Saturday, December 17, 2011

Worldly Christmas

When December comes you can’t help but enter a mall or department store and take a look inside. They got lots of glittering things that make their merchandise look more appealing and attuned to the Season. Why do we find ourselves more prone to buy at Christmas time? Because some smart aleck said that Christmas is a time for giving gifts. And I’m sure that aleck was a big businessman. And a smarter aleck said Christmas was Jesus’ birthday and all Christians should celebrate Christmas. But I don’t know how to reconcile my Jesus with a worldly Christmas.

Then the unthinking churches followed suit. They re-echoed the smart alecks and confirmed that, yes, Christmas was Jesus’ birthday and being so we had to give each other gifts. And these churches even bought Christmas lights (how do you connect the lights to Jesus? The star from the east?) and Christmas trees and little reindeers and Santa Clauses they hanged on the trees. The church gave their share in spreading a paganistic worldly Christmas which persists to this day.

So you find Jesus believers also joining in the Christmas rush and preparing for their church Christmas service and fellowship where they exchange gifts and forget all animosities and grievances they nurtured through the year and find inspiration to “forgive” each other because it’s Christmas. It’s surprising how the worldly Christmas can make people forget their egos and forgive offenses done against them. What they call the spirit of Christmas.

Far Fetched

But the worldly Christmas is far from how the birth of Jesus actually happened. You’d see little glittering lights and colorful shiny decors surround the manger scene and a smiling baby boy in a comfy-looking manger in clean and good-smelling surroundings and farm animals. And the malls or stores they’re displayed in have centralized air-conditioning and sweet air scents. Then the miniature Joseph and Mary look so relaxed and happy and no trace of stress or uncertainty mark their visages, the deadly threat from Herod gone. It’s like they lived happily ever after. No wonder the celebration of Christmas is always full of merry-making and food and laughter and all sorts of fun.

And it’s a Christmas that reflects some other event, not Jesus’ birth. It’s probably the birth of the anti-Christ, not my Jesus. Because my Jesus was born in a smelly and dirty and messy manger where animals were fed and where they defecated, amid the mad threats of Herod and the rejection of all Jerusalem. Joseph worried about having Mary as wife and Mary was almost divorced by Joseph.

Glittering, twinkling lights? I can imagine the manger in total darkness but for a slight shimmer of light from a small lamp perhaps. Little drummer boy? Where? I don’t remember any. And Christmas tree? I don’t know if there were pine trees then in Bethlehem, but I don’t think Joseph and Mary had time to decorate one and hang plastic apples and socks and stars and mistletoes on it and put an angel on top. And there ought to be no 3 wise men there because the Word says they visited the boy in a house, not a baby in a manger. And who says there were 3 wise men? The worldly Christmas is not the commemoration of my Jesus’ birth. And nowhere in Scriptures are we commanded to celebrate the birth of Jesus. His death, yes.

And yet “Christian” churches spend thousands each year to celebrate an event we cannot link to Jesus except for a “Christ” in the word Christmas. And some of them somehow connect Jesus with Santa Claus—I remember one church having a Santa Claus Committee in charge of fund raising for gifts-giving to church members and the poor. Wow! They can do all things through Christmas which strengthens them!

December and December 25 is just like any month and day, respectively. It’s not a special day for giving gifts or forgiving offenses done to you. Give gifts anytime you like and forgive offenses always. Okay, you may find yourself in the middle of the celebration—that’s tolerable—but don’t be an avid participant, especially in how the worldly Christmas is celebrated. God so hates idolatry.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The True Sabbath

Thousands of years after my Jesus radically demonstrated what Sabbath meant (or demonstrated how to break it) church people still have funny ideas about it. They still reek of Pharisaical religiosity while they all claim thorough understanding and expertise on the subject. What’s the true Sabbath?

One born again, after discussing the matter with an Adventist, asked me why Christians decided to turn Sabbath into a Sunday affair, obviously confused. She looked convinced that Sabbath ought to be observed on Saturdays because that’s how the Jews observed it in the Old Testament. I asked her why she didn’t see how Jesus broke it in the New Testament. Why see the Jews and not Jesus? Jesus was the one who died for us.

Then sometime in the recent past, some church leaders told us that the only way to observe Sabbath was to do nothing else but to go to church on Sundays. Thus, church people spend all Sunday in their church buildings from morning till evening. That way, you fulfill the Sabbath, they say. I asked the leaders why this way and they told us the following reasons:
·         Jesus resurrected on a Sunday.
  • Paul had some relief goods collected on a Sunday.
  • The Acts church was said to have worshiped on a Sunday. 
“So?” I asked.
    “Well, that’s why Sabbath is now on a Sunday!” they chorused.

    However, both camps—born again and Adventists—say that the Sabbath law is still to be observed in our day, and this is by making sure you’re found in church on a Sabbath day—which is Saturday to one and Sunday to many others—and that we should do nothing else. Doing something else is breaking the Sabbath and therefore a sin, they aver.

    I wondered to myself:  “And Christ died for that? That’s Sabbath? What a bore.”

    They add that not getting serious with the Sabbath Law makes God really angry. Again I wondered: “And going to a church building on a Sabbath makes him happy? Even if you’re rotten or sinning or worldly?”

    What Makes God Angry?

    In Hebrews, God was angry with those whom he had rescued from Egypt but who later disobeyed. He swore that they wouldn’t enter his rest, which later the Hebrew writer connected with the true Sabbath rest. What God wanted was to continue to the end what they had embraced in the beginning—which was hearing and obeying the Word.

    What I noticed when I was meditating this Scripture with the Lord was that nothing was mentioned about when exactly the Sabbath should be observed—except that word frequently used in the passage: “Today.” Today is everyday. Today, if you hear God’s voice do not rebel, do not harden your hearts—be sure to obey. Only in obeying God’s spoken word to you (you hear his voice when you get the spoken Word) can you enter God’s rest, God’s Sabbath.

    Now some will say that obedience here is going to church on Sunday which is Sabbath. But you find nothing like that in the context. The context talks about God getting angry because of their disobedience, and to be specific, because of hearts always going astray and willful trashing of God's ways--which are things very alive in churches today. Having a denomination in itself is going astray and willful trashing of God's ways. You'd see this if you honestly study John 17 (complete unity of believers, as united and one as the Father and Son are one) and compare this with denominationalism.

    What good would going to your church building be with such disobedience? And anyway, if you see the true spirit in God's Sabbath rest, you won't bother going to any church building on Sundays or Saturdays because you'd see that living the Jesus LIFE daily, each moment, is the true Sabbath rest in God. God's Sabbath rest should be everyday, not just Saturday or Sunday.

    God’s Sabbath rest is a daily spiritual condition, NOT a particular day. If you do not continuously obey God’s voice, everyday throughout your life (everyday), you will never enter his rest. You will never fulfill God’s true Sabbath. You cannot enter the true Sabbath by entering some church building on Saturdays or Sundays. That kind of Sabbath (entering a religious building and doing nothing but religious activities) is Pharisaical religion my Jesus demolished a long time ago, but which some “Christians” are trying to resurrect  today.

    God’s Sabbath rest is everyday. We should be in His rest daily, not just Saturdays or Sundays. We should make sure that we’re doing nothing else but His Word in our lives daily. Make sure, therefore, that you have given up anything not of God, especially man’s Pharisaical religions. Hebrews says anyone who enters God’s rest should also rest from his own works—man-invented works.

    Lots of church people, all they get is the written Word whenever they read the bible. Paul told the Corinthians that the Letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. And my Jesus said in John, the word he speaks, they are Spirit and they are life.

    Make sure you get this—the true Sabbath is getting God’s spoken Word daily and living it out daily, up to the end. That’s when you really rest in God. But if you think it's that one day a week when you have to be in your church building--you're of all people deceived, big time.

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