Want to make a child happy this Christmas?
One of the neatest traditions about Christmas is Samaritan's Purse Operation Christmas Child. Our church supports this program every year and I know many parents use it as a learning experience for their children. When my kids were little, each child was able to pick a box and send it to a child who was their age. We went out shopping and they each chose the gifts to put in the box and would send letters or drawings they made. When the day came to collect the boxes at church, each child was excited to take their box up to the front of the church and leave it in the collection. It was something to see all those boxes at the front of the church and to know that they were going to a needy child.
But have you heard about Packing Parties? This is something you can do with your neighbours or friends that could become the start of a new tradition for you. Here's how it works:
Can't Get to a Party? Build a Box Online!
I just did this and it was super easy and fun to do! All you need is a credit card. You have two options, Let Samaritan's Purse fill a box for you OR you can build the box with items you would like to add. Select as many boxes as you like! Press the button below to get started!
National Collection Week is November 14-20, 2016 so get your boxes and your party started!
Read Jeremiah 18:1-11
Many times when we see the verse above we are drawn to the beauty of knowing that God is shaping us into the people He wants us to be. Philippians 1:6 affirms that "He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ."
This is something that gives me great comfort, because despite all my flaws and my sins, my Heavenly Father has committed to making me into the person He knows I can be. He has designed each of us with a purpose in mind. In the picture above, the potter is designing a vessel that has a purpose. Whether it is to be a decoration or a jug to hold flowers and water, only the potter knows. When it is complete, the potter will make the necessary finishes that will decide how it is to be used.
We are much the same way. Our heavenly Father knows our purpose and He knows when we will be completed for that purpose. He also, like the potter, realizes when something needs to be fixed. We are either not learning, growing in our relationship with Him, obeying Him, or simply not hearing Him, and like the potter, He has to take drastic measures with us and start over again. Sometimes, the moulding and shaping is for our benefit. He sees the end result. He knows our future and we have to trust that whatever happens in our lives is ultimately according to His purposes.
This is what happened to Jeremiah's people. They had forgotten their purpose, that they were chosen by God to be an example to the nations of how a holy people are supposed to live. But instead, they exchanged God for the false idols of the nations that surrounded them and they forgot about God and fell into sin.
The following verses show us that God doesn't just deal with individuals but He deals with nations the same way.
"Oh, house of Israel can I not do with you as this potter?” says the Lord. Look, as the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel! The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it."
Notice that while these verses are concerning Israel and their coming judgment (they would go into captivity in Babylon for seventy years), God also addresses any nation or kingdom. The Bible tells us that it is God alone who puts people in positions of power (Romans 13:1-2; Daniel 2:21) and as the verse above suggests, because He is the potter, if a nation does not repent of its evil He will pluck it up, pull it down and destroy it - IF it is a nation He has spoken against to destroy. The key is that He will relent of any disasters He intends to bring upon them if only they will repent.
While the verses above resonate with many individuals in that we recognize God is our "Master Potter" and we are the clay, imagine what could happen to our great nation if our leaders recognized God's sovereignty as well. At least one very special and significant nation is currently doing that today. Israel's leaders are urging the Jewish people to read through the Bible, the whole Bible, verse by verse, chapter by chapter. They are returning to the Word of God and recognizing God's sovereignty over them as a nation. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu kicked off the new school year in Israel by encouraging children to rediscover the Word of God and Biblical roots of their Jewish heritage.
“First of all, the study of the Bible,” he said in August. “Knowledge is a critical word. We want to give it [knowledge of the Scriptures] to every child in Israel, Jews and non-Jews as one, religious and secular. This is the basis of the new world, and the basis of Israel as a strong nation in the world.”
Will the people of Israel listen to her leaders? I pray they do and as a nation submit themselves once again to the Master Potter. Imagine the blessings that God will pour out on them if they did so. Imagine how great our nation could be if our leaders humbled themselves before God as well and acknowledged God's sovereignty over them. One day every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. May it be so! Come Lord Jesus come!
Jeremiah 17:19-27 touches on the importance of keeping the Sabbath Day holy and what the consequences would be for the children of Israel if it was not kept holy. As I read these verses I wondered why, when Scripture clearly says the Sabbath is the seventh day, Christians did not keep this commandment. We try to keep all the rest of the Ten Commandments. Why not this one? So I thought I'd do a little digging as to why we worship on Sunday, rather than Saturday, and if we are wrong to do so.
First off, we need to remember why the Sabbath was created in the first place.
And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.
We can see from the verse above that it was on the seventh day that God finished all His work and He rested on the seventh day from all the work He had done. His work was finished. His accomplishment was complete, so He blessed the seventh day and sanctified it. Why? Because that was the day He rested. Are you catching this? It was HIS DAY to rest. God's day, set aside solely for Him, to rest. This was before the Ten Commandments. Before Moses, before Abraham and before Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden. The seventh day was always holy to God. It wasn't until the Ten Commandments were given to Moses that God commanded His people to honour His Day, the Sabbath Day. How were they to honour it? By doing the same thing God did - rest.
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Who was allowed to work on the Sabbath Day? No one. Not even the animals or strangers who were within the gates of the Israelite's camp (this was before Jerusalem) were allowed to work. And once again we are given the reason why - because the Lord rested on the seventh day, blessed it and hallowed it (sanctified or made it holy). So, was this commandment only for the Jews? God did choose them to be His chosen people - to show the rest of the world how to honour Him, but the Sabbath was made for man, not just Jews (Mark 2:27). Yes, when the Ten Commandments were given they were given to the Jews, but they have been the basis for right and wrong for both Christians and Jews for centuries. Yet, out of all the commandments - do not kill, do not lie, do not steal, etc., we ignore the command to honour the read Sabbath day. Why?
There is nothing in the Bible to indicate that the Sabbath was ever any other day but Saturday (the seventh day). The Jews have observed the Sabbath as Saturday for over 5000 years. It might not have been known as Saturday then, but it was always considered the seventh day. Jesus observed it and his apostles observed it, so why don't His followers?
The first Christians were Jews and so they continued to keep the Sabbath holy as was their custom. And just as it was Jesus' custom to preach in the synagogue on the Sabbath day, the apostles carried on this tradition. But it should be noted that when Gentiles began to receive the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, some Jewish Christians believed they should be obeying Mosaic Law. So the apostles met and discussed the issue (Acts 15) and this was the decision given by the Apostle James (Jesus' brother): “Therefore, I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood.” (Acts 15:19-20). Oddly, Sabbath-keeping was not one of the commands the apostles felt was necessary to force on Gentile believers. Why? Because they were already observing it by following the example of the Apostles (Acts 13:42-44).
It wasn't until after all the Apostles were gone, that heresies and false doctrines crept into the church about how to observe the Sabbath Day, mainly through the influence of the Emperor Constantine when he converted to Christianity. For it was his influence, along with a growing antisemitism for the Jews, that created a division in regards to the Sabbath that has lasted until this day. It was also because of Constantine that pagan festivals were introduced as a way to keep his mostly pagan nation appeased over his insistence that Christianity was the true faith. This is how the pagan celebrations of Christmas and Easter were brought into the church (but that's a topic for another time), today I want to address why Sunday is observed as the Sabbath rather than Saturday.
There are many reasons why Christians began to observe Sunday as a day of importance. Jesus was resurrected on a Sunday for one (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:2; Luke 24:1; John 20:1). He appeared to many of his followers on Sunday as well (John 20:11-18; Matthew. 28:7-10; Luke 24:34; Luke 24:15-32). The outpouring of the Holy Spirit during Pentecost (the feast of Unleavened Breast) was also on a Sunday (Leviticus 23:4-8). But nowhere in Scripture is there any indication that the Apostles suddenly stopped obeying the Law to honour the Sabbath Day and switched instead to making Sunday as the Sabbath.
Yes, there are indications that the early believers met on the first day of the week to eat together (Acts 20:7). In fact, Scripture is clear, they met together every day in the Temple and broke bread together every day in each others homes (Acts 2:46-47). But the idea of them not honouring Saturday as the Sabbath was never an issue for the early believers, because in this the Apostles, like Jesus, honoured the Lord by keeping His Sabbath Day Holy.
Now many point to Revelation 1:10, where John states that he was "in the Spirit on the Lord's Day" as proof that the early Christians considered Sunday as the Sabbath Day. But what they fail to remember when quoting this verse is Jesus' divinity and authority as God. He not only is the Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:28), but He is the one who created the Sabbath Day and made it holy.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,
When writing the Ten Commandments, God called it the “Sabbath of the Lord” (Exodus 20:10). In Isaiah 58:13 God called the Sabbath "My holy day." It is clear then that "the Lord's Day" is and always has been the Sabbath Day (Saturday). The argument could be made that Jesus looks at the intent of the Law, not the letter of it. So, if we are keeping Sunday as our day to honour God then God should be okay with that. Should He? But, by what right do we have to undo a day God specifically set aside for Himself - that He sanctified and made holy? Who are we to change the Laws of God? You might argue that Jesus abolished all the laws. But Jesus himself said he did not come to abolish the laws, but to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17). In fact, Jesus said that if we loved Him we would keep His commandments (John 14:15). Should the church therefore repent and return to honouring the Lord on His actual day? This is something each Christian will have to decide and pray about as we await the Lord's return.