Category: A thru C


Advertisements

Conceit is excessive pride in oneself. Conceited people love to talk about themselves and their achievements, showing lesser regard for the accomplishments of others. Conceited people often take the credit for every good thing God has done in their lives and consider themselves intrinsically superior to most other people. The Bible has harsh words for the conceited because pride gets in the way of all God wants to do in and through us.

We need to note the difference between healthy self-worth and sinful conceit. Some believe that to be proud of any achievement is wrong, and they may go to the other extreme of belittling themselves. However, self-abasement is just pride on its back. It masquerades as humility but is, in fact, another way of gaining attention. Social media is a showcase for this kind of conceit. For example, a woman posts a seductive selfie with the comment “Feeling so ugly today.” What happens? Within moments, an avalanche of statements to the contrary flood her post. Conceit sometimes wears a mask, and conceited people usually know how to fish for compliments while appearing humble.

Saul is a biblical example of a conceited man. The Bible describes him as “the most handsome man in Israel” (1 Samuel 9:2). God chose Saul to be the first king of Israel, and he had a great future ahead, if he would obey the Lord. But Saul’s conceit grew with his popularity, and it did not take long for him to usurp God’s authority in his life and make decisions that put him in a good light with the people. Rather than obey God completely, Saul decided that he knew better. First Samuel 15 recounts Saul’s slide away from God’s favor. The man who could have had it all got too big for his britches, and the Lord removed him as king.

Humility is the opposite of conceit, and C. S. Lewis had a perfect definition: “Humility is not thinking less of myself. Humility is thinking of myself less.” The conceited think of themselves constantly. They may hide that self-obsession with self-deprecating remarks (“I don’t think I’ll ever do as well as I did last time”), but they can’t hide the fact that self is their primary interest. To overcome an attitude of conceit, we must be willing to see ourselves honestly, the way God sees us. We must come to terms with the fact that we are not the center of the universe; we must acknowledge the reality that no one is as obsessed with us as we are. We cure our conceit by shifting our gaze from the mirror to the face of Jesus. “He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30).

Conceit is one of the traits of wicked people in the last days (2 Timothy 3:1–5). Conceit is at the root of most sins because we choose to please ourselves instead of pleasing God or helping someone else. In contrast, Philippians 2:3 instructs us to “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” None of us can do this naturally. Our sin natures want to put ourselves first. But in the power of the Holy Spirit we can be intentional about humbling ourselves and agreeing with God about our worth (1 Peter 5:6; James 4:10). By faith we can develop a healthy self-image that blesses the Lord and those around us.

Common sense is sound judgment in practical matters. In Proverbs 8:5 some translations speak of the need to develop “common sense,” which other translations simply call “prudence” or “discretion.” Biblically, common sense can be thought of as a combination of wisdom and discretion (Proverbs 3:21; 8:12–14). Wisdom is knowing what to do; discretion is knowing when and where to do it.

Part of being a fool is having no common sense or being “void of understanding,” as the KJV puts it (Proverbs 7:7; 24:30). The book of Proverbs proclaims the benefits of gaining wisdom and also shows the folly of being a fool (Proverbs 13:16; 16:22; 26:11). Proverbs 3:13–14 says, “Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold.” Wisdom allows us to see life the way God does. When we seek God’s perspective, we can make decisions based upon their eternal significance rather than selfish interest. When we choose to make decisions based on wisdom alone, we are exercising common sense.

The desire for instant gratification is the enemy of common sense. Many people have become ensnared in trouble and heartache because they rejected a wise path and sought instead immediate satisfaction. Common sense is often developed by learning from the consequences of such poor choices—the school of hard knocks educates many. Everyone makes bad decisions at some point. The difference between the wise and the foolish is that one learns from his mistakes and the other keeps repeating them. Some people seem born with a more level head, while others learn from experience. Either way, wisdom and common sense should be continually pursued in order to experience the best God has for us (Proverbs 2:1–8).

Complementarianism is the teaching that masculinity and femininity are ordained by God and that men and women are created to complement, or complete, each other. Complementarians believe that the gender roles found in the Bible are purposeful and meaningful distinctions that, when applied in the home and church, promote the spiritual health of both men and women. Embracing the divinely ordained roles of men and woman furthers the ministry of God’s people and allows men and women to reach their God-given potential.

The complementarian view starts with Genesis 1:26–27, which says that God created humanity, male and female, in His own image. Genesis 2:18 contains the further detail that God created Eve specifically to complement Adam: “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” The two genders are, therefore, part of God’s created order. Any modern-day blurring of the genders or distortion of the roles is a result of the Fall.

Complementarianism follows Ephesians 5:21–33 as the model for the home. The husband has the role of headship in the family. He is to nurture his wife and lead his family lovingly, humbly, and sacrificially. The wife has the role of nurturing her children and intentionally, willingly submitting to her husband’s leadership. When both husband and wife are complementing each other in this way, Christ is honored. In fact, the marriage itself becomes what it was designed to be: a living picture of Christ and the church (verse 32).

In the church, complementarianism follows 1 Timothy 2:11 — 3:7 and Titus 2:3–5 as the model. Biblically, the men in the church bear the responsibility to provide spiritual leadership and training. The women are to exercise their spiritual gifts in any way that Scripture allows—the only prohibition is “to teach or to assume authority over a man” (2 Timothy 2:12). When men and women are fulfilling their God-given roles within a church, Christ is honored. In fact, the church itself becomes what it was designed to be: a living picture of Christ’s body (1 Corinthians 12:12–27).

The opposing view is egalitarianism, which teaches that, in Christ, there are no gender distinctions anymore. This idea comes from Galatians 3:28. Because all believers are one in Christ, egalitarians say, men’s and women’s roles are interchangeable in church leadership and in the household. Egalitarianism sees gender distinctions as a result of the Fall and Christ’s redemption as removing those distinctions, bringing unity. Complementarianism sees gender distinctions as a result of Creation and Christ’s redemption as a return to those distinctions, avoiding confusion. Paul sides with the complementarians, citing the order of creation as the basis for his teaching: “For Adam was formed first, then Eve” (1 Timothy 2:15).

A difference in role does not equate to a difference in quality, importance, or value. Men and women are equally valued in God’s sight and in His plan. Complementarianism seeks to preserve the biblical differences between men’s and women’s roles while valuing the quality and importance of both genders. The result of true complementarianism is honor to Christ and harmony in the church and in the home.

To define what is beautiful is difficult because beauty is, as the old saying goes, in the eyes of the beholder. What is beautiful to us may be ugly to another. To regard something as beautiful, it must meet our own definition and concept of beauty. The fact that beauty is an individual concept is understood clearly by all. However, many don’t realize that God’s concept of beauty also is His own. No one defines for God His concept of beauty. If a person is beautiful to God, he fits God’s concept of beauty.

For example, God never uses one’s outward physical appearance to determine beauty. When the prophet Samuel examined Jesse’s sons in search of the next king of Israel, he was impressed with Eliab’s appearance. God told Samuel: “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). Nothing in a person’s outward appearance impresses God. God looks upon the inner beauty, the beauty of one’s heart.

God never uses the origin or culture of a person as the criterion of beauty. People of one culture seldom see beauty in people of a different culture. Only a divine revelation could convince Peter to enter a Gentile’s house and preach the gospel to him (Acts 10). It took an angel to get Peter the Jew and Cornelius the Gentile together. Only a divine sign convinced the Jewish witnesses that Gentiles unquestionably had the right to be God’s children. When Peter said, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism (Acts 10:34), he was saying, “At last, I understand.” Peter realized that God is unconcerned about a person’s origin or culture. God gladly accepts those who revere and obey Him. His concept of beauty is different because He ignores cultural preferences and prejudices.

While our opinions are strongly influenced by one’s address, occupation, and social role, God never determines beauty by social rank or life circumstances. When we speak of the so-called “beautiful people,” rarely do we mean those who are struggling to survive, who make their living by menial jobs, or who come from “backward” areas. In contrast, God never notices those things when He considers beauty in people. Paul wrote, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26-28).

What is beautiful in God’s eyes? Recognizing the qualities God has cherished in the lives of other people is one way to determine His concept of beauty. Noah’s implicit trust in God led him to construct a gigantic boat miles from water. Abraham trusted God’s promise so implicitly that he would have sacrificed his son of promise without hesitation. Moses yielded total control of his life to God and became the man of meekness. David gave his whole being to doing the will of God. No consequence or shameful treatment could keep Daniel from reverencing his God. Peter, Paul, Barnabas, and Timothy were ruled by God in every consideration and decision. They were totally focused upon Jesus’ will as they shared the gospel with all. In all these qualities God saw great beauty.

While all these people were beautiful to God, virtually nothing is known about their physical appearance. It was not their physique or stateliness but their faith and service that made them beautiful. The same was true of God’s beautiful women: Rahab, Hannah, Ruth, Deborah, and Mary of Bethany. Those noted for physical beauty were often great spiritual disappointments. Rebekah was “very beautiful” (Genesis 26:7), but she was also a deceiver and manipulator. Saul was a man of physical beauty, but his disobedience against God hurt the nation of Israel.

Peter directed Christian women to focus on the inner, spiritual qualities in order to be truly beautiful: “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful” (1 Peter 3:3-5). Peter is not prohibiting nice clothes or nice hairstyles; he is simply saying that a gentle and quiet spirit is even more beautiful in God’s eyes.

The qualities God wants in His people further reveal His concept of beauty. The beatitudes reveal some of God’s standards of beauty. An awareness of one’s spiritual poverty, sorrow for wickedness, hunger and thirst for righteousness, mercy, purity of heart, and being a peacemaker are all qualities of beauty. The epistles also stress attributes valued by God: keeping a living faith while enduring physical hardships, controlling the tongue, enduring personal harm to protect the church’s influence, making sacrifices for the good of others, and living by Christian convictions in the face of ridicule. All these are beautiful to God.

However, just as a beautiful appearance can become ugly through neglect, a beautiful life of righteousness can become ugly through neglect. Spiritual beauty must never be taken for granted or be neglected. We must remember that just as it is possible to be one of society’s most impressive people and be ugly in the eyes of God, it is also possible to be an unknown in society and to be radiantly beautiful in His eyes.

For 235 years, America has been blessed as the longest on-going Constitutional Republic in the history of the world. These blessings are not accidental they are blessings of God. This is evident as we look at the turmoil in other nations and contrast that to the stability we see in America. Preserving American liberty depends first upon our understanding of the foundations on which this great country was built, and then it depends on preserving the principles on which it was founded.

On July 2, 1776, Congress voted to approve a complete separation from England. Two days later, the early draft of the Declaration of Independence was signed. Four days later, members of Congress took the document and read it out loud from the steps of Independence Hall, proclaiming it to the city of Philadelphia, and afterwards they rang the Liberty Bell. The inscription on the top of the bell is Leviticus 25:10, which reads, “Proclaim liberty throughout the land and to all the inhabitants thereof.”

John Adams said, “The general principles on which the Fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity.” Probably the clearest identification of the spirit of the American Revolution was given by John in a letter to Abigail the day after Congress approved the Declaration. He wrote her two letters that day: One was short and jubilant that the Declaration had been approved; the other letter was much longer and gave serious consideration to what had been done that day. Adams could already foresee that their actions would be celebrated by future generations.

A Different Holiday

Adams also noted: “This day will be the most memorable epic in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival.” He felt the celebration should be in a manner that would commemorate the day as a “day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.” John Adams believed that the Fourth of July should be a religious holiday. The two top holidays celebrated in this country are Christmas and the Fourth of July. According to John Quincy Adams, the two dates are connected. On the Fourth of July, the Founding Fathers simply took the precepts of Christ and His birth (Christmas) and incorporated those principles into civil government. The Declaration of Independence was the birth certificate for this nation, but the men who signed it knew it could be their death warrant. The closing paragraph states, “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance of the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.” The 56 Founding Fathers, 27 of whom were trained as ministers took their pledge seriously. On the morning of the signing, there was silence and gloom as each man was called up to the table of the President of Congress to sign the document, knowing that it could mean their death by hanging. Most wars have a motto. The motto of World War II was “Remember Pearl Harbor.” The motto during the Texas war for independence was “Remember the Alamo.” The spiritual emphasis, directed towards King George III who violated Gods laws, gave rise to a motto during the American Revolution: “No King but King Jesus.” The Founding Fathers passed the torch to us. It is our responsibility to not let it go out.

God Bless America !

 

In summary, what the Bible teaches about the civil rights movement is this: it should never have been necessary. Beginning with the kidnapping and chattel slavery of millions, on through the hateful attitudes that prevented neighbors from using the same drinking fountain, the attitudes and actions that led to a culture where the civil rights movement became necessary were all categorically unbiblical. Christianity and civil rights should go hand in hand. Discrimination based on race or skin color has no place in the Christian worldview.

To begin with, the practice of slavery that introduced millions of Africans to the American South was completely unscriptural and un-Christian. Exodus 21:16 says, “He who kidnaps a man, whether he sells him or he is found in his possession, shall surely be put to death.” Several thousand years later, Paul equated kidnapping with lawlessness and rebellion against God’s order (1 Timothy 1:8-10). The New Testament admonitions for slaves to be submissive to their masters does not justify the actions of traders, slave owners, or the government and society that procured and treated slaves in ways directly contrary to Scripture.

After the slaves in America were emancipated, ungodly attitudes and actions toward them continued. There is nothing scriptural about racial prejudice (Galatians 3:28), unfair business practices (Proverbs 20:10), forced segregation within the Christian body (Galatians 3:29), or murder (Exodus 20:13). But human sin continued to shape an abusive society for a hundred years after the slaves were freed.

The goal of the civil rights movement was good and biblical—ensure fair rights and equal treatment for all. Any martin-luther-king-jraction that worked against this goal, therefore, has to be considered unbiblical. The Bible not only forbids favor for specific people groups, it forbids unfair treatment of anyone (James 2:1-7).

Thanks to the non-violent policies of many of the civil rights leaders, most notably Martin Luther King Jr.,  much of the work toward civil rights was biblical. Free speech is granted to all Americans, and reminding a government and a culture of their constitutional and spiritual responsibilities is good and right. The tremendous effort and patience of civil rights activists to work within local and national legal systems is a great example of positively changing a God-given authority from within. The Freedom Riders, activists who rode buses to challenge states’ segregation laws, were also lawful because the previous year the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled in Boynton v. Virginia that racial segregation on public transportation violated the Interstate Commerce Act. Their endurance through physical attacks and prison is a classic example of 1 Peter 2:20 in action.

At the core of “civil rights” is the God-ordained value of each individual. Every person is made in the image of God. When nations recognize civil rights, they recognize the equality of all mankind. The civil rights movement in twentieth-century America can, for the most part, be considered a good example of encouraging a nation to embody more biblical standards.

The practice of making New Year’s resolutions goes back over 3,000 years to the ancient Babylonians. There is just something about the start of a new year that gives us the feeling of a fresh start and a new beginning. In reality, there is no difference between December 31 and January 1. Nothing mystical occurs at midnight on December 31. The Bible does not speak for or against the concept of New Year’s resolutions. However, if a Christian determines to make a New Year’s resolution, what kind of resolution should he or she make?

Common New Year’s resolutions are commitments to quit smoking, to stop drinking, to manage money more wisely, and to spend more time with family. By far, the most common New Year’s resolution is to lose weight, in conjunction with exercising more and eating more healthily. These are all good goals to set. However, 1 Timothy 4:8 instructs us to keep exercise in perspective: “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” The vast majority of New Year’s resolutions, even among Christians, are in relation to physical things. This should not be.

Many Christians make New Year’s resolutions to pray more, to read the Bible every day, and to attend church more regularly. These are fantastic goals. However, these New Year’s resolutions fail just as often as the non-spiritual resolutions, because there is no power in a New Year’s resolution. Resolving to start or stop doing a certain activity has no value unless you have the proper motivation for stopping or starting that activity. For example, why do you want to read the Bible every day? Is it to honor God and grow spiritually, or is it because you have just heard that it is a good thing to do? Why do you want to lose weight? Is it to honor God with your body, or is it for vanity, to honor yourself?

Philippians 4:13 tells us, “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” John 15:5 declares, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” If God is the center of your New Year’s resolution, it has chance for success, depending on your commitment to it. If it is God’s will for something to be fulfilled, He will enable you to fulfill it. If a resolution is not God honoring and/or is not in agreement in God’s Word, we will not receive God’s help in fulfilling the resolution.

So, what sort of New Year’s resolution should a Christian make? Here are some suggestions: (1) pray to the Lord for wisdom (James 1:5) in regards to what resolutions, if any, He would have you make; (2) pray for wisdom as to how to fulfill the goals God gives you; (3) rely on God’s strength to help you; (4) find an accountability partner who will help you and encourage you; (5) don’t become discouraged with occasional failures; instead, allow them to motivate you further; (6) don’t become proud or vain, but give God the glory. Psalm 37:5-6 says, “Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.”

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.