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Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Where Did Christmas Originate & Who Authorized It?

To answer these questions it is necessary to go outside the New Testament.  The Encyclopedia Americana says, "The Christmas celebration was not observed in the first centuries of the church." The Catholic Encyclopedia says, "Christmas was not among the early festivals of the church."

Now notice this:  If we cannot find the Christmas observance in the New Testament, and a secular encyclopedia says that it was not observed in the first centuries of the church, and a religious encyclopedia says that it was nonexistent in the early church, then we must conclude that it did not originate with the apostles.

By whose authority did this December observance originate?  Colliers Encyclopedia tells us that Lyberius, the Bishop of Rome, whom the Catholics regard as one of the early Popes, ordered in 354 A.D. that "December 25th be observed as the birthday of Christ." December 25th had formerly been used by the Romans as a feast day for their Sun-God, Mithra.  The Roman Saturnalia (riotous festival of Saturn) also came at this time.  "The indications are that the church in this way grasped an opportunity to turn the people away from a purely pagan observance of the winter solstice to a day of adoration of Christ the Lord.  Both Saint Cyprian and Saint John Chrysostom allude to this thought in their writings."  (Colliers Encyclopedia)  "December 25th was already a festive day for the sun god, Mithra, and appealed to the Christians as an appropriate day to commemorate the birth of Jesus, the light of the world." (Lincoln Library of Essential Information)

From these statements by reliable sources it is easy to see that the date of Christmas had its origin in a pre-Christian age among the pagans.  It was adopted into a so- called "Christian" holiday by the Roman Catholic Church.  Furthermore, the word "Christmas" is of Catholic origin.  The word is derived from the medieval "Christes Masse," the mass of Christ, which is a corruption of the Lord's Supper.  On December 25th, even until this day, the Catholics hold a special Mass for Christ.  In time, "Christes Masse" came to be shortened to "Christmas."

Christmas, then, had its origin and authority in the Roman Catholic church.

- by David Padfield


Monday, December 26, 2016

New Year's Sermons

Lessons from the Past

(New Year’s Message; Mural Worthey)


Introduction: (1 Cor. 10:1-13, Heb. 4:11, Rom. 15:4.)


   This great text from first Corinthians is about learning from past examples and history of God’s dealings with man.  We learn much from both man’s behavior and God’s response to it.  It was good that they had all been baptized unto the leadership of Moses in the cloud and in the sea.  Afterwards, they ate the food that God gave from heaven and drank the water which flowed from the rock.  Paul used this rock to represent Christ which sustained them.  Then the people murmured, lusted and sinned against God.  He destroyed in the wilderness.  The writer says that these things happened for examples for us and written for our admonition upon whom the end of the ages has come.


   Since we are beginning a new year, what are some important lessons from the past that we should learn.  Here are some that came to my thoughts.


#1: Many Do Not Learn from the Past!


   One of the tragic things about being a human being is that so many do not profit from the past.  We continue to do harmful and wrong things year after year.  It might be helpful for us to observe that most people do not learn from the past.  Wise people do, but most are not wise.


   Some of the reasons are: a) We do not like to reflect upon the past, b) Because often there are no immediate consequences, and c) We do not believe that the same consequences will befall us.  But we can be assured that if God was not pleased with their behavior in past days, he will not be pleased with ours.


   Our own personal experiences ought to teach us.  The Lord told Saul of Tarsus, “It is hard for you to kick against the pricks.”  (Acts 9:5.)  Paul later wrote to the Romans, “What fruit had you then in those things which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.”  (Rom. 6:21.)


   Think about these people who never learned from their past: King Saul who pursued David and was embarrassed time after time, David never forgot the feeling of victory from defeating Goliath and became a bloody king who was not permitted to build the temple, and Solomon should have learned from David’s failures, but he married foreign wives and built temples for their gods.  His wives led him away from the one God.


   Like these kings, we too have failed to learn from the past.  We fail to correct course and save ourselves from this crooked generation.


#2: It is Better to Learn from the Past


   Another lesson from the past is that when we do not learn from examples of the past, the more difficult lessons await us in the future.  What if King Saul had repented of his madness in pursuing young David?  Would it not have been better if David had not continued his warring pursuits?  Many of the problems that David faced in his life with his family stemmed from his own sins in his life.  The future lessons are always more difficult than the past ones.  Why could not Solomon in his wisdom know that having a worldly kingdom like the other nations would be detrimental to him and Israel?


   The apostle Peter made many mistakes in his life, but he seemed to have learned from his mistakes.  He became an elder in the church, in addition to serving as an apostle.  He accepted the admonition of Jesus to feed his lamps.  (John 21.)  His past mistakes did not destroy him.  He learned from them.


   If we do not learn from the past, we continue to fill up the cup of God’s wrath toward us.  God is patient and longsuffering toward man, not willing that any should perish.  He is waiting for man to repent.  (2 Peter 3:9.)


#3: Order is Better Than Disorder and Chaos


   It seems that if there is a prevailing philosophy today, it is this—that chaos and disorder is better than order.  Why would Paul and Peter urge Christians to pray for the Caesar and his rulers?  Paul said that it was so that the Christians might lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness.  (1 Tim. 2:4.)  In the beginning of the creation, the earth was without form and void and darkness was upon the face of the earth.  (Gen. 1:2.)  When the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the earth, things began to take form and shape.  There was order to the days and nights.  The sun and moon gave that order.  Each creature reproduced after its own kind.


   In our context of first Corinthians, there was confusion during the worship service.  Then Paul gave God’s philosophy of how things ought to operate.  He wrote, “Let all things be done decently and in order.”  (14:40.)  He also wrote to another church, “For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I not with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ.”  (Col. 2:5.)


   Surely the past teaches us that in the physical created world and in the spiritual world, order is God’s will for us.  We use numbers and the alphabet to help us to organize things.  There is order to our language and meaning to the words we use.  The sinful world opposes order.  It rejoices when things get scrambled up, like alphabet soup.  Terrorists love confusion, terror and panic.  They profit when things are all out of order.  Sinful people like to believe that there is no order to the world, or that it does not matter whether A comes before B.  To them it does not matter what words you use.  Isaiah described that confusion of sinfulness:


   “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil, that put darkness for light and light for darkness, that put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!  Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes and prudent in their own sight!”  (Isa. 5:20.)


#4: What Did You Learn from the Past Year?


   Paul wrote several epistles from prison.  He had time to reflect upon what he was doing in preaching Christ to the world.  He knew that there were many enemies of the cross and he understood, at least, the objection of his fellow Jews.  (Phil. 3:18-20.)


   Paul said that he had learned that positive things are better than negative ones.  He wrote that we should think upon things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, and virtuous.  (Phil. 4:8.)  Have we learned that positive attitudes and actions are better than negative ones?  I recently read a description of the kind of articles that a brotherhood paper would accept for publication.  One thing that stood out to me was that the article should be positive in nature and not negative, and even if the subject matter was negative, it should focus on solutions and not just problems.  I have learned that once you get on this “negative kick” it is most difficult to ever get off it.  It becomes a part of one’s attitude in life and character.


   Paul continued to enumerate several things that he had learned.  He wrote, “I have learned in whatever state I am, therewith to be content.  I know how to be abased and I know how to abound.”  (Phil. 4:11-12.)  He encouraged the readers: “Those things, which you have both learned and received, heard and seen in me, do and the God of peace shall be with you.”  (4:9.)


   Have you learned from the past that anger does not work?  That it is self-defeating.  Have you learned that self-denial is best, rather than self-promotion?  Have you learned that forgiveness is always best and should be freely given?  Did you learn this past year that when your children make wrong choices and decisions, just keep on loving them?  God does not love us just when we do his will, he loves us even when we are enemies of his will.  There is a difference between approval and love.


   Have you learned that God cannot be deceived?  He cannot be mocked.  It is man himself who is deceived and the One who sits in the heavens shall have him in derision.  (Psalm 2.)


   Jesus told some Jews of his day, Go and learn what this means—I will have mercy and not sacrifice.  I am not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.  (Matt. 9:13, Hosea 6:6.)  Have you learned the difference between the spirit and letter of the law?  We will continue to stumble all over God’s Word until we learn that difference.  It is one of the most important truths to learn.


   Have you learned the difference between the external forms of religion and the heart?  The history of religion should teach us that lesson.





#5: Unbelief Is the Root Problem!


   In our context of first Corinthians 10, why did the Israelites fail to enter the promised land?  It says that they murmured and complained against Moses and God.  They committed fornication and practiced idolatry.  But the Hebrew writer in covering this same material summed it up by saying, “So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.” (Heb. 3:19.)  “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.”  (3:12.)  “Let us lay aside every weight and the sin which doth so easily beset us.”  (12:1.)  This sin surely is the sin of unbelief.


   We should have learned that “without faith it is impossible to please God.”  (11:6.)  “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.”  (Rom. 10:17.)  But it is also true that unbelief comes by hearing.  It comes, not by hearing the Word of God, but by hearing negative things that destroy faith.  What we learn from the past is that unbelief is the core problem that man faces.


   The core problem is not attendance; that is a symptom of the real problem.  The real problem is not that someone has not been baptized into Christ.  The real problem is unbelief.  Jesus said, He that believes and is baptized shall be saved; he that believes not shall be condemned.  (Mark 16:16.)  The real problem is not partaking of the Lord’s Supper; nor is the Lord’s will done just by physically eating the emblems.  (1 Cor. 11:20.)  The core problem is not just immorality; it is the unbelief that allows it to continue in our lives.


   Many struggle with unbelief; many who will not express it openly.  Unbelief is manifest in so many ways.  James challenged us, Show me your faith without works and I will show you my faith by my works.  Just as faith is seen visibly by what we do, so likewise is unbelief evident.  Justification is by faith.  I believe because of what I have learned from the past.  The Word produces that faith.  Compelling eyewitness accounts instill faith within.  God is seen in every sunrise and sunset, in every leaf and snowflake, in the changing seasons of the year, and in every face of mankind.  The heavens declare his glory and firmament shows his handiwork.  There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard.  (Psalm 19:1-3.)


Friday, December 9, 2016

How To Do What You Don't Want To Do

Tom Landry, the legendary football coach, once made a brilliant assessment of his job, "The job of a football coach is to make men do what they don't want to do, in order to achieve what they've always wanted to be."

Thinking about this statement for about 3 seconds should cause us to realize this motto is not just for football, but most things in life. Why aren't we fit, better eaters, with perfect posture? Why aren't we free from our own anger, jealousy, lust, and gossip? Why don't we break our bad, and sometimes addicting, habits? The answer is simple. Because it's hard!

Life is a constant battle. On one side is the "Doing What's Easy" army. On the other is the "Becoming What We Want To Be" militia. The winning factor in this battle is self-motivation. This is why coaches, personal trainers, and other similar professionals are so successful. They hold the ability to help people do what they don't want to. They limit the options, push boundaries, and cause people to become what they want to be.

We are approaching a time that's popular for making self-improvements. As we start thinking about who we are and who we want to be (especially spiritually), here are some tips on how to make ourselves do what we don't want to do (Warning: it won't be easy, or fun, or fast, or really anything else that you might consider otherwise first).

1. Take An Honest Look. Are we really the person we want to be right now? Are we in the physical shape we want to be? Are we struggling with bad habits? Has sin been crouching at the door of our lives (Genesis 4:7)? Have we given into unrighteousness? What does an unfiltered, unbiased, honest look in the spiritual mirror reveal about us (James 1:22-25)? Think about what the future will hold if things aren't changed.

2. Restrict Options. Most people have trouble doing this by ourselves. If we didn't have trouble keeping ourselves motivated, we would probably already be who we want to be. Since we struggle with self-control, we need to find someone to take away options and keep us accountable. Find a workout buddy. Go see a psychologist. Talk with an elder or the preacher . Get a friend that will help keep you accountable. One of the best ways to improve ourselves is to bring in someone to help (Proverbs 27:17).

3. Give Yourself A Chance To Win. Get some rest. Plan ahead with meals. Know when we are at our weakest. Don't put too much on your plate at once. Stop wasting so much time in front of a screen. Pick up some self-help books (best one I know of is called the Bible). Spend extra time talking with the Lord and telling Him about your faults and asking Him for help (1 Thessalonians 5:17). As said before, get a close friend to help. Whatever we need to help us win, do it.

4. Keep The Eye On The Prize. The path to heaven is known as a narrow, winding, and difficult path that few find (Matthew 7:13-14). It's ironic that most of the worst things in life are easy and the best things are hard. We need to keep reminding ourselves what we are trying to achieve and why. When that purpose get's lost, so does our motivation, and our helpful actions are soon to follow. Keep the goal in sight, particularly the spiritual goal (Hebrews 12:1-2).

If we picture our ideal self, what does that look like? How are we going to get there? If we only have enough self-motivation to fix one category this next year, let's make sure it's the spiritual one. As Paul pointed out, "For bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come" (1 Timothy 4:8). Sure, becoming fit, healthy, and breaking bad habits are valuable, but unless they have reached sinful levels, their benefits only impact this life. Spiritual improvements are guaranteed to have an eternal impact.

If you want to become who you want to be, then do what you don't want to do.

Brett Petrillo

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the event which drew our country into World War II. 2,343 men were killed, 1,143 were wounded, and 960 unaccounted for or missing. The Japanese chose Sunday to attack as it was the most relaxed day of the week for the servicemen. Many were still in their pajamas or having breakfast when the attack began at 7:55 that morning. Kermit Tyler, an Air Force lieutenant serving as the officer on duty that morning, told the radar operator not to worry about the large blip on the radar screen. He thought it was a flight of U.S. bombers coming from our mainland. Instead, it was the first wave of attackers. Captain Mitsuo Fuchida, the airstrike leader for the Japanese carrier force, could see that Pearl Harbor was totally unaware of the impending attack. He radioed back a coded message, repeating an abbreviated word three times-"to ra, to ra, to ra"-meaning "lightning strike." The transmission began at 7:49, undetected by the soon-to-be victims of the attack that began a mere six minutes later (read more here).


Among so many significant facts, what we most remember about the attack on Pearl Harbor was how utterly surprising it was. No one stood vigil, considering the possibility of it. Like its later counterpart, "9/11," and even natural catastrophes like Pompeii, the Galveston hurricane, the 2004 tsunami, or Mexico's El Chicon volcano, serious and deadly events can occur without warning. With our most sophisticated technology and detection systems, we are without the ability to forewarn about the greatest surprise that will ever be.


Paul says that the resurrection of the dead of all time will occur "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye" (1 Cor. 15:52). Paul and Peter both refer to "the day of the Lord" as that which will come "as a thief in the night" (1 Th. 5:2; 2 Pet. 3:10). Jesus warned that the day could be a disaster, a trap that comes on one "suddenly" (Luke 21:34). He taught that it will come at an hour unknown to everyone (Mark 13:32-33).


While it will surprise everyone, the coming of Christ will be a devastating event for the great majority of mankind. For them, it will infinitely exceed the loss of physical life. It will be an everlasting loss (Mat. 25:46; 2 Th. 1:9). Yet, God has made preparation eminently possible. He desires escape for everyone (2 Pet. 3:9). One can be prepared for that day and be saved from harm and forsomething inexpressibly superior. Those of us who have discovered the way of preparation must hold fast to it (cf. Heb. 3:6) and strive to share this vital information with as many as possible. The sudden coming of Christ need not be a defeat, but can instead be the harbinger of the greatest victory ever.  May Paul's inspired exclamation be our song of victory: "Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" (1 Cor. 15:54b-55). Amen. Come, Lord Jesus (Rev. 22:20)!


--Neal Pollard




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