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Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas and holidays

Now that Christmas 2011 has passed and the holiday spirit lingers I think it is as good a time for this brief document.

Christmas, as far as believers in Christ are concerned, is no more a biblical or commanded day to be observed by the saints in Christ. There are two weak and tragic attitudes and views disciples in Christ often take towards observance of holidays.

The first view in favor of observance of holidays is on the basis of the legal recognition of a holiday, such as Christmas, in America. This, plus its cultural relevance, is all the permission some Christians need to observe a holiday. This view is earthly and carnal and hardly reflects the disciples response as beign with the knowledge and understanding of the scriptures.

The second view is the rejection of Christmas as much as Halloween and all holidays as being of pagan origin. Some of the passages cited include Colossians, "Let no one therefore judge you in eating, or in drinking, or with respect to a feast day or a new moon or a Sabbath day, 17 which are a shadow of the things to come; but the body is Christ’s." The encouragement by Paul to the Colosse saints was to NOT ALLOW or permit anyone to impose their judgments on the believer. It was NOT a prohibition by Paul to the saints at Colosse not to observe any particular holiday. Elsewhere in Romans 14 Paul's point was to admonish both the brother who judges another just as he himself is judged concerning observance or non-observance of days.

A related element of this view concerns the pagan origin of holidays, such as Christmas, as the reason Christians are not to observe it. This is mistaken.

The truth is Paul was free from the law of Moses. He definitely would never teach the saints to observe a holiday, whether pagan or established by God. Yet, this is precisely what Paul did with Pentecost.

For Paul had determined to sail past Ephesus, that he might not have to spend time in Asia; for he was hastening, if it were possible for him, to be in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. (Acts 19)

He arrived in Jerusalem (Acts 21) to learn there was a lot of misinformation about his teaching. He accepted the advise of the saints in Jerusalem, went with other men who had a vow into the temple in accordance with the law of Moses and Jewish custom. Incidentally, this did nothing to appease the ignorant, misinformed Jews who still stirred the people to seize Paul.

Is Paul's observance of Pentecost to be taken by the saints in Christ today as an authoritative example to observe Pentecost? After all Pentecost was NOT a pagan holiday. It was established by God.

When the mob seized Paul it provided him the opportunity to proclaim the gospel. (Acts 22) Paul was never at loss as are many saints today to draw a connection between his circumstance and the message of the kingdom. For example he took the inscription, "To the Unknown god" as his perfect cue to preach. Similarly, when the provocation in his spirit could bear it no longer he proclaimed the gospel. (Acts 17:16) Of course, Paul, like Jesus, would never turn down the opportunity or an invitation to preach in synagogue. How many brethren would refuse lest misinformation about them might spread and they fall out of favor with men.

It's time, especially teachers and preachers of the word to the people of God, developed an understanding beyond mere trite, bland responses on observances of holidays. This is equally true of teachers and preachers who rail ignorantly about pagan holidays and do nothing to enlighten the saints nor to proclaim Jesus. This is vital as much for the saints in Christ in Nigeria, Eygpt or America.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year in 2012 to one and all. Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say, rejoice.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Serving Tables

Youth leaving church

I am leery about a study which focuses on concerns about young leaving the church. The reason I am leery is because of the mindset. It is that same mindset as John's disciples who expressed their concern to John that Jesus was baptizing and all were coming to him. Few leaders and fellowships have the mindset of a servant which John expressed to his disciples. He understood the importance that Jesus must ascend even as John must descend.

A similar response among youth and church leadership

I'm not so much concerned about who goes where or comes from where as much as what they UNDERSTAND about their decision to come/go and do what it is that attracts or compels them. This is true whether it involves the manner of praise in a particular fellowship or the social action of that fellowship.

Invariably, the response by those captivated by the concerns revealed in studies such as this is to either ramp up or cut back on whatever it is they are or are not doing (such as praise, social action, etc.) in order to increase or cutoff the flow of those either coming or going to this church or that church. These responses, unfortunately, are in the same vein as those who decide to leave or to come. The similarity of the response by youth and church leadership is in their lack understanding.

First social action in New Testament

The Bible example on social action is specific. It is the first instance in the NT of the social action (a term not necessarily wrong or evil) by the church. It's not merely that the term does no appear in the NT, but that the concept was not in the church's agenda.

However, that first social action itself was not to those in the world but to the widows in needs. (Acts 6) Certainly, it was not an attempt by the church then, as she so typically seeks today, to change a social status or reform society. This is not to say the church ought not or lacks biblical authority to do so, but the charity instance in Acts began with the widows in the church, first.

The NT requirements for serving tables

Furthermore, I have often noted the requirement by the apostles for those who were to take on this menial task of serving tables. They were to be "full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom." It is significant that the Holy Spirit displayed for the church the work of two to the seven selected for this task, not for their distribution to the widows, but their powerful preaching. They were Stephen and Philip.

The Holy Spirit gives words

Is this to say the church ought to increase or cutback on her social action in the community? No. It is to say that when individuals or the church collectively serves widows, mow lawns, drive elderly to their medical appointments, etc., that the fullness of the Holy Spirit is to be evident for all who draw near to them to inquire what and why they have come to do such a thing. I would not presume to dictate or script response flash cards for those workers. The Holy Spirit through a reading and discussion of the Acts 6 passage is able to give insight and understanding but He is always there with a ready word (Luke 12:12) for those who are about the Father's business of serving tables.