"Politics, Prophecy and Conviction"
February 10, 2012 - "Will government politics affect your conviction? Recent news events may be a forecast of things to come. How will you react?"
Posted by Mike Bennett and Karen Meeker on February 8, 2012
"The newscasters were lamenting a report that a particular elementary school would no longer allow students to exchange valentines. (The same school had prohibited the exchange of candies the year before.) They mentioned that the reason it was being banned was because St. Valentine’s Day is a religious holiday.
Most people today don’t think much about Valentine’s Day being a religious holiday. It’s considered mainly a romantic holiday, with some cute customs for the kids. But it is a religious holiday all right. It’s not taught by the Bible, of course. But if you look back far enough, you find it was actually founded on a pre-Christian, pagan fertility festival that was later cloaked with Christianity.
The origin, though somewhat murky, is generally accepted as follows: The ancient Roman festival Lupercalia is considered to be one precursor to Valentine’s Day. It was celebrated from Feb. 13-15 as a purification and fertility ceremony.
“To begin the festival, members of the Luperci, an order of Roman priests, would gather at a sacred cave where the infants Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf or lupa. The priests would sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification.
“They would then strip the goat’s hide into strips, dip them into the sacrificial blood and take to the streets, gently slapping both women and crop fields with the goat hide. Far from being fearful, Roman women welcomed the touch of the hides because it was believed to make them more fertile in the coming year.
“Later in the day, according to legend, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn. The city’s bachelors would each choose a name and become paired for the year with his chosen woman. These matches often ended in marriage” (http://www.history.com/topics/valentines-day).
History goes on to record that in A.D. 496 Pope Gelasius established St. Valentine’s Day in an attempt to convert this pagan Roman fertility festival into a Christian holiday, thus retaining its attractions and making it easier for pagan people to accept Christianity. (It is unclear as to which Valentine was being honored by this day, since there were three individuals so named who tradition has it were martyred on Feb. 14.)
The Roman church was astute enough to keep the game of chance alive due to its popularity. But it replaced the women’s names with names of saints. Both men and women participated in the drawing and were told to emulate the life of the saint whose name they had drawn for the following year.
Gradually the Romans relinquished their pagan festival and replaced it with the church’s holiday. (You can find more information about the history of this holiday at http://facts.randomhistory.com/facts-about-valentines-day.html.)
Back to the present
It’s interesting that the origin of this widely accepted holiday lay in fertility rites—definitely not something we would want our elementary school children to participate in. And how many young couples would look at the cards and candy the same way if the message implied, “Let’s make a baby together”?
But the fertility aspect is long forgotten or ignored; and the United States, along with other areas of the world, has wholeheartedly endorsed its celebration. An estimated 141 million cards are exchanged worldwide (http://www.history.com/topics/valentines-day-facts)—making it the second largest card-sending holiday of the year (superseded only by Christmas).
What a boon to card and candy makers, not to mention florists!
But what would God think?
The Bible does not tell people to celebrate St. Valentine’s Day, or any other saint’s day, for that matter.
According to biblical terminology, a saint is a faithful Christian—one who has been called out of this world’s society and given God’s Spirit. For example, Paul wrote, “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:2). Saints were not just the few famous holy people; the whole of God’s true church is made up of people the Bible calls saints. And the saints have never wanted anyone to pray to them or worship them, then or today (Acts 14:11-18; Revelation 19:10).
But even more, considering the pagan origins of Valentine’s Day, would God want His people to celebrate it? Here’s what He told His people:
“Do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way; for every abomination to the LORD which He hates they have done to their gods” (Deuteronomy 12:30-31).
God is quite specific about how He wants to be worshipped and which festivals He wants His people to celebrate. Read more about this in our booklet Holidays to Holy Days: God's Plan for You." From: http://cogwa.org/young-adult-blog/entry/should-christians-celebrate-st.-valentines-day
The program on WGN this morning:
"By following God and His Word you can unlock amazing mysteries hidden in past ages that may seem beyond your imagination."
"When you want information, where do you turn? If you have a question, where do you go to find the best answer you need? Now today most people would turn to Google. They'd turn to Yahoo. They'd go to a Web search engine like Bing, or something like that to find answers to their questions.
But, when you want answers to your most vital questions, the big questions of life, where do you turn?
Join us for this special presentation of Beyond Today , in front of a live audience, as we look at, "The Power of the Word."
How can you find a better life? I thought I'd do an internet search on "a better life". So I typed those three words in "a better life" and you know what came up on the first page of that Web search? Well, almost every one of the items that returned was about a recent movie called "A Better Life" . Then there was one for vitamins and there was one other link for cleaning products. Not exactly what I had in mind for "a better life" and probably not what you'd have in mind if you were searching for "a better life".
But instead of searching the Web, did you ever think of checking the all-time best-seller list? Now if you did that, you know what you'd come up with? You'd come up with the Bible. The Bible. Over seven billion copies have been sold and it's for a good reason. Because millions of people know that the Bible is the written word of the true God!
But with that said, perhaps we're like millions of others. Perhaps we believe the Bible is inspired by God, but we have trouble understanding it. We have trouble really getting down to what it really means. Does it really do any good to read the Bible? Is there really power in the Word of God? Yes there is! There is. In fact the Word itself tells us that there is.
There's an interesting passage over in Hebrews 4:12For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. See All.... And here's what it says in Hebrews 4. It says, "The word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."
You see God Himself tells us there is power in this Word of God and He gets right down to it. He cuts right through all the difficulties in life and He gets right down to our thinking. Right down to the heart of it. And it's something that's practical. It's something that's real. It's something that is meaningful for your life! And so in your search for understanding, this is the place to start. This is the place where we need to turn to.
Jesus Himself said, "I have come that they may have life, and (that) they may have it more abundantly." That's over in John 10:10The 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. See All.... He came that we could have an abundant life, a fulfilling life, a meaningful life! Not just a useless type of existence. That's not what God had in mind. He wanted us to have an abundant, fulfilling life. So when you're searching for meaning, when you want to really understand, maybe it's those deep questions, those things that you really, really wonder about. When you're looking for solid wisdom, when it comes to making sense, fixing what's wrong in your life, when you come to the Bible, that's when you've come to the right place.
The apostle Peter made a remarkable comment to Jesus Christ. In John 6:68Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. See All..., Peter said this to Jesus, He said, "Lord to whom shall we go?" He said, "You have the words of eternal life." You see there is no doubt when we consider God's perspective. He wants us to come to the source, not any old source but the source; the true source. He wants us to explore the practical source for our lives—The Bible.
In fact, not only does He want us to come to it, but He wants us to understand it. Doesn't He? He wants us to really get it. And so for a better life, come to the Word! Because we know it's inspired by God. You might think the Bible, wow, that's too tough to understand. That is too baffling. It's so mysterious that only a few, really super trained people could ever really understand it. But is that true?
Now that's the way it was in the Dark Ages. In the Dark Ages, all the religious leaders said, well you can't understand this Word. Let us explain it to you. In fact there weren't even copies, very many that people could even share. So it was mysterious. It was difficult, because only a few held that knowledge.
But wait a minute. Can only expert theologians, only those who have studied for years and years and years understand the Bible? It's no wonder that millions of people are discouraged from reading the Bible because they come at it from that point of view, but that's not God's perspective. That is not the way He looks at it. Jesus Himself said in Matthew 7:7Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: See All..., He said, "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened."
You see God can't wait to open your understanding to His Word. His intent is for you to comprehend the Bible. To realize its impact in your everyday life and it's proven. It's a proven thing! You can read it in His Word, it says so. In the book of Luke, it's recorded that Jesus opened their understanding that they might comprehend the Scriptures. Will He do any less for us?
By extension, He's promising us the exact same thing. And so we can understand! There is a way that we can get more benefit from the Bible. We can get in depth. In fact that's what we'd like to do. It can be difficult to put all the pieces together. It can be a challenge. And we'd like to help.
We have a free booklet and it's called How to Understand the Bible . You can use this booklet as a study aid to help as you get a handle on what the Bible is all about, and why it's so important, so vital for your life. As always, all of our publications are free of charge provided as an educational service.
So don't wait! The Bible has the answers to the big questions of life. And we'd like to help you study and discover the deep truths of God. It will certainly change your life for the better. Don't you have a deeper desire to understand the Word? Would you like to discover the power of the Word of God for your life? Now's the time to begin!
Well, let me ask you a question: Should a good book be understood? I think we'd have to say, yes! Well at least if it's intended for me. So if we talk about an anatomy book, I might not understand it. But a medical student should, a doctor should understand that. You know a legal brief; an attorney should understand those things, even though I might not. You know archeology, I don't get that. But, an archeologist would. So if the books intended for you, it should be understood. And so what about the Bible?
You should be able to understand it because it's intended for you! Now God didn't give His Word in some technical, difficult language that would be beyond our grasp to understand. He didn't do that! In fact if you were to look up the New Testament, the original language was written in Koine Greek. You know what kind of Greek that is? I'd say that's my kind of Greek; the Greek for everyday ordinary citizens in the Roman Empire. They all could understand.
Now it could have been written differently! It could have been written in the classic Greek style. It could have been written in the style of the statesmen and the orators or even the philosophers. But God didn't do it that way. He wrote it in the common, everyday language. You see, otherwise that'd be just for the experts. But it's not! It's for everyone! And if we think about the people that Jesus Christ used, the people that were with Him, it was the same then. What were the men like that He chose for His disciples?
Well think about it for a second. There was a tax collector, and most of the other guys were fishermen. Not exactly the most scholarly group, would you think? In fact in the New Testament Church, Acts 4:13Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus. See All..., it tells us, "Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men," it says, "they marveled." They marveled at that!
You see the way the Word of God is to be understood by ordinary people like us. That's what God intended it for and it will have a powerful impact, a marvelous impact on everyday life, on our everyday life. So the Bible it's been said is an uncommon book, but it's written in a common language for common people, with common problems because it has a common solution. It has the answers—the answers to life, the answers for our problems. Help for us! It talks about salvation, eternal life. This is an exceptional book that was written for you!
So what an amazing thing! It's written for us. So what's your approach to the Bible? Once we think about God's approach to the Bible, what's your approach?
Life is like a paper jam!
I thought about this the other day. I was trying to print a document off my printer and sure enough, paper got jammed in there. Ever happen to you? Papers jammed. Alright I'll just pull it out. So I open the front door. Start pulling out the paper. You know what happened. Rips. Tears up. Now what am I going to do? I can't get my fingers on that. So immediately I thought, I'll get a tweezers. So I run back to medicine cabinet, come down with a tweezers. I start pulling out the little remains of the paper that's sticking out from the rollers in there and what happens? You think that thing came right out? No. Little pieces start breaking off all over the place. So there's that piece... now I'm stuck. Now I'm stuck. I can barely see the white of the paper. Now what am I going to do?
Finally the thought came, maybe I ought to get out the instruction manual. Maybe it will give me some kind of clue to this. And so who made that thing after all? What would be the best directions to get that... Well I get out the manual. I look at it. And sure enough, you know what it says? There's a secret hidden panel on the back. Well it didn't say secret. It just said, there's a panel on the back. If you have a jam, open that up. And sure enough you go around to the back... and there's that panel. There's the rest of the paper. I pull on it and it comes out. I don't know why that made me mad but it did. It was so simple!
But the directions were plain. And I began to think; who's got the best directions for us? You know we pull and tear and rip at our lives and sometimes we just get into a jam. And yet God has the best directions for our life. Doesn't He? He gives us those directions. He tells us the best way to live and the Bible is that instruction book for a better life. It's the manual for a better life. If we follow the directions of God, He says life will be better.
In Proverbs 2:1My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; See All..., He tells us, "My son, if you receive my words, And treasure my commands within you," He says, "So that you incline your ear to wisdom, And apply your heart to understanding; Yes, if you cry out for discernment, And (you) lift up your voice for understanding, If you seek her as silver, And search for her as for hidden treasures; Then you will understand (and) the fear of the LORD, And find the knowledge of God." You see, we need God's Word. We need His direction. We need His help. And it applies. It applies to our everyday life.
Don't Jump to conclusions
Interesting situation came up in our life a little while ago. Earlier in the day the kids had been playing outside, and playing baseball. They had their little bats out there playing like crazy. Well, the weather turns for the worst—changes, gets dark, starts raining—so everybody piles in the house and we're hanging out inside. Well, finally weather clears. My wife and I go outside to enjoy the sunset, nice clear day finally. And then suddenly we notice, there's a hole in the vinyl siding on the back of our house. And I looked again and there's another hole. And another one! Suddenly, those kids... they were pounding on the siding with the bat! What is wrong with them!? Didn't I teach them better than that? How in the world could they possibly have done that?
Well then, step back for a minute, I realize there's another hole. And another one. And another one…well they can't reach way up there. Well how... Suddenly we realized, there had been a hail storm and our house had been damaged by the hail! And so that's the challenge. When I saw that, I immediately jumped to the conclusion that it had to be those kids.
But if I had only thought of the Word of God... If I were to step back... John 7:24Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment. See All..., it tells us practically, don't judge according to appearance. And it was obvious to me those kids did it. But Christ said "judge with righteous judgment." Amplified Version says, "Be honest in your judgment and don't decide at a glance." And that's exactly what I did. I'd already judged them. I had convicted them. I had condemned them before I ever had known the truth. You see, Proverbs tells us. Proverbs 18:13He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.
See All..., "He who answers a matter before he hears it, It is folly and (it's a) shame to him."
So how many times in our life do we jump to conclusions? And we don't put this Word into practice? How many times do we place wrong motivation on others? And ignore the clear, practical everyday advice that God gives us? You know, someone's accused! Boy that sounds right! Until like the Proverb says, until his neighbor comes and examines him. Oh there's another side to the story? Absolutely! The Word of God says, don't allow that sort of thinking drive a wedge in your family. Don't allow it to split up your work place. Don't allow it to break up a friendship. Don't jump to those kinds of conclusions. We better be watching out for what conclusions we draw.
There is so much to learn about the Bible. It has so many nuggets of wisdom for us. And we'd like to help you in your studies. Now one of the most exciting parts, the aspects of being a church pastor, is being a part of someone's life when they begin to read their Bible. When God starts to open a mind to His amazing truth, and you can be a part of that when you see that light bulb come on in that dark room, that's an amazing experience; something that is really a treasure.
Now, not long ago I was talking with someone that had been struggling with the challenges of life. And here's the gist of what they told me. They said, I'm reading my Bible and I realize that God's talking to me! He was showing me just what I needed to do. He said follow His instructions. He said I could avoid the mistakes I had made before and I could start to live a life that's worth living! In fact this person went on to say Proverbs 3 was one that really hit home with me where it says trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding, …and He shall direct your paths. Acknowledge Him in all your ways. And so they went on to say, you know, I didn't do that before. I trusted in here a little, over there a little bit. I never allowed Him in all my ways.
Boy, that's powerful. That's the power of the Word. When it comes to improving your life, a better life, whether it's marriage or parenting or business or growing old, all of those things can help when we look at the Word of God. When we start listening to His instruction book, we can have a plan! We can have a plan and it's a better plan.
2 Timothy 2:15Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. See All... says study to show yourself approved unto God. In other words, be diligent. Be diligent about it. And if we're going to be doing it diligently, it's well in a way it's almost like food. Anybody like to eat food? I bet we do it every day. Just about every day we're eating food. We know! Our bodies need it. If we're going to strong, if we're going to be healthy, we need nourishment. Without food, we start to get tired. We start to get weak. We get run down. We become ineffective.
Is it any different with the Word of God? Just like physical nourishment, we need spiritual sustenance. Studying the Bible, getting out the Word of God gives us that appetite for the truth, the bread that really brings life. Christ said, Matthew 4:4But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. See All..., He said, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." So if we don't take in a regular meal of the Word of life, well how are we going to be spiritually strong? How are we going to spiritually survive? How are we going to have the power to change? To grow? To have a better life? We need a steady diet of the Word of God. Not just some junk food that's out there, but the Word of God. Christ Himself said, do not labor for the food which perishes but for the food that endures to everlasting life which the Son of Man will give you (John 6:27Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.
See All...). Christ plainly showed we need it! But it also showed, it might take a little bit of effort.
Searching through a sand pile.
Sometimes not everything is going to be perfectly clear; might be a little bit difficult to understand. So what do you do about it? What do you do about that part? Well imagine this. Imagine you're given the job with tons and tons of sand. And your job is to get that sand ready for the beach. You got to get all the junk out. You got to get out the wire and you got to get out the metal and the broken glass, and you got to get all the litter out of that. But all you're given is a little teaspoon and a hand sifter. And you've got to get these tons... that's it! Fun job, huh? Great. Wonderful. I can't wait to... It's going to be boring. It's going to be tedious. It's going to take forever!
But, then you're told there's a one carat diamond in that pile. Could be worth what 5,000 dollars? Is that going to give you a little bit different... and not just one! But every hour you work at this pile, there's going to be another one carat diamond and another one and you get to keep it! You think your perspective on those giant tons of sand are going to change? You going to have a little bit different viewpoint when you realize, well what's the difference? What would change your perspective on that? Well it's realizing there's great value inside. And that's the way it is with the Bible. When we're careful to sift through the Word of God, we realize there is a spiritual fortune in the pages of this book.
Psalm 119:162 I rejoice at thy word, as one that findeth great spoil. See All... says, "I rejoice at Your word, As one who finds great treasure." And even if we've studied the Scriptures for years, you can still uncover valuable, precious truths. So when we're faced with those big questions of life: What is the purpose of life? What is life all about? Is there life after death? Why do I struggle to do good? Does God have a plan? The answers? They're in this book and we can treasure it. Be ready to find those answers as we sift through His Word.
And even the questions that aren't quite that big. God gives us practical advice as well. What should I look for in a mate? How can I have a successful marriage? How can I become a better person? You see the answers to these questions and so many more are right there in the pages of your Bible.
Now if you don't know where to start... you know where a great place to start is? In the book of Proverbs. The book of Proverbs is called a book of wisdom. And it gives tidbits of practical help. In fact there's 31 chapters in Proverbs. That matches perfectly with the days of the month. So if you would commit to read one chapter of Proverbs a day, you'll find tremendous spiritual truth there. Words of wisdom that can change your life!
And God has something else in store as we sift through His Word. Revelation 1:3Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand. See All... says, "Blessed is He who reads and those who hear the Words of this prophecy, and keep those things that are written in it; for the time is near." Read it. Listen to God and do it. So be ready to be inspired. Be ready to listen. Be ready to gain better instruction and gain better understanding. Because it's the most powerful and relevant book you'll ever study, the Bible.
Well you know what our world is like today. It's fast paced. It's ever changing and packed with stress. But there's a place you can go for solace. A place you can go for comfort. A place that you can go for encouragement—God's Word. It's there for you.
Study the Bible. Follow God's instruction manual and hold on to the Word of life. Because those questions, those questions that seem unanswerable, they can be answered. Those problems that seem insurmountable, they can be overcome. The great mysteries of life can be unlocked and opened to you and it can all happen through the power of the Word.
Remember our free offers and be sure to tell your family and friends all about us. Tune in again next week, at this same time, for another edition of Beyond Today. And join us in praying, "Thy Kingdom come." "
On This Day:
Rommel in Africa, Feb 12, 1941:
"On this day, German General Erwin Rommel arrives in Tripoli, Libya, with the newly formed Afrika Korps, to reinforce the beleaguered Italians' position.
In January 1941, Adolf Hitler established the Afrika Korps for the explicit purpose of helping his Italian Axis partner maintain territorial gains in North Africa. "[F]or strategic, political, and psychological reasons, Germany must assist Italy in Africa," the Fuhrer declared. The British had been delivering devastating blows to the Italians; in three months they pushed the Italians out of Egypt while wounding or killing 20,000 Italian soldiers and taking another 130,000 prisoner.
Having commanded a panzer division in Germany's successful French and Low Countries' campaigns, General Rommel was dispatched to Libya along with the new Afrika Korps to take control of the deteriorating situation. Until that time, Italian General Ettore Bastico was the overall commander of the Axis forces in North Africa—which included a German panzer division and the Italian armored division. Rommel was meant to command only his Afrika Korps and an Italian corps in Libya, but he wound up running the entire North African campaign.
The German soldiers of the Afrika Korps found adapting to the desert climate initially difficult; Rommel found commanding his Italian troops, who had been used to an Italian commander, difficult as well. When Hitler, preoccupied with his plans for his Soviet invasion, finally gave the go-ahead for an offensive against British positions in Egypt, Rommel's forces were stopped dead in their tracks and then forced to retreat. In the famous battle of El Alamein, the British Eighth Army—beginning in October 23, 1942—surprised the German commander with its brute resolve, and pushed him and his Afrika Korps back across and out of North Africa. (Ironically, the Arabs celebrated Rommel, called "the Desert Fox," as a liberator from British imperialism.) Retreat followed retreat, and Rommel finally withdrew from North Africa entirely and returned to Europe in March of 1943, leaving the Afrika Korps in other hands."
Jay still wasn't feeling well, and we were running late, so we went to a different congregation in Spring,TX which started an hour later.
The place was more difficult to find, so we were nearly late. It was interesting, and informative, but it didn't have the same warm feeling as the one that we had been going to in Humble. Maybe because there were a lot more people there. The service was longer so Jay was getting antsy as he had to get back to his mother. She had just had five teeth extracted, and he needed to get home to make her something to eat in the blender.
It was still a good day.