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The Christmas Myth - Exposed? (Standing Watch) 8 min. video

Throwing It All Away (First Century Christianity)

I saw Franklin Graham on the TV the other day defending Christmas, and a break up song from the late 1980s came to mind. The song is ‘Throwing It All Away’ by Genesis. It’s not religious at all, but the chorus of that song has been resonating in my head lately as more and more formerly Protestant ministers show up on TV returning to their Catholic roots.
We are now in the season for Chanukah, which is a season of revival. The Jews had been occupied and oppressed for so long that many of them turned into Greeks. Many did things to hide or reverse their circumcision, so they could wrestle nude in public arenas called gymnasiums. They had fallen away incredibly far.
One Levite named Mattathias witnessed the defilement of the altar and snapped. He killed the man who defiled the altar and then had to flee to the hills, which started a revolution that allowed Judea to ultimately become autonomous and peaceful again, with a fully restored and cleansed temple. This reformation lasted until the temple was destroyed in AD 70.
The work of the Christian Reformation in the 16th century, where hundreds of thousands threw off the pagan traditions and oppression of the Roman Catholic Church, held until, well, now. We are living in a period I like to call ‘Post Protestant America’. While the reformers did not return to Torah, they did return to fundamental truths and a great many shed Christmas and Easter, paying for it with their very lives. The leaders who trace their faith today to the reformation, what is now called ‘Evangelical’ rather than ‘Protestant’, are throwing it all away.
Rick Warren, a fabulously popular Baptist preacher (Baptists, from the Anabaptists, some of the most strident Protestants in history), is actually evangelizing for the Catholic Church.
Mike Huckabee, former Governor of Arkansas, and Robert Jeffress, also Baptist preachers with large followings, frequently defend Christmas on the Fox News Channel, even though they know both that Yeshua was not born in winter and the true pagan history of Christmas. Kirk Cameron has even made a movie defending Christmas, while publicly stating that Christmas is in opposition to the Bible and pagan in nature.
The Seventh Day Adventists, the largest Sabbath observing group on earth at over 18 million members (there are only 13.5 million Jews on earth), is throwing it all away with widespread observance of Christmas (unthinkable just twenty years ago) and now entertaining the ordination of women as well.  This is particularly bizarre because the Seventh Day Adventist Church views Ellen G. White as a prophet and she refused ordination on the basis that ordaining women is not supported by scripture.
The Seventh Day Adventist church is a strident observer of the 4th commandment and they have been blessed with private schools and hospitals on at least three continents because of their obedience. The Baptists have also been rewarded lavishly for their faith with enormous congregations, hospitals, and the ability to do good works on the order of rebuilding entire countries. The successes these and many other groups have today are because of the strident faith of their predecessors displayed through works. Why are the leaders of these organizations so willing to throw it all away? It is a shame. It has been prophesied, so it must happen, but it is so difficult to watch.
But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 2 Timothy 3:1-7
This falling away is made even more bizarre because the motivation simply cannot be about wealth. The Baptist preachers named above are but a handful of Post-Protestant ministers who have made enormous amounts of money giving sermons. The Seventh Day Adventist church is simply going to disintegrate, or at least split and become smaller if it continues down a similar path as the Sunday keepers, because it is composed of conservative people.
There seems to be no good reason why the spiritual leaders are so cavalierly willing to ‘throw it all away’. But let us take solace that there is coming a time, quicker and quicker by the day, were every tongue will confess and every knee will bow to the One True God and His Son.

The Hymnal Guy (Sabbath Meditations)

One Sabbath I found myself watching ‘the hymnal guy’ do his thing before and after services. This guy was everywhere; smiling and greeting members at the door; carrying a hymnal to an elderly woman who was already in her chair; scanning the congregation during the song service for anyone who may have forgotten to pick one up in the lobby; making his way down each aisle to collect hymnals randomly strewn among the chairs after the service had ended; everywhere.
The care and concern this gentleman paid to such a seemingly mundane task was nothing short of amazing. The hymnal guy had been quietly performing these acts of service, without accolades, without praise, without recognition, week after week, Sabbath after Sabbath, as long as I had been attending.
As I observed this man, the thought struck me that I wasn’t just watching someone pass out hymnals, I was observing true leadership in action.
When it comes to leadership, we Christians, including yours truly, are often overly influenced by the definitions of the culture around us. The quarterback on the field, the power player in the board room, the guy at the head of the table, the loudest, most eloquent, confident person in the room; these, our culture would have us believe, are true models of leadership. It’s the image on the outside, rather than the quality of the character on the inside, that is portrayed as the ideal.
Jesus came modeling, and teaching, a decidedly, other worldly concept of leadership.
In Luke 22, he says, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called ‘benefactors’. But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves. For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves.”
And, in a move which completely rocked the disciples worldly paradigm of leadership, Jesus performed what was, at that time, considered one of the lowliest, most menial of tasks. He stooped to wash their feet.
The true leader in God’s eyes? The person with the ability and confidence to stand in front and inspire others to follow? Maybe, sometimes, but not primarily.
Leadership, as God sees it, is primarily defined by character, not ability. It’s the one who consistently and selflessly chooses to do for others what most would not.
It’s the person who sees the needs within their families, within their churches or their community and steps in to fill it. It’s the father or mother who goes to a thankless, unfulfilling job day after day, year after year, sacrificing personal goals and dreams, in order to provide food, shelter and clothing for their family. It’s the spouse who remains loving and faithful through good times or bad, through sickness and health. It’s the parent who, not only teaches, but consistently strives to model God’s love and way of life to his or her children. It’s the person who refuses to compromise what is right, even in the face of ridicule and rejection by their peers.
It’s a type of leadership to which the world pays little respect these days but one upon which our Savior, beginning with His disciples, began building and developing in His church two thousand years ago. It’s the kind of leadership He desires be promoted, encouraged and developed within His body still today.
I Corinthians 1:27 tells us that “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty.”
Ultimately, God is preparing leaders to rule with Him at His return to establish His Kingdom. It’s a government which will confound and bring to shame all false notions of leadership, for it will be a government led, not by executive types, but by foot washers and, yes, ‘hymnal guys’.

Hirelings (Children of God)

When I was young there was a saying: ‘The captain always goes down with his ship.’ It went unsaid that the captain would do everything possible to save all hands from drowning.  But times have changed.  Recent news stories report on how captains today are sometimes the first to abandon ship in order to save their own skins. That is because they are hirelings.
A hireling just works for a wage – without being fully vested in a major enterprise. God uses the analogy of a hireling for the purpose of showing whose heart is in the right place. Someone who does all the receiving in any relationship is like a hireling. The point is this: as Christians, we have the opportunity to be altruistic and unselfish as Jesus was in laying down His life for all others. Jesus tells the story:
“The thief cometh not but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep, and flees: and the wolf catches them, and scatters the sheep. The hireling flees, because he is an hireling, and cares not for the sheep.” (John 10:10-13)
Jesus did not leave us or forsake us – but gave His life for us (Hebrews 13:5). Jesus tells us that the sheep can be scattered at the hands of a hireling, because a hireling’s first concern is not for the sheep. When we look at a minister, we cannot tell just by looking at him if he is a fine pastor or if he is a hireling – because those things are only spiritually discerned.
There was a time in the Church of God when men looked to God and trusted in God to provide. Have you noticed the not so subtle change in what the church organizations are doing today? You would think that their every waking moment would be consumed in preaching the Gospel to all of creation… and that is often what they claim to be doing, when in point of fact they are busily growing their congregations.  Now they would argue that it is first necessary to have large numbers of members, so that they can have the cash to be able to do the work. But for nearly two decades they have not mounted a large scale effort at getting the gospel to the world, because they felt that it was necessary to first get their own retirement house in order.
Have they forgotten the precept of stepping out in faith and waiting upon the Lord to furnish the means for the Gospel? Let’s not forget that this is not man’s work but the work of God.
“This is the work of God that ye believe on Him [Jesus Christ] whom He [God the Father] hath sent.” (John 6:29)
A hireling is a person who works for material reward instead of devotion to a principle he believes in with all his heart. They send out supposed religious materials, but when they do there are pages and pages of nothing but committee meetings and decisions to be made about title changes for their publications and how to better ‘get people interested in their own organization’.  They make a short reference to religious sounding ideas, but in the next paragraph they go back to discussing yet another committee to be set up to determine which way to look best for possible newcomers.
They believe that, if their sales pitch is the best and most colorful, people will respond and become Christians. Brethren, it does not work that way. Not one person has ever been ‘talked’ into becoming a true Christian. The Truth of God need not be embellished. It is God who touches the receptive heart.
Certainly there is a job for preachers to do. The Gospel must be preached to the world so that those whom God will call can respond to the Truth.
“How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14)
But, let’s be clear: It is not the preachers who grow the church membership. It is God, Himself, who gives the increase and adds to the Church (1 Corinthians 3:6).
“The Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you. To the end He may establish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.” (1 Thessalonians 3:12-13)

Time to Stop Praying? (Morning Companion)

One time God told Moses to stop praying. If we accept that prayer is a good thing, why would God tell someone to cut it out?
“Why are you crying out to me?” (Exodus 14:15). Given the circumstances, I would think the question should be, “Why not?”
Here’s the story. Moses had just led Israel out of Egypt. Through his hand God had turned the Nile into blood, brought many plagues on the Egyptians, and with boldness he had led the nation to freedom. Now, shortly after this triumphant march from slavery, Pharaoh has a change of heart and decides to chase down the fleeing masses with his infantry and chariots in order to drive them back to their former state.
Why shouldn’t Moses cry out to God? Why would God object?
In this is a lesson about prayer. The newly freed Israelites had already cried out to God (verse 10), after which Moses tells them to do something: “Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord” (verse 13). There are indeed times when all we can do is stand still and wait. As the old saying goes, “Let go, and let God.” But in spite of appearances this was apparently not one of those times.
Thus God says to Moses, “Why do you cry out to me?” And then he says, “Tell the children of Israel to go forward” (verse 15). It is time to get off your knees and into your hiking boots. Tell the people the time for standing still is over. Now is the time to do something about your situation.
We can make two grave mistakes regarding prayer. One is to think that we can get along just fine without God’s help. If we just work hard enough, sweat hard enough, and think clearly enough, we can make all the right things happen. I can put on my boots and fight my own way through the wilderness.
Or we can make the other mistake. There is something to be said for waiting on God, “standing still”, shall we say. It’s true that in some circumstances God’s strength is revealed through our weaknesses. But simply sitting in our pajamas while waiting for God can be just as bad as thinking we can do it all on our own. Most of the time God expects us to be actively involved in carrying out his will. “Why do you cry out to me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward.”
God could not have led them through the Red Sea had they had just stood still and waited.

One Way (New Horizons)

There’s an almost universal urge to worship ‘God’. Two billion Christians, a billion plus in Islam, a billion Hindu, and countless other belief systems - each with its own form of worship. The urge is built into the human psyche. So - ’many ways to God’?
Christianity uncompromisingly claims to be unique, the ‘only way’ to God: ‘...there is salvation in no other One [Jesus of Nazareth]; for there is no other name under Heaven given among men by which we must be saved’ (Acts 4:12). That, on the face of it, unfairly excludes billions of humanity - both before and after Jesus.
Most of us hang on to the belief system into which we are born. Christians retain allegiance to the Christian tag, Muslims remain faithful to Mohammed etc. Each faith has its own standards and requirements, its own rewards. But why such diversity, as each claims to worship one and the same God?
As He is our Creator, God merits our worship - and from the beginning He has been jealous as to how we worship. He, for example, accepted the offering of the first naturally - born human, Abel, while rejecting that of his bother. The Christian Scriptures tell us‘...God is not a God of disorder’ (I Corinthians 14:33), and He has clearly defined how we should approach Him in worship. His instructions to Israel, His model nation, were ‘ shall worship no other god. For Jehovah, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God (Exodus 34:14). And He doesn’t change but is’...the same yesterday, today and forever’.
But early in our history mankind in general lost touch and ‘...instead of worshipping the imperishable God, they worshipped images resembling perishable man or resembling birds or beasts or reptiles’ (Romans 1:23). It was the beginning of home-made - and often devil-inspired - religions, and has since diversified through to our time.
The LORD warned Israel not to worship ‘...the host of heaven’ [the sun etc] (Deuteronomy 17:2-3), nor to use their religious artefacts, their rites and ceremonies: ‘ shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their sacred poles’ (Ezekiel 34:13). Writes the prophet Jeremiah: ‘...Do not learn the way of the nations...For the customs of the people are vain’ (ch 10:2-3). The LORD of all is most particular as to how we approach Him!
Just one way to salvation, then. But just what is ‘salvation? Joining a church? Labelling yourself ‘Christian’? Getting to heaven? Doing good? According to God’s revelation in His Word, the usual notion of salvation is far from the truth. Not a stress-free life on earth, an end to life’s challenges. Not just a ‘statement of intent’ to commit to Christ, not ‘accepting Christ’. And not ‘pie in the sky when you die’.
The reality transcends all we can imagine. For God is preparing, training, a people for Himself, a royal priesthood to join His Family alongside His firstborn, Jesus, and to reign with Him on Earth for a thousand years and then throughout eternity. That is ‘salvation’.
The invitation is open to all of mankind - to every era since Adam, to every race. Open even to those who never come within sound of the Gospel message - for such are included in The LORD’s master plan for the ages.
But open only to those who actively respond to it, accept His terms, and who remain faithful, for: ‘...many are invited but few are chosen’. Anyone can come to Jesus and be ‘saved’. But there’s a cost: ‘...Take My yoke on you and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you shall find rest to your souls’ (Matthew 11:29). Jesus himself said ‘...narrow is the gate and constricted is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it’ (Matthew 7:14). Not, then, an easy message!
To be saved—to become a part of the Kingdom of God, His Family - we must follow that ’one way’. Jesus again: ‘...I am the way’ (John 14:6).

Idols (OzWitness)

I once knew a man who had restored a classic 1930s turbo charged Bentley. It was immaculate, with sparkling metalwork and shining leather. The man though, came to the realisation that his beautiful car took up so much of his life that it became an idol. He had to get rid of it.
For a Christian, it is a matter of values. Anything that inserts itself between us and our God, replacing Him and His word as the focus of our lives becomes as much of an idol as a carved image or a 1930s Bentley, and sadly there any many idol worshippers around today, including many who profess to be Christians.
One of the most common idols is portrayed on every news broadcast, and can often head the news or take up half of its allocated time. That idol is sport. Sport has replaced religion for many, become much more than a pastime or hobby, and its followers are as ardent as any religious worshippers, often spending large amounts of their time and money to worship their idol.
You don’t have to be a pop star to be an idol, either. Even religion can become an idol, if it focuses on a man, rather than the true Creator God, and many fall for that mistake. The time is coming soon when, one night, every person on earth will receive the same dreams or vision. God will gain everyone’s attention, everywhere, with a miraculous message of warning about the coming tribulation and the return of Christ. Revelation 14: 6-7, ‘Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people . And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.’
Will most people act on that warning or will they still retain their idols and fail to keep the Commandments? Sadly, God’s word reveals that their failure will cost most people their lives.