in reference to a believing Gentile being a spiritual Jew.
3. In reference to people, “spiritual” is used only of one who has a mature walk in the Lord irregardless of whether he or she is a Jew or Gentile. In fact, according to scriptural usage, even a believing Jew whose walk is not mature should be not called a spiritual Jew. How then can the Church be called Spiritual Israel and all of its members Spiritual Jews? There is no reference anywhere in Scripture of Gentile believers being referred to as a “Spiritual Jew”.

Although many misinterpret Romans 2:23-29 to refer to this, the circumcision of the heart renders one inwardly righteous, not inwardly Jewish. This is consistent with what we read in Acts 6:5 when Nicolas, who after converting to Judaism had come to believe and was inwardly circumcised, was still not called a Jew in any sense, but a proselyte.

Another Bible passage used by those who believe that the Church has replaced Israel is Romans11:13-29. (Emphasis mine throughout)

13 For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, 14 if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them. 15 For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?16 For if the first-fruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches. 17 And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, 18 do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you.19 You will say then, “Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.” 20 Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. 22 Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. 23 And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. 24 For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, who are natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree? 25 For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; 27 For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.” 28 Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. 29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

Many mistakingly believe that the olive tree represents physical Israel and that the believing Gentiles are the wild olive branches that are grafted into Israel on the basis of their faith and are therefore Spiritual Jews; and that the Church is now Spiritual Israel—the New Israel.

The key question we need to answer is, does the tree really represent Israel?

Let us consider:

  1. Paul is speaking to Gentiles. (verse 13)
  2. He is speaking about literal Israel. (verses 15, 25-27)
  3. He identifies his Gentile audience as being cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and being grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree. (verse 24)
  4. Believing Jews (verse 17) and believing Gentiles (verse 20) are presently attached to the olive tree and are partakers with believing Jews. *Notice that Paul says that SOME Jewish branches were broken off, but not all.

If the olive tree represents physical Israel as many believe, Israel does not belong to Israel; Israel belongs to God. “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession.”(Deuteronomy 7:6) And if the wild branches grafted in represent Gentile believers who are now Spiritual Jews, as some take it, Gentile believers do not belong to Israel; believers belong to God. “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

Remember all the branches represent Jews and Gentiles who were either cut off or grafted into the root. Since the olive tree (the root) is not physical Israel in any sense, then the believing Gentiles grafted into the olive tree cannot be said on the basis of this passage or any other, that they have been added to Israel in any sense, or that they are now Spiritual Jews that have replaced Israel. Not only can the tree not be Israel, it cannot be Messiah, the Gospel, or the Church either. Because Israel does not own any of them either.

What, then, is the cultivated olive tree?
I believe that the cultivated olive tree represents a place of peace and blessing, providing nourishment to those who are attached to it—something that can be given to believing Jews and Gentiles alike. What else can be derived from the passage without contradicting any Bible fact except that the cultivated olive tree is the place of spiritual blessing of which both Jewish and Gentile believers are partaker of on the basis of their faith, (Ephesians 3:6) and that is rooted in the unconditional covenants that God has made with Israel?

It would appear to be indisputable that same-sex marriage and the open celebration of homosexuality is quickly becoming a part of the global cultural agenda—and responding to the rise of the homosexual agenda is a teaching that is permeating even the Christian world, claiming that since Jesus never mentions homosexuality nor does He specifically condemn it, homosexuality must be legitimate in Jesus’ eyes.

This is not a judgment against those who maintain a homosexual lifestyle. I have always maintained that we are not to judge those outside the Church, but we are told to judge those inside the Church—those who claim to be followers of Christ but live a life not consistent with God’s Word. (1 Corinthians 5:9-13)

This is a very important issue for the Church. For if there is no accountability to God, then the secular worldview would have us to believe that homosexual marriage is a completely legitimate issue. Pedophilia and bestiality would not be out of the question either, should the prevailing secular worldview deem these lifestyles to be acceptable and the “new norm.” The biblical worldview, however, is grounded in the unchanging tenets of the Word of God. This is where the loudest cultural clash occurs and the two worlds collide.

So, did Jesus condemn, speak of, or even mention homosexuality? As it turns out, yes, he did. As a matter of fact, he spoke very clearly and directly about the issue. Let me begin with Matthew 19:4. Here Jesus is answering a question from the Pharisees regarding divorce. However, his answer is very telling concerning the entire issue of sexuality, marriage and the proper form of marriage. Here are the words of Jesus:

“And He answered and said to them, ‘Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning “made them male and female,” and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” (Matthew 19:4)

Here Jesus upholds male and female procreation as a part of male and female marriages, and the sanctity of male and female sexual relationships within male and female marriages. His answer tells us that since creation anything outside God’s standard for sexuality and marriage is a perversion. This truth cannot be legitimately explained away. And yet many pastors and religious leaders are teaching just the opposite! In the words of Billy Sunday, “What a spell the devil seems to cast over the Church today!”

We read in Galatians 5:19-21, “When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division,  envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

Jesus came to seek and save the lost. (Luke 19:10) We would expect, therefore, that while the Son of God was on earth, he taught much regarding sin. Indeed he did, and we would profit from a humble reflection on some of the sayings of Jesus about sin.

Some of the Lord’s remarks about sin have been misapplied. For example, when a woman was taken in the act of adultery, she was brought to Jesus for judgment. He dispersed the multitude by stating, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” (John 8:7) The verse is loved by many who hope that its recitation at just the right moment, will free them from judging or being judged.

Note the following: First, Christians should judge one another (1 Corinthians 5:12-13; John 7:24). Second, the Lord did not condone this woman’s sin. He commanded her to “go thy way; from henceforth sin no more.” (John 8:11) Third, Jesus revealed the hypocrisy of the accusers who were more interested in ensnaring the Lord than preserving holiness in their community. (cf. Mark 7:1-13) And where was the MAN who also was caught in the act of adultery? (cf. Leviticus 20:10) Fourth, Jesus respected the Mosaic law that prohibited adultery and the punishment that the law prescribed. He also regarded the laws of accusation and testimony, which may not have been satisfied in this case. And lastly, the response to this situation by Jesus was not designed to insulate wicked and unrepentant individuals from rebuke or discipline in the Christian Age.

Other sayings of Jesus teach us regarding the nature of sin itself. Sin is a master to whom we become enslaved to. (John 8:34) Sin is blinding. (John 9:39-41) Only the truth will set us free. (John 8:32)

By joining with the secular worldview on sin we have become spiritually blind. Only complete submission and sincere obedience to Jesus Christ and God’s Word will remedy our spiritual blindness.

When the Lord was criticized for eating with sinners, he revealed the purpose of his coming by responding, “They that are in health have no need of a physician; but they that are sick. I am not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32)

But if there is no unrighteousness and no need for repentance, then there was no reason for Jesus to come and his death and resurrection was meaningless.

One of the most memorable sayings of Jesus on sin is found in Matthew 26:28. It reminds us of the purpose for which Jesus was born, suffered, died and was risen from the dead. Jesus said, “For this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many unto the remission of sins.”

This ought to enlighten us regarding what Jesus taught about sin. Sin is so horrible that only the spotless blood of Jesus can atone for it. His love for the sinner is so deep, he was willing to pour it out for them. Thanks be to our Lord for teaching us the truth about sin and providing the ransom.