Archive for December, 2016


Find out how Christmas Traditions and how Christmas is celebrated in lots of different countries and cultures around the world! Find out how your ancestors celebrate Christmas.

Carols were first sung in Europe thousands of years ago, but these were not Christmas Carols. They were pagan songs, sung at the Winter Solstice celebrations as people danced round stone circles (The word carol originally meant to dance to something). The Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year, usually taking place around the 22nd December. The word Carol actually means dance or a song of praise and joy! Carols used to be written and sung during all four seasons, but only the tradition of singing them at Christmas has really survived.

Early Christians took over the pagan solstice celebrations for Christmas and gave people Christian songs to sing instead of pagan ones. In 129, a Roman Bishop said that a song called “Angel’s Hymn” should be sung at a Christmas service in Rome. Another famous early Christmas Hymn was written in 760, by Comas of Jerusalem, for the Greek Orthodox Church. Soon after this many composers all over Europe started to write ‘Christmas carols’. However, not many people liked them as they were all written and sung in Latin, a language that the normal people couldn’t understand. By the time of the Middles Ages (the 1200s), most people had lost interest in celebrating Christmas altogether.

This was changed by St. Francis of Assisi when, in 1223, he started his Nativity Plays in Italy. The people in the plays sang songs or ‘canticles’ that told the story during the plays. Sometimes, the choruses of these new carols were in Latin; but normally they were all in a language that the people watching the play could understand and join in! The new carols spread to France, Spain, Germany and other European countries.

The earliest carol, like this, was written in 1410. Sadly only a very small fragment of it still exists. The carol was about Mary and Jesus meeting different people in Bethlehem. Most Carols from this time and the Elizabethan period are untrue stories, very loosely based on the Christmas story, about the holy family and were seen as entertaining rather than religious songs. They were usually sung in homes rather than in churches! Traveling singers or Minstrels started singing these carols and the words were changed for the local people wherever they were traveling. One carols that changed like this is ‘I Saw Three Ships’.

Etching of old Caroling Singing Men from: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Koledniki-valvasor.jpg

When Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans came to power in England in 1647, the celebration of Christmas and singing carols was stopped. However, the carols survived as people still sang them in secret. Carols remained mainly unsung until Victorian times, when two men called William Sandys and Davis Gilbert collected lots of old Christmas music from villages in England.

Before carol singing in public became popular, there were sometimes official carol singers called ‘Waits’. These were bands of people led by important local leaders (such as council leaders) who had the only power in the towns and villages to take money from the public (if others did this, they were sometimes charged as beggars!). They were called ‘Waits’ because they only sang on Christmas Eve (This was sometimes known as ‘watchnight’ or ‘waitnight’ because of the shepherds were watching their sheep when the angels appeared to them.), when the Christmas celebrations began.

Also, at this time, many orchestras and choirs were being set up in the cities of England and people wanted Christmas songs to sing, so carols once again became popular. Many new carols, such as ‘Good King Wenceslas’, were also written in the Victorian period.

New carols services were created and became popular, as did the custom of singing carols in the streets. Both of these customs are still popular today! One of the most popular types of Carols services are Carols by Candlelight services. At this service, the church is only lit by candlelight and it feels very Christmassy! Carols by Candlelight services are held in countries all over the world.

The most famous type of Carol Service might be a Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, where carols and Bible readings tell the Christmas Story.

This year for Christmas I wanted to do something totally different. I wanted to include all of my friends, followers and family, from around the world in celebration of Christmas by wishing everyone a Merry Christmas in their native language.

Some languages below use different characters and alphabets, so I have also spelt them in English as best I can.

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE

African Languages

Afrikaans (South Africa, Namibia)

Geseënde Kersfees
Akan (Ghana, Ivory Coast, Benin) Afishapa
Amharic (Ethiopia) Melikam Gena! (መልካም ገና!)
Chewa (Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe) Moni Wa Chikondwelero Cha Kristmasi
Dagbani (Ghana) Ni ti Burunya Chou
Edo (Nigeria) Iselogbe
Fula/Fulani (Niger, Nigeria, Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Sudan, Togo, Guinea, Sierra Leone) Jabbama be salla Kirismati
Hausa (Niger, Nigeria, Ghana, Benin, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Togo) barka dà Kirsìmatì
Ibibio (Nigeria) Idara ukapade isua
Igbo/Igo (Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea) E keresimesi Oma
Kinyarwanda (Rwanda, Uganda, DR Congo) Noheli nziza
Lingala (DR Congo, Rep Congo, Central African Republic, Angola) Mbotama Malamu
Luganda (Uganda) Seku Kulu
Ndebele (Zimbabwe, South Africa) Izilokotho Ezihle Zamaholdeni
Shona (Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Botswana) Muve neKisimusi
Soga/Lasoga (Uganda) Mwisuka Sekukulu
Somali (Somalia, Djibouti) Kirismas Wacan
Sotho (Lesotho, South Africa) Le be le keresemese e monate
Swahili (Tanzania, Kenya, DR Congo, Uganda) Krismasi Njema / Heri ya Krismasi
Tigrinya (Ethiopia and Eritreia) Ruhus Beal Lidet
Xhosa/isiXhosa (South Africa, Zimbabwe, Lesotho) Krismesi emnandi
Yoruba (Nigeria, Benin) E ku odun, e ku iye’dun
Zulu (South Africa, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland) UKhisimusi omuhle
Afganistan (Dari) Christmas Mubarak (کرسمس مبارک)
Albanian Gëzuar Krishtlindjen
Arabic Eid Milad Majid (عيد ميلاد مجيد)
Which means ‘Glorious Birth Feast’
Armenian Shnorhavor Amanor yev Surb Tznund (Շնորհավոր Ամանոր և Սուրբ Ծնունդ)
Which means ‘Congratulations for the Holy Birth’
Belgium

Dutch/Flemish

Vrolijk Kerstfeest
French Joyeux Noël
German Frohe Weihnachten
Walloon djoyeus Noyé
Alsatian E güeti Wïnâchte
Bulgarian Vesela Koleda
China

Mandarin

Sheng Dan Kuai Le (圣诞快乐)
Cantonese Seng Dan Fai Lok (聖誕快樂)
Cornish Nadelik Lowen
Croatian (and Bosnian) Sretan Božić
Czech Veselé Vánoce
Danish Glædelig Jul
Esperanto Feliĉan Kristnaskon
Estonian Rõõmsaid Jõulupühi
Finnish Hyvää joulua
France

French

Joyeux Noël
Breton Nedeleg Laouen
Corsican Bon Natale
German Frohe Weihnachten
Greek Kala Christouyenna or Καλά Χριστούγεννα
Georgian gilocav shoba-akhal c’els
or გილოცავ შობა-ახალ წელს
Greenland

Greenlandic

Juullimi Pilluarit
Danish (also used in Greenland) Glædelig Jul
Hawaiian Mele Kalikimaka
Holland (Dutch) Zalig Kerstfeest or Zalig Kerstmis (both mean Merry Christmas), Vrolijk Kerstfeest (Cheerful Christmas) or Prettig Kerstfeest (Nice Christmas)
Hungarian Boldog karácsonyt (Happy Christmas) or Kellemes karácsonyi ünnepeket (pleasant Christmas holidays)
Icelandic Gleðileg jól
India

Bengali (also spoken in Bangladesh)

shubho bôṛodin (শুভ বড়দিন)
Gujarati Anandi Natal or Khushi Natal (આનંદી નાતાલ)
Hindi Śubh krisamas (शुभ क्रिसमस)
Kannada kris mas habbada shubhaashayagalu (ಕ್ರಿಸ್ ಮಸ್ ಹಬ್ಬದ ಶುಭಾಷಯಗಳು)
Konkani Khushal Borit Natala
Malayalam Christmas inte mangalaashamsakal
Marathi Śubh Nātāḷ (शुभ नाताळ) or Natal Chya shubhechha
Mizo Krismas Chibai
Punjabi karisama te nawāṃ sāla khušayāṃwālā hewe (ਕਰਿਸਮ ਤੇ ਨਵਾੰ ਸਾਲ ਖੁਸ਼ਿਯਾੰਵਾਲਾ ਹੋਵੇ)
Sanskrit Krismasasya shubhkaamnaa
Shindi Christmas jun wadhayun
Tamil kiṟistumas vāḻttukkaḷ (கிறிஸ்துமஸ் வாழ்த்துக்கள்)
Telugu Christmas Subhakankshalu
Urdu krismas mubarak (کرسمس)
Indonesian Selamat Natal
Iran

Farsi

Christmas MobArak
Kurdish (Kumanji) Kirîsmes u ser sala we pîroz be
Irish – Gaelic Nollaig Shona Dhuit
Israel – Hebrew Chag Molad Sameach (חג מולד שמח)
meaning Happy festival of the Birth
Italy

Italian

Buon Natale
Sicilian Bon Natali
Ladin Bon/Bun Nadèl
Japanese Meri Kurisumasu (or ‘Meri Kuri’ for short!)

Hiragana: めりーくりすます

Katakana: メリークリスマス

Korean ‘Meri krismas’ (메리 크리스마스) or ‘Jeulgaeun krismas doeseyo’ (즐거운 크리스마스 되세요)
Latin Felicem Diem Nativitatis (Merry Day of the Nativity)
Latvian Priecïgus Ziemassvºtkus
Lithuanian Linksmų Kalėdų
Macedonian Streken Bozhik or Среќен Божик
Madagascar (Malagasy) Tratra ny Noely
Maltese Il-Milied it-Tajjeb
Malaysia

Bahasa/Malay

Selamat Hari Natal
Malayalam Puthuvalsara Aashamsakal
Manx (spoken on the Isle of Man) Nollick Ghennal
Mexico (Nahuatl) Cualli netlācatilizpan
Montenegrin Hristos se rodi (Христос се роди) – Christ is born
Vaistinu se rodi (Ваистину се роди) – truly born (reply)
Native American / First Nation Languages
Apache (Western) Gozhqq Keshmish
Cherokee Danistayohihv &Aliheli’sdi Itse Udetiyvasadisv
Inuit Quvianagli Anaiyyuniqpaliqsi
Navajo Nizhonigo Keshmish
Yupik Alussistuakeggtaarmek
This page has a large list of Merry Christmas Native/First Nation Languages
Nepali Kreesmasko shubhkaamnaa (क्रस्मसको शुभकामना)
New Zealand (Maori) Meri Kirihimete
Norwegian God Jul or Gledelig Jul
Philippines

Tagalog

Maligayang Pasko
Ilokano Naragsak Nga Paskua
Ilonggo Malipayon nga Pascua
Sugbuhanon or Cebuano Maayong Pasko
Bicolano Maugmang Pasko
Pangalatok or Pangasinense Maabig ya pasko or Magayagan inkianac
Warey Warey Maupay Nga Pasko
Papiamentu – spoken in the Lesser Antilles (Aruba, Curaçao, and Bonaire) Bon Pascu
Polish Wesołych Świąt
Portuguese Feliz Natal or Boas Festas (Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year)
Romanian Crăciun Fericit
Russian s rah-zh-dee-st-VOHM (C рождеством!) or
s-schah-st-lee-vah-vah rah-zh dee-st-vah (Счастливого рождества!)
Samoan Manuia Le Kerisimasi
Scotland

Scots

Blithe Yule
Gaelic Nollaig Chridheil
Serbian Hristos se rodi (Христос се роди) – Christ is born
Vaistinu se rodi (Ваистину се роди) – truly born (reply)
Slovakian Veselé Vianoce
Slovene or Slovenian Vesel Božič
Somali Kirismas Wacan
Spain

Spanish (Españo)

Feliz Navidad or Nochebuena (which means ‘Holy Night’ – Christmas Eve)
Catalan Bon Nadal
Galician Bo Nadal
Basque (Euskara) Eguberri on (which means ‘Happy New Day’)
Sranantongo (spoken in Suriname) Swit’ Kresneti
Sinhala (spoken in Sri Lanka) Suba Naththalak Wewa (සුබ නත්තලක් වේවා)
Swedish God Jul
Swiss Schöni Wiehnachte
Thai Suk sarn warn Christmas
Turkish Mutlu Noeller
Ukranian ‘Веселого Різдва’ Veseloho Rizdva (Merry Christmas) or ‘Христос Рождається’ Khrystos Rozhdayetsia (Christ is Born)
Vietnamese Chuć Mưǹg Giańg Sinh
Welsh Nadolig Llawen
Sci-fi & Fantasy Languages!

Klingon (Star Trek)

toDwI’ma’ qoS yItIvqu’ (Our Savior’s birthday you-enjoy!)
Quenya (Lord of the Rings) Alassë a Hristomerendë (Joyous Feast of Christ)
Sindarin (Lord of the Rings) Mereth Veren e-Doled Eruion (Joyous Feast of the Coming of the Son of God)

The concept of multiculturalism can be taken several different ways, though two are more commonly used. The first is the idea of cultural diversity within a certain political or geographic area. The second is a social or political effort to enforce a certain level of cultural diversity. The biblical view of multiculturalism deals with both aspects, though not in an overly prescriptive way. Practically, the Bible is strongly in favor of multiculturalism in the sense that various languages, foods, styles of music, and customs are part of our human heritage. And all people, of all cultures, are equally valued by God. Politically, the Bible has more to say about respecting authority than it does about specific policies. Theologically, the Bible does not support the idea that all cultural religious ideas are equally true or should be treated as such.

According to Scripture, multiculturalism, in the sense of practical diversity, is exactly what we will see in heaven. The Bible speaks of a vast number of people “from every nation, tribe, people and language” praising God at His throne (Revelation 7:9). The principle of multiculturalism is seen in the Bible’s teaching that race, culture, and gender do not separate us in God’s eyes (Galatians 3:28; Romans 1:16). The Bible even encourages cooperation with cultural norms, so long as they don’t conflict with God’s commands (1 Corinthians 9:22; 10:33). So, in the sense that there are many colors, cultures, and races that God has created and that He values, multiculturalism is an extremely biblical concept. What God creates and values, we should also value.

Politically, the Bible has little to say about multiculturalism beyond the command to respect authority (Romans 13:1–2). By necessity, this means conforming to certain aspects of the local culture. Claiming an unlimited right to offend others is not only unbiblical, it’s unhelpful. An insistence on retaining a totally separate culture from one’s host nation or people is likewise not supported by Scripture. At the same time, love and care for our neighbors means tolerating a certain level of disagreement (Matthew 5:39; Romans 15:1; 1 Corinthians 8:13). So, a biblical view of multiculturalism involves a certain level of political submission and tolerance. At the same time, Christians are commanded to obey God before obeying men (Acts 5:28–29), so when laws or cultural norms directly conflict with biblical concepts, we are obligated toward civil disobedience.

The one area where a biblical perspective directly conflicts with certain styles of multiculturalism is theologically. It is common for multiculturalism to be taken to an extreme of “relativism,” where no particular viewpoint is seen as actually true, correct, or moral. Typically, this is only applied to religious ideas. The claim that all religious ideas are true, all concepts of God are equally valid, or every approach to religion is correct is incompatible with the Bible (John 14:6; 3:36; 1 Timothy 2:5; Exodus 20:2–3). Christians cannot participate in a style of multiculturalism that embraces spiritual error as if it were spiritual truth (2 Timothy 4:3; Galatians 1:8), even if their stand results in negative social consequences (John 15:19).

Multiculturalism, in practice, is simply an expression of God’s creativity. There is much to be valued in different ideas, perspectives, and tastes (Proverbs 11:14; Romans 14:5). To what extent a particular nation enforces certain choices on others is not so much a biblical question as a political one. The Bible does not support the transformation of multiculturalism into relativism, however. Christians are obligated to be loving, respectful, and tolerant (1 Peter 3:15–16; 2:17); at the same time, we are commanded not to participate in the sins of any particular culture (Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 11:3), even those of our own culture (Romans 6:17–18; 1 Corinthians 6:9–11).

Diversity is, basically, variety. In recent times, the word diversity has taken on the specific connotation of “variety of people within a group”—the differences among the people being racial, cultural, gender-based, etc. Diversity was God’s idea. Even a cursory study of science reveals an amazing variety of plant and animal life. People, God’s final creation, are diverse, too. He did not create us as clones or robots. He created two different genders (Mark 10:6). The creation of male and female is diversity at its most basic—the sexes are very different, yet complementary.

Another act of God that created diversity occurred at the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:9). Humankind was clustered together, and God wanted them to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Genesis 9:1). To expedite their obedience, He confused their languages, making it impossible for them to work together. From there, humanity spread out across the earth, and people with the same language remained together. Over time, cultures, races, and regional dialects emerged and resulted in the diversity we now know.

Diversity is part of being human. God delights in the plethora of differences His human creatures possess. The book of Revelation describes the final gathering of God’s people from “every nation, tribe, and tongue” (Revelation 7:9). The angels and elders around God’s throne adore Jesus with the words “with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9). So God enjoys the diversity within the human race. We are each created in His image for His pleasure and glory (Revelation 4:11; Colossians 1:16). He designed us the way we are and delights in His handiwork (Psalm 139:13–16).

However, in our modern culture, the focus on diversity can become its own god. Diversity itself is revered rather than the One who created that diversity. An emphasis on diversity tends to highlight our differences. God is more concerned with unity (Ephesians 4:3). Galatians 3:28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” God is saying that our differences are not what should define the children of God. Those who belong to the Lord Jesus should first define themselves as God’s children. We must be willing to set diversity aside in favor of unity in spirit. Jesus’ passionate prayer in John 17 shows that His desire for His disciples was that “they may be one as you and I are one” (verse 22).

So, what does it mean to be “one”? When we are born again (John 3:3), we are created anew in Christ Jesus. Our fleshly differences become secondary to our new nature in Christ. We are unified around the centrality of God’s Word. We have “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5). Regardless of racial, cultural, or gender differences, God’s children hold to His Word as their final authority on all matters, including cultural and social issues. Some try to use “diversity” as an excuse to justify immorality or homosexuality (1 Corinthians 6:9). While we all have different sin strongholds, we cannot allow unrepentant sin to continue under the guise of diversity. The diversity God created is good; sin can indeed be diverse, but God has nothing to do with it.

Human differences such as race, temperament, and culture are to be celebrated, tolerated, and incorporated in our goal of being “one” in Christ (John 17:20–23). However, when diversity is made into an idol, we become self-centered and divisive. When every difference is treated as sacred, selfishness rules and oneness is sacrificed in favor of individual preference. When we exalt our preferences over unity, we become demanding and proud, rather than selfless and forgiving (Ephesians 4:32; Philippians 2:4). John 17:23 encapsulates the desire of Jesus for all His children. In this last, long, recorded prayer before His crucifixion, Jesus prayed, “I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” While we can and should appreciate the value of the various nuances of being human, our goal must always be to become more like Jesus (Romans 8:29).

In the 1800s, before Darwinian evolution was popularized, most people, when talking about “races,” would be referring to such groups as the “English race,” “Irish race,” and so on. However, this all changed in 1859 when Charles Darwin published his book On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.

Darwinian evolution was (and still is) inherently a racist philosophy, teaching that different groups or “races” of people evolved at different times and rates, so some groups are more like their apelike ancestors than others. Leading evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould claimed, “Biological arguments for racism may have been common before 1859, but they increased by orders of magnitude following the acceptance of evolutionary theory.”

The Australian Aborigines, for instance, were considered the missing links between the apelike ancestor and the rest of mankind. This resulted in terrible prejudices and injustices towards the Australian Aborigines.

Ernst Haeckel, famous for popularizing the now-discredited idea that “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny,” stated:

At the lowest stage of human mental development are the Australians, some tribes of the Polynesians, and the Bushmen, Hottentots, and some of the Negro tribes. Nothing, however, is perhaps more remarkable in this respect, than that some of the wildest tribes in southern Asia and eastern Africa have no trace whatever of the first foundations of all human civilization, of family life, and marriage. They live together in herds, like apes.

Racist attitudes fueled by evolutionary thinking were largely responsible for an African pygmy being displayed, along with an orangutan, in a cage in the Bronx zoo. Indeed, Congo pygmies were once thought to be “small apelike, elfish creatures” that “exhibit many ape-like features in their bodies.”

As a result of Darwinian evolution, many people started thinking in terms of the different people groups around the world representing different “races,” but within the context of evolutionary philosophy. This has resulted in many people today, consciously or unconsciously, having ingrained prejudices against certain other groups of people.

Scientists today admit that, biologically, there really is only one race of humans.

However, all human beings in the world today are classified as Homo sapiens sapiens. Scientists today admit that, biologically, there really is only one race of humans. For instance, a scientist at the Advancement of Science Convention in Atlanta stated, “Race is a social construct derived mainly from perceptions conditioned by events of recorded history, and it has no basic biological reality.” This person went on to say, “Curiously enough, the idea comes very close to being of American manufacture.”

Get rid of this evolutionized term.

Reporting on research conducted on the concept of race, ABC News stated, “More and more scientists find that the differences that set us apart are cultural, not racial. Some even say that the word race should be abandoned because it’s meaningless.” The article went on to say that “we accept the idea of race because it’s a convenient way of putting people into broad categories, frequently to suppress them—the most hideous example was provided by Hitler’s Germany. And racial prejudice remains common throughout the world.”

In an article in the Journal of Counseling and Development, researchers argued that the term “race” is basically so meaningless that it should be discarded.

More recently, those working on mapping the human genome announced “that they had put together a draft of the entire sequence of the human genome, and the researchers had unanimously declared, there is only one race—the human race.”

Personally, because of the influences of Darwinian evolution and the resulting prejudices, I believe everyone (and especially Christians) should abandon the term “race(s).” We could refer instead to the different “people groups” around the world.

The Bible and “Race”

The Bible does not even use the word race in reference to people, but it does describe all human beings as being of “one blood” (Acts 17:26). This of course emphasizes that we are all related, as all humans are descendants of the first man, Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45), who was created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26–27). The Last Adam, Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:45) also became a descendant of Adam. Any descendant of Adam can be saved because our mutual relative by blood (Jesus Christ) died and rose again. This is why the gospel can (and should) be preached to all tribes and nations.

Can the Bible be used to justify racist atitudes?

The inevitable question arises, “If the Bible teaches all humans are the same, where was the church during the eras of slavery and segregation? Doesn’t the Bible actually condone the enslavement of a human being by another?”

Both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible mention slaves and slavery. As with all other biblical passages, these must be understood in their grammatical-historical context.

Dr. Walter Kaiser, former president of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Old Testament scholar, states:

The laws concerning slavery in the Old Testament appear to function to moderate a practice that worked as a means of loaning money for Jewish people to one another or for handling the problem of the prisoners of war. Nowhere was the institution of slavery as such condemned; but then, neither did it have anything like the connotations it grew to have during the days of those who traded human life as if it were a mere commodity for sale. . . . In all cases the institution was closely watched and divine judgment was declared by the prophets and others for all abuses they spotted.

Job recognized that all were equal before God, and all should be treated as image-bearers of the Creator.

If I have despised the cause of my male or female servant when they complained against me, what then shall I do when God rises up? When He punishes, how shall I answer Him? Did not He who made me in the womb make them? Did not the same One fashion us in the womb? (Job 31:13–15)

In commenting on Paul’s remarks to the slaves in his epistles, Peter H. Davids writes:

The church never adopted a rule that converts had to give up their slaves. Christians were not under law but under grace. Yet we read in the literature of the second century and later of many masters who upon their conversion freed their slaves. The reality stands that it is difficult to call a person a slave during the week and treat them like a brother or sister in the church. Sooner or later the implications of the kingdom they experienced in church seeped into the behavior of the masters during the week. Paul did in the end create a revolution, not one from without, but one from within, in which a changed heart produced changed behavior and through that in the end brought about social change. This change happened wherever the kingdom of God was expressed through the church, so the world could see that faith in Christ really was a transformation of the whole person.

The forced enslavement of another human being goes against the biblical teaching that all humans were created in the image of God and are of equal standing before Him.

Those consistently living out their Christian faith realize that the forced enslavement of another human being goes against the biblical teaching that all humans were created in the image of God and are of equal standing before Him (Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11). Indeed, the most ardent abolitionists during the past centuries were Bible-believing Christians. John Wesley, Granville Sharp, William Wilberforce, Jonathan Edwards, Jr., and Thomas Clarkson all preached against the evils of slavery and worked to bring about the abolition of the slave trade in England and North America. Harriet Beecher Stowe conveyed this message in her famous novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. And of course, who can forget the change in the most famous of slave traders? John Newton, writer of “Amazing Grace,” eventually became an abolitionist after his conversion to Christianity, when he embraced the truth of Scripture.

“Racial” Differences

But some people think there must be different races of people because there appear to be major differences between various groups, such as skin color and eye shape.

The truth . . . is that these so-called “racial characteristics” are only minor variations among people groups.

The truth, though, is that these so-called “racial characteristics” are only minor variations among people groups. If one were to take any two people anywhere in the world, scientists have found that the basic genetic differences between these two people would typically be around 0.2 percent—even if they came from the same people group. But these so-called “racial” characteristics that people think are major differences (skin color, eye shape, etc.) “account for only 0.012 percent of human biological variation.”

Dr. Harold Page Freeman, chief executive, president, and director of surgery at North General Hospital in Manhattan, reiterates, “If you ask what percentage of your genes is reflected in your external appearance, the basis by which we talk about race, the answer seems to be in the range of 0.01 percent.”

In other words, the so-called “racial” differences are absolutely trivial— overall, there is more variation within any group than there is between one group and another. If a white person is looking for a tissue match for an organ transplant, for instance, the best match may come from a black person, and vice versa. ABC News claims, “What the facts show is that there are differences among us, but they stem from culture, not race.”

No big difference between any two people

The only reason many people think these differences are major is because they’ve been brought up in a culture that has taught them to see the differences this way. Dr. Douglas C. Wallace, professor of molecular genetics at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, stated, “The criteria that people use for race are based entirely on external features that we are programmed to recognize.”

If the Bible teaches and science confirms that all are of the same human race and all are related as descendants of Adam, then why are there such seemingly great differences between us (for example, in skin color)? The answer, again, comes with a biblically informed understanding of science.

 

Resources: AnswersinGenisis

 

unclean-things“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away” (Isaiah 64:6). This passage is often used as a proof text to condemn all our acts of goodness as nothing more than “filthy rags” in the eyes of God. The context of this passage is referring specifically to the Israelites in Isaiah’s time (760—670 B.C.) who had strayed from God. Isaiah was writing concerning his nation and their hypocrisy. Yet he includes himself in the description, saying “we” and “our.” Isaiah was redeemed and set apart as a prophet of God, yet he saw himself as part of a group that was utterly sinful. The doctrine of total depravity is taught clearly elsewhere in Scripture (e.g., Ephesians 2:1–5), and the illustration of Isaiah 64:6 could rightly be applied to the whole world, especially given Isaiah’s inclusion of himself in the description.

The term “filthy rags” is quite strong. The word filthy is a translation of the Hebrew word iddah, which literally means “the bodily fluids from a woman’s menstrual cycle.” The word rags is a translation of begged, meaning “a rag or garment.” Therefore, these “righteous acts” are considered by God as repugnant as a soiled feminine hygiene product.

As Isaiah wrote this, the Israelites had been the recipients of numerous miraculous blessings from God. Yet they had turned their backs on Him by worshipping false gods (Isaiah 42:17), making sacrifices and burning incense on strange altars (Isaiah 65:3–5). Isaiah had even called Jerusalem a harlot and compared it to Sodom (Isaiah 3:9). These people had an illusion of their own self-righteousness. Yet God did not esteem their acts of righteousness as anything but “polluted garments” or “filthy rags.” Their apostasy, or falling away from the law of God, had rendered their righteous works totally unclean. “Like the wind, [their] sins were sweeping them away” (Isaiah 64:6). Martin Luther said, “The most damnable and pernicious heresy that has ever plagued the mind of man is that somehow he can make himself good enough to deserve to live forever with an all-holy God.”

Though self-righteousness is condemned throughout the Bible (Ezekiel 33:13; Romans 3:27; Titus 3:5), we are, in fact, commanded to do good works. Paul explained that we cannot do anything to save ourselves, but our salvation comes only as a result of God’s grace (Ephesians 2:8–9). Then he proclaimed that “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10; see also 2 Corinthians 3:5).

Our salvation is not the result of any of our efforts, abilities, intelligent choices, personal characteristics, or acts of service we may perform. However, as believers, we are “created in Christ Jesus for good works”—to help and serve others. While there is nothing we can do to earn our salvation, God’s intention is that our salvation will result in acts of service. We are saved not merely for our own benefit but to serve Christ and build up the church (Ephesians 4:12). This reconciles the seeming conflict between faith and works. Our righteous acts do not produce salvation but are, in fact, evidence of our salvation (James 1:22; 2:14–26).

In the end, we must recognize that even our righteous acts come as a result of God within us, not of ourselves. On our own, our “righteousness” is simply self-righteousness, and vain, hypocritical religion produces nothing more than “filthy rags.”

come-to-meWe all live for something. We start life fully committed to pleasing ourselves. As we grow, that usually doesn’t change much. Our focus can become more dispersed among areas that are important to us, such as relationships, careers, or goals. But the bottom line is almost always a desire to please ourselves. The quest for happiness is a universal journey.

However, we were not created to live for ourselves. We were designed by God, in His image, for His pleasure (Genesis 1:27; Colossians 1:16). French philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every person, and it can never be filled by any created thing. It can only be filled by God, made known through Jesus Christ.”

Throughout history, mankind has attempted to fill that vacuum with everything except God: religion, philosophy, human relationships, or material gain. Nothing satisfies, as evidenced by the universal desperation, greed, and general hopelessness that characterizes the history of man. Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). In Isaiah 45:5, God says, “I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God.” The Bible is the story of God’s relentless pursuit of man.

When we come to the place of recognizing life is not about ourselves, we are ready to stop running from God and allow Him to take over. The only way any of us can have a relationship with a holy God is to admit that we are sinners, turn away from that sin, and accept the sacrifice that Jesus made to pay for sin. We connect with God through prayer. We pray in faith, believing that God hears us and will answer. Hebrews 11:6 says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” We confess our sin, thank Jesus for making a way for us to be forgiven, and invite Him to take control of our lives.

Coming to God through faith in Jesus Christ means we transfer ownership of our lives to God. We make Him the Boss, the Lord, of our lives. We trade our old self-worshiping hearts for the perfection of Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:21). Romans12:1 gives a visual description of what takes place: “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice.” Picture an altar dedicated to the only true God. Then imagine crawling onto it, lying down, and saying, “Here I am, God. I’m a sinner, but you love me anyway. Thank you for dying for me and rising from the dead so my sin could be forgiven. Cleanse me, forgive me, and make me your child. Take me. All of me. I want to live for you from now on.”

When we offer ourselves to God, He sends His Holy Spirit to live within our spirits (1 John 4:13; Acts 5:32; Romans 8:16). Life is no longer about doing whatever we want. We belong to Jesus, and our bodies are the Spirit’s holy temple (1 Corinthians 6:19–20).

From the moment we give our lives to God, the Holy Spirit gives us the power and desire to live for God. He changes our “want to.” As we submit ourselves daily to Him, pray, read the Bible, worship, and fellowship with other Christians, we grow in our faith and in our understanding of how to please God (2 Peter 3:18).

Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23). Often, the path God wants for us leads a different direction from the one we or our friends would choose. It’s the choice between the broad way and the narrow way (Matthew 7:13). Jesus knows the purpose for which He created us. Discovering that purpose and living it is the secret to real happiness. Following Jesus is the only way we ever find it.

a-whole-world-of-temporary-thingsIt goes without saying that the only things of eternal value in this world are those that are eternal. Life in this world is temporal, not eternal, and therefore, the only part of life that has eternal value is that which lasts through eternity. Clearly, the most important thing in this world that has true eternal value is having a relationship with Jesus Christ, as the free gift of eternal life comes only through Him to all those who believe (John 3:16). As Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Everyone is going to live somewhere for all of eternity, Christians and non-Christians alike. And the only eternal destiny other than the one in heaven with Christ is Hell – that provides everlasting punishment for those who reject Him (Matthew 25:46).

Regarding the abundant material things this world offers, which many tenaciously seek after, Jesus taught us not to store up for ourselves earthly treasures that can be destroyed or stolen (Matthew 6:19–20). After all, we brought nothing into this world, and we can take nothing out of it. Yet our core Christian values often get overlooked in our diligent quest for success and material comfort, and in the midst of these earthly pursuits we often forget about God. Moses addressed this issue 3,500 years ago as his people were about to enter the Promised Land. He warned them not to forget about God, for he knew once they “built fine houses and settled down” their hearts would become proud and they would forget about Him (Deuteronomy 8:12–14). There is certainly no eternal value in living our lives for ourselves, looking to get out of life all that we can, as the world system would have us believe.

Yet there can be significant eternal value in what we do with our lives during the exceedingly short time we are here on earth. Although Scripture makes it clear that our earthly good works will not save us or keep us saved (Ephesians 2:8–9), it is equally clear that we will be eternally rewarded according to what we have done while here on earth. As Christ Himself said, “For the Son of Man is going to come in His Father’s glory with His angels, and then He will reward each person according to what he has done” (Matthew 16:27). Indeed, Christians are God’s workmanship, “created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10, emphasis added). These “good works” pertain to serving the Lord the best we can with what He has given us and with full dependence on Him.

The apostle Paul discusses the quality of the works that can bring eternal rewards. Equating Christians to “builders” and the quality of our works with the building materials, Paul informs us that the good materials that survive God’s testing fire and have eternal value are “gold, silver, and costly stones,” whereas using the inferior materials of “wood, hay and straw” to build upon the foundation that is Christ have no eternal value and will not be rewarded (1 Corinthians 3:11–13). Essentially, Paul is telling us that not all of our conduct and works will merit rewards.

There are many ways our service to the Lord will bring us rewards. First, we need to recognize that every true believer has been set apart by God and for God. When we received God’s gift of salvation, we were given certain spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:7, 11). And if we think our gifts are insignificant, we need to remember that, as Paul told the church in Corinth, the body of Christ is made up of many parts. And “God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as He wanted them to be . . . and those parts of the body that seem weaker are indispensable” (1 Corinthians 12:14, 18, 22 emphasis added). If you are exercising your spiritual gifts, you are playing a significant role in the body of Christ and doing that which has eternal value.

Every member of Christ’s body can make meaningful contributions when we humbly seek to edify the body and to glorify God. Indeed, every little thing can add to the beautiful mosaic of what God can do when we each do our part. Remember, on earth Christ has no body but ours, no hands but ours, and no feet but ours. Spiritual gifts are God’s way of administering His grace to others. When we show our love for God by obeying His commandments, when we persevere in the faith despite all opposition and persecution, when in His name we show mercy to the poor and sick and less fortunate, and when we help alleviate the pain and suffering that is all around us, then we are indeed building with the “gold, silver, and costly stones” that have true eternal value.

  “Rededicating your life to Christ” is a popular concept in modern Christian culture. It’s a decision made by a Christian who has fallen away from the practices of Christianity to turn back to Christ and strive to follow Him more completely. The act of suddenly returning to Christ is spoken of indirectly in Galatians 6:1, where the church is exhorted to restore sinful believers by gently confronting them. Rededication is popular among older children and young adults who grew up in the church. Christians who were saved at a young age may come to realize that their understanding of what it means to follow Jesus was incomplete. In a desire to consciously choose to adhere to a newfound, deeper understanding of the gospel, believers may “rededicate” themselves to Christ.

However, falling away and returning to God is not how the Christian walk is supposed to look. Romans 12:1–2 explains that spiritual maturity is a gradual, ongoing process Jesus said that to follow Him we should take up our cross daily (Luke 9:23). And 1 Corinthians 9:24 and Hebrews 12:1 speak of the Christian life as a race, meant to be run every day. Many people rededicate after every sin. It’s easy to get caught in a cycle of rededicating, striving to follow Jesus closely, failing, and rededicating again. But habitual sin is not a problem solved by rededicating [SEE ALSO: Self discipline]. . It’s a deeper issue that can only be solved with a greater understanding of the grace and love of God.

Still, rededication is a useful tool. It’s a way to deliberately reject sin and renew a love for Christ. The disciples went through a rededication of sorts when they saw the risen Jesus. Their half-hearted devotion turned into a desire to pour out their lives for His service. In the same way, whether because of a conviction about a sinful lifestyle or a greater understanding of the gift of Christ, we can choose to abandon our shallow devotion to Christ and devote ourselves to Him more fully.