How God’s Remarkable Sabbaths Have Changed My Life

How God’s Remarkable Sabbaths Have Changed My Life

By Aimee Zahora

I was born and raised in a Sabbath-keeping family, which I consider a phenomenal blessing. It’s a blessing that I did not earn. Instead, by the grace of God, Sabbath-observance infiltrated my entire life. I thank God for this gift that keeps on giving! Here are a handful of reasons for how God’s remarkable Sabbaths have altered my life for the better.

I Value My Strong Family Relationships

My nuclear family consists of Sabbath-keepers. This bond that we share strengthens our family relationships. We spend time together on the Sabbath, which solidifies us. Sabbath-keeping provides our family with similar values. It encourages us to engage in meaningful discussions that strengthen and sharpen our faith. My family is strong as a direct result of honoring the Sabbath.

My Best, Most Wonderful Friends and Advocates Are Believers

I’ve met inspiring believers, who are some of my closest friends and advocates. Many of these individuals and I would have never crossed paths, except that the Sabbath brought us together.+

We often take on the attributes of the five people we surround ourselves with most frequently. When we tap into the positive energy and stability of those people, it quickly becomes evident that who we are due to the association is far greater than who we would have been without it.

Complete and Restoring Rest for All Our Needs

The complexity and stress we encounter daily are difficult to quantify. Suffice to say our regular encounters deplete us. The Sabbath is a multidimensional blessing. It offers complete rest: mentally, spiritually, emotionally and physically.

Humanly we find success in addressing these needs individually. If we get a break, perhaps we identify something that will benefit two of the needs at the same time. But, attempting to address all the needs at once generally results in diminishing returns. However, God’s Sabbaths are perfectly designed to replenish all our needs so we can return to functioning as our best selves.

The Sabbath Is the Backbone to My Spiritual DNA

Because I was raised in a Sabbath-keep family, a weekly tradition was established early-on. Friday night dinners together were a highlight. Not only did we enjoy a delicious meal with one another, but also we shared stories, laughter, and connection. We attended Sabbath services every week, not just when it was convenient or when nothing else was on the calendar. Incidentally, nothing else made it on the calendar on Saturdays because the Sabbath was the first and only priority for our family on the seventh day of the week. After Sabbath services, my dad regularly read Bible stories to my brother and me. Today, my brother carries on that custom with his two boys.

Each of these activities contributed to a habit, a Sabbath-keeping behavior that I still honor today. This way of life and pattern of living is so deeply ingrained in me. It’s part of my spiritual DNA. In short, keeping God’s remarkable Sabbaths have changed my life.

Aimee Zahora is a Sabbath and Holy Day keeping follower of The Way and blogger on topics that ignite the Spirit. She is a member of the United Church of God.

 

Theophilus of Antioch – 160-180s AD

Theophilus of Antioch – 160s-180s AD

By Kelly McDonald, Jr.

In the mid-second century, a number of anti-Semitic and anti-Sabbatarian teachers arose. Rome and Alexandria seemed to be the centers of this movement. Despite this development, there were still many Christians who held to the commandments of God. Among them was a special man named Theophilus.

Theophilus was the Bishop of Antioch and the sixth Bishop of the city since the time of the Apostles. He and others, like Polycarp, opposed heretics such as Marcion. He taught strongly and positively about the importance of the Ten Commandments.

“‘And on the sixth day God finished His works which He made, and rested on the seventh day from all His works which He made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it; because in it He rested from all His works which God began to create.’…Moreover, [they spoke] concerning the seventh day, which all men acknowledge; but the most know not that what among the Hebrews is called the “Sabbath,” is translated into Greek the “Seventh” (ebdomas), a name which is adopted by every nation, although they know not the reason of the appellation” (To Autolycus, book 2, Chapters 11-12).

“Wherefore also on the fourth day the lights were made. The disposition of the stars, too, contains a type of the arrangement and order of the righteous and pious, and of those who keep the law and commandments of God. For the brilliant and bright stars are an imitation of the prophets, and therefore they remain fixed, not declining, nor passing from place to place. And those which hold the second place in brightness, are types of the people of the righteous. And those, again,, which change their position, and flee from place to place, which also are cared planets, they too are a type of the men who have wandered from God, abandoning His law and commandments” (To Autolycus, book 2, Chapters 15).

“… if he [mankind] should incline to the things of immortality, keeping the commandment of God, he should receive as reward from Him immortality…For God has given us a law and holy commandments; and every one who keeps these can be saved, and, obtaining the resurrection, can inherit incorruption” (To Autolycus, book 2, Chapters 27).

“…we have learned a holy law; but we have as lawgiver Him who is really God, who teaches us to act righteously, and to be pious, and to do good…Of this great and wonderful law, which tends to all righteousness, the ten heads are such as we have already rehearsed…” (To Autolycus, book 3, Chapters 9).

Notice that Theophilus had a significant emphasis on obedience to the Ten Commandments. He respected God’s law. He also reiterated that God rested on the seventh day and that “all men acknowledge” this day as the Sabbath. He also noted that the term Sabbath is retained in the languages of every nation. Many languages today still reflect this. Josephus said Biblical practices such as the Sabbath had spread to every nation on earth (Appion 2.40). In other places he spoke strongly against idols (bk 1:10, bk 2:34-35, bk 3:9).

Eusebius, a fourth century historian, mentions the stand he took against heresy and the anti-Sabbatarian teachers: “Of Theophilus, whom we have mentioned as bishop of the church of Antioch…another writing entitled Against the Heresy of Hermogenes, in which he makes use of testimonies from the Apocalypse of John, and finally certain other catechetical books… And as the heretics, no less then than at other times, were like tares, destroying the pure harvest of apostolic teaching…And that Theophilus also, with the others, contended against them, is manifest from a certain discourse of no common merit written by him against Marcion” (Eusebius, Church History, Book 4, Chapter 24).

In future articles, we will review the heretics that rose in the second century and why believers like Theophilus became so instrumental to continue the faith once delivered to the saints.

Kelly McDonald, Jr.

BSA President – www.biblesabbath.org

 

 

Why Was December 25th Chosen for the Birthday of Christ?

Why Was December 25th Chosen for the Birthday of Christ?

by Kelly McDonald, Jr.

Note: The goal of this article is simply to provide historical research.

There are 364 days in the current calendar used in much of the world (365 on leap years). Of all the days available, why was December 25th chosen as the day to remember the birth of Christ? This is not an illogical question, especially as we consider that the New Testament does not provide any references to an ongoing celebration of His birth (or anyone’s birthday for that matter). References for the birth of Christ are also scarce outside of the initial event when it occurred.

To understand how December 25th became an important day in mainstream Christianity, one must consider that Christianity initially spread within the Greco-Roman world. About 100 years after Christ’s ascension to Heaven, the community of believers were flooded with Greek philosophies and other religions. There were a number of heretical leaders during this time that tried to mix these beliefs with Christianity, including Cerdon, Marcion, Valentinus, Saturninus, Basilides, and so forth. These infamous teachers were so dangerous that volumes of literature were written in the late second century onward to refute their ideas.

Valentinus in particular was known for spreading the belief that true Christians were free to openly participate in Roman celebrations (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 1:6:3). As time passed this only grew worse. Tertullian, a very influential writer in the early third century, recorded that the majority of Christians he knew engaged in this behavior.

“But, however, the majority (of Christians) have by this time induced the belief in their mind that it is pardonable if at any time they do what the heathen do, for fear ‘that the name be blasphemed’… the Saturnalia and New Year’s and Midwinter’s festivals [Latin: brumae] and Matronalia are frequented – presents come and go – New year’s gifts – games join their noise – banquets join their din! Oh better fidelity of the nations to their own sect, which claims no solemnity of the Christians for itself!” (On Idolatry, ch. 10, 14).

There were certain celebrations mentioned by Tertullian: “Saturnalia, New Year’s and Midwinter’s festivals [Latin: brumae] …” These three celebrations/dates were very important to Romans for centuries. Each of them occurred in the winter. Saturnalia was the time when the god Saturn was celebrated with parties; it was a time to remember when the god dwelt among mankind. The New Year’s celebration was January 1st (at that time). Midwinter festivals, or Brumae in Latin, was a special reference to a specific day in December.

Pliny the Elder, a Roman historian who lived in the first century wrote more about this day: “The year is divided into four periods or seasons, the recurrence of which is indicated by the increase or diminution of the daylight. Immediately after the winter solstice [bruma] the days begin to increase, and by the time of the vernal equinox, or in other words, in ninety days and three hours, the day is equal in length to the night….All these seasons, too, commence at the eighth degree of the signs of the Zodiac. The winter solstice [bruma] begins at the eighth degree of Capricorn, the eighth day before the calends of January…” (Natural History, 18:57, 59).

The bruma or winter solstice was specifically listed as the eighth day before the calends of January. After the Calendar reform of Julius Caesar (which is a greater context of Pliny’s words), this became December 25th. While this is certainly not the astronomical solstice (which is Dec. 21/22), it was the day that the Romans recognized it as the solstice; it was considered the day in which a visible difference in the length of days could be observed from earth. Even as late as the fourth/fifth century the 8th Kalends of January held this significance (see Maurus Servius Honoratus commentary on the Aeneid, book 7, line 720). Other writers considered December 25th to be the day of the new sun or the birthday of the sun (see Censorinus, chapter 21).

Tertullian noted that a significant number of early Christians took a particular interest in observing days such as bruma. As aforementioned, early Christianity spread within the confines of the Roman Empire (and eventually went outside of it). Even as it ventured into other countries, the bulk of Christians dwelt within the Roman Empire for centuries.

Another development in this time period is the spread of sun worship. For an unknown reason, some Christians started to pray towards the sun’s rising and setting in the late second/early third century (see Tert. Apology, ch 16). References to Christ as the sun increased over time as well. In later centuries this became a bigger issue. In the late fourth/early fifth century, Augustine denounced those who tried to combine the worship of Christ with that of the sun (Tractate 34 on the Gospel of John, sec. 2).

In the fourth century AD, we find the first reference to a commemoration for the birth of Christ. Ambrose, in his work “On Virginity”, recalled a sermon from Pope Liberius (352-366) where a day was set aside to remember the birth of Jesus. The specific day of the year for this event is not mentioned. As time passed there seem to be two developing thoughts about the birth of Jesus. The Eastern Church leaned toward January 6th as the birth of Jesus. The Western Church leaned towards December 25th. At first the remembrance of Christ’s birth was more of a solemn commemoration rather than a celebration. There was a reluctance to imitate unbelievers on the day (Gregory of Nazianzus, Oration 38).

But the use of language exactly mirroring that of pagan Romans, such as Pliny, became very common. Christ was even called the new sun by some.

In Augustine’s Sermon 190, which is concerning the birth of Christ and its celebration, he wrote, “…on the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, and night began to endure loss, and day took up an increase.” The Latin reads:…ideo die Natalis Domini nostri Jesu Christi, et nox incipit perpeti detrimenta, et dies sumere augmenta.” In the same message, he stated:  “We have therefore, brothers, this sacred (or solemn) day, not as the unbelievers on account of this sun, but on account of him who made this sun” The Latin reads: “habaemus ergo, fratres, solemnem istum diem; non sicut infideles propter hunc solem, sed propter eum qui fecit hunc solem.”

Poems and hymns of various kinds were written to honor the birth of Christ on December 25th as the bruma or new sun (such as Prudentius and Paulinus of Nola). The winter celebration became popularized by a Roman law in 425 AD which forced certain establishments to close on the day dedicated to Christ’s birth. This allowed the day’s influence to spread.

This of course did not come without problems. Some sun worshipers confused Christianity and their previous way of life, which led to some trying both (see Pope Leo I sermon 22:6 for example). Pope Leo had a problem with people trying to worship the sun and then attending church.

In the sixth century onward, various church councils made attendance on Christmas mandatory and perhaps carried with it certain penalties. Perhaps by the time of Charlemagne and certainly by the Middle Ages, its practice was very much entrenched in mainstream Christendom. The term ‘Cristes Maesse’ first appears in Old English in 1038 AD. This was followed at times by forced communion on the day.

But one must also remember that other days such as March 25 (Spring Equinox / Mary’s Annunciation) and June 24 (Summer Solstice / John the Baptist’s birthday) were also adapted from Roman customs.

For those of you who have wondered how December 25th was chosen as the day of Christ’s birth, there you have it! It was adapted from the Roman recognition of December 25th as the winter solstice (bruma) and the re-birth of the sun.

Today many people still remember Christ’s birth on December 25 without this knowledge. There was certainly a time when I did not know it either. I pray for everyone’s eyes to be opened. I am thoroughly happy to share it with others for your education and edification. My goal is simply to present the facts. “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (I Thess. 5:21).

Kelly McDonald, Jr.

BSA President – www.biblesabbath.org

One More Time, Moses Was Right

One More Time, Moses Was Right

By Jim O’Brien 

Hi Friend,

“Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.”

The news reported the story of a couple that dropped their elderly, wheelchair bound mother off at the airport to catch a plane. The flight was cancelled and the attendants called the family who returned 45 minutes later to retrieve the mother. All should have been well except the family went on social media to falsely report that their mother had been left overnight unattended, in her wheelchair.

While I can’t imagine a person leaving an invalid parent alone at a busy airport, their callous action was exacerbated by a lie. Video and phone records prove that the accusation was false.

Is this where the story ends?

It isn’t. When victimhood is the highest moral value then others aspire to it, thus abdicating responsibility for self. This is mindboggling to previous generations where victimhood was a sign of weakness. Now it’s a virtue.

What happens to the electoral process when a presidential candidate is slandered by a lie such as tying his dog to the top of his car while on a trip or fabricating a fictitious account of a perverted sexual encounter? What happens when an exemplary candidate to our nation’s highest court can be torpedoed by lies from people who want to project their sins on to others? In the end our nation suffers!

Is there nothing that can be done to prevent these atrocities before the collapse of a once great civilization?

There’s a scripture from the Old Testament law that could immediately make our nation better. This one law would improve our culture immeasurably.

There is a reason that an image of Moses holding the Ten Commandments is over the rear entrance to the Supreme Court Building of the United States. Moses established the principle of the presumption of innocence. He wrote, “One witness is not enough to convict anyone accused of any crime or offense they may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.” (Deut. 10:15) Can the power to destroy a person be entrusted to one person without evidence? What if the accuser is malicious-or mentally ill? Are any of us safe if the law does not provide a presumption of innocence?

But, what is the remedy? Moses continues, “If a malicious witness takes the stand to accuse someone of a crime…the judges must make a thorough investigation, and if the witness proves to be a liar, giving false testimony…then do to the false witness as that witness intended to do to the other party. You must purge the evil from among you.” (verses 16 thru 19)

We are in danger of losing the moral concept that a false accusation is equally as dangerous as the crime itself!

In her book, The Diversity Delusion, author Heather McDonald decries the $250,000 salaries paid to Diversity Department heads at universities across America who frequently destroy the lives of innocent people by falsely accusing students. The salaries are paid by your tax dollars to encourage accusations.

She calls it an “absolutist social theology” that extorts huge financial assets from corporations and American taxpayers. Notice the term, “theology” suggesting the source of this madness is spiritual. The Apostle John identifies the power behind false accusations when he writes, “the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night…. (Rev. 12:10) John is talking about Satan and he does not equivocate that he is a spiritual destroyer who desires to corrupt the justice system by encouraging men toward unbridled accusations.

What can be done? Once again, Moses provides the solution. He points out that “the rest of the people will hear of this (punishment for making false accusations) and be afraid, and never again will such an evil thing be done among you. Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.” (Deut. 19:20-21) Moses is telling us that truthfulness is absolutely essential to a nation’s survival-otherwise, we have lost any connection to justice, the cornerstone of civilization.

Do we want a civilized country? Then we must require witnesses to tell the truth. And when they do not, they must receive the same punishment as would have been administered for the accused crime.

This age of man, beginning with the mainstream media, is the most accusing of any that has ever existed. It’s an infectious disease for which, once again, Moses provided the answer.

Until next time,

Jim O’Brien

This pastor’s letter was originally posted on December 07, 2018 on Pastor Jim’s pastor page. He is the pastor of the Church of God Cincinnati. You can learn more about their church and read more of his letters at: http://www.cogcincinnati.org/pages/from-our-pastor.html

 

Are You Building Upon the Foundation of Truth?

Are You Building Upon the Foundation of Truth?

By Kelly McDonald, Jr.

We are all born into a country and possibly a church environment with certain beliefs, ideals, and practices. As we grow up, these ideals and practices become engrained into our lives through laws, culture, entertainment, social mores, and celebrations. Thus, we have been influenced by these factors. Your environment has an impact to one degree or another upon the person you are today.

As part of this process of socialization, we have certain traditions and beliefs that become assimilated into our own practice. The challenge I issue to all who read this article is to question your practices, beliefs, and thought patterns in the following manner: Are you building upon the foundation of God’s truth or are you simply following the traditions handed down to you?

Many people follow a degree of traditions given to them, but they are not aware that they should even question them.

For Christians, the Bible is the foundation of truth. In other words, we are expected to build our world view, perspectives on life, and practices upon its precious Words. The great challenge remains for the individual to recognize his/her beliefs or practices and subsequently compare it to the foundation of all knowledge.

This challenge applies to all backgrounds.

This will lead us back to the age-old debate between culture and Christ. To what degree do we allow culture to define or influence our view of Christ? Or, do we view Christ as the rock that influences our view of the world. The answer is simpler than one might think. Christ never changes (Hebrews 13:8). He changes us and then subsequently uses us as an agent of change in the world around us. Therefore culture cannot redefine His eternal nature.

It is so easy to say “well, this tradition means _____ to me”; this is problematic because this is an argument from relativism. People use the same line of reasoning to justify the redefinition of marriage. If there is no perpetual morality in the Bible, then culture can influence our interpretation of the Bible.

At some point in the future, a majority in America will no longer understand the Biblical definition of marriage. They will be engrained into a tradition that supports a false view. Even if the majority accepts this tradition it does not redefine truth.

Following the majority view leads us down a destructive path of reactionary thinking. More often than not, the Bible is quoted from a position of defending tradition rather that building upon truth. Humanity can rationalize any view point. But the never-changing Word of God is that sword (Heb. 4:12) to cut away to the truth of the matter – are we rationalizing what we think is right or simply standing for what is absolutely right?

Questions to ask yourself: Are you using tradition to define the Bible? Do you find Bible verses to justify your behavior or tradition? Does the frame of reference for your world view come from tradition?

When you read the Bible, do you allow its words to change your lifestyle? Do you view the Bible as the source of your life instead of a reactionary crutch?

The Bible should be the foundation of our lives. It should define and start our practices, so we proceed forward on the foundation of truth. We want to build on what is eternal, not temporary and fleeting.

This is indeed a lifelong process; no one has all the answers. And I can assure you the process is not easy – you will alienate family and friends when you choose truth over tradition. But God will also connect you with people to replace what is lost (Matthew 19:29). However, the process also leads to a fulfillment and renewed outlook on life that you will not trade for anything in this world.

Some people believe strongly that they have inherited a tradition of truth. If so, have you proved your views through the lens of God’s Word? Even if something is absolutely true, we should understand, from the Word, why it is true. It is incumbent upon every generation to “Test all things, and hold firmly that which is good” (1 Thess. 5:21).

The process described in this article can make the difference between operating off inherited beliefs (which may or may not be eternal) or building upon the foundation of everlasting truth (Matthew 7:13-24).

Kelly McDonald, Jr

BSA President

www.biblesabbath.org

 

Sabbath Meditation 16: Who Controls Your Time?

Sabbath Meditation 16: Who Controls Your Time?

by Kelly McDonald, Jr.

“There remains therefore a Sabbath rest for the people of God. 10 For he who has entered into his rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from his.” (Hebrews 4:9-10)

The first four commandments are chiefly focused on loving God. The last six have to do with how you show the love of God to others. It is one major way that others will see God in this world. Let’s look at the pattern of the first four commandments and especially the fourth one

The first commandment answers the question: Who is your God?

The second commandments expresses that we should not make representations of the True God and that we should not worship or serve any created thing.

The third commandment conveys the idea that we should not misrepresent the True God.

The fourth commandment requires that we allow the True God to control our time.

The first four commandments contain simple instructions to guide who we worship and adore, what we do with our hands, how we live, and who regulates our time. Why are these so important?

The God of the Holy Bible created matter, space, and time. The Ten Commandments are the guidelines for how created beings are expected to handle these components as part of His creation. The last six commandments guide us in how matter is to be handled with regard to space and time.

The Ten Commandments are a testimony to God’s character and that HE is the creator of all things. The Sabbath is the only one of these ten that govern time, space, and matter. This explains one reason why this day directly connects us with the Creator (Exodus 31:12-17). The God who made all things desires and requires that we allow Him to guide the movement of our individual existence within the created world of time, matter, and space.

When we ignore the Sabbath, we testify that we know how to better handle our time than our Creator. Humanity must realize that God knows what is best. He made us and the time which we operate within. Like the maker of a watch, He knows the mechanics of it; He knows how it works. When we trust Him with it, there will be an efficiency of rest and work in our lives like never before.

There is only one creator of time – God Himself.

Who controls your time?

Selah.

Kelly McDonald, Jr. BSA President – http://www.biblesabbath.org

 

 

Fruits of the Spirit (Part 2 of 2)

Fruits of the Spirit (Part 2 of 2)

By Kelly McDonald, Jr.

This week we will continue our discussion of the fruits of the Spirit!

In Galatians 5, the fifth fruit listed is kindness. It can also be translated as gentleness or moral integrity. This word has a connotation of usefulness or benevolence. It is the Godly character needed so that you can be employed for God’s Kingdom. This character is beneficial in helping others already in the Kingdom or leading others into it.

Once you have developed character through trials, you can be engaged in Kingdom matters. This shows us a powerful progression. The first four fruits should flourish in a believer’s life before he or she should serve in certain positions within the church. This adds further depth to Paul’s statement in I Timothy 3:6 that novices should not be put into offices of the church.

The next fruit is goodness. Like kindness, it has a connotation of usefulness and excellence. In the Bible, this word is often used of people performing good works. This not only means doing the right thing but also the way in which something is conducted. It is also a decision-making process where good and upright decisions are made in the life of the believer and in Kingdom work.

A believer exhibiting the fruit of goodness will not just serve God. He or she will display honor and excellence while doing so. He or she will also display uprightness in dealing with others. This requires a level of zeal that may not be present when a person is only displaying kindness.

Someone displaying the fruit of kindness is a good helper. Someone with the fruit of goodness will fight and stand for what is good, even if it means disciplining or correcting others. It is goodness performed for God and on behalf of others. Christ exhibited this when He cleaned out the Temple of the money changers (see also Matthew 25:21-23, Luke 6:45).

These two characteristics unveil a further progression of usefulness to zeal in the work of God.

The seventh fruit is translated as faithfulness or faith. There is a common faith we must all have to be saved (Romans 10:9-11). The fruit of faith is different. It manifests as continued confidence in God and can also be applied to faithfulness in the work of God with diligence and persistence.

To this end, the fruit of faith can refer to being reliable and consistent. Jesus said, “…when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8) Christ posed the question as to whether people would have faith in Him upon His return. Another question to ask ourselves is: Will we be reliable in doing God’s work in the time just before His return?

Gentleness is the eighth fruit. It can also be translated as meekness or humility. This is not martyrdom, self-piety, or a lowly countenance. The Greek word translated as gentleness was used in ancient times of an animal that was wild, but now is tame (1). It has a connotation of being strong and powerful, but refusing to flaunt these traits. In other words, meekness entails knowing the right time and situation to exercise God’s power.

Jesus had the opportunity to call forth twelve legions of angels to rescue Him, but he did not (Matthew 26:53-54). He was meek. God almost destroyed the entire nation of Israel, but Moses interceded to stop this from happening. He was called the meekest man on the earth (Num. 12:3).

This fruit might be better translated as self-restraint. With gentleness, you are allowing Him to manifest the emotions and manner of actions you should display in a given situation. To this end, we display gentleness or meekness with those who are struggling in the faith or overcoming sin. We may have victory in an area where others are weak, but we should be meek in how we treat them (because we could fall into the same sin – see Galatians 6:1-5).

These two fruits continue the progression of God’s power growing in our lives. As we mature in His power, we will be consistent and show self-restraint.

The ninth fruit and final in this progression is self-control. It is sometimes translated as temperance. This virtue was held by some Greeks to be the foundational virtue (2). Paul made it the last virtue in this series. I believe that he did this to show that this fruit is not self-control brought about by human effort. Instead, it is a self-control which comes through the Spirit of God.

To the Greeks, this virtue involved the moderation of the human desires. In Christ, the human desires are subdued first through love for Him. We forsake those desires because of abundant love. Gentleness was properly displaying power at the right time; self-control is when the Spirit of God turns disadvantages into advantages.

Consider the following example. The Pharisees tried to trick Jesus many times. The Spirit of God countered this and turned the situation from a disadvantage into Christ’s favor. Others were not able to manipulate or mislead Christ. Hence, it is self-control.

This word can also indicate being master of one’s situations (by the Spirit). In the gospels, Jesus said, “I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me” (John 14:30). The devil had no hold on Christ. There was nothing in Him that Satan could manipulate, though he tempted Him many times. Disadvantageous situations were transformed into advantageous ones. Obviously, Christ had the highest level of submission to God that has ever existed. As we continue to submit to God, we will taste of this fruit.

We can see a steady progression as we look at these nine fruits. It starts as we fall in love with our Savior. This continues as we experience Joy from being part of God’s Plan. Our radically changed lifestyle brings conflict from others, but peace within. As we endure trials, we do not over react or lash out. Once we have passed these first four tests, our character is prepared for Kingdom work. At this point, we become useful to Him and others. As we are used by God, we develop a zeal for His holy things. Our zeal then becomes channeled into reliability. Reliability then grows into humility as God teaches us the proper way to respond to certain situations. Lastly, God turns disadvantages to advantages as He is in complete control. The first four Fruits prepare someone to enter into the ministry. They build the character of God within us so that we can serve God. The last five are attitudes and Godly character that increase the fruitfulness of an individual’s life in the Work of God.

We can have spiritual gifts without fruits, but true spiritual fruit will always bring about the gifts (see Matthew 7:21-23, I Cor. 13). The Fruits of the Spirit ensure that the gifts we use build something that lasts. The spiritual gifts are meant to be an extension of the fruits. Jesus said that we are His disciples by the fruit we bear (Matthew 7:16, 12:33, Luke 6:44). These nine fruits allow the world to see the character of Christ in our modern world.

Bibliography

(1) Barclay, William. The Letters to the Galatians and the Ephesians. Edinburgh: The Saint Andrew Press, 1958.

(2) Smith, Richard M. Studies in the Greek New Testament. Nashville: Publishing House Methodist Episcopal Church, South, 1893. p 105.

(3) Strong, James. Strong’s Concordance. Published: Nashville: Abingdon, c1980.

Kelly McDonald, Jr.

President, Bible Sabbath Association (www.biblesabbath.org)

 

Youth Matters

Youth Matters

by Brandy Webb

When you go to church, look around you. I want you to pay attention to the average age in your congregation. Do you have a lot of youth? If you do, that is awesome. If you don’t, your group is like the majority of Christian churches around, at least in the United States. According to a study done by Barna, “[n]early six in ten (59 percent) young people who grow up in Christian churches end up walking away, and the unchurched segment among Millennials has increased in the last decade from 44 percent to 52 percent, mirroring a larger cultural trend away from churchgoing in America” (“The Priorities, Challenges, and Trends in Youth Ministry,” Barna Group). The question we have to ask ourselves is, why? Well, according to Pew Research Center, the number one reason is “the questioning of religious teachings” (“Why America’s ‘nones’ don’t identify with a religion,” Alper). Just a quick side note, the term “nones” means someone who doesn’t identify with any religion. They do not consider themselves agnostic, atheist, or any other type of religion.

Why do you think the number one reason is questioning religious teachings? My idea, we may have failed at making our faith a living, breathing thing. In other words, “actions speak louder than words.” Wouldn’t you question something if it seemed that people just “talked the talk but didn’t walk the walk”? The truth is, just going to church once a week and on the Holy Days is not going to convince others of our faith. In fact, my faith grows more from watching and listening to other believers who live out their faith. You know the ones who are strong in God’s Word; who rejoice in trials; who still believe that God is in control even though their lives are hard. I am realizing that faith reveals itself more through a living, breathing person who lives a life of faith rather than a sermon.

So, are we living out our faith to the point that our youth believe because they have seen the belief of others? Or do our lives show hypocrisy instead? These are questions I am asking myself. I have two teenagers that I want to grow up and be strong in their belief in God and Jesus. My husband and I need to live by example through our actions and words. They also need to see others do the same, which leads me to another question I ask myself: do our churches today make the youth feel as part of the family, or do we make them feel like the church is for adults only, especially baptized adults?

Does your local congregation have a youth ministry of some sort? The same article with the Barna research found that churches that had quite a few youth were more likely to have some sort of youth ministry. However, the lower the youth numbers the lower the chances that there was a youth ministry, and the lower the chances where the ministers felt youth ministry was even important. I would think that the groups that had fewer youth would feel more of an importance to reach out to the youth because, without youth, a group will eventually get old and become non-existent.

Another point I found interesting in the same article is they found that the most popular youth program was “youth mission trips” (“The Priorities, Challenges, and Trends in Youth Ministry,” Barna Group). This made me think about the fact that one major point of a mission trip is serving others. I do want to point out mission trips do not have to be expensive excursions to foreign countries. You can start a “mission” in your own home area. Some ideas could be visiting the elderly, helping the widows in your congregation, serving food in low income areas, etc.

The point is, we are to try our best to walk in the footsteps of our Messiah, which means we need to know how He walked. He served others. He also loved the children, and He desires them to come to Him. Our youth should feel His presence within us, and they should feel important when around us. They are just as important family members of God as we are. We have a job to do, every one of us. This is not a job for just a select few who are ordained. No, the falling away of our youth needs to be fixed, which means everyone of us need to use our talents, our faith, our walk, God’s Word, our testimonies, etc., to reach out to them and make them feel at home within God’s people. We need to make sure we do not forget the instructions that God has given us:

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.Deut 6:6-7

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.—Proverbs 22:6

Then children were brought to Him that he might lay His hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” And He laid his hands on them and went away.—Matt 19:13-15

Remember, Christ wishes to find faith on the earth when He returns (Luke 18:8). This cannot be accomplished if there is not a generation behind us to take our place.

The Priorities, Challenges, and Trends in Youth Ministry

Why America’s ‘nones’ don’t identify with a religion

This blog was originally written by Brandy Webb with the Church of God International. It was posted on June 21, 2019 by the Church of God International. We encourage you to follow their blog at: https://www.cgi.org/news-and-events/.

The Fruits of the Spirit (Part 1 of 2)

The Fruits of the Spirit (Part 1 of 2)

By Kelly McDonald, Jr.

Before Jesus died on the cross for our sins, He taught about the importance of producing fruit. In John 15:1-8,16 , He said, “1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples…16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.” (NIV)

These verses show us that the Lord expects us to produce fruit for His Kingdom. In fact, we are appointed to bear fruit that lasts (verse 16). What fruits does the Lord expect from us?

Jesus’ teaching in John 15 is linked to the Fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-25. In these verses, Paul lists nine of them. They are: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (NIV).  They are a series of attitudes that allow others to witness the Kingdom of God and thus give God the Father glory.

Before we can delve into the meaning of these fruits, one must understand that they operate differently than the gifts of the Spirit (nine of them are listed in I Cor. 12:1-10). A person can choose whether or not to exercise one of the gifts. On the contrary, the fruits of the Spirit simply grow as we walk with God.

Think of a tree. You cannot make fruit grow by shaking a tree. The tree must be nurtured, watered, and have a proper environment for the fruit to grow. We do not choose to manifest these fruits by human effort; they spontaneously manifest as we yield to the Spirit and Word of God (water) and obey Him in trials (sunlight). We choose to obey God, and they spontaneously manifest. To this end, the fruits are not nine characteristics that come from human effort.

A second factor to keep in mind is that we cannot define these characteristics by the way we view them in our culture. They must be viewed from the perspective of the Word of God and the life of Christ. He is the vine, and we are branches (John 15:1-5). We must take in from His example. Consider the first fruit: Love. In our culture, love tends to be looked at as merely a feeling. This is not the way love is viewed in the Bible. We tend to view kindness and meekness based upon a person’s countenance. As you will come to understand, this is not the Biblical context for these terms. The Spirit of God is the resurrected Christ living inside of us (Col. 1:27); these fruits are Christ’s characteristics manifesting in our vessels. We can see these in His life.

The first fruit of the Spirit is love. It is the first fruit because the Spirit of God is the love of God shed abroad in our hearts (Romans 5:5). We need the Love of God to love God and others. We cannot love with our carnality. This is the starting place and foundation of our faith. When you are first saved/converted, a mindset of love should overflow from within your vessel. The Greek word for love is agapeo. It is a decisive mindset where we desire to make any cost to please God. Jesus gave us this example by being our sacrifice (John 15:9-13). This fruit is first displayed by a person’s decision to obey the Word of God. As an example, Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Instead of doing things our way, we begin doing things His way. We will treat others in a Christ-like manner. Agapeo love will manifest as action.

The second fruit is joy. We think of joy as simply being happy, but it is much more than that. Joy is a realization that your life has value to God in this world. This fruit also arises in our hearts and minds as we realize what He has done for us and others (Savior, redeemer, deliverer, provider, healer, etc.). This is why the disciples had joy when they heard about the work of God in the life of others (Acts 15:3). Said another way – this joy comes about as a person fulfills their intended purpose as a member of God’s family. This joy grows as we obey God (see John 15:9-11); one reason for this is that our Kingdom reward increases. The fruit of joy intensifies in our lives.

These first two fruits (Love and Joy) represent the first phase in the life of a believer. When a person first receives the Holy Spirit, they fall in love with God. There is joy from our new life. The next phase comes when we are growing in Christ and face trials.

Peace is the third fruit. In our modern culture, we define peace as the absence of war or conflict. Jesus told us there would be conflict in our lives for serving Him. He said that even our family would become our enemies (Matthew 10:34-39).  The Hebrew word for peace is shalom, and it means wholeness. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). The fruit of peace is the inner wholeness that comes from walking with God.

Our lives are falling apart on the outside, but this outward environment has not changed our inward resolve to obey Him. God’s Spirit consoles us in this process and makes us whole in the trial. Jesus said we should not be troubled or afraid when He spoke about His peace. In the world, there is peace only when there is a lack of conflict. With Christ, there is peace with or without conflict. Of course, we must live in peace with others. This means having a wholeness of relationship (when possible) and not merely an agreement to avoid conflict. Through prayer, His peace will guard our hearts and minds. It surpasses human understanding because wholeness in the midst of outward turmoil is beyond our natural mind (Phil. 4:6-7).

The next fruit is patience. It can also be translated as endurance, perseverance, or longsuffering. In America, the word patience has a connotation of waiting for something. The Greek word literally means to breathe very passionately for an extended period of time. To have fruit that lasts, we must have trials that last. Some trials do not last long in terms of human time, but they seem long when we go through them. Patience manifests as we endure in trials. When we are provoked to act, we refrain. Our normal, fleshly reactions are restrained so that the longsuffering Christ had for us may be visible to others. In these tough situations, we allow our Savior to work out situations beyond our control instead of working them out by our human understanding. We must also have patience when we deal with others. After all, the Lord shows us patience and endures with us while we learn from Him.

When we experience the fruits of peace and patience, God’s character is being refined in us. This is preparing us to be used even more for God’s Kingdom Work.

Next week, we will finish by covering the last five fruits.

Kelly McDonald, Jr.

President, Bible Sabbath Association (www.biblesabbath.org)

 

Sabbath Meditation #15 – The Gates of Heaven

Sabbath Meditation #15 – The Gates of Heaven

By Kelly McDonald, Jr

“The LORD says: ‘The gate of the inner court that looks toward the east shall be shut the six working days; but on the Sabbath day it shall be opened, and on the day of the new moon it shall be opened…The people of the land shall worship at the door of that gate before [paniym] The LORD on the Sabbaths and on the new moons’”  (Ezekiel 46:1, 3).

“For if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, seeing there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law, who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, even as Moses was warned by God when he was about to make the tabernacle, for he said, ‘See, you shall make everything according to the pattern that was shown to you on the mountain’” (Hebrews 8:4-5).

In the Old Testament, the Tabernacle/Temple structures were built to pattern heavenly things. As we survey the entire Bible, we understand this even more. For instance, three of the furniture pieces from the earthly structures are also mentioned as having Heavenly counterparts: the menorah, the altar of incense, and the Ark of the Covenant (Rev. 4:5, 8:1-5, 11:19).

As discussed in the last Sabbath Meditation, there is one earthly Temple structure that will be built in the future. It is described in the book of Ezekiel. We learn that this Temple will have a gate which is only open on the seventh-day Sabbath and the New Moon.

This allows us to learn yet another reason why we rest from labors and other activities on the Sabbath. By following God’s instructions concerning the Sabbath, we are positioning ourselves to receive from Heavenly Temple.

Recall that not even physical manna fell from Heaven on the Sabbath (Exodus 16). There was a greater revelation than Manna to be received. It cannot come by work or selfish ambition. It can only be received through the blessed Sabbath rest.

Our body is also called God’s Temple (I Cor. 3:16-17). The gate to the Heavenly temple is open every Sabbath; is your temple prepared and open to receive its blessing?

Selah.

Kelly McDonald, Jr

BSA Presidentwww.biblesabbath.org