Celebrate the Resurrection Every Sunday

Celebrate the Resurrection Every SundayPalm Sunday, Good Friday and Easter are all valid historically. All of the events surrounding the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ are factual, so should we celebrate Easter? We suggest that we should celebrate the resurrection every Sunday.

The communion was established to assist us in doing that (1 Corinthians 11:23-30). The first century Church worshiped every Sunday. Giving (1 Corinthians 16:2) and celebrating the Lord’s Supper to remember the death and resurrection of Christ were part of that worship (Acts 20:7). We should copy their example. It is good that at least once a year the whole world recognizes the activity of God in sending His son to die as a sacrifice for the sins of all. We would urge everyone to look into the significance of the resurrection and the witnesses that give credence to the story.

Another aspect of the Easter season is that many human inventions have sprung up around the historical event. Lent was instituted as a way to focus on the Easter event. It was a reminder of the forty days Jesus fasted in the desert as He began His ministry. Abstaining from eating eggs to celebrate Lent resulted in people preserving eggs by boiling them. German Lutherans began decorating the eggs and invented the Easter Hare as a judge of children allowing gifts to be given to good children. Eastern Orthodox believers dyed the eggs red remembering the blood of Christ. The special days of Palm Sunday and Holy Friday were added to aid believers in focusing on the season.

Like Christmas and Santa Claus, these Easter additions to the simple biblical message have a long history, but the Bible message is clear. Passages like 1 Corinthians 11:23-29 and Matthew 26:26-28 give us a guide that we can follow no matter what the local traditions. While we may enjoy the human inventions, let us worship as God has called us to worship, and let us do so with understanding and reverence. Celebrate the resurrection every Sunday.
— John N. Clayton ©2019

Christmas Traditions vs. Bible Facts

Christmas Traditions vs. Bible Facts
It is interesting to see how many Christmas traditions are not found in the Bible. A classic example is the song “We Three Kings” which we often hear at Christmas time. Tradition even identifies those “kings” by name, appearance, and which gift each brought. They are:

Melchoir – old – white hair – bringing gold – a gift for a king.
Gaspar – young – beardless – bringing frankincense – a fragrant gum – smoke from burning is said to symbolize the prayers of God’s people ascending.
Balthazar – black – heavy beard – bringing myrrh – a fragrant resin from Arabia used in embalming (John 19:39, Psalms 45:8, Proverbs 7:17).

The Bible does not mention how many there were. It just says that they came from the east to Jerusalem. The word translated “wise men” in Matthew 2:1 is also used in Acts 8:9,11 and Acts 13:8 in reference to a sorcerer. The biblical reference to them being kings is Psalms 72:10 – a Psalm written for Solomon which mentions three kings from Tarshish, Sheba, and Seba. Matthew 2:11 tells us the three gifts.

Who saw the “star?” The shepherds of Luke 2:8-20 did not see the star, but were told about the birth of Christ by an angel. Herod didn’t see the star even though the birth was not far from Jerusalem. Since the wise men were not Jews and apparently were from a sorcerer type of background, they came from their homes to Jerusalem, not Bethlehem. When they learned the baby was to be born in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:5-6), they were guided by the “star” to the place where Jesus was. Christmas traditions often place that in the manger. Matthew 2:11 says the young child and his mother were in a house. The fact that Herod killed all the baby boys in the area that were two years old or younger indicates that the wise men come at a later date to the house where Joseph, Mary, and Jesus were living.

So what was the “star.” It certainly was not a typical star. Normal stars don’t move and stand over a manger, and they would have been visible to Herod or anyone else in the region. Modern attempts to explain the star as a comet, a supernova, or an aurora simply don’t work. The conception of Christ was a miracle. You don’t explain it by parthenogenesis or any scientific method. You either accept it or reject it on faith. Similarly, the star the wise men saw was not a natural object, and they knew that. In the Old Testament, there was a pillar of fire that led Israel out Egypt and into the promised land. The ancient Jews called it the Shekinah glory (See Exodus 13:21, 24:17, 40:48 and Ezekiel 1:28, 10:18-19, and 11:23).

Christmas traditions aside, the wise men from the east would be part of the ancient oriental world, and they would have carried the message to the Gentiles in that area. The shepherds represent the Jewish community of the area where they shared the news. The story is amazing, beautiful and pregnant with meaning. It doesn’t need the embellishments of modern Christmas traditions.

If you are interested in learning more about Christmas traditions vs. Bible facts, we recommend a book called Star of Jacob by Wayne Leeper. You can borrow it from this ministry or purchase it at THIS LINK.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Why We Need Christmas

Why We Need Christmas
Why do we need Christmas? That’s a question worth asking. Many people dislike Christmas for various reasons, and some are good. I have some reasons why we need Christmas.

First, for those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere, Christmas comes at the time of the winter solstice when daylight seems much too short. Christmas serves to cheer us up and get us through those winter doldrums. That leads to a second reason–the decorations and especially the lights which bring beauty and cheer, even on those cold, dark days.

A third reason is the emphasis on family at Christmas. It seems that everyone wants to spend time with family and those we love as we carry on the Christmas traditions we enjoy. Related to that is the fourth reason, and that is giving. We enjoy giving to others. Jesus said there is more joy in giving than in receiving (Acts 20:35). We naturally tend to want others to give to us. But when we give to others, we learn the truth of what Jesus said.

Reason number five relates to giving. God’s love for us prompted Him to give the greatest gift of all. God became a flesh-and-blood person and lived among us (John 1:14). The greatest reason why we need Christmas is to remind us of the gift God gave to us. He came to show us how to live and to give himself for us. If we could all accept the gift Jesus offers and follow His teaching and example, the joy of Christmas would last all year long.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Giving Something of Value

Giving Something of Value
Giving something of value (such as money) to someone for an item of equal value is buying and selling.

Giving something of value to someone without requiring anything in return, while expecting that person to give something of similar value is creating an obligation.

Giving something of value to someone who has done something to deserve it is compensation.

Giving something of value to someone who does not deserve it, but who will appreciate it is love.

Giving something of value to someone who does not deserve it, and who will perhaps not appreciate it is “agape.”

Agape” is the Greek term used in the Bible to describe God’s kind of love. It’s the “I don’t care if you spit in my face, I will still love you” kind of love. It’s the kind of love Jesus demonstrated when, as he was being crucified, he openly forgave those who were doing it. The gift of Jesus coming to Earth to live among those who would eventually despise and kill him is true “agape.” The gifts we give are lame by comparison.

The story of Jesus from birth to death and resurrection is a story of giving. It is indeed the most amazing concept we can imagine, and a story nobody would dare to make up. The Creator of the universe takes the form of one of His creatures to bring them to Himself. I can see why many people refuse to believe it. It’s incredible, but I believe it’s true.

When we realize it is true, we must ask ourselves, “What can I give in return?” We should not hold back anything–but we do. God is the one who gives without holding back, but our giving has strings attached. We should say with the Jewish King David, “I will not offer to God that which costs me nothing.” In fact, we should offer to God that which costs us everything. That would still not match God’s gift to us.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Atheist and Satanic Seasonal Displays

Atheist and Satanic Seasonal Displays or Christmas Nativity
The apparent solution to all of the lawsuits and negative publicity about Christmas displays on public property is to allow atheist and Satanic seasonal displays. In South Bend, Indiana, where our ministry is located, the Northern Indiana Atheists have erected a display titled “Oh Come All Ye Faithless.” On the grounds of the Michigan Capitol a Satanic group called “The West Michigan Friends of the Satanic Temple” is attempting to repeat the “Snaketivity” display that was erected last year by the Satanic Temple’s Detroit chapter. It featured a red snake coiled around a black cross with a pentagram on it with a sign that read “The Greatest Gift is Knowledge.”

Our ministry agrees with the free speech of all of these displays, even though we disagree with their belief system. There is an adage that says “I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to my death your right to say it.” As a veteran, I firmly support that statement.

I agree with the Northern Indiana Atheists that there should be a separation of Church and State. It is interesting that this atheist group is a non-profit and thus takes advantage of the same rights that churches have. Jesus said to render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. The government has no right to interfere with religious freedom or to persecute religions that are trying to serve and help others. Unfortunately, government restrictions and attempts to control religious belief are increasing in America as we have shown in our posts during the past year.

The view that knowledge is a great gift is not contestable. Calling it “the greatest gift” is an opinion that is poorly supported. However, Proverbs 8 talks about wisdom and Romans 1:18-32 extols the importance of knowledge. Atheist attacks on the Bible and the concept of God are demonstrations of bias, hatred, ignorance, and prejudice – all of which fly in the face of knowledge. This ministry is an educational program trying to present knowledge that can be helpful in addressing the problems in the world and individual lives. Atheist and satanic seasonal displays do nothing to solve those problems.

These displays remind us of Paul’s discourse to the intellectuals in Athens in Acts 17:21-33. He said, “I found an altar with this inscription ‘to the unknown god.’ Whom, therefore, you ignorantly worship, Him I declare to you.” More sharing and listening on the part of all of us will result in less conflict and more cooperation. We need to address the real problems humanity faces in today’s world, and Christianity does that.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Data from South Bend Tribune December 4, 2018, page A1 and December 8, 2018, page A-2.

Why Do We Need Christmas?

Why Do We Need Christmas?
Why do we need Christmas? That’s a question worth asking. There are many people who dislike Christmas, and they have various reasons. I have some reasons why I think we need Christmas.

For those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere, Christmas comes at the time of the winter solstice when daylight seems much too short. Christmas serves to cheer us up and get us through those winter doldrums. That leads to a second reason–the decorations and especially the lights which bring beauty and cheer, even on those cold, dark days.

A third reason is the emphasis on family at Christmas. It seems that everyone wants to spend time with family and those we love as we carry on the Christmas traditions we enjoy. Related to that is the fourth reason, and that is giving. We enjoy giving to others. Jesus said there is more joy in giving than in receiving (Acts 20:35). We naturally tend to want others to give to us. But when we give to others, we learn that what Jesus said was true.

Reason number five relates to giving. God’s love for us prompted him to give the greatest gift of all. God became a flesh-and-blood person and lived among us (John 1:14). Why do we need Christmas? The greatest reason for Christmas is to remind us of the gift God gave to us. He came to show us how to live and to give himself for us. If we could all follow the example Jesus gave and accept the gift he offers, the joy of Christmas would last all year long.
–Roland Earnst © 2017

The Secret of Gift Giving

The Secret of Gift Giving
Giving something of value (such as money) to someone for an item of equal value is buying and selling. Giving something of value to someone without requiring anything in return, while expecting that person to give something of similar value is creating an obligation. Giving something of value to someone who has done something to deserve it is compensation. Giving something of value to someone who does not deserve it, but who will appreciate it is love. Giving something of value to someone who does not deserve it, and who will perhaps not appreciate it is “agape.” That is the secret of gift giving.

“Agape” is the Greek term used in the Bible to describe God’s kind of love. It’s the “I don’t care if you spit in my face” kind of love. It’s the kind of love Jesus demonstrated when, as he was being murdered, he openly forgave those who were doing it. The gift of Jesus coming to Earth to live among those who would eventually despise and kill him is true “agape.” The gifts we give are lame by comparison.

The story of Jesus from his birth to his death and resurrection is a story of giving. It is truly the most amazing concept we can imagine, and a story nobody would dare to make up. The Creator of the universe takes the form of one of his creatures to bring them to himself. I can see why many people refuse to believe it. It’s incredible, but I believe it’s true.

When we realize it is true, we must ask ourselves, “What can I give in return?” What is the secret of gift giving? When it comes to giving ourselves it is not holding hold back anything. That is not easy to do. God is the one who gives without holding back, but our giving has strings attached. We should say with the Jewish King David, “I will not offer to God that which costs me nothing.” In fact, we should offer to God that which costs us everything. That would still not match God’s gift to us.
–Roland Earnst © 2017

Christmas Date: December 25?

Christmas Date
One of the interesting questions about Christmas is why people observe it as the date of Christ’ birth, and how December 25 was chosen as the Christmas Date.

Many people spend a lot of energy condemning the observance of Christmas as the birth of Christ, because the Bible doesn’t tell us to celebrate it, and because it almost certainly is not the actual date of His birth. Paul dealt with this kind of issue in Romans 14, and he clearly indicated what our attitude should be. In verses 5 and 6, Paul wrote, ”One man considers some days to be more sacred than others while another considers all days to be alike. On questions of this kind, everyone must decide for himself. The man who values a particular day does it in the Lord’s honor, and he who does not regard it does so to the Lord.”

Biblical Archaeology magazine had an interesting summary of the December 25 choice of the date for Christmas in their November/December 2013 issue. It may be instructional for all of us to understand the selection of the Christmas date:

“Most (but not all) Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus on this date. It was first identified by Christian historian Sextus Julius Africanus in 221 A.D. In his five-volume treatise Chronographiai, he calculated the day of Annunciation (Jesus’ conception) to be March 25 in the year 1 B.C.–the first day of the calendar year and 5,500 years after the Creation of the world, according to his estimates–thereby resulting in Jesus’ birth on December 25 of the same year. Later historians came up with the date March 25 for the Annunciation believing there was a connection between the date of the crucifixion, March 25, and the Annunciation. The Eastern Church also linked Jesus’ conception and birth but placed his conception on April 6 and his birth on January 6. In Armenia, Christmas is still celebrated on January 6. For the rest of the East and liturgical churches in the West, January 6 came to be celebrated as Epiphany, marking the arrival of the magi to the Nativity. The 12 days between Christmas and Epiphany became ‘the 12 days of Christmas.’ Many countries–including Russia, Serbia, Egypt, and Ethiopia–celebrate Christmas on January 7 and Epiphany on January 19 because they hold to the older Julian calendar, which is 13 days behind the modern Gregorian calendar.”

Regardless of the Christmas date, we hope that you will remember to do as Paul wrote and honor the Lord on any and every day, all day.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Joseph’s Role in Christmas

Joseph's Role in Christmas
Many of us remember news broadcaster Paul Harvey, who had a series he called “The Rest of the Story.” He would tell us things related to a current news story that we might not be aware of, but which were significant to the story. I suggest that Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus Christ, is “the rest of the story” in this season as we look at Joseph’s role in Christmas.

Joseph was a Jew, as was Mary (Matthew 1:1-17). In the Jewish system, the marriage relationship was complex. The groom would make a verbal declaration to the bride of his intent to marry her. This promise involved a gift, it was made in the presence of two witnesses, and it could not be revoked without a formal divorce. The groom and bride would not have relations or live together for a year as the bride stayed with her parents. At the end of the year, the groom would come and take the bride to his family home and the marriage would be consummated. Part of the reason for this was undoubtedly to prove that the bride was not pregnant and that her claim to be a virgin was true. If it were established that the bride was not a virgin, she would be stoned to death by the men in the town according to Deuteronomy 22:20-21.

In Joseph’s case, it seemed clear that Mary was not a virgin because she was pregnant (Matthew 1:18-19). This meant that she could be stoned to death for violating the Jewish law. We see this in John 8:3-5. When the lawyers and Pharisees quoted the law, Jesus told the sinless ones to start throwing stones. They were all afraid to cast the first stone and one-by-one they slipped away.

Joseph loved Mary, and you have to know that his heart was breaking at the situation. He had a dream in which an angel told him that the baby Mary was carrying was a special creation of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:20-25). For that reason, Joseph should not fear that he was breaking the Jewish law. It would have been easy for Joseph to explain away the dream as a figment of what he wanted, or as a product of stress. Instead, he accepted the dream and went on with the marriage.

Joseph sets the standard of obedience to God by accepting Mary and the situation she brought into his life. He accepted being a father to Jesus and went through all of the painful experiences of a Jewish father (Luke 2:41-48). He did all of that even though he didn’t understand it all (Luke 2:49-50).

Joseph is an unheralded hero of the Christmas story. We need to follow his example of being obedient to the things God calls us to do, no matter what life and circumstances may bring upon us. Joseph’s role in Christmas should be the “rest of the story” for us.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

France Erases Christianity from Public View

France Erases Christianity from Public View
If you remember studying the history of France, you will recall that Christianity in one form or another had a major role in the history of that nation. In 2004 the French passed a law banning religious symbols in public. Now the French have decided that anything that reflects in a positive way on Christianity must be obliterated as France erases Christianity from the public view. Recent incidents are:

The government ordered that a cross atop a statue of Pope John Paul II in a town in Brittany sculpted by Russian artist Zurab Tsereteli must be removed. It conflicts with the law banning religious symbols in public.
Greek yogurt pots sold in a French supermarket chain were decorated with pictures of Greek villages. However, the Orthodox crosses on the churches in the pictures were removed because of the law.
A charitable organization wanted to place posters in the Paris transport system inviting donations for Christians suffering persecution in the Middle East. The transport system refused to allow them because of the Christian reference.
The attack on Christianity is unique because public religious activity for other religions is encouraged. The mayor of Paris staged an event at taxpayer expense to celebrate the end of Ramadan.

As France erases Christianity from public view, we see the beginning of that kind of government bigotry in the United States. It shows its ugly head when Christmas scenes are displayed.
–John N. Clayton © 2017