“Does a Christian have to attend every service a church has?”


 

Of course, with some churches—the big ones with three or four services every Sunday and another on Saturday—it’s neither feasible nor expected that a member attendeveryservice. But attending the services most churches offer places no real burden on one’s schedule. Many people grew up in households that required church attendance: “When the doors are open, we were there!” Such testimonies are rarer today, as church attendance in general is declining.

Does a Christianhaveto attendeveryservice his church provides? The simple answer is “no.” There is no New Testament command for believers to maintain perfect attendance at church. Attending every church service does not make a person “holier” than the one who misses a service here and there. Our relationship with God is not based on rule-following or punching a time clock at church; it’s based on our position in Christ (1 Corinthians 1:2). The question that matters in eternity is not “How many times was I in church” but “Did I truly know Jesus Christ?” (Matthew 7:21-23).

However, there is a problem with having a nonchalant attitude toward church attendance. We should not be ambivalent in the matter. God’s plan in this age involves the church, which Jesus promised to build (Matthew 16:18), and we should be supporting God’s plan enthusiastically.

“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25). It’s interesting that, even in the early church, there were those who made a “habit” of not fellowshipping with other believers. Their example is not to be followed. The church is where our spiritual gifts best edify the Body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-12), and it is difficult to “spur” each other to love and good works if we are not attending church. How can we encourage one another if we’re never around one another?

Christians should becommittedto their local church,involvedin their local church, andsupportiveof their local church. This requires regular church attendance. A believer will naturally love his brothers and sisters in Christ (1 John 4:21), and that love will manifest itself in a desire to fellowship, not avoidance. When the church is praising the Lord, all believers should want to join in the praise; when the church is praying for others, all believers should want to join in the prayer; when the church is studying the Word, all believers should want to join in the learning.

We live in a world of distractions. So many things call us away from our commitments, our involvement, and our support of the local church: sports activities, work schedules, community projects, etc.—the list is never-ending. There are valid reasons for missing a church service, and we must avoid legalism in such matters. At the same time, we should make sure absences are the exception, not the rule. Each believer should examine his own heart to determine his motives for missing church. It could be that a rearrangement of priorities is in order.

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2013 in review


The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 19,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 7 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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“What is the origin of Christmas?”


Christmas is a popular December holiday celebrated by large numbers of people all around the world. It has long been known as the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, which occurred over 2,000 years ago. However, not all who celebrate the holiday do so with Jesus’ birth in mind. In fact, there are many traditions associated with Christmas that actually began as a part of pagan culture.
The exact date of Jesus’ birth is unknown, as the Bible does not give specifics as to the dates of either His birth or conception. But in the second century A.D., a Roman Christian historian named Sextus Julius Africanus calculated Jesus’ birthdate to be December 25 (nine months after Africanus believed Jesus was conceived). In spite of the assumptions made in Africanus’s line of thinking, the date was widely accepted.

At that time, Roman culture already celebrated a holiday on December 25: Saturnalia, the winter solstice. This tradition honored Saturn, the god of agriculture, and was celebrated with merriment, feasting, and gift giving. When Rome eventually instituted Christianity as the state religion in the fourth century, the Roman church converted Saturnalia to a Christian holiday in order to commemorate Jesus’ birth. Christians have celebrated it as such ever since.

The question then becomes, “Since Christmas has its origins in pagan traditions, is it acceptable for Christians to celebrate it?” The fact remains that, although Christmas has some associations with a secular holiday, Christians still celebrate it to remember the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It may be a matter of conscience for some, for as Paul states in 1 Corinthians 10:23: “‘Everything is permissible’—but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible’—but not everything is constructive.” There are many others who believe the holiday has been redeemed due to the deeper meaning it has been given. These individuals continue to celebrate Christmas based on Paul’s words further on in the passage: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (verse 31).

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“Is it wrong to say ‘Xmas’ instead of ‘Christmas’?”



There are many who view the word Xmasas part of an overall “war on Christmas” They view it as a blatant attempt to take Christ out of Christmas. While it is undeniable that some use Xmas in that manner, the actual origin of the word Xmashas nothing to do with taking Christ out of Christmas.

In Greek, the original language of the New Testament, the word for “Christ” is Χριστός, which begins with the Greek letter that is essentially the same letter as the English letterX. So, originally,Xmaswas simply an abbreviation of Christmas. No grand conspiracy to take Christ out of Christmas. Just an abbreviation.

But there is no denying that there is a trend to, in a sense, take Christ out of Christmas. In pursuit of tolerance, inclusiveness, and political correctness, some are attempting to obscure the Christian origins of Christmas—as if our society’s materialism has not already obscured the meaning of Christmas. Whether they refer to it as “Xmas” or “the winter holidays” or something else, some will not be satisfied until the celebration is entirely secularized. In response to this, rather than getting angry or complaining about the use ofXmas, we should be sharing the love of Christ through word and deed.

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“What should be the focus of Christians on Thanksgiving?”



The original thanksgiving celebration was held by the Pilgrim settlers in Massachusetts during their second winter in America in December, 1621. The first winter had killed 44 of the original 102 colonists. At one point their daily food ration was down to five kernels of corn apiece, but then an unexpected trading vessel arrived, swapping them beaver pelts for corn, providing for their severe need. The next summer’s crop brought hope, and Governor William Bradford decreed that December 13, 1621, be set aside as a day of feasting and prayer to show the gratitude of the colonists that they were still alive.

These Pilgrims, seeking religious freedom and opportunity in America, gave thanks to God for His provision for them in helping them find 20 acres of cleared land, for the fact that there were no hostile Indians in that area, for their newfound religious freedom, and for God’s provision of an interpreter to the Indians in Squanto. Along with the feasting and games involving the colonists and more than 80 friendly Indians (who added to the feast by bringing wild turkeys and venison), prayers, sermons, and songs of praise were important in the celebration. Three days were spent in feasting and prayer.

From that time forward, Thanksgiving has been celebrated as a day to give thanks to God for His gracious and sufficient provision. President Abraham Lincoln officially set aside the last Thursday of November, in 1863, “as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father.” In 1941, Congress ruled that after 1941, the fourth Thursday of November be observed as Thanksgiving Day and be a legal holiday.

Scripturally, we find things related to the issue of thanksgiving nearly from cover to cover. Individuals offered up sacrifices out of gratitude in the book of Genesis. The Israelites sang a song of thanksgiving as they were delivered from Pharaoh’s army after the crossing of the Red Sea (Exodus 15). Later, the Mosaic Law set aside three times each year when the Israelites were to gather together. All three of these times [Unleavened Bread (also called the Feast of the Passover) (Exodus 12:15-20), Harvest or Pentecost (Leviticus 23:15-21), and the Feast of Ingathering or Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:33-36)] involved remembering God’s provision and grace. Harvest and Tabernacles took place specifically in relation to God’s provision in the harvest of various fruit trees and crops. The book of Psalms is packed full of songs of thanksgiving, both for God’s grace to the Israelite people as a whole through His mighty deeds, as well as for His individual graces to each of us.

In the New Testament, there are repeated admonitions to give thanks to God. Thanksgiving is to always be a part of our prayers. Some of the most remembered passages on the giving of thanks are the following:

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1Thessalonians 5:16-18).

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6).

“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men” (1 Timothy 2:1).

Of all of God’s gifts, the greatest one He has given is the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ. On the cross of Calvary, Jesus paid our sin debt, so a holy and just Judge could forgive us our sins and give us eternal life as a free gift. This gift is available to those who will call on Christ to save them from their sin in simple but sincere faith (John 3:16;Romans 3:19-26;Romans 6:23;Romans 10:13;Ephesians 2:8-10). For this gift of His Son, the gift which meets our greatest need, the Apostle Paul says, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15).

We, like the Pilgrims, have a choice. In life there will always be those things that we can complain about (the Pilgrims had lost many loved ones), but there will also be much to be thankful for. As our society becomes increasingly secular, the actual “giving of thanks to God” during our annual Thanksgiving holiday is being overlooked, leaving only the feasting. May God grant that He may find us grateful every day for all of His gifts, spiritual and material. God is good, and every good gift comes from Him (James 1:17). For those who know Christ, God also works everything together for good, even events we would not necessarily consider good (Romans 8:28-30). May He find us to be His grateful children.

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“How should a Christian respond to beggars?”



There are many opinions on the question of how to respond to beggars and panhandlers, which admittedly is a difficult one. Some people feel comfortable handing out money, believing it is then up to the beggar to determine how to use it, whether to buy food or alcohol/drugs. Others give food/water instead of money, understanding that some beggars would not use the money for the uses the giver intended. What is the right thing to do? Biblically speaking, we are to help the poor. But, does our responsibility end with the giving, or should we give and make sure our gifts are used for the right purposes?

Rather than giving money or food/water, some prefer to offer transportation to a local shelter and/or providing financial support directly to the shelter. By supporting rescue missions financially, we help the poor who would otherwise be begging on the street. If the local church has a food bank, contributing to it and then directing the beggar there for help may be the best way to address the need without enabling the sin. Church food banks also provide an excellent opportunity to share the gospel with the homeless and needy.

Other ways to help involve giving food or gift cards to local restaurants, handing out energy bars or other non-perishables to the people on the street corners, or if the situation allows, taking the needy person(s) to a restaurant/grocery store and buying him/her a meal. God wants us to help the poor and blesses us when we do. In the words of the psalmist David we are told, “Blessed is he who has regard for the weak; the LORD delivers him in times of trouble. The LORD will protect him and preserve his life; he will bless him in the land and not surrender him to the desire of his foes” (Psalm 41:1-2). It is indeed a worthy cause to help the poor, including the sign-holders on our street corners. Each of us must respond to these people as the Lord guides, not forgetting at the same time to offer prayers for these needy people.

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“Does God love Satan? Since we are to love our enemies, does that mean we should love Satan?”


No, God does not love Satan, and neither should we. God cannot love that which is evil and unholy, and Satan embodies all of that. He is the enemy (1 Peter 5:8); the evil one (Matthew 6:13); the father of lies and a murderer (John 8:44); the accuser of God’s people (Revelation 12:10); the tempter (1 jThessalonians 3:10); proud, wicked and violent (Isaiah 14:12-15); a deceiver (Acts 13:10); a schemer (Ephesians 6:11); a thief (Luke 8:12); and many more evil things. He is, in fact, everything that God hates. The heart of Satan is fixed and confirmed in his hatred of God, his judgment is final, and his destruction is sure. Revelation 20 describes God’s future plan for Satan, and love for Satan has no part in it.

Jesus’ command that we love our enemies (Matthew 5:44) is meant to govern interpersonal relationships in this world. We love God, and we love people (even our enemies), who are made in God’s image. Angels are not made in God’s image. We are never told to love the holy angels, and we are certainly never told to love the evil angels.

Since Satan is everything that is antithetical to the God we love, we cannot love Satan. If we loved Satan, we would be forced to hate God, because holiness is the opposite of sin.

God has already determined that there will be no forgiveness for Satan; we are the objects of God’s sacrificial love, shown on the cross. As God was lovingly redeeming mankind, He was putting Satan “to open shame” (Colossians 12:15). God’s judgment of Satan will be part of His great love for us.

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