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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One Thing

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

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

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

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

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

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

How does this relate to us as Christians?

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

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

Preparing for the Holiday

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

Shavuot in the New Testament

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

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

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

The Christian version of Pentecost

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

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

The confusion continues

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

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

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

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

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

The solution is simple, but not so easy. 

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

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

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

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

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

True Christianity—What is it? 

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

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

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

What is the Result? 

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

A true Christian has faith in only Jesus

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

What are the characteristics of a true Christian? 

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

A true Christian is dead to sin. 

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

A true Christian is conformed to God’s Spirit.

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

A true Christian is called to live a holy life. 

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

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

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

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

A New Commandment or just the same old one?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Passover is regarded as a “Jewish only” celebration by many Christians. But is it? 

Jesus said “If you believed Moses, you would believe me; for He wrote of me.” (John 5:46)  Throughout the Scriptures we are told that the Passover and other Feast Days are “the LORD’S feasts”. Not just the Jewish feasts or feasts of the Jews. Jesus also said: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them. For I tell you truly, until heaven and earth pass away, not a single jot, (The smallest letter in the Hebrew language) will disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” (Matthew 5: 17-20) 

Many Christians believe that everything was accomplished when Jesus was crucified because before he died he said, “It is finished.” He said that because everything that God had asked him to do he finished. But EVERYTHING will not be accomplished until the new heaven and new earth are created and God will dwell physically with mankind. (Revelation 21: 1-4)

God told Moses, “These are the LORD’s appointed feasts, (Not the Jewish feasts) the sacred assemblies you are to proclaim at their appointed times. The Passover to the LORD begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month. On the fifteenth day of the same month begins the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the LORD. For seven days you must eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall hold a sacred assembly; you are not to do any ordinary work. For seven days you are to present an offering made by fire to the LORD. On the seventh day there shall be a sacred assembly; you must not do any ordinary work.” (Leviticus 23: 4-8) *See also Exodus 12:14-28; Numbers 28:16-25; Deuteronomy 16:1-8 

God also told Moses concerning the “mixed multitude” that joined the Israelites in the Exodus, “If a stranger shall sojourn with you and would keep the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised. Then he may come near and keep it; he shall be as a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person shall eat of it. There shall be lone law for the native and for the stranger who sojourns among you.” (Exodus 12:43-49)

Christians should realize that everything in the feasts all point to the Messiah (Jesus).

I have no problem with Christians who want to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus. I don’t even mind if they call this commemoration Easter. But what I don’t understand is how those who profess to be Bible believing, God loving, Jesus following, Christians can reject God’s command to observe HIS feast days while replacing them with man’s traditional, non-biblical celebrations that include the Easter Bunny, Easter egg hunts and dressing up in fine clothes to be noticed by others. 

Here’s something to think about: Knowing that Jesus was a practicing Jew, I wonder how many would invite him to join you at your Easter dinner that includes the traditional Easter ham? 

Here’s wishing you a blessed Passover and Resurrection celebration.  

When most people think of the homeless, they think of the mentally ill, drug addicts or alcoholics that would rather live off of the money they beg for on the street than to get a real job. But there is a large part that makes up a much darker side of the homeless community: Homeless youth. 

Homelessness among young people is a serious issue. Homeless youth in our communities are individuals who lack parental, foster or institutional care. They are the ones who have become invisible to most and an irritation to some.The National Runaway Switchboard estimates that on any given night there are approximately 1.3 million homeless youth living unsupervised on the streets, in abandoned buildings, with friends or with strangers. Homeless youth are at a higher risk for physical abuse, sexual exploitation, mental health disabilities, substance abuse, and death. It is estimated that 5,000 unaccompanied youth die each year as a result of assault, illness, or suicide. 

Common Reasons Why Youth Become Homeless:

Family problems: Many youths run away, and in turn become homeless, due to problems in the home, including physical and sexual abuse, substance abuse of a family member, and parental neglect. In some cases, youth are asked to leave the home because the parents cannot afford to care for them.

Transitions from foster care: Youth who have been involved in the foster care system are more likely to become homeless at an earlier age and remain homeless for a longer period of time. Youth aging out of the foster care system often have little or no income support and limited housing options and are at higher risk to end up on the streets.

Abuse in Foster Care

When there is suspicion of abuse or neglect in the home, child welfare services may intervene and the child can be removed from the family and be placed into protective services and eventually into foster care. Unfortunately, many of these children end up being abused and neglected in the foster homes that were supposed to be a safe haven for them. As a result, homeless youth often become frustrated and rather than continuing to endure the abuse, they resign themselves to a life on the streets alone. 

According to a report issued by Julie Rogers, the inspector general of Nebraska Child Welfare, At least 50 Nebraska children, some as young as 4 years old, had suffered sexual abuse while in the state’s care or after being placed in an adoptive or guardianship home from July 2013 through October 2016. All of the cases were reported to the state’s child abuse hotline and all were substantiated, either by the courts or by child welfare officials. Few details were released on the cases. According to another report issued by Rogers, sexual abuse and suicidal behavior among children in the care of the state increased again last year. There were 45 reports of child sexual abuse during 2017-18.

During the same 2017-18 period, there were two suicides and 52 suicide attempts involving youths whose care falls under the state umbrella. The previous year, there had been one suicide and 45 suicide attempts. The 52 attempts involved 49 youths, three of whom made multiple attempts. 

Research has shown that 43% of runaway and homeless youth were sexually abused before they left their homes. These young people often flee abuse at home or in foster care, but are exposed to further sexual victimization and human trafficking once on the street. One of every three teens on the street will be lured into prostitution within 48 hours after leaving home. And the average age of entry into prostitution is fourteen. 

These children often grow up in broken and dysfunctional homes where love and affection are absent. Instead of protection, many times these children receive brutal treatment. Their self-esteem is beaten to the point of feeling unworthy of any respect or fair treatment. They are insulted, humiliated, threatened, yelled at and isolated. They endure repeated sexual abuse—sometimes from several perpetrators. All of these factors may contribute to Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other emotional problems which lead them to start using drugs as a way to cope. 

28% of youth living on the street and 10% of those in shelters engage in what is often referred to as “survival sex”. (Exchanging sex for money, food, drugs or a place to stay) Most of these children come from horrific living conditions. They find themselves vulnerable, desperate, and in need of surviving. They require basic needs like food and shelter; therefore, they give into survival sex. 

The situation for these youth is dire. But there is help available for homeless youth in our community. The Youth Emergency Services (YES) has a shelter that is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week with youth workers, counselors and homeless youth advocates. The shelter is available to youth ages 16 to 20.

Youth seeking shelter services are screened to ensure appropriate placement and safety of the residents. The emergency shelter is a family-style residence with separate sleeping areas for male and female clients. Youth share meals, television and computer privileges, and recreation and laundry facilities in a community area.

A trained staff of counselors, advocates and youth workers spends individual, focused time with residents to help them work through the problems they face. YES exists to help these youth turn their lives around. You can find out more about YES volunteer opportunities and ways to to help at: https://www.yesomaha.org 

We need to change our mindset and preconceived ideas about these helpless children that lead us to make erroneous conclusions. Many of us may have looked the other way and denied ourselves the opportunity to help. It may be that the assumptions made in regards to the homeless youth are what is preventing us from aiding and reaching out to them. If we did, perhaps there would not be over one million of our youth living on the streets each year in the United States.

 

I have noticed that there are many people on Face Book who post memes with Bible verses telling people to, “Like and share if you’re not ashamed of Jesus”. Then on the same page this same person shares some off color joke or obscene post.    

I try not to be judgmental, but it got me wondering, do people who profess to be Christians actually know what that means? Do they even know what they believe? 

If you asked them, “Well, why do you believe that?” Or, “Can you show me that in the word of God?” Some may reply with, “I heard my pastor say that and it seems right to me.” The problem with this answer is that feelings change and as a consequence, a hunch or a feeling, or “My pastor said” or “It seems right to me” will not hold up under cross examination. 

We have all heard the saying, “If you were accused of being a Christian would there be evidence to convict you?” But if a Christian stands to defend his beliefs in an actual court room, their testimony becomes quite critical. Because the court has said that a person cannot hold to their beliefs if they cannot describe them. Their belief cannot be a hunch or a feeling. In a court of law, a defendant must be able to state their beliefs from the Bible orally.

The court does not expect eloquence, but it does expect the defendant to be able to explain his or her beliefs in a simple and concise manner. This becomes important because often we like to hide behind a title. We may claim to be a “Fundamentalist” a “Messianic” or an “Evangelical Christian,” which are descriptive of what group you belong to, but not what you believe personally. In the matter of beliefs, the court realized there must be a test to determine which beliefs are upheld and protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. 

Below are excerpts from his book, Conviction vs. Preference, by Attorney David C. Gibbs Jr., Christian Law Association, Conneaut, Ohio. These are actual incidents that have occurred during court proceedings. 

In 1972, the court came down with such a test. (Wisconsin v. Jonas Yoder, 406 U.S. 205) Ironically, that test case involved Christian education. An Amish man who lived in the state of Wisconsin by the name of Jonas Yoder told the state that he would no longer send his children to the state school. The state of Wisconsin advised him that he must, to which he replied, “I don’t think you hear me. I am not going to send my children to your school.” Mr. Yoder was threatened with being sued if he refused to comply but still he refused. He was warned that if he was sued and if the state won the case, he could go to jail. His only response was that he would not send his children to the school. Even under the threat of losing his children, he refused to change his mind, explaining that his religious beliefs prohibited him from complying with the demand.

Mr. Yoder did not fare very well in court. He lost the case and was told that now that he had had his day in court, he must comply with the ruling. He still refused, never altering his position and he found out something very interesting. After losing his appeal, his case went to the U. S. Supreme Court, where Mr. Jonas Yoder was told that the First Amendment protected him and he was not required to send his children to the state school. This case laid down the test that was to be used for all subsequent cases to determine which beliefs are to be protected by the First Amendment and which are not.

The first definition the court made was, “Every religious belief is one of two types. It is either a conviction or a preference.”

Most Christians carelessly use the word conviction. In reality, the test of whether or not a matter is a conviction is a very severe one and not to be taken lightly. It will be seen here that most of us possess only preferences. 

WHAT IS A PREFERENCE?

A preference is a belief that is held with such intensity that a person can go into full time service in the name of that belief. He can be a minister of the gospel, a Christian schoolteacher or a missionary. He might even give all of his wealth to it and the court decides he still has only a preference. His belief may energize him to stand on a street corner and witness and proselytize, but it would still only be a preference. If a belief can change under some circumstances, the court calls it a preference. True conviction cannot be changed! When a man knows what he believes is right and allows the pressure of others to cause him to bend, the court calls the belief a preference. 

Lawsuit pressure causes many people to change their beliefs. There have been many men who say, “I am for this, but I am not going to get sued over it because the news media makes us into villains.” If you avoid taking a stand that will cause you to get sued because you do not want to see your church membership drop and that causes you to change your beliefs, then your belief was a preference. 

Jail pressure causes many people to change their beliefs. The incarcerated are isolated from their Christian influence, friends and family. And they are thrown into the middle of often-brutal men who normally relish the thought of breaking a Bible-toter. The court says if you change your beliefs for fear of going to jail, then your beliefs are preferences. 

Death pressure causes most people to change their beliefs. The court will ask if you are prepared to die for your belief. The court says that for a belief to be a conviction it will not change, even in the face of death. Why? Only a belief that is God-ordered is a conviction. Therefore the court must first decide if your belief is a conviction or a preference. Only a conviction is protected by the Constitution. 

WHAT IS A CONVICTION?

A conviction is something that you purpose in your heart, as a fabric of your belief system. It is one that you will not change due to any circumstance—It says, “When you believe that your God has required something of you, you will withstand all of the tests put to you.” It has been said that a man is never made by a crisis. The crisis exposes the man for what he already is. 

A conviction is a personal belief. The court says that if you require others to stand with you to maintain your beliefs, then your beliefs are preferences and not convictions. There have been preachers willing to stand on their belief only if they have the backing of a certain college or group to stand with them. That doesn’t go over in a court, for your belief must be a personal conviction regardless of what anyone else thinks or does. 

A conviction is non-negotiable. The court says if you can discuss the negotiation of your faith, it is a matter of preference. Why? How do you negotiate what is God ordered? Recall what the three Hebrews said because it illustrates the last point the court chose. “King, we believe that our God can deliver us, but even if you throw us into that furnace and God does not deliver us, we are not going to bow” (Daniel 3:16–18). In the case of Jonas Yoder and others the Supreme Court has ruled that the test of conviction is if there is a consistent lifestyle of one’s beliefs. A good part of every court case is about whether what you say with your mouth is consistently being practiced with your life. (End of excerpts)

A conviction can also be misinterpreted and misguided. Many of the suicide bombers had such a strong conviction of their beliefs that they were willing to give their lives for it. And yet, even among terrorists there has been instances of their beliefs being a preference rather than a conviction.

Take for example, Hoda Muthana, a young woman from Hoover, Alabama who traveled to Syria to join ISIS. Five years and three husbands later, she says she regrets what she did and is now begging to return to the US. In a recent handwritten note obtained by CNN from a family representative, she writes, “When I left to go to Syria I was a naive, angry, and arrogant young woman. I thought that I understood my religious beliefs.”  As it turns out those religious convictions were actually her preference at the time. And those preferences changed when pressured by outside influences. 

On the other hand, Christians in Nigeria and other countries have given up their lives rather than deny their Lord and convert to Islam or some other religion not grounded in the Word of God—even when it would be much easier and safer to comply with their torturers. Their beliefs were obviously a conviction.  

So are your beliefs a conviction or a preference? 

When Jonas Yoder went to trial and lost, he still won. When he appealed and lost, he won. And when he went to the Supreme Court and the judges unanimously said he was right, he knew he was right all along. He stood in this country when no one else stood with him. But when all the tests of preference and conviction were applied, he passed.

 Pressure from friends and family members, threat of lawsuits, jail or death will decide if your beliefs are a conviction or a preference. It is a conviction of Christians that pornography should not be viewed, that obscenity should not be spoken, that nudity should not be viewed. It is a conviction that unrighteous themes should not be exalted or promoted. Most would agree that these are the convictions of a Christian because the Bible requires it. Is it a sin to do otherwise? I believe that the answer is a resounding yes.

So how is it that so many who profess to be Bible believing, God loving, Jesus following Christians show no consistent lifestyle? Perhaps it is time to place ourselves on trial to see if we really believe what we say we believe. Are we really living consistently by the things that we say are convictions? It is unlikely that we will ever be put on trial for our beliefs, but whether or not you are ever brought into a courtroom and put on trial by men, you are on trial every day before your God. He demands holy living and consistency of life, not just in words. Anyone can say they believe in certain things, but as a child of God we ought to live a life consistent with what we say we believe. God help us to make it so.