Because He was born, I do not keep Christmas

Movie poster from the new film "Thor 3: Attack of the Sugar Plum Faries"
Movie poster from the new film “Thor 3: Attack of the Sugar Plum Faries”

I forgot today was Christmas.

Last night my family and I arrived home after a long drive, and early this morning I had to drive my son to work. As we were driving through town it was eerie and calm. The “school zone” light was blinking, but there were no children and no cars on the road, and I said, “Wow, it’s creepy! Like some sort of ghost town.” He responded, “Yeah, I wonder why it’s like this?” We half-jokingly speculated that everyone knew something we didn’t, considering biohazard accidents and the rest.

Then it hit us: Oh, yeah! It’s Christmas!

Actually, the whole reason I was even taking him to work is because his employer is in our Church and he, too, was working. Today Boy #1 was apparently going to be helping to clean up after a little local flooding from some rains this weekend.

It aided our ignorance that we were on the road for ten hours last night, coming in a bit late. The fact that it was Christmas Eve meant that many of our potential stops for dinner were closed, but other than that the normal things associated with the evening (comments on TV, etc.) weren’t there, allowing us to wake up in our little bubble of no-Christmas reality.

Every year (or, perhaps, almost every year) I try to write a bit about why I don’t keep Christmas. I’ll try to keep it quick and simple this year: It is because of the fact of the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, that I don’t keep Christmas.

I wholeheartedly do believe that more than 2000 years ago a child was born of a virgin in the “little town of Bethlehem.” That child was God Incarnate–He was the Living Word who had existed with the One we now call God the Father for all Eternity Past. The Word was with God and the Word was God. And then, all of a sudden, here He was, in mortal, vulnerable, human flesh: One of us. I believe that He lived a life in perfect obedience to God, that He taught of the coming Kingdom of God and that God commands repentance to be a part of that Kingdom, that He was executed unjustly, that His blood was shed for humanity’s sins, that He was raised from the grave, and that He is in Heaven now, at His Father’s right hand, interceding for the saints, living within converted Christians through His Spirit, and awaiting the moment when He will return to complete the work of destroying the works of the devil and bringing to complete fullness the Kingdom of God in the Creation.

I am a Christian, and I believe with my whole heart that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, my Lord and Savior, my High Priest, and my soon coming King.

Consequently, I do not celebrate Christmas.

The reason is simple: The Scriptures make it clear that Jesus Christ would not want me to do so. And if I seek to follow Him, I will not keep a tradition He would find displeasing.

That Christmas is a celebration of pagan origins is an undisputed fact of history. Even mainstream Christianity agrees. I’ve seen Dr. James Dobson agree. I’ve seen Dr. R. C. Sproul agree. What we now call “Christmas” was introduced into Christianity from pagan sources, well after the time when Christians were being warned to “contend earnestly for the faith once delivered” (Jude 3) due to the corrupting influences coming into that faith. From Christmas Trees to the gifts beneath them, from the wreath of holly on the door to the mistletoe above it, from the burning Yule logs in the hearth to the ornaments that reflect its light–all of them are customs originating in pagan observances and worship traditions. Even some of the most conservative of mainstream Christian scholars agree on these facts.

The relevant question is whether or not Jesus Christ cares.

That really is the question: whether or not we keep such customs — whether or not we accept a day bearing His name that represents an observance born of the heathen worship days and customs of Saturnalia, Bruma, Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, and the rest — really comes down to whether or not our Lord and Savior wants us to do so.

And our means for knowing whether He would want us to is the Word He has left us with, the Bible, and how His Spirit confirms that word.

From the Bible’s perspective, the facts are simple. Jesus Christ condemned violating God’s laws and commandments in favor of our traditions, regardless of how “religious” those traditions might be (e.g., Mark 7:6-9). God clearly does not want us to adopt pagan customs to worship Him (e.g., Deut. 12:29-31, Jer. 10:1-2).

In the Scriptures we find clear condemnation of adopting the practices of heathen cultures and worship traditions for the sake of worshiping God. It doesn’t make a difference if we claim to be worshiping God instead of the false gods for which those practices were originally designed. Consider Deut. 12:31a, “You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way…” and Aaron’s comment in Exodus 32:5b, where Aaron declared time set aside to worship the golden calf idol a “feast to the LORD (YHVH).” Attaching God’s name to something He forbade and choosing to worship Him with those practices did not make them acceptable in God’s eyes.

Such commands stand between us and the Christmas celebration. And what did our living Lord and Savior tell us? Does He give us permission to set aside those commands so that they are no obstacle between us and the traditions we want? No, He did quite the opposite. He condemned such choices: “For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men…” (Mark 7:8). Jesus loved God’s commands, and He taught His followers not to lay those commands aside in order to keep traditions we think are better.

God commands not to worship Him through the practices of the pagans. Jesus condemns laying aside those commands for the sake of our traditions, however well-loved they may be.

Consequently, as a follower of Jesus Christ and a believer in the fact of His birth to a virgin so long ago, I cannot observe Christmas.

I know many who do, to be sure. My mother, until she died, kept Christmas. She didn’t understand what I and those who worship God in my Church have mercifully been shown. I know that she will have an opportunity in the future to learn, and I am thankful for that. I do not judge the sincerity of those who do keep these days — many of them do so with a passion and a zeal that I look at as an example to me, personally. But good intention does not excuse those who know better. And–through no wisdom or intelligence of my own, to be sure!–I know better.

I choose to worship Jesus Christ. I want Him to see in me, however imperfectly, someone He would see as a disciple–as a Christian. So I do not keep the day the world has attached His name to. I do not observe Christmas.

And I’m happy that way. Even if He had not provided other, biblical Holy Days to observe (and thankfully He has), I would still be happy. For although Christmas is generally understood and experienced as a day of joy for those who keep it, there is a profound joy I never would have accessed had I not learned the blessing of stepping away from Christmas and toward Christ. And in His mercy, He helped me to do that.

I know some who come across this post will find it offensive. It isn’t meant to be, and, yet, at the same time I would simply challenge you to make it a profitable offense and begin studying the matter. You might be surprised by what you find, but not all surprises are a bad thing. And it will be a more life changing surprise than anything you found under the tree this morning.


If you’ve got the courage, check out these magazine articles and explanatory booklets:

For those interested in past blog posts on the same or similar subjects, here are some:

Just another Jesuit, government-owned, mind-controlled goober rediscovering his blog

Howdy! I am not sure (and I am too lazy to look back and tell), but I think this is the longest I have ever been away from my blog! And it hasn’t suffered too much in my absence — there was traffic looking for a number of things, even though I wasn’t writing anything new. I’ll get to that in a moment.

First, let me say that I hope all of you had a wonderful Feast of Tabernacles! Ours at the Lake of the Ozarks was amazing. Many asked me if it would be there again next year, and all I can say is that (1) I don’t know, (2) the overall impression of people who attended is positive, (3) let HQ know if you want it there again, and (4) talk to God about it, since everything depends on where He chooses to place His name (Deut. 14:23, et al.).

The messages were powerful (the ones I heard, I should say; I didn’t listen to my own 🙂 ), and left me really wanting to come home and make of my life something worthy of Christ’s coming Kingdom and something that represents a taste of that Kingdom now. Wherever you were, I hope that your Feast was just as uplifting and edifying as ours was. I’m tempted to dive in and discuss the messages and other highlights of the Feast, but I think I’d rather save those things for another time — give myself time to go over my notes again and work to make what I learned a part of my life and not just my blog posting. However: for the record, it was awesome. My thanks to everyone who came to the Lake of the Ozarks for God’s Feast and my thanks to all who served with me in any capacity at all — you made it a wonderful Feast for my family and for each other, and I pray we take all God gave us and do some good with it!

I also learned during the Feast from my brother-in-law, Wade Brown, that someone out there believes that I am a Jesuit — or, at least, a Jesuit-controlled lackey — due to the fact that our Church falls under 501(c)(3) taxation guidelines (hence the title of this blog post). We laughed about it, because such a thought is, of course, stupid. It’s interesting. The sort of people whose minds are so corrupted and twisted as to swallow “whole hog” the sort of conspiracy drivel that would equate 501(c)(3) with Jesuit control of your church and government ownership of your members are the same sort of minds that you cannot reason with in any way whatsoever. I know. I’ve tried.

For instance, if I don’t make the statement, “I’m not a Jesuit nor am I controlled by Jesuits,” then I will be accused of “admitting” I am by my silence: “See, he didn’t deny it! I’m right!” Yet, if I do make such a statement–in fact, let me do so right now: I am not a Jesuit, nor am I controlled by Jesuits–then the response is “Well, he’s lying, just like Jesuits do!” You can’t win with such people. Their mind is set, and the facts are irrelevant.

Actually, the other response that such conspiracy addicts give is, “Well, he says he isn’t controlled by the Jesuits, but he doesn’t know about the top dealings of his church.” Yes, that’s right. I attend every single Council of Elders meeting, am blessed to be able to speak openly and privately with Dr. Meredith and Mr. Ames and Dr. Winnail and Mr. Wakefield on a regular basis, occasionally sit in (as do lots of folks on their own visits) on Dr. Meredith’s weekly meetings with his executives, and have unfettered access to the individuals who are actually running the Church under Jesus Christ, and yet I have somehow I’ve missed the giggling Jesuit Ninja hiding in the closets of Charlotte, North Carolina. You’re brilliant.

Unbelievable.

(Oddly, the people Wade mentioned to me don’t seem to care that they slander the person they claim to respect: Herbert W. Armstrong. He placed his corporation sole under the exact same 501(c)(3) taxation status up until the very day of his death in 1986. I suppose he was a Jesuit/Government/Reptilian Overlord/Freemason/Zionist puppet, as well.)

And there was a new one I hadn’t heard before: In the same exchange with my brother-in-law, it was claimed by the accuser that the Council of Elders of the LCG votes on matters and is a democracy. Really? Wow… I’ve been attending all of these Council meetings — both in person and in our phone conferences — and somehow I’ve missed every single vote they’ve ever taken to the point that I had no idea we voted at all! Why, the Council must take those votes when I am taking a bathroom break. Oooo, or maybe when they tell me we are all breaking for lunch, they let me leave the room while they furtively spend a few seconds electing someone or voting for something behind my back! That’s it! Why, those devious Jesuit/Zionist/Alien/Illuminati/Government mind-slaves!

Wait, wait, wait… Maybe there is another, more rational explanation… Maybe I’ve never participated in even a single vote in any decision during my tenure so far in the Council of Elders because we actually don’t vote, because we are actually an advisory council just like Mr. Armstrong’s was, because we actually believe in our own doctrinal positions on voting and government, and because the person who said otherwise has absolutely no idea what he is talking about. Hmmmm… I suspect that is more likely. 🙂

(In other 501(c)(3) news, I notice that one person who said that 501(c)(3) entanglements come with government control and force you to limit your message now takes what kind of donations for his website? Come on, you can guess! That’s right! He has now found a way for him to be comfortable with taking 501(c)(3) donations, himself. Wow — this stuff is like the gift that keeps on giving.)

Enough about all of that. It was good for a laugh at the Feast with my brother-in-law (thanks, Wade!), but, frankly, it is pretty sad. The devil has some people so wrapped up in conspiracy hooey that they not only can no longer think clearly or see straight and not only slander people without even the slightest of evidence, but they have also erected an idol of their conspiracies and don’t even know it. Yes, any time foolishness parades itself, it can be funny (I’ve put on a few parades like that, myself), but knowing that the root of it is an individual caught up in the devil’s deceptions and so entangled by them that they don’t even know the spiritual harm they are doing to themselves is just tragically sad. That’s part of why the lies that some of those individuals say about me don’t really bother me all that much. Just watching them flounder so helplessly in their own spiritual, emotional, and intellectual filth turns my desire, instead, to requesting of God that He do whatever He needs to do to prevent me from ever falling into such a spiritual tar pit.

And requesting of God, too, that He help such individuals in whatever way He can. I’ve spent, literally, hours and hours answering their questions (even though they wrote under an assumed name), and it did no good. I’ve spent time digging through online public archives and have sent them documents with Mr. Armstrong’s signature, and it does no good. God is help them, to be sure, if they are willing. But until then, it’s clear that there’s nothing I can do for them but pray.

Wow — I thought I said “enough about that,” above! Move on, Smith! All that gum-bumping (or, typing, I suppose) from one thing my brother-in-law had a laugh about at the Feast… Sorry about that! Moving on!

In other news, even though this blog has languished in neglect for about two-and-a-half months while I played at various camps (thanks for your prayers for those), did a TWP (which went great! 130 new folks!), taped some new programs (thanks for your prayers for those, too!), and worked on the Feast that has just concluded (woo hoo! the Feast!), the blog still got a good bit of traffic! Searches took people to various posts, and it has been kind of fun looking at what garnered people’s attention while I was away. Here are some of the posts people Googled their way to during the last few days of my absence…

And, perhaps one of the most obscure posts to receive some Google-love while I’ve been AWOL:

Finally, a post I was surprised did not receive much attention while I was gone, since it is usually a regular search engine stopping spot:

Actually, someone even asked me about that question this past week at the Feast, which was a happy moment. 🙂

Traffic on this blog has never been a big thing for me, else I would take the time to do more SEO, keyword analysis, etc., etc., etc., which is what Internet people do. (Though if you are interested in knowing how to do that, talk to an expert!) It has been, as I said way back at the beginning, a chance to keep my writing muscles active, provide a place for my congregation members to hear from me more regularly, and to post some TW news now and then, as well as — I hope — a source of at least a little traffic for the Work’s websites, lcg.org and tomorrowsworld.org. But given the weird, eclectic collection of stuff I have rambled on about over the years, it is interesting to see some of what people have been coming across over the last few days given that I haven’t posted anything new for a couple of months.

And speaking of rambling, I’m done! As is probably clear from the title, there wasn’t much of a point to this blog post other than to get my feet wet again, so it has, indeed, been pretty rambly. If that has made it unprofitable for you, please feel free to keep your receipt and request a refund. 🙂

Now that I am back posting, I hope to write again soon — hopefully on something a little more worthwhile!

A Couple of Unleavened Lessons

English: Matzah Bread (unleavened flatbread fo...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, this year’s Unleavened Bread has come and gone! I’m actually writing this on the day before, but I’m going to set it to be published on the Last Day of Unleavened Bread.

I often like to write up some of the lessons I’ve learned during the Days of Unleavened Bread, and often these focus on the removal of leaven. But there are lessons in the eating of unleavened bread, too! The scriptures are pretty clear: “Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread” (Exodus 12:15). (And Exodus 13:6.) (And Exodus 13:7.) (And Exodus 23:15.) (And Exodus 34:18, Leviticus 23:6, Numbers 28:17, Deuteronomy 16:3.) And there’s lessons from that, too. Just as leavened bread pictures sin in these days, unleavened bread pictures the righteousness we are to take in, instead.

One that came to mind this week is related to this diet I am on. It’s pretty strict about carbohydrates, and there was no room for them during the Days of Unleavened Bread, carbs and bread going, pretty much, hand-in-hand. Though the diet is going very well, and I have no interest in derailing it, of course I ate some anyway. I know I’m stating the obvious, but it was a good reminder that no matter what’s going on and whatever plans and goals we might have, we always have to make room and time for the things of God.

The other was related. As I was eating yet another plate of protein (beef in this case–very good!), I had set aside the bite of matzoh (my wife’s gluten free variety) and another unleavened cracker by the plate to eat after I was done. In the meantime, I was pushing some of the last bits of food onto my fork with my fingers (as the well-bred Texas Aggie I am), when I saw those two pieces of bread sitting there and thought, “Why am I using my fingers when I’ve got two decent little pieces of bread there?” So, I grabbed one and used it instead. Before that, they were sitting there waiting for me to finish my meal and eat them when I was done–frankly, just to make sure that I got my “unleavened bread” in. But it made me think: what’s the whole point of “taking in righteousness”? Isn’t it to put it to use in our lives? What good is it to set what we’re learning and studying aside and not incorporate it into our lives, where it is meant to make a difference? Righteousness is meant to “go to work,” as it were. “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it” (Isa. 55:11). God intends His word to accomplish something in us, not to sit next to our plates while the meal goes on, so to speak.

What are some things you learned this year? Feel free to let me know, below!

Because He Is Risen, I Do Not Keep Easter

I see that the Church has kindly reposted a commentary I wrote on Easter! I really liked that one. I’m not always the biggest fan of my own writing, but I tried to make that one simple and straightforward, since I thought that would be the best way for it to have its intended impact. Here are the first few paragraphs:

Because He Is Risen, I Do Not Keep Easter

I believe in the risen Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior of mankind. I believe that after His crucifixion on Passover, He was three days and three nights in the heart of the earth—as He said He would be. I believe He was then resurrected by His Father, restored to the glory He had with His Father before the world was.

He was the perfect Passover Lamb. He also became the perfect wave sheaf offering, accepted by His Father as the first of the firstfruits. In His resurrection, I see confirmation of the promise made to all those who truly follow Him that they, too, will one day be resurrected to live forever as He now does.

Consequently, I do not keep Easter.

Read the rest here: “Because He Is Risen, I Do Not Keep Easter”

It was actually a commentary that was conceived as a post on my blog. That remains one of the benefits of this blog, which is the chance to write without the pressure of being as polished as I would strive to be for one of our Church publications or websites while still staying in a “writing mode” and being able to ruminate with pen and paper (well, keyboard and LCD screen) in such a way that I can explore some topics I might write about in the future. I’ve said before that I don’t have a “dog in the hunt”, as it were, concerning my blog, and if it interfered with the other work I have to do or was somehow unhelpful, I’d be content to stop doing it. But this is one way in which I’ve found it really helpful.

There’s a reason Passover comes first

Howdy! These have been crazy days, to be sure, and not much blogging on my part. And this post will be little exception! However, I have had a thought turning around in my mind for a few weeks as the Holy Days approached, and I thought I would comment on it — or, rather, refer anyone passing by to a comment I made on it long ago in the Spring Holy Day season of 2007.  It concerns the reason the fact that Passover precedes the Days of Unleavened Bread is an important one, and I’ll add a little commentary here before sending you to that earlier post.

Passover pictures God acting first, as He always does. To me, the Passover-then-Days-of-Unleavened-Bread order typifies a great truth of Christianity: “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Passover reminds us that He loved us before we loved Him. And Unleavened Bread reminds us that the only acceptable response to God’s love is to love Him back — and repentance and turning to obey the laws of God is, indeed, how we love Him (John 14:15, 1 John 5:2-3). Those who place Passover a day late on the evening of the 15th of the first month, when we’ve already “deleavened,” get it backwards. Christ did not die for a people who had already repented and thrown sin out of their lives:

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Yes–He died for us while we were yet sinners. Leaven and all. Our repentance is a response to what He had done, hence the beginning of the Days of Unleavened Bread, picturing our response to the love and sacrifice of Christ, happens after Passover. Again, we love Him because He first loved us.

Well, that’s more original commentary than I had planned! What I really wanted to do was to refer to this post I wrote in 2007. It would have been better to bring it up right before Passover, but given it’s main thrust is that Unleavened Bread must be kept in the light of the lessons of Passover, I think it is still fitting. I hope you enjoy it! The “tricycle lesson” mentioned at the end of the post, as simple and obvious as the lesson may be, is probably one of the most personally meaningful learned-through-parenting lessons I’ve ever learned about life and God’s work in us, and I am thankful for it every year. In fact, it has become a staple of my baptism counseling.

Here’s the post:

Again, I hope you enjoy it, and have a wonderful First Day of Unleavened Bread!

On Talebearing, Pettiness, Food Fights, and Passover

Please forgive me for the awkward title, but this will likely be a rambling post (coffee drinkers, you might need to caffeine up!) and it was hard to sum it up in something pithy, yet it is all interrelated in some way. It is also poorly edited and quickly written, so beware, lest a misspelling or typo poke you in the eye.

This post is a follow up to something I said yesterday in my post concerning Mr. Dennis Luker’s death.

At the time when I went to my blog yesterday, I was thinking of posting some comments about lies and the lying liars who tell them (and, yes, it feels icky to borrow from Al Franken, of all people), because some new ones had come my way. For instance, a weird comment one made about Mr. Meredith surrounding himself with “yes men” — a subject I have discussed before (for instance: here and here) and mentioned that my personal experience (repeated numerous times in multiple contexts) is exactly the opposite. I’ve seen Mr. Meredith seek out contrary opinion, even strong contrary opinion, and I’ve seen individuals provide him with such. In fact, I, personally, respectfully gave him a different opinion on the phone once, for which he… yelled at me? chastised me? No: For which he thanked me. No one is perfect, to be sure (well, except, perhaps, for my Beautiful Wife), but Mr. Meredith is, indeed, surrounded by individuals willing to disagree with him–individuals he, himself, put in place. (Public service announcement: Just because someone doesn’t accept your ideas, that doesn’t mean that person only surrounds himself with “yes men.” It may just mean that after thinking about them the person thinks your ideas aren’t as good as you think they are. Learn to live with that.)

Another bunch of false stuff was brought to my attention on the website of a particularly self-righteous fellow, claiming that one of the new self-appointed prophets to join the ranks of self-appointed prophetdom is somehow having a “big impact” on the Church. Really? Where? I mean, seriously: Where? None of the members in my area have asked about where a bunch of people supposedly went. It didn’t come up in our Council of Elders meeting this week (or in any meeting this year, or in any Executive Luncheon I’ve been able to sit in on) or when I was in Charlotte last month. No single minister in the entirety of the Church has mentioned that they are suddenly missing folks that I have heard. In fact, things have been the opposite–this particular self-appointed prophet hasn’t really made any impact at all, much like most previous self-appointed prophets in the Church’s history (if not less than those). Really. None. And that’s pleasantly stranger than it should be. When someone goes off and starts his own work, it can sometimes become a magnet for those who were already grumbling and distracted by their own personal confusions, and you sometimes see a handful follow (until they find something else, of course); yet in this case I don’t even know of much of that–actually none at all. Even in the 1½ states I pastor directly, most didn’t even seem to notice he’d gone off to begin his own work. Of those few who did mention to me that they had heard about it, the sentiment of several seemed to be that they had sadly thought for some time that he might do something like that and that they would plan to pray that God humbles him lovingly and gently so that he might repent and come back one day–the sort of sentiment one would expect when you see someone hurting themselves in some way, all the while knowing that they probably have to go through the experience to learn what they need to learn. (I should add that it wasn’t that those few hadn’t read his own account of things; it’s just that the unmentioned reality that was present between the lines of that account were so obvious to them.) But beyond such prayers for the individual’s mindset by the few who even mentioned that they noticed, it hasn’t even been much of a blip on the radar.

(To be fair, the “particularly self-righteous fellow” who made the bogus claim on his blog about a non-existent bunch of phantom “departing members” says such a mind-bogglingly vast number of things that are so ridiculously and hilariously false to the point of being delusional that one can only assume that he is on medication. So, perhaps it is the peyote that is talking.)

So, having the weird, false comments of rumormongers, talebearers, and self-promoting accusers brought to my attention, I thought I would write another post yesterday (having already written one: “Warning: The internet is full of ninnies”) talking about the mental vomit that is gossip, rumors, talebearing, and accusation-farming. (My apologies for the phrase “mental vomit”–I know it’s not pretty. At the same time, that’s part of what makes it accurately descriptive.) But two things hit me, one at the time, and one since then.

The “since then” one was expressed well in a comment by iammarchhare on yesterday’s post:

I think I know the rumors you’re speaking of, and what’s interesting to me isn’t that there are those who will spread them. The Church has always been scattered because of the enemy’s tactics to persecute in any way those who love God. No, what surprises me so much is that so many will listen in with eager ears (“itching ears”?) to unfounded slander and insinuation, make mountains out of molehills, and give credence to those whom the accuser will use.

He’s right. The weird accusations of such folks will always be there. Satan is pretty consistent. The greater concern is whether or not we will actually spend time reading or listening to them — that is, to borrow iammarchhare’s words, whether or not we will give credence to those whom the Accuser is actively using. If we see the devil’s fingerprints on someone’s website, why continue to go there eagerly for “news” or to “get some dirt”? Don’t we dirty ourselves in that process? Isn’t it a bit like digging in the sewer for a bit of undigested food we might want? (Again, please forgive the yucky nature of that word picture, but, again, there is a reason it’s an appropriate one.) One person and I were joking about such a person’s website a couple of years ago (actually, it was the peyote user’s), and he said to me, “Yeah, I just hold my nose when I click there.” We laughed at the time — yet, if I am having to “hold my nose”, why am I there? And if so much of what is being said is rotten verbal refuse, is it worth digging into it to find something that may, in reality, be just as tainted as the rest? It’s like another minister in our own Church told me: “You know, all the things this fellow says about our own Church are so ridiculously wrong and full of fantasy, why in the world would I put any stock in what he says about other organizations?”

The Bible has so many warnings about talebearers, gossipers, rumormongers, those given to accusation, etc.–even in cases unlike these false ones I’ve highlighted, where what they say may actually be true–that it would be shameful to approve of what they do by participating. And if we think of every website we visit as sitting down for a “mental meal,” what sort of food am I eating while I am on their website? What is it turning me into while I’m there, chowing down? Aren’t the answers obvious? Talk about “unclean meat”… Can we really believe God is pleased if we scrupulously avoid a ham sandwich like it’s the plague, yet we dive in and digest “information” from places that He so soundly and passionately condemns? Really, can we?

While any time is a good time to examine oneself, the Passover season is a fantastic time. As we place in our mouths the bit of unleavened bread at Passover picturing Jesus Christ’s body broken for us, hopefully those who need to will have considered beforehand how much time they spend eating filth served by the Accuser — filth that same Jesus Christ hates very much.

And mentioning Passover brings me to the second thing that hit me. (Ha! You probably thought I forgot that I said “two things”! Well, frankly, I’m surprised I remembered also…) This one hit me the moment I heard the news of Mr. Luker’s death and stayed my hand on the post I was going to put up instead.

How petty is all of this stuff?

Now, don’t get me wrong. There are times when the petty things need to be addressed, too, but we need a sense of perspective. It does bother me that people can be harmed by stupid rumors that they hear, not because they, themselves, go searching for the websites of various self-appointed-ones and peyote-users (in which case, any harm would be self-inflicted), but because some of those who foolishly do so then spread the false information to others. On one hand — especially one-on-one as a pastor, but sometimes through little not-widely-read blogs like this — it is good to address the “small things.”

But it doesn’t do any good to lose sight of the fact that they are small things. Again, the self-appointed prophet I referred to hasn’t even been a blip on the radar in terms of affecting the Church or the Work of God. The same with the apparently-medicated rumormonger I had in mind, too. As loudly as the latter likes to talk about his self-proclaimed deep faithfulness to God (it is always amusing when someone boasts about their humility; they need to read Ben Franklin) and how much “impact” he fantasizes he is having in his railings against the “corporate churches of God”, what has been the result? Again, not even a blip. Not even a micro-blip.

[Side note: Could any of these individuals (not just the two I referred to) have any significant impact the future? Of course they could. Those who are unwilling to heed God’s commands concerning talebearers could certainly whip things up into a fevered frenzy, even if it is much ado about (literally) nothing or less than nothing. That’s always possible. Liars, gossips, and accusers do find an audience at times, especially when the Accuser, himself, is helping out so generously. But for the moment, and, frankly, for the easily foreseeable future? Nope. No impact at all. The only impact they seem to possess apparently exists mostly in their minds.]

So, here I am, talking about things of, fairly literally, zero importance and of microscopic impact: Individuals who currently have about as much real influence on the Church I am blessed to serve as a light breeze has on the Empire State Building–noted by the few who happen to see a leaf blowing by, but then forgotten as a trivial observation.

And that makes all their doings, sayings, mutterings, etc. simply petty stuff.

Then, in stark contrast to the petty stuff, Mr. Dennis Luker died yesterday. Even though I did not know him personally, his death simply highlighted to me yesterday the pettiness of all the other stuff. I believe that is one of the reasons King Solomon suggested as he did in Ecclesiastes 7:

“Better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for that is the end of all men; and the living will take it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by a sad countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth” (vv.2-4).

There is something about that “end of all men” that gives us pause and makes us think–helps the living to take certain things to heart. And the thought I had after hearing the news was that the goofy delusions and misleading accusations of a few prima donnas on the Internet was, in the end, equivalent to little more than someone throwing broccoli in a school cafeteria hoping to start a food fight. And, in the spirit of another passage in Ecclesiastes, there actually may be a time to hurl a brussels sprout back. There is a time for snark and a time to talk about things that deserve snark–even quite snarkily snark. But yesterday I was reminded that those times are rarer than living on the Internet can make them seem because such things and such people are, in the end, petty.

Then there is Passover. Faced with the magnitude of what Jesus Christ did for me and the death of the Son of God, how can I justify in this season focusing inordinately on the pettiness and the pretensions of Internet prima donnas? Yes, I note the irony that in a post addressing how silly it would be to snarkily focus on pettiness I did, actually, spend some time snarkily focusing on pettiness. I should pay more attention when I start writing these sort of “stream of consciousness” posts, huh?

Still, the point and the feeling remains. Again, it isn’t, again, that there isn’t a time for spending effort on such things, perhaps. I’ve toyed for weeks now with the idea of beginning an informal series of tongue-in-cheek posts that will be, I think, of value given the times in which we live and given the fact that last couple of decades probably only represent the first few floats in a parade of self-appointed prophets God warned about a long time ago. But, in the big scheme of things, such efforts lack even a shadow’s depth compared to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and it is hard to get one’s neurons firing on such topics when the mind is brain with such an awesome and humbling thing as that. There just isn’t room.

I will try to stop my ramble here. The fact is that the Son of God died for me. He died for the rumormongers, too, and I can’t ignore that. More than that, He lives now. And, miracle of miracles, He does more than live but actually lives in us if we are willing to allow Him, helping us to dedicate ourselves more and more fully to the way of life He taught and to the commandments He loved. At this time of year, we are confronted with the fact that the Ever-living Creator actually died–a seemingly impossible and wondrous contradiction–so that His creation might have hope of truly living. The heart of One whose own life defined what life is stopped beating, so that the hearts of those He loved might one day truly begin to beat. That thought is so huge that I struggle to try to type it out, knowing that the best words are certainly escaping me and feeling frustrated at the poor job I am doing at conveying such a simultaneously heart-rending and hope-inspiring truth.

Faced with that reality, food fights can wait. I have to leave pettiness to the petty, and should, instead, simply pray that I do not accidentally fall into their number–or, if in stupidity I have already wandered into their crowd, pray that He will mercifully reach in and pull me out. And then, to go further, I have to ask Him to help me see them as He does–with righteous indignation at their actions, to be sure, but with a real love for them that, without God’s spirit, would be beyond us. Certainly beyond me.

Let the ever-present ungodly rumormongers, devilish accusers, and faux-enlighted self-appointed-ones preach their little fantasies to their little audiences. God is bigger than the world they seek to craft with their tales. This is the season of more important things. If any of us have unwittingly assisted Satan in his work by dining on their poisonous words in the hopes of finding a tasty morsel here or there, or, much worse, by spreading it to others, may God have mercy on us. This is a great season for repenting of that sort of sinful stupidity and removing some bookmarks from our web browsers if we need to. It’s a season for focusing on things of more depth. More significance. Eternal significance.

The accusers, talebearers, and reality-challenged ones will always be there, and when this set finally passes out of the world–should the world last that long–they will simply be replaced by “new blood” recruited by the devil for his work of attacking God’s people, His ministry, and His work.

For us to give them our attention: That’s the real shame, and a leaven that should be put out of our houses.

Unleavened Ruminations

English: Loaves of bread at Stroud, Gloucester...
A soon-to-be-temporarily-declared “Big Pile O’ Sin” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today, instead of the regular pre-Sabbath chores my mother-in-law manages the boys through, they are beginning a bit of their deleavening, which (among other things) has me in a “Holy Day” frame of mind, today.

I still hope to do this year as I try (with varying degrees of success) to do every year and to list the lessons that come to mind while deleavening before the Days of Unleavened Bread. However, this has been a pretty crazy time, and the run up to the Holy Days doesn’t look as though it will be any less crazy, so I am preemptively posting this list, below, of previous posts in which I did just that, in the event that some might find their discussions of loaded donuts and taco bombs worthwhile. Hopefully there will be a 2013-edition to come, but if not, well, we’ll always have Paris.

BTW: Someone did tell me that this year they were going to write down lessons that come to them as they are deleavening, and I applaud that. I think it’s a neat element to add to the preparation for the Passover and the Spring Holy Days and helps encourage reflection. I used to do that, off and on, before turning this blog into my repository. And it’s a helpful reminder, too, to talk about these things with your kiddos, if you have any. It’s good to get them thinking about such things early!

Have a great Sabbath!

(Actually, you could just search “unleavened bread” on the blog by typing it in the search box at the top (or clicking on “unleavened bread” anywhere in this sentence!), which will list every mention of it on the blog. I did so and was surprised! It’s a much longer list than the eight I have above.)

The Feast of Tabernacles begins Sunday Night!

Just a quick, celebratory note to say that the Feast of Tabernacles begins Sunday night in less than 24 hours! What a pleasure to be keeping it here with the men and women of the Living Church of God at the time God commands and in one of the locations where He has placed His name, the beautiful Lake of the Ozarks area!

Sabbath services today were wonderful. It was a bit of a logistics challenge, with many more than the number registered, but nothing that couldn’t be solved by more chairs and patience–that precious fruit of God’s spirit! The messages were both very helpful (my thanks to Mr. Brown and Mr. Friz) and the various volunteers who served in various capacities were very much appreciated. I joked during announcements that this was the inaugural service of the Sardine Church of God. 🙂 What a joy to work with God’s people, where hardship is met with laughs and good nature rather than complaints and anger–truly, what a privilege.

Wherever you are keeping God’s Festival, I pray that it is powerfully profitable and deeply meaningful for you. I know that here at the Lake of the Ozarks, things look wonderfully promising already!

Thank God for the Day of Atonement!

Just a brief note to wish all of you reading this a profitable Day of Atonement!

I won’t pretend: My children don’t necessarily consider the Day of Atonement their favorite Holy Day, and for obvious reasons (“I’m soooooo huuuuuuuungry…” plus seemingly infinite variations on that theme). They do say, though, that they very much look forward to what the Day of Atonement pictures: The removal of Satan from this world and the beginning of mankind’s being able to completely and fully experience “at-one-ment” with God on a global scale in a way that it has not been able to for 6,000 years.

I hope all of us can remember how special this day is, longing to be rid of this world’s tempter and tormentor, and longing for the freedom pictured by the jubilee God attaches to this day. As Mr. John Ogwyn used to say, there can be no Feast without the Fast. Removing Satan is an essential ingredient in all the wonderful things we enjoy meditating on and imagining during the Feast–that glorious world ahead, full of the wonder and delight that the Scriptures describe in sumptuous detail.

Jesus Christ truly did come to “destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8), and this Holy Day gives us the chance to meditate deeply on that and to thank God and glorify Him for such wonderful news. Have a marvelous, deeply profitable Day of Atonement!

Feast of Trumpets begins soon!

Louis was great, but I long to hear those angels…

This is just a quick greeting to all of those out there about to begin observing the Feast of Trumpets and the Fall Festivals of God! As He says in Leviticus 23:2, “these are My feasts,” and what a privilege to be invited to observe them!

More than being invited to observe the Holy Days, of course, but being granted to understand the Holy Days… That is a privilege beyond words.

I know that the Bible does not command us individually to blow a trumpet or shofar on the Feast of Trumpets–there were those set aside for that, unlike removing leaven during the Days of Unleavened Bread, which was the task of everyone–and perhaps it will be the task of those appointed ones again in the Millennium, when God reconstitutes the Levitical priesthood, under that of Melchizedek, for His purposes. But if you can blow one sometime that day or if you can listen to a recording of someone who knows how to do it really well, it is a fascinating, piercing sound!

I actually have a shofar app on my iPhone that I may attempt to play tomorrow during my sermon, though it’s a sad substitution for the real thing, methinks. Though it is still loud and piercing–just ask the poor deacon whose sermonette I interrupted four-or-so years ago by accidentally hitting the button while he was speaking. (If you’re reading this and you were there, I’m sure you remember!) He did so well: Just stood there calmly while I frantically fumbled around like an idiot with my phone trying to make it stop. Isn’t it amazing how when those times occur you can suddenly forget how in the world your phone works? Eventually he said very calmly to the crowd, “We’ll just pause for a moment until Mr. Smith is done.” Very nice. 🙂 One of my favorite Trumpets memories, ever.

For those interested, here’s a link to a YouTube video with some nice “shofaring”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0jR20-0sy1Y (as always, caveat navita stans)

Have a wonderful and meaningful Fall Holy Day! And may all of us hear the seven angels and their trumpets very soon.