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This blog is my favorite hobby. In it are stories, articles and other things that I hope you will find interesting. These are  based on the Holy Scriptures, and is excerpted from God’s Message Magazine.

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The Signs of the End Times

 

“ I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, New Living Translation)

THE CONFLICT IN SYRIA that saw hundreds of thousands of lives destroyed and displaced; the more than 8,000 dead in Nepal after a magnitude 7.8 quake; the collapsing economy of Greece, stock market crash in China, debt crisis in Puerto Rico, and the economic meltdown in South America; and 795 million people hungry throughout the world. These and similar tragic events that we have recently witnessed have caused anxiety and concern to many, these should not come as a surprise.
When the Lord Jesus was asked by His disciples on when His Second Coming would be, He already told them of such events, thus:

“As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, his disciples came to him privately and said, ‘Tell us, when will this happen? What will be the sign that you are coming again, and when will the world come to an end?’ …’In the same way, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the door.’

“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. Don’t be alarmed! These things must happen, but they don’t mean that the end has come. Nation will fight against nation and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All of these are only the beginning of pains of the end.” (Matt. 24:3, 6-7, God’s Word)

Man’s condition in these last days
The Bible is replete with pronouncements about what our situation in life would be in these days:

Will be full of danger. “But your must realize that in the last days the times will be full of danger.” (II Tim. 3:1, Phillips Translation)
Apostle Paul made this pronouncement as he foresaw the kind of people who will be living in these last days, that is, prior to the end of the world. In face, he prophesied that people in the last days would be selfish, greedy, boastful, conceited, insulting, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, irreligious, unkind, merciless, slanderers, insolent, fierce, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with pride, and lovers of pleasure rather than of God (II Tim. 3:2-4).

Many trials and sorrows. “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, New Living Translation)

Although world leaders have persistently attempted to design solutions to the problems people face today, their well-meaning efforts, unfortunately, have been a dismal failure. But this is not something to wonder about since our Lord Jesus already foretold that people would experience tribulations in this world.

The rise of false religions. “ Even though they will make a show of being religious, their religion won’t be real.” (II Tim. 3:5, Contemporary English Version)
Apostle Paul warned about the kind of religiosity that would prevail in these last days. This is the result of the proliferation of false preachers today who would lead people astray or away from the true religion: “And many false religious teachers will come. They will fool many people and will turn them to the wrong way” (Matt. 24:11, New Life Version).

Unrest, sickness, and hunger. “There is fighting in the street, and sickness and hunger in the houses. Anyone who is out in the country will die in fighting, and anyone in the city will be a victim of sickness and hunger. … Everything is in confusion—the land is full of murders and the cities are full of violence. … Despair is coming. You follow another, and a steady stream of bad news will pour in.” (Ezek. 7:15, 23, 25-26, Today’s English Version)

The unrest being felt in different places is to be expected. Even the hunger and malnutrition that millions of people around the world suffer now are fulfilment of what the Bible foretold. The Bible forewarned that this world would suffer from despair even at a period when people seriously adopt ways to promote peace and prosperity on earth. As the end of the world draws near, the condition of man’s life will surely worsen despite man’s efforts to improve it (Isa. 24:18, 20, Ibid.).

Prepare while the signs are unfolding
As we see the signs of the times, we can never deny that Christ’s Second Coming is indeed very near and coming very soon. But while these unfortunate things are happening in this world, there will be an end of all of these on the great day of Judgment (Acts 17:31).

Hence, let us prepare for the Lord’s return as we see these signs unfold before our very eyes. Let us remain steadfast and endure as we look forward to the glorious day when our sacrifices will be rewarded:

“When these things begin to happen, stand up and raise your heads, because your salvation is near.” (Luke 21:28, TEV)

In order for us to be certain of salvation on Judgment Day, we are instructed to be ready always. The Lord Jesus tells us: “So then, you also must always be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you are not expecting him. … No one knows, however, when that day and hour will come—neither the angels in heaven nor the Son; the Father alone knows.” (Matt. 24:44, 36, Ibid.).

Though we do not know the exact day and hour when judgment will be meted out to this world, we are however certain that that day is very near. That is why we are told to be ready always. Apostle Peter gave the answer on how we can prepare ourselves for Judgment Day: “Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless.” (II Pet. 3:14, New King James Version).

We are instructed to be found in peace as we look forward to Christ’s glorious return (II Pet. 3:14). That peace can be found in the body or the Church:
“And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.” (Col. 3:15, Ibid.)

“And He is the head of the body, the church …” (Col. 1:18, Ibid.)

Hence, whatever one experiences or encounters in this life, he should strive to enter the Church headed by Christ or the Church of Christ (Acts 20:28, Lamsa Translation)

Remain until the end
While there are many things that bring us anxieties, because they are the fulfillment of the signs of the times, the Lord Jesus Christ gives us a very timely advice: “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will drink; not about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?… “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matt. 6:25, 31-33, Ibid.).

Even if living in this world today is a big challenge—as we see the sufferings of a great number of people from poverty, injustice, terrorism, violence, calamities, dreadful illnesses, and all kinds of difficulties—we should never conform to the standards of this world (Rom. 12:2, TEV). We should never be afraid or lose courage because time will come when God will rid us of all our sorrows and burdens (Zeph. 3:16-18,The Message) Instead of losing hope, let us remain members of the Church of Christ until the end so as to be saved.

“But the person who holds out [i.e., of this time of severe persecution will be saved from destruction]” (Matt. 24:13, An Understandable Version)


by Siegfred T. Gollayan
Source: God’s Message, June 2016

God destroys Sodom and Gomorrah

ALTHOUGH THE LORD GOD is a loving and compassionate Father, He is also just and does not tolerate evil. While He rewards those who do good deeds, He punishes those who do evil. What happened to the twin cities of Sodom and Gomorrah illustrates the terrible consequence of being disobedient or of living in sin, such as immorality.

    “The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening. Lot was sitting near the gate of the city. When Lot saw them, he got up to meet them. He bowed down with his face to the ground. “My lords, he said,” please come to my house. You can wash your feet and spend the night here. Then you can go on your way early in the morning.”

      “No,” they answered. “We’ll spend the night in the street.” But Lot wouldn’t give up. So they went with him and entered his house. He prepared a meal for them. He baked bread without using yeast. And they ate. Before Lot and his guests had gone to bed, all the men came from every part of the city of Sodom. Young and old men alike surrounded the house. They called out to Lot. They said, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us. …But don’t do anything to these men. I’ve brought them inside so they can be safe.”

      “Get out of our way!” the men of Sodom replied. They said, “This fellow came here as an outsider. Now he wants to act like a judge! We’ll treat you worse than them.” They kept trying to force Lot to open the door. Then they moved forward to break it down.

      But the men inside reached out and pulled Lot back into the house. They shut the door. Then they made the men who were at the door of the house blind. They blinded young and old men alike. So the men couldn’t find the door.

      The two men said to Lot, “Do you have anyone else here? Do you have sons-in-law, sons or daughters? Does anyone else in the city belong to you? Get them out of here. They are going to destroy this place. There has been a great cry to the LORD against the people in this city. So he has sent us to destroy it.”

       Then Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law. They had promised to get married to his daughters. He said, “Hurry up! Get out of this place! The LORD is about to destroy the city!” But his sons-in-law thought he was joking.

       The sun was coming up. So the angels tried to get Lot to leave. They said, “Hurry up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here. Get out! If you don’t, you will be swept away when the city is punished.”

       Lot didn’t move right away. So the men grabbed him by the hand. They also took hold of the hands of his wife and two daughters. They led all them safely out of the city. The LORD had mercy on them.

       As soon as the angels had brought them out, one of them spoke. He said, “Run for your lives! Don’t look back! Don’t stop anything in the valley! Run to the mountains! If you don’t, you will be swept away!” But Lot said to them, “No, my lords! Please! You have done me a big favor. You have been very kind to me by sparing my life. But I can’t run to the mountains. This horrible thing that’s going to happen will catch up with me. And then I’ll die.

       “Look, here’s a town near enough to run to. It’s small. Let me run to it. It’s very small, isn’t it? Then my life will be spared.” The LORD said to Lot, “All right. I will also give you what you are asking for. I will not destroy the town you are talking about. But run there quickly. I can’t do anything until you reach it.” The town was named Zoar. Zoar means “small.” By the time Lot reached Zoar, the sun had risen over the land. Then the LORD sent down burning Sulphur. It came down like rain on Sodom and Gomorrah. It came from the LORD out of the sky. He destroyed those cities and the whole valley. All of the people who were living in the cities were wiped out. So were the plants in the land. But Lot’s wife looked back. When she did, she became a pillar made out of salt. (Excerpted from Genesis 19:1-26, New International Reader’s Version)

The tragic fate of Lot’s wife, who was already on her way to salvation but turned into a pillar of salt when she disobeyed the angels’ instruction for them not to look back, shows how crucial it is to follow instructions from God through His messengers. The Lord strictly commands us to carefully observe what He says, without adding to or taking away from it (Deut. 12:32) Failure to fully obey what God commands will result in receiving plagues or curses, and in having one’s name taken away from the book of life in heaven (Rev. 22:12-13).

The Knowledge That All Must Seek

THERE IS NO WAY to overemphasize the importance of knowledge in our lives. Knowledge is power, so the saying goes, which is why many people aspire for it. And throughout history, it is the  unrelenting pursuit of knowledge that has brought progress to man. A great portion of knowledge an wisdom has been transmitted in various institutions of learning. Some have been discovered through efforts and experimentation of persistent people. Although much of the knowledge discovered and acquired by man has contributed greatly to his welfare and progress, not all kinds of knowledge are beneficial to man. There are some that result in the destruction of lives and properties.

On the other hand, there is this kind of knowledge that is far more important and beneficial than any worldly knowledge. This is what we should seek and aspire for However, this knowledge cannot be learned in school and one’s intelligence is not a guarantee to enable him to know and understand it. Apostle Paul enlightens us:

“And how from your childhood you have had a knowledge of and been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to instruct you and give you the understanding for salvation which comes through faith in Jesus Christ [that is, through the learning of the entire human personality on God in Christ Jesus in absolute trust and confidence in His power, wisdom, and goodness]. Every scripture is God-breathed–Given by His inspiration–and profitable for instruction, for reproof and conviction of sin, for correction of error and discipline in obedience,  and for training in righteousness [that is, in holy living, in conformity to God’s will in thought, purpose, and action].” (II Tim. 3:15-16, Amplified Bible)

Knowledge of the sacred writings or the Holy Scriptures can give us the understanding for salvation which comes through faith in Christ Jesus. This makes such knowledge different and unique from any worldly knowledge man has and can acquire. Although the knowledge that is learned and acquired from educational institutions may bring progress and make life easier for man, this cannot lead him to the salvation of his soul. But this does not mean that anybody can gain right knowledge and understanding of what the Bible teaches concerning God and salvation. The Bible is not like any ordinary book that can be easily understood by anyone who knows how to read. Apostle Paul teaches in I Corinthians 2:6-7:

“However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, or the rulers of this age, who care coming to nothing. But we speak of the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages of our glory.” (New King James Version)

Right understanding of God’s wisdom cannot be gained by just reading the Bible for this is hidden in mystery as has been ordained by God.

Unraveling the mystery
Although God’s wisdom and knowledge contained in the Holy Scripture is hidden in mystery, this can be unraveled and understood for the welfare of man’s soul. For us to understand and benefit from this, the Apostle Paul gives us this guide in I Corinthians 2:11-12:

“For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.” (Ibid.)

Apostle Paul has made it clear that no one knows the things of God except His Spirit. Thus, only those who have received the Spirit of God can understand and explain His wisdom and knowledge which He has hidden in mystery. Only they can unravel and reveal to us the mystery of our Lord God for our own benefit. And indeed, there are people who have been given and have received the Spirit of God and, thus, have understood and are able to explain the words of God, although it is hidden in mystery. Foremost among them is our Lord Jesus Christ:

The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent me to  heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed.”  (Luke 4:18, Ibid.)

Our Lord Jesus Christ was sent by God. He received the Spirit of God or the Holy Spirit, hence, He was able to understand and preach the Gospel, which He is during His ministry here on earth. Thus, the messenger of God, inasmuch as He has the Spirit of God, can understand and preach the Gospel. He is the one who can explain the mystery of God’s knowledge and wisdom. No wonder the inspired preaching of our Lord Jesus Christ elicited awe and amazement from the people, particularly the Jews. John 7:15-16 narrates the following:

“The Jews were amazed and asked, ‘How did this man get such learning without having studied?’ Jesus answered, ‘My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me’.” (New International Version)

The Lord Jesus did not learn or get His knowledge of God’s words from the learning institutions of this world. So although He did not undergo formal education from any school, He was able to preach and explain God’s words by virtue of His commissioning. The same could be said of the other messengers of God, for instance the apostles. Inasmuch as they learned from our Lord Jesus Christ and they, too, received the Holy Spirit from God (John 20:21-22), their preaching also elicited like response and reactions from those who heard him preach. Recorded in the book of Acts is this:

“They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: ‘By what power or what name did you do this?’ Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: ‘Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. He is “the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone.” Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved’. When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:7-13, NIV)

Not based on man’s understanding
Knowledge of God’s words that gives one understanding for salvation is not based upon man’s own wisdom as proven in the aforementioned cases. It is not gained through persistent studies and having doctoral degrees from theological schools. As Apostle Paul state, “Always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (II Tim. 3:7, NKJV).

One’s educational attainment, however high it is, does not guarantee that a person can already understand God’s teachings and can preach the pure gospel. “And how shall they preach unless they are  sent?” Apostle Paul asks rhetorically (Rom. 10:15, Ibid.).Therefore, one needs to be a messenger o f God to be able to preach His words. This does not mean, however, that no one among the messengers of God was schooled or educated. This is proven by Apostle Paul, no doubt a messenger of God, when he said of himself in Acts 22:3: “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated under Gamaliel, strictly according to the law of our fathers, being zealous for God just as you all are today” (New American Standard Bible).

Apostle Paul was educated and learned, having had formal education but he did not preach based on human wisdom. He did not use his worldly education as basis of his authority to preach and in converting people to Christ. In Galatians 1:11-12, he said:

“But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (NKJV)

Apostle Paul testified that the gospel he preached was not according to man but he received it from God through the revelation of Jesus Christ. His authority to preach was given to him by our Lord God. And being one of the true messengers of God, he was able to preach and explain His words that would lead man to salvation. Thus, for man to gain knowledge and understanding concerning God and to receive salvation from whom should he seek such knowledge? In the book of Malachi 2:7, the Bible teaches this:

“It is the duty of priests [Jewish Priesthood] to teach the true knowledge of God. People should go to them to learn my will, because they are the messengers of the LORD Almighty.” (Today’s English Version)

If man wants to gain true knowledge about God and to learn His will that he must follow in order for him to attain salvation, he must seek such knowledge from the messenger of our Lord God. Listening to the preaching of God’s messenger is very important, for it is from the messenger that one can gain the true and right knowledge concerning God. Such knowledge, if he accepts and believes, can assure him of eternal life.

The knowledge to eternal life
What then is the true knowledge concerning God taught by His messengers that will lead man to eternal life or salvation? Cited earlier was Malachi 2:7 and verse 10 of that same chapter says the following:

“Have we not all one Father? Did not one God create us? Why do we profane the covenant of our fathers by breaking faith with one another?” (Mal. 2:10, NIV)

The Prophet Malachi, one of God’s messengers, taught clearly that the Father is the one God who created us. This is the true knowledge concerning God taught since the time of His early messengers, a teaching that has endured up to the time of the Christian Era as testified to by Apostle Paul, another messenger of God: “Yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live” (I Cor. 8:6, Ibid.).

And why did Apostle Paul say that “for us,” referring to the Christians, to whom he wrote this epistle, “there is but one God, the Father?” Because for others, this is not the knowledge that they have known about God: “But not everyone knows this” (I Cor. 8:7, Ibid.), Apostle Paul said further. That’s why there are those who teach that, aside from the Father, who is the true God, there is also God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. But this teaching is unbiblical. The Bible, the book that contains God’s revealed knowledge and wisdom, teaches clearly that the Father alone is the true God. This is the knowledge concerning God taught by His messengers and learned by the true Christians. This is also the same knowledge about God that the Lord Jesus Christ, the greatest of God’s messengers, taught:

“Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, an said: ‘Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, … And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent’.” (John 17:1,3, NKJV)

In teaching that the Father alone is the true God, Christ did not teach that He Himself and the Holy Spirit are Gods. And how important is it to possess such knowledge about God? Christ emphasized that this is the knowledge that will lead to eternal life. This is the knowledge that all people must seek and know, which only the genuine messengers of God have been able to teach throughout history.


By RUBEN D. AROMIN
Source: God’s Message Magazine

What are the Historical Facts on Christmas?

by Richard Rodas

FOR MILLIONS OF PEOPLE all over the world, “Christmas”, supposedly commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, is a very important religious event. To Anglican, Protestant, Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox churches, it certainly is the most popularly observed occasion each year. Their chapels and cathedrals, decorated with evergreens and poinsettias (‘Flor de la Noche Buena’ or Flower of the Holy Night’ in Mexico), reverberate at Christmastime with special hymns, “oratorios”, and carols. No wonder that the author Jane M. Harch wrote that “in its social or festive aspect, December 25, is a curious hybrid of the seasonal traditions of numerous people: Persian, Roman, Norse, Gothic, and Anglo-Saxon, among others” (The American Book of Days, p. 1141).1

But is it really the date of the birth of the Savior, Jesus Christ? Author Walter Woodburn Hyde, in his book, wrote that “all branches of the Church agree that no data exist for determining the day, month or year of the event nor was such a festival celebrated in Apostolic or early post-Apostolic times” (Paganism to Christianity in the Roman Empire, p. 249).2 There was at first no general consensus about when the anniversary should be observed—or even whether it should be observed. Origen, the African Catholic Church father and philosopher, wrote in A.D. 245 that it was sinful even to contemplate observing Jesus’ birthday “as though He were a King Pharaoh” (The American Book of Days, p. 1142).

 

‘Birthday of the Sun’

Knowing its shrouded beginning, one should not be surprised that Christmas is surrounded by widespread myths, customs, and traditions. Why December 25 then? What is this date really all about?

Francis X. Weiser, in his book, declared that “the choice of December 25 was influenced by the fact that the Romans, from the time of Emperor Aurelian (275), had celebrated the feast of the sun god (Sol Invictus: the Unconquered Sun) and great pagan religious celebrations of the Mithras cult were held all through the empire” (Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs, p. 60).3   Even modern scholars agree that December 25 was selected arbitrarily for “practical purpose rather than as a matter of chronological accuracy” (The American Book of Days, p.1142). The date happens to coincide with the pagan festival of Brumalia or winter solstice. The indications are that the Catholic Church in this way “grasped the opportunity to turn the people away from a purely pagan observance of the winter solstice to a day of adoration of Christ the Lord” (Collier’s Encyclopedia, vol. 6, p. 403).4

Even Pope Gregory I “instructed Augustine of Canterbury, whom he sent to England in 596, to observe old customs, infusing them with Christian significance to propagate the faith” (The American Book of Days, p. 1143). On this liberal policy hinged the continuation of numerous pagan customs now connected with Christmastime. Weiser was accurate in concluding that “it has sometime been said that the Nativity is only a “Christianized pagan festival” (Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs, p.60).

‘Candles, Christmas tree, laurels’

Some historians and even other religious authorities are saying that Christmas customs are an evolution from times that long antedated the Christian period—a descent from seasonal, pagan, religious and national practices, hedged about with legend and tradition. Is this true? Do they admit it? Reverend Alexander Hislop in his book The Two Babylons of the Papal Worship, states:” The candles, in some parts of England, lighted on Christmas-eve, and used so long as the festive season lasts, were equally lighted by the Pagans on the eve of the festival of the Babylonian god, to do honour to him: for it was one of the distinguishing peculiarities of his worship to have lighted wax-candles on his altars. The Christmas tree, now so common among us, was equally common in Pagan Rome and Pagan Egypt” (p. 97).5

It is not surprising then that some authorities consider the Christmas tree a

survival of pagan tree worship and traced it to ancient Rome and Egypt. The 6 admitting that candles … were commonly employed in pagan worship” (vol. 3, p. 246).6

How about the mistletoe? The laurels? Or, the evergreens that are also extensively used during Christmas? Are they in any way from Christian origin? Collier’s Encyclopedia, states: “The use of evergreens to decorate homes at Christmas time has an unmistakable pre-Christian origin. During the celebration of the Saturnalis, laurel and other greens and flowers were used extensively for processions and house decorations. … Mistletoe was sacred among the British Druids and was believed to have many miraculous powers. Among the Romans it was a symbol of peace and it was said that when enemies met under it, they discarded their arms and declared a truce. From this come our custom of kissing under the mistletoe: (vol. 6, page 404).

Robert J. Myers, the author of the book Celebrations: The Complete Book of American Holidays, further said that mistletoe (a plant with whitish

berries) “is the famous Golden Bough, honored in Norse legend and worship by the Druids. … The Druids, for so they call their wizards, esteem nothing more sacred than the mistletoe and the tree of which it grows, provided only that the tree is and oak … for they believe that whatever grows on these trees is sent from heaven, and is a sign that the tree has been chosen by the god himself” (p. 337).Evergreens are not better than Christmas trees and candles—they all have pagan origins.

 

‘Strenae and Sinterklaas’

One of the more popular practices at Christmas is the exchanging of gifts. It is, some said, an integral part of the season. But again, what is its origin? Collier’s Encyclopedia, states: “The practice of exchanging presents at

Christmas stems from the ancient Roman custom called Strenae. During the Saturnalia Roman citizens used to give ‘good luck’ gifts (strenae) of fruits, pastry, or gold to their friends …” (vol. 6, p.404)

The practice of exchanging gifts at Christmas comes from the customs of Pagan Rome wherein gems, lamps, pastry, gold, and silver coins were exchanged.

Another more recent addition to Christmas is the traditional visit of

Sinterklaas (Dutch word anglicized into Santa Claus). Santa Claus is supposedly the popular form of the name of the semi-legendary St. Nicholas, a bishop of Myra in Lycia in faraway Asia Minor who was imprisoned and tortured under Diocletian at the beginning of the fourth century. He has become a patron saint of Russia, children, sailors, merchants, and even robbers (Paganism to Christianity in the Roman Empire, p. 245).   But is St. Nicholas really Santa Claus? Who is really behind the name

Santa Claus? Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs, declares: “When the Dutch came to America and established the colony of New Amsterdam, their children enjoyed the traditional ‘visit of St. Nicholas’ on December 5, for the Dutch had kept this ancient Catholic custom even after the Reformation. Later, when England took over the colony and it became New York, the kindly figure of Sinterklaas (pronounced like Santa Claus) soon aroused among the English children the desire of having such a heavenly visitor come to their homes, too. The English settlers were glad and willing to comply with the anxious wish of their children. However, the figure of a Catholic saint and bishop was not acceptable in their eyes, especially since many of them were Presbyterians, to whom a bishop was repugnant. In addition, they did not celebrate the feasts of saints according to the ancient Catholic calendar.   “The dilemma was solved by transferring the visit of the mysterious man whom the Dutch called  from December 5 to Christmas, and by introducing a radical change in the figure itself. It was not merely a ‘disguise’ but the ancient saint was completely replaced by an entirely different character Behind the name Santa Claus actually stands the figure of the pagan Germanic god Thor (after whom Thursday is named). Here, then, is the true origin of our ‘Santa Clause.’ It certainly was a stroke of genius that produced such a charming and attractive figure for our children from the withered pages of pagan mythology” (pp. 84-85).

 

How old is Christmas? 

Did the Church of Christ in the first century celebrate Christmas as what Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox churches have had done? Was it a religious festival during the time of the apostles? A Catholic priest, Rt. Rev. Msgr. John F. Sullivan, in his book The Externals of the Catholic Church, explains: Not in the Early Church. How old is Christmas Day? … One would naturally think that the anniversary of so great an event as the birth of the Son of God would have been a day of religious joy from the earliest years of the Church, but it is clear that this was not the case. There is no mention it in any of the oldest lists of Church festivals. … There was a great diversity of opinion among ancient authorities as to the birthday of our Blessed Saviour. Many writers, especially of the Eastern Church, assigned an entirely different season of the year from that observed as present. St. Clement of Alexandria quotes some who placed it on the twentieth of April or the twentieth of May, and a very common belief in the Orient was that our Lord was born on the sixth of January” (p. 136)8.

It is indeed impossible to determine the exact birth of Jesus Christ, either from biblical evidence, or from any sound tradition. A Catholic nun Catherine Frederic, even boldly asserts that “formerly Christmas was celebrated on January 6, but Pope Julius I, at the beginning of the fourth century, changed the day to December 25, since the actual date is unknown”

(The Handbook of Catholic Practices, p. 176).9

 

Worship in vain

What is the evil consequence if one will mix his service to God with observance of the commandments of men, like that of Christmas? Apostle Paul, in his letter to Titus 1:14, says: “And not give heed to Jewish fables and commandments of men who hate the truth” (Lamsa Translation).   One must show the soundness of his faith by ceasing to give attention to folk tales or commandments of men. Listening the them or observing them causes one to reject and turn his back from the truth which are God’s words (John 17:17, Ibid.). Besides, do observances of festivals or even worship service based upon words of men have value before God’s sight? Jesus Christ our Lord vocally answered such query when He said, “they worship me in vain when they teach the doctrines of the commandments of men” (Matt. 15:9, Ibid.). Christmas, even coupled with the monstrous pomposity, elaborate rites, and merriment usually attached to it, cannot be acceptable to God. Even if compounded with religious overtones, it is worthless, for it is merely man-made, or to be exact, a pagan doctrine.

 

Christ is our Passover

Is there a festival that the Christians should perform? A celebration for Christ which the Bible teaches? Apostle Paul in his letter to the Corinthians said: “Clean out therefore let us celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, so that you may be a new lump, just as you are unleavened. For our Passover is Christ, who was sacrificed for our sake. Therefore let us celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, neither with the leaven of purity and sanctity” (I Cor. 5:7-8, Ibid.).

Man should remove the evil cancer—the wicked person—from himself so that he can stay pure. Apostle Paul said that our Passover is Christ, who has been sacrificed for us. So, he said, let us celebrate the festival by growing strong in the Christian life, leaving entirely behind us the cancerous old life with all its hatred and bitterness. Let us feast instead upon the pure bread of honor and sincerity and truth.

In what way did our Lord Jesus Christ command us to remember Him? The same learned apostle answered: “For I myself received from our Lord that which I also delivered to you, That our Lord Jesus on that very 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; this do in remembrance of me. Likewise after supper, he gave also the cup and said, This cup is the new testament in my blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me” (I Cor. 11:23-25, Ibid.). Likewise after supper, he gave also the cup and said, This cup is the new testament in my blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me” (I Cor.

11:23-25, Ibid.).

Apostle Paul was passing on what was given to him by the Lord—that of the way to remember Him. Whenever one partakes of the bread and drinks from the cup, in short, the Holy Supper, he is affectionately remembering the Lord Jesus Christ. Christmas is nowhere in the lexicon of Jesus nor of any of His apostles.

Is it only through the Holy Supper that we commemorate Jesus? How else can we remember Him? How can we give value to Jesus Christ in our life? The Bible’s answer is: “… let us lay aside every weight and the sin which does so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us. And let us look to Jesus, who was the author and the perfecter of our faith and who, instead of the joy which he could have had, endured the cross, suffered shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God. See, therefore, how much he has suffered from the hands of sinners, from those who were a contradiction to themselves, lest you become weary and faint in your soul” (Heb. 12:1-3, Ibid.).

We should strip ourselves of and throw aside every encumbrance— unnecessary weight—and that sin which so deftly and cleverly clings to us. Let us run with patience the particular race—duties and responsibilities—that God has set for us. Keep our eyes on Jesus, our leader and instructor, by remembering His willingness to die a shameful death on the cross that man might have a chance for salvation.

True Christians should clothe themselves with purity and holiness by putting on a behavior marked by tenderhearted pity and mercy, kind feeling, gentle ways and patience—which is long suffering and has the power to endure whatever comes, with good temper.

Most of all, let love guide our life which binds together everything in ideal harmony. Only in this way can the birth of Jesus Christ and His subsequent death bring joy to the world and peace on earth. ☺


 

                                                       References

1 Hatch, Jane M. The American Book of Days, New York: H.W. Wilson, 1978

2 Hyde, Walter Woodburn Paganism to Christianity in the Roman Empire.

Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1946.

3 Weiser, Francis X. Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs. New York,

New York: Paulist Press, 1963.

4 Halsey, William D., Ed. Dir. Collier’s Encyclopedia, vol. 6. U.S.A.: The

Crowell-Collier Publishing Company, 1964.

5  Hislop, Alexander The Two Babylons or the Papal Worship of Nimrod and

His Wife, 2nd American Edition. Neptune, New Jersey: Loizeaux Brothers,

Inc., 1959.

6 Herbermann, Charles G., Ed. The Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. 3. New York:

The Encyclopedia Press, Inc., 1913.

7 Myers, Robert J. Celebrations: The Complete Boo of American Holidays.

Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1972.

8 Sullivan, John F., D.D. The Externals of the Catholic Church: Her

Government, Ceremonies, Festivals, Sacramentals, and Devotions. New

York: P.J. Kenedy & Sons, 1917.

9 Frederic, Catherine, O.S.F. The Handbook of Catholic Practices. New York:

Hawthorn Books, Inc., 1964.

 

 

‘EUROPE’S EMPTY CHURCHES GO ON SALE’

 

Some of the telltale signs of the so-called “religious recession” or the general decline in the zeal and enthusiasm of churchgoers worldwide are shrinking membership, dismal attendance in church gatherings, and diminishing monetary contributions—forcing many congregations to sell their worship buildings. This malady affects the Roman Catholic Church and Protestant Denominations. 

Source: Wall Street Journal


ARNHEM, Netherlands—Two Dozen scruffy skateboarders launched perilous jumps in a soaring old church building here on a recent night, watched over by a mosaic likeness of Jesus and a solemn array of stone saints.
This is Arnhem Skate Hall, an uneasy reincarnation of the Church of St. Joseph, which once rang with the prayers of nearly 1,000 worshipers.
It is one of hundreds of churches, closed or threatened by plunging membership, that pose a question for communities, and even governments, across Western Europe: What to do with once-holy, now-empty buildings that increasingly mark the countryside from Britain to Denmark?
[…] The closing of Europe’s churches reflects the rapid weakening of the faith in Europe, a phenomenon that is painful to both worshipers and the others who see religion as a unifying factor in a disparate society.
[…] The Church of England closes about 20 churches a year. Roughly 200 Danish churches have been deemed nonviable or underused. The Roman Catholic Church in Germany has shut about 515 churches in the past decade.
But it is in the Netherlands where the trend appears to be most advanced. The country’s Roman Catholic Church leaders estimate that two-thirds of their 1,600 churches will be out of commission in a decade, and 700 of Holland’s Protestant churches are expected to close within four years.
[…] As communities struggle to reinvent their old churches, some solutions are less dignified than others. In Holland, one ex-church has become a supermarket, another is a florist, a third is a bookstore and a fourth is a gym. In Arnhem, a fashionable store called Humanoid occupies a church building dating to 1889, with racks of stylish women’s clothing arrayed under stained-glass windows.
In Bristol, England, the former St. Paul’s Church has become the Circomedia circus training school. Operators say the high ceilings are perfect for aerial equipment like trapezes.
In Edinburgh, Scotland, a Lutheran Church has become a Frankenstein-themed bar, featuring bubbling test tubes, lasers and life-size Frankenstein’s monster descending from the ceiling at midnight.
Jason MacDonald, a supervisor at the pub, says he has never heard complaints about the reuse. “It’s for one simple reason: There are hundreds and hundreds of old churches and no one to go to them,” Mr. MacDonald said. “If they weren’t repurposed they would just lie empty.”
Many churches, especially smaller ones, are becoming homes, and that has spawned an entire industry to connect would-be buyers with old churches.
The churches of England and Scotland list available properties online, with descriptions worthy of a realty firm. St. John’s Church in Bacup, England, for example, is said to feature “a lofty nave as well as basement rooms with stone-vaulted ceilings,” and can be has for about $160,000.

The Truth Concerning Christ’s Birth By Donald Pinnock

SINCE THE BEGINNING of recorded history, there have been certain individuals who have played major roles in influencing the masses, and thus steering the course of mankind. But no one’s birth, life, or death has created a phenomenon as that of the Lord Jesus Christ. Approaching 2000 years since His ascension to heaven, His legacy continues to affect the lives of millions of people around the globe. This is apparent when the so-called Christian world celebrates Christmas.

Christmas, to many, is that time of the year when there is a great outpouring of goodwill to one’s fellow man through the giving of gifts, well-wishing, and all-around merriment. However, despite the general “good” feeling that permeates man’s world and the obvious commercial aspect, not many truly understand the history of this annual celebration.

History and meaning of Christmas
What does the word “Christmas” mean? The Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary mentions the following:
“Etymology: Middle English Christemasses, from Old English Cristes mæsse, literally, Christ’s mass
“Date: before 12th century
“1: a Christian feast on December 25 or among some Eastern Orthodox Christians on January 7 that commemorates the birth of Christ and is usually observed as a legal holiday” (school.eb.com)

Thus, Christmas is purported to celebrate the birth of Christ. But was this custom observed by the early Christians?
“There is no historical evidence that our Lord’s birthday was celebrated during the apostolic or postapostolic times.” (The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, vol. 3, p. 47)

So when did the celebration of Christmas begin? From the book, Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs, we can read the following:
“Soon after the end of the last great persecution, about the year 330, the church in Rome definitely assigned December 25 for the celebration of the birth of Christ. For a while, many Eastern Churches continued to keep other dates, but toward the end of the fourth century, hundreds of years after the death of the apostles. Many people do know that Christ was not born on December 25th, but why was that date chosen? The same book reveals this:

“There remains then this explanation, which is the most probable one, and held by most scholars in our time: the choice of December 25 was influenced by the fact that the Romans, from the time of Emperor Aurelian (275), had celebrated the feast of the sun god (Sol Invictus: the Unconquered Sun) on that day. December 25 was called the ‘Birthday of the Sun’, and great pagan religious celebrations of the Mithras cult were held all through the empire. What was more natural than that the Christians celebrate the birth of Him Who was the ‘Light of the World’ and the true ‘Sun of Justice’ on this very day?” (Ibid., p. 61)

December 25th was chosen primarily because that date celebrated the feast of the pagan sun god Sol Invictus. So what many people are observing nowadays has its roots in paganism.

Regarding feasts and celebrations which are of pagan origin, Apostle Paul has this to say, thus:
“Here then is my word to you, and I urge it on you in the Lord’s name: give up living as pagans do with their futile notions.” (Eph. 4:17, Revised English Bible)

 

Significance of Christ’s birth
But is Christ’s birth significant? Very much so, as we can read in I John 4:9:
“In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.” (New King James Version)
Why did the birth of Christ manifest the love of God to mankind? Because Christ, being the Savior, brought peace to man:

“For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger’. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!’” (Luke 2:11-14, Ibid.)

The peace that Christ has brought is absolutely vital, since man in general has been separated from God because of sin (Isa. 59:2), the wages of sin being death in the lake of fire (Rom. 6:23; Rev. 20:14). And since all men, except Christ, have committed sin (Rom. 3:23), then all should die on the day of Judgment (II Pet. 3:7, 10).

But because of God’s love and mercy, He sent Christ as the propitiation for sin that man may not die but live. However, have all benefited from this blessing? Who have benefited from the birth, life, and death of Christ? Where can those who have peace with God be found? In the “one body”, according to Apostle Paul:

“And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body: and be thankful.” (Col. 3:15, NKJV)

The body is none other than the Church of which Christ is the head (Col. 1:18). Apostle Paul also makes known that the official name of the Church established by Christ is the Church of Christ:
“The common object of their labor was to bring the Christians maturity to prepare them for Christian service and the building up of the Church of Christ …” (Eph. 4:12, Norlie’s Simplified New Testament)
So, it is very necessary and important for one to join and remain in the Church of Christ or Iglesia ni Cristo in order to have peace with God and be saved by Christ. If there are those who can truly rejoice because of the birth of the Savior, it is none other than the members of the true Church of Christ.

 

Remembering the Savior
Celebrating one’s birth is not against biblical precepts. However, to celebrate one’s birthday, the date of birth of the celebrator must first be determined. As for Christ’s birthday, such information is unavailable. What we have is a date which was supposedly set for the birthday of a pagan god.
The importance of Christ’s birth can never be over-emphasized—it meant that a Savior was born. However, Christ did not command that His birthday be commemorated. Instead, before Christ died on the cross, He instituted something that He instructed His disciples to observe in remembrance of Him:

“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’.” (I Cor. 11:23-25, NKJV)

The servants of the Lord remember the Savior through the Holy Supper. Through this, they also remember all His sufferings and sacrifices for His Church (Luke 9:22; Eph. 5:25), the Church of Christ (Acts 20:28, Lamsa Translation), of which they are members and by which they have peace with God and will be saved from the Father’s wrath on the day of Judgment.

Indeed, members of the Church of Christ have been richly blessed. But they know it is not enough that their recognition and acknowledgment of Christ is scripturally based but that they also have the responsibility to remain as obedient servants until the end:
“That you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing.” (I Tim. 6:14, NKJV)

Why should members of the Church of Christ remain obeying God’s commandments until the end? What awaits the obedient servants of the Lord? II Peter 3:13-14 states:

“Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless.” (Ibid.)

Having the true knowledge of Christ and doing the right way of remembering Him will culminate in the salvation of the members of the Church of Christ, who will be taken to the new heavens and earth, or more specifically the Holy City (Rev. 21:1-2)

This is the very reason why we, members of the Church of Christ or Iglesia ni Cristo, continually rejoice in the sending of the Lord Jesus Christ by our God and Father in heaven though not in the manner the rest of the people in the world do. For we are assured that on Christ’s return, He will fulfill His promise unto us:

“Don’t be troubled. You trust God, now trust in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s home, and I am going to prepare a place for you. If this were not so, I would tell you plainly. When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know where I am going and how to get there.” (John 14:1-4, New Living Translation)

 

SINCE THE BEGINNING of recorded history, there have been certain individuals who have played major roles in influencing the masses, and thus steering the course of mankind. But no one’s birth, life, or death has created a phenomenon as that of the Lord Jesus Christ. Approaching 2000 years since His ascension to heaven, His legacy continues to affect the lives of millions of people around the globe. This is apparent when the so-called Christian world celebrates Christmas.

Christmas, to many, is that time of the year when there is a great outpouring of goodwill to one’s fellow man through the giving of gifts, well-wishing, and all-around merriment. However, despite the general “good” feeling that permeates man’s world and the obvious commercial aspect, not many truly understand the history of this annual celebration.

History and meaning of Christmas
What does the word “Christmas” mean? The Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary mentions the following:
“Etymology: Middle English Christemasses, from Old English Cristes mæsse, literally, Christ’s mass
“Date: before 12th century
“1: a Christian feast on December 25 or among some Eastern Orthodox Christians on January 7 that commemorates the birth of Christ and is usually observed as a legal holiday” (school.eb.com)
Thus, Christmas is purported to celebrate the birth of Christ. But was this custom observed by the early Christians?
“There is no historical evidence that our Lord’s birthday was celebrated during the apostolic or postapostolic times.” (The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, vol. 3, p. 47)
So when did the celebration of Christmas begin? From the book, Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs, we can read the following:

“Soon after the end of the last great persecution, about the year 330, the church in Rome definitely assigned December 25 for the celebration of the birth of Christ. For a while, many Eastern Churches continued to keep other dates, but toward the end of the fourth century, hundreds of years after the death of the apostles. Many people do know that Christ was not born on December 25th, but why was that date chosen? The same book reveals this:

“There remains then this explanation, which is the most probable one, and held by most scholars in our time: the choice of December 25 was influenced by the fact that the Romans, from the time of Emperor Aurelian (275), had celebrated the feast of the sun god (Sol Invictus: the Unconquered Sun) on that day. December 25 was called the ‘Birthday of the Sun’, and great pagan religious celebrations of the Mithras cult were held all through the empire. What was more natural than that the Christians celebrate the birth of Him Who was the ‘Light of the World’ and the true ‘Sun of Justice’ on this very day?” (Ibid., p. 61)

December 25th was chosen primarily because that date celebrated the feast of the pagan sun god Sol Invictus. So what many people are observing nowadays has its roots in paganism.
Regarding feasts and celebrations which are of pagan origin, Apostle Paul has this to say, thus:
“Here then is my word to you, and I urge it on you in the Lord’s name: give up living as pagans do with their futile notions.” (Eph. 4:17, Revised English Bible)

 

Significance of Christ’s birth
But is Christ’s birth significant? Very much so, as we can read in I John 4:9:
“In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.” (New King James Version)
Why did the birth of Christ manifest the love of God to mankind? Because Christ, being the Savior, brought peace to man:

“For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger’. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!’” (Luke 2:11-14, Ibid.)

The peace that Christ has brought is absolutely vital, since man in general has been separated from God because of sin (Isa. 59:2), the wages of sin being death in the lake of fire (Rom. 6:23; Rev. 20:14). And since all men, except Christ, have committed sin (Rom. 3:23), then all should die on the day of Judgment (II Pet. 3:7, 10).

But because of God’s love and mercy, He sent Christ as the propitiation for sin that man may not die but live. However, have all benefited from this blessing? Who have benefited from the birth, life, and death of Christ? Where can those who have peace with God be found? In the “one body”, according to Apostle Paul:

“And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body: and be thankful.” (Col. 3:15, NKJV)
The body is none other than the Church of which Christ is the head (Col. 1:18). Apostle Paul also makes known that the official name of the Church established by Christ is the Church of Christ:
“The common object of their labor was to bring the Christians maturity to prepare them for Christian service and the building up of the Church of Christ …” (Eph. 4:12, Norlie’s Simplified New Testament)

So, it is very necessary and important for one to join and remain in the Church of Christ or Iglesia ni Cristo in order to have peace with God and be saved by Christ. If there are those who can truly rejoice because of the birth of the Savior, it is none other than the members of the true Church of Christ.

 

Remembering the Savior
Celebrating one’s birth is not against biblical precepts. However, to celebrate one’s birthday, the date of birth of the celebrator must first be determined. As for Christ’s birthday, such information is unavailable. What we have is a date which was supposedly set for the birthday of a pagan god.
The importance of Christ’s birth can never be over-emphasized—it meant that a Savior was born. However, Christ did not command that His birthday be commemorated. Instead, before Christ died on the cross, He instituted something that He instructed His disciples to observe in remembrance of Him:

“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’.” (I Cor. 11:23-25, NKJV)

The servants of the Lord remember the Savior through the Holy Supper. Through this, they also remember all His sufferings and sacrifices for His Church (Luke 9:22; Eph. 5:25), the Church of Christ (Acts 20:28, Lamsa “Translation), of which they are members and by which they have peace with God and will be saved from the Father’s wrath on the day of Judgment.
Indeed, members of the Church of Christ have been richly blessed. But they know it is not enough that their recognition and acknowledgment of Christ is scripturally based but that they also have the responsibility to remain as obedient servants until the end:

“That you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing.” (I Tim. 6:14, NKJV)

Why should members of the Church of Christ remain obeying God’s commandments until the end? What awaits the obedient servants of the Lord? II Peter 3:13-14 states:

“Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless.” (Ibid.)

Having the true knowledge of Christ and doing the right way of remembering Him will culminate in the salvation of the members of the Church of Christ, who will be taken to the new heavens and earth, or more specifically the Holy City (Rev. 21:1-2)

This is the very reason why we, members of the Church of Christ or Iglesia ni Cristo, continually rejoice in the sending of the Lord Jesus Christ by our God and Father in heaven though not in the manner the rest of the people in the world do. For we are assured that on Christ’s return, He will fulfill His promise unto us:

“Don’t be troubled. You trust God, now trust in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s home, and I am going to prepare a place for you. If this were not so, I would tell you plainly. When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know where I am going and how to get there.” (John 14:1-4, New Living Translation)

What Man Needs to do Now, More than Ever by Bienvenido A. Santiago, Jr.

 

PANDEMIC DISEASES, SOCIAL UNREST, internecine wars, economic downturn, and natural calamities cast a dark cloud over many people’s lives the world over and leave many worrying about the security of their family—and their future. 

Given these difficult circumstances, many have preoccupied themselves with their work and career in order to secure their needs. Others have focused on their academic study hoping that a good education can lead them to a better life. But despite their best efforts, the bright future that many long for remains a frustratingly elusive dream. And without many of them noticing it, they have already neglected the most important thing in order to overcome every trial and hardship in life.

What matters most
Truth is, the most important thing to do is to trust in God by faithfully obeying His commandments and always worshiping Him in His temple—where His laws are taught. The Bible says:

“Many people will come and say, ‘Let’s go to the mountain of the LORD God of Jacob and worship in his temple.’ The LORD will teach us his Law from Jerusalem, and we will obey him.” (Isa. 2:3, Contemporary English Version)

God’s word is very vital to every servant of God if we are to enjoy His constant guidance. It serves as a guide and light (Ps. 119:105, Today’s English Version) for our path so we will not be led astray from righteousness. Imagine how difficult it is for a person to find his way in a very dark place without a light to illumine him. Indeed, life without light is a life of uncertainty and chaos.

However, many find it hard to prioritize the worship of God over their work, career, or study thinking that they stand to lose if they give God first place in their lives. Thus, material or worldly pursuits are still their main purpose of living.

But what is the great advantage if one always worships God and receives His teachings? His word will not only help us overcome the difficulties of life but it will help us progress, as God Himself explains:

“I will instruct you (says the Lord) and guide you along the best pathway for your life; I will advise you and watch your progress.” (Ps. 32:8, Living Bible)

Moreover, the Bible guarantees that one who worships God will receive His protection, kindness, and blessings (Ps. 84:10-22, CEV).

Therefore, now that life’s problems are so severe, man must all the more worship God. This is the key to having a bright future which man really yearns for.

The acceptable worship
The one who truly gives importance to worship does his best to make sure that God will find his worship acceptable. Such worshiper presents himself to God as “a living sacrifice, dedicated and fit for His acceptance” (Rom. 12:1, Revised English Bible). And he does this by living a life in a manner that is totally pleasing to Him (Rom. 12:1, Last Days Bible).

To do this, one must accept and believe the words preached during the worship service as God’s very words and allow these words to change his life for the better. Apostle Paul attests:

“And we will never stop thanking God for this: that when we preached to you, you didn’t think of the words we spoke as being just our own, but you accepted what we said as the very Word of God—which, of course, it was—and it changed your lives when you believed it” (I Thess. 2:13, LB).

On the other hand, God will not be pleased if one doesn’t listen to His words. As a consequence, God will refuse to hear his prayers (Prov. 28:9, Easy-to-Read Version). For it is hostility against God if one lives in sin and refuses to obey His laws (Rom. 8:7-8, New Living Translation). In such condition, how can one receive God’s grace to overcome life’s problems? Moreover, those who disobey God will not inherit His kingdom (Gal. 5:19-21, LDB).

Hence, for a worship to be acceptable to God, one must live in holiness and avoid doing what displeases Him.

The true worshiper
In John 4:23, the Lord Jesus speaks of the true worshipers and how they worship God. They are the ones who gained the right to serve God after being counted among those cleansed by the blood of Christ (Heb. 9:14). The Bible attests that the Church of Christ as purchased by Christ with His blood (Acts 20:28, Lamsa Translation).

In view of this, if anyone wants to be certain that his service and worship are acceptable to God, he must be inside the true Church. Hence, it is imperative to join the Church of Christ. Our Lord Jesus Christ guarantees that those who do so will be saved (John 10:9, 16, REB).

Thus, members of the Church Of Christ do not only have the right to worship God, but also have a bright future ahead of them: life in the Holy City. And if troubles beset them in this life, God promises to listen to their prayers and grant their petitions (Isa. 65:17-19, 22-24, The Message).


Based on the lesson preached by Brother Eduardo V. Manalo during his Pastoral Visit in the local congregation of Belfast, Ireland on September 20, 2014.

The Creation

 

HAVE YOU EVER PAUSED for a moment and observed the things around you, and wondered how they came about? When you face the mirror, have you sometimes pondered upon how intricate and complex a machine the human body is and how its various systems to about their functions? Or have you looked up at the night sky and marveled how the heavenly bodies that comprise our solar system move in such an orderly fashion with amazing precision, and not in a hit-or-miss manner?
All these beautiful and complex wonders did not come about by accident. They are the creations of the Almighty God, as described in the book of Genesis.
Extremely great and wonderful indeed are the handiworks of the Lord God Almighty. He is, truly, worthy to be praised and glorified as King David declared: “Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—and I will meditate on your wonderful works” (Ps. 145:3-5, New International Version).


The Creation

In the beginning God created the sky and the earth. The earth was empty and had no form. Darkness covered the ocean, and God’s Spirit was moving over the water.
Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, so he divided the light from the darkness. God named the light “day” and the darkness “night.” Evening passed, and morning came. This was the first day.
Then God said, “Let there be something to divide the water in two.” So God made the air and placed some of the water in two.” So God made the air and placed some of the water above the air and some below it. God named the air “sky.” Evening passed, and morning came. This was the second day.
Then God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered together so the dry land will appear.” And it happened. God named the dry land “earth” and the water that was gathered together “seas.” God saw that this was good.
Then God said, “Let the earth produce plants—some to make grain for seeds and others to make fruit with seeds in them. Every seed will produce more of its own kind of plant.” And it happened. The earth produced plants with grain for seeds and trees that made fruits with seeds in them. Each seed grew its own kind of plant. God saw that all this was good. Evening passed, and morning came. This was the third day.
Then God said, “Let there be lights in the sky to separate day from night. These lights will be used for signs, seasons, days, and years. They will be in the sky to give light to the earth.” And it happened.
So God made the two large lights. He made the brighter light to rule the day and made the smaller light to rule the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. God saw that all these things were good. Evening passed, and morning came. This was the fourth day.
Then God said, “Let the water be filled with living things, and let birds fly in the air above the earth.”
So God created the large sea animals and every living thing that moves in the sea. The sea is filled with these living things, with each one producing more of its own kind. He also made every bird that flies, and each bird produced more of its own kind. God saw that this was good. God blessed them and said, “Have many young ones so that you may grow in number. Fill the water to the seas, and let the birds grow in number on the earth.” Evening passed, and morning came. This was the fifth day.
Then God said, “Let the earth be filled with animals, each producing more of its own kind. Let there be tame animals, each producing more of its own kind. Let there be tame animals and small crawling animals and wild animal, and let each produce more of its own kind.” And it happened.
So God made the wild animals, the tame animals, and all the small crawling animals to produce more of their own kind. God saw that this was good.
Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image and likeness. And let them rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the tame animals, over all the earth, and over all the small crawling animals on the earth.”
So God created human beings in his image. In the image of God he created them. He created them male and female. God blessed them and said, “Have many children and grow in number. Fill the earth and be its master. Rule over the fish in the sea and over the birds in the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
God said, “Look, I have given you all the plants that have grain for seeds and all the trees whose fruits have seeds in them. They will be food for you. I have given all the green plants as food for every wild animal, every bird of the air, and every small crawling animal.” And it happened. God looked at everything he had made, and it was very good. Evening passed, and morning came. This was the sixth day.
So the sky, the earth, and all that filled them were finished. By the seventh day God finished the work he had been doing, so he rested from all his work. God blessed the seventh day and made it a holy day, because on that day he rested from all the work he had done in creating the world.

(Excerpted from Genesis 1:1-31; 2:1-3, New Century Version)

Source: God’s Message Magazine, January 2016

 

Nebuchadnezzar credits himself for Babylon

  Nebuchadnezzar and a rude awakening

   

All these things happened to King Nebuchadnezzar. Twelve months after the dream, King Nebuchadnezzar was walking on the roof of his palace in Babylon. While on the roof, the king said, “Look at Babylon! I built this great city. It is my palace! I built this place to show how great I am!”

The words were still in his mouth when a voice came from heaven. The voice said, “King these things will happen to you. Your power as king has been taken away from you. You will be forced to live with wild animals. You will eat grass like a cow. Seven seasons (years) will pass before you learn your lesson. Then you will learns that God Most High rules over the kingdoms of men. And that God Most High gives kingdoms to anyone he wants.”

Those things happened immediately. Nebuchadnezzar was forced to go away from people. He began eating grass like a cow. He became wet from dew. His hair grew long like the feathers of an eagle. And his nails grew long like the claws of a bird.

          “God rules forever! His kingdom continues for all generations. People on earth are not truly important. God does what he wants with the powers of heaven and the people on earth. No one can stop his powerful hand! No one can questions the things he does!”

         Then at the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, looked up toward heaven. And I was in my right mind again. Then I gave praise to God Most High. I gave honor and glory to him who lives forever.

So, at that time, God gave me my right mind again. And he gave back my great honor and power as king. My advisers and the royal people began to ask my advice again. And I became the king again. And I became even greater and powerful than before. He is always fair. And he is able to make proud people humble!


(Excerpted from Daniel 24:28-37, Easy-To-Read Version.)

The Tower of Babel

AT THIS TIME the whole world spoke one language. Everyone used the same words. As people moved from the East, they found a plain in the land of Babylonia. They settled there to live.  
They said to each other, “Let’s make bricks and bake them to make them hard.” So they used bricks instead of stones, and tar instead of mortar. Then they said to each other, “Let’s build for ourselves a city and a tower. And let’s make the top of the tower reach high into the sky. We will become famous. If we do this, we will not be scattered all over the earth.”

The Lord came down to see the city and the tower that the people had built. The Lord said, “Now, these people are united. They all speak the same language. This is only the beginning of what they will do. They will be able to do anything they want. Come, let us go down and confuse their language. Then they will not be able to understand each other.”

So the Lord confused the language of the whole world. So the place is called Babel. So the Lord caused them to spread out  there from all over the world.


(Quoted from Genesis 11:1-9, International Children’s Bible, New Century Version)

Illustration by Nestor G. Magalpo, Sr.